Azerbaijan has numerous historic fortifications to please even the least castle-curious. From the clifftop isolation of the “lamp castle” Chirag Gala, to the iconic cylindrical Maiden Tower in the centre of Baku’s old city, Azerbaijan’s best castles reward visitors with stunning views and fascinating history. Explore our list of the best castles in Azerbaijan.
Maiden Tower, translated from the Azeri name of Qiz Qalasi, is an iconic eight storey cylindrical tower in Baku’s old city in Azerbaijan. The base of Maiden Tower is believed to date back to the 6th or 7th century, while the higher parts were built in around the 12th century.
Measuring 29.5 metres high and 16.5 metres in diameter, Maiden Tower probably served as a fire temple before becoming a fortification in the 12th century. An inscription in the tower reading ‘Kubey Mesud ibn Da’ud’, who is thought to have designed the city’s Mardakan Round Tower, has led historians to believe that this was the name of the Maiden Tower’s architect.
Today Maiden Tower, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is open to the public. Visitors can climb its staircases, some original and some modern, to see its exhibits of old photographs. They finish at its observatory, with magnificent views over the city.
Shirvanshahs’ Palace (Palace of the Shirvanshahs) is a 15th century castle and complex in the old city of Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku. Originally constructed by the ruler Shirvanshah Khalilulla I and his son, Faruk, Shirvanshahs’ Palace had both royal and religious significance.
Shirvanshahs’ Palace is one of Baku’s main sites. Its structure includes the palace mosque, the mausoleum of the Shirvanshahs and the tomb of astrologer Seyyid Yəhya Bakuvi. This is despite it remaining incomplete. Construction stopped in 1501 when Faruk was killed in battle. It was also damaged in the 18th century during the Russian invasion.
Visitors to Shirvanshahs’ Palace enter a central courtyard through which they can access the residential parts of the palace. Much of the palace is either in ruins or have been subject to renovations, not all of them sympathetic.
The palace contains many beautiful structures and inscriptions. Shirvanshahs’ Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Chirag Gala is a ruined ancient fortress in Azerbaijan which overlooks the Caspian coastal plains north of Baku. Chirag Gala means “lamp castle” in Azerbaijani.
Chirag Gala is located north of the capital city of Azerbaijan, Baku. It is an ancient fortress and was built by the Sassanid Persians in the 5th century AD. They situated the castle at the top of a mountain in the Guba Forest, where it functioned as a lookout post.
Chirag Gala was used as late as the 18th century as a defensive structure. Today Chirag Gala is a historic site in Azerbaijan that is often visited by tourists. Climbing to the top of the mountain is rewarded with great views of the surrounding landscape.
Handaberd is a 9th century fortress in Azerbaijan, built as the primary residence of the Armenian ruler Atnerseh I. It is located on the bank of the Levçay River.
According to the Armenian historian Movses Kaghankatvatsi, Handaberd was built by Prince Atnerseh of Khachen in the second quarter of the 9th century. Atnerseh ruled over an area which corresponds to the historical Armenian province of Artsakh. Handaberd was Atnerseh’s primary residence, and it also served as a prison.
Handaberd is a ruinous castle which features the remains of a monastery, an oven, the castle’s fortified walls and its gate. It is designated as a site which bears historical importance for the state of Azerbaijan. The castle’s location in the mountains means any ascent brings with it glorious views.
Sheki Fortress was substantially built during the reign of Sheki Khan Haki Celebi (1743-1755). Sheki Fortress was the khan’s citadel in Sheki (or Shaki), which was the capital of the Sheki Khanate until absorbed by the Russian Empire in the 19th century. The fortress features northern and southern gates, and numerous defensive bastions.
While there is little that remains of Sheki Fortress today except its impressive walls, the fortress site contains the UNESCO-listed Khan’s Palace. Views over the surrounding landscape are possible from the castle walls. Sheki is also known for its Islamic architecture, history related to the Silk Road and its food.