When it comes to travel inspiration, there’s little doubt that the castles of Azerbaijan provide endless possibilities with famous locations such as Chirag Gala, Nardaran Fortress and Handaberd being among the most popular to visit. If you’re planning a trip to explore the fortifications of Azerbaijan but are short on time, then these famous places are probably your best bet. But if you do have a more flexible itinerary then at the very least Kachaghakaberd, Lekh Castle and Baku Old City should all be on your list. Wherever your travels take you, we’ve compiled a fantastic selection of Azerbaijani forts and fortresses with our editor’s picks followed by a few hidden gems you won’t want to miss.
What are 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 and the addition that juts out from the tower were built in around the 12th century.
Measuring 29.5 metres high and 16.5 metres in diameter, Maiden Tower probably initially served as a fire temple in its first incarnation 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 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 and finish at its observatory, with magnificent views over the city.
Shirvanshahs’ Palace (Palace of the Shirvanshahs) is a fifteenth 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. However, Shirvanshahs’ Palace is somewhat incomplete as construction was halted in 1501 when Faruk was killed in battle.
Shirvanshahs’ Palace was also severely damaged in the 18th century during the Russian invasion. Nevertheless, Shirvanshahs’ Palace remains one of Baku’s main sites. Its structure includes the palace mosque, the mausoleum of the Shirvanshahs and the tomb of Seyyid Yəhya Bakuvi, the court astrologer.
Upon first entering Shirvanshahs’ Palace, visitors go into a central courtyard through which they can access the residential parts of the palace. Much of the Shirvanshahs’ Palace is in ruins and other aspects were subject to thorough renovations, not all of them entirely sympathetic. However, Shirvanshahs’ Palace contains many beautiful and authentic structures and inscriptions.
Shirvanshahs’ Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site.