From the Fire Temple of ancient Baku to the lavish palaces of historic Azerbaijan, there’s a range of historic sites to satisfy the historically-minded traveller in Azerbaijan. If you’re in Baku, don’t miss the Shirvanshahs’ Palace, but also consider travelling to Chirag Gala. Here’s our list of the 5 best historic sites in Azerbaijan.
Baku, also known as Baki or The Ancient Walled City of Baku, in Azerbaijan was an ancient city inhabited by the Shirvani dynasty in the Middle Ages. Baku rose to prominence as the Shirvani capital in 1191 following an earthquake which destroyed their original capital, Şamaxı.
At Baku, the Shirvani built a walled city which included an impressive palace complex only completed in the 15th century. Much of this was destroyed following attacks by the Ottomans in 1585 and the Russians in 1723. Nevertheless, Baku’s rich history has endowed the area with a wealth of monuments ranging from 7th century structures to 15th century citadels.
Baku is famed for its 12th century Maiden Tower, which was once a fire temple. Also notable are the 11th century Mehmet Masjid and the ancient market. Visitors can enjoy exploring Baku’s labyrinth of narrow streets which fuse architecture from different periods.
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 around the 12th century.
Today Maiden Tower is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is open to the public. Visitors can climb its staircases, some original and some modern, to see exhibits of old photographs. Visitors finish at its observatory, which has 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.
Shirvanshahs’ Palace is 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. Much of the Shirvanshahs’ Palace is in ruins, while other parts of it have been renovated.
Shirvanshahs’ Palace contains many beautiful and authentic structures and inscriptions. Shirvanshahs’ Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Palace of Sheki Khans was a residence for the Sheki Khans and was built in 1797 by Muhammed Hasan Khan. The Sheki Khans controlled the city of Sheki as governors of the Zand and Qajar Persian dynasties until their annexation by the Russian Empire in 1813.
The Sheki Khan’s Palace is a two-story structure covered with a wooden, hipped roof with long eaves. The façade is covered by a mosaic of coloured glass set in a wooden lattice work that was assembled without nails or glue. Inside, the palace’s rectangular rooms are lavishly decorated with gold, mirror fragments and floral tiles and mosaics.
The Khan Palace is in the northeast of the city of Sheki, behind the curtain walls of the Sheki Fortress. Along with other merchant houses, it demonstrates the wealth generated by silkworm breeding and the trade in silk cocoons in the late 18th century.
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.
This meant it could function as a lookout post. Its inhabitants were able to warn allies of sudden enemy incursions by lighting its torches. This is the likely origin of its name “Chirag Gala”, which means “lamp castle” in Azerbaijani.
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.