Azerbaijan is a great country to visit for nature lovers. With stretches of clean, relatively untouched and vast open areas- including 9 National Parks, it’s a place you can appreciate and experience the great outdoors. It’s not just one ‘type’ of nature Azerbaijan has to offer either, from green snow-capped mountains to sagebrush hills and the largest lake in the world. There’s many different experiences to choose from depending on what you’re most drawn to, explained in more detail below.
Azerbaijan’s Nature is Uniquely Diverse
The culmination of elevation, climate, proximity to water and natural geological phenomenons in Azerbaijan make for a uniquely diverse country in terms of nature.
As you can see from the elevation map above, Azerbaijan has a unique mix of terrain. From mountains, green subtropical regions to semi-arid climate. The north of the Azerbaijan is situated in the Caucasus mountain range (shared with Georgia, Armenia, and Russia), it gets flatter and drier towards the center, while the south of Azerbaijan is subtropical and hilly. On top of the land formations, the whole eastern side of Azerbaijan is stretched along the largest lake (by surface area) in the world- the Caspian Sea, which is salt water except for the very north part where water flows in from Russia. The Caspian coastal area is a source of natural gas which ends up creating some unique natural phenomenons, such as bubbling warm mud volcanoes. Roughly half of the world’s mud volcanoes are situated here in Azerbaijan.
With all these land formations and being situated at the meeting point of Russia and the Middle-East, Azerbaijan’s climate is also extremely diverse as well. Using the Köppen climate classification out of the possible 11 climates, Azerbaijan has 9 of them. In this relatively small country, there’s places to go skiing on mountains, lay seaside near warm water and everything in between.
So whether you are hoping to be amongst breathtaking green and snowcapped mountains, see some unique active land formations before your eyes, frolic in sagebrush hills or relax along a calm blue sea, Azerbaijan has a great deal of nature to offer.
We’ve compiled a list of the top 6 must-see places in Azerbaijan for nature lovers along with where they’re located so you maybe able to experience them. Enjoy!
The city Gabala is located in the heart of Caucasian mountain range, offering breathtaking views of green mountains, rich flora & fauna, and notable history as well. This region also happens to be considered the birthplace of Azerbaijani wine— and you can even take a wine tasting tour to one of the best wineries in the country.
Moreover, Gabala is quite tourist-friendly and there are many hotels for all budgets within the amazing views as well as an amusement park along the water. If you happen to visit during the winter, then you’d be able to experience the best ski resort in the country, Tufandag Ski Complex.
Gabala is also known for its beautiful chain of waterfalls known as the Seven Beauties (in Azerbaijani, Yeddi Gozel) which originates from the mountain range above. In the Spring, Summer, and Fall months a walkway is open along the falls open to tourists. Along the way there’s a teahouse open for you to pause, sit and rest. Here, teas are made from the fresh clean water collected from the waterfall, so this is a unique opportunity to rest, be surrounded by nature and (quite literally) take it in.
The highest mountain peak Mount Bazardüzü in Azerbaijan is also visible in Gabala.
Besides mountains, freshwater Lake Nohur is a popular destination for tourists as it offers a perfectly peaceful and calm environment for relaxation. Oh, and one more thing, do not forget to take a cable car from the bottom of the mountain to the top! You will travel up the mountain with breathtaking views. Some hotels and teahouses are accessible this way actually.
Check our Gabala article for more detailed information.
Gabala, Azerbaijan is located here:
Hours from Baku to Gabala by car: 3.2 hours
Accessible by taxi, bus and car.
While you are in Gabala, you can take a short ride from there to the town of Shaki. Shaki is one of the main destinations in Azerbaijan for history and nature. It’s a tad less tourist-focused than Gabala in terms of rides and attractions (no amusement park here for the kiddos) but it is very popular to spend time here if you love mountains and are also interested in the history of the Silk Way trading route.
Shaki is known for its position within the Caucasus mountains, being part of famous pre-historic Silk Way and also their food (namely piti and their unique style of paklavah). Azerbaijan’s history, food, and culture in general is effected by Shaki’s unique customs, so you would be having an important and authentic experience.
Not only are you able to lodge in one of the most historically significant destinations in the country, Karvansaray (one of the resting places for Silk Way travelers), you also get to take in the views and breathe in the fresh air of the Caucasus Mountains. You will find yourself outside quite a bit as the city and its important historical destinations isn’t too spread out, meaning it is very friendly to walkers!
Check our Shaki article for more detail information.
Shaki, Azerbaijan is located here:
3. Mud volcanoes in Gobustan National Park
Azerbaijan is home of over 400 mud volcanoes ,which is over half of the overall mud volcanoes in the world.
What is a mud volcano you ask?
A mud volcano is bubbling warm mud (water), gas, and/or flames from the ground. Their formation isn’t necessarily related to lava- the mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan for example are created from natural gas from the ground beneath. They can be anywhere from 1 meter to 700 meters tall in size!
Unique wonder of the World
In 2017 CNN Travel included the Gobustan State Reserve in its list of 50 natural wonders of the world. It is truly a unique landscape. We recommend traveling there on a cloudy day for optimal photos and comfort. Be aware the volcanoes are situated in an open and dry stretch of land- so arriving at high noon during the summer time could get quite hot! Make sure to bring water with you and stay hydrated.
The best part of visiting Gobustan National Park, other than the volcanoes, is how close it is from Baku. In no more than an hour and a half car ride you are there- so it makes for a great day trip. There are plenty of tours (check out IndyGuide, Trip Advisor, etc) to choose from if you’d like a guided experience.
You could in theory bathe in the mud(?), however currently there’s no place to shower off. (Business idea?)
While you’re there, you can also experience some prehistoric history as well. UNESCO World Heritage Site petroglyphs (rock carvings) dating back to 12,000 BC are also located in this region. Read more about the rock Engravings of Gobustan for more interesting facts and photos.
Without a doubt, whether you’re a seasons geologist nerd or someone that is interested in walking through land that seems like a different planet, the mud volcanos of Gobustan National Park will give you a truly unique and memorable experience you can have in Azerbaijan.
Gobustan National Park, Azerbaijan is located here:
4. Absheron National Park
Have you noticed Azerbaijan’s unique peninsula that juts into the Caspian Sea? Have you been curious is people can walk to the farthest point of it? Well, you can! The iconic peninsula, adjacent to Baku, is actually a national park. Absheron National park is an interesting place. At a distance it’s a flatter, semi-desert area of land along the Caspian that, according to other’s accounts, might not even seem like you are in a park. But the closer you look you look you are able to appreciate the delicate ecosystem here and simply appreciate some calm away from the city.
This park is close distance-wise to Baku and is accessible by car (or taxi). You may want to arrange for your taxi to wait for you to ensure you have a ride back.
It is recommended to visit Absheron National Park especially in the spring or summer when the wildflowers are blooming. The park is a great place for coastal bird watching, or simply having a picnic in a calm open nature outside the bustle of Baku. People have claimed to see gazelles and even camels here (Azerbaijan is not desert, so this is odd to hear). There was also once a time there was an abundance of Caspian Seals here in the summer, but locals now say this occasion is quite rare. Caspian Seals would be more commonly seen in the north part of the Caspian sea near Russia where it is cooler temperatures.
You also should be able to drive far down the peninsula and walk to the tip of what’s sometime’s called the ‘Eagle’s Beak’. We’ve heard at the present moment this area is a bit lackluster, but also word that the government is working on building this area into more of a tourist destination.
5. Lake Goygol in Göygöl National Park
Lake Goygol (in Azerbaijani Göygöl) means Blue Lake due to its clean water. The lake formed as a result of an earthquake in 1139 in the city of Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second largest city. The earthquake demolished rocks from surrounded mountains and blocked the river, which formed this deepest lake in Azerbaijan.
The Goygol National Park is currently the most recently added national parks of Azerbaijan, and is located in the Lesser Caucasus mountain range near the highest peak (Murovdag) close by. Because it’s a National park there’s plenty of walkways and places to rest and enjoy the scenery. The perfect place to pack a sandwich for a walk, no?
It is relatively far from the capital Baku and might be part of a longer tour you have planned around Azerbaijan/ the Caucasus. However recently, a new Baku-Ganja train route was announced, which takes around 3 hours. From Ganja, you can take a very short taxi ride to the lake.
If you love mountains, fresh air, and clean water— definitely make your way to this park.
Göygöl National Park is located here:
6. Shahdag National Park
Door Rəşad İsgəndəroğlu (Isr Obvius) – Eigen werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, Koppeling
Shahdag National Park (in Azerbaijani Şahdağ Milli Parkı) is the biggest national park in the Caucasus mountain ranges and aims to protect endangered species living in this unique ecosystem. It’s located close to the Georgia/Azerbaijan border, just west of Quba.
There are many hiking trails in Shahdag National Park, as short as 3-4 km up to 39 km. All trails go through a beautiful river, forest and green valleys surrounded mountains. On the official website of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources you can find all the information about the park and hiking trails, rules to follow, as well as a way to purchase your entry ticket (roughly a few US dollars). If you like hiking in lush environments and being amongst gorgeous mountains, then this park is absolutely for you.
Shahdag National Park is here:
***Remember all national parks entry ticket can be bought online from the official website of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources.
There are a handful of more parks to write about, including tips on where to be able to swim in the Caspian Sea, but we wanted to start with these for now. We will add to this list, so feel free to pop back in later.
Thanks for reading!
—Go Travel Azerbaijan Team