Shaki (sometimes spelt “Sheki and in Azerbaijani Şəki) is a city located northwest Azerbaijan, close to Gabala. Shaki is very special for local people with its history, food and green mountains—part of Caucasus mountain range. The city dates back to the Bronze Age, so it is still possible to encounter historic places in every corner.
Why visit Shaki?
A couple important Azerbaijani foods originate from Shaki, namely Piti and the Shaki version of baklava. What is piti? in Azerbaijan piti is a flavorful lamb stew, slowly cooked then served in a clay pot. See the quick video below about the ritual of eating piti in Shaki:
Shaki pakhlava (baklava) varies from other pakhlava in Azerbaijan in a couple ways. First (in incredibly simplified terms), instead of a layered phyllo-sort of dough, this pakhlava is topped with a rice flour-based drizzled dough. Then, the iconic red saffron syrup is painted or drizzled in a diamond pattern:
Seen from the drive up, Shaki has amazing green mountains surrounding the city which provides fresh air and adds natural beauty to the city. Shaki is part of the Caucasus mountains that stretches up into Georgia. This area is also quite pristine and doesn’t have quite as many visitors/tourists visiting as nearby Qabala.
Shaki was an important city part of the Silk Trading Route, which connected Asia, the Middle-East and Eastern Europe. It is home to an important resting area on the route, a large Caravanserai (in Azerbaijani: Karvansaray), which dates back to 18th-19th century AD. Travelers would spend the night in this two-story arch-lined structure, have a good meal and converse with others about their journeys. The best part of Caravanserai is that you can be just like these travelers and spend the night here. Rates are very reasonable- comparing Onar’s experience and others we’ve found online, it is aboout 50AZN (or $30USD) per night. Booking online doesn’t seem to be possible currently, but you could visit their Facebook page to learn more and possibly message them to ask.
Tip: there’s a tea house in the caravanserai, so you can definitely still walk around and rest inside without needing to stay overnight here.
You can also visit UNESCO World Heritage site Palace of Shaki Khans. This palace is a national treasure and is adorned with beautiful hand painted artwork, tapestries, and stunning stained glass.
Moreover, because Shaki was an important part of Caucasian Albania, there are still historical sights dating back to 1st century AD such as Church of Kish. According to some sources, it is the first Christian church in the Caucasus.
Shaki is incredibly walkable. No matter where you stay, simply taking a stroll in the clean and ancient streets you are bound to encounter history and beauty in every corner of the city.
All in all, Shaki is a beautiful part of Azerbaijan with clean streets, nature, cuisine and history.
How to get to Shaki?
In order to get to Shaki from Baku, you can take a direct bus from Central Bus Station, Baku. The cost is in the 5USD range and is a 4-5 hour trip. Moreover, you can also take a train ride for 5USD – 12USD (depending on class) from the railway station directly to Shaki. If you have someone to help with communicating- perhaps at your hotel or with your Airbnb host- you can ask to set up a car taxi as well.
Combined with other cities
If traveling to Shaki, it is a great opportunity to also see the beautiful slightly more tourist-focused Qabala nearby. You could very well take a taxi between the cities.
Also for its location in the Caucasus mountain range, it would be a great place to visit in addition to a trip from Georgia if flying in to Tblisi.
If you have the time in your trip to make it to Shaki, we definitely reccomend it. Not only is it situated in the beautiful caucasus mountains, it also carries a lot of historical significance in relation to the Silk Road trading route.
There’s a variety of accommodation to choose from, including staying in the historical Caravanserai.
We hope this article helped give you a general overview of the city Shaki (Sheki), Azerbaijan. We’d love to hear of your experiences here!
Thanks for reading,
—Go Travel Azerbaijan