A travel guide for Azerbaijan
10.06.2013 - 11.06.2013
During my first months in Azerbaijan I decided I wanted to explore as much of the country as I could. Azerbaijan is certainly one of those countries you can call "off the beaten path", so I wanted to share some of the hidden destinations you can find in the land of fire.
So first off lets venture off to "Sheki" (Şəki). Sheki is a small picturesque city situated in Northern Azerbaijan, by the lower parts of the Caucasus mountain range. The city is enveloped by green forests with snowcapped mountain tops in the background. Its a wonderful break from the semi-deserted capital, if you want to see some more lush nature and fresh air.
It was long past dark when we arrived in Sheki, and with the lack of street lights we could only see the outline of dark shapes and the sound of animals barking, mooing and bleating. We had been on a trip to meet an organization in Ganja, and as the meeting came to a close , we took a spontaneous decision to venture off up north. 40 AZN (≈40EUR) and 3,5 hour taxi drive later we arrived in this northern gem.
The following morning we woke up early and going outside we were met with the marvelous sight of a lush mountain village. Not wanting to waste any time we set out to explore the city. As we were walking about the city we realized that the city had been redecorated to showcase its rich history; the streets were meticulously tidied and the houses renovated to showcase the traditional architecture and its rich history.
Sheki has a long history, dating back to 700 b.c when the Iranian people "Saka" came to settle the region. Since the original settlement the city was invaded several times and a variety of people have been ruling the city from Persian, Roman, Albanian and other rulers. Because of the invasions around the city most of the architectural remainders are only from the last few hundred years, but the city is a architectural pearl.
From the center we walked the winding way up to the Palace of the Sheki Khan, which was the summer residence of the Khan. Built in 1797 it and its gardens is now the only remaining building from the Khan's fortress. The two store building is lavishly decorated with neat wooden decorations, and inside there are colorful glass mosaics and rich frescos.
After visiting the palace we walked back down to the center and passed by another remnant from the Khan; the Caravansarai. The building was built to house the caravans traveling on the silk road from China to Europe. It was the largest caravansary in the region and the building is still functioning as a hotel and restaurant. Its a nice place to visit to get a chance and a good hotel option if you want to follow in the footsteps of traveling merchants many centuries before.
We only had a few hours in Sheki so we didnt have the chance to do more in depth exploration, but it was well worth the travel. If you have more time there are also some excellent hiking trails near the city. Its a beautiful place to visit whether you are just looking for a place to relax, or exploring Azerbaijani history and art.