Azerbaijan’s economy continues to diversify through the influx of visitors to the country in recent years. A new group of tourists are being attracted to the country with high-profile sporting events such as the Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Added to the list this year is the UEFA Europa League, Europe’s second biggest club football tournament, the final of which will be hosted at the Baku Olympic Stadium on 29 May 2019.

The highly anticipated final will attract not only football aficionados from Europe, but from across the world. Azerbaijan hopes to capture the attention of sporting enthusiasts with its many offerings of outdoor pursuits and high-energy activities, to turn spectators into adventurers and to allow them to ‘take another look’ at all the country has to offer.

We suggest a few experiences to indulge in while you visit the country to watch the riveting final:

Discover Icherisheher

The walls of Icherisheher whispers the ancient mysteries of the city. Known as old town or inner city, it is located in the heart of Baku and is a maze of narrow roads spotted with limestone buildings. A sight that’s difficult to miss is the Shirvanshahs’ Palace and Maiden Tower, both listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites List. The Palace itself is known as the Pearl of Azerbaijani architecture as it is made up of several different structures built throughout the ages with each adding a beautiful amalgamation of medieval, Asian and Islamic influences.

Another mystery is the Maiden Tower. This cylindrical stark tower has baffled historians and to date has theories aplenty about its origins and the exact date of construction. Despite that, it is one of the most iconic structures in the city housing a museum covering the history of Baku and marked around it are beautiful scriptures that hint at the possible roots of this historical feat. It is also home to the International Festival of Arts and regularly showcasing work from innovative artists against its mystic backdrop.

Besides that, Icherisheher offers some of the most eccentric and outstanding feats. The Museum of Miniature Books, a Guinness Book record-holder, open to all for free, houses the largest number of miniature books at 5,600 and don’t forget to spot your national flag to find books from your home country. Another place to stop by is the Ali Shamsi Studio, a wonderland of paintings that transport you to another dimension of reality and mind-boggling installations. You will often find the artist and philosopher Ali Shamsi there who can talk you through the burgeoning art scene in the city.

The iconic work at the Heydar Aliyev Centre

Designed by the illustrious architect, Zaha Hadid, it is notably one of the most iconic landmarks in the city of Baku. Besides the building’s magnificent architecture, it houses some of the best art curations in the city and right in the front of the centre you cannot miss the plethora of free masterclasses from tango, chess to capoeira reaffirming that the Heydar Aliyev Centre is the place to be. There are four massive floors dedicated to modern and classic art and culture including a colossal collection of vintage cars, several salivating and decedent fashion exhibits alongside a full-fledged museum to add to the mix.

Authentic Azerbaijani cuisine

From their kebabs to tandir bread, Azerbaijan’s food is truly a melting pot of cultures with fragrances and flavours influenced by European, Middle Eastern and Asian food.

The local delicacies you must not miss though are the fragrant saffron plov (pilaf), barbequed kebabs, and dolma stuffed with hearty minced lamb topped with a touch of sourness from fermented pickles.

Prehistoric petroglyphs of Gobustan

Rising out of the semi-desert Gobustan is a UNESCO World Heritage site of more than

6,000 rock engravings, which go back 40,000 years. You can also see graffiti by

a Roman legionary - the furthest east it has ever been found. The petroglyphs of Gobustan are artistic chronicles of the past that span a period of approximately 20,000 years beginning from the end of Upper Palaeolithic until the beginning of our era.

Besides that, did you know that almost half of the world’s mud volcanoes are located in Azerbaijan? Most of them are situated near the Gobustan preserve. Due to their size and diversity mud volcanoes are considered natural monuments of Azerbaijan.

Ateshgah and the ‘Burning Mountain’

The Ateshgah Fire Temple amazes visitors with its ever-burning flames and features 16 inscriptions that harbour centuries-old secrets. This ancient fire-worshipping temple in Surakhani dates to the 19th century and is sure to leave you and the kids in awe.

Still got time before you head back to the city? A short drive away in Mehemmedi village is the gas-rich terrain of Yanar Dag, known as the ‘Burning Mountain’ because of the flames that blaze away naturally on the hillside. This will definitely keep the children gawking in delight.

Buzzing atmosphere of Baku Boulevard

Breathe in the fresh air of the Caspian Sea while you stroll the pleasant Baku Boulevard. On it you will find a small replica of Venice made up of a myriad of islands with gondolas floating along canals and past restaurants.

The Boulevard also offers eye-catching Instagram photo opportunities: from old Soviet trains to panoramic views of the city from the Baku Ferris Wheel (Baku Eye), there is so much to see before the day ends. Don’t forget to check out the Yarat Modern Art Space that offers world-class master classes and exhibitions for the whole family. End the day with an excursion on the Mirvari ship that has its own restaurant so you can truly relish the Caspian seaside experience.

Therapeutic oils of Azerbaijan

Getting messy never felt so therapeutic. Spend the day indulging in therapeutic wellness treatments where the curative properties of crude oil baths (yes – soaking in liquid oil) are used to treat musculoskeletal diseases, as well as neurological, urological, gynecological, skin and other ailments.

Soak up the healing properties of Azerbaijan’s natural resources and gentle climate with views of the stunning landscape at Chinar Hotel & Spa Naftalan, which is a 4-hour drive from Baku. The Naftalan Health Centre, located in Baku is another option for those with limited time who want to try this unique treatment.

 

Source: Hill+Knowlton Strategies