28 Sep Day 3 – Beyond Baku
Day 3 - Absheron Peninsula
The Absheron Peninsula has a variety of unique mud volcanoes, with 300 of them in Azerbaijan, 30 per cent of the world’s total. Exploring the Absheron Peninsula will give you an insight into why Azerbaijan is called the “Land of Fire”.
Yanardag, The Burning Mountain
Yanardag is a natural gas fire known to blaze continuously, despite rain and snow on a hillside on the Absheron Peninsula on the Caspian Sea. Fire has never been exhausted because of the hydrocarbon gases from below the earth’s surface. Seeing a nature fire gas mountain was unique.
Ateshgah - The Fire Temple
Built-in the 17th and 18th centuries in Surakhani town, the Hindus and Zoroastrians use Baku Ateshgah as a place of worship. It has a courtyard surrounded by cells for monks. In the middle of the courtyard is an altar with a blazing flame used for prayer. Here you will find inscriptions in Persian, Sanskrit and Punjabi. Unfortunately, the current fire is no longer natural as the gas reserves were depleted under Soviet rule.
Gobustan Museum and Petroglyphs
Before heading to the National Park, visit the dedicated Gobustan Museum, which explains the rock’s drawings’ history with interactive displays and public exhibitions. You will also see human bones and ancient tools from the Mesolithic period.
Gobustan National Park: A Natural Wonder
The Gobustan National Park, also known as the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Topography, is another UNESCO World Heritage site. An open-air museum with old petroglyphs offers insight into Azerbaijan’s ancient people. During the Stone Age, approx 15,000 years ago, hunters settled in caves in the hills of the Gobustan area. These caves portray the long history of human habitation in this region, with over 600,000 rock paintings of prehistoric life, animals, hunters, warriors, ceremonies, rituals and national dances.
There is also one significant rock fragment called Qaval Stone, and when it is struck, it sounds like a drum, which sounds fantastic against the backdrop of this unique landscape.
Gobustan, Mud Volcanoes
Gobustan is 68km or approx an hour from downtown Baku, where you will find the mud volcanoes at Dashgil near the Gobustan Reserve. As you drive halfway towards the reserve, you will need to change your transport to a local taxi (usually an old Soviet car) from the Gobustan Reserve, which is approximately 20 AZN.
Once we got into our tiny car, we drove through a sandy terrain covered with mud lava and in the distance, we could see the blue sea waters and an empty wasteland with some small volcanoes spitting mud. We made our way to an enormous volcano standing on its own. This volcano is 3000 metres, and its crater is 3 meters. The grey mud you see bobbing from the crater is pushed to the surface, created from gases underneath the earth’s surface and is icy. The mud from the volcano is believed to be good for the skin and immune system, and so many visitors enter the mud-filled crater pool or cover their bodies with the mud. You can then wash yourself off at the nearby lake.
Oil Pumps & Oil Fields
Historically, oil surfaced around Baku in the 10th century. The first oil rig was in operation in 1846 and was the first in the world! By the 20th century, Azerbaijan was producing 50% of the world’s petroleum, boosting its economy, and thus creating skyscrapers around the city.
From 1920 to 1991, Azerbaijan became a republic under the Soviet Union; until October 1991, when the country gained independence. Oil exports increased again and contributed to its massive economic growth, with Baku ports prominent on the Caspian Sea.
Trivia: For James Bond fans, you may recognise the oil rigs used as a high-speed chase through the oil field scene (driven by Pierce Brosnan) in the movie ‘The World Is Not Enough’.
Bibi Heybet Mosque
Bibi-Heybet Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in Baku, was destroyed by the Bolsheviks during communist rule in 1936. Today you will see the recreated version, built in the 1990s with the same name. The Shirvanshah dynasty built it around the tomb of Ukeyma Khanum, a descendant of Mohammed. In Azeri culture, a pir is a holy place often associated with a sacred grave, thus becoming an important place of worship for local people.
Heydar Aliev Mosque
Heydar Mosque, named after the former President of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, is located in the Binəqədi raion of Baku. It is the largest Mosque in the South Caucasus region, adorning an ancient Azerbaijani architectural building with its trio of 95-meter-high minarets, intricate stonework and elegant interior. In 2012, work started on the construction of the Mosque, and two years later, in December 2014, the impressive Mosque officially opened.
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