Baku is the largest city on the Caspian Sea and also the capital of Azerbaijan. It has had a long and tumultuous history and there is plenty to see and do. Flights into the city arrive at Heydar Aliyev Airport (GYD).
Baku car hire is a great way to see the city as well as the surrounding areas. It is, however, a good idea to check the FCO website for full details of regulations and requirements to ensure that you are fully compliant with local driving laws. Car hire in Baku is easy to arrange and vehicles can be picked up at the airport.
Azerbaijan was formerly a part of the USSR but has really been making a name for itself in recent years. It hosted the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, having won the event in 2011. It was held in the Crystal Hall, which was built especially for the contest.
Baku has been an important city since the 13th century, when the city of Shamakhy was all but destroyed by an earthquake. At the time, Shamakhy was the capital of Shirvan, a mediaeval region of the Caucasus. Baku was nominated as the new capital and then several hundred years of arguments and fighting began between Iran and Russia to control the city.
In 1813, however, the Treaty of Gulistan was signed between Russia and Persia, giving Azerbaijan, Georgia and Daghestan over to Russian control. This wasn't the end of it, though and in 1991 Azerbaijan gained independence from Russia and is now recognised as a country in its own right. This independence came at a great cost of life and Martyrs' Lane is a cemetery and memorial dedicated to those who died during the fighting.
At 190m, the Flame Towers are the tallest buildings in Baku. Construction of these flame-shaped residential towers was completed in 2012 and the faaades of the buildings, which are covered with over 10,000 LED lights, are used as giant display screens. The buildings look particularly impressive at night. Another stunning modern building is the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre.
The Palace of the Shirvanshahs is a fine example of mediaeval Shirvan architecture. This large and impressive complex dates back to the 15th century but it is well preserved and an absolutely stunning sight.
In 2000, Baku's old town, which includes the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The majority of the mediaeval buildings are located here, including the Maiden's Tower which is now home to a museum.
The natural wonder of the Yanar Dag is also an interesting attraction. It is a natural gas fire which burns continuously on a hillside near the city.
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