Did you know that Azerbaijan is dubbed the Land of Fire? There are two fire-related tourist attractions close to Baku. They’re also places of religious worship to which pilgrims travel from all around the word. Don’t miss them, if you have a few days to explore Azerbaijan.
Yanar Dag or the Burning Mountain
Yanar Dag or the Burning Mountain is a place where a 10 metre-long wall of natural fire has been burning incessantly since the 14th century (or so claim the locals). It runs on natural gas and hasn’t been extinguished by rain or snow. It sounds fascinating so of course we needed to see it for ourselves.
We were not disappointed but you should know what to expect: it’s a fire on the side of a mountain. Unless you’re visiting it for religious reasons as Zoroastrians do, you’ll be happy with hanging out around there for 5-10 minutes, taking some pictures and heading off. The tour of the place with the local guide is super short so prepare your questions, if you have any, because they’ll disappear soon.
The Fire Temple – Ateshgah of Baku
If you’re a real Game of Thrones fan and you haven’t had enough fire yet, the Fire Temple will certainly make you happy. The Temple was built around natural gas sources, however, due to fuel exploitation the fire you can see there today is no longer natural. There’s only one fire, which is artificially sustained at all times. Another four are only lit for special occasions. Our visit clearly wasn’t special enough for that…
It’s also a very interesting location to visit as it’s a place of worship for two religions: Zoroastrianism and Hinduism. They’ve co-existed for a long time without disturbing one another, even though their customs are very different.
You can learn a lot about both religions from the descriptions in the Temple or from your guide. If you arrive on your own, you can pay for a guided tour of the place. If you pay for an organised tour, the service could be included in the price.
It seems to be a trait of the Azerbaijani tourism industry that the guide, who travels with you usually doesn’t tell you about the locations you’re visiting. He or she may share some general info with you on the bus (or not, unfortunately…) but most tourist locations have their own guides. “Your” guide will just follow you around, acting as an interpreter, if required.
How to Explore the Fire Attractions?
The cool thing about both places is that they’re quite easy to access from Baku. They are actually a part of the Greater Baku area, meaning Baku and adjacent villages.
If you want to explore these attractions on your own you can use public transport or a cab. You’ll certainly find a cab back as taxi drivers here have a habit of hanging around tourist attractions.
If you prefer the convenience of an organised tour, there are generally two types of group tours that allow you to visit both Yanar Dag and the Fire Temple of Baku: a half day tour with these two locations only and a full-day tour that adds the Mud Volcanoes, the rock paintings in Gobustan and the Heydar Aliyev Centre to the itinerary. The latter is an amazing art centre so it’s a real shame not to have enough time to explore it properly. If you can afford it time and moneywise, rather do two half-day tours and add a visit to the Centre to top up one of them.