Mingacevir, Ganja, Shaki and Zaqatala
Getting out of Baku is quite easy indeed. head to the last floor of the terminal station located outside the city and you’ll see the minibuses and regular buses stationed in their platforms. The terminal is quite large and poorly organized, all busses though clearly indicate where they are going with a sign in the front window, next to the driver.
Mingacevir is a relatively small city between the Caucasus and Ganja City. it’s main distinctive feature is a closely guarded hydroelectric plant and it’s consequent reservoir in whose shores Azeri’s lined up some Chai houses and café’s, between them the Athesga café with nice views of the water.
The city center is quite photogenic and looks more like a movie stage than an actual city center. There’s nothing in particular to do in mingacevir, but it’s a nice local experience. Azerbaiajan culture at its more natural with the guys sitting in the chai houses sipping tea and playing board games the market an
Ganja City is the second biggest city in Azerbaijan, hosts an airport for domestic and international air travel (closed though at time of visiting). The city center a big statue of the country’s leader Heydar Allyev surrounded by the public buildings and a very big park. There’s a mosque and some nice streets to stroll by gently. Police are not sympathetic about people taking pictures at public buildings and won’t understand another meaning for their city’s name. I got in trouble for trying to get a picture of a Ganja Police station sign, to the point of getting arrested and interviewed.
Shaki is a small mountain town, with many things to do near and arround and located in the Caucasus mountain range within a dense forest. The streets have witnessed the steps of the marching caravans and different empires, and still many buidings reflect those stories. The Caravansier hotel located above the city center and the Khans palace are a reason to visit in itself.
The city center is also very interesting and there are several working mosques worth the visit.
Zaqatala is an even smaller town, near the border with georgia. There is a small castle that’s been recicled into an army garrison and a beautifull city center.
Transport: All cities have a central bus station, you can take the state sponsored busses that depart from within the stations or share cabs. (None of them is safer than the other, driving in this country is insanely dangerous).
Sleeping: Mingacevir has two hotels, there is also a new complex with a five star hotel, a restaurant and a pool.
Ganja as the second city in the country has several hotels of different category. it’s worth to call ahead and let them now of your arrival.
Shaki has several options since is a very popular destinations, although the experience of sleeping in a 300 year old hotel is worth the modest price. be advised it looks as a 4 star hotel but most rooms would get a 2 star rate.