While the majority of people travelling through Azerbaijan, might just spend a few days in Baku and then hop back on the night train to Tbilisi or fly home, it’s definitely worth taking the time to explore other areas of Azerbaijan. A popular option is to travel from Baku to Sheki and then cross the border overland to Georgia. While there aren’t a huge number of things to do in Sheki, it is a pleasant town to spend a day or two exploring.
Wondering about the best way to get from Baku to Sheki? And the best things to do when you arrive? This article will break down all the possible options for how to travel between the two cities and how to best spend your time in the quaint town of Sheki!
How to Travel from Baku to Sheki
There are four possible options for travellers wishing to get from Baku to Sheki: bus, train, taxi or car.
Baku to Sheki Bus
If you’re looking to travel from Baku to Sheki quickly and in a budget-friendly way, then the bus is your best option.
There are frequent buses daily with the current timetable leaving Baku at 9am, 11am, 12:20pm, 2pm, 4:30pm and 5:30pm.
In Baku, head to the International Bus Terminal which is connected to the metro system at stop Avtovagzal on the Purple Line. Tickets on the metro cost 0.50 AZN for a single ride ticket or you can buy a rechargeable card for 2 AZN if you’re planning on using the metro a lot during your time in Baku.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to travel on the metro with your luggage, you can take a taxi for around 3 AZN from the centre of Baku by using the Bolt (Taxify) app. While Uber does exist in Azerbaijan, we weren’t able to get it working during our time there as you were required to download a separate app that was only available for people registered in Azerbaijan. You might be able to get around this if you have a local SIM card.
At the bus station, head to Level 3 and buy a ticket from the booth. Tickets from Baku to Sheki cost 8.40 AZN each and you are given assigned seats which are adhered to on the bus.
We took the 11am bus from Baku to Sheki which was a large coach rather than a marshrutka (minibus). The bus left about 30 minutes after the scheduled departure as the driver was waiting for it to fill up.
Most of the journey is quite smooth along good quality roads except for about the last 60 kilometres where the road is unpaved and it does get quite bumpy! The total journey time is about 6 hours and you stop for 30 minutes about halfway through at a roadside restaurant where you can use the bathroom (they are squat toilets and bring your own TP!) and buy refreshments.
When arriving at Sheki Bus Station, you’ll be greeted by a few taxi drivers who you can negotiate with to take you into town. We paid 3 AZN for a taxi to the other side of Sheki.
Baku to Sheki Train
For travellers who want to save on a night of accommodation, the night train from Baku to Sheki is an excellent option.
Currently, departing from Baku at 11:20pm and arriving in Sheki at 7:10am the next day, the night train gives passengers enough time to get a solid night of sleep and arrive in Sheki feeling refreshed!
There are three types of seats available on the Baku to Sheki train including a bed in an open carriage costing 7.63AZN, 4-bed coupes costing 12.69AZN and 2-bed coupes costing 20.34AZN.
You can buy seats online from the Azerbaijan Railways website for up to 10 days in advance or alternatively head to the Central Railway Station and buy tickets in person.
Baku to Sheki Taxi
If you don’t want to get from Baku to Sheki quickly or the bus and train timetables don’t suit your itinerary, then there is the option to take a shared taxi.
Leaving from just outside the International Bus Terminal, expect to pay about 20AZN per person for a shared taxi to Sheki. If you want to rent the whole taxi for yourself, expect to pay 80AZN to go directly or more if you want to take a more scenic route and include sightseeing stops.
Baku to Sheki Car
Renting a car in Baku to get to Sheki is a great option if you want to have the flexibility to stop in places along the way such as the village of Lahic. The distance from Baku to Sheki is approximately 300km and will take around 4.5 hours to drive.
When renting a car abroad, we recommend using RentalCars.Com to browse the deals available as they aggregate results across a number of providers.
Things to do in Sheki
You can see all of the main sights of Sheki in a fairly leisurely day, however, if you want to stay for longer then there are also a number of great hiking opportunities in the region. The Sheki Wikitravel page lists a few options and you can also visit the Tourist Information Centre located at the Palace of the Shaki Khans or speak to your guesthouse owner.
Palace of Shaki Khans
If you only have time to do one thing in Sheki, then the Palace of Shaki Khans should be where you go. Built in 1797, this was the summer residence of the Shaki Khans and has been completely restored over recent years.
The paintings all over the walls and stained glass (known locally as shabaka) are really impressive, particularly if you haven’t travelled to other countries in the region before.
Entry to the Palace is 5 AZN each and we needed to wait for a tour guide to take us around the palace. The tours included in the price are only in Azerbaijani, however, you can pay extra for an English speaking guide. You are not allowed to take photos inside the palace.
Make sure to visit the small handicrafts market located as you walk towards the Palace where you can learn more about how shabaka is made. The process is unique as they don’t use any glue or nails to make the stained glass. You can even buy small shabakas if you want to take one home as a souvenir!
There is also a craft centre located next to the Palace where there are ceramics made by local craftsmen.
Despite there being a significant number of visitors to the summer residence of the Shaki Khans the nearby Winter Palace was completely empty when we visited.
While there is only one room that has been restored in the Winter Palace, it is as equally as spectacular as the Summer Palace and chances are you will have it all to yourself! There is also the added bonus of photos being allowed inside here.
When we arrived at the Winter Palace, the ticket booth was empty but a few minutes later an attendant showed up and we paid 5 AZN each for a ticket and an additional 3 AZN for an English speaking guide.
Try the sweets
The people of Sheki are incredibly proud of their sweets and as you wander through the town, you will see a plethora of sweet shops! The most famous thing to try is the Sheki halva which is made from local nuts, sugar, spices and syrup. It is commonly served when drinking tea.
Sheki is located on the Silk Road and the Sheki Khans built this stop in the 18th and 19th centuries as a place where traders could spend the night and house their caravans. While there are other caravansarais located in Sheki, this is the only one that still operates as a hotel, so if you’re a history buff then you can spend a night here during your stay in Sheki! To do, contact the hotel directly as it doesn’t appear to be possible to book online.
For visitors who just want to see the historic landmark, you can enter the complex of Caravansarai for free and explore the ground floor of the complex. The second floor where guests stay is off limits unless you’re spending the night there.
Located 5 kilometres from Sheki, the small village of Kiş is best known for its Albanian Church. Not to be confused with the modern day country of Albania, this is a church for Caucasian Albanians which are a separate ethnic group.
From the village of Kiş, you can take the 2.5-hour hike to the Gelersen Goresen Fortress. A taxi from Sheki to Kiş should cost about 4-5 AZN or you can take marshrutka 15 or 23 that leave from the bazaar.
Where to Stay in Sheki
Apart from staying at the Caravansarai, there are a number of options for where to stay in Sheki to suit all levels of budget.
Ilgar’s Guesthouse – A local homestay, Ilgar has been hosting travellers for over 10 years and is a wealth of knowledge on Sheki and the surrounding area. Rooms are basic but comfortable, there is decent WiFi and an option to get breakfast in the morning. Click here to check their latest prices
MinAli Boutique Hotel – If you’re looking for a luxury option in Sheki, then this recently opened boutique hotel is a great choice. Rooms are large, modern and breakfast is included in the daily rate. Click here to check their latest prices
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other rooms in Sheki!
If you’re looking to see another side of Azerbaijan after the capital, then travelling from Baku to Sheki and exploring this small town is a great thing to add to your Azerbaijan itinerary!
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Are you planning on going from Baku to Sheki? Or have you been recently? Let us know in the comments below!