Central Azerbaijan


Visit Guide to Central Azerbaijan

The central region is a vast lowland expanse, mainly of steppes and semi-deserts, dotted with agricultural towns and settlements. The Kura river meanders through the region all the way to the Caspian Sea. The region is also home to two interesting national parks where you can see gazelles and rich birdlife. A few historical monuments are also worthy of exploration.

A main highway runs from Baku through the central region towards the city of Ganja. Other main roads lead south from Hajigabul through Shirvan towards Karabakh, and from Shamakhi and Ismayilli in the north to the town of Goychay.

Daily buses leave from Baku’s International Bus Station and stop in all major towns and cities. Taxis and shared cars are also readily available.

The Goychay region is home to two wineries, AZGRANATA and Aznar, which both specialise in producing pomegranate wine alongside a plethora of grape-based vintages. Both wineries offer tours and tastings.

Goychay is Azerbaijan’s biggest pomegranate-growing region and hosts the annual UNESCO-listed Pomegranate Festival. The central region is home to two big national parks (see the geography and climate section) which are good for gazelle-spotting and birdwatching.

Hajigabul lake is another top birdwatching site here, while intriguing historical sights await north of Hajigabul and in the town of Barda.

About 50km north of nearby Agjabadi town the small city of Barda was once the capital of the ancient state of Caucasian Albania, which existed across much of present-day Azerbaijan between about 4 BC and 8 AD. Located on the Tartar river, Barda today is a quieter town but it’s still home to several historical attractions including the elegant Juma Mosque, the 19th-century Imamzadeh religious complex, and the beautifully tiled Barda Mausoleum built in 1322.

A little north of the town of Hajigabul by the Pirsaatchay river, meanwhile, is an alluring place called Pir Huseyn Khanagah. This is a fortified shrine and caravanserai complex built on the burial site of a revered Sufi sheikh in the 13th century. Previously it was located on a north-south Silk Road caravan route.


The cultural highlight of this region is undoubtedly the Pomegranate Festival (Nar Bayrami), which takes place in Goychay every autumn (interrupted by the pandemic). The Goychay region is the centre of Azerbaijan’s large pomegranate industry with over 60 different pomegranate types grown here. As well as enjoying all the music and other types of merriment, at the festival you can admire and purchase an incredible range of pomegranates and pomegranate-based products.

The festival has been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

This region is covered by steppes and semi-deserts. Summers are extremely hot and dry while winters are cool but temperatures rarely drop below freezing. The Kura river, the largest river in the South Caucasus, flows through the region into the Caspian.

The region is home to two national parks. To the west, Aggol National Park near the town of Agjabadi encompasses a vast lake surrounded by steppe and semi-desert. The expansive area is a haven for birds all year round and home to over 140 species, including nesting colonies of many herons and egrets, glossy ibis, spoonbills, pygmy cormorants and lots of wintering geese, ducks and waders. Besides birds, there are gazelles, wolves, reed cats, foxes, wild boar, snakes, and turtles.

To the east, meanwhile, Shirvan National Park is a 54,000 hectare expanse of semi-desert bordering the Caspian Sea where you can see goitered gazelles, wolves, jackals, foxes, eagles, vultures, pelicans, flamingos and many more interesting species. The park’s mud volcanoes, beaches and sacred sites are also of interest to tourists.

Hajigabul lake, about 1.5 hours’ drive south-west of Baku, is a large wetland fed by the Kura river and an important habitat for wintering and migratory birds.

Agriculture is widely practised throughout the region, including livestock farming and growing wheat, grain and barley. The pomegranate industry dominates in Goychay, which is also an important viticultural area. Oil and gas extraction is the major activity in Shirvan.

Important transport routes and hubs, such as the Tbilisi-Baku railway and Port of Baku, are also located in the region. Coastal areas such as Salyan and Neftchala were historically centres of Azerbaijan’s fishing and caviar industries.