Introducing Baku to Qobustan
The most popular day trip from Baku takes visitors to the mud volcanoes and petroglyphs around Qobustan, 60km south of the capital. En route is a fascinating collage of beaches, oil workings, dazzling seascapes, spirit-crushing Soviet townships and intriguing semi-deserts plus a dust-billowing cement works thrown in for good measure. At Baku’s southern limits lies an incredible ‘forest’ of 1930s nodding-donkey oil pumps. It has been nicknamed the James Bond Oil Field since featuring in the opening scenes of the movie The World is Not Enough, but hurry to see it before a long-overdue clean-up operation sanitises the whole area. The scene is best surveyed from near Bibi Heybət Mosque , which was for centuries the region’s holiest shrine. However, the original 13th-century building was demolished by the Soviets in 1934 and today’s Ottoman-style structure dates from 1998.
Just beyond is Şixov Beach , fascinating for photographing bathers gambolling on the ‘sand’ with a romantic backdrop of giant offshore oil rigs. There are hotels, restaurants and disco-beaches here should you wish to stay a while.