Qobustan Petroglyph Reserve


The Unesco-listed Qobustan Petroglyph Reserve protects thousands of stick-figure stone engravings dating back up to 12,000 years. Themes include livestock, wild animals and shamans. The images were carved into what were probably caves but over time they have crumbled into a craggy chaos of boulders. Even if you have no particular interest in ancient doodles, Qobustan’s eerie landscape and the hilltop views towards distant oil-workings in the turquoise-blue Caspian are still fascinating.

A visit starts 3km west of Qobustan at a state-of-the-art museum, which gives context to what you will see on the mountain ridge 2km above. English-speaking staff offer guided tours (AZN15) to assist you in spotting and deciphering the petroglyphs, but alone you'll still be able to spot the key scratchings. Don’t miss the spindly reed boat sailing towards the sunset. Comparing this with similar ancient designs in Norway led ethnologist Thor Heyerdahl to speculate that Scandinavians might have originated in what is now Azerbaijan.

The nearest you can get by public transport is the southern end of Qobustan where bus 195 stops. In front of a few lacklustre shops there, you'll find taxi drivers willing to take you to the site plus the mud volcanoes for between AZN30 and AZN40 (including waiting time) though don't assume that they will speak English.

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