Day 48 (1): Mud volcanoes and petroglyphs

Qobustan Travel Blog

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View over the Caspian sea from the Qobustan Petroglyphs site

As I had decided to stay a day longer in Baku, I was able to do a little day trip to its surroundings. About 60km south of Baku lies the town of Qobustan. While the city in itself isn't much to look at, there are some interesting sights in the neighbourhood.

With the poor public transport infrastructure I figured the best (only?) way to get there and back was to hire a taxi. Staying with Christiane and Yelena had had a very positive effect on my budget, so I figured I had some extra money to blow. Even so, I wasn't going to blow it all at once. Azerbaijan is an expensive country, but the oil industry makes petrol very cheap.
View over the Caspian sea from the Qobustan Petroglyphs site
So there was no way I was going to pay the 100 euros the taxi drivers demanded. After some some really hard bargaining with several taxi drivers, there was one who eventually settled for my offer of 50 euros for the 200km/5 hour roundtrip.

It turned out he didn't even have a taxi, so he commanded one of his colleagues to drive me but he didn't want to. When he started muttering the first driver got in the taxi as well. Neither of the drivers actually knew where I was going, so it became a boy's own adventure for the three of us. Neither of them spoke much English, but nevertheless we had great fun on the way over.

The first place I wanted to stop was a collection of mud volcanoes, 10km south of Qobustan. They had no dea where to go, so I tried to explain the route using the map and description in my guidebook.
at the petroglyphs
They weren't all that sure the place even existed, so they stopped to ask some people. They did this half a dozen times, and each time the people pointed us in exact the same direction as my guidebook said. Eventually they gave in and decided to follow these instructions.

The trip was amazing. As we headed out into the barren hills, following an unpaved road, there was not a single car or person in sight. The last section of the road was a very steep climb and I feared the old Peugeot was not going to make it up the hill. We made it though and once at the top of the hill all of a sudden there were several cars there with other tourists. Where were all these people the past hour when we tried to find this place?

The mud volcanoes are a strange phenomenon. About 20 odd tiny volcanoes are erupting with grey mud.
Driving up to the petroglyphs
The sight is very otherworldly, the small cones gurgle and spit the mud out, creating small lava streams across the hill top. What makes it so strange is the location, why are there only mud volcanoes here? On this hill top? Why not on the other surrounding hills? And why does no one know about these?

Well, the last question didn't bother me as much. I was happy to share the place with only a handful people. And getting here had been an adventure. But it was very surprising the place wasn't a little more developed.

What was a little more developed was the other sight I wanted to see. On the outskirts of Qobustan lies a rocky area where over 6000 ancient petroglyphs have been found. These ancient doodles were left here about 12,000 years ago by hunter-gatherers who lived in the area (back then a lush forested area on the shores of the Caspian Sea, the waters of which were at least 80 metres higher than now).

While the petroglyphs itself aren't overly interesting (they are very hard to spot as they have faded quite a bit over the past 12,000 years), the surroundings and the views across the Caspian Sea were absolutely mindblowing.



Azadi says:
I disagree about "poor public transportation" remark. If bus does not go to wherever you want to go on the face of Earth, it does not mean transport is poor. There is a nice asphalt road to Gobustan. You can take taxi. Gobustan is a remote archeological site not a residential area to have a regular bus going there.
Posted on: Jul 06, 2014
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View over the Caspian sea from the…
View over the Caspian sea from th…
View over the Caspian sea from the…
View over the Caspian sea from th…
at the petroglyphs
at the petroglyphs
Driving up to the petroglyphs
Driving up to the petroglyphs
This is how oil rigs are born
This is how oil rigs are born
One of the many oil rigs in front …
One of the many oil rigs in front…
Bibi Heybәt mosque
Bibi Heybәt mosque
The James Bond oil field which f…
The 'James Bond' oil field which …
The James Bond oil field which f…
The 'James Bond' oil field which …
Bibi Heybәt mosque
Bibi Heybәt mosque
Bibi Heybәt mosque
Bibi Heybәt mosque
View over the oil fields of Baku
View over the oil fields of Baku
Now heres an oil company I like...
Now here's an oil company I like...
The godawful polluted surroundings…
The godawful polluted surrounding…
On the way to Qobustan
On the way to Qobustan
Qobustan
Qobustan
Mud volcanoes
Mud volcanoes
Mud volcanoes
Mud volcanoes
Mud volcanoes
Mud volcanoes
Mud volcanoes
Mud volcanoes
Mud volcanoes
Mud volcanoes
Mud volcanoes
Mud volcanoes
With the two taxi drivers at the M…
With the two taxi drivers at the …
Mud volcanoes
Mud volcanoes
Mud volcanoes
Mud volcanoes
Petroglyphs
Petroglyphs
lizard saying hello
lizard saying hello
Little movie of the mud volcanoes…
Qobustan
photo by: Biedjee