The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions

Photo in the Public Domain.

The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions is part of the Tentative list of Azerbaijan in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions are a number of defensive barriers, strongholds, castles and towers between the Absheron peninsula and the border with Russia. They were built to safeguard the trade route with Southwest Europe. They date from between the 5th and 14th century.

Map of The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions

Load map

The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

Community Reviews

Write a review


Malta - 20-Aug-23 -

The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions (T) by Clyde

I visited this tWHS in 2023 focusing mainly on the 4 locations in the Absheron peninsula closest to Baku, namely Mardakan, Ramana, Nardaran and Sabayil. The other 4 locations are further north towards Siyazan and Shabran on the way to the Azerbaijan-Russia border (close to Derbent).

For starters, the only location of the 4 closest to Baku that is currently still on the Caspian Sea shore is Sabayil, in fact it is now IN the Caspian Sea and its few foundation remains can be seen during low tide from near the Baku Eye waterfront. The other 3 locations are now further inland due to the Caspian Sea shrinking. Nardaran Fortress is the next least interesting site and can be found near the town of Mashtaga, just 25km from Baku. The Shirvanshahs used the fortress for both observation and defense. Its best highlight is the Arabic inscription (seen above in the main photo). The Nardaran Mosque or Rahimakhanim Sanctuary which was built in 1663 is located about 200 metres from the fortress. What's left of the fortress is a square defensive wall around a round tower. Nearby, on the way to the other remaining locations, there's a similarly shaped fortress which can be seen and appreciated better, within the Qala Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum Complex, with some interesting archaeological finds displayed in situ.

The best partially restored/reconstructed locations are those of Mardakan Castle and Ramana Tower. The quadrangular Mardana Castle is bang in the centre of a very residential quarter. Right next to the castle is the small Tuba Shahi Mosque, and behind it lives the castle's elderly custodian who will proudly let you in and show you some of the best finds that are still kept within the castle property. Between the outer walls of the castle, reinforced with semi-circular blind towers located at the corners and along the wall, and the quadrangular tower, several "holes" and wells have been excavated so you really have to mind your step while visiting. Some of these holes are believed to have been storage place for food, sort of primitive natural fridges. There are a few interesting pottery artefacts, Muslim, Christian and Jewish tombstones, and a hidden trapdoor leading to an underground passage which supposedly goes far away along the coastline. The old custodian of the key won't come up the quadrangular tower with you, and for good reason as the wooden interior is in a shockingly dangerous state short of collapsing. Although the stone staircase is ok, you have to do a leap of faith from one storey to the next to avoid stepping on the wooden floors. The tower's roof is also in quite a bad state and although the view is perfect to appreciate the different blind towers and defense systems on the outer wall, each blind tower at the corners of the tower has quite large slots so I wouldn't suggest you visit with children or if you don't have a head for heights.

Last but not least, I visited the Ramana Tower which has the best setting on a rock outcrop and not in a very urban setting like the rest. Historian believe that there once was an underground passage between Ramana and Maiden Towers. Although I enjoyed my visits, and wouldn't have minded visiting the remaining locations, I don't think they would add much to the WH list. 


Philippines - 19-Jul-22 -

The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions (T) by Boj

Just before leaving Baku, I managed to visit Mardakan Square Tower (pictured here) and Ramana Tower. Nardaran Tower still remained closed to tourists (July 2022), much to my disappointment. 

In terms of OUV, the selection of properties exhibit the importance of safekeeping the Caspian shore while uniting Azerbaijan with the rest of the Middle East and Europe.

A cause of concern is the private properties (houses and villas) built somewhat close to the tower gates.


Switzerland - 02-May-18 -

The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions (T) by Walter

This serial nomination consists of eight elements of defense built  on the narrow costal plain between the eastermost peaks of the Caucasus mountains and the Caspian sea. Four elements are on the Absheron peninsula, and can easily be reached by bus from Baku, four are in the north, about an hour fom Baku, with very limited public transportation.

This narrow coastal plain is on average 11 km wide, with a narrow 2 km passage. Human  trade route and bird migration use this corridor (called Besh Barmag bottleneck by ornithologists).  It was on the northern border of the Sasanian empire and it successors. Derbent WHS (in Russia) and The great Wall of Gorgan TL (in Iran) are part of the same defense works.

Besh narmag peak, at 382 meter above the sea, overlooks the narrowest part of the corridor. This is a famous mountain in Azerbaidjan, as a mythical and sacred moutains, regularly visited by pilgrims. There is a dirt road going in the hills (passable with regular car, take the highway exit to Siyezen, and turn left after 2 km) and reaching a small setllement with shops and picnic restarant (all closed on the day of my visit). Steps then laders climb up to the peak, where a small mosque is built in the cliff. Entrance is free, but donations box are everywhere. Near the top of the peak lies wall of a fort, from which the corridor was totally controlled. At the bottom of the peak, a barrier was also built across the corridor but I don’t believe anything remains from it.

At little north of Beshnbarmag is another barrier called Gil-gilchay barrier, also built in the 5th century. In the plain, the barrier was made of red bricks, and in the mountains, it was made of towers and forts. This barrier is 120 km long. Chiraggala fort is part of this defensive barrier. Not much is advitized about this barrier, and even having researched it beforhand, I could only use my imagination to see the defense line on the mountain ridge and across the plain. To get to Chiraggala, take the road to Sizelen, and turn left on a good road just before entering the town, following Qalaalti Resort and Spa signs. The road crosses some interesting oil fields. I did not get to the castle however, as the weather was very bad that day and I ended up in a very thick fog, with a 2 meter visibility. I got scared to get lost.

A bit further north, are the ruins of Shabran city. It was first built in the 6th century, but was destroyed and rebuilt several times before being abandonned in the 18th century. This site consists of a ruins of a 14th century fortress, similar to those in the Absheron peninsula. Entrance is free. To get there, take the right road at the end of the highway (the highway forks into two roads, left for Quba and right for Xacmaz), and after 5 km, turn left (there is a small sign).

Mardakan Round Tower is in the Absheron peninsula, about 30 km from Baku. Several buses lead to Mardakan town. It is a 22 m high round tower, surrounded by a  7 meter high wall, built in the 12th century

Bayil Tower are the remains of a castle on an island off the coast of Baku. The castle was destroyed in an earthquake in 1302, and the Caspian sea level rose and submerged the remains for several centuries. It is not possible to get on the island, but it can be seen from Baku Boulevard (the seashore walkway).

Nardaran Tower is tower 30 km from Baku. The area was closed by soldiers during my visit, probably becasue of some events in the nearby mosque.

Ramana Tower (pictured)  is another tower of the 12th century, this one on a rocky hills, 15 m high, overlooking surrounding villages and oild fields, 15 km from Baku. A bus leads to Ramana village. The keys to the castle are held by some neigbours, that will probably see you coming and proposing to let you in for 3 manats. It is possible to climb in the tower and on the walls. 

Altogether some nice places to visit. My favorites would be Ramana Tower and Besh narmag. For more information //

Community Likes


3 Votes

Full Name
The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions
Structure - Military and Fortifications
2001 Added to Tentative List

The site has 8 locations

The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions: Chiraggala stronghold (T)
The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions: Mardakan (T)
The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions: Nardaran Fortress (T)
The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions: Shabran (T)
The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions: Sabayil Castle (T)
The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions: Ramana Castle (T)
The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions: Beshbarmag barrier (T)
The Caspian Shore Defensive Constructions: Gil-gilchay barrier (T)
WHS 1997-2024