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Travelling to Nagorno Karabagh

Reading my Lonely Planet before leaving for Armenia,  the section on Nagorno Karabakh drew my attention. Vaguely I remembered a conflict over this Caucasus region, without having any specific knowledge of the reasons behind it. After walking through the bombed out areas of the town of Shushi, 23 years after the war, I will never forget. Azerbaijan and Armenia each claimed this territory for themselves. After a three-year war that left 400.000 people dead, Nagorno Karabagh is now a de-facto independent state, with a population that is predominantly Armenian.

 

Sushi bombed house

Sushi bombed house

Nagorno Karabagh has close relations with the Republic of Armenia and uses the same currency, the dram. As a tourist you don’t notice the volatile situation. Locals told me of daily skirmishes on the border with Azerbaijan. One week after I left 33 people got killed.

Travelling to Nagorno Karabakh

is really easy. Shared taxis from Yerevan to Goris cost 4500 drum (10 US) and take 4 hours, any hostel/hotel organizes this for you. From Goris (Armenia) it is another  four hour drive to Sushi (Nagorno Karabakh. The travel is very scenic with dramatic snow-topped mountain ranges with large green areas at their feet.

majestic mountains ranges -approaching the border of Nagorno Karabakh

In Goris, the owner of the  Khachik’s B&B offered to take me to Nagorno Karbakh in his car for 50.000 drum. This trip included the town of Shushi, Stepanakert and Gandzasar Monastary. That sounded like a rush and certainly not what I wanted. So Khachik remembered he had a cousin in Stepanakert where he could stay and we agreed to do a three-day trip together.

Khackik in front of the apartment building in Stepanerkert, where his cousin lives

Khachik’ s cousin and wife in Stepanakert, both retired school teachers, also rent out a room of their apartment in Stepanakert. Eventually I was glad I had decided on the hotel in Sushi rather then cramp into an apartment with 5 people.

Border Procedures

are simple, you show your passport, you are given a tiny piece of paper, the address of the Foreign Ministry in Stepanakert. There you get your visa for 3000 drum super quickly issued by a charming young man. No sweat if you don’t get the visa issue done on your very first day. Basically, the only time you need to prove that you connected the ministry is when you leave the country, you turn in a piece of paper that you received there.

visa Foreign Ministery

Proudly presenting visa in front of Foreign Ministry in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno Karabakh

 

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