Length of stay: 4 days.
Period: July 2015.
Time for a new blog section! Starting today I will explain the routes that I do through the countries I pass by. In I explained already what was and was not this small self-proclaimed republic from the Caucasus, but was is it there to be seen?
Before starting, should be explained that being a non-recognized independent territory the names of the cities are not the same as they appear in any political map. So I will write them the way it’s called there and between brackets the Azeri name, in case they have.
The route through this small republic started in its capital, Stepanakert, which is just 60 kilometers away from the main border with Armenia. In this city there is not much to see, honestly, but since you have to go to issue the visa is worth checking it out.
Stepanakert, with only a little more than 50,000 inhabitants, is the largest city in Nagorno Karabakh, so you can imagine how small this country is.
You cannot go away without seeing the memorial to the fallen soldiers of World War II (and the subsequent war of independence of Karabakh) and the monument ‘We Are Our Mountains’ which is commonly called ‘Tatik u Papik’ (Grandma and Grandpa) because of the old couple sculpted. It’s not so big but is very valuable for the people of Karabakh as they represent the roots with Armenian people.
It’s curious that this city is twinned with San Sebastián (Basque Country, Spain) so being there everybody was constantly asking me if I was from there!
You cannot miss walking around downtown, the destroyed and humble old Muslim district, today inhabited by Armenians, and discover Yukhari Govhar Agha, a former Azeri mosque. You also have to pay special attention to the fortress built in the eighteenth century and Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, probably the most beautiful in the country.
So here we go. The natural part that, by far, I liked the most.
The canyon, 250 meters high, is crossed by the Karkar river and to the left of it you will find the old village of Hunot, abandoned about 100 years ago. Today there are only a few houses, mills and bridges collapsed and all of them are half covered by a green impressive moss.
There are three marked routes to get there. The shortest one is driving until Muxtar and leaving the car nearby the canyon in a parking. The second is from Dasalti, you can get there through a path of about 2 km along the river. The third route, even if it is the longest, is by far the best and most beautiful. It begins on the outskirts of Şuşa and extends for about 5 or 6 kilometers, where you will have incredible views of the mountains and the canyon itself, while you go down the mountain to the river. If you have time take this last one, you won’t regret it. And do not forget to bring your swimsuit and food for a picnic and take a full day there!
Askeran (Əsgəran), Tigranakert and Sarsang
In the town of Askeran, 14 kilometers northeast of Stepanakert, there is an ancient fortress that used to protect the city of Shushi. In fact, the name ‘Askeran’ means ‘barracks’ because it began as a military camp that controlled from the fortress and as time went by, it ended up being a town.
Tigranakert, in the province of Martakert, is nowadays a ruined city founded more than 2,000 years ago by Tigranes the Great, king of Armenia at that time.
What remains of it is not so much so currently there is not too much to see, but they are still excavating and finding new things, so probably it will be more interesting with more time than it already is. Nearby there is the mountain Vankasar, where right at the top there is a small church that is walkable from Tigranakert, and from up there you can have a very good view of the town and the landscape that surrounds it.
Going further north, still in Martakert province, I found Sarsang Lake, which is the largest in the whole country.
Beautiful, right? The truth is that although it seems supernatural, the lake is artificial and was created about 30 years ago putting a hydroelectric dam in the Tartar river. In my opinion, it’s a must if you’re on your way northwest of Karabakh, which is exactly where I was going.
Dadivank (Vəng) and the hot springs
Dadivank is the most beautiful monastery of Karabakh and one of the most beautiful of all Armenia. It is just over a kilometer walking from the road going to the northwestern border with Armenia.
The temple was destroyed many times by Turks, Seljuks, Arabs and Persians, but was always rebuilt and currently is an active monastery of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Surrounded by nature, it is a place to get lost a few hours without a doubt.
Finally, I had to cross back to Armenia and a local told me that on the way to border there were some hot springs with geysers I should visit for sure. Apparently in the area there were several of them but there was one that stood out among all, and since I had to take only a 20 kilometers detour to see it, I decided to check it out.
And while is true that the water was superhot and was nice and quiet to hang around, it was not that incredible.
Anyway, I was in the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh only 4 days but it was enough to see how beautiful the country is and the people living in it. If you have the opportunity to pass by, go and pay them a visit! And remember that there is no international airport in the country, so you will have to enter through Armenia.