THE DISPUTED SERIES, DAY 6
ARMENIA – ARTSAKH / NOGORNO KARABAKH
Getting to Karakbakh is possible by renting a car or arranging a driver. Although fairly easy to drive yourself I decided to take a driver for 2 reasons
The drive was long and there was no way I’d have the energy. I can do a lot of my travels, take numerous flights, buses and getting my sleep when I can but driving can be like taking a sleeping pill for me sometimes. It also means I can get sh*t done during the drive saving me valuable time!
WHERE IS ARTSAKH / NOGORNO KARABAKH?
YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHERE TO LOOK
Getting to Karabakh was a breeze but I knew Armenia had a lot to offer outside of Yerevan and I wanted to see more of it on the way. So trying to find out where to go, which sites to visit and how to get there was becoming a nightmare. So leaving the responsibility to the agent was a sure fire way to visit the best sites.
If I’m honest I wasn’t overly excited at the itinerary when I read monastery after monastery but how wrong was I. The drive itself was incredible on its own but the monasteries were undoubtably the most impressive I’ve seen.
Khor Virap I thought was a good start and is a sanctuary located on top of a small hill surrounded by low lying land.
Next up was Noravank and the drive through the gorge leading up to the church was stunning. I have been really lucky with the weather I’ve got, with It being the middle of winter there was nothing but blue sky!
TATEV MONASTERY & CABLE CAR
Believe it or not the worlds longest cable car is right here in Armenia! Its possible to drive to the end point but would took 40 minutes but it also creates a unique experience travelling over the ridge of the mountains.
I tend to get fed up after the first few but against this was something special. Each of the monastery’s are located on strategic viewpoints on the mountain side giving each and every one an incredible view across the valleys
Having an EU passport I was issued with a visa on arrival. The process was simple and as I seemed to be the only person at the border was also very quick. You are given a form to fill in and the guards will issue you with a visa by way of a small printed piece of paper. This will ensure you don’t come across problems if you have to enter Azerbaijan with the same passport.
Without getting into too much detail my understanding is as follows. Karabakh is a disputed region between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Although part of Azerbaijan for a number of years, a referendum was held and Armenia then moved into occupy it. Since then Azerbaijan doesn’t issue visas to Armenians or anyone who has entered Karabakh as they feel they are showing their support of the occupation. It’s fairly complicated.
I am by no means an expert so feel free to fill me in on what you believe and if you feel I am wrong.
The roads and landscape all change drastically from one mountain to another. One minute you could be driving through barren dry land and in 5 minutes be surrounded by nothing but snow.
Later that evening we arrived at Stepanakert, the capital of Karabakh and I was immediately impressed. I should have learned long ago not to judge before actually arriving but sometimes you can’t help it. From what I saw, the city seemed more nicer than Yerevan and they certainly don’t skimp on the Christmas lights.
I checked into Hotel Tirun which I turned out to be the only person staying in. Rooms are basic with an en-suite and breakfast is included. Complimentary 1980s Nike Flip flops standard throughout.
I was recommended Ureni restaurant just 2 minutes walk from the hotel. I was impressed with the food, less so by the manager who felt the need to smoke the entire time I was there. Go for the veal kebab if you are unsure about the menu.
I really wasn’t expecting to see some of things I did on the drive and in hindsight can say it was the right decision to go for a driver.
Driving back to Yerevan for my last night in Armenia before heading off to Moldova again! Click to read.
SAFE TRAVELS, DS x
- Have you been to Karabakh, what was your experience like?
- What did you do?
- What was your favourite experience?
Let me know in the comments below . . .