Nagorno-Karabakh

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Dadivank monastery.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR; Armenian: Լեռնային Ղարաբաղի Հանրապետություն Lernayin Gharabaghi Hanrapetut’yun), or Artsakh Republic (Armenian: Արցախի Հանրապետություն Arts'akhi Hanrapetut’yun) is a de facto independent republic located in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the South Caucasus. It controls most of the territory of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast and several Azerbaijani districts adjacent to the borders of Azerbaijan with Armenia to the west and Iran to the south.

Officially, it is Azerbaijani territory but Armenia kind of sees it as part of their country, and probably around 99% of the people living here are from Armenian origin.

Cities

Getting In

When coming from Goris and going to Stepanakert you will pass a border checkpoint after some 30 kms. Present your passport to the border police, they will ask where you're from and where in Stepanakert you will stay. Tell them the name of some hotel or guesthouse and it will be okay, even if you're not actually going to stay there. They will then give you a piece of paper with the address of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (the address is Azatamartikneri 28) and tell you to go there the same day. When arriving here, a police officer in uniform will ask you to fill in some papers. Do this accordingly and after that you will get a nice visa for 3,000 AMD. They will ask if you want the visa in your passport or on a piece of paper (if you're planning on going to Azerbaijan after NKR, choose the latter!). They will check your visa only upon leaving the country (however, your passport is usually not check when leaving through the north of the territory).

It is possible to get your visa in advance in Yerevan, but you have to register at this Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Stepanakert anyways. So it would actually be a waste of time to visit the embassy in Yerevan, because getting the visa itself in Stepanakert only takes around 5 minutes or less.

Safety

If you stick to the roads and don't venture too close to the borders with Azerbaijan (these are not marked), Nagorno-Karabakh is a very safe place. People tend to be very friendly and open towards foreigners. As in other parts of the ex-Soviet Union, basic understanding of Russian will be a big plus in Karabakh as well.

Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking in Nagorno-Karabakh might even be easier than in Armenia. People will stop very quickly for you, especially when they see you're a foreigner. In Karabakh too, hitchhiking is pretty common among the locals, who are often asked to pay for the rides. However, as a foreigner you are not expected to pay, though to be safe you might want to try and explain your situation before entering the vehicle. Be aware of the fact that the amount of traffic in Karabakh can be very low. When going to Stepanakert from Armenia or vice versa there is only one road leading there (it starts near Goris). Expect on this road maybe one car per 10 or 15 minutes - when travelling between Karabakhian cities this will surely be even less. Usually, the cars you see passing by will be full. But when there is a car with some empty space changes are more than 90% that they will stop for you! The roads north of Stepanakert become progressively worse, until they deteriorate into little more than dirt paths near the northern border with Armenia near Vardenis. Cars heading north are infrequent at night and there are few guesthouses. However, for the adventurous hitchhiker northern Artsakh is paradise: few people, wild and untamed wilderness, and unlimited camping opportunities. Every car with empty seats that passes will stop by to offer you a ride.

Personal Experiences

"The people are friendly, fiercely hospitable, and perpetually intoxicated. Almost every car that passes will stop, and many drivers will go out of their way to help you reach your destination. You will be offered free food, snacks, and alcohol (and you won't be allowed to refuse!). Nagorno-Karabakh is sparsely populated and there are few cars on the road, especially in the north. After sundown there are no cars on the roads between cities. It is also possible to hitchhike into the abandoned city of Agdam, where military recruits will greet you with enthusiasm. Despite the region's excessive hospitality, waiting times can be long given the sparsity of cars on the road, and drive times (especially in the north) are long due to poor road conditions. I hitchhiked all of Armenia and Karabakh, entering the territory from the south, passing through Stepanakert and Agdam, and exiting through the north to Vardenis. I absolutely recommend hitchhiking in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, however, pack a tent or arrange accommodations, as the northern stretch of Karabakh is almost devoid of settlements." - vmpfc1

" When I arrived I was suprised that I need a visa but finally it was very easy. You have to just fill some papers, pay 3000 AMD(6 euros) and that´s it. In papers you should write where you´re staying, but don´t worry I wrote there just "camping" and no one cares. Karabakh is really nice country. It´s similar to Armenia but it´s more in mountains and country is a litlle bit poorer. Locals are very hospitable and nice. Roads are not very good but almost everyone takes you. In Soushi you can find 2 empty mosques and one of them has open minaret so you can climb up and there is fucking nice view, let´s check it!" (Král všech moří, Semptember 2016)

I recently travelled to Karabakh, in May 2017. As a solo female traveller, who has hitch hiked alone in quite a few countries, it was the first time I felt afraid at times. Many times men touched my leg, and/or asked for sex. While I was hiking along the Janapar trail a man invited me to his home for lunch with his family. I have experienced this type of hospitality in Central Asia, and I never had any problems, so I happily accepted his invitation. Afterwards he followed me, wanting to walk with me to the next village. He wanted to have sex with me so I went back into the village, and hitch hiked instead. I had another similar experience in southern Armenia, so afterwards I accepted invitations from women only. I also met many kind, friendly people, so overall, it was good, but sometimes it was difficult. I heard from another solo, female traveller that she had similar problems, so I decided to post my experiences, because I think its important to just be aware and cautious. Generally, i had more problems in the more isolated places, often with Sheppards.