It’s no secret that the Soviet Europe team at YPT love autonomous republics, breakaway states and bizarre exclaves, so when we were invited to bring tour groups by the tourism ministry of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic we seized the chance to run organized tours to Nakhchivan and add it to our growing Soviet tours calendar! Due to this republic being extremely unknown, it is arguably one of the most underrated Azerbaijan attractions so read on for an in-depth YPT explanation.
Technically, Nakhchivan is an exclave of Azerbaijan, but this bizarre republic is geographically separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by its mortal enemy, Armenia, with whom they’re still at war with since the 1990s. During the collapse of the USSR, Nakhichevan was actually the very first post-Soviet regions to claim independence, shortly after these visions of independence it was annexed by Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh War between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted and killed tens of thousands of people. During this war, Nakhchivan was blockaded and plunged into isolated darkness for a long time and in order to survive, this isolated exclave was forced to become very self-reliant. Today, the autonomous republic enjoys a high level of autonomy from Azerbaijan boasting its own parliament and prime minister.
Whilst largely unknown today, in centuries gone by Nakhchivan was the crossroads of many empires and part of a significant trading route. Left behind are many jaw-dropping sights from ancient mosques, formidable fortresses and Indiana Jones-style tombs to awe-inspiring natural scenery. The earth here is rich with natural springs and salt, with many travelling from Turkey and Azerbaijan proper to reap the health benefits. There are over 200 mineral water springs in Nakhchivan covering 60% of all water sources of Azerbaijan. The Republic is also home to one of the best universities in Azerbaijan and is well known for its entrepreneurial way of thinking, there is even a museum dedicated to the products and designs made in the republic and exported to Azerbaijan and the wider world!
Map of Nakhchivan:
The Nakhchivan map can be seen here highlighted in red, completely separated geographically from Azerbaijan proper.
Travel to Nakhchivan:
Travel to this isolated Azerbaijani Exclave can only be done in a few ways, via flight from Baku or Istanbul. Or via road from Eastern Turkey or Baku via Azerbaijan, but arguably the best way to enter Nakhchivan is via flight from Baku to Nakhchivan Airport, however, the tickets are not available online and must be purchased from a registered tour operator. Any attempt to enter via the Nakhchivan border with Armenia will not end well. A Nakhchivan visa is not required, all that is needed to enter is a standard Azerbaijani visa which can be done online and is not expensive.
Nakhchivan people are friendly and curious to meet foreigners, due to the region being the stomping ground for many empires and traders, the local Nakhchivan cuisine is incredible and definitely worth trying.
The flag of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic is similar to that of the flag of Azerbaijan with a different colour scheme.
Organized Group Tours and Private Tours to Nakhchivan:
Young Pioneer Tours are now running scheduled group and private tours to Nakhchivan throughout the year. Starting and ending in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, our tours take in everything Nakhchivan has to offer, from ancient fortresses and medieval cities, meeting locals, trying the local cuisine. Contact us to organise an unforgettable tour into this forgotten exclave and similar destinations today!