At YPT, we love autonomous republics, breakaway states and bizarre exclaves, and our latest addition to our range of tours to such far flung places is the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic! Whilst Nakhchivan is an exclave of Azerbaijan, 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 1990’s. Nakhchivan was one of the first regions of the former USSR to claim independence, shortly after this the Nagorno-Karabakh War between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted and killed tens of thousands of people. During this war, Nakhchivan was blockaded for a long time. In order to survive, this isolated exclave was forced to become very self-reliant.
Inside this little known, landlocked republic are many incredible sights from ancient mosques and Madrassas and Soviet relics to awe inspiring natural scenery and the tomb of Noah. We’ll begin our tour in the capital of Azerbaijan and explore everything it has to offer from its Soviet remnants and its ancient history and the cult of personality around the long serving president Heydar Aliyev. We’ll then take a charter flight into Nakhchivan, as the border with Armenia is sealed, and begin our tour around the country seeing everything there is to see, meeting local people and trying the local cuisine.
While you’re in the region, why not join up with the tour to Nakhchivan’s neighbouring country of Iran? We’ll be taking a road trip all the way to Tehran and after our time in Iran will be exploring Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, Georgia and Abkhazia.
As always return Pioneer discounts apply, get in touch to book your spot!
Arrival in Baku at your own leisure and transfer to our centrally located hotel.
At 18:00 meet up with your YPT guide and the rest of the group and head out for a traditional Azerbaijani dinner.
Try the classic rice dish of Plov or a meatball broth called Kufta Bozbash or Azeri Dolma. Despite being nominally a nation of Shiite Muslims, more than 160 years of Russian presence have left Azerbaijan with strong taste for alcohol, so you can wash the meal down with a local Xirdalan beer or Azeri wine.
Overnight in Baku
Friday 18th March – Baku
After breakfast we’ll meet our local Baku guide and head to the vantage point over Baku to see the Azerbaijani capital in it’s full glory, we’ll then begin our tour of Baku old town, a UNESCO world heritage site, this fortified area is the historical core of Baku. We’ll see the ancient landmarks of the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower.
See the famous carpet museum (actually shaped like a carpet) from outside.
Heading into the suburbs of Baku, we’ll check out the Baku Fire Temple, a castle-like religious temple used as a Hindu, Sikh, and Zoroastrian place of worship.
Check out the iconic and jaw-dropping Heydar Aliyev centre. Named after the long-running president of Azerbaijan, the centre is famous for its distinctive flowing, curved design. It’s a fantastic example of post-modern architecture, the building’s shape is an eternal cycle, connecting the past with the present.
Check out some of the surviving Soviet architecture of Baku.
Now, no journey to the land of fire would be complete without a visit to the burning mountain! We’ll ascend into the hills around Baku to Yanar Dag. Similar to the Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan, this is a natural gas fire which burns continuously on a hill near the Caspian Sea. The flames steadily burn 3 metres into the air feeding off natural gas under the rock. Legend has it that the blaze was ignited by a shepherd discarding a cigarette in the 1950’s and it continues to burn to this day.
On the way back from Yanar Dag we’ll be able to see some Soviet oil industry ruins from the car.
Return to Baku for an evening meal and prepare for our departure into the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.
Overnight in Baku.
Saturday 19th March – Baku-Nakhchivan
We’ll make an early start and head to the lesser visited terminal of Baku airport for our short flight to Nakhchivan, this will avoid the frontline of Nagorno-Karabakh and cross over Iran. We’ll arrive in Nakhchivan city in mid-morning where our local Nakhchivan guides and escorts will be waiting for us.
We’ll drop our luggage at our hotel and kick start the tour of this little known republic.
First, we’ll visit the tomb of the Prophet Noah: This is one of the most important places in the autonomous republic related to the biblical Flood. It is claimed, researched and confirmed that Prophet Noah has been buried here.
We’ll then visit one of the most outstanding landmarks in Nakhchivan: the Momine Khatun Mausoleum, decorated with a complex geometric pattern and quotes from the Koran, this grand decahedral mausoleum was built 1186 in memory of the mother of Atabay ruler Mahammad Jahan Pahlavan. It is called the Taj Mahal of Nakhchivan and was considered as a medieval skyscraper of its day reaching 34 meters in height.
We’ll visit the military museum of some of the local residents who became high ranking officers of the Soviet army.
Check out the Khans house, this was the home of the Nakhchivan ruler Rahim khan and was built on a high hilltop called the “Khan height”, which makes it look extremely magnificent. There is a spectacular view of the capital city from this point.
We’ll enjoy a traditional Nakhchivan lunch.
Head to the Karabaglar village to see the ruins of small mausoleums scattered over ancient fields and tower fortifications.
We’ll pay a visit to the Duzdag Salt mines Hospital. We’ll tour the whole complex and meet those who regularly use it. This is a unique place used for natural medical treatment of asthma and bronchitis. The medical treatment is made by keeping the patients in the empty salt mines for several hours per day.
Head back to Nakhchivan city for an evening meal and drinks.
Overnight in Nakhchivan.
Sunday 20th March– Nakhchivan-Ordubad
Breakfast at our hotel
The water in Nakhchivan is a big deal, there are over 200 mineral water springs in Nakhchivan covering 60% of all water sources of Azerbaijan.There are six types, sixteen categories and thirty-three species of mineral waters in Nakhchivan.
We’ll drive to Daridagh thermal spring deep in the mountains of Julfa region The water in the area is used for people suffering from stomach diseases.
Drive to Ordubad which is the second largest town and a medieval city of the Caucasus, well known for its exports of fruits and spices, and for its cuisine.
We’ll see what the hype is all about and stop for a local lunch to try the Ordubad cuisine.
Tour of Ordubad, we’ll see one of the many underground canals called “kahriz”, a source of water for houses and orchards.
See the stunning 17th century Juma Mosque, which looks more like a palace. Today, soviet era photos are exhibited here. The entrance area was once decorated with statues of Russian communists and the roof was also designed in Russian architecture, but these were removed during the fall of the USSR.
See the Soviet observatory.
Head back to Nakhchivan stopping at the 12th century Gulustan monument, a medieval sepulchral monument, the settlement here was destroyed when its Armenian population, was deported to Isfahan.
We’ll then enjoy a trip highlight: a visit to the Azerbaijani Machu Picchu!
Like the mysterious city of the Incas, the 6th century Alinja Fortress is located on a mountain slope, rising up to the top in a stepped form. The fortress witnessed the footsteps of many empires and saw many conquerors. It was often destroyed and rebuilt.
Evening dinner in Nakhchivan followed by free time
Overnight in Nakhchivan.
Monday 21st March– Nakhchivan
Breakfast at our hotel
Our first stop of the day will be Batabat which is a beautiful landscape with forests, mountains, lakes expect with floating islands and ice cold, crystal clear water. Normally the temperatures in this region are very cold so bring a jacket!
Return back to Nakhchivan and Lunch
We’ll visit an ancient pilgrimage site which is one of the holiest places for Muslims around the world. Ashabi-Kahf is a sanctuary in a natural cave which is located between the mountains of Ilandag and Nahajir in Azerbaijan. It has been considered as a sacred place since ancient times.
We’ll pay a visit to the Nakhchivan History Museum and the Carpet Museum
Dinner at a local restaurant before we collect our bag and transfer to Nakhchivan international airport for our flight back to Baku.
• Twin-share accommodation.
• All travel and transportation during the tour (unless otherwise specified in the tour itinerary.)
•Domestic flight in Azerbaijan
• YPT guide and local English-speaking guides
• Entrance fees (unless otherwise specified in the itinerary)