Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

How To Visit Artsakh, The Country That Doesn’t Exist


by Kamilah Thompkins



Welcome to Artsakh, the country that doesn’t exist on any official map. Nestled in the South Caucasus region, Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, is a disputed territory with a rich history and breathtaking landscapes.


Declared an independent republic in 1991, Artsakh remains unrecognized by the international community, making it a unique and intriguing travel destination. With its stunning mountain ranges, picturesque villages, and ancient monasteries, Artsakh offers visitors a truly off-the-beaten-path experience.


Stepping foot in Artsakh feels like entering a hidden paradise untouched by mass tourism. With its rugged beauty and warm, hospitable people, the region provides an opportunity for intrepid travelers to explore a place shrouded in mystery and discover its hidden gems.


In this guide, we will delve into all the essential aspects of an Artsakh adventure, from how to get there and where to stay, to the must-visit sites and the local cuisine. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or someone seeking a unique and unforgettable experience, Artsakh has something to offer for everyone.


While the political situation in Artsakh is complex and ever-evolving, visitors can rest assured that safety and security measures are in place to ensure a pleasant and trouble-free journey. By following the guidelines and respecting the local customs, your trip to Artsakh will be an enriching cultural experience.


So, pack your bags, put on your adventurous spirit, and join us as we unravel the beauty and charm of this extraordinary destination. Get ready to step into a world that may not be on the map, but is surely worth exploring.


Understanding Artsakh

Before embarking on a journey to Artsakh, it’s important to understand the historical and geopolitical context of this unique region. Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, is a landlocked territory located in the South Caucasus, between Armenia and Azerbaijan.


Artsakh’s history dates back centuries, with evidence of human civilization and cultural development dating as far back as the Bronze Age. Throughout its history, Artsakh has been a contested region, experiencing different rulers, conflicts, and cultural influences.


One of the defining moments in Artsakh’s recent history was the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. As the Soviet Union dissolved, tensions between the Armenian majority in Artsakh and the Azerbaijani government escalated into a full-scale war. The conflict resulted in a de facto independent state, where the Armenian population declared the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which is not internationally recognized.


Today, Artsakh remains a disputed territory, with Armenia providing political and military support to the region. Negotiations are ongoing to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict, but as a visitor, it’s essential to be aware of the complex political situation and respect the sensitivities of the local population.


Despite the political challenges, Artsakh has a distinct cultural identity. The majority of its population is Armenian, and the region has a strong connection to Armenian culture, language, and traditions. This connection is reflected in the ancient monasteries, churches, and historical sites that dot the landscape.


When visiting Artsakh, it’s important to be respectful of the local customs and sensitivities. Remember that you are a guest in a disputed territory, and it’s crucial to avoid engaging in discussions or actions that may incite tension or controversy.


With this understanding of Artsakh’s history and political context, you can embark on your journey with an open mind and an appreciation for the rich cultural heritage and natural beauty that awaits you in this remarkable region.


Getting to Artsakh

Getting to Artsakh may require a bit of planning, as the region is not easily accessible by direct flights or train connections. However, with some careful arrangements and flexibility, you can reach Artsakh and begin your adventure.


The most common route to Artsakh is through Armenia, as the country provides the most reliable transportation links to the region. The easiest way to reach Artsakh is to fly into Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, and then make your way to Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh. Yerevan is well-connected to major cities around the world, making it relatively convenient for international travelers.


From Yerevan, there are several options for reaching Artsakh. The most popular choice is to take a shared taxi or a private car to Stepanakert. The journey takes around 4-5 hours and offers the opportunity to admire the scenic landscapes of Armenia’s countryside. Alternatively, you can also take a bus from Yerevan to Stepanakert, though the frequency of these buses may be limited.


Another route to Artsakh is through Georgia. If you happen to be in Georgia, you can travel to the town of Tbilisi and then make your way to the Armenian border. From there, you can continue your journey to Stepanakert by taxi or bus.


It’s important to note that the border between Artsakh and Azerbaijan is closed, and attempting to enter Artsakh from Azerbaijan is illegal and dangerous. Make sure to plan your route accordingly and avoid any unauthorized border crossings.


As with any travel plans, it’s recommended to check the latest travel advisories and consult with local tour operators or travel agencies for the most up-to-date information on transportation options to Artsakh.


While the journey to Artsakh may require some logistical arrangements, the experience of traveling through the scenic landscapes and remote regions adds an element of adventure to your trip. Embrace the journey and be prepared for an unforgettable experience in the heart of the South Caucasus.


Visa Requirements

Visiting Artsakh requires careful attention to visa requirements, as the region operates independently and has separate entry regulations from surrounding countries.


As Artsakh is not internationally recognized, the process of obtaining a visa can be a bit more complex than traditional visa applications. However, with the right information and proper preparation, obtaining a visa for Artsakh is manageable.


The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, the self-declared government of Artsakh, issues visas for visitors. You can apply for a visa through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The visa application can be submitted online or through the consulate in Yerevan, Armenia.


It’s important to note that due to the political situation, entering Artsakh from Azerbaijan is illegal and can result in severe legal consequences. Therefore, it’s crucial to plan your entry into Artsakh through Armenia.


The visa application usually requires a completed form, a valid passport with at least six months of validity, a recent passport-sized photo, and the payment of the visa fee. It’s recommended to apply for the visa well in advance of your planned travel date to allow for processing time.


Once your visa application is approved, you will receive a visa confirmation letter, which you should print and carry with you during your trip. At the border checkpoints between Armenia and Artsakh, you may be required to present your visa confirmation along with your passport for entry into Artsakh.


It’s important to comply with the visa regulations and respect the entry and exit requirements of Artsakh. Overstaying your visa or engaging in unauthorized activities can result in legal repercussions and difficulties in future travel.


If you are planning to visit both Armenia and Artsakh, it’s essential to check the visa requirements for both regions, as they have separate visa processes. In most cases, travelers can obtain a visa upon arrival in Armenia, but it’s recommended to check with the Armenian embassy or consulate in your country before your trip.


By familiarizing yourself with the visa requirements and following the proper procedures, you can ensure a smooth and hassle-free entry into Artsakh and fully enjoy your time exploring this extraordinary destination.


Transportation in Artsakh

Getting around Artsakh is relatively straightforward, with various transportation options available to explore the region’s stunning landscapes and cultural attractions.


One of the most convenient modes of transportation within Artsakh is by using shared taxis or private cars. Shared taxis, known as marshrutkas, are a popular choice for locals and tourists alike. These minivans follow set routes between major towns and cities in Artsakh, providing a cost-effective and flexible way to travel. Simply wait at a designated marshrutka stop, inform the driver of your destination, and pay the fare upon arrival.


If you prefer more privacy and flexibility, renting a private car is a great option. Rental cars are available in Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, and can be arranged through local agencies or online platforms. Having your own vehicle allows you to explore remote areas and hidden gems at your own pace.


For those who enjoy cycling, biking in Artsakh provides a unique way to experience the region’s breathtaking landscapes. With its winding mountain roads and picturesque valleys, Artsakh offers plenty of scenic routes for cyclists of all levels. Bicycles can be rented in Stepanakert, and local tour operators may offer guided cycling tours.


When it comes to public transportation, buses are available for intercity travel within Artsakh. These buses operate between major towns and cities, but the frequency and schedules may vary, so it’s advisable to check the latest timetables prior to your journey.


If you prefer a more guided and organized approach to exploring Artsakh, joining a tour or hiring a local guide can be a great option. Local guides provide valuable insights into the region’s history, culture, and natural wonders, enhancing your overall experience.


It’s important to note that while Artsakh is relatively safe and stable, road conditions may vary, especially in rural areas. It’s recommended to drive cautiously, obey traffic rules, and be prepared for narrow and winding roads, particularly when venturing into remote regions.


In terms of navigation, offline maps or GPS systems can be helpful for finding your way around Artsakh, especially in rural areas where road signage may be limited. Downloading maps and ensuring you have a reliable source of power for your electronic devices is advisable.


By utilizing the various transportation options available in Artsakh, you can navigate the region with ease and explore its stunning landscapes, historical sites, and charming villages.


Accommodation Options

When it comes to accommodation in Artsakh, you’ll find a range of options to suit different preferences and budgets. From cozy guesthouses to comfortable hotels, there are choices available for every type of traveler.


Stepanakert, the capital of Artsakh, offers the widest range of accommodation options. Here, you’ll find hotels ranging from budget-friendly to more upscale. These hotels typically provide comfortable rooms, amenities such as Wi-Fi, and sometimes even on-site restaurants and bars.


If you prefer a more intimate and cultural experience, staying in guesthouses or bed and breakfast establishments can be a great choice. These family-run accommodations offer a warm and personal touch, allowing you to interact with locals and learn about their way of life. Guesthouses often provide comfortable rooms, homemade meals, and a chance to experience Armenian hospitality at its finest.


In rural areas and smaller towns, options for accommodation may be more limited. However, some guesthouses and homestays can still be found, providing a chance to immerse yourself in the tranquil rural surroundings and get a glimpse of traditional village life.


For budget-conscious travelers, there are also camping options available in certain areas of Artsakh. Camping allows you to get closer to nature and fully appreciate the region’s stunning landscapes. However, it’s important to check with local authorities and obtain any necessary permits before setting up camp.


When planning your accommodation in Artsakh, it’s advisable to book in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons. Although Artsakh is not as crowded as more popular destinations, securing your preferred accommodation ensures a hassle-free stay.


Keep in mind that while the standards of accommodation in Artsakh may not match those of more developed tourist destinations, the warmth and genuine hospitality of the locals make up for any lack of luxury. Embrace the charming and authentic accommodations and savor the unique experiences they offer.


Overall, whether you choose to stay in a hotel, guesthouse, or camp under the stars, finding accommodation in Artsakh is an opportunity to connect with the local culture and make unforgettable memories amidst the region’s stunning landscapes.


Exploring Artsakh

Exploring Artsakh is like embarking on a journey back in time, where ancient monasteries, rugged mountains, and picturesque villages paint a mesmerizing picture. The region is relatively untouched by mass tourism, making it a haven for adventurers seeking an authentic and off-the-beaten-path experience.


Stepanakert, the capital city of Artsakh, is a great starting point for exploration. Stroll through the streets lined with cafes, shops, and colorful buildings, and immerse yourself in the local culture. The city’s central square is a hub of activity, and it’s worth visiting the Stepanakert History Museum to gain insights into the region’s past.


From Stepanakert, venture out to the surrounding villages and mountains to discover the true beauty of Artsakh. Hike through the magnificent landscapes of the Artsakh Highlands, where lush forests, alpine meadows, and crystal-clear lakes await. The pristine natural beauty of places like Lake Sevan, Amaras, and Tigranakert will leave you in awe.


Artsakh is also known for its numerous monasteries and churches, many of which date back centuries. Khachkars, intricately carved stone crosses, can be found in abundance, serving as a testament to the region’s rich cultural heritage. Explore the majestic Gandzasar Monastery, the ancient Dadivank Monastery, or the exquisite Amaras Monastery, which is believed to be one of the oldest Christian monastic complexes in the world.


For history enthusiasts, a visit to Shushi is a must. This historic city was once a major cultural and trade center in the region, and its stone-paved streets and traditional architecture provide a glimpse into the past. Don’t miss the breathtaking views from the Shushi Fortress, perched on a hilltop overlooking the city.


As you explore Artsakh, take the time to connect with the local people, who are known for their warm hospitality. Engage in conversations, taste the delicious traditional cuisine, and participate in cultural events and festivals that take place throughout the year. This will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the region and its people.


When exploring Artsakh, it’s important to respect the local customs and traditions. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites, and ask for permission before taking photographs of locals or their properties. By showing respect and appreciation, you’ll create positive interactions and make lasting memories.


Whether you’re hiking through the mountains, visiting historical landmarks, or immersing yourself in the local culture, exploring Artsakh promises to be an unforgettable experience that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the region’s natural beauty and rich history.


Must-Visit Sites in Artsakh

Artsakh is a treasure trove of historical and natural wonders, offering a plethora of must-visit sites for travelers seeking a unique and enriching experience. From ancient monasteries to breathtaking landscapes, here are some of the top attractions that should be on your list when exploring Artsakh:


Gandzasar Monastery: Located in the Martakert region, Gandzasar Monastery is one of the most iconic and revered sites in Artsakh. This 13th-century Armenian Apostolic monastery is known for its architectural beauty, intricate stone carvings, and religious significance.


Dadivank Monastery: Situated in the forested valleys of the Karvachar region, Dadivank Monastery is a hidden gem of Artsakh. Dating back to the 9th century, this striking monastery features well-preserved frescoes and intricate stone reliefs, making it a paradise for history and art enthusiasts.


Stepanakert History Museum: Located in the capital city, the Stepanakert History Museum provides an in-depth glimpse into the rich history and heritage of Artsakh. Explore the exhibits that showcase the region’s ancient artifacts, archaeological discoveries, and the struggles of its people.


Shushi Fortress: Perched atop a hill in the city of Shushi, the Shushi Fortress offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. This historic fortress played a significant role in the region’s past and serves as a reminder of the resilience and heritage of Artsakh.


Lake Sevan: While not located within Artsakh itself, a visit to Lake Sevan is highly recommended. This stunning lake, nestled amidst the picturesque mountains of Armenia, is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in the world. Enjoy the tranquil atmosphere, indulge in water activities, and savor the fresh fish from the lake at one of the lakeside restaurants.


Tigranakert: Explore the ancient ruins of the city of Tigranakert, an important archaeological site in Artsakh. Discover the remnants of this once-thriving Hellenistic and Roman city, including the well-preserved city walls, basilica, and bathhouse.


Martakert Fortress: Located on a rocky hill in the Martakert region, the Martakert Fortress offers panoramic views and a glimpse into the region’s defensive architecture. Witness the ruins of this ancient fortress, which played a role in safeguarding the region for centuries.


These are just a few of the many incredible sites to explore in Artsakh. As you journey through this lesser-known destination, be sure to keep an open mind and let the rich history and natural beauty of Artsakh captivate you.


Artsakh Cuisine

Exploring Artsakh would not be complete without indulging in its delicious and distinctive cuisine. Heavily influenced by Armenian culinary traditions, Artsakh cuisine offers a rich tapestry of flavors and dishes that reflect the region’s cultural heritage and agricultural bounty.


One staple of Artsakh cuisine is the use of fresh and locally sourced ingredients. From fertile valleys to mountain pastures, the region is known for its abundance of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products, and meats.


One of the most iconic dishes of Artsakh is “khorovats,” a traditional Armenian barbecue. Made with marinated, skewered meat, khorovats showcases the expertise of local chefs in grilling succulent chunks of lamb, pork, or chicken over an open fire. The result is a mouthwatering and smoky delight that is often enjoyed with lavash, a traditional Armenian flatbread.


Another must-try dish in Artsakh is “kutap,” a flavorful soup made from dried and crushed wheat grains, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Kutap is often served with a dollop of creamy yogurt, adding a tangy touch to the heartwarming flavors of the soup.


Artsakh is also known for its wide variety of dairy products, particularly its cheese. Try “jengyalov hats,” a delicate herb-stuffed bread filled with a mixture of locally sourced greens and cheese. This traditional dish not only satisfies hunger but also showcases the region’s agricultural traditions and love for fresh ingredients.


For those with a sweet tooth, Artsakh offers delightful desserts. “Gata” is a rich and buttery pastry filled with sweet fillings such as walnuts, cinnamon, and honey. This traditional treat is often enjoyed with a cup of Armenian coffee, providing a perfect ending to a satisfying meal.


When dining in Artsakh, it’s not just about the food but also the warm hospitality and shared traditions. You may have the opportunity to join a local family for a traditional meal, where you can experience firsthand the warmth and generosity of Artsakh’s people.


For a truly immersive culinary experience, consider participating in a cooking class or food tour. These activities allow you to learn about the preparation techniques and secret recipes passed down through generations, providing a deeper understanding of Artsakh’s food culture.


Whether you indulge in grilled meats, aromatic soups, or mouthwatering pastries, Artsakh cuisine offers a delightful journey for your taste buds. Immerse yourself in the flavors and traditions of this region, and savor the unique culinary delights that await you in Artsakh.


Local Traditions and Customs

Artsakh is a region rich in cultural traditions and customs that have been passed down through generations. Immersing yourself in the local traditions allows you to gain a deeper appreciation for the region’s heritage and connect with the warm and welcoming people of Artsakh.


One of the most important customs in Artsakh is hospitality. The locals take pride in welcoming guests and treating them as part of their extended family. It is not uncommon to be invited into someone’s home for a traditional meal or to be offered a cup of strong Armenian coffee as a gesture of friendship. Embracing these acts of hospitality fosters a deeper understanding of the local way of life and creates lasting connections.


Artsakh is deeply rooted in its Christian traditions, and many religious customs and holidays are celebrated throughout the year. Visitors may have the chance to witness traditional religious ceremonies at monasteries and churches, where chanting, prayers, and solemn rituals take place.


In Artsakh, respect for elders is highly valued. It is customary to address older individuals using respectful terms and to offer them a seat or assistance when needed. This gesture represents the deep-rooted values of reverence and appreciation for the wisdom and experience that come with age.


Festivals and events play a significant role in the cultural fabric of Artsakh. Whether it’s the Vardavar water festival in summer or the torchlight processions during religious celebrations, participating in these vibrant events allows you to witness traditional dances, music performances, and folk rituals that bring the community together.


Supporting local artisans and craftspeople is another way to engage with Artsakh’s traditions. Handmade carpets, ceramics, and traditional embroideries are just a few examples of the intricate craftsmanship you can find in the region. Purchasing these authentic souvenirs not only supports local economies but also preserves and promotes traditional arts and crafts.


While exploring Artsakh, it’s important to be respectful of local customs and traditions. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites, ask for permission before taking photographs of locals or their properties, and be mindful of cultural sensitivities. By demonstrating respect and appreciation for the local customs, you will forge deeper connections and make your visit more meaningful.


By experiencing and embracing the local traditions and customs, you can truly connect with the heart and soul of Artsakh. These traditions give depth and richness to the region and offer a unique window into the lives of the people who call Artsakh home.


Safety and Security in Artsakh

When it comes to safety and security in Artsakh, it is important to take certain precautions due to the complex political situation in the region. While Artsakh is generally considered safe for visitors, it is crucial to stay informed and exercise caution throughout your journey.


First and foremost, it is essential to comply with travel advisories and check for any updates regarding the political situation and security conditions in Artsakh. Stay informed about the current status of the region and follow the guidelines provided by your country’s embassy or consulate.


It is important to note that traveling to Artsakh through the border with Azerbaijan is illegal and can result in severe legal consequences. Always ensure that you enter Artsakh through Armenia and respect the designated checkpoints and border crossings.


Another aspect to consider is unexploded ordnances and landmines in certain areas of Artsakh, leftover from past conflicts. It is crucial to stay on marked paths, avoid venturing into unfamiliar or remote areas, and heed any warning signs or advisories from local authorities.


When it comes to personal safety, Artsakh is generally peaceful and safe for visitors. However, it is advisable to take standard precautions to protect your belongings and ensure your personal well-being. Keep an eye on your valuables, exercise caution in crowded areas, and use safe transportation options.


As with any travel destination, it is recommended to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses and emergency situations. Familiarize yourself with the local healthcare facilities and have contact information readily available in case of an emergency.


Respect for local customs and traditions is crucial for a safe and positive experience in Artsakh. Avoid engaging in discussions or actions that may incite tension or controversy, and be mindful of cultural sensitivities during your interactions with locals.


Finally, it is always advisable to travel with a reliable guide or join organized tours led by reputable local operators who have a good understanding of the region. They can provide valuable insights, ensure your safety, and navigate any challenges that may arise during your visit.


By staying informed, exercising caution, and respecting the local customs, you can enjoy a safe and memorable experience in Artsakh. The region’s unique cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality await you, as long as you remain aware of the security situation and take appropriate measures to ensure your well-being.



Artsakh, the region that doesn’t officially exist on the world map, offers intrepid travelers a truly unique and unforgettable experience. Its rich history, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality make it a hidden gem waiting to be explored.


From the moment you set foot in Artsakh, you’ll be captivated by its rugged beauty and the sense of stepping into a world untouched by mass tourism. Whether you’re wandering through the ancient monasteries, hiking in the mountainous landscapes, or immersing yourself in the local traditions, Artsakh offers a journey back in time.


As you traverse the region, take the time to understand the complex political situation and respect the local customs and sensitivities. By doing so, you’ll foster positive interactions, deepen your understanding of the region’s history and culture, and make lasting connections with the warm and welcoming people of Artsakh.


Artsakh may present some logistical challenges, but with careful planning and flexibility, reaching this extraordinary destination is achievable. Whether you choose to fly into Yerevan and make your way to Artsakh by road or explore the region as part of a wider journey through the South Caucasus, the effort will be rewarded with breathtaking landscapes and unforgettable experiences.


Immerse yourself in the local cuisine, indulge in traditional dishes like khorovats and kutap, and savor the flavors of Artsakh. Explore the must-visit sites, from ancient monasteries like Gandzasar and Dadivank to historic cities like Shushi. Engage with the local traditions and customs, and participate in festivals and events that bring Artsakh to life.


Remember to prioritize your safety and security by staying informed, respecting the travel advisories, and taking standard precautions. Travel with a reliable guide or choose organized tours led by reputable local operators who can navigate the region and ensure your well-being.


In the end, Artsakh is a destination that challenges perceptions, rewards curiosity, and offers a deeper understanding of a region caught between history, politics, and cultural resilience. It’s a place where hidden beauty and rich traditions converge, leaving an indelible mark on all who venture into its mysterious lands.


So, pack your bags, open your mind, and embark on an adventure like no other. Discover Artsakh, the country that doesn’t exist, and unlock the secrets of this enchanting and captivating destination.