«Free Artsakh,» as the locals call the country, or the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, is the second Armenian state. This relatively new but fast-growing tourist route is perhaps what many travelers and travel bloggers are looking for so far. However, like the Republic of Armenia, Artsakh offers a huge number of adventures, cultural and historical routes. This is truly a treasure trove of unique art and architecture, the birthplace of medieval churches, monasteries and Armenian khachkars, and this is not counting the unspoilt beauty of picturesque landscapes and attractive mountains. Intrigued? Here are 10 facts you should know when visiting Nagorno-Karabakh.
1. legend has It that the name “Artsakh “comes from” Ar “(Aran) and” tsakh “(tree, garden), which means” gardens of Aran Sisakian», who was the first leader of North-Eastern Armenia. Historically, the Artsakh region (which occupies most of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic) was the 10th province of the Armenian Kingdom from 189 BC to 387 AD. Afterward, it was attacked and conquered from outside. In may 1994, the people of Artsakh regained their independence after a severe war with Azerbaijan. Today, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is a de facto independent but unrecognized country.
2. Stepanakert is the capital and largest city of the NKR. This Incredibly clean, green and cozy city serves as a cultural and economic hub of the Republic. It is also home to government buildings and the Parliament, as well as a large number of entertainment venues, parks and restaurants.
3. Stepanakert is also home to the main symbol of Artsakh – the monument “We are our mountains”, also known among Armenians as “Tatik – papik” (“grandmother and grandfather”). The monument depicts an elderly man and woman made of tuff in traditional clothes. The monument symbolizes the entire people of Artsakh on the top of a small hill and “points” to the stunning panorama of the city.
4. Shushi, the second largest city in Artsakh, has a rich but difficult history. A great cultural center of the region, the city still retains its unique charm, despite the destruction caused by the war. Shushi is home to many little-known tourist attractions, such as the Unot gorge, the 19 th-century kazanchetsots Church, the Kanach Zham (“Green Church”) Church, and the Shushi Tank memorial.
5.the Azokh cave, another little-explored place for tourists, is also located in Artsakh. Most notably, The 6-level azoh cave complex is considered one of the most ancient places in Eurasia where proto-humans lived.
6. as already mentioned, you can find unsurpassed elements of medieval Armenian architecture in Artsakh, and the Gandzasar Monastery is one of these gems. Beautifully located in the middle of the forest mountains, the 13th-century monastery complex preserves the relics of Saint John the Baptist and his father Saint Zacharias.
7. in addition to the medieval heritage, Artsakh has a lot to offer to history lovers, especially in terms of Hellenistic culture. The history of Tigranakert, one of the cities on the Armenian plateau named after the Armenian king Tigran the Great, begins in the 1st century BC.! Nowadays, you can find out about this once thriving city and excavated artifacts in the state archaeological Museum of Tigranakert, located inside the castle walls.
8. The Artsakh cuisine is part of the Armenian cuisine, but it is better known for its famous «zhengyalov hac» (bread flatbread with herbs). You can try this mix of more than 20 types of greens wrapped in thin bread in almost all restaurants, cafes, and bistros of Artsakh and Armenia. For your information, the residents of Artsakh are also masters of wine-making and mulberry vodka – two drinks that are very popular in Artsakh.jingyalov khats
9. Good news for hikers: like Armenia, Karabakh is also becoming a popular destination for Hiking. The mountainous landscape, dense forests and fast-flowing rivers make Artsakh a great place for long walks, where you can discover and admire unsurpassed trails of pristine nature.
10. perhaps it is because of all of the above (as well as many other things that we will write about in future articles) that Artsakh was included in the list of the best places for adventures suggested by the Guardian.
The author of the Guardian article notes that travel to Artsakh is not for the faint-hearted due to «border skirmishes and ongoing disputes over political control». However, despite the difficult past and present, the land of Artsakh is imbued with an aura and spirit of freedom, pride and tranquility that you will definitely feel during your adventures in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Bonus: it will be easy, enjoyable and fun to communicate with the residents of Artsakh. They are very hospitable and helpful people, as shown in the video: they will show you everything and will offer you assistance if needed.