Nakhchivan Travel Guide

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Momina Khatun Mausoleum. 1186. Architect Ajami

Momina Khatun Mausoleum. 1186. Architect Ajami

This wonderfully atmospheric semi-desert region is separated from the main portion of Azerbaijan by Armenia. The isolation of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic from the rest of the country is recent, dating only from 1924, when Stalin transferred the province of Zangezur to Armenian control.

The Republic also borders on Iran and Turkey. The border with Turkey is only 9 km longer, resulting of territorial swap between Iran and Turkey made in 1932. This arrangement proved providential to the Republic after the conflict with Armenia, in 1992 the construction of the Umud bridge  across the Aras provided the exclave with a vital link to the world. During the war proper, the Armenian forces bombed Nakhchivan but never invaded, taking only the town of Kerki. This was a 'sub-exclave' detached from the main territory and located inside Armenia, north of Sadarak, near Zovashen. The regional capital is Nakhchivan city and the second-largest city is Ordubad .

The exclave has an area of 5,500 sq. km with a population around 350.000. Nearly 75% of the territory is located at a height of 1,000m and above - Nakhchivan is known for its majestic mountains - the Daralagez and Zangezur ranges. The tallest, located in the Zangezur range is Gapydjik with 3,904 m. The region has impressive volcanic domes and is regularly visited by strong earthquakes, that of 1931 having been particularly severe.

The southern part of the republic is influenced by the river Araz, which marks the border with the Azeri populated areas in Iran. There are no major lakes, only small mountain lakes near Bichanak and the Arazlisu reservoir, west of Nakhchivan city, near Babek - bordering Iran.

The climate is continental, becoming semi-desertic in parts of the pre-Arazian plain. Precipitation is low, even in mountain areas. Rain occurs rarely but with intensity, often causing floods due to the sparse vegetation. The only area of forest is located near Bichanak.  


The economy suffered a severe blow in 1988 with the loss of access to both raw materials and markets, due to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Although new markets are emerging in Iran and Turkey this isolation still persists to this day, impairing development. The economy of Nakhchivan is based on agriculture, mining and food processing, however 75% of the republic's budget is supplied by the central government in Baku. Aid is also provided by Turkey and several NGOs.

The Republic is rich in minerals . Nakhchivan possesses deposits of marble, lime and gypsum. The deposits of the rock salt are exhausted in Nehram, Nakhchivan and Sustin. The important Molybdenite mines are currently closed as a consequence of the exclave's isolation. There are a lot of mineral springs there such as Badamli, Sirab, Nagajir, Kiziljir where water contains arsenic.

About 90% of the agricultural land is now in private hands. However agriculture has become a poorly capitalized, backyard activity. Production has dropped sharply and large-scale commercial agriculture has declined.

Over two thirds of the land are rocky slopes and deserts, therefore the area of the arable lands is quite limited. The main crops - cotton and tobacco - are cultivated in the PriAraz plain, near of Sharur and Nakhchivan city. Three quarters of the grain production, especially winter wheat is concentrated on the irrigated lands of the Sharur plain and in the basin of the Nakhchivan river.

Vine growing in Nakhchivan is an ancient tradition, in the Araz valley and foothills. Very hot summers and long warm autumn make it possible to grow such highly saccharine grapes as bayan-shiraz, tebrizi, shirazi. Wines such as "Nakhchivan" "Shahbuz", "Abrakunis", "Aznaburk" are of  reasonable quality and very popular. Fruit production is quite important, mainly of quince, pear, peach, apricot, fig, almonds and pomegranate.

Cattle is another traditional branch of Nakhchivan farming. Due to the dry climate, pastures in Nakhchivan are unproductive, therefore sheep breeding prevails over other stockbroking. Winter pastures stretch on the PriAraz plain, on the foothills and mountain sides to the altitude of 1200 m. But the summer pastures stretch on the high-mountain area (2300-3200 m). The most widespread sheep variety is 'balbas'. These sheep are distinguished by their productivity and snow-white silky wool which is widely used in carpet manufacture. Horned and small cattle are bred everywhere, especially in environs of Sharur and Nakhchivan. Buffaloes are also bred here.

Processing of minerals, salt, radio-engineering, farm ginning, preserving, silk products, meat and dairy, bottling of mineral waters, clothing, furniture are the principal branches of Nakhchivan's industry.

Although good intentions have been declared by the government, tourism is still at best incipient. Until 1997 Tourists needed special permission to visit, which has now been suppressed, making travel easier. Facilities are very basic and heating fuel is hard to find in the winter, but the arid mountains bordering Armenia and Iran are magnificent.


Nakhichevan is the capital of the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic and one of the most ancient cities of Azerbaijan. The conducted archeological researches of Nakhichevan revealed the patterns of material culture dating back to the 2-1st millenniums B.C. The culture of Nakhichevan close to the leading cultural centers of the Near East had a great impact on the life of the tribes settling there and the properties of city culture and class society appeared early in this area.

The first information about the Nakhichevan city is provided by the written works of historian Yosef Flavy (the 1st century B.C.) and Greek geographer Claudi Ptolemy in his work ?Geography?. The said work mentioned the name of Nakhichevan as ?Naksuana?. It should be noted that Naksuana is not the phonetic variant of Nakhichevan. As the greek and roman languages did not have the hushing sounds ch, dj, s, zh Nakhichevan was called Naksuana.

The Medieval Arabian and Persian sources about the city (Bin Khordadbeh, Al-Biruni, Bakuvi and others) mentioned Nakhichevan as Nashave and Nagchuvan. Other sources (by Mohamed Nakhichevani, Hamdullah Gazvini, Ovliya Chelebi and others) used the name Nakhichevan which is proposed to be connected with the name of the Prophet Nuh and means the land of Nuh.

Nakhichevan was part of Manna later of Midia states in the 9th-6th centuries B.C, and was subdued to the Ahameni empire after the downfall of Midia in 550 B.C. After the collapse of the Ahameni empire Nakhichevan locating at the junction of the trade roads of Near and Middle East was part of Atropatena from the late 4th century B.C, till the early 1 century B.C. Nakhichevan that turned into an important art, trade and cultural centers of the Near and Middle east maintained trade relations with the countries of Asia Minor, Iran, with the cities of Georgia and the Black Sea ports.


The best way to get to Nakhchivan is to fly from Baku   to Nakhichevan airport , just outside the exclave's capital. Azal operates a shuttle service, heavily subsidized by the Azeri government. From Nakhichevan airport you can also fly to Moscow with Samara airlines and ─░stanbul. If you are arriving from Baku there is no passport check and you can simply walk out of the terminal. There are buses and taxis to the city, which is only 3km away.

If you are travelling by land, you can also cross to and from Iran at the Julfa border point, the city on the other side is Jolfa (The other Azeri-Iranian border crossing is between Astara and .... Astara!). There are trains to Tabriz .

The exclave has a short border with Turkey in Sadarak which allows an easy link to the city of Igdir. Have in mind that the border is open only 10 hours a day and that border guards are very corrupt. The nearest airport with connections to Ankara is at Erzurum (ERZ), 250 kilometres west of Nakhchivan.

Inside the Republic the roads are in reasonable condition, but encounters with the police make driving less than advisable for foreigners (anyway police checks are less frequent than in Azerbaijan proper).

GSM access is available in a good part of Nakhchivan's territory via Azercell.


January 29, 2007 change by giorgio

April 16, 2006 change by azerbaijan08

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