Post updated on November 12, 2020
When we crossed Armenia in March 2018 during our no-flight journey around the world, we decided to also explore the self-independent republic of Nagorno Karabakh (or Artsakh). From this intense experience, we wanted to transcribe all essentials to know to make your Nagorno-Karabakh visa and to cross the “border” from Armenia!
Since November 9, 2020 and a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan at the end of 6 weeks of conflict, Nagorno Karabakh has come under Azeri control. The redefinition of borders will bring new conditions for visiting Nagorno Karabakh, now part of Azerbaijan. If in 2018 it was possible to visit this region via Armenia, the passage was made under certain conditions:
- Nagorno Karabakh has always been an area at risk of military conflict between Armenian and Azerbaijan armies, and has been under Armenian control since 1991. By March 2018, the situation had stabilized, so there was little to fear for tourists. Nevertheless, it is better to find out about the safety before entering this area and avoid approaching the border area with Azerbaijan.
- It is easily accessible from Armenia (road from Goris), but impossible to get there from Azerbaijan (as of March 2018).
- A visa is required for any stay in Nagorno Karabakh, but can only be obtained once you have entered the country
- If the visa for Nagorno Karabakh appears on one of the pages of your passport, it will be impossible for you to go to Azerbaijan afterwards.
From Goris, we waited almost 1 hour for a car to pass by and pick us up by hitchhiking (which is quite unusual in Armenia, our maximum waiting time being 10 minutes).
Drove by an old Volga car, we crossed the “border” somewhere between Armenia and Azerbaijan, according to our GPS. In reality, we have entered a kind of “no man’s land” where there is no longer a border post, no army, no police; not even the remains or traces of any official border… Just a beautiful road (the best maintained in the country) winding through the mountains.
After 20, 30 minutes of driving, we saw the few remaining houses (azerbaidji houses) of the village of Aghavno, next to brand new houses. This is where the official check-point of Nagorno Karabakh is located: all cars must stop to validate their passage; despite the absence of real signs or barriers… All passengers (without exception) must present themselves with their passport/ID to the check-point officers. For tourists, passage formalities consist of a simple passport check and the delivery of the contact details of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Stepanakert.
Getting the Nagorno Karabakh visa
From the check-point, we had to go to Stepanakert (1 hour drive from Aghavno) at the address indicated on the paper given, with 3000 Armenian Drams in cash per person.
On the spot, we were given a form to fill in (surname, first names, date and place of birth, nationality, telephone/address/email, date of entry and exit from the territory, reason for the visit, places we wish to visit, address of our accommodation in Nagorno Karabakh). Information given is of little importance (used for tourism statistics from what we have been told), so there is no need to worry if it is not completely accurate. On the other hand, if you don’t know your date of exit, plan more than not enough; price of the visa will remain the same anyway.
After 10 minutes, we obtained each one a self-adhesive Nagorno Karabakh visa (not stuck on our passports at our request), as well as a receipt certifying that we have paid and are authorized on the territory, to be presented imperatively at the check-point of exit.
Ministry of foreign affairs of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic
Stepanakert, 28 Azatamartikneri street
047 94 14 18 / 047 95 07 68
Ring the bell and come in. Go to the reception desk, then to the first office (left) in the left corridor after the reception desk.
If you have Armenian or Nagorno Karabakh contacts, ask them to provide you with a letter (in Armenian) stating who you are, the reason for your visit, and especially that you do not want the visa to appear on your passport. Even if our interlocutors spoke good English (easy to exchange and be understood) and the Ministry employees are used to not stick the Nagorno Karabakh visa on a foreign passport, it’s better to take all precautions. On our side, the letter written by our host made them smile!