Geography nerd though I am, I will readily admit that I had no idea that Nakhchivan even existed at all until a few months ago. I was talking to a friend about my travel plans to Azerbaijan and she told me about the exclave of Nakhchivan, geographically separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by its mortal enemy, Armenia, with whom they’re still technically at war.
Due to the border with Armenia being closed, the only way to get to Nakhchivan from “mainland” Azerbaijan is an hourlong flight from the capital, Baku. Overland routes from Baku are theoretically possible via Iran, but as an American, that’s a no-go, as Americans cannot travel without a guided tour in Iran.
As someone who finds geopolitics endlessly interesting, I was instantly fascinated with visiting this strange chunk of Azerbaijan that virtually no one travels to.
However, I mostly wanted to go for bragging rights – to say that I visited a strange, little-known exclave that sees tourism as an oddity, not a reality. I thought I’d stay for a night or two and leave having checked it off my never-ending list. Instead, we ended up staying a full four nights and five days, seeing so much than we imagined along the way.
Figuring out what to do in Nakhchivan wasn’t easy – the one proper blog post I found about Nakhchivan never even left Nakhchivan City. A puzzling VICE article called Nakhchivan the “San Francisco of the Caucasus,” which became the theme of several jokes over the course of our trip – everything was the “[blank] of the Caucasus.” We pieced together our Nakhchivan itinerary from a few hyper-niche tour companies, bringing a wishlist each morning to our helpful hotel staff and arranging a taxi for the day.