I recently spent a day and a half in Nakhchivan. There is limited information online about visiting this autonomous republic of Azerbaijan so I thought I’d share a few pieces of information for anyone planning to visit.
Border Crossing & Changing Money
I crossed from Iran at Julfa with an e-visa for Azarbaijan (I had hitch-hiked from Kaleybar along the Aras Valley to get to Julfa, alternate approach would be direct from Tabriz). You do not need any separate visa or paperwork to visit Nakhchivan- a single-entry Azerbaijan Visa will suffice for both Nakhchivan and the rest of Azerbaijan. Hoards of Azeris cross the border to stock up on cheaper Iranian goods in the free trade zone and there is a strip of shops running along a pedestrianised street to the border. I changed rials to manat at an exchange shop on the right hand side about 3 shops before you enter the border area. The rate was the same as that published on xe.com
Exiting Iran brought a few questions from the Iranian border authorities, probably more then when I entered. You then walk across the bridge spanning the Aras River to the Azeri border crossing. The border authorities gave me a very warm welcome and seemed delighted to have a solo traveller turn up. The manager of the border post escorted me through the entire process keen to practice his (already good) English and took me all the way to the taxi area!
Getting to Nakhchivan
The manager of the border crossing told me minibuses do run to the border until 2 or 3pm, after which they stop. I crossed at around 5pm. Share taxi (4 people) into Nakhchivan is 3 manat per person. The border is quite busy in the late afternoon with returning Azeri shoppers so not a problem for me to split the ride with others. It’s only about 20 minutes into the city
I had planned to stay at Togrul Hotel but it was being refurbished. Locals waved me away from Hotel Ukranya (not sure if still operating or not) and I eventually settled on the Grand Hotel Nakhchivan. 30 manat per night without breakfast (I opted for this); 40 manat per night with. Very, very big, clean rooms. Can recommend this place. My share taxi from the border dropped me at the hotel
The sites in Nakhchivan City are all walking distance and can be ticked off in a leisurely half / three-quarter day. Entrance to all the sites and museums is free and at at least three places the staff on duty gave me a brief guided tour/overview (twice in English, once in French). For eating, there is a restaurant to the right of the Tabriz Hotel that does decent, cheap food and is full of locals at lunchtime. There is a medium sized supermarket on the Main Street near the Heydar Aliyev Museum.
Whilst taxi drivers may tell you differently, it’s perfectly possible to take the local buses to visit towns in the province. I did this to visit the Alinja Castle and saw a bus going to the Duzdag Salt spa/hotel, although I took a taxi to the later for 10 manat return with waiting time (student taxi driver wanted to practice his English and gave me slightly cheaper fare than I expected). Buses go to other destinations as well, such as Qarabaglar. For my bus to Alinja Castle, locals were paying 1 manat to the driver on leaving, however the driver refused to accept money from me and dropped me right at the entrance (a 2km addition to his normal route). Fair to say, not many tourists take the local buses! The bus station in Nakhchivan is walking distance on the north side of town - head for the giant Azerbaijan flag that dominates that part of town - it’s across the street. If you do take local buses, maybe check return times as buses fade out in late afternoon. I hitchhiked back from Alinja Castle (was planning to) but I know that’s not what everyone likes to do
Onwards to the rest of Azerbaijan is either the long bus route via Iran or a short flight to Baku. I took the flight with the local airline. No complaints whatsoever - all very smooth. On arrival, an Airport Express bus does the run from Baku Airport to Baku train station from where you can connect into the metro
Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Mongolia, Russia, Caucasus and beyond. Expert: Milad
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