StepanakertArmenian: , Azerbaijani: ) is a nice small city and the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh.
At any rate, the town was renamed in 1923 to Stepanakert to honor Stepan Shahumyan, ethnic Armenian leader. It also became the capital of the newly created Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast. Shortly after that municipal authorities adopted a new city layout designed by the prominent Armenian architect Alexander Tamanian, which is still in use.
During the war, the city suffered immense damage from Azeri bombardment which continued from 1992 to 1994.
English is becoming more and more popular since most children now learn it at school. Be prepared that most children but also many younger adults want to improve their English and therefore try to engage you in English-language conversation while you walk around. This can be lot of fun and you are likely to get valuable information about accommodation or bus connections that way. In the ministries, there is always at least one person who can speak English fluently. If not, they call somebody. The same applies in larger shops like electronic markets or phone stores.
All major Nagorno-Karabakh cities incl. Shushi (13 km, bus 301, 200 dram), Askeran (23 km), Berdzor (58 km), Hadrut (71 km), Karvachar (120 km), Martakert (69 km), and Martuni (41 km) are served.
From ArmeniaThe overall best budget option to get to Stepanakert are marshrutkas.
From specific destinations:
- Yerevan – They go every morning from the Kilikia Bus Station. Normally, there are departures at 06:00, 07:00, and 08:00, sometimes at 09:00, but these are approximate departure time, and you are better off preferring the earlier hours. Also, arrive sufficiently before departure (at least 20 min) to find a free chair. It might be that your luggage will be nested on the roof of the bus. The journey is slow and can take up to eight hours. Tickets cost 4,500 dram (Mar 2015).
If you miss the one from Sisian or Goris, you can wait at the highway for a marshrutka to pass through from Yerevan (see above); they'll pick you up if there is space. Don't pay more then you would from Sisian or Goris itself.
By carDriving is also possible, and cars rented in Armenia can be driven to Karabakh and back without issues. The M-12 highway connects with Armenia via Goris and is the most common way to reach Stepanakert. A more adventurous traveler can drive through the Karvajar pass via Vardenis which was re-paved in 2016. The pass is only open in summer, that means as early as April—ask at the embassy in Yerevan. To reach the pass, follow road M-11 on the Armenian side. Both roads offers amazing views of wild life, deep forests, dramatic cliffs and several ancient monuments on the way. Few people speak anything other than Armenian and some Russian so prepare yourself with a dictionary.
By thumbHitchhiking is safe and common enough in the countryside. Offering a small sum for your ride is polite, though in most cases it won't be accepted.
By planeThe Stepanakert airport was supposed to begin regular flights to Yerevan, but the dispute with Azerbaijan seems to be preventing the flights. The only carrier which has announced it will fly is the state-owned Artsakh Air with their newly purchased Bombardier CRJ200 jets.
By trainSince 1994 all train connections are suspended.
There are several city bus lines. The price was 100 dram in March 2015.
There are lots of taxis ranging from a very old cars to a brand new Mercedeses. Taxi prices are a bit higher than in Yerevan and increase if you leave the city for the countryside. Drivers tend to be honest, but using a meter is always a good idea.
Stepanakert Shuka (farmers market)address: Sasuntsi Tavit StreetGreat selection of fresh and preserved fruits and vegetables, plus other supplies. You can try fresh jingalov hats here - a dish with wild mountain herbs that Karabakh is famous for.
We Are Our Mountains MonumentThis monument of an elderly Karabakh man and woman has become the symbol of Artsakh.
St. Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) ChurchThe new church built in 2007.
- You should also visit some government buildings and universities.
Artsakh State Museum of Local Historyphone: +374 47 94 10 42address: 1, Sasuntsi David str.Interesting small museum that covers history period from ancient times to the Karabakh war.
Museum to the Memory of Perished Azatamartiksphone: +374 47 95 07 38, +374 47 95 07 25address: 25 Vazgen Sarkіsyana stDedicated to those who died during Karabakh conflict. Translating the word "azatamartik" from Armenian means "liberator". Worth noting that in most cities of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic downtown streets are called "azatamartikneri", i.e. street of Liberators. Museum exhibits maps, bullet punched documents, letters to relatives and friends, thousands of pictures of dead soldiers, weapons and uniforms used during the war.
Art GalleryIt doesn't have a permanent exhibition as yet instead it holds occasional temporary events dedicated to various artists.
Out of the city
Askeran Fortressaddress: Askeran townFortress was built by Panahi Khan in the 18th century to guard the approaches to Shushi, it was fortified with double walls. Its protective walls (2 m thick and 9 m height), entrance gate and tower are quite well preserved.
TigranakertIt's a ruined Armenian city dating back to the Hellenistic period. It is one of the four former cities with the same name, named in honor of the Armenian king Tigranes the Great (95–55 BC). Town consisted of 3 parts: part with palaces was at the top, then - central quarter, and Acropolis - at the bottom, all together forming a little triangle.
Drama Theatre of Vahram Papazianphone: +374 47944147address: 63 Tumanyan Street
Trailhead to ShushiJanapar trail with trail markings leading to Shushi.
Trailhead to PataraMarked Janapar Trail leading to Patara village.
Stepanakert boasts of a number of art galleries and rug shops.
Tashir Pizzaaddress: 20 Azatamartikneri St.Western style place with pizza, salad and soup. Non-smoking section and wifi.
Restaurant "Rosya"Upscale Russian restaurant.
Stepanakert ShukaSample the many very strong vodkas (oghi) made from the local fruit. Mulberry vodka is the most famous, but apricot, pear, cornelian cherry and others are also delicious with a serious kick.
Artsakh AlcoShop with high quality local vodkas and drinks made from fruit. Nice packaging.
Rootsphone: +374 97 332228address: 16/38 Vazgen Sargsyan Str.Hip non-smoking wine bar in Stepanakert, with a small food menu as well, which can be hit or miss. Non-smoking, popular, downstairs serves as a venue for interesting events and talks. Very inexpensive.
B&B and homestays
Edward's Guesthouseaddress: Nalbandian 232 dorms at 4 beds.
Noraphone: +374 479449107-8 beds.
phone: +374 97365288address: Nalbandyan 6Open since 1999. It is clean, has a kitchen and a rose garden. For breakfast, the guesthouse offers simple and light food. Wi-fi is provided. FB .
Sedaphone: +374 4794134812 beds, 4 bedrooms.
Tamara & Ivan Guesthouseaddress: 21a Nalbandian PoghotsA Lonely Planet recommendation.
phone: +374 47-949400address: 20th February Street/Building 4Offers international standards with 55 guest rooms. On-site restaurant, pool with sauna and conference hall.
phone: +374 47971503, +374 47971502Outside the city center, this hotel offers a relaxing atmosphere.
phone: +374 47 948677address: 39 Abovian StreetQuite good option with decent breakfasts.
Park Hotel "Artsakh"address: 10 Vazgen Sargsyan StreetIn downtown, offers all the conveniences of an high-end hotel. Has a restaurant, lobby bar, summer café, souvenir shop, business centre, library and conference hall. Change point, ATM and international telephone line are also available.
Hotel "Ocean"phone: +374 47 948310address: Tumanyan street 89Very basic but clean and cheap, no breakfast.
The tourist office kiosk is located opposite to the parliament building in the 20th February street/Renaissance square. They offer many nice brochures with information about the main attractions. Website.
There are several spots with free WiFi. These spots are in parks and around sights and monuments. Look for the signs of WiFi from Karabakh Telecom.
There are several Internet cafés in the city and also the restaurants offer free WiFi.
- Shushi is a great place to go and has a lot of traditional Armenian homes and churches. [LShushi contains many Armenian cultural monuments, while the surrounding territories include also many ancient Armenian village. The city is walled and has many historical churches and also has a few mosques, which are no longer operating. However, tourists are welcome to go in and see them. Shushi was the zone of one of the most famous battles during the Karabakh war.
- Agdam is also a very good place to see. It is an abandoned city, which is not a common site. There are thousands of old houses, but no one lives there. There is an old mosque there as well.
- Gandzasar Monastery and Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is the most spectacular historic monument in Nagorno-Karabakh. It represents a wonderful masterpiece of old Armenian architecture, erected in 13th century. It should be seen by every tourist who decided to visit Nagorno-Karabakh. Gandzasar is located on the hill top, in the vicinity the Vank village, about 60 km distant from Stepanakert. The marshrutka line 205 run from Stepanakert to Vank twice a day 09:00 and 15:00. It returns from Vank at 14:50 and costs 600 dram (March 2015); besides you can arrange a taxi.