Native people are helpful, and very well-disposed towards foreign tourists who speak Russian or Armenian. You will see the large number of young men in military uniforms. This is not something to worry about, and tourists should not be afraid of them. English is generally regarded as an exotic language here, and a tourist from Europe and US will not encounter problems in contacting local people. The Russian language is widely spoken and known, and can be used by tourists for everyday contacts with native people.
Nagorno-Karabakh is landlocked and air travel is not available to the typical visitor. While an airport was constructed on the outskirts of Stepanakert several years ago, the airspace of Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized to be owned by Azerbaijan, which has denied access to Armenian aircraft on threat of shooting them down.
There are four daily buses from Kilikia Bus Terminal, Yerevan, which depart at 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, and 11:00 in the morning. The journey can be slow and take up to eight hours. Tickets for this journey cost around AMD 5,000. Your luggage will be placed on the roof of the bus, so keep your documents with you, and you may need them at the border.
There are also some share-taxis available in front of the Kilikia Bus Terminal. Some drivers would be there from 6:00, but the first taxi usually departs around 7:00 or later, when there are at least three passengers in a taxi. The price is AMD 10,000 when there are three passengers in a taxi, or AMD 8,000 when there are four. It's better to arrive the terminal around 7:00. The journey takes around six hours (All schedules and prices are confirmed in Nov 2017)
Driving is also possible, the M-12 highway connects with Armenia, and is the most reasonable way to reach Stepanakert. The northern route through the Sotk pass has now a newly paved road (October 2016) which makes this a good alternative from the southern route. It is good if you want to stop by The Sevan Lake as well. It should take 5-7 hours from Stepanakert to 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 so prepare yourself with a dictionary.
A visitor must possess a visa for Nagorno-Karabagh. A tourist visa may be obtained in 10 minutes without bureaucratic formalities at the Official Mission of Nagorno-Karabagh Republic (in Yerevan), and passport and visa will be returned on the same day. Tourist visas can also be obtained in Stepanakert, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after checking-in at one of the two road checkpoints leading into Nagorno-Karabakh. At the ministry, it is a ten minute process, depending on the wait time, and must be completed on the same day of arrival or the very next day depending on if you arrive after business hours for the ministry. The ministry is quite easy to find and is a ten-minute walk from the main bus station in Stepanakert.
There are many taxis ranging from old Soviet cars to brand new Mercedes. The fare is usually not more than AMD 1,000 in the city. There are also many city buses along some main roads, which are yellow color. Pay AMD 100 when alighting. Flagging down passing drivers heading in your direction of travel is also quite common. However, most places in Stepanakert are accessible via an easy walk.
There are many museums that show the history of the region. The city has seen a large growth in the number of museums. There are many parks that are amazing. Many of the parks are brand new and have many nice statues and memorials. It is very common to see children playing in the parks. People are very kind so they will not mind if you want your children to play with their children. You should also take a visit to the government buildings and multiple universities.
There exist five schools for higher educational learning in Stepanakert: Artsakh State University and four private universities. Artsakh State was originally established in 1969 as a branch of the Baku Pedagogical Institute. In 1973, it was renamed Stepanakert Pedagogical Institute and following the end of the war, in 1995, it received its current name. The university offers courses spread across seven departments and has an attendance level of 4,500.
There are many souvenir shops. A very nice one is in the lobby of hotel Armenia. When you are in Stepanakert there are many art galleries and rug places, a good place is Nereni Arts & Crafts, which is run by a diaspore Iranian and his Australian wife. From the main post office in the city center you could send postcards, the service seems to be much faster than the Armenian. Another amazing place to buy beautiful art that is historic is Shushi.
There are many cafes sprinkled throughout the city.
Budget accommodation (about 5 USD) is also easily available if you speak Russian or Armenian. Please ask the driver of 'marshutka' by which you have got to Stepanakert. Nearest hotel to the bus station is the Hotel Europe at Azatamartikneri St. 26. - located next to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is a homestay just down the stairs, it is the blue door, not advertised, 4.000 per person, decent room. Or another one about 10 minutes away from the Station with very good prices in a brand new house with 6 double rooms, kitchen, Tv & Wifi. Contact: [email protected]
You will see many Armenia Army troops patrolling around the city. This pretty and friendly place doesn't feel dangerous at all. Most of the kids will run up to you and practice their English.
The city of Shushi is a great place to go and has a lot of traditional Armenian homes and churches. Shusha 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 bloody battles during the Karabach war.
The city of Shushi is also home to several very nice museums which include geologic, cultural, and military history exhibits. A walk from the main square in Shushi to these museums is not to be missed while visiting the town.
Aghdam 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 as well. No one wanted to take as there in 2019, but it was possible to see it from the main road.Take a marshrutka to Martakert.
Gandzasar Monastery and Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is the most spectacular historic monument in Nagorno-Karabach. It represents a woderfull masterpiece of old Armenian architecture, erected in 13th century. It should be seen by every tourist who decided to visit Nagorno-Karabach. Gandzasar is located on the hill top, in the vicinity the Vank village, about 60 km distant from Stepanakert. Marshrutka runs twice a day (one goes at 9:00, April 2019) to Vank but could be very crowded.
Surprisingly, free wifi is available in a small park close to the main square, where the Armenia hotel is situated. Several Internet cafés are also present in the city.