Nakhchivan City, Nakhchivan

Photo: Stefan Krasowski via flickr
Photo: Stefan Krasowski via flickr

Are you ready for a big adventure? You did promise yourself new, exciting experiences after the new year after all. Since it’s mid-January, it’s about time you make good on your resolution. A place few people, much less you, have ever heard of sounds epic enough.

Nakhchivan is an autonomous republic of Azerbaijan, a country that itself is just starting to be explored by travelers. The landlocked region doesn’t touch Azerbaijan, though. It lies to the west and is bordered by Iran, Turkey, and Armenia. The relationship between Armenia and Azerbaijan is tense at best; border clashes continue to this day. But the region’s capital, which shares the same name, could soon become a must-visit spot in Southeastern Europe.

The city of Nakhchivan is just a quick flight from Baku, Azerbaijan’s rapidly changing capital. It sits along the right bank of the Nakhchivan River and the foothills of the Zangezur Mountains. Old Stalinist buildings—the city was ruled by the Soviets for 70 years—are quickly being replaced with modern architecture. The arts, especially the theater, thrive here. While fascinating historic sites, including a mausoleum that’s believed to be the site of Noah’s grave, could soon be protected by UNESCO.

Of course it’s that Noah. Armenians call Noah the founder of the city. A temple was built over his gravesite in the 8th century; the mausoleum was later built atop that. While Ilandag, a distinctive mountain whose high gorge was formed by Noah’s ark, can be seen from the center of the city. Add wineries, known for their Tebrizis and Shirazis, in the Aras Valley, for a region that’s sounding more and more like your next adventure. A big adventure, indeed.

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