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One of the hidden gems of Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan is an incredibly worthwhile place to visit for its extraordinary landscapes,cultural curiosities and monuments.
The undulating semi-desert in the south towards the Iranian border, between Nakhchivan city and Julfa, holds many of the attractive species of the exclave. Several small dirt tracks (manageable with sturdy 4x4 vehicles) lead out into rugged terrain. Please check with your guide and driver about the current conditions of roads and areas.
Visiting Nakhchivan as a birdwatcher is a hugely worthwhile experience. For many birdwatchers, it is the highlight of a trip to Azerbaijan because the landscape, look and feel is very different. The region has a continental climate, producing very cold winters and very hot summers. Much of the central zone is dry highland covered by orange-red steppe or semi-desert. The Araz river snakes along the south and marks the border with Iran, while the Lesser Caucasus Mountains tower across the north of the territory. The region is large but you can visit the key birdwatching sites in two to three days. And the fauna is markedly different from mainland Azerbaijan, having more in common with eastern Turkey and north-western Iran. Visit here in May or early June and you can see 10-12 species not found elsewhere in Azerbaijan. Among the birds you can encounter are See-see Partridge, Red-tailed Wheatear, Rock Sparrow, Trumpeter Finch, Mongolian Finch and Black-bellied Sandgrouse.
When to visit: Late spring and early summer is the time to come for most target species. Late autumn and winter is the time for wintering birds along the Araz river and reservoir.
Go with a guide: Please note that it is curently not really possible to do a birdwatching trip independently in Nakhchivan, because many of the best sites are in border areas. Please check with your guide and driver about the current conditions of roads and areas.
Nakhchivan is a fascinating region steeped in history, culture and natural splendour. Sights not to miss include the 12th-century Mausoleum of Momine Khatun, Nakhchivan Khan’s Palace, the mountain setting of Batabat Lake and mysterious Mt Ilandag. Make sure you also hike up the over 1,500 steps to Alinja Castle, ‘Azerbaijan’s Machu Picchu’, and visit the Duzdag salt cave sanatorium. Fascinatingly, local legend says that Noah settled here after the Great Flood and his tomb is located in Nakhchivan city. The region is also renowned for its hospitable locals.
Sleeping: Nakhchivan city is the best base for birdwatchers as it has several good hotels (including Tabriz, Hotel Grand, Duzdag and Saat Meydani) and all sites are easily accessible from here.
Eating: Nakhchivan’s continental climate results in a slightly different cuisine to mainland Azerbaijan. Be sure to try local specialties like arzuman kufta and the honey-drizzled Ordubad omelette. Restaurants serving local cuisine are widespread in towns and cities. In Nakhchivan city you’ll find international food and drink options.