Nagorno-Karabakh is an enigma wrapped up inside the Caucasus. It is a ‘country’ recognised by no-one. Though legally within Azerbaijan, it's populated almost entirely by Armenians following the brutal and as-yet-unresolved war of the early 1990s. Even the name is something of a mystery, being made up from words of three different languages: nagorno means mountainous in Russian, kara means black in Turkish and bakh means garden in Persian. To confuse things further, the locals refer to their region as Artsakh.
While there exist many questions about Nagorno-Karabakh and its political status, the beauty and cultural richness of this remote mountain landscape are undeniable. Up steep cliffs, wedged into narrow valleys and hidden in remote forests are hundreds of moss-covered churches and monasteries, and while most of them are abandoned, a few are being renovated and reopened.
The war of the early 1990s left deep scars across the landscape, but the people are moving on, rebuilding their country stone by stone. Travel here is still an adventure, involving bad roads, special permits and military-occupied no-go zones, but rapidly improving infrastructure means better hotels, restaurants and facilities in the main tourist areas. Karabakhi hospitality makes wading through the challenges a joy, even in difficult times.