Major Tourist Attractions: Nisa, Altyndepe, Repetek Biosphere State Reserve, Gonur tepe, Turkmen Carpet Museum
If you enjoy visiting countries that are off most tourists’ radar, Turkmenistan is the place for you. Those who do make the trip find it to be one of the most unique and interesting places they have ever visited. With almost no tourist infrastructure, you will have most attractions completely to yourself, sometimes going days without spotting another traveler.
The Great Silk Road once stretched through modern day Turkmenistan and the ancient city of Merv was once one of the great cities of the Islamic world. A visit to Merv reveals how the area evolved over time as one empire after another conquered the region. The country today is quite isolated as it has been ruled by a totalitarian regime since the fall of the Soviet Union, sometimes drawing comparisons to North Korea.
To make the most of a visit to Turkmenistan, hiring a guide and driver is almost a must. Indeed, to obtain a tourist visa, you must be accompanied by a guide whenever you are outside of the capital city of Ashgabat. This may sound constraining, but it is actually liberating as having a guide will give you access to places that many Turkmen don’t even know exist.
Accommodation options are limited to Soviet-era hotels in Ashgabat and elsewhere, while camping in the desert and homestays in the mountains provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Most of the country is covered by the vast Karakum desert and roads can be rough in spots, but flying within the country can be inexpensive, making air travel a good alternative for getting around.
Make the most of your visit to Turkmenistan by including the following:
- Marvel at the ostentatious marble and gold buildings in Ashgabat.
- Stand atop ancient ruins in Merv.
- Camp overnight near the Darvaza Gas Crater, which has been burning for decades.
- Visit a traditional cemetery in the mountain village of Nokhur.
- Climb a ninth century minaret in the abandoned town of Misrian.
- Watch the sun rise over the Yangykala Canyon.
- Explore what remains of the Silk Road city of Urgench.
- Go for a swim in the Kow-Ata underground lake.
- Get a feel for Turkmenistan’s history and culture at the National Museum of Turkmenistan.
- Wander among the ruins of the ancient city of Abiverd.
Address: 9 1984 Street
(formerly Pushkin Street)
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan 744000
Phone: (99312) 94 00 45