places to visit in Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan, with its rich cultural heritage and stunning landscapes, offers a host of hidden gems for travelers seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure. With its intriguing history dating back to ancient civilizations, the country is now emerging as a prominent tourist destination in Central Asia and has lots of places to visit in Turkmenistan. One such place that captivates visitors is the ancient city of Merv, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Spanning over 4,000 years, Merv served as one of the largest cities of the Silk Road, attracting travelers from around the world. Its breathtaking ruins and architectural marvels provide a glimpse into its vibrant past and draw history enthusiasts from far and wide.

In contrast to the ancient wonders of Merv, Ashgabat, the capital city of Turkmenistan, stands as a symbol of the country’s modern development. Boasting an impressive collection of modern architectural marvels, Ashgabat showcases the immense wealth and ambition of the nation. One cannot help but be awestruck by the gleaming white marble buildings, golden statues, and meticulously landscaped parks that adorn the city. With its extravagant designs and record-breaking feats, Ashgabat rightfully holds the Guinness World Records for having the highest density of white marble-clad buildings in the world.

For those seeking natural beauty, Turkmenistan does not disappoint. The dramatic landscapes of the Karakum Desert provide a unique opportunity to explore untouched terrains. Travelers can engage in adrenaline-pumping activities such as sandboarding or witness the mesmerizing beauty of the Darvaza Gas Crater, known as the “Door to Hell.” This massive fiery pit, burning for more than four decades, is a testament to Turkmenistan’s abundant natural resources and serves as a captivating natural wonder.

Turkmenistan also offers tranquil oases amidst its arid landscapes. The Yangykala Canyons, with their vibrant hues of red, orange, and yellow, resemble a surreal painting come to life. These breathtaking canyons provide a serene retreat where visitors can immerse themselves in the tranquility of nature. Comparable to the world-famous Grand Canyon, the Yangykala Canyons are an embodiment of the vast and majestic beauty of Turkmenistan.

Although lesser-known than its neighbors, Turkmenistan is steadily gaining recognition as a remarkable tourist destination. With its captivating historical sites, modern architectural wonders, and awe-inspiring natural landscapes, this Central Asian country offers a wealth of experiences for all kinds of travelers. Whether exploring ancient ruins, marvelling at modern developments, or embracing the grandeur of untouched landscapes, Turkmenistan ensures a journey that defies expectations and leaves a lasting impression.

What are the top places to visit in Turkmenistan?

Turkmenistan is a hidden gem nestled in Central Asia, renowned for its stunning landscapes, rich history, and unique cultural experiences. From ancient cities to modern architectural wonders, this country offers a plethora of exciting destinations for intrepid travelers. In this article, we will delve into some of the most captivating places to visit in Turkmenistan, providing detailed insights and recommendations to help you plan your unforgettable journey to this extraordinary land. Join us as we explore the wonders that await you in Turkmenistan’s vibrant cities, mysterious deserts, and enchanting natural reserves.

1. Ancient Ruins of Merv

Located in the eastern part of Turkmenistan, the ancient ruins of Merv are a must-visit for history enthusiasts. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this archaeological site showcases the remains of several cities that flourished along the Silk Road. The city of Merv was once a major center of trade, culture, and science in the medieval Islamic world.

2. The Gas Crater – Darvaza

The Gas Crater, also known as the “Door to Hell” or “Gates of Hell,” is a fascinating natural wonder in Turkmenistan. This massive crater has been burning since 1971 when it was accidentally set on fire by Soviet geologists. The fiery glow and the constant flames make it a unique destination for adventurous travelers.

3. Konye-Urgench

Formerly known as Gurganj, Konye-Urgench is an ancient city that served as the capital of the Khwarazm Empire. It is now an important historical site and another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Turkmenistan. Visitors can explore the well-preserved mausoleums, mosques, and other architectural structures that reflect the city’s former grandeur.

4. Nisa Archaeological Site

The Nisa Archaeological Site is a testament to Turkmenistan’s rich history. This site was once the capital of the ancient Parthian Empire and showcases the remains of palaces, temples, and fortifications. Designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Nisa provides a fascinating glimpse into the civilization that thrived in this region thousands of years ago.

5. Ashgabat

Ashgabat, the capital city of Turkmenistan, offers a blend of modernity and traditional architecture. The city is known for its extravagant marble buildings, golden domes, and opulent palaces. Visitors can explore the Turkmenistan National Museum, the Monument of Neutrality, and witness the changing of the guard ceremony at the Arch of Neutrality. Additionally, the Ashgabat Sunday Market is a vibrant place to experience the local culture and buy traditional crafts.

6. Yangykala Canyon

Nestled in the heart of the Karakum Desert, Yangykala Canyon is a natural masterpiece of Turkmenistan. The canyon is famous for its colorful rock formations, which resemble a rainbow palette due to the various minerals present in the soil. Sunset is the best time to visit, as the sun casts a warm golden glow on the cliffs, creating a breathtaking sight.

7. Avaza

Avaza is a resort town located on the Caspian Sea coast and is often referred to as the “Turkmen Riviera.” This modern beach destination boasts beautiful sandy beaches, luxury hotels, and numerous entertainment options. Visitors can enjoy water sports, sunbathe on the pristine beaches, and indulge in delicious seafood at the local restaurants.

By exploring these top places to visit in Turkmenistan, you will get a glimpse of the country’s rich history, natural wonders, and architectural splendor. Don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the unique culture and hospitality of this Central Asian gem.

According to recent tourism statistics, Turkmenistan welcomed over 1.3 million international tourists in 2019, showing a steady growth in its popularity as a travel destination.

FAQs: Places to Visit in Turkmenistan

1. What are the top tourist attractions in Turkmenistan?

The top tourist attractions in Turkmenistan are:

  • Ashgabat – the capital city showcasing impressive modern architecture
  • Door to Hell (Darvaza Crater) – a natural gas crater with a fiery glow
  • Kunya-Urgench – an ancient city known for its preserved historical sites
  • Merv – the ruins of an ancient oasis city and a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Nisa – the remains of the Parthian Empire’s capital city

2. Are there any beautiful natural landscapes to explore in Turkmenistan?

Yes, Turkmenistan boasts several breathtaking natural landscapes worth exploring, such as:

  • Karakum Desert – a vast desert offering unique desert experiences
  • Kugitang Nature Reserve – home to scenic mountains, canyons, and diverse wildlife
  • Yangykala Canyons – an otherworldly landscape of colorful cliffs and ravines
  • Garlyk Underground Lake – an enchanting underground lake open for visits

3. How can I explore the ancient historical sites in Turkmenistan?

You can explore the ancient historical sites in Turkmenistan by:

  • Hiring a local guide who can provide expert knowledge
  • Visiting museums in cities like Ashgabat and Mary for in-depth historical insights
  • Joining organized tours that cover key historical sites
  • Exploring independently using guidebooks and maps

4. Are there any unique cultural experiences to have in Turkmenistan?

Absolutely! Turkmenistan offers unique cultural experiences such as:

  • Attending traditional Turkmen festivals featuring music, dance, and traditional dress
  • Visiting local markets to experience the vibrant everyday life
  • Observing traditional crafts like carpet weaving and jewelry making
  • Staying in a yurt (traditional nomadic dwelling) for an authentic cultural experience

5. Is it safe for tourists to visit Turkmenistan?

Turkmenistan is generally a safe country for tourists. However, it is advisable to follow basic safety precautions, such as:

  • Avoiding political gatherings and demonstrations
  • Respecting local customs and traditions
  • Staying cautious while exploring remote areas
  • Keeping important documents and valuables secure

6. Can I visit Turkmenistan independently or do I need a tour guide?

While it is possible to visit Turkmenistan independently, having a knowledgeable tour guide can greatly enhance your experience, especially when visiting historical sites or navigating the country’s unique customs and regulations.

7. Are there any visa requirements to enter Turkmenistan?

Yes, most visitors require a visa to enter Turkmenistan. It is recommended to contact the Turkmenistan Embassy or Consulate in your country for specific visa requirements and application procedures.

8. What is the best time to visit Turkmenistan?

The best time to visit Turkmenistan is during spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November). The weather is pleasant, and major events and festivals take place during these seasons.

9. How can I travel within Turkmenistan?

You can travel within Turkmenistan by:

  • Taking domestic flights to reach different cities
  • Using shared taxis or public buses for shorter distances
  • Renting a car or hiring a driver for more flexibility

10. What should I pack for my visit to Turkmenistan?

When visiting Turkmenistan, it is advised to pack:

  • Light and breathable clothing suitable for the season
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses for protection against the sun
  • Swimwear if you plan to visit the Garlyk Underground Lake
  • Appropriate attire for entering mosques and other religious sites

Conclusion for which places to visit in Turkmenistan

In conclusion, Turkmenistan offers a diverse range of fascinating destinations that are sure to captivate any traveler. The country’s rich history and cultural heritage are beautifully reflected in the ancient sites of Merv, Nisa, and Kunya-Urgench. These UNESCO World Heritage Sites transport visitors back in time, providing a glimpse into Turkmenistan’s glorious past. Additionally, the modern architectural marvels of Ashgabat, such as the Independence Monument and the National Museum, showcase the country’s contemporary achievements and ambition.

Nature enthusiasts will be enchanted by the pristine beauty of Turkmenistan’s natural wonders, such as Kow-Ata Underground Lake and Yangykala Canyon, where breathtaking landscapes of colorful cliffs and hidden underground caves await exploration. The Darvaza Gas Crater, known as the “Door to Hell,” is an exceptional sight not to be missed; witnessing the fiery flames in the middle of the Karakum Desert is a truly unforgettable experience.

Overall, Turkmenistan is a treasure trove for history buffs, architecture lovers, and adventure seekers alike. With its unique blend of ancient ruins, modern cityscapes, and natural wonders, this country offers a distinctive travel experience that is bound to leave a lasting impression on any visitor. Whether indulging in cultural exploration or immersing in breathtaking landscapes, Turkmenistan’s attractions provide an extraordinary and enriching journey.

More info about backpacking in ths country