The 10 best places to visit in Turkmenistan

 

In the south of the country west of the capital, Ashgabat, is the Kow Ata underground lake. A long metal staircase leads visitors 60 metres (200 ft) down into the Bakharden Cave for a swim in the 35°C mineral rich waters.

10. Kow Ata

 

In a country that is covered by over eighty percent desert, the Repetek Biosphere State Reserve is rather surprisingly the only desert nature reserve in Turkmenistan. The M37 motorway between Mary and Turkmenabat cuts straight through the arid desert and it's deep sand dunes.

9. Repetek Nature Reserve

 

In the extreme east of the country straddling the border with Uzbekistan is the Koytendag Nature Reserve, set around the Kugitang mountain range. One of the countries most incredible natural environments, the reserve is a haven of huge canyons, rich forests, mountain streams, large caves and the countries highest peak, the 3,137 metre (10,292 ft) Airybaba Mountain.

8. Koytendag Nature Reserve

 

Close to the capital city, Ashgabat, is the ancient city of Nisa, dating back to the Parthian Empire. Destroyed by an earthquake in the 1st century BC what remains today is an archaeological site. Excavations have revealed a substantial number of buildings, mausoleums and shrines with the fortress at Nisa being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

7. Nisa

 

In the extreme south west of the country close to the Caspian Sea and the border with Iran is what remains of the ancient city of Dekhistan. Set within the Misrian Valley in a very remote part of the country stands 10th century towers as well as an ancient Mosque dating back to the same period. Dekhistan is considered the most important medieval oasis in the south western region of Turkmenistan.

6. Dekhistan

 

Close to the modern city of Mary is what remains of the ancient city of Merv, once a major oasis in central Asia, located on the historical Silk Road it was for a brief period in the 12th century the largest city on Earth. The remains of the ancient Kala's and mausoleums are of such great historical importance that the State Historical & Cultural Park of Ancient Merv has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the Great Kyz Kala.

5. Ancient Merv

 

In the centre of the country in the far south, between the Karakum Desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range is the countries capital, Ashgabat, one of the most unusual cities on the planet. Almost continually deserted, visitors can almost feel alone among the huge white marble clad buildings, towering above the flat surrounding desert. The streets are well maintained, with statues and fountains lined up in perfect symmetry. Notable locations to seek out are the Alem Entertainment Centre, the Constitution Monument, the Neutrality Monument, the Independence Monument and the enormous Gypjak Mosque. One must do whilst in Ashgabat is to walk the Serdar Health Path, an 8 kilometre concrete stepped path that snakes it's way from the south of the city into the hills of the Kopet Dag. 

4. Ashgabat

 

In the far northern centre of the country close to the border with Uzbekistan is the site of the ancient town of Konye Urgench, containing ruins from the former Achaemenid Empire. Completely abandoned in the 1700's the city remained undisturbed for centuries. Today the ruins of Old Urgench have been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the 12th century Soltan Tekesh Mausoleum, with the 11th century 60 metre (197 ft) high Kutlug Timur Minaret behind it.

3. Konye Urgench

 

In the centre of the country directly north of Ashgabat in the Karakum Desert is the famous Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as the Door To Hell. In 1971 Soviet engineers began drilling on the site in search of a suspected oil field. Soon after discovering the gas pocket the ground beneath the drilling rig collapsed. The engineers decided to burn off the escaping gases, estimating that it would burn off within a few weeks. Today, four decades on the Darvaza Gas Crater continues to burn.

2. Darvaza Gas Crater

 

In the west of the country is certainly one of Turkmenistan's most spectacular natural attractions, the Yangykala Canyon. Reaching up to 100 metres (329 ft) above the desert floor, the steep canyon walls look beautiful with bands of yellow, pink and red rocks. The views from the plateau above the canyon are some of the most naturally breath taking in Central Asia.

1. Yangykala Canyon

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