When have you last traveled to a country or region without knowing what to expect? One of the reasons why you should visit Turkmenistan! This country will not fit into any of your conventional holiday ideas nor will you find much information online about it. And that is the beauty of visiting a country known to be one of the least visited countries in the world.
Turkmenistan currently has a “forbidden fruit effect” on travelers. It is hard to obtain a visa to this country and once in the country, you are not allowed to venture without a tour guide. Everything about this country screams quirky.
Also Read: 20 Insane Facts About Turkmenistan
Tourism here is strictly monitored by the government and a tour package is mandatory to get a visa. Irrespective, in a time where tourism has taken over every country, it is a refreshing change to take a trip to Turkmenistan, a country that is still in the process of opening it’s gates to the rest of the world.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT TURKMENISTAN
THE GOLDEN MOSQUE OF ASHGABAT
The spectacular Turkmenbasy Ruhi Mosque mosque has solid gold domes and was constructed by the Arabs in exchange for access to the country’s natural gas reserves. This mosque can house more than a 1000 worshippers at a time, the interiors as impressive as the exterior.
President Niyazov contracted a French company to build a Mausoleum for him and his family near this mosque. The Mausoleum is built entirely with Italian marble and visitors need to bow down to see the burial chamber, ensuring everyone pays respect.
EXPERIENCE DARVAZA- THE NATURAL WONDER OF THE KARAKUM
In 1971, close to a small Turkmen village deep within Karakum desert, a Soviet drilling rig accidentally drilled into a massive gas pocket, causing the ground around it to collapse and the rig to fall in. A huge hole was created and the poisonous gas started escaping at an alarming rate. So the Soviets decided to set the hole on fire in the hope that the gas will burn itself out in a weeks time. 50 years later, it is still burning.
A tourist stumbled upon this site and called it the Door To Hell, as the fiery glow can be seen from miles away and resembles the description of hell.
Today, this phenomenon has lead to a surge in tourism. 90% tourists visit Turkmenistan to see Darvaza.
Also Read: Take a vacation to the doorway to Hell
EXPLORE THE LOST BUDDHIST CITIES OF MERV & MARY
Another reason to visit Turkmenistan is to witness one of the world’s biggest cities during the Silk Road era. Merv in Turkmenistan is the western most point to which Buddhism spread at its height. What remains now are crumbling structures of mud and clay, a testimony of its greatness before being destroyed by Genghis Khan’s son in 1221 AD. Buddhist stupas are preserved here till date.
To get to Merv, you need to take a 40-minute flight from Ashgabat to Mary– the town nearest to Merv. Only Hahn Air flies in this sector and the prices are quite steep. You can base yourself in Mary and do day trips to these sights. Ofcourse, this will all be arranged by your tour company.
The other attractions in this area:
- Abdulla-Khan Kala– The smallest of the Merv cities enclosing 44 towers.
- Bayram-Ali-Khan Kala– This city features stunning architectural wonders, fortress walls, towers and citadels.
- Erk Kala– Marks the location of the earliest civilizations on this site
- Gonur Depe– This location features in the world’s oldest 5 civilizations.
- Gyaur Kala– This city houses the ancient places of worship for Buddhists and Christians.
- Sultan Kala– It is the central core of medieval Merv.
EXPLORE THE GRAND CANYONS OF TURKMENISTAN
Spectacular rock walls in hues of Pink, Red and Yellow await you at Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenistan’s own Grand Canyon. The landscape was created 5.5 million years ago, and the red rock walls you see now where massive coral reefs from pre-historic Paratethys sea
Yangykala is 590 kms from Ashgabat. It is a 3 day trip from the capital. Also, it requires a special permit, that needs to be applied much ahead of your visit. This can be arranged by your travel agent.
SEE THE TURKMEN PRIDE- AKHAL TEKE
The national emblem of Turkmenistan, this rare breed is believed to be 3000 years old. Due to its silky mane, it has a metallic sheen and was described by Greek historian Herodotus as “golden horses”. If you are planning your trip to Turkmenistan during summer, you can visit a stable to see them. During winter, these horses grow a winter coat making it indistinguishable from other horses.