Asia Destinations Travel

Discover Turkmenistan – The “mysterious” country of Central Asia


Nestled in the heart of Central Asia, Turkmenistan is a country that has long been shrouded in mystery. With its rich history, ancient ruins, and unique cultural heritage, Turkmenistan offers an off-the-beaten-path destination for travelers seeking to explore lesser-known corners of the world. From the golden deserts to the modern capital city of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan is a land of contrasts waiting to be discovered.

Ashgabat – The White Marble City

A great place to start your journey is in the capital city of Ashgabat, often referred to as the “White Marble City.” Known for its stunning architecture and opulent buildings, Ashgabat is a showcase of Turkmenistan’s modernity and ambition. The city is filled with gleaming white marble structures, including the Arch of Neutrality, the Monument of Independence, and the presidential palace, which are all must-see landmarks.


One of the highlights of Ashgabat is the National Museum of Turkmenistan, which offers a fascinating glimpse into the country’s history and culture. The museum features exhibits on Turkmenistan’s ancient civilizations, including the Parthians, the Silk Road, and its nomadic heritage. From ancient artifacts to traditional costumes, the museum provides an enriching experience for history enthusiasts.

Darvaza Gas Crater – The Door to Hell

Just a few hours’ drive from Ashgabat lies one of Turkmenistan’s most unique natural wonders – the Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as the “Door to Hell.” This mesmerizing site is a massive crater filled with fiery gas that has been burning for over 50 years. The result of a drilling accident in the 1970s, the Darvaza Gas Crater is an otherworldly sight, especially at night when the flames illuminate the surrounding desert.

Darvaza Gas Crater

Visiting the Darvaza Gas Crater is a surreal experience. You can camp near the crater and witness the mesmerizing flames up close, or simply enjoy the spectacle from a safe distance. The vastness of the desert landscape combined with the blazing fire of the crater creates a truly unique and unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe.

Ancient Ruins of Merv – UNESCO World Heritage Site

For history enthusiasts, a trip to Turkmenistan would be incomplete without a visit to the ancient ruins of Merv, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Merv was once a major Silk Road city and an important center of culture, trade, and politics in the region. Today, it is a vast archaeological site that offers a glimpse into Turkmenistan’s rich history.

Ancient Ruins of Merv

The ruins of Merv are spread over an extensive area and include impressive structures such as the Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum, the Great Kyz Kala fortress, and the ancient city walls. The site is a treasure trove of ancient architecture, including Islamic, Persian, and Turkmen styles, which provide a fascinating insight into the region’s cultural heritage.

Karakum Desert – The Golden Sands

Turkmenistan is largely covered by the Karakum Desert, one of the largest deserts in the world. The golden sands of the Karakum Desert stretch for miles, offering a unique and surreal landscape that is worth exploring. The desert is home to a variety of unique flora and fauna, including rare species such as the Karakum camel and the goitered gazelle.


One of the highlights of the Karakum Desert is the Yangykala Canyon, a stunning natural formation that resembles a rainbow-colored canyon with its multicolored rock formations. The canyon offers a breathtaking view of the desert landscape and is a popular spot for hiking and photography expeditions. The changing hues of the canyon walls as the sun sets or rises create a mesmerizing sight that is sure to leave you in awe of Turkmenistan’s natural beauty.

Turkmen Hospitality and Culture

The people of Turkmenistan are known for their warmth and hospitality, making your visit to this “mysterious” country even more memorable. Turkmen culture is deeply rooted in its nomadic heritage and traditional way of life, which is evident in their customs, cuisine, and handicrafts.

One of the unique cultural experiences you can have in Turkmenistan is attending a performance of the traditional Akhal-Teke horse show. The Akhal-Teke horse, known for its beauty and grace, holds a special place in Turkmen culture, and watching the riders perform daring stunts and intricate maneuvers on these magnificent horses is a true spectacle.


The Turkmen bazaars, or markets, are also a must-visit for experiencing the local culture. The Tolkuchka Bazaar in Ashgabat is one of the largest and most famous bazaars in Central Asia, offering a vibrant display of local produce, crafts, textiles, and more. It’s a great place to interact with the friendly locals, sample delicious Turkmen cuisine, and pick up some unique souvenirs.

Practical Information

Turkmenistan is a country that requires some planning and preparation for travelers. Obtaining a tourist visa can be challenging, and it’s important to research the current visa requirements and regulations before planning your trip. It’s also advisable to work with a reputable travel agency or tour operator that can assist with the logistics and necessary permits for visiting specific sites.

In terms of accommodation, Turkmenistan offers a range of options from luxury hotels in Ashgabat to more basic guesthouses in other parts of the country. It’s recommended to book your accommodation in advance, especially during the peak travel season, which is usually from April to June and September to November.

When it comes to transportation, Turkmenistan has a developing infrastructure with limited public transportation options. Hiring a local guide or driver is often necessary for getting around, especially when visiting remote sites or traveling in the desert areas.

In terms of safety, Turkmenistan is generally considered a safe country for travelers. However, it’s always important to exercise caution, be aware of your surroundings, and follow local laws and customs.


Turkmenistan is a hidden gem in Central Asia, offering a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. From the modern capital city of Ashgabat with its stunning marble architecture, to the ancient ruins of Merv and the mesmerizing Darvaza Gas Crater, Turkmenistan has something to offer for every adventurous traveler. The warm hospitality of the Turkmen people and the opportunity to experience a rich nomadic culture make Turkmenistan a destination worth exploring. So, pack your bags and get ready to discover the “mysterious” country of Turkmenistan!

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