An introduction to... Turkmenistan

| November 5, 2014

A holiday in Turkmenistan represents an opportunity to venture into the unknown; to throw yourself at adventure and witness the spirituality, tradition and natural beauty that is present here. As one of central Asia’s least-visited countries, Turkmenistan guarantees an authentic atmosphere, as well as the chance to cast your eyes upon seldom-seen wonders, both man-made and natural.

The ancient city of Merv. Photo credit - Thinkstock/iStock

There is variety abound in Turkmenistan, and from the Anau mosque ruins and pilgrim site to the lively Ashgabat Sunday bazaar, you will experience a wide range of atmospheres and places. Below, we've picked out a few particularly exciting highlights.


The ancient city of Merv stands in the Mary velayat, just as it has done since 6 BC. Its status as one of the best preserved ruins on the Silk Roads in Central Asia being studied by archaeologists today has earned it recognition from Unesco and the British Museum, among dozens of other institutes. Parts of it are said to date back even further, with some scientists theorising that its history could stretch back to the Bronze Age (1200 - 300 BC). Take particular interest in the walls, which mark the continuous record of the evolution of military architecture through the ages.

Unending natural beauty

Turkmenistan's landscape is quite unlike anywhere else in the world, with a rawness that only comes from places that have been largely untouched by human hands. A journey through the Yangykala canyons is one such example, with bands of rock forming one of the most breathtaking sights on the planet.

Then there are the Madau desert plains, which stretch for miles in all directions, their dunes bouncing upwards and downwards dramatically against the horizon. Taking a picnic in the lap of the countryside here really helps you to appreciate the power of nature.

Also worth a mention are the Kopetdag mountains, which dominate the Kyzylarvat skyline. Their towering cliff faces look smooth from a distance, but as you get closer to these uniquely shaped behemoths of curves and arcs, you'll start to see how the smooth shapes morph into craggy surfaces and jagged rocks.

Fascinating metropolises

Modern-day cities such as Ashgabat are also full of interest, and it's well worth taking a tour of their sprawling pathways. Ashgabat itself is a fine example, possessing a number of attractions to wow visitors, including the Neutrality Arch, Wedding Palace Viewpoint, the Carpet Museum and Independence Park. The city's tourism scene is also assisted by the legacy of the now-deceased autocrat Saparmyrat Niyazov, who took on the title of Turkmenbashi (Leader of the Turkmen) during his long reign. Many of Turkmenistan cities have golden statues in his name, the vast majority of which were commissioned by the man himself.

Cox & Kings can help you arrange a private tour to Turkmenistan. See more >

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