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Travel to the mysterious Turkmenistan, one of the lesser visited destinations in central Asia. The country features a mixture of historic and curious attractions, including ‘The Door to Hell’ or the Darvaza Gas Crater, grand monuments and statues built by dictator Turkmenbash, and the ancient city of Merv – an important stop along the Silk Road. Visit the capital of Ashgabat, crammed with truly unique architecture, experience the colourful Tolkuchka bazaar, discover monuments of the Kunya Urgench, and see the stunning and dramatic landscapes of the desert and Yangikala canyons.
Please note: Tourism is still a relatively new concept in Turkmenistan and visitors should not expect the same levels of infrastructure that they may have experienced in more established destinations. Cox & Kings uses the best available accommodation, but outside the capital of Ashgabat the standard is relatively basic. This tour involves basic camping, some long drives and walking over rough terrain.
The ancient oasis-city of Merv is one of the oldest and most important stops along Central Asia’s Silk Road. From its early beginnings as a trade centre more than 4,000 years ago, Merv flourished to reputedly become the third largest city in the world. Fantastically well preserved, today the city is a Unesco world heritage site where visitors can explore the gigantic ramparts and ruined buildings of this once-great city.
Kunya Urgench lies near the Uzbekistan border and was once considered one of the Islamic world’s most important cities before it was destroyed by Mongol warrior Genghis Khan and later by Turkish-Mongol leader Tamerlane. Nevertheless, there remain many sites of historic interest, including the 12th-century mausoleum of Arslan II and the audience chamber of the royal palace. At 60 meters high, the Kutlug-Timur minaret, dating back to the 11th century, is the tallest in Central Asia.
Sometimes referred to as ‘The Door to Hell’, the Darvaza Gas Crater is a 60m x 20m chasm, which has burned in the heart of the Karakum desert for the past four decades. It is the result of a gas exploration accident that occurred in 1971. To prevent the resultant escape of poisonous gas from the underground cavern, geologists decided to light it, hoping that the fire would consume all the gas within a few days – but it has been burning ever since.
Discover the dramatic red rock formations of the Canyons of Yangikala, which means ‘fiery fortresses’ in Turkmen.
Browse the famous Sunday market – Tolkuchka Bazaar – in Ashgabat’s desert, one of Turkmenistan's most popular visitor attractions selling everything from red Turkmen rugs, silks, jewellery and handicrafts to camels and foodstuffs.
See Turkmenistan come alive in this image and video gallery, showing off some of the best areas that you can visit and explore.
Discover the temperatures and rainfall you can expect when visiting the main areas of Turkmenistan, along with the best time to travel.
Find out more about what you can expect from travelling in Central Asia – from internal flights to accommodation standards and local transport.
Learn more about the airlines we use to fly to Central Asia, chosen for reliability and good service; as well as any available upgrade facilities.
Before travelling to Central Asia, please read more about the entry requirements for each country, as well as any general health advice.
Get to know our expert Central Asia travel consultants, their personal recommendations and favourite hotels around the world.