Hear about travel to the Central Asian country of Turkmenistan as the Amateur Traveler talks to Justin Barnes from justinandcrystal.com about this country that gets only 7,000 visitors a year.
Justin says, “We traveled there on a trip to 4 of the 5 ‘Stans. There’s Turkmenistan, Tagitstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, and Kyrgistan. Turkmenistan is certainly the most interesting of the bunch in terms of how foreign it was. For one thing, it has a giant flaming pit in the middle of the desert that looks like a volcanic crater but is actually just burning natural gas. There are some very interesting Silk Road historical sites and also history even older than that going back to Parthian times and earlier.”
Justin recommends 4 main sites and about 5 days in the country. He recommends visiting the capital of Ashgabat, the Darvaza gas crater, Konye-Urgench, and Merv. He also recommends adding this on to a longer trip to the region as he did. The order would depend on where you were coming from and going to. As a practical matter, it is difficult to get a visa without doing a tour.
Ashgabat has a multi-million dollar airport in the shape of a falcon as well as many other interesting new buildings. Turkmenistan has the 4th largest reserve of natural gas and has used the money to redesign the capital city. He recommends seeing the architecture including the TV Tower (with a revolving restaurant), the largest indoor Ferris wheel, the Independence Monument (The Tripod), the Arch of Neutrality, and the Wedding Palace. These are all in the Arcabil neighborhood where you will also find the History Museum which includes the world’s largest carpet.
Just 15 to 20 minutes west of Ashgabat is Nisa which used to be the capital of the Parthian Empire (contemporaries with the Romans). It was abandoned centuries ago but is well-preserved. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can also see the Gypjak mosque which is one of the largest mosques in Central Asia.
The Darvaza gas crater was created by an industrial accident during Soviet times. It has been burning constantly for 50 years. The trip to Darvaza is typically a 2 day trip with a night camping at the crater.
From there they headed north and just before you get to the Uzbekistan border you get to Konye-Urgench which comes from the Seljuk Turkish Empire at the time of the Silk Road. Genghis Khan destroyed Konye-Urgench. It was rebuilt and conquered later by Timur and then abandoned. There are 4 main things to see including a giant minaret, the Turabek Khanum mausoleum, the Tekesh mausoleum, and a caravanserai. Kunya-Urgench is also a UNESCO site.
Merv is one of the biggest cities that you have never heard of. Around 1,100 it was the 3rd largest city in the world with a population of a bit over half a million people. The city dates back at least to the 3rd century B.C. when it was visited by Alexander the Great. Merv is Turkmenistan’s 3rd and final UNESCO site.
Hear about the county or Turkmenistan and see if Justin can’t add it to your bucket list.
This episode is sponsored by Sawyer the maker of Permethrin which can be used to treat clothing to protect you and your loved ones from insects include tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease.
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Darvaza gas crater
Ashgabat International Airport
Wedding Palace (Ashgabat)
Türkmenba?y Ruhy Mosque (Gypjak mosque)
Kutlug Timur Minaret
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On Driving the Carretera Austral, Chile – Episode 720 Philip wrote:
This was a terrific listen with an articulate and very interesting guest too. Whetted the appetite to visit. Would have been useful to hear more on accommodation options budget particularly in such an interesting region.
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