We had grand plans for the beginning of our round the world trip. We would travel across Central Asia overland from Istanbul to Xinjiang in the footsteps of Marco Polo and Alexander the Great. We had dreams of visiting the ancient cities and mosques of the Silk Road and trekking in the land of the snow leopards in the high Pamirs.
This wasn’t our first trip to Central Asia. In the summer of 2013, we attended our friends’ wedding in Kazakhstan and did two treks in Kyrgyzstan. But our Central Asia overland trip threw up a few more challenges than we anticipated. In the end, we didn’t make it all the way to China, and it wasn’t quite all overland. We saw some amazing sights, met a lot of interesting people, and went to a lot of remote locations that most people will never visit. We also experienced a lot of bumps on the road. For several reasons, we cut our trip short and bailed out to Bangkok.
Travel in Central Asia has more pitfalls than in many parts of the world – and some pleasant surprises. Here are some of the things we wish we had known when we … Read more
Our photos from Turkmenistan are gathered here. Click on the arrows on the right or left of a photo to move through each slideshow, or click the center of the photo to open in Flickr.… Read more
“After Iran and Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan is going to seem normal.”
– me, after a day in Ashgabat
Let’s take a show of hands. Who can identify Turkmenistan on a map, describe any significant event in its history, or name its capital city? I’ll admit that before we started to plan this trip, I would have failed all of the above. Turkmenistan is unlikely to feature on many travelers’ bucket lists. It has no world-famous sights and its visa regime makes travel bureaucratic and expensive.
From what we could tell, visitors to Turkmenistan fall into one of two categories: overland travelers en route between countries, and aficionados of the weird and wacky. For Turkmenistan’s single most defining feature is its quirkiness. This is a country where the previous leader named the days of the week after his family members, it’s illegal to drive a dirty car in the capital, and the most famous sight is a flame-emitting gas crater.
We organized a four-day, three-night trip across Turkmenistan from the Iranian border at Bajgiran to the Uzbekistan border with Stantours. We spent two nights in the capital, Ashgabat, and camped in the desert near Darvaza Gas Crater on the third night. We … Read more