Your Guide to Explore Turkmenistan

Updated On: January 24, 2023

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan is a country in Central Asia, bordered to the southeast by Afghanistan, the south and southwest by Iran, the east and northeast by Uzbekistan, and to the north and northwest by Kazakhstan, and its capital city is called Ashgabat City. Turkmenistan is one of the countries that belonged to the Soviet Union, and it was called, at that time, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic.

Turkmenistan
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The lands of Turkmenistan are known as flat deserts, where the Kara Kum desert extends in the central regions from the southeast to the northwest, a sandy plain covered with dunes. The Kopetdag mountain range extends along the southern border shared with Iran, and its highest mountain peak is about 3,139 metres high.

There is also a spot called the Gate of Hell, located in the village of Derwez, which separates it from the capital, Ashgabat, an area of 250 km, and this spot is a pit that has been burning nonstop for more than 43 years.

History of Turkmenistan

In the 13th century, Turkmenistan belonged to the empire of Genghis Khan. Then entered the hands of the Timolunguns in the 14th century. During the time of Shah Nader, specifically in 1740, the Iranians were able to control the most significant part of the country. Still, in the 18th century, Bukhara and Haifa could control it.

Turkmenistan
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After that, the country came under the control of the Russian Empire in 1881. During the Bolshevik revolution, Turkmenistan was granted autonomy within the Soviet Union on 30 April 1918. It gained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union on 27 October 1991.

Economy of Turkmenistan 

Turkmenistan’s economy depends mainly on many kinds of industries, the most important of which are oil, natural gas, phosphate extraction, iron, manganese, and many other natural materials. The proportion of total oil and gas output is more than 46 billion dollars a year, and agricultural production is one of the activities that increase the national income of the state, in addition to the tourism, health, medical, and educational fields.

Is Turkmenistan a Muslim Country?

Generally speaking, yes! Islam is one of the main religions spread in Turkmenistan. Turkmen Muslims belong to the Hanafi school, and the number of Muslims in the country reaches about 89% of the total population as the Christian religion spreads. Still, the majority of those who embrace Christianity are the Russian tribes residing in the country, and their percentage reaches up to 9%.

What Types of Transportation are Available in Turkmenistan?

There are many kinds of transportation in Turkmenistan, which you can choose from to move within the country to explore and have unforgettable experiences.

  • Trains: The experience of travelling by train in Turkmenistan is very impressive, as all the major cities are connected. As well as being a great way to enjoy the rural scenery on the main roads.
  • Ferries: There are many passenger boats along the Emu River and boat transportation around the Caspian Sea from the port city of Turkmenbashi.
  • Taxi: It is the most widespread method in Turkmenistan, as it is a regular method and enjoys reasonable prices.
  • Bus: Transportation is provided in modern and comfortable cars between the main cities of Turkmenistan and is a fast and cheap means of transportation.
  • Airports: Air travel in Turkmenistan is still somewhat rudimentary, but there are commercial services in the country’s two largest cities, Turkmenbashi and Ashgabat. Government-operated Turkmen Airlines operates flights from these cities.

Best Time to Visit Turkmenistan

The best time to visit the country is on New Year’s Day, when many popular celebrations, festivals, beautiful events, and exciting fireworks are held for many hours after midnight. 

Also, there is the Turkmen Horse Festival, where the horses are decorated and participate in races on the last Sunday of April, which happens to be 30 April this year. In general, you will enjoy visiting the country when the most popular festivals and celebrations are held, such as the Carpet Festival, Grain Day, Melon Day, Remembrance and Victory Day, and Oil Workers Day.

What is the Weather Like in Turkmenistan?

Turkmenistan has an extreme desert climate, where it is cold in the winter, interrupted rain falls, and temperatures reach below zero. In the summer, the weather is hot in the country’s centre, and the temperature is moderate in the high areas, as temperatures can exceed 50 degrees in the desert, while autumn is sunny, warm, pleasant, and dry.

The Most Interesting Cities to Visit

Turkmenistan is one of the most beautiful countries in Asia and the world. It is covered mainly by the Karakum Desert, and the country’s most famous tourist sites have monumental and eye-catching architecture. Turkmenistan has a group of beautiful tourist cities with picturesque natural landscapes and fascinating historical sites that attract tourists worldwide to visit and explore.

Before learning about the country’s famous attractions, we will first learn about its famous cities.

Ashgabat City

The capital city provides its visitors with various fun activities, such as wandering the sprawling streets and expansive green spaces and discovering white marble buildings, such as the Ertuğrul Gazi Mosque and the famous wedding palace.

Turkmenistan - President palace in Ashgabat
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Also, you can climb the golden tower and enjoy the fantastic view of the city. You can visit the Carpet Museum, which includes the world’s most extensive collection of Turkmen carpets.

Konye-Urgench City

The city is one of the best tourist cities in Turkmenistan that you can visit. It joined the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and served as an architectural reserve located 480 km north of Ashgabat. The city includes many popular spots, like the Mausoleum of the Mongolian Princess Turapik Khanyim, the Minaret of Mamun, the Akal Fort, and many other distinctive tourist attractions.

Turkmenbashi

It was called Krasnovodsk, the only significant port in Central Asia. It allows visitors a variety of experiences, such as enjoying swimming in the turquoise blue waters of the Caspian Sea and seeing a group of panoramic green landscapes.

Balkanabat

It is in western Turkmenistan’s southern part of the Greater Balkan Mountain range. It is considered one of the famous tourist cities in Turkmenistan and was initially known as Neftedag or Nebitdag. 

There are many important archaeological sites in the city that you can visit, like the oldest surviving mosque in Turkmenistan, now called Sher Kabir or Matchat Ata. Dehistan lies half-hidden in a remote part of the desert, the ruins of Tacharvat Karavansaray, the State Drama Theatre, and the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, which is the most magnificent landmark of the city.

Turkmenabat

It enjoys an ideal location that attracts many tourists, and it is one of the main cities in Turkmenistan called Amol. It provides tourists with many beautiful recreational activities, such as visiting museums, like the Museum of Local History, walking in the streets, and cycling.

Attractions That You Shouldn’t Miss

Now, after learning about the country’s most important cities, let us take a look at the famous attractions there, so pack your bags, and we will start our journey right away.

Gates of Hell

Gates of Hell is one of the most famous attractions in Turkmenistan, specifically in the village of Darvaza, located in the desert. This hole burns gas deposits that have been burning for 44 years until this moment. In 1971, some geologists fell into a vast gas cavern with their equipment, and they decided to burn it off so that it won’t release poisonous gases, but it still burns unabated these days.

Turkmenistan - Gates of Hell

If you visit the site, you will see during the day, it resembles an innocuous hole in the ground with a 20-metre-deep crater with many flames, and some of it reaches 15 metres. It is considered one of the most mysterious sights in Turkmenistan.

Carpet Museum 

Another beautiful place to visit and one of the famous museums in the country is the Carpet Museum, which features a large white marble façade, a high entrance fee, and displays 8000 samples of ancient carpets of various styles. 

Turkmenistan - Carpet Museum
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It is the perfect place if you are interested in the famous Turkmen handicrafts. During your visit, you will be able to see a limited number of carpets, but you will find the largest handwoven carpet in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records in 2003, which covers 301 m2.

Ashgabat National Museum

Ashgabat National Museum is divided into three museums: the Museum of History, the Museum of Nature and Ethnography, and the Presidential Museum. The Museum of History has an ancient history museum hall that includes Neolithic tools from West Turkmenistan and relics from the Margiana civilisation from the Bronze Age, such as amulets, seals, and cups and tools manufactured.

The Antique Hall also includes ancient relics, such as ships in the form of intricately carved ivory horns. You will enjoy visiting the place to learn more about the country’s history and the artistic and archaeological masterpieces that were located in the country long ago.

When you are at the museum, you will find it is located in a large area with an incredible shape, besides those beautiful flowers around it from the outside.

Ruhiyet Palace

One of the main landmarks in Turkmenistan, specifically in Ashgabat, was built in 1999, and it includes technical equipment and everything needed for different ceremonies. Many things can be held, such as meetings, forums, inaugurations, celebrations, concerts, and exhibitions.

Yangykala Canyon

Yangykala Canyon is well-known as a large and unusual rock formation, it was a long time ago seabed, but now it is known for its extremely sheer cliffs, which sharp winds and heavy rains have shaped.

When you visit the place, you will see that the rocks change their colours depending on the light and time of day. For example, in the afternoon, you will see a bright white colour that turns fiery red at sunset. Also, you can practise many activities inside the canyon, such as hiking and camping.

Dinosaur Plateau

The Dinosaur Plateau is southeast of Turkmenistan, near the border with Uzbekistan. It is surrounded by mountain ranges and a village called Hodzhapil. When you are at that village, you will find a limestone slab about 3 km away from it with a length and width of 300-400 metres, and dinosaurs smashed its surface. There are about 3 thousand footprints, most of which were left by megalosaurs that lived during the Jurassic period.

Caspian Sea

The Caspian Sea is the world’s largest undrained lake, it is at the crossways of Europe and Asia, and the salty waters in it are famous for their healing effects. The summer temperature is not higher than 28 degrees, which is why it is one of the famous tourist attractions, including hotels boarding houses, resorts, and health resorts.

Monument of Independence of Turkmenistan 

The Monument of Independence of Turkmenistan is considered the tallest structure in the country and the most luxurious monument of its kind in the whole world. It is in Ashgabat in the National Independence Park, and it is 118 metres high. 

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When you visit it, you will find a hemispherical dome at its base with water flowing down its surface. It consists of 27 comic statues of Turkmen heroes surrounding the centre of the monument, and the golden statue of the dictator of Turkmenistan, Niyazov, standing. You can enter from one of its five entrances, where you will find a museum.

Dehistan

One of the most amazing natural places that you can visit in Turkmenistan is also called Martian plain, and it was named like that due to this lifeless, waterless, and mud soil that has left no trace of prolific land. But today, what is left on the plain are the ruins of the ancient settlement of Misrian.

Ancient City of Merv

The Ancient City of Merv has been considered a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999, it includes ruins of 4000 years of history, and the place was known as one of the most important learning centres in the Islamic world in the 11th century. 

Turkmenistan - Ancient City of Merv
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Merv was also the capital of the Great Seljuks Empire from the 11th to the 12th century, it was one of the largest cities in the world at that time until the Mongol Empire destroyed it in 1221, and after that, it was rebuilt several times again but didn’t achieve its former glory.

If you visit Merv any day, you can walk around the ruins of ancient fortresses and medieval streets and visit the mausoleum of Seljuk ruler Sultan Sanjar.

Fine Arts Museum 

The Fine Arts Museum is in the capital city, inside a beautiful building with a magnificent flower garden. It includes some of the great Soviet Turkmen works of art, including the happy scenes of peasants with a beautiful natural background and smoke factories.

Also, you will find a collection of Russian and Western European paintings and a selection of Turkmen jewellery and traditional costumes.

Ertogrulgazy Mosque

Ertogrulgazy Mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques in Turkmenistan and the world. It is decorated in the traditional Ottoman style, and when you are there, you will see a marble road leading to the mosque gates. There are fountain bowls in the shape of half of the 8-pointed stars.

When you are inside the mosque, you will be impressed by the inner hall that can accommodate up to 5000 worshippers. You will love the size and design of its courtyard and the luxurious painting of the domes inside the mosque.

Repetek Reserve

The Repetek Reserve was founded in 1927 on the Kara-Kum Desert territory. It includes more than 30 species of mammals, about 200 species of birds, and 125 endemic plants that can adjust to this climate with temperatures reaching 60 degrees Celcius.

Baharden Cave

Baharden Cave is another beautiful natural place in Turkmenistan that is perfect for nature lovers. It was formed because of the impact of hot underground water on the rock, and it is about 250 metres deep. The width and height are about 25 metres.

When you visit the cave, you will find an underground lake with hydrogen sulfide waters that have healing properties. Also, you will find that the air inside the cave is very humid and full of hydrogen sulfide vapour, and the internal temperature doesn’t change all year.

Arch of Neutrality

The Arch of Neutrality Monument is near the National Museum. It was established to celebrate the Turkmen people’s unanimous support for Turkmenbashi’s policy of neutrality in 1998. At the top of the arch, there’s a gilded statue. The statue rotates around itself but remains directed towards the sun all day.

The arch symbolises Turkmenistan’s neutral status on all diplomatic matters. It is in the capital city of Ashgabat and shows you professionalism and beauty in its external appearance.

Gonur Tepe

Gonur Tepe is a beautiful archaeological site that is 60 km away from the ancient city of Merv. It is a Bronze Age settlement dating from 2400 to 1600 BC. The place was excavated in the 1970s and is known as one of the largest cities of the Oxus Civilisation.

The excavation started in 1976 under the leadership of Victor Sarianidi. When you visit the site, you will see that the city had drains, streets, quartiers of houses, and temples used for religious ceremonies. Also, you can see ceramics, stone artefacts, jewellery, and much more. 

The Ancient City of Nisa

Old Nisa is a Parthian fortress that was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site. It is near the capital city of Ashgabat, and it was the residence of the Arshakids Dynasty and the capital of the Parthian Empire from 3 BC till 3 AD.

It was also a fortress complex. Its walls were up to 9 metres wide and surrounded by 43 rectangular towers. The place was designed in a magnificent ancient Greek, Roman, and Eastern style. It was used to celebrate revered Parthian rulers, and the place included wineries and an imperial treasury. Many tourists who visit Nisa are impressed by its exquisite brick layout, advanced architectural techniques, and arched walls.

Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque

The Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque is considered the largest single-domed mosque in Central Asia. It is located in an area of about 18,000 m2, and its inner halls accommodate up to 10,000 worshippers. 

Its lower hall is dedicated to men and accommodates up to 7,000 people, while the balconies are for women, with a capacity of up to 3,000 people. When you are there, you will see that the building was built with white marble, and at the main entrance, you will find seven additional entrances leading to the inner halls, and in front of each one, there are fountains.

Riding an Akhal-Teke horse

It was known for a long time ago that Turkmenistan’s Akhal-Teke horses were the perfect gifts for queens and presidents. Akhal-Teke used to be a war horse, but now it is a racehorse that excels in jumping and speed. 

When you visit the country, you can see these beautiful horses in Ashgabat’s hippodrome. You can also visit a stud farm where you can pet the horses and see them in the stable or even have the opportunity to ride them. The horses are also often called after some famous birds such as falcon, eagle, and blackbird.

Earthquake Museum

The Earthquake Museum is located near the Arch of Neutrality. It is one of the strangest museums you will ever see. It includes pictures from before the 1948 earthquakes and also information about the 5-year clean-up efforts, the burial of 110,000 bodies, and the construction of a new city.

Karakum Desert

The Karakum Desert is known to many people because it occupies most of the country’s territory. It is also one of the largest deserts in the world, and it is an excellent adventure for people who would like to go for a tour and discover the desert.

Turkmenistan - Karakum Desert
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If you go there, you will find that the climate is tough; the temperature difference is more than 90 degrees. However, the exciting thing is that one-seventh of the population still lives in the Karakum desert.

Wedding Palace

The Wedding Palace is in the capital city; at the top of it, there is a vast geometrically elaborate disco ball that is surrounded by a frame of 8 Turkmen stars, and it was built in 2011. The lower floors of the palace are in the shape of a star, and on the upper floors, there is a ball, which is a massive hall including golden maps of Turkmenistan.

It is where you can attend a wedding in one of its halls holding parties and events.

Kunya-Urgench

It was known as the capital of Northern Khorezm for centuries, a medieval trade centre, and two of its famous residents are the physician Ibn Sina and the great scientist Beruniy.

Turkmenistan - Kunya Urgench
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The place was destroyed by the Mongol Horde led by Genghis Khan and the later invasions of Tamerlan. After that, the city was entirely abandoned when the Amu Darya River changed its course. Its famous attractions are Khorezm Shaikh Tekesh Mausoleum and the 60-metre-high Kutlug Timur Minaret.