Ancient archaeological ruins, beautiful mosques and whimsical desert landscapes are just some of the highlights on offer in Turkmenistan. The city is a fascinating mix of old and new, with ultra-modern beach resorts standing alongside centuries-old strongholds. Escape to the Caspian Sea for a fix of sun, sand and saltwater or head inland to discover the rugged canyons and valleys of the Karakum Desert.
Things to do in Turkmenistan
The Silk Road winds through Turkmenistan and is dotted with ancient archaeological sites. Wandering around the UNESCO-listed city of Merv, you’ll be retracing the footsteps of horsemen that once travelled along the ancient trade route.
Ashgabat makes a grand first impression with its manicured parks, gleaming marble palaces and larger-than-life monuments on every corner. The Turkmenistan capital is home to several museums where you can admire Bronze Age artefacts, fine art and hand-woven carpets.
Set on the Caspian Sea, the beachside resort of Avaza is where locals go to relax, unwind and bask in the sunshine. The beach is lined with luxury hotels and high-rise buildings, with freshly-caught seafood and caviar featured heavily on restaurant menus.
Venture into the Karakum Desert to discover the bizarre Door to Hell Crater. Often compared to a Martian landscape, the crater formed when a Soviet drilling site collapsed and caught fire. The flames have been burning for more than 45 years. As you drive through the desert, you can spot camels grazing in the sand dunes.
Packed with flavour, Turkmenistan cuisine combines Central Asian and Middle Eastern influences. The local speciality is “shashlik” skewers with meat and vegetables cooked over an open-coal barbecue. Warm up with a bowl of hearty “shurpa” mutton stew and dig into a plate of “ichlekli”, which is shepherd’s pie baked in a traditional hot sand and ember oven.
Getting around Turkmenistan
Rental cars offer the freedom to explore Turkmenistan at your own pace, while hiring a private driver is also a good option. Taxis are a fast and comfortable way to get around Ashgabat. Ashgabat International Airport offers flights to destinations around the world.