Text by Ian Bongso-Seldrup
Images from Shutterstock
If you ever head over to Turkmenistan, don’t miss these 4 stunning destinations brimming with both natural and man-made beauty.
1. YANGYKALA CANYON
Central Asia’s answer to the Grand Canyon is the most spectacular and most remote part of Turkmenistan. Camel and 4WD treks in the area take in some truly wonderful scenery, and camping out in the open here is a once-in-alifetime experience. Professional tour guides will come in handy to deal with the assortment of hardy critters sharing this natural wonder – spiders, lizards, scorpions and the odd cobra.
Located just south of the border with Uzbekistan, Konye-Urgench, is the site of the ancient town of Urgench, containing the ruined mosques, libraries and minarets of the 12th-century capital of Khorezm. The UNESCO World Heritage site is home to the elaborate Törebeg Hanym Mausoleum and the impressive 60-metre Gutluk-Temir Minaret, once the tallest of its kind.
Rebuilt after a devastating 1948 earthquake, Ashgabat, or “City of Love”, is a labour of love of former president and self-titled Turkmenbashi (“Leader of Turkmens”) Saparmurat Niyazov. Check out the gold statues of the expired dictator and his shiny marble palaces as well as the controversial Kipchak Mosque – its walls adorned with Qur’anic verse alongside Niyazov’s own writings.
4. TOLKUCHKA BAZAAR
Once the largest open-air market in Central Asia, Tolkuchka Bazaar is now housed in less characterful hangar-style buildings, but these offer vendors and visitors better protection from the unrelenting sun. It’s still an excellent place to lay your hands on a coveted Turkmen carpet or some unique handicrafts.