Slightly larger than California and about the same size as Spain, the little-visited country of Turkmenistan is known as an island of stability in an otherwise restive Central Asia. Ruled by an authoritarian government, the country sits on the fourth largest supply of natural gas in the world and has been experiencing a huge leap in urban living standards in recent years.
Much of Turkmenistan is dominated by the flat deserts of Karakum, an expanse whose desolation and harsh climates thwarted Russian and British Imperial ambitions during most of the Great Game.
The Kopet Dagi range in the south-west and the Kugitangau range to the east of the country contain the highest peaks, with the greatest altitude being just 3,200 m (Ayrybaba) – low by Central Asian standards.
Silk Road history is important to tourism in Turkmenistan, with many visitors wanting to see the historical cities at Nisa, Merv and Mary.
The northern border of the country is largely marked by the Amu Darya (ancient Oxus) River, which rises in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan region and flows to the Aral Sea in neighbouring Uzbekistan.
Reasons we love Turkmenistan
- Wide open spaces crossed by camel trails, a strange burning crater and imprints of the ancient Silk Road.
- Its rich and varied history. The Silk Road, The Great Game, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the slave-raiding Turkmen tribes and so much more.
- Almost no-one comes here. What other reason do we need to want to go there?
- Wildlife. Who’d have thought that a country mostly covered in barren desert could yield so much natural history? You can find Zemxem monitor lizards, gerboa, foxes, jackals, plenty of snake species, raptors and other desert birds, kulan ibex and Urial mountain goats, wild horses and even a leopard or three.