Turkmenistan may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of road trip destinations, but it's a hidden gem that is sure to impress even the most seasoned travelers. This fascinating country is rich in history, culture, and natural beauty, making it a perfect destination for a road trip adventure.
One of the main reasons why Turkmenistan is such a great destination for a road trip is its diverse landscapes. From the deserts of Karakum to the mountains of the Kopet Dag range, Turkmenistan offers a wide range of scenic vistas and natural wonders that are best explored by car. You can stop to take photos or go for a hike, and truly immerse yourself in the beauty of this unique country.
In addition to its stunning natural scenery, Turkmenistan is also home to a rich cultural heritage. The country is dotted with ancient ruins, historical monuments, and unique museums that offer a glimpse into Turkmenistan's long and fascinating history. From the ancient city of Merv to the surreal marble city of Ashgabat, there is no shortage of interesting and unique sites to explore on a road trip through Turkmenistan.
But perhaps the most compelling reason to take a road trip in Turkmenistan is the opportunity to experience the country's warm and welcoming hospitality. The people of Turkmenistan are known for their friendliness and generosity, and a road trip is a perfect way to interact with locals and learn more about their customs and way of life.
Of course, taking a road trip in Turkmenistan does require some planning and preparation, as the country's infrastructure is still developing. But with the right mindset and a spirit of adventure, a road trip in Turkmenistan can be a truly unforgettable experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. So if you're looking for a unique and off-the-beaten-path destination for your next road trip, consider Turkmenistan and all it has to offer.
The first spot for many who choose Turkmenistan as their destination is Ashgabat, the country’s capital. The city as it can be admired today dates back to the first half of the 20th century when it was reconstructed after an earthquake. However, despite its short history it has quite a lot to offer. Among many notable highlights, you can visit Earthquake Museum, Independence Square, or the Arch of Neutrality.
One of the country’s most interesting and popular highlights is the Darvaza gas crater, more commonly known as the Gates to Hell. It can be found at a stone’s throw away from the peaceful city of Derweze.
If you are into archaeology and history, it’s worth directing your steps to Mary where you’ll find the ancient city of Merv. In the past, the area was an oasis on the Silk Road. Nearby, you can also see the Mary Mosque which is a superb example of local architecture.
For more interesting highlights, you should consider a trip to Kunya-Urgench, Balkanabat, and Kaakhka. In each of these cities, you will be welcomed by amiable residents and have an opportunity to learn more on local traditions and everyday life.
Suggested Road Trips in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan is a hidden gem that is off the beaten path, but that also means that there are fewer established road trip routes in the country. However, here are three of the best and recommended road trips for first-timers in Turkmenistan:
The Silk Road Route: This route follows the ancient Silk Road through Turkmenistan, taking you past some of the country's most famous landmarks, such as the ancient city of Merv and the ruins of Gonur Depe. You can also visit the stunning Darvaza Gas Crater, known as the "Door to Hell," and camp out in the desert under the stars.
The Caspian Sea Coast: Turkmenistan has a small section of coastline along the Caspian Sea, and driving along this route offers stunning views of the sea and surrounding landscape. You can stop in the seaside town of Turkmenbashi, explore the ancient fortress of Dekhistan, and visit the unique Yangykala Canyon.
The Mountain Route: This route takes you through the stunning Kopet Dag mountain range, which runs along the border with Iran. You can stop in the quaint mountain town of Kow Ata, famous for its hot springs and cave lake, and visit the ancient Parthian city of Nisa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It's important to note that Turkmenistan is a developing country, and road conditions can be challenging in some areas. It's recommended to travel with a local guide or tour company who can help you navigate the roads and ensure that you stay safe. Additionally, obtaining the necessary permits and permissions to travel in certain areas can be a bureaucratic process, so it's best to plan your trip well in advance.
One of the most effective ways to move around the country is taking a marshrutka or a minibus. However, you can expect a really long journey that will be rather uncomfortable. Trains will grant you similar experiences. You can also opt for taxis which are more expensive in comparison to public transport, yet won’t take you to more remote recesses of the country. If you want to soak up Turkmenistan’s atmosphere during a pleasant ride take a rental car. Rental vehicles are available in major cities and at international airports.
Possessing an International Driving Permit will be enough to freely move around the country. The road state is quite poor and many roads are pretty dangerous. That’s why you should remember to wear seatbelts at all times.
What’s more, there’s a speed limit of 60 km/h in Ashgabat; however, there are no road signs that will inform you that the speed limit is enforced by numerous speed cameras.
When taking a road trip in Turkmenistan, there are a few things to be aware of to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Road conditions: Many of the roads in Turkmenistan are still in the process of being developed, and some can be quite rough and bumpy. It's important to have a sturdy vehicle that can handle these conditions, and to be prepared for unexpected challenges along the way.
Navigation: While there are some established road trip routes in Turkmenistan, navigation can still be challenging in some areas. It's recommended to travel with a local guide or tour company who can help you navigate the roads and ensure that you stay safe.
Permits and permissions: Certain areas in Turkmenistan require permits and permissions to visit, and obtaining these can be a bureaucratic process. It's important to plan your route in advance and ensure that you have all the necessary paperwork and permissions to travel in the areas you plan to visit.
Weather: Turkmenistan is known for its hot and dry climate, and temperatures can soar during the summer months. It's important to plan your trip during the cooler months, or to be prepared for the heat if you do travel during the summer.
Cultural norms: Turkmenistan is a conservative country, and visitors should be respectful of local customs and norms. It's important to dress modestly and be mindful of local cultural practices, especially when visiting religious sites.
By keeping these factors in mind and doing your research in advance, you can have a safe and enjoyable road trip in Turkmenistan.
The best time of year for taking a road trip in Turkmenistan is during the spring (April and May) and fall (September and October) months. During these months, the weather is mild, with average temperatures ranging from 20 to 30 degrees Celsius (68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit), making it comfortable for outdoor activities and sightseeing.
Summer (June to August) in Turkmenistan can be extremely hot, with temperatures often exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in some areas, making it uncomfortable for outdoor activities. However, if you plan to visit the mountains or desert areas, where temperatures are cooler, summer can still be a good time to visit.
Winter (November to March) in Turkmenistan can be quite cold, with temperatures dropping below freezing in some areas, and snowfall is possible in some regions. Road conditions can also be challenging during the winter months, so it's important to be prepared for the weather if you plan to travel during this time.
Overall, the spring and fall months are the best time for a road trip in Turkmenistan, as the weather is mild and comfortable for outdoor activities and sightseeing. However, with the right preparation and planning, Turkmenistan can be a great destination for a road trip year-round.
Here are some recommended guidebooks and road maps for a road trip in Turkmenistan:
"Turkmenistan: Bradt Travel Guide" by Paul Brummell: This guidebook provides in-depth information on Turkmenistan's history, culture, and natural wonders, as well as practical advice on planning your trip, transportation, and accommodation options.
"Turkmenistan Map" by ITMB Publishing: This detailed map of Turkmenistan provides an overview of the country's main roads, cities, and points of interest, as well as topographic features and border crossings.
"Central Asia Phrasebook" by Lonely Planet: This phrasebook provides essential phrases and vocabulary for travelers in Central Asia, including Turkmenistan. It includes a guide to local customs and etiquette, as well as practical information on transportation, accommodation, and sightseeing.
"Turkmenistan Road Map" by Gizi Map: This road map is designed specifically for travelers exploring Turkmenistan by car. It includes detailed information on major highways, border crossings, and points of interest, as well as topographic features and city maps.
"Turkmenistan Travel Reference Map" by ITMB Publishing: This detailed reference map provides a comprehensive overview of Turkmenistan's geography, including cities, rivers, lakes, and other natural features. It also includes detailed insets of major cities, as well as border crossings and major highways.
These guidebooks and road maps can help you plan and navigate your road trip in Turkmenistan, and provide valuable information on the country's history, culture, and natural wonders.