The capital and largest city in Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, has grown from a Russian village founded in 1881 to a metropolis of around one million people. Poking up out of the desert like a mirage of white marble, it's one of the most photogenic cities in the world.
Some of its more memorable structures include the Ertugrul Gazi Mosque, the Alem Entertainment Center with its Ferris wheel, and the Constitution Monument. However, all are dwarfed by the 692-foot (211m) Turkmenistan Tower and its distinctive blue star facade which can be seen from anywhere in the city.
The best view of Ashgabat can be had from the Turkmenbashi Cableway, a cable car that climbs up more than 4,200 feet (1,280m). Another popular attraction in Ashgabat is the city's theme park, World of Turkmenbashi Tales.
Designed to be a national version of Disneyland, the park is based on Turkmen folk art and fairy tales and is a great place to enjoy thrilling rides and learn about local culture and history. There are also some excellent museums, including the Turkmen Carpet Museum, the National Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museum of Turkmen National Values.
Despite its stately appearance, Ashgabat is a lively city and visitors will find a wealth of markets, theatres, restaurants, and shopping centres. Largely ignored by tourists, visitors will find a warm welcome and an unforgettable experience.