Turkmenistan Travel Guide

Turkmenistan is a jewel at the heart of Central Asia. Bordered by Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and the Caspian Sea, its haunting desert landscape and wealth of history are sure to stir the souls of those who venture off the beaten track.

Though a young state, Turkmenistan is located in one of the oldest inhabited region's on earth. Lovers of ancient history who head to the southwest will enjoy Dekhistan, which is a considered a lost city of the Silk Road, its remote 10th-century ruins providing a feast for the imagination. Near the city of Mary are the remains of the ancient Persian town of Merv. With over 4,000 years of history, this is the oldest and best preserved oasis city on the Silk Road.

Turkmenistan's more recent history is certainly worth exploring as well. The country achieved independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991 under the eccentric leadership of President Niyazov, who ruled as dictator until his death in 2006. Niyazov took autocratic narcissism to heights unscaled by some of the world's most notorious dictators. He renamed Monday after himself and decreed that bread be referred to by his mother's name, while he also famously insisted on being referred to as Turkmenbashi, which means 'Father of all Turkmen'.

Despite its intriguing attractions, Turkmenistan still receives more business travellers than tourists. With Niyazov's demise, there are signs the country is opening up a bit, though it's likely to remain an unconventional destination for some time to come.