Don't Miss Places In Turkmenistan
Few people live in the arid desert region of Karakum that covers most of Turkmenistan. This inhabited area of the country is mainly along the foothills of the Kopet Mountains in the south and in the river valleys of the southeast. Half the people of Turkmenistan make their living from farming, which would be impossible without the canals that bring water from the rivers to irrigate the land. The most important crop is cotton, but grain, potatoes, and grapes are also grown. Thoroughbred Turkmen horses and karakul sheep are reared, and some farmers also breed silkworms. Wool is woven into the highly colorful carpets for which this country is famous.
The first people to have lived in Turkmenistan may have wandered the deserts with livestock or farmed the more fertile areas. Turkic peoples made their home here around A.D. 900 and controlled all or part of the area on and off until the 1800s. Russia invaded in the 1870s, and Turkmenistan was a republic of the Soviet Union from 1924 to 1991.
About 70% of the country’s present population are ethnic Turkmen. They are primarily Sunni Muslims and are descended from the first Turkic settlers. Family life is extremely important to these people, and several generations of family often live together.
Here is a rundown of the places in Turkmenistan that are not to be missed...
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Monument Arch of Neutrality (Ashgabat)
The Modern Ashgabat is one of the most amazing and fascinating cities in the world, and this attraction - the Monument Arch of Neutrality is a clear confirmation. At the top of the building, there is a golden statue of Turkmenbashi, rotating with the sun. A few years ago, during the reign of the proper Turkmenbashi, a statue stood in the heart of the city. Then after a change of government, the statue was moved to another location. For the residents of Ashgabat, the place is highly regarded and the late former president is still revered. It is a monument that stands out in the landscape, appearing like a space rocket and close to a beautiful round fountain.
The monument is Turkmenistan's tallest building, measuring 75 meters high, is crowned by a 12 meter tall golden statue of Turkmenbashi, the late President of the Republic. Every 24 hours he turns 360 degrees so that he is always facing the sun. It is commonly referred to as the “Tripod” because the lower part of the monument stands on 3 legs and is designed in the form of a Turkmen hotplate. At night, the building is vividly illuminated in various colors. It fits in perfectly with the rest of the white golden palaces of the city. There is a museum located inside the monument.
Turkmen Carpet Museum
The Turkmen Carpet Museum provides readily available English-language guides, so English speakers should have no problem following this entertaining tour. On the tour, you will quickly learn how priceless Turkmen carpets truly are. The traditional patterns and the stories that are involved in creating the Turkmen carpets are quite inspirational. The museum is also home to the largest handmade carpet in the world. The guides will lead you to the room where a Turkmen woman works at the loom while weaving a rug. Turkmen carpets are known for their intense colors and bold designs.
Here, you can see the largest carpet in the world as well as the second largest. This is an unusual museum focusing on an important part of the national heritage of Turkmenistan – carpets and a huge number of stylish silk creations. It often hosts exhibitions and sales so you can buy gifts for your family and friends. This place is considered a national treasure of Turkmenistan and a visit to this museum is mandatory for any tourist. Taking pictures inside is not allowed but you can pose for shots outside with its intricate façade as a background.
The Modern Ashgabat is a substantial city of palaces, fountains, and majestic buildings. There are even some schools that look like palaces, and of course, majestic mosques like the Gypjak Mosque. This mosque has a huge dome and is an enormous building overall. It makes a great background for photographs. Non-Muslims are allowed to enter this sacred place and must observe and respect the faith while inside the premises. It is the largest mosque in Central Asia and always worth a visit if you are in Ashgabat. The mosque is located outside the city, but you can easily take a taxi from the city center.
The mosque consists of lots of marble and a cascade of steps with moving water. Inside is a guide, who will gladly tell you about the place, its inhabitants and traditions. It is beautiful and calm, with an enormous carpet on the floor that tells the story of the creation myth. Outside there are fountains and an extended promenade area where you can admire the ground. You’ll be in awe of the mosque's imposing presence. Its impressive dome is covered with Arabic details and provides a superb bird's-eye view when approaching the Ashgabat.
Ashgabat National Museum of History
Do not miss a visit to the Ashgabat National Museum of History to see its extraordinary collection. It has as an extensive collection that will please all fans of history and archeology. At the entrance, there are prepared English guides. Do not miss the incredible collection of Bactrian Margiana, which is made up of dishes and pots of gold and silver, his glass paintings and unique wood carvings. If you have not been to the south to see the archaeological sites, this place is a good start.
The Ashgabat main museum also has a large flag that is visible from the other side of the capital. The museum is a good way to understand the history and cultural influences of the country. It is interesting to wander around the museum grounds and explore the many impressive exhibits. Wear comfortable shoes and plan to spend a few hours to appreciate everything the museum has to offer. If you stay in a hotel in the new town area, the museum will be one of the most easily accessible places for you. It has spacious rooms that reflect different eras of history and present the best artifacts in the museum. You can start your acquaintance with Turkmenistan in this museum and the other attractions will be much more enjoyable once you have a basic understanding of the area's history.
Ashgabat Train Station
The Ashgabat Train Station is located near the city center down a street called the Gurbansoltan Eje. The train station building was built when Turkmenistan was a part of the Soviet Union and it was recently renovated with a white marble interior. Surrounding the station are various eateries as well as stands on the platforms. Five minutes from the station, there is an impressive park also called as “Ashgabat".
Like everything in the new Ashgabat, it is monumental. It was built in 1888 but was fully reconstructed in 2009 to become functional again and serve as one of the major transportation hubs in Turkmenistan. It is located near the Marble Palace. Everything is clean and well organized but, like most major attractions in Turkmenistan, has restrictions on photography. There are no international routes and the stations are contained within the city and nearby provinces of Turkmenistan. It has been redesigned with all marble on its façade with the huge letters that spell out “WOKZAL”.
Parthian Settlement of Nisa
The Parthian Settlement of Nisa is an ancient fortress city that is now in ruins. However, you can still see the foundation of the outer walls of some buildings and interiors. Sometimes there are small bits of the decorations that graced the walls and columns of the buildings. There are also parts that were rebuilt recently to give you an idea of how buildings techniques were used here. Currently, there is an expedition of archaeologists underway digging in an unexplored area of the settlement. All the relics found here are preserved in the archaeological museum of Ashgabat, which is highly recommended to visit. The ruins are located on a beautiful site and you can use your imagination and the reconstructions available to imagine the life that once took place in this fortified complex in ancient times.
The only downside of this site is that there are no available guides who can explain its significance to the nation. The city has an ancient history and it you’ll be happy to know that there are efforts to recover artifacts and archaeological items. However, without a guide or prior knowledge it is quite difficult to perceive this place, so you may want to do research before visiting. Nevertheless, it is designed for lovers of antiquity. The fortress is situated near Ashgabat and it occupies large areas and can be reached by taxi. You can spend half a day here, but be sure to take plenty of water if you visit on a hot day.
Ertugrul Gazi Mosque
About 15 years ago in Turkmenistan a wonder of the world and one of the most beautiful structures in Turkmenistan called the Ertugrul Gazi Mosque was constructed, its other name is Azadi Mosque. It was built in the late 90s and is a symbol freedom for Turkmenistan. The mosque is named after Gazi Osman I - the first Ottoman Sultan Mosque. A team of architects and engineers was commissioned to intertwine Islamic and Byzantine architecture. The mosque has four white minarets.
The mosque is open to everyone, even if you are not a Muslim. Not only the outside but inside the mosque is of indescribable beauty. The Mosque Ertugrul is the pride of Turkmenistan and every traveler should strive to see it. You will be impressed by the way the mosque looks inside and out. You will especially admire the inside, where you will feel an atmosphere of tranquility and pleasure in the yard and in the mosque itself. The structure is also impressive and has a very detailed and attractive finish. From the outside, it looks very imposing and is decorated in the Ottoman-Turkish style. On either side of the mosque, there are stunning views and lots of things to see.
World of Turkmenbashi Tales
From the outside, the World of Turkmenbashi Tales looks attractive, but the inside looks ordinary. There are manicured lawns, sculptures of animals, and people walking and lying around everywhere. You will find people eating popcorn and drinking cola around this 30-year-old park. On the walking path around the edge you can buy cotton candy or ice cream.It is a pleasant park where you can spend time with your kids. They’ll especially like the slides, boats coming down from the height of the water, turntables and other attractions.
You can also admire the plants and old trees that provide shade on a sunny day. There are many good places to have fun in Ashgabat, but it is here where kids can truly have a good time. It is excellent as a training ground for morning jogging and for evening walks. You’ll find this easy to find attraction in the center of the city.
Built near Ashgabat in the form of the Turkmen carpet patterns, the Tolkuchka – Basar can be seen from the window of an airplane. It is huge and divided into several sectors. The main landmark is the massive clock in the center of the bazaar. In the summer, you can walk through the market even if it is very hot - as it is located in an open area.
In terms of goods; you can find mostly Chinese and Turkish clothes, appliances, cars from Dubai, souvenirs suitable for tourists, Turkmen carpets and Turkmen national decorations. It is the largest market of Turkmenistan and, of course, bargaining is mandatory.
Ancient Merv (Mary Province)
The Ancient Merv is an ancient archaeological site that consists of 5 cities. The most important sites to visit are scattered more than 2 km from each other, so you will need a car, a good map, a hat and plenty of water. Food will not be a problem because there are eateries in the archaeological park. It is worth making a quick trip to visit the archaeological museum of Mery and to see the remains found on the site. You can also visit the old mosques located on this immense archaeological site.
National History and Ethnology Museum
The National History and Ethnology Museum is a modern and well maintained museum that has a bit of everything. You will find the "deeds" of the President of Turkmenistan, the animals that inhabit the land, minerals, artifacts found at Merv and Gonur and relics of the Soviet era.
The ticket price includes an English-speaking guide who will accompany you throughout the duration of the visit. To take photos you have to pay for a separate ticket. If you have not seen the museum in Ashgabat, this small but fascinating museum will give you an idea of the archaeological wealth of the civilization of Merv.
The Kunya – Urgench site is noteworthy and is in fact designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is spread over a fairly large area and includes the ruins of several buildings. Some are rather ratty while others are in good condition although not completely restored, but it ends up giving them a special charm. The visit may last a couple of hours, so take it easy and make sure you have enough time to look at everything closely. In some hectares are scattered interesting Islamic monuments, some are partly restored, others in the same condition as when they were discovered.
In general, it is an interesting place to visit although perhaps you would expect more, simply because that is one of the sites protected by UNESCO. It certainly deserves careful excavations because in addition to the buildings that you see, all around the sand there are still hiding evidence of this civilization. Many visitors have suggested more effort by the government to enhance its tourism services, hotels and restaurants – all lacking in the area.
Turkmenistan is located in a wavy plain north of the mountains, and visible on the border with Iran. There are museums, archaeological areas, and historical monuments. Around the city center, which is very broad, there is a huge conglomeration of buildings in white marble and standing along other structures that are modern and luxurious. There are monuments to the glory of the former president, buildings and skyscrapers,, fountains and gardens, lighting and good road conditions. In this country, everything is spotless, all in white marble making use of materials and construction schemes that are very kitsch but also of exceptional quality.
Except for Russian, no foreign language is spoken by the ordinary man on the street. Public taxis are rare, but most of the hotels have their own taxi services. Many drivers of cars in transit are available to act as taxi drivers and prefer to be paid in dollars (1-2 or maximum 5) to any destination in the city. The only foreign currency accepted is the dollar. A visit to Turkmenistan is one of the best options if you are searching for a travel destination to explore in Asia.