Kara Kum Desert

Popular Landmarks Of The Country/ Part 1. UNESCO World Heritage Sites And Others

Gonur Depe SiteMargiana country(also known as Margush or Gonur Depe). Read the articles

  • Entrance ticket 21 DTM
  • The 100 km from Mary town, the road goes through the villages and ancient fortresses, caravanserais, castles, signal towers. Finally enter in the Karakum desert for last 30 km. Gonur Depe archeological site is only part of Bronze Age country nourished by Murghab river. The start of history for this region Margiana- Merv – Mary.
  • Five hours return drive and plus time for sightseeing

Ancient MervAncient Merv History Park. Read the articles

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. Entrance ticket 21 DTM
  • The 26 km to the east from Mary. There are five big cities inside of Merv. All dated to the different periods.
  • Erk Kala starting from VI century B.C (also known: Alexandria in Margiana). The town of Achaemenids VI- IV c B. C, Alexander the Great 321 BC
  • Gyaurkala, second town from III century B.C (also known: Antiochia in Margiana). The town of Seleucids, Greco-Bactria 256-247 B.C, Parthians 247 B.C – 224 A.D, Sassanians 224-651 A.D, Arabs: Umayyad Caliphate 661 – 750 A.D & Abbasids 750 - 821 A.D who starts the construction of third city of Merv – Soltankala
  • Soltankala (Sultan Kala). The most prosperous largest city in Merv. The town of Arabs, Tahirids 821-873 A.D, Saffarids 873 A.D, then Samanids and Ghaznavids till 1040 A.D. Seljuks till 1157 A.D – Seljuks's first capital, Khoresmshakhs, destroyed by Mongols of Genghis Khan in 1221
  • Abdullakhan Kala, the last renaissance of Merv after Mongol destruction, Safavid dynasty from 1505 A.D
  • Bairam Ali Khan Kala, Khanate of Khiva till 19 century, Russian Empire from 1881 A.D
  • Merv can be visited on the way from Farap border crossing or as day trip from Mary, Ashgabat (flight, car). At least three hours required for the visit. If you have time and interest the visit can be combined with Gonur Depe sightseeing (Bronze Age site in the desert), at least plus 6 hours or separate day.

Old UrgenchKonye Urgench (also known as Old Urgench, Gurganj). Read the articles

  • Entrance ticket 21 DTM
  • Dashoguz region, 90 km to the north-west from Dashoguz. UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005
  • Ancient remains scattered inside of the complex:
  • Turabek Khanum Mausoleum XIV century
  • Kutluk Timur Minaret, started in XI century, finished in XIV century
  • Tekesh mausoleum XII century
  • Kyrkmolla remains of previous town, formed 12 meters hill, place of ancient necropolis
  • Il Arslan mausoleum XII century
  • Najm ad Din al Kubra Mausoleum, XIV century construction
  • Sultan Ali Mausoleum XVI century
  • Piryar Vali Mausoleum XIV century
  • Ibn Khajib Complex between XIV – XIX centuries
  • Ak Kala fortress, southwest remains of medieval town
  • Khorezm Bag fortress remains, mid of XIX century
  • Dash Mosque, XX century, now Kunya Urgench History museum
  • Kunya Urgench can be visited on the way to Darvaza or just as return day trip from Dashoguz or Ashgabat (Flight, car). Plan 1-2 hours for a visit

Parthian NisaNisa Fortress, UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007. Entrance ticket 42 DTM. Read the articles

The earliest cities of Parthian Empire, III c B.C – III c A.D, Consisting of Old Nisa and New Nisa, the remains of the cities stamp the start of Parthian empire, its development and combination of Parthian nomadic cultural elements and Hellenistic culture. Old Nisa is also known as Mithradatkirt after name of Mithridates I of Parthia. The fortress is around 15 km from Ashgabat to the west. New Nisa is located around 1 km to the west from Old Nisa. Half of the day required to visit both sites.

Silk Road traces of caravanserais, small towns, fortresses. (Mainly all have free entrance)

There are two main directions of the ancient Silk Road in Turkmenistan.

One is good to plan from Ashgabat, Nisa and then take Mary, Turkmenabat, Dargan Ata, Dashoguz direction. Where the main ancient trade roads passed and left the history remains in the forms of artificial hills, fortresses, castles. Easy to see it directly from modern roads. Except of sites after Turkmenabat to Dargan Ata and Dashoguz, where should cross the desert.

Second is adventurous, as it starts from Southern part of Caspian area, it goes to Dekhistan town remains and then enter into Karakum desert, along former Uzboy river and to Kunya Urgench. This requires 4 WD caravan expedition and love of desert trip.

Gas CraterDarvaza gas craters (Derweze). Entrance is free

Since 1940 there have been gas production fields in the central Karakum sands. Around 1971, geologists confirmed large gas deposits around Darvaza village, 250 km from Ashgabat (or 310 km from Dashoguz). After start of works in one deposit (around 4,1 km to the north-east from Darvaza) the drilling rig collapsed into large underground cavern. Drilling works stopped. Methane gas started to come out this accidental crater. After some time the geologists decided to fire it, thinking that it would extinguish within a few weeks. After half of the century period it is still burning. Now, it is the main tourist attraction on the way from Ashgabat to Kunya Urgench or reverse direction.

Wild camping is available at the place. Two other gas craters are before Darvaza, at one side from main road. These are not burning but gas can be seen bubbling out through water and mud.

This visit can be planned as stop on the way to Kunya Urgench (Uzbekistan), or reverse direction to Ashgabat. Day trip to Darvaza gas crater is also possible to plan. Better to have 4 WD to come in desert but normal car can also do it with a good driver.

Extension of visit, into the desert and sightseeing at Damla nomadic village, required at least 1 more day.

Yangy Kala CanyonYangy Kala canyon. Entrance is free

Caspian Sea region, around 170 km from Turkmenbashy (former Krasnovodsk). The former bottom of big ancient Sarmat Sea. Later, around 5,5 million years ago Amudarya river formed the most impressive colorful limestone composition of the rock canyon, playing with white, red and pink.

Closer to the west, backside of Garabogaz bay, another canyon – Yangy Suw. On the route, local pilgrimage places – Gozli Ata mausoleum and Gaytaramysh Ata mausoleum (Kaytaramysh).

It is ok to plan day trip to Yangy Kala canyon with return back to Turkmenbashy or Balkanabat. To visit thoroughly all the sites in the area, 2 days or more days required. Only 4 WD cars can drive there.

Mud VolcanoCaspian Sea mud volcanoes

Mostly, all active mud volcanoes are in western Turkmenistan, along the south eastern shore of Caspian Sea. Known mud volcanoes are around Akpatlavuk and Chyakishlyar, with 1-3 m in diameter and mud or slurry eruption of 3-7 meters high. Visit requirements: 4WD car and at least 2 days for this part of trip. The trip can be combined with sightseeing at Dekhistan ancient town remains on Messerian plain. Possible stop at ancient mud volcano Boyadag, to the east from Gumdag.

Garakala (Makhtumkuli) area. Kopet Dag mountains

Kopetdag mountains are beautiful in this part. Together with Sumbar river and Moon landscapes of pre- Kopetdag hills.

The itinerary planning can be 4 WD trekking in mountains, Upper Nohur – Garakala to see the Kopetdag mountains flora and fauna or drive along main road and visit sites in its turns. This can be as part of longer trip or just drive for this area Ashgabat- Nohur- Garakala... At least 2 days required.

Nohur ValleyNokhur village (Nohur)

Kopet Dag mountains (Turkmen – Khorasan mountain range), Nohur is 140 – 150 km from Ashgabat to the west. Nohurli Turkmen tribe living in the mountains. There are two villages Lower and Upper Nokhur.

The high valley inside encircled by four mountains, rich of sacred places connected to Persian legend of Peri. Nokhurli people tell that they are descendants from Alexander the Great, some locals believe that they come from Noah.

Day trip Ashgabat – Nohur – Ashgabat or two days trip with overnight at local home.

KovAta caveKow Ata cave and underground lake. Entrance ticket 40 DTM

The cave is at the foot of Kopet Dag mountains, 96 km to the west from Ashgabat. The 60 meters' deep cave has the lake at its bottom. Three hundred fifty stairs allow coming inside of cave, all the way the odor of sulfur, the sound of bats accompanying the descent. Lake water are + 33-35 C all the year. Swimming is ok in two interconnected sections, up to 80 meters long and 30 m wide, lake depth is essential up to 16 m or even deeper coming under the rock. Attention to the underwater streaming. Lake's waters are medicinal, containing sulfur, iodine, bromine and other 38 elements.

Day trip or visit on route as part of long trip.

Horse FarmAkhalteke horse farm, behind Geok Depe. Excursion ticket 100 DTM

Private Akhalteke horse farm, 50 km to the west from Ashgabat. Good opportunity to see the famous Turkmen horse and relax in quite atmosphere of the private horse farm. It is located outside of town in rural area, just before Karakum desert. If you horse rider, you are welcome for horse riding inside of farm or for day horse riding trip in Karakum desert or Geok Depe lake. Horse riding trips can be also for 3, 5, 7 days, having itinerary in the desert, making a loop with return back at horse farm.

Visit horse farm – require 2-3 hours. Day trip can combine Turkmenbashy mosque, Nisa fortress, Geok Depe mosque and Kow Ata cave. Visit on the way, as part of long trip, is ok.

Another option to see Akhalteke horses – it is State Akhalteke equestrian and sport complex in Chuli gorge area.

Akhalteke horse festival is last weekend of April. Festival horse races are on Sunday

Turkmenbashy MosqueTurkmenbashy Spiritual Mosque in Kipchak

Kipchak was the native village of the first Turkmenistan president Saparmyrat Niyazov. This complex of biggest mosque in Turkmenistan and mausoleum - cenotaph for his family, was built in 2004, by French Bouygues company. Later in 2006, Niyazov died and is buried inside this mausoleum.

The mosque and mausoleum are impressive and worth a visit for understanding of the modern history of Turkmenistan. The visit can be as part of sightseeing in Ashgabat.