Visiting Turkmenistan can be a bizarre and a unique experience. The country is famous for the Darwaza Gas Crater, which has been burning for 44 years now. On an average, 20,000 tourists visit the crater every year. This Central Asian country has several attractions ranging from historical sites to natural wonders. It has also gained prominence as a medical tourism destination in recent years. In this blog, we will look at 10 popular tourist attractions of Turkmenistan that should feature in your must-see list.
- Kow Ata Underground Sulfur Lake
Located outside the city of Ashgabat, the Kow Ata Underground Sulfur Lake is a lake rich in minerals. The water is also said to constitute medicinal properties. The steps leading to the lake are slippery and it helps to be careful. Once you are there, do not hesitate to take a dip. There is a shack near the lake for changing into your swimwear. Kow Ata literally translates to ‘Father of the Lakes’ in the local language. The name seems appropriate given the beauty and healing properties of the lake.
- Avaza Resort
The president of Turkmenistan is very concerned about what tourists see when they come to his country. The resort of Avaza is a result of that concern. This resort was built only for tourists and consists of six big hotels. The hotels are all located near an artificial canal and are all clad in marble. Presently, the resort serves as a symbol of modern Turkmenistan. It is said that it cost nearly $900 million to build this resort. While at the resort, you can take boat rides, gawk at the Victorian style bridges, and even take a camel ride.
- National Museum of Turkmenistan
The National Museum of Turkmenistan is divided into several sections. It is housed in a grand building which is an attraction in itself. The museum has a huge collection of artifacts, some dating back thousands of years. It is a great place to get acquainted with the history and culture of this Central Asia nation.
- Altin Depe
Altin Depe, literally translating to Golden Hill, is an archaeological site dating back to the 2nd millennium BC. Around 1600 BC, the site was abandoned due to climactic or other similar reasons. The settlement has close relations to the Harappa civilizations in India. Mesopotamian influences are also visible. The residences of Altin Depe were designed according to the status of the people. There are separate quarters built for artisans, for nobility, and for wealthy residents. There is also a religious complex consisting of a shrine and the ruins of ziggurats (Mesopotamian rectangular tower).
Jeitun is located on top of a sand dune and is one of the oldest archaeological sites in the country. It dates back to 7th century BC. This site is considered to be the first proof of farming in central Asia. The site was founded in the year 1957 and excavations are still going on. Jeitun is a Neolithic (last part of the Stone Age) settlement and contains mostly free-standing rectangular houses. The floors of these houses are all covered with lime plaster. Clay blocks were used for constructing these houses.
- Geok Tepe
The Geok Tepe is a fortress in Turkmenistan. Literally translating to ‘green hill’, it was used in the country’s last battle against the Russians. At the time of the war, the fortress housed as many as 50,000 people. The last day of the battle, January 12th, is a national holiday in Turkmenistan.
- Kugitang Nature Reserve
Want to see footprints left by dinosaurs? Then head to the Kugitang Nature Reserve. Spread across an area of 27,000 hectares, this nature reserve has its own unique ecosystem. The most popular attraction at the reserve is the ‘dinosaur plateau’ which contains more than 400 of their footprints! All of these footprints are believed to be 150 million years old. The Kugitang Nature Reserve is also home to highest peak in Turkmenistan — Air Baba. The peak rises to a height of 3137 m above sea level. The reserve also has the Daraya Canyon which has walls of almost 600 meters. The Hodjachilgazbaba Canyon, also in the reserve, stretches for 28 km. The Kugitang Nature Reserve is home to a very rare animal – the Capra Falconeri, a type of mountain goat.
- Konye Urgench
Konye Urgench is located on the crossroads of two routes which were used by caravans. It was a very important trading center in 1st century AD and is presently a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was once the heart of the Muslim world and was frequented by scholars. It was conquered by the Mongols in the 7th century and was turned into an important trading city again. Ibn Batuta, the famous traveler, described the city ‘as the biggest Turk city with splendid markets and wide streets’. Unfortunately the city was destroyed in the 14th century. Top attractions of Konye Urgench include the Turabeg Khanum Mausoleum, the Minaret of Mamum, the Konye Urgench Museum, and the Sultan Tekish Mausoleum.
- Darwaza Gas Crater
The gas crater is a 243 feet wide hole with an eternally burning fire inside it. It is the size of a giant football field and looks best in the evening. It will take you a whole day trip to get there but it is totally worth it. So, how did this gas crater come about? The story is that some Soviet scientists were mining for gas in the area. They put a rig on top of a cavern, which was filled with natural gas. The cavern collapsed completely, taking the rig with it. As a result, the hole which was created started emanating methane gas. The scientists thought of lighting it to prevent the gas from getting out. That fire is still burning! Locals refer to the gas crater as the ‘Door to Hell’.
Originally posted 2017-04-06 06:15:40.