Howdy all! Well, hopefully this post finds you well today. Central Asia is literally one of the most incredible, inspiring and definitely surprising destinations in this whole wide world of ours. I know I write on it a lot, but can you blame me? It’s also a bit of a secret too, with not as many western travellers heading there as, well so many other destinations around the world. Today, as 2021 slowly screeches to a halt and we wait to see how hard it’s going to be to get 2022 going (in hopefully a more positive manner) I thought now would be a good time to select seven things to see in Central Asia. I’ve managed to get to all five of the ex-Soviet countries, and so I’m going to include at least one spot from every country in these seven.
7. Iskander-Kul, Tajikistan
This beautiful lake is a few hours serious travel from the capital of Dushanbe, and at the height of summer is the place to be in Tajikistan, so much so that the President of the country has his personal holiday home at one end of it. Getting to the lake is half the fun, going through the Anzob Tunnel on the way and then for the last couple of hours leaving sealed roads, passing villages as you ascend to Iskander-Kul. Try to go in season as I was the weekend after the tourist season officially ended and the resort there was closed and there wasn’t much happening. But you know, it was in some ways better that way!
See Also – Moving on to Iskander-Kul and Khujand
6. Baikoner Cosmodone, Kazakshtan
This is the one place on the list I haven’t been to yet. You can visit it via a tour, which I think would be so cool as this place, still used today, is where they launch some of the cosmo and astronaughts to the International Space Station. It dates back to the Soviet days, and somehow the idea of a spae centre in Central Asia sounds so … unexpected!
5. Altyn Arashan, Kyrgyzstan
Natural beauty is not in short supply in Centrral Asia, particularly in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Altyn Arashan is a small spot in a sort of cuddlesack in the mountains to the east of Issyk-kul, another beautiful and popular Central Asian lake (one of the biggest fresh water lakes in the world). You need a four wheeled drive to get to this spot, which is bereft of comforts like electricity, but is a good starting points for a couple of hikes, has a hot spring and is frankly, gorgeous!
4. Registan, Samarkand
Ancient madrassas, three in total, pointing inwards to this square. Very special place in the awesome city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan. There’s more to see in Samarkand, including some amazing tombs and mosques, but this is the highlight, the thing people principally come to see, the place for a great selfie I guess (or wedding pics). You can go into all three of them and you won’t be disappointed.
See Also – Samarkand’s Incredible Registan!
3. Darvaza Crater, Turkmenistan
So yeah. 1971, drilling for gas, some guys found some. It caught alight, created a crater, it started burning. Not to worry they said, it will burn out in a few weeks. 2021, still burning fifty years later (happy birthday Darvaza Crater!) It’s big and there’s a camp of yurts there, best visited at night. Incredible, and just so very ‘Turkmenistan’.
See Also – Turkmenistan 5-Day Tour the Full Story Part One
2. Ashgabat, Capital of Turkmenistan
I decided I would only include one of the incredible ‘weird’ cities in Central Asia on my list, and it was between Ashgabat and Nursultan (capital of Kzakshtan) as to which one made it. Honestly, driving around Ashgabat for an hour looking at the giant buildings, the marble apartment blocks, the fulling enclosed ferris wheel, the giant green book, the parks and their ominous statues, it blows you away. The country has become rich, mostly off natural gas, and this is how the President chose to spend the money. Is it worth it? I wouldn’t think so. And as Turkmenistan is a tricky place to get in, well, not so many people have seen it. But …. BOY!
See Also – 26 Photos of Ashgabat to Blow Your Mind!
1. Old City, Khiva, Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan’s cities of Samarkand and Bukhara are incredible examples of Islamic architecture, and so worth travelling to. But if you want to see what is surely as well preserved as any central Asian old city, then Khiva is the one that you can’t afford to miss. You can stay in the old town itself and wander around it for a couple of days, never needing to leave its walls and just really feel what it was like to live in such as place a few hundred years ago or more. Yes, the insides of buildings are modernised for tourists, some turned into hotels or museums, but essentially you feel like you are transported into the past when in the old city. Until the throngs of tourists ‘round the corner I guess. But honestly, it’s a fantastic monument to the past and, in my mind the best place to go in all of Central Asia.
See Also – Sunday Spotlight – Khiva
Thanks for reading today – before I go, a mention to one other site I haven’t got to and that’s the Aral Sea in both Kazakshtan and Uzbekistan. It dried up decades ago and boats were just left where they sat. You can visit these boats in both countries and it sounds pretty cool! Thanks for popping by today, take care, and May the Journey Never End!