Updated: Dec 28, 2019
By: The PH Team
Turkmenistan is a country in Central Asia, once part of the Soviet Union. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the country was ruled by one leader, President Niyazov (Turkmenbashy - the father of the Turkmen people), until his death in 2006.
The country is now ruled by President Berdimuhamedow, who has maintained the secretive and 'leader centric' nature of the country.
1) The Silk Road
Yes, Turkmenistan was on the historical Silk Road!
The Silk Road was a network of trade routes which connected the East and West, and was central to the economic, cultural, political, and religious interactions between these regions from the 2nd century BCE to the 18th century.
Turkmenistan is home to a huge collection of historical and ancient sites, ruins and cities, perfect for adventurous travellers to explore and let their minds wander.
2) Food in Turkmenistan
Turkmen cuisine, the cuisine of Turkmenistan, is similar to that of other countries in Central Asia. Plov (pilaf) for example, is a staple, everyday food, which is also served at celebrations.
It consists of chunks of mutton, carrots and rice fried in a large cast-iron cauldron similar to a Dutch oven.
In addition, the country is known for its delicious and savoury baked goods, such as breads and doughs stuffed with meat.
From an agricultural perspective, Turkmenistan is probably most famous in ex-Soviet states for its melons. The country is widely known in the region for its over 400 distinct varieties of the fruit, which it used to export all over the Soviet Union.
3) Karakum Desert
The Karakum Desert is located in Central Asia. Its name means Black Sand in Turkic languages, in reference to the dark soil that lies beneath the sandy surface of much of the desert. It occupies about 70 percent, or 350,000 km², of the area of Turkmenistan.
In addition to the desert itself, the Darvaza Crater, or the 'Gates to Hell,' is a continuously burning crater in the middle of the desert. The crater is cherished by locals and tourists alike for the unbelievable camping experience the location provides.
4) Because it's Hard to Visit Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan is not the easiest country in the world to visit. It is not a secret that the government of Turkmenistan denies most Visa requests with no reason given whatsoever.
However, the tough Visa regime should not discourage travellers. On the contrary, is should give travellers even more motivation to enter this closed-off country in Central Asia.
The good news is, that even if you have been denied a tourist Visa, you can continuously keep applying at no cost. Eventually, you will most likely be granted access to see the ancient and modern wonders of a country with one of the least amounts of tourists in the world!
5) It's the 'Hermit Kingdom of Central Asia'
Turkmenistan has been dubbed 'the Hermit Kingdom of Central Asia.' This is of course a reference to its similarities with THE hermit kingdom - North Korea.
Just like North Korea, travellers generally need to book a tour (with some exceptions) in order to visit this secretive and mysterious country. Also like North Korea, a strong 'personality cult' surrounding its current and ex-leader is present in every aspect of daily life in Turkmenistan.
Statues of the leaders are prominent in the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, where streets are very clean, beautifully designed, pristine in every way and almost entirely empty.