Mary, Merv, Turkmenistan


A country of rich contrasts. The discovery of national gas has brought vast wealth and luxury to the cities – but away from this glitz, vast deserts play host to gorgeous deposits of deep-green mountains and natural gorges.

Central Asia is steeped in history and the vestiges of ancient civilizations are scattered across wide desert plains. Persians, Parthians, Sasanians and Seljuks have all left their mark and more recently it formed the playing fields of the Great Game.

The area we know as Turkmenistan played a pivotal role in all these, making any visit a journey through time. It combines particularly well with Uzbekistan.

Local man
Yurt and House, Damla, Turkmenistan
Yurt and traditional home

What to expect on your Turkmenistan holiday

With the discovery of vast reserves of natural gas, Turkmenistan has transformed itself from a forgotten Russian satellite state to a major player on the world stage. The wealth is obvious and the contrast between life in the cities and life in the remote villages is striking. Much of Turkmenistan is desert, but you will find lush green mountains, natural gorges and a diverse range of fauna and flora ranging from the bustard to the Central Asian gazelle.

Ashgabat is a relatively new city, but Kunya Urgench was one of the greatest cities on the Silk Road, and along with Merv and Nisa, provides some insight into the vast wealth that once defined the region.

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A selection of activities and experiences you could consider including in your holiday to Turkmenistan.

Mary, Merv, Turkmenistan

Visit Merv

Explore the ancient trading town of Merv, reputedly one of the oldest and best preserved oasis cities on the Silk Road.

Suggested Holiday Idea

The site of Nisa in Turkmenistan

The Remains of Nisa

Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nisa, ancient capital of the Parthian empire.

The site of Kunya Urgench in Turkmenistan

Kunya Urgench

Stop at this UNESCO World Heritage Site to see the 11th-century minaret of Gutluk-Temir, spared by Genghis Khan when he seized the city in 1221.

Gas Crater, Darvaza, Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan

Darvaza Gas Crater

Visit this strange natural gas hole in the middle of the Karakum Desert – measuring 70 metres across it is thought to have been burning since 1971.

Yangikala Canyon, Turkmenistan

Yangikala Canyon Visit

Explore Yangikala Canyon by 4wd or on foot. Shaped by the Caspian Sea, millions of years ago, the dramatic flame coloured rock formations are imbedded with seashells and fossils. Hike to the top for never ending views, stay below to watch the colours ignite as the sun sets or even camp out in this remote setting.


  • Ashgabat
  • Nisa
  • Darvaza gas crater
  • Merv

Meet our experts

A passion for travel runs right through every one of our experts - meaning they're always ready with first-hand insight about their specialist countries.

Paul Craven

Paul is the Conde Nast Traveller chosen Specialist for Central Asia and the Silk Route.

Being from a family with Army connections I can from an early age remember travelling. From camping in Europe and then later being sent to boarding school when we lived in Germany at the age of eight, complete with shorts, long socks, a cap and my suitcase. In appearance not too dissimilar to the children evacuated to the countryside during the blitz.

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