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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.

Visit Merv

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

See related content

The Remains of Nisa

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

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.

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.


  • 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 Traveler 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. Later, my father’s postings took us to Nepal where we had to transit Delhi and Kathmandu where we were sometimes stranded for days and Hong Kong from where I travelled in 1983 through China for two months.

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Deborah Brock-Doyle

My first journey for Steppes was in 1999 when I set off to explore Thailand to gather those little details that constitute Steppes Travel’s trademark knowledge. I have since been lucky enough to travel extensively in Southeast Asia, China, the Middle East and India. A few special memories include being joined at dinner by an otter in Laos, proudly being shown an illicit picture of the Dalai Lama in Tibet and diving with manta rays on Christmas day in Indonesia. I’m pretty sure I always leave a country wishing I had done more, seen more, learned more ….. but I also always hope to return …

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Paul is very knowledgeable about all the destinations we book with him. Always organised to a high standard and a great help, he gives us confidence in our trip.

Central Asia

Frequently asked questions about Turkmenistan

How long are the flights to Turkmenistan from the UK?

Direct flights between London and Ashgabat take between six and seven hours.

What is the international dialling code for Turkmenistan?


What is the time zone in Turkmenistan?

Turkmenistan is five hours ahead of GMT. It does not observe daylight saving time.

How much should I tip?

Tipping is at your discretion, but here are some guidelines to help you:
• Guides: $7-10 per couple per day
• General hotel staff: $5 per couple per day
• Porterage: $1 per person per movement
• Transfer driver/guides: $5-7 per couple

Is internet access widely available in Turkmenistan?

Outside of Ashgabat, internet access is fairly difficult to come by. Furthermore, throughout the country, speeds are slow and heavy censorship is the norm. Do not expect to have access to sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc.

Is it true that I will need a guide for the entire trip?

This is non-negotiable. Government rules require that foreign visitors are accompanied by an official guide for the entire duration of their trip.

Is Turkmenistan safe?

Still cut off from the outside world and only just opening up to tourism, Turkmenistan is an incredibly safe place for foreign travellers. Crime and harassment are almost non-existent.

Can I use my mobile phone in Turkmenistan?

Turkmenistan’s communication infrastructure is probably the least developed of all the former Soviet states. Whilst foreign mobile phones should work, the coverage is very poor; only in Ashgabat is reception guaranteed. As always, be aware that
roaming rates will apply when using your phone in Turkmenistan, and these can be very expensive.

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Why Choose Steppes?

These may be uncertain times but they are, without a doubt, still full of opportunity to discover the extraordinary safely. Through knowledge and expertise, we can connect you to those destinations embracing travellers with the added confidence of flexible booking and decades of insight.

Are you ready to discover extraordinary once again?

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