Turkmenistan is now the most "closed" of the former Soviet republics. In this country, there is a rather strict visa regime: without a visa, a Russian citizen can fly here for no more than 10 days by plane through Ashgabat, in other cases it is necessary to specially issue a visa, preferably by invitation or having a paid excursion tour in hand. However, it is still possible to get into the country - and there is something to see in it. Many unique historical and natural monuments are concentrated in Turkmenistan.
Top 10 attractions of Turkmenistan
Mosque and mausoleum of Turkmenbashi Rukha in Kipchak
One of the largest mosques in the world near Ashgabat in the village of Kipchak was built in 2004. It is named in honor of Saparmurat Niyazov, the then indefinite president of Tajikistan, and is located in his native village. The height of its central dome is 55 meters, the height of the minarets is 91 meters (because in 1991 Turkmenistan gained independence).
This monument is not so much religious as it is political. It is decorated not only with traditional quotes from the Koran, but also with sayings from the book of the Turkmenbashi himself "Rukhnama", which was then necessarily studied in Turkmenistan and was in every home. Next to the mosque is the mausoleum of Niyazov himself; his parents, brothers and himself are buried here. Nearby there is a memorial dedicated to the memory of the victims of the 1948 earthquake - it was then that Niyazov's mother and his brothers died.
The snow-white mosque itself is really very beautiful - it is built of marble and decorated with traditional Turkmen ornaments.
Darvaza gas crater
Turkmen "Gate to Hell": a gas crater that has been burning continuously since 1971. Then here, on the border of the Karakum, an accumulation of natural gas was discovered, and during drilling and exploration, all equipment fell into a natural cavity 60 m wide and more than 20 m deep. that in a few days everything will go out. The calculation turned out to be wrong, the crater is still burning. It is truly a terrifying sight, especially in the evening and at night.
Not so long ago, bacteria were found at its bottom. They are completely unique, they are nowhere else - they manage to survive at enormous temperatures and practically without oxygen. There are two more similar craters nearby, but they do not burn - one is filled with mud, and the other with bright turquoise water.
Discussions are currently underway about what to do with this crater so that it does not interfere with the development of other gas fields in the area.
Nisa - the capital of the Parthian kingdom
Not far from Ashgabat are the ruins of the city of Nisa, founded in the 3rd century BC. and the former capital of the Parthian kingdom. The fortress of Mithridates - Mithridatkert, with a treasury and a temple, and the burials of the Parthian kings has been preserved here. The complex is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
During the excavations, many objects of Hellenistic art of ancient Parthia were found: painted terracotta statues, rhytons, inscriptions in Aramaic. The royal palace itself is especially interesting: it was built of adobe bricks and wood, and covered with alabaster plaster. Some of the walls were painted bright red and decorated with ornaments.
They divide Old Nisa - a city from the period of the Parthian kingdom - and New Nisa, a medieval one. Excavations continue here, only a fifth of the city has been explored, and the old excavations are preserved. Preservation of mud brick structures requires a lot of efforts of scientists and restorers. Now an archaeological museum-reserve has been created here.
Ruins of Merv
Merv originated in the 3rd millennium BC. NS. and refers to the Margian civilization of the Bronze Age. Then this city became one of the largest centers of Parthia, and by the XII century - the capital of the Seljuk state. In the Middle Ages, it was a huge city, larger than Baghdad, but it was destroyed during the Mongol conquest - and no longer revived in this place.
Now there is an archaeological reserve listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Remains of the Achaemenid fortress of the 3rd century BC, the remains of a fortress from the time of the Seljuks and several mausoleums have been preserved. This is, first of all, the mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, XII century, whose walls are 5 meters thick. It was destroyed in the 13th century, but has now been restored. And the mausoleum of Muhammad-ibn-Zeid, XII century, it was also recently restored.
State Museum of Turkmenistan
A huge museum complex that united two previously existing museums: History and Ethnography and Fine Arts. In 2009, they were also joined by the Museum of the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the main exposition of which is the gifts received by the President from leaders of different countries and individuals. Then the museums of Independence of Turkmenistan, Neutrality of Turkmenistan and the Constitution of Turkmenistan were created - all in new and architecturally interesting buildings.
The old expositions are the richest archaeological and ethnographic collections. Here are the finds from Nisa and Merv, a lot of jewelry and ceramics, medieval items, a collection of traditional carpets. The ethnographic part of the museum is represented by rich natural science halls with fossils, the Kunya-Urgench meteorite and numerous dioramas from the Soviet era.
"Fire Fortresses" - a unique beauty canyon formed by rocks that were once on the seabed. There was a sea that was gradually shrinking and drying up, its nearest remnant is the Kara-Bogaz-Gol Bay of the Caspian Sea.
These layered rocks have a reddish tint, which is why they are called "fiery", so the landscape here is completely Martian. Red, pink and red layers are interspersed with white in places - before us are sedimentary rocks, which changed depending on the composition of the sea water, and then the desert winds worked on their beauty.
Observation platforms are arranged above the canyon; it can be dangerous to go down along the crumbling edges. Usually an excursion there is included in the routes for a jeep safari in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea.
The most interesting and most mysterious place in the country is near the village of Khojapil, the name of which can be translated as “sacred elephants”. This is a limestone slab with perfectly preserved traces of some huge creatures. In ancient times, the local population believed that these are the traces of elephants of the army of Alexander the Great. Now scientists believe that these are traces of megalosaurs. Preserved not only footprints, but also several trails trodden by dinosaurs.
Megalosaurs are large carnivores that lived in the Cretaceous period, relatives of tyrannosaurs. They looked similar: two-legged, with short front legs and a huge mouth. Their tracks reach 70 cm in length. There were other dinosaurs there - smaller, and not so long ago, traces of some very small creatures in comparison with dinosaurs with an almost human leg of 43rd size were found. However, scientists argue that these are also some kind of ancient lizards, and not the ancestors of people. The footprints are so well preserved, because once there was not a stone here, but a prehistoric swamp.
Avaza seaside resort
Since 2007, the Turkmen leadership has set itself the goal of creating a world-class seaside resort near the city of Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk), surpassing Dubai. Several dozen hotels have been opened here, a beautiful embankment, amusement parks and yacht clubs have been equipped. The tourist zone is separated by the man-made river Avaza - a wide canal in which the water of the Caspian flows. More than 4 thousand trees have been planted along its banks.
In 2013, the opening of the next yacht club and the president's birthday were widely celebrated here, world-class stars performed. However, in the end, it is mainly Turkmen officials who rest here - it is difficult for tourists to obtain a visa, and besides, the climate on the Caspian coast is not the warmest. But looking at the resort and swimming here, if you have such an opportunity, is definitely worth it.
Krasnovodsk (or Khazar) nature reserve
This is a nature reserve on the Caspian coast, which includes a wide coastal strip, part of the water area and several islands. No ships are allowed to enter here without special permission.
Birds nesting in the Caspian are protected here - initially the reserve was created precisely as an ornithological one. There are even huge pink pelicans in it, and the flamingo population is the hallmark of the reserve. Gray monitor lizards, snakes and turtles are found, and from sea animals - only here you can meet the Caspian seal, on the islands of the reserve there are their rookeries. The Caspian sturgeon and the Caspian white fish, which are now included in the Red Book of Turkmenistan, are found here. In one of the parts of the reserve, the population of gazelles is being revived.
In the city of Turkmenbashi itself there is a museum of the Khazar reserve, which tells about its inhabitants.
Presidential palaces in Ashgabat
The residence of the President of Turkmenistan is a huge palace, built in 2011 and which has become one of the landmarks of the capital. Once there was a relatively small, although also luxurious, palace of Niyazov made of his beloved white marble, with a golden dome and decorated on the inside with many handmade carpets. The French architect R. Bellona became its architect.
A new palace was built for the next president, designed to embody the main slogan of his current policy, "The state is for the person." It was also built by the French, so that it combines both classical oriental traditions and European ones. There is a large park with a cascade of fountains adjacent to the palace, and you can take a walk here, but you cannot take pictures in the government quarter.