Day 36 to 40 - Turkmenistan

We had 5 days in Turkmenistan, mostly spent in the capital city of Ashgabat while we waited to sort out visas for our onward travel. We had heard that Ashgabat was a very bad place to sort visas (Lonely Planet), however it turned out to be surprisingly easy and we soon got back on track despite the large delays crossing the Caspian.

The weird and wonderful city of Ashgabat is littered with huge golden statues and extravagant buildings (sadly not so many photos as it is a criminal offence to photograph government buildings in Turkmenistan!) The ministry for education building is a giant open book, the ministry for construction is built in the shape of a crane, communications was in the shape of an old fashioned telephone and so on!

One of our days waiting we decided to visit the Dervaza gas crater in the Karakum Desert. This flaming hole in the ground was the result of Soviet gas exploration…when they disturbed a natural pocket of gas they decided to set fire to it so it would burn off…40 years later it is still on fire!

On route to the border of Uzbekistan we stopped off to see the once great city of Merv (apparently the biggest city on earth at one stage). The city now consists of a few mounds of rubble (thanks to Genghis Khan and the Mongol Hordes) and requires a lot of imagination to visualise it’s once great past.


  1. 'The holy book' of Turkmenistan, written by their first President as a guide for all Turkmen to live by.
  2. Watching a bit of Wimbledon in the Park of Independence, Ashgabat.
  3. Golden statue of former Turkmen President for life.
  4. The best place in Ashgabat for free wifi - Hotel Oguzkent.
  5. Dervaza gas crater with Maz for scale!
  6. Dervaza gas crater - “the gates to Hell!”
  7. Dervaza gas crater in the middle of the Karakum Desert.
  8. Watch out for camels! We must be in the desert!
  9. Camel with the ancient city of Merv in the background.
  10. Tasty food on the BBQ!
  11. Roadside shopping, purchasing a delicious Turkmen melon!
  12. Ruins in the ancient city of Merv, destroyed by Genghis Khan.
  13. Most Turkmen women wear this traditional dress. The lady in the red was a local English school teacher.