Central Asia Travel: The Ultimate Guide and Resource

Travel in Central Asia, the little recognized and under-visited ‘stans alongside the Silk Road. What is there actually to see and do? And is it protected to journey there? After spending over three months touring overland by Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan) we have answered these questions numerous instances. Our Central Asia Travel Ultimate Guide and Resource gives an summary to the area for these unfamiliar. Then it affords an in depth suggestions on what to do and see in every of the nations on this fascinating area, in addition to sensible journey particulars that can assist you plan and e-book your journey.

Deserts and dictators. Yurts and nomads. Silk Road cities, staggering but underrated mountain ranges, Soviet detritus, and one of many world’s best highway journeys.

This is Central Asia. The ‘Stans. Never properly understood, however completely price an try to know.

Central Asia Guide, Pamir Mountains
Fresh snow within the Pamir Mountains close to the border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Although a go to to Southeast Asia kicked off our around-the-world journey, the previous Soviet Union – the Caucasus and Central Asia (often called the ‘Stans) — was the actual impetus for our journey. Before we might set off, Audrey had labored with these nations (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan) remotely from a desk in Prague, Czech Republic for over 4 years. During that point, she’d constructed up an urge for food to expertise them firsthand.

I, too, was recreation. But our guidebook made the area sound considerably menacing.

Truth was, we weren’t actually fairly positive what to anticipate.

Central Asia Guide, Bactrian Camel in the Pamir Mountains
Stroking a lonely wooly Bactrian camel in Tajikistan’s excessive desert.

Some of it’s possible you’ll be pondering and lots of you’ve gotten requested: “Central Asia? Is there actually something to see and do there? What about security?

Yes, and sure. Now let’s go!

Note: This submit was initially revealed on May 6, 2011 and up to date on November 6, 2018.

What to See and Do in Central Asia

If you are searching for one thing off-path in all methods literal and figurative, Central Asia makes an excellent journey candidate. Filled with unimaginable mountain landscapes, pleasant individuals and quirky experiences of the Soviet hangover selection, Central Asia is tough to beat in terms of uncooked, discover-the-world potential. To this present day, it stays one among our favourite and most fulfilling journey experiences.

Because tourism continues to be comparatively new throughout Central Asia (for us, this was one among its appeals), there is not the identical totally fleshed out tourism infrastructure that you just’ll discover all through the remainder of Asia. So you may must make an effort. The flip aspect is that you just’ll discover pleasant locals to shepherd you to your subsequent — and usually surprising — journey.

Central Asia Guide, Shepherd in Kyrgyzstan
The Kyrgyz shepherd, holder of nice life and journey knowledge.

Still curious and undaunted about what you’ll discover within the ‘Stans of Central Asia? From west to east, here’s a country-by-country newbie’s information to a few of our favourite journey spots and experiences within the area.

Kyrgyzstan Travel Information

If you could select one nation to go to in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan may simply be it. Not solely is the nation over 90% mountainous and studded with lovely landscapes, however the conventional nomadic tradition and persons are heat and welcoming.

Kyrgyzstan additionally has terrific community-based tourism (CBT) and DMO (Destination Management Organization) networks all through the nation (Karakol, Osh, South Shore and Jyrgalan) that make it straightforward to get data in English, join and work together with locals, e-book native excursions, keep in yurts, and take mountain treks by foot or on horseback with native guides.

Additionally, Kyrgyzstan has visa-free journey for a lot of nationalities, making it free from most of the bureaucratic complications within the area.

Karakol

Standing at a crossroads geographically, culturally and even culinarily, Karakol in japanese Kyrgyzstan has a multi-ethnic variety that influences its individuals, meals, markets, and common really feel of the city. Only a number of years in the past, nevertheless, Karakol was seen solely as a leaping off level for trekking within the close by Tian Shan Mountains with out a lot to do within the city itself besides to go to the Dungan Mosque, Russian Orthodox Church and a restaurant or two.

Karakol Travel Advice
The Dungan Mosque. Indicates the significance of Dungan (Chinese Muslim) individuals to Karakol.

Much has modified not too long ago in Karakol and its price planning a number of days there, whether or not you are heading into the mountains or not. The city — by way of Destination Karakol — is now partaking vacationers in its multi-ethnic and crossroads cultural and culinary context by a sequence of immersive meals, strolling and cultural excursions.

Karakol, Kyrgyzstan Travel Advice - Dungan Family Dinner
The Dungan Family Dinner includes a minimal of eight dishes and is actually scrumptious.

Disclosure: We helped Destination Karakol develop these excursions as a part of our tourism growth advisory. So, we predict they’re fairly cool and suppose you’ll as properly.

More studying: An Experiential Travel Guide to Karakol, Kyrgyzstan: 25 Ideas to Get You Started

Karakol Animal Market

We arrived in Karakol, a sleepy city on the japanese fringe of Kyrgyzstan in time for its Sunday animal market. With an early rise, we loved the scene as previous males in kalpaks (conventional Kyrgyz hats) cut price away for cussed donkeys and fat-rumped sheep.

Central Asia Guide - Karakol Animal Market, Kyrgyzstan
Animal Market in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan

Altyn Arashan Trek

Hike round Four-5 hours from the city of Karakol to Altyn Arashan, a pure mountain sizzling spring. Stay for the evening and you possibly can spend so long as you would like enjoyable in swimming pools of piping sizzling water. Feels sooooo good after a day of climbing. Stars up there are additionally superb.

Central Asia Guide, Kyrgyzstan Trekking
Trekking to Altyn Arashan, Kyrgyzstan

If you’ve gotten extra time, proceed within the morning to Ala Kol Lake. Although we and our companion needed to flip again due to a blizzard whiteout resulting from it being late within the season, different associates all had nice issues to say concerning the trek.

Update: If you are fascinated by exploring different lesser recognized trails, check out this listing of treks close to Karakol. These trails have been marked in 2017 and are included within the trekking map you could find on the Destination Karakol workplace.

Jyrgalan Village

If you are fascinated by outside actions and staying near the mountains try Jyrgalan village about 60 km from Karakol. Located in Jyrgalan valley the village affords the best leaping off level for trekking, horse again driving and mountain biking as you needn’t prepare transport to the trailhead; you can begin straight from the village. And the village environment and laid again nature is a part of Jyrgalan’s allure.

Kyrgyzstan trekking Boz Uchuk Trek, Jyrgalan
Boz Uchuk Lakes Trek in Jyrgalan Valley.

In addition, Jyrgalan has fairly an fascinating and inspirational transformational story — from dying former Soviet coal mining village to eco-tourism hub centered on journey journey actions. This signifies that whenever you e-book a trekking tour, horseback driving journey, hire a mountain bike or keep at a household guesthouse your tourism cash is staying locally.

Recommended treks in Jyrgalan Valley: We’ve accomplished the Three-day Boz Uchuk Lakes Trek and can extremely suggest that path. We’ve additionally heard good issues concerning the Four-day Kesenkiya Loop. Here is a full listing of day and multi-day treks in Jyrgalan Valley.

South Shore of Lake Issyk Kul and Manjyly

Various subranges of the Tian Shan mountains encompass each the southern and northern shores of Issyk Kul, the world’s second largest mountain lake. The level? You by no means have a nasty view whenever you’re at Issyk Kul.

Central Asia Guide, Yurt Stay in Kyrgyzstan
A Kyrgyz yurt within the South Shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.

Spend an evening at Manzhyly yurt camp on the south shore of the lake. Do some climbing, discuss with a pleasant shepherd, eat a beautiful home-cooked Kyrgyz meal and sleep as soundly you ever have at midnight womb of a Kyrgyz mountain yurt.

Salbuurun in South Shore of Issyk-Kul
A Salbuurun (conventional Kyrgyz looking) demonstration with a golden eagle.

If you actually wish to go into conventional Kyrgyz nomadic tradition you can too now participate in Salbuurun (conventional Kyrgyz looking with a golden eagle and taigan looking canine), yurt constructing, and shyrdak making (conventional Kyrgyz felt carpet) workshops and excursions with Destination South Shore.

More studying: A Perfect Day in Kyrgyzstan and Issyk-Kul South Shore Experiential Travel Guide

Song Kul Lake

Combine nice mountain surroundings and a glimpse into rural Kyrgyz life with a three-day horse trek from Kochkor to Song Kul Lake. Sleep in yurts alongside the path and on the sting of the lake. In the spring to summer time months, you may run into shepherds tending their animals within the hills.

Central Asia Guide - Song Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan
Yurt at Song Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan

We went in October and have been blessed with a view of the primary snows on the lake and the animal drive as shepherds took their animals to their villages in decrease altitudes for the winter. Even when you have no expertise on a horse (like us), you’ll handle. After all, we did. Just do not count on to stroll usually the following day.

More studying: A Ramadan Experience at Song Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan

Osh

Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan was thought-about a midpoint alongside one of many predominant Silk Road East-West arteries and it has been a crossroads buying and selling heart for millennia. In reality, the town is estimated at over Three,000 years previous and Jayma Bazaar, nonetheless the town’s greatest market, has been working in that very same place for over 2,000 years. Trade and migration over the centuries helped evolve Osh into the culturally various city heart you see at this time, one that’s residence to greater than 80 ethnicities.

Osh Travel, Sulaiman-Too Mountain
Sulaiman-Too sacred mountain in Osh marked the midway level alongside the Silk Road.

Many vacationers come by Osh on their strategy to/from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan or China as the town is in shut proximity to those border crossings. That was how we first visited Osh over ten years in the past as we have been en path to the Pamir Highway and Tajikistan. More not too long ago, nevertheless, we have had the chance to spend extra time in Osh and its laid again, hospitable, and multi-cultural really feel has made it one among our favourite cities in Kyrgyzstan. It’s price spending a number of days strolling its streets and partaking with pleasant locals. Not to say, its meals scene is taken into account among the best within the nation.

Osh Travel - Jayma Bazaar
Jayma Bazaar in Osh nonetheless going robust after 2,000 years.

Because it is a large metropolis and unfold out, Osh might be onerous to get your head round and actually perceive properly. Fortunately, in the previous few years a sequence of strolling and food-related excursions have been created by Destination Osh to assist vacationers join higher with the town’s distinctive historical past, tradition and delicacies. Disclosure: We helped Destination Osh develop these excursions as a part of our tourism growth consulting. So, we predict they’re fairly cool and suppose you’ll as properly.

More studying: An Experiential Travel Guide to Osh, Kyrgyzstan: 20 Ideas to Get You Started

Pamir-Alay Mountains (Southern Kyrgyzstan)

It’s onerous to not be blown away by the fantastic thing about the Pamir-Alay Mountains in southern Kyrgyzstan — irrespective of whether or not you’re on a highway journey alongside the Pamir Highway or if you’re immersing your self into the mountains with a little bit of trekking. We’d suggest stopping off for a number of days, maybe utilizing Sary Mogul as a base, and go on one of many newly marked day or multi-day treks within the space. Many of those treks have views of snow-covered Peak Lenin at 7,134 meters / 23,406 ft, which is actually gorgeous. And, you usually have the chance to satisfy shepherds and their households residing in yurts alongside the path. Special.

Sary Mogul Pass on the Heights of Alay Trek, Kyrgyzstan
The Alay Mountains in southern Kyrgyzstan=otherworldly. Sary Mogul Pass (Four,303 meters).

Our favourite treks within the space embrace the multi-day Heights of Alay Trek (4 or six days) or the Koshkol Lakes day trek. You can discover right here a full listing of treks within the space, in addition to data on guided treks and excursions.

More studying: Trekking within the Alay Mountains, Kyrgyzstan: The Ultimate Guide

Uzbekistan Travel Information

Uzbekistan affords a few of the best-developed tourism infrastructure within the area because of its Silk Road cities. A spread of visitor homes, prepare connections, and tour firms join the area and make it straightforward to get round independently.

Central Asia Guide, Uzbekistan
A hearty welcome to Bukhara, Uzbekistan

For extra tales, experiences, and data, try all of our articles about journey in Uzbekistan.

Classic Silk Road Cities: Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva

Get your fill of Silk Road snapshots and historical past alongside Uzbekistan’s Silk Road route: Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand, and Shakhrisabz. Although Samarkand is probably the most architecture-loaded, every of the cities is price a glance. Our favourite is Bukhara, maybe as a result of it looks like residing historical past. People nonetheless stay in lots of its previous buildings, and retailers nonetheless cut price in the identical market areas, a lot as they could have a thousand years in the past. Additionally, it’s onerous to discover a friendlier and extra colourful recent market than the one on the outskirts of city.

Central Asia Guide, Samarkand Silk Road City
The Registan – Samarkand, Uzbekistan

More studying: A Real Peek at Uzbekistan’s Silk Road: A Reflective Scavenger Hunt

Nukus and Moynaq

Nukus does not have any Silk Road glam, however it’s residence to the eclectic Savitsky Museum, which someway escaped Soviet censorship. It’s additionally residence to Mizdakhan, a rare cemetery that includes mini-mosques and marble- and stone-engravings of the lifeless.

Central Asia Guide, Uzbekistan Cemetery
Mizdakhan Cemetery, some of the fascinating and elaborate cemeteries round.

Once a fishing city on the Aral Sea, Moynaq is at this time’s bone-dry testomony to man’s gorgeous capacity to prosecute struggle on nature. Rusted boats lay throughout land that was as soon as shoreline, however is now desert. In full disclosure, we didn’t go to right here however after speaking with different vacationers we remorse this determination.

More studying: A Real Peek at Uzbekistan’s Silk Road: A Reflective Scavenger Hunt

Turkmenistan Travel Information

From a pink tape and visa perspective, Turkmenistan is the trickiest of all Central Asian nations to navigate. But don’t cross it off your listing instantly, for it’ll probably shock you and reward you in your perseverance.

Central Asia Guide, Turkmenistan Desert
One of Turkmenistan’s collapsed pure gasoline craters. But this one’s not on hearth.

For extra tales, experiences, and data, try all of our articles about touring in Turkmenistan.

Caspian Sea

If you’ve gotten some flexibility in your schedule and you end up in Azerbaijan searching for a manner out, we extremely suggest taking the in a single day ferry throughout the Caspian Sea from Baku, Azerbaijan to Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan. Talk a few gorgeous and peaceable strategy to transition to a brand new area. Just keep away from the girl attendant on board who seems to be just like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

More studying: Reflections Crossing the Caspian Sea.

Ashgabat

Las Vegas meets Pyong Yang in Turkmenistan’s quirky capital metropolis of white marble, fountains and 20-mile “health walks.” While the rotating gold statue of Turkmenbashi is not on show, there are nonetheless loads of reminders of Turkmenistan’s weird, self-consumed former chief (tell us if Turkmenbashi vodka continues to be in the marketplace – great things).

Central Asia Guide - Ashgabat Mosque, Turkmenistan
Ashgabat’s Kipchak Mosque: Turkmenbashi’s closing resting place.

Ashgabat’s Tolkuchka market on Sundays is the biggest open air market in Central Asia. It’s positively price getting your self away from bed to get there early. And when you look onerous sufficient, you’ll discover an energetic disco scene full with Russian mafia, attractive ladies and sufficient drama to pack a Brazilian cleaning soap opera.

More studying: Ashgabat, The City of Love: A Scavenger Hunt

Gonur Depe, Merve and Konye-Urgench

Kick up 1000s of years of comparatively undiscovered historical past as you stroll nearly any of Turkmenistan’s archaelogical websites. Check out the principally unexcavated website of Gonur Depe the place you are actually sifting by Four,000 years of historical past. Yes, 4000 years! Then, cease by the cities of Merv and Konye-Urgench for a style of Turkmenistan’s station on the Silk Road.

Central Asia Guide, Merv UNESCO Silk Road City
Merv: More camels than vacationers at this Silk Road City.

More studying: Kicking Up Four,000 Years of History in Turkmenistan

Darvaza Gas Crater

Standing on the fringe of a collapsed, blazing pure gasoline crater within the Karakum desert is one half hellishly sizzling, one other half downright cool, significantly whenever you admire it from a tent, full moon overhead. Along the way in which there, pop by the oasis village of Jerbent for a peek at desert life that feels Thunderdome-ish and otherworldly.

Central Asia Guide, Darvaza Gas Crater in Turkemenistan
The Darvaza gasoline crater, on hearth 24×7.

More studying: Natural and Not-so-Natural History Sites in Turkmenistan

Kazakhstan Travel Information

Even although we loved two “we’re going to die here” experiences in a comparatively quick time — crossing the land border from Uzbekistan and getting misplaced within the Tian Shan mountains – we nonetheless suggest you go to Kazakhstan. Among different issues, you may discover that the movie Borat is greater than a bit of shy of actuality.

For extra tales and experiences, try our catalog of articles from our travels in Kazakhstan.

Big Almaty Lake and Kosmostancia

The Tian Shan mountains simply exterior Almaty present some nice climbing alternatives. Take a metropolis bus into the bottom of the mountains and comply with the paths up or stroll atop an enormous water pipe to Big Almaty Lake and benefit from the mountains and its surreal blue water.

Central Asia Guide, Kazakhstan Mountains
Big Almaty Lake, Kazakhstan. Yep, it is that blue. No foolin’.

After the lake, proceed additional up the mountain path for extra surreal, this time of a Soviet selection, at Kosmostancia. Don’t be deterred by the rusted automobiles and deserted look of the place. Astronomers nonetheless stay and work in these hills and they often have a number of rooms to hire out. Try to squeeze in a stargazing session with the mad Russian astronomer (if he is nonetheless there) and his large telescope. If you proceed over the mountain cross, be sure you carry an actual trekking map. We did not and very almost disappeared, for actual.

More studying: Big Almaty Lake and Kosmostancia: The Hike and The Observatory and Getting Lost within the Tian Shan Mountains (or, How Kazakhstan Nearly Killed Us)

Tajikistan Travel Information

Unlike their neighbors, Tajiks are of Persian quite than Turkic origin. For this cause, Tajikistan options cultural, bodily and culinary variations from the remainder of Central Asia.

Central Asia Guide, Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan
A bunch of girls take a photograph break within the Tajik Pamirs.

For extra tales, experiences, and data on touring in Tajikistan, try all of our articles about touring in Tajikistan.

Pamir Highway Road Trip

Most of our time in Tajikistan was spent within the Pamir Mountains on the border with Afghanistan. We started our journey throughout the Pamir Highway in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, which we extremely suggest for a view of Peak Lenin (7135 meters or 23406 ft) on the way in which to the border.

Central Asia Guide - Silk Road Fort, Pamirs, Tajikistan
12th century Yamchun Fort. An common view alongside Tajikistan’s Pamir Highway.

Make your manner from the excessive desert outpost of Murghab by a sequence of mountainous roads with views of the Hindu Kush in Pakistan to Langar firstly of the plush Wakhan Valley. The native Pamiri persons are famend for being a few of the friendliest individuals on earth; they’ll actually attempt to provide the shirt off their again when you want it. Try to slot in a go to to Bibi Fatima sizzling springs (supposedly good for fertility) and the close by ruined fortress. You’ll be peeking into Afghanistan throughout the river the entire manner.

To go to the Pamir Mountains, you could apply for a GBAO allow on the identical time you apply in your visa. It’s now accessible on-line as an e-visa nowadays which simplifies the method tremendously.

More studying: Pamir Mountains: A Beginner’s Guide

Tajik Air Over the Pamir Mountains

Central Asia Guide, Pamir flight
Fly unpressurized in Tajik Air’s itty bitty lunchbox of a airplane.

Among probably the most horrifying and gorgeous flight we’ve ever skilled. In an unpressurized airplane the place particular person and bag has been weighed earlier than takeoff, we flew by (not over, by) the Pamir Mountains on the way in which from Khorog, Tajikistan to the nation’s capital metropolis of Dushanbe.

Once you arrive in Dushanbe, we suggest spending time within the metropolis’s recent markets the place persons are extremely pleasant and curious.

More studying and video: Badakhshani Express: Scraping the Pamir Mountains with Tajik Air

Central Asia Travel Itinerary

If you don’t have a number of months to spend within the area, let your theme of selection (e.g, Silk Road cities, desert, mountain adventures and trekking) information you. Or, mix a number of collectively like a little bit of historical past in Silk Road cities in Uzbekistan paired with some trekking our nomadic tradition in Kyrgyzstan.

Then, discover a nation (or two or three) that fits your wants. You can cross over from nation to nation by flight or land transport. For extra concepts on the place and what to do and see in Central Asia, learn: Golden Camel Awards: Sights, People and Scenery. You may see the (principally) overland route we took from Turkmenistan to Tajikistan on the Google Map under.

If you’re hesitant to journey independently due to the logistical preparations required, otherwise you want to journey with a small group and native information, try the brand new G Adventures Central Asia tour that covers most of the identical websites talked about above. We’ve taken greater than a dozen excursions with G Adventures. We can suggest their fashion of excursions, and we additionally commend how they spend money on the native communities and work with native companions the place they function.

Map of our Route Through Central Asia

We started our journey in Central Asia by taking a ship throughout the Caspian Sea into Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan and crossed into China from Kyrgyzstan over the Torugart Pass simply over three months later. You can see the route we took in our three-month journey throughout Central Asia within the Google MyMap under.

Since then, we have traveled extensively in Kyrgyzstan on a tourism growth venture. Despite the comparatively vital period of time and depth of our journey on this area, a protracted listing of locations we might like to go to “next time” in Central Asia stays.

When to Travel to Central Asia

This area is nice from springtime to fall, albeit it’s a bit sizzling within the cities and decrease elevation areas in the summertime. In common, you may in all probability wish to keep away from touring in Central Asia within the winter except you’re concentrating on a selected outside exercise, favor excessive winter journey within the mountains or usually get pleasure from chilly temperatures and grey skies.

Central Asia Guide, When to Go
Autumn in Tajikistan’s Wakhan Valley.

We traveled by Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in July/August. Although it was the most popular time of 12 months (100+ F), the dry desert warmth did not trouble us. Mountain areas in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (e.g., Pamir Mountains, Wakhan Valley, Tian Shan) can develop into numbingly chilly as early as October. If you journey within the mountains throughout this time (and at the same time as early as late August or September), be ready to decorate warmly at evening, and in detachable layers throughout the day.

Is Central Asia Safe to Visit?

Yes, it’s at the moment protected to journey in Central Asia. We by no means felt unsafe throughout the three months we traveled by Central Asia independently. Note that we have been on each type of public and non-public transport accessible. And, we traveled on a funds.

At the time, our guidebook made us afraid of police harassment and bribery, however we by no means as soon as encountered this. We have been requested for our papers as soon as, from a policeman within the Tashkent metro, whereupon we pretended to not converse Russian. He apologized and went on his manner. If you could present your passport, start with a paper or laminated copy first (learn this for extra passport security ideas). Regardless, security precautions and present occasion consciousness is necessary whereas touring in Central Asia, particularly as you choose which locations you may go to.

Languages Spoken in Central Asia

Each nation within the Central Asia area has their very own language (e.g., Turkmen, Kyrgyz, and many others.). Most of them use the Cyrillic alphabet, however some are altering over to the Latin alphabet. However, Russian is the lingua franca all through the area. Many younger persons are studying English, however don’t count on quite a lot of English audio system anyplace.

Our suggestion is to study the your numbers in Russian and Cyrillic alphabet (it actually is not that onerous) so you possibly can learn avenue and bus indicators. Carry a dictionary or obtain a translation app in your smartphone in case you get caught.

Central Asia Visas

The visa course of is likely one of the greatest limitations to journey in Central Asia. Bureaucracy and value can sap each your financial savings and persistence. We organized our visas independently as we traveled — (i.e., a Turkmenistan visa in Yerevan, Armenia, an Uzbek visa in Baku, Azerbaijan, Kazakh and Kyrgyz visas in Uzbekistan, a Tajik visa in Kyrgyzstan).

Fortunately, the visa software course of has develop into simplified for many Central Asian nations. Kyrgyzstan now affords a visa-free regime for 60 nationalities (and an e-visa course of for the remainder). Kazakhstan is visa-free for 45 nationalities. Tajikistan now has visa-upon-arrival at Dushanbe Airport in addition to an e-visa and GBAO allow course of, each of which permit 45 days of journey within the nation. From February 2019, Uzbekistan is visa-free for vacationers from 45 nations (sadly, the United States is just not one among them…but) and has a simplified e-visa program for different vacationers.

Turkmenistan’s visa regime continues to be as inflexible as ever and often require sponsorship and a Letter of Invitation from a licensed tour to get a vacationer visa.

If you’re setting off from your own home nation we advise you to rearrange all your visas forward of time, if potential.

For all of the nitty gritty particulars of mentioned complications, learn: Sex and the Central Asian Visa.

Central Asia Accommodation

Hotels and visitor homes in Central Asia run the gamut from nice to appalling. In Kyrgyzstan, we used the Community-Based Tourism (CBT) program to e-book household homestays all through the nation. Many of those homestays at the moment are additionally accessible for direct reserving on Booking.com and there’s a variety now of lodging within the cities and cities for all budgets and kinds.

Uzbekistan additionally options visitor homes for all budgets, significantly within the main Silk Road cities. It’s price noting that Tashkent accommodations can get costly.

In the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan, the one place with correct accommodations is Khorog. You’ll probably have to stick with households within the different Pamir Mountain areas (one among life’s best experiences). Accommodation in Kazakhstan, particularly Almaty, might be shockingly costly, and it’s possible you’ll end up sleeping in a brothel if the whole lot else is booked.

For the most effective and worst of logistics throughout Central Asia, learn: The Golden Camel Awards: Logistics

Central Asia Transportation

Public transportation in Central Asia is surprisingly good, accessible and cheap – buses, mashrutkas (minivans), trains and shared taxis run all through the area, except alongside the Pamir Highway/GBAO. In common, shared taxis are a bit dearer than buses or mashrutkas, however they’re usually the quickest strategy to get you to your vacation spot.

Hitchhiking can also be frequent in some areas, and could also be required alongside the Pamir Highway for these on a decent funds.

Central Asia Guide, Planning and Itinerary
Planning our route alongside the Pamir Highway from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan.

Central Asian Food

Most do not set off to journey Central Asia for the meals. However, the choice, selection and high quality of traveler meals choices within the area has elevated over the previous few years.

For extra particulars on what to anticipate from meals throughout Central Asia, learn our Central Asia Food and Markets Guide and our deeper dive on Central Asian Food: The Good, the Bad, and the Inedible.

Osh-Style Plov Made with Red Rice - Kyrgyzstan
Plov, a standard culinary discover in Central Asia.

Vegetarianism is just not extensively understood so it is helpful to have a vegetarian helpful phrases translation card with you to keep away from misunderstandings.

Traveling as a Woman in Central Asia

What is it like touring as a girl by Central Asia? The Central Asian nations are Muslim, however of a extra average, open and secular selection than you may discover in components of the Middle East. This, mixed with Soviet and Russian affect, could make Central Asia really feel just like the land of paradox. This paradox can positively impression a girl’s journey expertise in Central Asia.

Central Asia Guide, Traveling as a Woman
Audrey will get a serving to hand together with her scarf at Tolkuchka Bazaar. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

How? You will discover village ladies in colourful headscarves, however you may additionally discover metropolis ladies carrying mini-skirts so mini that you just may be questioning if somebody ran out of cloth. Audrey all the time stored her legs and shoulders coated and wore a head scarf in a number of areas of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, partly to slot in and partly to assist with the fierce warmth and sunshine. Local ladies completely beloved this and Audrey and her headband turned an attraction and some extent of tea, dialog and connection. In locations like Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, headscarves are extra an exception than a rule. We met a number of solo feminine vacationers in Central Asia and their experiences echoed comparable themes.

Central Asia Guidebooks and Reading

  • Central Asia Lonely Planet Guide: Although the part on safety and harassment on this guidebook freaked us out a bit earlier than our journey, we discovered the town maps, historic background, and common details about logistics helpful.
  • The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia: Great historic context on the geo-political Great Game performed by the Russian and British Empires to manage routes and entry to commerce and items in India and the East.
  • Central Asia Phrasebook: If you do not have some Russian language expertise beneath your belt, it may be helpful to have a phrasebook like this to navigate public transport, lodging, meals and extra.

Any questions on touring in Central Asia? Leave a remark under and we’ll do our greatest to assist.


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