From west to east, here’s a country-by-country beginner’s guide to some of our favorite travel spots and experiences in the region.
From a red tape and visa perspective, Turkmenistan is the trickiest of all Central Asian countries to navigate.
Before we'd set off, Audrey had worked with these countries (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan) remotely from a desk in Prague for over four years.
Silk Road cities, staggering yet underrated mountain ranges, Soviet detritus, and one of the world's greatest road trips. Although a visit to Southeast Asia kicked off our around-the-world journey back in 2006, the former Soviet Union – the Caucasus and Central Asia (known as the ‘Stans) — was the real impetus for our trip.
Check out the mostly unexcavated site of Gonur Depe where you're literally sifting through 4,000 years of history. Then, stop by the cities of Merv and Konye-Urgench for a taste of Turkmenistan's station on the Silk Road.
Standing at the edge of a collapsed, blazing natural gas crater in the Karakum desert is one part hellishly hot, another part downright cool, particularly when you appreciate it from a tent, full moon overhead.
Additionally, it’s hard to find a friendlier and more colorful fresh market than the one on the outskirts of town.
And if you time it right (August time frame), you'll catch the drivers of the Mongol Rally and their beat up cars — and refashioned ice-cream trucks.
If you have some flexibility in your schedule and you find yourself in Azerbaijan looking for a way out, we highly recommend taking the overnight ferry across the Caspian Sea from Baku, Azerbaijan to Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan.Our favorite is Bukhara, perhaps because it feels like living history.People still live in many of its old buildings, and merchants still bargain in the same market areas, much as they might have a thousand years ago.Filled with incredible mountain landscapes, friendly people and quirky experiences of the Soviet hangover variety, Central Asia is hard to beat when it comes to raw, discover-the-world potential.To this day, it remains one of our favorite and most fulfilling travel experiences.