Since we’re participating in the Mongol Rally, we have read an overload of information about Central Asia. We didn’t know a lot about these countries and they weren’t really on our travel bucket list yet. But now we absolutely can’t wait to explore these countries and their culture.
Central Asia, also known as the “stans”, named after the countries that make up this region: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. But also Mongolia, Afghanistan and a part of China are within the Central Asian region. These are maybe among the less traveled, but perhaps most intriguing areas of Asia.
Here are 5 reasons to travel to Central Asia:
1. Off The Beaten Path
Central Asian countries are some of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. As a region, Central Asia is about a third of the average density of the habitable planet. The huge stretches of steppe and open plains, interspersed with mountain ranges and rivers, are considered one of the world’s last great frontiers. Just a handful of tourists travel to this region to experience the truly wide open spaces every year to enjoy the peace and silence.
2. Incredible Places To Visit
Central Asia offers so much incredible jaw-dropping, mysterious places you can visit. Like the Door to Hell, a natural gas field in Turkmenistan that has collapsed by a drilling failure in 1971. Because of this, the gas field changed in a 230-feet wide crater that was releasing large quantities of methane gas. Soviet scientists decides to solve the problem by burning the poisonous gasses, hoping that it would be burnt off in just a couple of weeks. But after 40 years, this crater is still on fire. Now it’s one of the coolest spots to camp in the Turkmenistan desert!
Or maybe you prefer the Pamir mountains, also known as ‘The Roof of The World. These snow-capped mountains are formed by the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun and Hindu Kush ranges. It also has the second highest highway in the world (4,655 meters). This highway was one of the most important roads of the Silk Road and is now attracted by cyclists, hikers and other adventurists that want to discover one of the most inaccessible places in the world.
Of course, there are more highlights to discover like the ship cemetery in the Aral Sea, Lake Karakol, the Mongolian steppe and much more!
This part of the world is known for his hospitality. Most people are very interested in foreigners, as they don’t see too many of them. Everyone is very warm and generous. Locals will welcome you into their home or yurt to join them for dinner. But be prepared, the drinks of choice in Central Asia include the vodka introduced to the region by the Soviets as well as the ancient choice of kumis, or fermented mare’s milk. You can also use Community Based Tourism to get in contact with local communities and homestays. This gives you the opportunity to spend time with local families. It is recommended to know a couple of words in Russian to communicate more easily and to gain more respect.
4. Traveling The Silk Road
The silk road is one of the most important routes that connect the Western world with the East. Traveling along the old Silk Road can be a quite adventurous and rewarding experience. It’s possible to go horse-trekking, doing helicopter rides over the Pamirs, go trekking in the snow-capped mountains, taking the infamous ferry across the Caspian Sea and much more. Because of the famous Silk Road trading route, you will also find one of the most interesting markets in the world. These markets offer almost everything from spices, dried fruits and fresh meat to clothing, housewares and even animals. Some of the best markets are in Almaty (Kazakhstan), Ishkashim (border of Afghanistan/Tajikistan), Osh (Kyrgyzstan) and the bazaar in Bukhara (Uzbekistan).
5. The Ancient Sites
The remnants of pre-Islamic Central Asia are really fascinating and there are a few interesting sites to explore along the Silk Road. Because of the semi-nomadic life of the people who have lived there, it isn’t hard to find the remains of ruins, old mosques and minarets. Uzbekistan is one of the most popular countries in this part of Asia because of the impressive monuments.
So this is why we are going to travel along the Silk Road. Are you convinced yet? Don’t hesitate and go explore this unbeaten path now before it’s too late and full of tourists!