Turkmenistan is the second largest state in Central Asia, after Kazakhstan, and is the southernmost of the region’s five republics.
After Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan is the least densely populated of the Central Asian states. Much of its waterless expanse is inhospitable to plant and animal life. Except for oases in narrow strips dotted along the foothills of the Kopet-Dag Range and along the Amu Darya, Morghāb, and Tejen rivers, deserts characterize its sunbaked sandy terrain. From 1925 to 1991 Turkmenistan was the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic, a constituent (union) republic of the Soviet Union; it declared independence on October 27, 1991. The capital is Ashgabat (Ashkhabad), which lies near the southern border with Iran.
Turkmenistan is located in the southwest of the Central Asia region. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north and east, Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south, and the Caspian Sea to the west. Though Turkmenistan is the second largest country in Central Asia in terms of land area, most of the land consists of oases scattered amid otherwise uninhabitable desert.
Turkmenistan’s position deep inside Asia and the character of its relief are responsible for a strongly continental climate, which exhibits great fluctuations in temperatures during the day and the year. The average annual temperature is 57–61 °F (14–16 °C), but this figure masks an extremely wide range. The temperature seldom falls below 95 °F (35 °C) during summer days, and the absolute maximum high temperature in the southeast Karakum reaches 122 °F (50 °C) in the shade. By contrast, in winter the temperature in Serhetabat, in the extreme south on the border with Afghanistan, drops to −27 °F (−33 °C). Precipitation occurs mainly in the spring and ranges from about 3 inches (80 millimetres) per year in the northwest desert to as much as 12 inches in the mountains.
The Turkmens speak a language belonging to the southwestern, or Oğuz, branch of the Turkic linguistic group. As such, Turkmen is more closely related to Turkish than it is to either Uzbek or Kazakh. Since 1993 it has been written in the Latin script. Russian is the primary language of nearly one-eighth of the population and is widely spoken as a second language, but its use has declined significantly since independence.
The vast majority of people in Turkmenistan are Muslim, mostly Sunni of the Ḥanafī school. Islam among the Turkmens has a notable tradition of being tempered and infused with folk practices and traditions. The government promotes secularism and keeps tight control over senior Muslim clergy in the country, and more fundamentalist interpretations of Islam are suppressed. The second largest religion is Russian Orthodox.
To enter Turkmenistan all leisure travelers are required to have a transit or tourist visa. The tourist visas are delivered on the basis of an approved visa support letter, also referred to as a Letter of Invitation (LOI).
How to get to Turkmenistan
The country is easily accessible not only by air, but by land as well. The international airport of Ashgabat is one of Turkmenistan’s major gateways. The National Airline of Turkmenistan (Turkmenistan Airlines, abbreviation T5) operates regular flights to Frankfurt, Moscow, Kiev, Almaty, London, Birmingham, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, Delhi, Peking, Urumqi, Amritsar and Bangkok. Since independence the national airline of Turkmenistan has completely replenished its fleet with Boeing aircrafts. Several foreign air-carriers operate flights to Ashgabat: Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, Fly Dubai, Belavia and S7/Siberia Airlines. Turkish Airlines has daily flights between Istanbul and Ashgabat, and is most frequently used by travelers coming from Europe. Lufthansa has four flights from Frankfurt, with a stop-over in Baku (Azerbaijan).
Tourists coming from Nukus, Khiva, Bukhara or northern Iran can reach Turkmenistan over land: from Khiva to Dashoguz (Shavat crossing), from Nukus to Kunya Urgench (Khojeyli crossing), from Bukhara to Turkmenabad (Farab crossing), and from Mashhad to Ashgabat (Gaudan/Bajgiran crossing).
When to Go
Turkmenistan’s climate is extremely continental with hot, dry summers. Midsummer temperature can reach 45 °C. However, such temperatures are quite bearable because of the very low humidity. Winter is mild with average temperatures below freezing for only a few days in January and February. However in the north of the country winter is severe. January temperatures in Dashoguz average - 23 degrees Celsius. Most rainfall occurs in March and April. Spring (April-June) and autumn (August-October) are the best seasons to visit Turkmenistan.
Before you go
In preparation for your trip through Turkmenistan, please bear in mind the following:
Places to visit
Natur und Trekking:
World Heritage | UNESCO Sites: