“Where?!” I hear you ask – Ashgabat! The capital city of Turkmenistan, there are heaps of things to do in Ashgabat, making it a really unusual and fun experience. Previously part of the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan only became an independent country in the 1990s. Why not try somewhere that little bit different and enjoy a break away from the mass droves of tourists and sightseers that are so commonly found in many cities all around the globe.
Well connected by road, rail, and air, it is probably only a matter of time before more and more people start to discover the charms and treasures of this interesting city.
Some top things to do in Ashgabat include:
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
The food in Turkmenistan is very similar to the rest of Central Asia and you will likely notice a very strong Russian influence in the local cuisine. Whilst you will find a decent selection of eateries selling international favourites, try out some of the domestic dishes to really enhance your time in the city. The main food is Ploy, which many people eat almost every day. It is a mixture of turnip and mutton that has been shallow fried in a deep pan; it is served with rice. Hearty and filling, Manty are meat-filled dumplings that go down well at any time of the day. If BBQ is more your thing, try Shashlyk – grilled mutton and onion skewers. Soups are also popular. When it comes to drinking there is certainly no shortage of green tea! Kefir is a popular breakfast drink. Locals are known for being hospitable and friendly, so you will likely find you have a companion to chat with over your meal.
There are several great museums in the city where you can learn more about the local culture, history, and heritage. The National Museum is a top spot for those who are interested in history, and it mainly focuses on the times before Turkmenistan achieved independence. If you’re into art, don’t miss the Museum of Fine Arts. The Museum of Turkmen National Values is a great place for culture vultures, and you can learn more about the domestic industry of carpet and rug making at the Turkmen Carpet Museum.
Ashgabat boasts some truly amazing markets where you can spend hours browsing a wonderful array of products and experiencing all the hustle and bustle of the local market life. The city is home to one of the liveliest and most colourful markets in the whole of Central Asia – Tolkuchka Bazaar. Open at weekends, vendors come from far and wide to set up their stalls. It really is a great place to visit in the city. Gulistan Market is less frenetic but sells a wide assortment of items, from clothing to food, souvenirs, and household goods.
It is really easy to venture into the dry and dusty desert – one moment you’ll be in a hive of activity in the heart of a bustling city, the next moment you’ll be surrounded by arid sandy plains. Public buses loop through the desert.
Ride the city cable car for incredible views over the city and desert. You will descend up to just under 1,300 metres for amazing birds’ eye views of the area.
Other things to do in Ashgabat include chilling out in Independence Park, strolling the streets and admiring a diverse selection of architecture, getting a bit classy with a trip to the theatre, and day-tripping to other nearby places of interest.