Central Asia is a budding travel destination that has been attracting growing interest and more tourists over the past couple of years. The region has served as the crossroads between Europe and Asia, with a nomadic heritage that has brought multiple cultures together along the Silk Road. Its Muslim countries are often referred to as the “Stans” and most of Central Asia has spent a little more than a century as part of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union.
This exotic area of the world is especially exhilarating for travel photographers, thanks to its historical offerings, remote sense of adventure, and jaw-dropping landscapes. Central Asia’s breathtaking scenery will take you through golden deserts, towering snow-capped mountains, beautiful lakes, and vast steppes.
Here are some attractions you might want to add to your itinerary in Central Asia…
1. Jyrgalan Valley, Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is making a name for itself around the world. As more and more travelers discover the country, many have pinpointed Jyrgalan Valley as the next hotspot for adventure tourism. The stunning, rustic village is only an hour away from Karakol (besides Lake Issyk-Kul) which you’ll also want to visit. Jyrgalan Valley is a great place for outdoor enthusiasts who wish to trek on foot or horseback around the neighboring mountains and alpine lakes.
2. Darvaza Crater, Turkmenistan
While the visa application process for Turkmenistan can be challenging, getting into the country is deeply rewarding. You will not want to miss the Darvaza gas crater. Camping overnight nearby as you stare into the glowing phenomenon could be the highlight of your trip. You’ll want to wait for it to get dark if you want to enjoy the crater at its most glorious. You can use the capital city of Ashgabat as a transit hub. Also, consider checking out Yangykala Canyon while you’re in Turkmenistan.
3. Pamir Highway, Tajikistan
The ultimate road trip in Central Asia is definitely the Pamir Highway (M41), and no trip to Tajikistan would be complete without it. 4×4 fans and adventure cyclists have been trickling into the country to experience the route’s gorgeous scenery, punctuated by austere mountains which tempt anyone to take countless travel photos. The route can be quite rough, inspiring, invigorating, and memorable. The Pamir Highway is finding itself on the bucket list of more adventurous souls who love going off the beaten path while traveling around the world.
4. Bukhara, Uzbekistan
The ancient city of Bukhara boasts around 140 or so architectural monuments, and its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is no surprise, since the historic location was one of the most important trading hubs along the Silk Road, allowing it to amass countless visual wonders and cultural treasures over thousands of years. People journey to Bukhara for a unique travel experience of wandering through its picturesque streets and exploring its many palaces, temples, and markets.
5. Almaty, Kazakhstan
While Almaty is not Kazakhstan’s capital, it is its largest city and cultural center. It’s a surprisingly modern metropolis that draws an unconventional breed of travelers. Central Asia’s best-kept secret won’t be a secret for much longer. It’s enjoyed relative growth and prosperity, allowing glitzy hotels, coffee shops, restaurants, and nightclubs to flourish. Meanwhile, a short drive out of the city immediately takes you to the area’s natural splendors. Almaty has something for everyone, from cosmopolitan luxuries to rugged pursuits.
Central Asia is slated to become the next big thing in international travel. Tourism opportunities and travel-friendly infrastructure are being developed around the region, due to the relative peace that these “Stans” enjoy. The region is blessed with beautiful vistas that would thrill restless wanderers who crave remote panoramas and authentic cultural experiences. It is now easier to enjoy what these countries have to offer, thanks to greater access and the locals’ warm hospitality.
Most people who visit Central Asia allocate a week or two for the trip, but many fall in love with the scenery and end up staying for months at a time. If you want to visit Central Asia, do your research to fully prepare yourself. Central Asia will be seared forever into your memory as one of the best, most unforgettable travel destinations in the world.