Did you know that there is actually a country so strict that it bans opera, gold teeth, and Spandex?
That’s right! It’s a very secretive place that not many people know about — in fact, it’s so secretive that it’s also known as one of the most challenging places for journalists to visit.
It’s a country hidden in the desert between Russia, China, India, and Iran, and it’s number seven on the list of world’s least visited countries. Fewer than 7,000 travelers visit this country each year!
When it comes to peculiar sites, Turkmenistan Is off the charts. From a burning gas crater (Darvaza) known as the Gates of Hell, to the Abandoned Capital City of Ashgabat (which holds the Guinness World Record for being the largest marble city in the world), Turkmenistan is full of surprises.
The country is sparkling and clean, filled with glitzy marble buildings, wide empty boulevards, perfectly manicured gardens, and psychedelic buildings, including the Wedding Palace and the Palace of Knowledge.
Its capital city — Ashgabat — is thought to be abandoned and is often called “the City of the Dead” because it’s absolutely impossible to see people outside. (Lonely Planet describes it as Las Vegas meets Pyongyang, North Korea!)
And speaking of world records, Turkmenistan also holds the record for the largest enclosed Ferris wheel, largest fountain, and largest mural of a star. But like many attractions in Turkmenistan, no one actually uses these record-holding sites, so it's unclear whether they actually work or if the government just restricts their use.
The president of Turkmenistan (who named himself Turkmenbashi, “Leader’ of the Turkmen”) is known for his strange YouTube videos and even stranger laws. He’s banned men from having long hair or beards, outlawed opera, banished dogs from the city, and even renamed the days and months of the year after his family members. You can even get fined for owning a vehicle that isn’t painted white!
While these laws are certainly strange, that doesn’t detract from Turkmenistan’s interesting history as a historic stop along the Silk Road — or from the hospitality and warmth of the people that live there.
There is so much more that we can’t tell you in a short blog post… so when you are in Turkmenistan, make sure to take it all in, and remember to ask for the story behind everything.
Grab your backpack — there’s more to explore!
Get to know a few other countries along the Silk Road, like fascinating Kazakhstan and beautiful Uzbekistan. We guarantee that learning about these countries will make you want to visit them — so, when you’re ready to take a life-changing journey along the Silk Road, book a trip with Acanela Expeditions!