Central Asia is home to five countries all previously on the Silk Road. The Silk Road was an ancient trading route the focal point of trade between the China, India and Arabia. The merchant cities that formed part of the route acquired great wealth at the time.
Today, in some areas, the ruins of ancient abandoned cities, fortresses and splendid Mosques lie abandoned in the desert sands, bearing mute witness to bygone wealth. In large parts of this area the semi-nomadic people live in tents and still observe the lifestyles of the ancients.
Home to some of the world’s highest mountain peaks and the longest mountain glacier in the world, this part of the world is largely unspoiled. With large tranquil lakes and wild horses on the wind-swept steppes, this is a great destination for those who seek nature in splendid isolation.
Countries in Central Asia
Kazakhstan is home to more than one hundred ethnic groups and seventeen religions. Once a Soviet nuclear testing site, it now takes a determined stance for nuclear disarmament.
Since gaining independence this central Asian country has seized its opportunities and today modern skyscrapers touch the skies along with the spires of old churches and the domes of Mosques and Synagogues.
The largest landlocked country in the world, Kazakhstan has much to offer nature lovers, from wild horses on the wind swept steppes, to ibex, and brown bears in the woodlands. Ski or snowboard in the pretty mountains.
Trout fish in the Lake District where snowy mountain peaks surround three large and tranquil lakes. Hike through the sandstone cliffs of the Charyn Canyon or skate at the largest speed ice skating rink in the world.
Ride a horse down the dusty roads of Kyrgyzstan through emerald green valleys where spectacular and unusual red cliffs rise barrenly from the verdant forests below.
In this country the startling green of the valleys and fields, and the mist hung snow capped mountains contrast with its red and yellow deserts.
The capital city is clean and modern and stands in stark contrast to the countryside where the semi-nomadic people live the life that they have lived for centuries, traveling on horses and living in round tent-like homes made from sheepskin.
The Silk Road that connected the East to the West once ran right through the country, and there are ruins, such as a ninth century tower to bear this out. Mountainous and landlocked the country is in central Asia. Ski, hike or kayak in this inexpensive back-packers paradise.
In Central Asia and once upon a time on the Silk Road to the East, Tajikistan is home to masses of ruins that date back two and a half thousand years. Ancient shrines, fortresses and rock paintings mark once popular stops.
Over ninety percent of the country is mountainous and boasts great natural beauty and dramatic landscapes. Although totally landlocked the country has countless glacial mountain lakes.
There is little infrastructure but Tajikistan offers those willing to rough it opportunities to hike, rock climb, mountain bike and canoe in unspoiled and isolated landscapes.
The Pamir Highway is the highest international highway in the world and is a great opportunity for motorcyclists or four by four travelers to view some of the best mountain scenery on offer.
For mountain climbers the Pamir Mountains have several of the world’s highest peaks. The mountains also boast the world’s longest mountain glacier and are home to some of the rarest animals on earth.
Turkmenistan, in Central Asia, is little more than a police state. Tourists are required to hire a guide when they venture outside of the capital city, Ashgabat. Curfews are in place and it is generally not safe for women to walk alone at night.
This is nevertheless a fascinating country. Once part of the ancient Silk Road, the ruins of the ancient cities of Merv and Urgench have origins that go back two and a half thousand years. Merv is one of the oldest places in Central Asia, and was once one of the largest cities in the ancient world. Both cities contain the splendid remains of Mosques, temples, fortresses, mausoleums and monasteries.
The Karakum Desert covers seventy percent of the interior of the country, but it too has its charms. The Darvaza gas crater, known as the Door to Hell is an inferno filled pit in the middle of the desert. At the the Yangikala Canyons, nature has painted the cliffs in a multitude of colors from white to red, yellow and purple, making it an inviting hiking venue.
Uzbekistan, in Central Asia, is full of ancient ruins and relics left over from the days when it was an important part of the Silk Road that ran between China and the Mediterranean.
Visit the sixth century walled city of Khiva. It was once a centre of commerce, selling anything from camels to concubines. Today it is a living museum boasting magnificent mosques, religious schools and tombs that have all been restored to their former splendor, the walls and ceilings elaborately decorated with colorful mosaics.
Bukhara, was a well-known stop on the Silk Road, and boasts a fifth century fort and citadel with museums filled with artworks, carpets and carvings, and in Samarkand find the remains of a fort built in the seventh century BC. The city also houses ornate mosques and religious schools dating back as far as the fifteenth century.