Bushcamping, Turkmenistan

Overland trips are a great way to see remote parts of the world. They bring you to areas that independent travellers can’t reach easily, they help you connect with fellow travellers and they are cheap. This is why this summer, I went along the Silk Road with Oasis Overland. We drove in our yellow truck from Ashgabat in Turkmenistan all the way to Xian in China, crossing desert and mountain passes, meeting locals, seeing incredible scenery and remains of ancient civilizations. Read More

Grapes, Turpan, China

Have you ever heard of Turpan? No? I hadn’t either until I started researching the Silk Road. It is most likely the city’s remoteness that keeps it from being a tourist destination. Located in the province of Xinjiang in Western China, travellers need to spend many hours on a train to get here. Yet, I highly recommend a visit. In touristy China, you won’t find many places that you can enjoy to yourself. Plus, there are enough things to do in this city that make a trip out here worthwhile.

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Old Town of Kashgar, China

When thinking of China, Kashgar is not the first city that comes to anyone’s mind. Located in the west, close to the border with Kyrgyzstan, it was once an important stop on the Silk Road. Merchants who made it across the Torugart Pass would stock up on supplies before crossing the Taklamakan Desert.

These days, barely any travellers come to Kashgar. It is not on any itinerary for those visiting Eastern China, the political situation is difficult with an ethnic minority living in China’s west and Kashgar is so remote, you would have to fly or spend a long time on a train.

Those who make it, however, are rewarded with a unique cultural experience and a lack of other tourists. Sometimes, it is just nice to have a tourist attraction all to yourself. Read More

Lake Song-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Despite the breeze, sweat glistened on the men’s backs. Hooves thundered on the ground as their horses jumped while the men held each other in a strong grip, trying to wrestle their opponent to the ground. As I watched, I couldn’t help but think about how accurately these horse games represented Kyrgyzstan. Wrestling horsemen, shouting spectators and all around us a stunning mountain scenery.

Kyrgyzstan is a country not to be missed. If you even remotely enjoy nature and a unique culture, you will want to spend some time exploring the country’s highlights.

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Bishkek

Bishkek is not a typical tourist city. Most people will spend some time here to arrange travel onwards through Kyrgyzstan, but it is not a place they seek out for its tourist attractions. Yet, the city has more to offer than one would think at first glance. We certainly had a lot of fun during the days we spent here.

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Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent

“So what is there to do in Tashkent?” my friend asked. I looked up from my guidebook and shrugged. “Not much at first glance. But enough to keep us occupied for a day.”

Sooner or later, every traveller along the Uzbek Silk Road will end up in Tashkent. It is a necessary stop on the way to Kazakhstan, it has a major airport and it is unavoidable if you want to see the Fergana Valley. And while it is true that there isn’t much to do in Tashkent, we quickly found out that there is enough to keep you occupied for a day or two. Read More

Shah-i-Zinda

It is always hard to choose a single favourite place when travelling through a country, but when it comes to Uzbekistan, Samarkand is one of the candidates. Stunning architecture, ancient history, what’s not to love about the most famous Silk Road city?

To give you a taste of what to expect, let me show you some of the city’s highlights:

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Samarkand Registan by night

“Samarkand is my favourite city in the world,” the man told me as he passed me a bowl of dried cheese balls. We were sitting next to the hotel pool where he had come to celebrate his friend’s birthday. “It is a very beautiful city and we have good weather for most of the year.”

I nodded in agreement. Samarkand is indeed a stunning city. No other Silk Road city evokes as many images and legends as Samarkand, none has been written about as much.

But Uzbekistan is not only about Samarkand. Dive deeper and you will find out that there are many more things to discover in this country.

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Ashgabat fountain

You have made it into Turkmenistan. Congratulations! But what now?

Your first stop in this Silk Road country is most likely Ashgabat. While exploring this city, make sure not to miss the following things:

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View of Ashgabat

Out of all the countries I have been to, Turkmenistan is the weirdest one.

It is one of the least visited countries in the world and only receives a couple thousands of tourists each year. If you are going here, it means that you have managed to get one of the few tourist visas that the government gives out. Either that, or you are an expat who has come to work in Ashgabat. But either way, you now have the chance to explore one of the least visited countries in the world, one that pretends to be open to tourism but shuts itself off from the rest of the world as much as possible.

“Dictators do not want tourists,” our guide said. Turkmenistan ranks third last in Reporters Without Borders ‘World Press Freedom index’, being just a bit better than Eritrea and North Korea. Since little is known about this country, I was curious to explore it. For me, this was the start of a thirteen-month trip around the world and I couldn’t have chosen a more interesting first stop.

But see the highlights for yourself:

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