Introducing Eastern Turkmenistan
Squeezed between the inhospitable Karakum desert and the rugged Afghan frontier, the fertile plains of eastern Turkmenistan have long been an island of prosperity in Central Asia. The rise of civilisations began in the Bronze Age, reaching their climax with the wondrous city of Merv. The invading Mongols put paid to centuries of accumulated wealth but even today the region continues to outpace the rest of Turkmenistan, thanks mainly to a thriving cotton business. For visitors keen on history, eastern Turkmenistan offers some of the best sights in the country, including Merv, Gonur and the cave city at Ekedeshik. Nature-lovers may also want to throw Kugitang Nature Reserve into the itinerary, although getting there does take time and effort. The region is at its best in the autumn when harvest festivals add an element of colourful ambience to otherwise dreary Soviet-built cities.