Lying on the banks of the mighty Amu-Darya, between the Karakum desert and the fertile plains of Uzbekistan, Turkmenabat sits at a crossroads of cultures. On its streets you’ll hear as much Uzbek as Turkmen and will likely be enjoying Uzbek produce, driven across the border a few kilometres to the north. Having only recently received a name change, most residents still refer to the town as Charjou, a title bequeathed during Russian occupation. Local history is in fact much older – the Silk Road city of Amul prospered here until its destruction by the Mongols in 1221.
Today Turkmenabat is the second-largest city in the country, but retains an anachronistic air with most of its commerce based on cross-border trade. There are few attractions to hold you down, but the city does have a reasonable collection of hotels and restaurants, making a logical stopover on the long journeys to Kugitang Nature Reserve, Mary or Dashogus.