- Ashgabat-Konye-Urgench Rd central Turkmenistan
Lonely Planet review for Karakum Desert
In the heart of Central Asia's hottest desert, Turkmen villages such as Jerbent get by on rural agriculture, livestock breeding and pluck. Here you can see you can see nomadic people, experience their customs, see handicrafts, watch carpet making and taste their food while staying in an ak oi (Turkmen yurt) or chaikhana. It's the real, traditional Turkmen experience.
At the heart of the desert lie the Darvaza Gas Craters, one of Turkmenistan's most unusual sights. Remnants of the Soviet-era, one of the craters has been set alight and blazes with an incredible strength that's visible from miles away. There are acres of free camping sites nearby and the fire crater is best seen at night, when it also becomes an attraction for huge and largely harmless spiders that run into the fire for reasons best known to themselves. This is a serious off-road ride in the middle of the night and drivers frequently get lost or get stuck in the dunes. The best way to do the trip is to travel with an experienced driver from Ashgabat.