Some 48km northwest of Turkestan stand the best preserved and most atmospheric ruins of all the many ruined Silk Road cities in the Syr-Darya valley. Its circuit of baked-earth walls, plus remains of some bastions, residential buildings and gates, still stand despite conquerors and the elements. You're likely to have the ruins all to yourself. A taxi from Turkestan should cost around 8000T round trip: ask for Krepost (Fortress) Sauran to distinguish it from Sauran village.

Sauran was capital of the Mongol White Horde in the 14th century and 16th-century writers described it as a ‘pleasant’ and ‘cheerful’ city with two high minarets and a sophisticated water-supply system.

Sauran is visible as a long, low mound about 2.5km southwest from the Turkestan–Kyzylorda highway, some 50km out of Turkestan and about 13km past the village of Sauran. Closer up, the ruins loom like something out of The Lord of the Rings (but remember: this is Sauran, not Sauron).