Gates to Hell, aka Darvaza Gas Crater. One of the bizarre man made creations thanks to the good old Russians. 40 years on and still burning strong. Derweze, Turkmenistan


By far the most mysterious and unexplored of Central Asia’s 'stans, Turkmenistan became famous for the truly bizarre dictatorship of Saparmyrat Niyazov, who ruled as ‘Turkmenbashi’ (‘leader of the Turkmen’) until his death in 2006. Niyazov covered this little-known desert republic with grandiose monuments and golden statues of himself. Although many of these statues have since been dismantled, plenty of visitors still think of Turkmenistan as a sort of totalitarian theme park. But the least-visited of Central Asia’s countries is far more than this – it's an ancient land of great spirituality, tradition and natural beauty.


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Kyrgyz Kurosh wrestlers fight for the win at the Rukh Ordo complex in Cholpon-Ata during the 2014 World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan © Stephen Lioy / Lonely Planet


Goat-carcass polo and sheep-bone marbles: Central Asia's traditional sports

Feb 22, 2017 • 5 min read

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