Introduction

The Karakum desert is a sun-scorched expanse of dunes and sparse vegetation in the centre of Turkmenistan. It’s Central Asia’s hottest desert but manages to support a handful of settlements, including the oasis town of Jerbent, 160km north of Ashgabat. A ramshackle collection of homes, battered trucks, yurts and the occasional camel, Jerbent is being slowly consumed by the desert as sands continue to blow off the overgrazed dunes. While it doesn’t look like much, the village does offer a glimpse of rural Turkmen life, and you can watch traditional cooking methods and sit down for tea inside a yurt.

The Karakum desert draws visitors for the Darvaza Gas Craters, one of Turkmenistan’s most unusual sights.