If you’re attracted to desolation, you’ll love the Republic of Karakalpakstan (Qaraqalpaqstan), a theoretically autonomous republic inside Uzbekistan. The destruction of the Aral Sea has rendered Karakalpakstan one of Uzbekistan’s most depressed regions. The capital, Nukus, feels half deserted, and a drive into outlying areas reveals a region of dying towns and blighted landscapes. What once thrived as a rich delta, a branch of the Silk Road and a great Islamic centre of learning, now feels like the end of the world.
So why come here? Art lovers are drawn to the famous Savitsky Museum in Nukus for its great collection of Soviet avant-garde art. Adventurers come for the remote 4WD trip to bathe in the dying Aral Sea. Overlanders come looking for remote border crossings to Turkmenistan and western Kazakhstan. And beyond that, it's a quirky region full of friendly people. Plus it's kind of another 'stan to add to your list!