With all the excitement of Japan and China to the east and India in the south, it’s little surprise the bulk of central Asian nations wrongfully go overlooked. Today, we’re going to endeavour to provide you with seven spots in the region you simply have to add to your bucket list.
1. Shymkent Zoo – Kazakhstan
While the Kazakhs have become famed somewhat in recent years for the backwards-exploits of the fictional character Borat, in reality this central Asian country is actually incredibly advanced.
Shymkent is a city located in the south of the nation (the most densely populated region) and has a zoo situated slap-bang in the middle of it.
There’s a plethora of different animals on show, owing to the centrality of the nation within Asia. From China to Russia, varying species of critters populate cages, with visitors getting the chance to see some animals they wouldn’t anywhere else.
2. Great Minaret of the Kalon – Uzbekistan
While it possesses a name which makes it sound like a mystical item from a fantasy novel, the Great Minaret of the Kalon is in reality a beautiful example of 12th century Bukharan architecture.
Having stood since 1127, the religious monument was original constructed to encourage Muslims in the local area to gather and pray five times a day.
Such was its magnificence, that the Hun leader Gengis Khan ordered the tower to be untouched while his hordes razed the rest of Bukhara to the ground.
3. Sary Chelek Reserve – Kyrgyzstan
With no less than seven alpine lakes, this region of the Kyrgyzstan is one of the most naturally beautiful spots you’re ever likely to visit – not just in central Asia, but as a whole. You’ve probably never thought of travelling there, which is why it features as one of the surprising countries to try out.
The area is practically untouched when it comes to human contact, which not only means you’ll experience nature in its purest sense, but also guarantees you won’t be pestered by hordes of tourists. You’ll feel like the first Westerner to ever set foot in some parts of Kyrgyzstan – and it a few cases you’ll be right.
4. The Door to Hell – Turkmenistan
This eerie-sounding spot isn’t quite as satanic as you might imagine – but nevertheless is definitely worth adding to your bucket list.
When Soviets began mining for oil in Darvaza back in the 1970s, they accidentally stumbled across something unexpected. No, not a gateway to hell itself, but a deposit of potentially explosive and poisonous gas.
Rather than abandoning the site straight away they instead elected to set it ablaze, with it theorised the gas would burn out in a matter of days.
Over 40 years later and the luminous red crater is still burning strong – in the process giving off a glowing hellish appearance.
5. Khorugh Botanical Garden – Tajikistan
The Khorugh Botanical Garden is a must-see for anyone in touch with nature, with this Tajikistani attraction providing visitors with lush greenery which’ll captivate and inspire them.
While in recent years some of the gardens have been allowed to overgrow and take on a less structured appearance, the juxtaposition between preserved and untouched areas only adds to the beauty.
6. Sharyn Canyon – Kazakhstan
Situated right on the Chinese border, the Sharyn National Park is in itself worth checking out – but pales somewhat in comparison to the vast canyon it houses there.
The, somewhat unimaginatively named, Sharyn Canyon is roughly 90 kilometres in length and can be traversed by explorers looking to take in the idyllic landscape.
The region is split into different sections. One part of the canyon is known as Valley of Castles for its unusual rock formations, and its length is 3 kilometres with a depth of 100 metres.
7. Mo’ynoq – Uzbekistan
While the city of Mo’ynoq might not be densely populated with lots of fun activities to get involved with, it is nevertheless worth checking out at one point in your life.
The Aral Sea has been drastically receding in recent years, which has resulted in a vast baron landscape of sand where the water once was.
For a post-apocalyptic glimpse into the potential future, this sandy ocean will do the trick –with plenty of old and rusty boats which have been abandoned.
Central Asia doesn’t always get its props, but if you check out any of these seven fantastic locations you certainly won’t be disappointed.