Visit Ashgabat. Sightseeing
Travelling to Ashgabat.
It appears unexpectedly at the foot of Kopetdag mountains to the south and Karakum desert to the north. What encircle the modern white town shining on the sun during the day or all in lights at night. It contrast vividly on the green background of mountains in the spring transforming in brown and yellow colors in summer and in autumn, under burning sun of central Asia. In winter when the mountains sleep under white cover of the snow, it merges together and entwine with the white buildings of the town. The modern period of Ashgabat started from Oct 27, 1991 when Turkmenistan becomes the Independent state.
The geographical advantages of the town, played important. It is only 45 km to Iran on its road to the south. East direction comes along Kopetdag mountains, the hills Badhyz and Karabil foothills of Paropamisus, bordering Afghanistan. Finally come to Uzbekistan. North route cross the Karakum desert and come to Uzbekistan towns of Khiva, Urgench, Nukus and Ustyurt plateau. The way to west, it comes to Caspian Sea where it opens directions to Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia. In the past, the transformation of the large desert of central Asia, Karakum into the fertile hills of Kopedag mountains made of this place the natural border between the nomadic tribes of desert and agricultural settlements. It had the defense advantage from military incursions of the desert and had been the outpost of the Persia. On these grounds a town should be built in the area. Like well before Ashgabat, the first Parthian empire fortress had arisen just 12 km from modern town. What is now the World heritage site under protection of UNESCO, the vivid glory of those days.
The birth day of Ashgabat is referred to 1881, the second period of Great Game in central Asia, between British and Russian Empires. The main and most popular meaning of Ashgabat – ‘town built by love’ or ‘city of love’, though there are less know interpretations of the name – one is connecting Ashgabat to Parthian ancestors ‘town of Arsaces (Arshaks)’ or less known and the most recent referred to modern period ‘white town’.
Development of name Ashgabat: XIX century Ashabat, XX century Ashkhabad, current Ashgabat
When the Trans Caspian railroad has been built in end of XIX century (from Caspian Sea, along Kopet Dag mountains, to Turkmenabat, Bukhara and other line to Khiva…), Ashgabat become its administrative center. Train station, locomotive depot, other related infrastructure has been developing. Many workers and other railroad professionals from Armenia, Georgia, Russia started to arrive in town. The population become growing faster. There have been appeared the administrative buildings, streets, bazaars, residential quarters, banks, businesses. Russia imported the calico, sugar, kerosene, matches, metallic tableware, other goods. In the numerous caravanserais arrived a lot of dried fruits, silk cloth, wool, other articles from Iran, Afghanistan, Khiva, Bukhara. In 1900 the Russian bank of Ashgabat had banking close to 70 thousands Russian rubles.
Urbanization of Ashgabat progressed slowly and was interrupted after revolution in 1918. It restarted only closer to 1928. After that period Ashgabat become growing fast and new industries started to work.
The textiles, agriculture, glass making.
October 27, 1948 the very destructive earthquake happened in Ashgabat and in the area around. The estimated 7.3 on Richter scale. Around 110 thousand people killed that night only in town. At that period the population of Ashgabat estimated 172 thousand inhabitants. The town was completely destroyed. Only few building survived. In the beginning there have been rumors to displace the capital in another town of the Turkmenia but people decide to rebuild their town. Almost everything what you can see in Ashgabat, is dated after 1948. It was the second birth of the town
The third birth of Ashgabat arrived with the date of Turkmenistan Independence on Oct 27, 1991. The impulse of this flourishing transformation is still clear in the streets of the town and in its new expansion to Kopetdag mountains. At this moment the town can boast with its new parks and squares, palaces, monuments: Independence park, Park of 10th anniversary of the Independence, Independence square, the Wedding palace, amusement parks, Alem Ferris wheel, monument of Constitution, Serdar Yoly, Cable car way, administrative, new bazaars, new buildings for ministries, residential areas, new buildings for university and new schools, Memorial complex, new hippodromes and others. Now, the most important plans in Ashgabat – it is construction of Sport village for Asian Games 2017 what are to be held in town. With this regard there are a lot of investments in new sport infrastructure - stadiums, sport palaces, swim pools, new hotels, reconstruction of the roads and construction of new international airport.
Different info and facts”
1. Information on the population in the town may differ in different sources: (in 2012) from 900.000 to 1.031.992 inhabitants.
2. Starting from 2016, Ashgabat B-day will be celebrated on May 25. The events and festivities should be organized on government level.
3. Transport (in 2015): State public buses in town cost 30 tenne as per one drive. Taxi drive cost in center 3-4 manats, from one part of town to another part around 5-6 manats. *every car in town can be a taxi. Standing on edge of road, use hand gesture stopping car, a driver who stops is ready to offer taxi service ( in 2015, exchange rate 1 USD – 3.5 manats)
4. Climate: Average temperatures in recent years. In January: from -15 to +5 C at night and from -10 to +8 C Day time, snow at the top of mountains, snow in town is rare but possible. In February: from -8 to +5 C at night and from - 3 to +10 C Day time. In March: from +5 to +10 C at night and from 0 to +20 C Day time. In April: from +6 to +16 C at night and from +12 to +22 C Day time. In May: from +10 to +15 C at night and from +20 to +30 C Day time. In June: from +18 to +22 C at night and from +35 to +38 C Day time. In July: from +20 to +28 C at night and from +37 to +47 C Day time. In August: from +15 to +20 C at night and from +35 to +38 C Day time. In September: from +10 to +15 C at night and from +20 to +30 C Day time. In October: from +5 to +12 C at night and from +10 to +22 C Day time. In November: from -5 to +10 C at night and from +5 to +15 C Day time. In December: from -5 to +10 C at night and from +3 to +12 C Day time.
Rains: in March – long and cold rains, in April and May short but heavy rains, mainly warm and more closer to the mountains, In September rains are rare but possible, in October rains are cold and can be long, November and December cold rains restart. In winter rains can go with snow.
5. Museums: Cultural heritage center is enclosing the Ethnography, Independence period of Turkmenistan and history museums (former National museum of Turkmenistan/ open 10:00-17:00. Closed on TUE and first MON of a month). Entrance ticket to any of this section 10 USD. Guided visit 20 USD per ticket. We recommend a visit to the history museum as it has better collection in History and Archeology of Turkmenistan, as well Ethnography and Carpets parts. Nisa archeological site is 12 km from Ashgabat.
Museum of Turkmenbashy, museum of National Values, museum of Fine Arts and the museum of Turkmen carpets (carpet museum the most expensive around 12 USD entrance ticket or 24 USD guided visit, also they charge around 3-4 USD per photo…but in last weekend of May on Sat and Sun it is free for visit and take photos/ usually open MON- FRI 09:00-18:00, on SAT only till 13:00. On SUN closed)
6. Hotels: There are three luxury hotels in Ashgabat – Yyldyz htl, Nusay htl, Oguzkent htl (President hotel under reconstruction). Next, there are a couple of tourist hotels - Grand Turkmen and AkAltyn. Berzengi hotels and Ashgabat hotel. Guest houses – Paytagt, Daykhan and Syahat.
7. Sightseeing in Ashgabat at day time is interesting but for full picture we advise to drive in Ashgabat after sunset as it is all in lights, illuminated. From wedding palace area you can have good panoramic pictures of town at night. If you have car, it can be experience to drive to new Telecom tower and climb to Serdar Yoly pavilion from that height Ashgabat is even more impressive.
8. Restaurants in Ashgabat service mainly European and Russian cuisine. The prices there can range from 10 USD to 30 USD per dinner. The most known: Paytagt, Minara, Asuda Nusay, Kopetdag, etc. There are local popular café-bars offering shashlik, kebab, local draught beer. Prices can be from 10 USD to 20 USD per dinner. The most known: ZIP, Iceberg, Gunesh, others in VDNH area. The Turkmen restaurants – the biggest is Merdem. The price can range from 8 USD to 20 USD. Alcohol drinks not served here. The budget options can be available in Russian bazaar, inside there are a lot of small cafeterias offering good meals for lower price 3-7 USD per lunch.
9. Photos: Take photos in Ashgabat are mainly ok but there are some exceptions. Not allowed to take pictures of administrative, ministry, military buildings. At Russian and Tolkuchka bazaars there can be restrictions also. Take photos of people, it is polite first ask them before to do it.
10. Language: Official is Turkmen. Russian is still used for communication. *If you know Russian it would be easy to talk with people. English is growing, at least many young people know its basic. You can meet also people who speak French and German. Chinese language recently becomes more popular between young people who study in China. Farsi has also small use. Turkish language is close to Turkmen and a lot of people speak this language.
11. Money: Turkmen manats. In 2015, the rate is 3.4913 manats (DTM) = 1 USD. Some years ago Turkmen manats had been officially ‘denominated’ from 5000 old manats equal to 1 new manat. Prices are shown in new manats but some people still calculate in old manats. For example in bazaars, traders can tell automatically a price in old manats. Even when they show it on calculator, better be careful as it can be price in old manats without ‘zeros’. USD are largely welcome. There are a lot exchange offices around . EUR not yet very known and usually accepted only in banks. Credit cards (mainly visa card) accepted for payment in all big hotels. ATM available in Ashgabat (at airport, in big shopping mall, in Foreign economic affairs bank) but here possible to pick up cash only in manats, around 1200 manats per day. Withdraw USD cash possible only at Foreign economic affairs bank at Visa card stand. Master card accepted only in one bank – Senagat. Banks interest is around 3 %
12. Ashgabat airport is around 5 km from center. Visa obtain at airport is possible if you have letter of invitation issued by Turkmen migration service. Registration in Turkmenistan is required if you stay in country more than 3 days. Train station is just 1 km from center, passenger trains travel inside of country to all its directions (Ashgabat- Mary-Turkmenabat- Atamyrat, Ashgabat- Dashoguz, Ashgabat- Turkmenbashy). Public coach station is around 7-8 km from Ashgabat to the north, International Bus station. Buses drive to all big towns.
Guides for excursions in Turkmenistan
At your service English, French, German, Russian, Italian speaking guides in Turkmenistan and in Uzbekistan. Local English speaking guide in Mary, Ms. Eugenia Golubeva offers her services for excursions or visits at Gonur, Merv in Mary region. You can read about her service at lonely planet forum. Pls. kindly note that guide service, it is free choice in Turkmenistan.
- English speaking guides
There are available English speaking guides at sites in Mary region (Ms. Eugenia Golubeva offers her services for excursions at Gonur, Merv, at other history and ethnography sites in the region ). Local English speaking guides offer services for visits at Kunya Urgench historical site, in Dashoguz, and in Ashgabat.
Escort English speaking guides travelling everywhere in the country, you can order their services as per your itinerary or for parts of your trip where you would like to have it.
- French speaking guides
They are available in Ashgabat and you can order their services for any tour option in Turkmenistan, to travel with you in the desert, in mountains or to visit historical and archeological sites
- Russian speaking guides
Local Russian speaking guides can be booked in any Turkmen town (Dashoguz, Mary, Turkmenbashy, Turkmenabat, Ashgabat)
- German speaking guides
They are available in Ashgabat and you can order their services for any tour option in Turkmenistan, to travel with you in the desert, in mountains or to visit historical and archeological sites.
- Italian speaking guide service
is available only on request, due that Italian speaking interpreters working here only in business sector and their services can be offered separately.