If you’re anything like me, you won’t be looking for a conventional holiday, but will be searching for somewhere to explore that’s not packed with hoards of other travellers and that is certainly classed as well off the beaten track.
Recently I’ve been searching around for interesting places to visit for my next holiday and I think I’ve at least narrowed it down to one region – central Asia. Now I have the difficult task of choosing a specific country! The following three destinations have jumped out at me and look like ideal candidates for an overseas adventure holiday.
My first choice is Tibet, which I thought of quite early on having visited Nepal a few years ago. I love trekking so this seemed like a logical place to consider, especially given that it’s become a bit easier to travel to this remote Himalayan region in recent years.
The Tibetan Plateau boasts outstanding views of the Himalayas – and Mount Everest in particular – as well as being home to some fascinating cultural sites like the Potala Palace and the Jorkhang Temple in Lhasa. What also appeals to me about Tibet is that you can take a walking tour that will lead you up to the north face of Everest and around to the base camp, allowing you to follow much less crowded trails than you’d get if you approached this spot from the Nepalese side of the border.
Another country I’m very tempted by is Uzbekistan, partly because it sounds absolutely beautiful and partly because it’s peppered by outstanding historical and cultural sites. Many of its most famous cities were on the Silk Route that ran all the way from Asia to Europe and they are home to some astounding monuments.
If I’m totally honest, I’d love to have the time to walk a significant part of the Silk Route, but unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of that much free time at the moment. So, a tour that visits a selection of the most important stops in Uzbekistan seems like a very appealing proposition.
Samarkand is one city that’s caught my eye. The settlement was established in the 7th century BC and has thrived ever since. One site I’d especially like to visit is Registan Square, a beautiful public square surrounded by mosques, madrassas and khans that date back to the 14th century. Another stop I’d like to make on a tour of Uzbekistan is at Khiva, with the majority of this desert city’s most important monuments located in its centre.
Turkmenistan is my final choice and this country appeals to me because of the range of unique experiences you can have during a trip here. Among them is swimming in an underground lake near the Kopetdag Mountains, eating dinner with a local family in a traditional village and camping in the vast Karakum Desert.
I think the Karakum Desert would actually be a highlight of exploring Turkmenistan, as it’s just so unusual. Firstly, it’s made up of black sand, which makes the landscape incredibly interesting.
Secondly, it’s home to the Darvaza Gas Crater, which is a real sight to behold. This huge 70 m-wide hole was created by Russian geologists in the early 1970s when they were trying to tap into a gas deposit. Their rig collapsed into the hole and the decision was taken to burn off the gas in an attempt to prevent poisonous fumes escaping into the atmosphere – over 40 years later, the fire is still burning.
If you’ve been lucky enough to visit central Asia, where did you go and what would you recommend seeing?
Photo by theowright on Flickr