Central Asia Wonders

The Registan at Samarkand

The Registan was the heart of the ancient city of Samarkand of the Timurid dynasty, now in Uzbekistan. The name Rēgistan means “Sandy place” or “desert” in Persian. The Registan was a public square, where people gathered to hear royal proclamations and a place of public executions. It is framed by three madrasahs (Islamic schools) of distinctive Islamic architecture.

The Registan

We visited BishkekArslanbobKochkorDjety Oguz ValleyIssyk KulAltyn Arashan, and Cholpon Aata in 2013 as part of a 4-week Intrepid Travel Central Asia overland trip.

Fergana Valley

Stretching across three former Soviet states, the Fergana Valley is incredibly diverse both ethnically and environmentally. Its verdant, fertile plains are framed by the majestic Tien-Shan mountains to the north. The valley has colourful, historic mosques, opulent palaces, handcrafted silks and ceramics, and plenty of hiking across its vast, seemingly unending land, with jaw-dropping views and picture-perfect picnic spots.

Our truck leaving Arslanbob

We visited Fergana Valley in 2013.

Door to Hell

In terms of the Stans, Turkmenistan is one of the lesser-known of the bunch, yet it has one ominous-sounding wonder called Door to Hell.  This is gaping natural gas field in Darvaza, which was lit by Soviet petroleum engineers over four decades ago, and still burns with a fiery passion today. The engineers lit the crater when they  dugged looking for oil reserves in an attempt to burn off the excess gases.

The devil rises ….

We visited the Door to Hell in 2013. overland trip.

Issyk Kul Lake

Issyk Kul Lake is the second largest alpine lake in the world (after lake Titicaca in South America) with a length of 182 km and a width of 60 km. It stands at 1,600 m above sea level and is surrounded by snow capped high peaks. Not only that, but at 25 million years old, it’s one of the world’s few remaining ancient lakes. The towering Tien-Shan mountains provide a beautiful backdrop, and many exotic species of birds and fish call this area home.

Enjoying an old row boat available from the farm where we stayed

We visited Issyk Kul Lake in 2013.

Jet-Oghuz (or Seven Bulls)

Just 16 miles south of Karakol is JetOghuz, or the Seven Bulls – the name of a red sandstone rock formation that comes with its own fascinating legend. The name comes from the appearance of the 20-plus mile rock wall, which resembles giant bulls standing side-by-side. At the foot of the cliffs are verdant landscapes overgrown with grass and pine trees.

The “Seven bulls” of Djety-Oguz gorge

We visited Djety-Oguz gorge in 2013.

See next: South Asia Wonders

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