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.
We visited Bishkek, Arslanbob, Kochkor, Djety Oguz Valley, Issyk Kul, Altyn Arashan, and Cholpon Aata in 2013 as part of a 4-week Intrepid Travel Central Asia overland trip.
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.
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.
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.
We visited Issyk Kul Lake in 2013.
Jet-Oghuz (or Seven Bulls)
Just 16 miles south of Karakol is Jet–Oghuz, 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.
We visited Djety-Oguz gorge in 2013.
See next: South Asia Wonders