Aerial view of a modern cityscape with a mix of residential and commercial buildings, wide streets with landscaped medians, and distant mountains partially obscured by haze.


The juxtaposition of traditional Turkmen architecture with futuristic skyscrapers creates a captivating sight that beckons exploration. But beyond its architectural wonders, Ashgabat holds many secrets waiting to be uncovered; secrets that reveal a city pulsating with life and culture. Discover what lies beyond the facades of grand buildings and monuments, and delve into the heart of Ashgabat’s enigmatic allure.

Historical Background

Ashgabat’s historical background traces back to its establishment in 1881 as a Russian military fort in the oasis at the northern foot of the Kopet-Dag Range. Initially serving as the administrative center of the Transcaspian oblast, the city was later renamed Poltoratsk after the Russian Revolution. Subsequently, from 1924 to 1990, Ashgabat held the status of being the capital of Turkmenistan, U.S.S.R., before officially reverting to its original name in 1992.

Positioned strategically on the Transcaspian Railway, Ashgabat has played a crucial role in facilitating transportation and trade in the region. This pivotal location has transformed the city into a vital hub for various economic activities, cultural institutions, and educational centers. The historical evolution of Ashgabat reflects its journey from a military outpost to a bustling capital that stands as a testament to Turkmenistan’s resilience and adaptability.

Throughout the years, Ashgabat has witnessed significant transformations, shaping its identity as a city that blends history with modernity. The rich historical tapestry of Ashgabat serves as a foundation for its present-day vibrancy and dynamism, making it a city worth exploring for its intriguing past and promising future.

Unique Charm

Amidst the gleaming white expanse of architectural wonders, Ashgabat exudes a unique charm that captivates visitors with its opulent yet enigmatic aura. The city holds the Guinness World Record for the highest concentration of white marble buildings, a testament to its grandeur. This opulence, however, stands in stark contrast to the poverty just beyond its borders, creating a surreal atmosphere that adds to its allure.

Known as the ‘city of the dead’ due to its eerie quietness, Ashgabat’s charm lies in its deserted streets and grand architectural marvels. The empty boulevards, lined with extravagant structures, evoke a sense of mystery and intrigue. However, beneath the surface beauty lies a city under strict control. Movement and communication are heavily monitored, leading to a sense of isolation among both residents and visitors.

The city’s architectural marvels and extravagant designs reflect an obsession with grandeur that contributes to its unique charm. The meticulous attention to detail and the grandiosity of the buildings leave a lasting impression on those who wander its streets. Despite the strict control and eerie quietness, Ashgabat’s charm continues to attract curious souls seeking to unravel its enigmatic allure.

Best Time To Visit

For optimal weather conditions and a vibrant cultural experience, consider visiting Ashgabat during the spring months of March and April. Springtime in Ashgabat offers milder temperatures compared to the scorching summers, making it more comfortable for outdoor activities. Tourists visiting in spring can enjoy the blooming desert landscapes and vibrant city life with various cultural events and festivals. The moderate weather during spring allows for exploration of Ashgabat’s architectural marvels, museums, and historical sites without extreme heat.

During spring, Ashgabat experiences the highest precipitation levels, which contribute to the lush greenery and colorful blooms across the city. This period is ideal for those interested in witnessing the transformation of the desert surroundings into a lively spectacle of nature. Moreover, the peak tourist season in Ashgabat falls during spring, offering a balance between pleasant weather conditions and engaging cultural experiences. This means that while you may encounter more fellow travelers, you also get to partake in a variety of events and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Must-See Attractions

To fully appreciate the cultural richness and architectural wonders of Ashgabat, exploring its must-see attractions is essential. Start your journey by visiting the Ashgabat National Museum of History, which houses over 500,000 exhibits showcasing Turkmenistan’s vibrant cultural heritage. Next, head to the Monument Arch of Neutrality for a breathtaking 360-degree panoramic view of Ashgabat and its picturesque surroundings.

Don’t miss the Turkmen Carpet Museum, a treasure trove of intricate Turkmen craftsmanship and home to the largest hand-woven carpet globally, offering a glimpse into the country’s rich artistic traditions. For a touch of modern entertainment, make your way to the Alem Entertainment Center, where you can experience the world’s largest covered Ferris wheel, adding a unique and fun element to your exploration of Ashgabat.

Ashgabat itself is an architectural marvel, holding the Guinness World Record for the highest concentration of white marble buildings. Take a stroll through the city to admire these stunning structures and marvel at the unique beauty that earned Ashgabat its well-deserved place in the record books. These attractions offer a blend of tradition, modernity, and architectural splendor that make Ashgabat a must-visit destination for any traveler.

Safe Neighborhoods

Wondering which neighborhoods in Ashgabat provide a safe and peaceful environment for residents and visitors alike? Safe neighborhoods in Ashgabat, such as Berzengi, Choganly, and Bagtyyarlyk, are known for their low crime rates and tranquil atmosphere. These areas boast well-maintained streets, parks, and public spaces that contribute to the overall sense of safety and security. Berzengi stands out as a favored choice among expatriates and diplomats due to its secure environment and high standard of living.

One noticeable aspect of safe neighborhoods in Ashgabat is the prominent police presence. The visible law enforcement not only deters crime but also enhances the peace of mind for those residing or visiting these areas. Additionally, community engagement and neighborhood watch programs play a significant role in further safeguarding residents and promoting a sense of well-being.


When considering accommodation options in Ashgabat, visitors can choose from a range of budget-friendly and mid-range hotels to suit their preferences and needs. The city’s lodging options cater to various budgets, providing comfort and convenience for travelers exploring Ashgabat’s attractions. Surprisingly, Ashgabat also offers affordable high-end hotels compared to other destinations, making luxury stays more accessible to visitors. Notable hotels in the city include Yyldyz Hotel, Oguzkent Hotel, and Hotel Nissa, each offering a unique experience for guests.

Key Points to Note:

  1. New Buildings: Ashgabat boasts a mix of modern and traditional architectural styles in its accommodation options, with many new buildings adding to the city’s evolving skyline.
  2. High-End Hotels: Despite being classified as high-end, the luxury hotels in Ashgabat are remarkably affordable, providing visitors with a taste of luxury without breaking the bank.
  3. Accommodation Variety: From budget-friendly choices to mid-range and high-end hotels, visitors have a diverse range of accommodation options to select from, ensuring there is something to suit every taste and budget in Ashgabat.


Navigating through Ashgabat’s transportation network provides travelers with various options for reaching their destinations efficiently. The city’s main airport, Oguz Han International Airport, serves as the primary gateway for air travel, with Turkmenistan Airlines operating flights connecting Ashgabat to both domestic and international destinations. However, it’s important to note that flights to Ashgabat can be relatively expensive compared to other regional destinations due to limited competition in the market.

For those seeking alternative transportation methods, overland travel to Ashgabat is a viable option through neighboring countries. This can provide a unique and scenic journey to the city. Additionally, travelers can consider taking a Caspian Sea ferry from Baku, Azerbaijan to Turkmenbashi as an unconventional way to reach Ashgabat. This ferry option not only offers a different travel experience but also showcases the beauty of the Caspian Sea.


Ashgabat offers a variety of unique tours showcasing its white marble buildings and opulent architectural designs. These guided tours provide a glimpse into the grandeur of the city, allowing you to marvel at the intricate details and impressive structures that make Ashgabat truly remarkable.

  1. Alem Entertainment Center: One of the highlights of the tours is a visit to the Alem Entertainment Center, featuring the world’s largest covered Ferris wheel. This iconic landmark offers a panoramic view of the city, providing a breathtaking perspective of Ashgabat’s beauty.
  2. Turkmen Carpet Museum: Another must-visit destination on these tours is the Turkmen Carpet Museum, home to the largest hand-woven carpet in the world. Here, you can immerse yourself in Turkmenistan’s rich cultural heritage, gaining insights into the traditional artistry and craftsmanship that define the country’s renowned carpet-making industry.
  3. Monument Arch of Neutrality: As part of the tour experience, you will have the opportunity to explore the Monument Arch of Neutrality, offering a 360-degree panoramic view of Ashgabat and its surroundings. This architectural marvel provides a unique perspective on the city, allowing you to appreciate the grandeur and beauty of Ashgabat from above.

Outdoor Activities

Venturing beyond the city’s opulent architectural wonders, outdoor activities in Ashgabat offer visitors a chance to explore the natural beauty and adventure opportunities surrounding the capital. The picturesque Kopet Dag mountains near Ashgabat provide a stunning backdrop for activities like hiking and trekking. For those seeking desert adventures, the Karakum Desert presents opportunities for desert tours, camel rides, and camping experiences. Nature enthusiasts can also explore the Köpetdag Nature Reserve, known for its diverse flora and fauna.

Ashgabat’s mild winter temperatures make it an ideal destination for outdoor activities year-round. Visitors can enjoy sightseeing, picnics, and exploring the city’s architectural marvels comfortably. The proximity of Ashgabat to the Iranian border opens up possibilities for cultural exchanges and day trips to neighboring attractions, adding a unique dimension to outdoor experiences in the region.

Whether you prefer the tranquility of nature reserves or the thrill of desert excursions, Ashgabat’s outdoor activities cater to a wide range of interests. From leisurely walks in parks to adrenaline-pumping adventures, the capital of Turkmenistan offers a diverse array of outdoor experiences for visitors to enjoy during their stay.

Food, Wine & Nightlife

Indulge in a diverse culinary experience in Ashgabat, where traditional Turkmen dishes blend with influences from neighboring countries to create a unique gastronomic adventure. The city offers a variety of culinary delights ranging from mouth-watering shashlik (grilled meat skewers) to aromatic plov (pilaf) made with tender lamb, fragrant rice, and sweet carrots. The fusion of flavors from Iran and Russia adds an exciting twist to the traditional Turkmen cuisine, making dining in Ashgabat a delightful exploration of tastes.

Here are three essential experiences to consider when exploring Ashgabat’s food, wine, and nightlife scene:

  1. Tea Houses: Don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of Ashgabat’s charming tea houses. Immerse yourself in the Turkmen culture as you sip on traditional tea served in exquisite teapots, often accompanied by a selection of dried fruits and nuts. The relaxed ambiance and warm hospitality make tea houses perfect for unwinding and experiencing authentic Turkmen hospitality.
  2. Local Markets: Discover the heart of Ashgabat’s culinary scene by exploring the vibrant local markets. Here, you can find an array of fresh produce, aromatic spices, and traditional sweets like halva and chak-chak. Dive into the local flavors, interact with friendly vendors, and take home some authentic Turkmen ingredients to recreate the flavors of Ashgabat in your own kitchen.
  3. Nightlife: While Ashgabat’s nightlife may be quieter compared to other cities, you can still enjoy upscale cafes, restaurants, and occasional cultural events for an evening out. Whether you’re looking for a cozy spot to enjoy a glass of wine or hoping to experience the city’s cultural scene after dark, Ashgabat offers a tranquil yet charming nightlife experience.

Street Markets

Explore the bustling street markets of Ashgabat to immerse yourself in a vibrant array of fresh produce, spices, and traditional Turkmen crafts. These markets offer a sensory overload with stalls brimming with colorful fruits, vegetables, and aromatic spices. As you wander through the lively aisles, you’ll encounter vendors showcasing exquisite handmade carpets, intricate jewelry, and beautifully embroidered textiles that highlight Turkmen craftsmanship.

One of the highlights of visiting these street markets is the opportunity to purchase unique souvenirs that reflect Turkmenistan’s rich cultural heritage. From traditional Turkmen hats and robes to ornate silver jewelry, you’ll find a plethora of authentic items to commemorate your trip. The markets are not just a place to shop but also a hub of cultural exchange, where locals and tourists mingle, creating a dynamic atmosphere filled with vibrant energy.

In addition to crafts and textiles, the street market stalls in Ashgabat also feature specialty items like camel wool products, colorful ceramics, and mouth-watering local snacks. Whether you’re in search of a special gift or simply want to experience the true essence of Turkmen shopping, these markets offer a diverse range of products that cater to every taste. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and flavors of Ashgabat’s street markets for an authentic Turkmen shopping experience.

Local Festivals

Local Festivals in Ashgabat showcase the vibrant cultural tapestry of Turkmenistan through a variety of traditional events and celebrations. The city hosts several significant festivals that offer insight into the rich heritage and traditions of the Turkmen people.

  1. National Turkmen Carpet Festival: Celebrating the art of carpet weaving, this festival is a testament to Turkmenistan’s craftsmanship and creativity. Visitors can admire intricate carpet designs, learn about the history of carpet making, and even witness live demonstrations of this traditional skill.
  2. Nowruz Festival: The Nowruz Festival marks the Persian New Year and is a time of joy and renewal in Ashgabat. This cultural event features vibrant music, lively dances, and delicious traditional foods that reflect the spirit of the celebrations. It is a time when families and communities come together to welcome the arrival of spring.
  3. Melon Day Festival: Known for its sweet and juicy melons, Turkmenistan celebrates this beloved fruit with a festival dedicated to all things melon. From tastings of various melon varieties to fun contests and colorful cultural performances, the Melon Day Festival is a delightful way to experience the agricultural richness of the region.


Nightlife in Ashgabat is characterized by limited options due to government restrictions and adherence to cultural norms. The remnants of the Soviet Union still influence the city’s social scene, with strict regulations on nightlife activities. While there are a few bars and clubs in Ashgabat, these establishments mainly cater to expatriates and affluent locals seeking entertainment options.

Alcohol regulations play a significant role in shaping the city’s nightlife. Venues serving alcohol are scarce, and consumption is closely monitored. This results in a subdued nightlife compared to other international cities. Social gatherings often occur in private residences or designated venues where individuals can enjoy drinks within the confines of the regulations.

Due to the restrictions on traditional nightlife activities, Ashgabat offers alternative entertainment options. Residents and visitors can frequent restaurants, cafes, and cultural events as avenues for socializing and leisure. These venues provide a more relaxed environment for social interactions while complying with the city’s regulations.

Cost of Living

The high cost of living in Ashgabat reflects the city’s modernization efforts, with significant expenses associated with housing, food, utilities, and transportation.

  1. Housing Costs: Ashgabat’s push for modernization has led to the development of new areas with modern apartment buildings and amenities, driving up housing costs. The demand for quality housing in these areas often results in higher prices, making accommodation a substantial part of the overall cost of living in the city.
  2. Food Prices: While local markets offer more affordable options, prices for imported goods in Ashgabat can be higher due to limited availability and the city’s focus on modernization. This variation in food prices means that residents may need to carefully balance their grocery choices to manage expenses effectively.
  3. Transportation Costs: The cost of transportation in Ashgabat, including fuel and public transportation, can impact residents’ budgets significantly. Limited options and ongoing infrastructure development contribute to the expenses associated with getting around the city, making transportation costs an important consideration for those living in Ashgabat.


In light of the architectural wonders and societal critiques present in Ashgabat, the city’s unique character and challenges come sharply into focus. Ashgabat’s claim to fame lies in its extravagant use of white marble, earning it several Guinness World Records for the highest concentration of this material in its buildings. This architectural choice, influenced by the city’s Russian heritage, has shaped Ashgabat into a gleaming metropolis that exudes opulence and grandeur.

However, beneath the surface of this dazzling facade lies a different reality. Ashgabat is often referred to as the ‘city of the dead’ due to its eerily empty streets and lack of pedestrian activity. The grand structures and wide boulevards, while impressive, contribute to a sense of isolation and emptiness. Critics argue that the city’s focus on propaganda and architectural grandiosity has come at the cost of practicality and human interaction, leaving the streets feeling deserted and devoid of real life.

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