The Silk Road route harbors a lot of hidden gem unlikely to be found in your average tourist destinations. Remains of past glory live in harmony with modern life as we know it. Yet, there is always something new to discover.
Having explored past glories of the enigmatic trade route that changed humanity, you have witnessed by yourself how the assimilation of culture shapes buildings, changes traditions, and yet to this day still fascinates mankind.
Now we have reached the final part of our Tracing the Silk Road series, where we will be exploring Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
One of the main attractions in Turkmenistan is Merv, ruins of one of the largest cities in the world in the past before its glory was ended by the Mongol invasion in the 13th century. Nowadays, the city is mostly reduced to stacks of bricks.
However, it is also a witness of 4000 years of human civilization history no history buff should miss. Attractions within the 80 ha of Merv include mausoleums, mosques standing along with Buddha stupas.
Be aware that the heat can be unbearable to some due to it being located in the middle of the Karakum desert. Another attraction in Turkmenistan you have to see is what is called the Doors to Hell, basically a pit of energy fueled flame that never goes out.
Aside from witnessing the burning pit, visitors also camp around the site both with yurts provided by tours or inside tents. Please be aware that due to the remote location, food and water need to be provided by visitors. A safe option would undoubtedly be to join a tour, also putting into consideration the convenience of not having to worry about transportation.
Probably the most magical country you never thought you would have to visit. Uzbekistan in the past was home to three of the most important stops for traders: Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand.
All, luckily, stand intact, basking in their past glory for you to enjoy. Bukhara is undoubtedly a must visit while you are in Uzbekistan with its beautiful blue-tiled Mir-i-Arab Madrasa. Bukhara is also home to Samanid Mausoleum with its renowned intricate brickwork.
Be prepared to be entranced by the dancing and singing in Samarkand, where the annual Sharq Talonari international music festival takes place. Every summer the event attracts numerous artists and visitor alike from Central Asia as well as all over the world.
Aside from the Silk Road influences, Uzbekistan also has strong post-Soviet era influences as evident in the architecture. Uzbekistan is also surprisingly cosmopolitan in its atmosphere almost resembling that you would be expect in Europe with outdoor café seating and a delightful food scene.
Uzbekistan is also a heaven for shopping enthusiasts. Venture into the colorful markets for exotic spices, intricate weavings, and jewelry. Also while you are in Uzbekistan, make a point of visiting the countryside for their untouched landscape with locals living a self sufficient lifestyle of growing their own vegetables and herding sheep.