In 2019, I took a tour of the 5 Stans and it’s a trip I’ll never forget. It’s taken way too long for me to blog about it, but I’ll try to highlight the best parts of the trip. We arrived at the Ashgabat airport early morning and transfered to the city where we immediately began our tour of the city. Turkmenistan is a very strange place. The capital is full of beautiful buildings and fountains and statues, but there are hardly any people to be found. Apparently, the capital is mostly for show, but the citizens live mostly in rural areas. We got to see several monuments and the Ertogrul Ghazi mosque.
The highlight of the trip was the Darvaza Gas crater also known as the “Gate to Hell”. This crater was lit on fire by the Soviet Union sometime in the 70s and has been burning ever since! When the wind would blow, it was so hot, I could barely stand it. I’m so glad I got to see this place.
Afterward we went to Konye Urgench, a UNESCO heritage site that contains the remains of the capital of Khwarezm, part of the Achaemenid empire.
Next we went to Uzbekistan where we visited Khiva, the Ichan Kala fotress and several mosques and mausoleums. Of course, my favorite thing about traveling anywhere is sampling all the local cuisine. And it was delicious. We did some sightseeing in Bukhara and visited a tea house before moving on to Samarkand.
There we got to see the Registan square, Gur Emir Mausoleum, Slab bazaar, Ulugbek observatory, Afrasiab museum wall paintings and the Meros handicraft centre. The last place we visited in Uzbekistan was Termez where we got to see the archaeological museum, Sultan Saadat complex, Kirk Kiz hanaka and Fayaztepa Buddhist monastery.
The next country on the list was Tajikistan. We went to the capital, Dushanbe and visited the Hisor fortress, the 16th Century Kunha Medrassah, Museum of Tajik Life and the mausoleum of the Sufi Saint, Mahdumi Azam. We drove through what is known as the “Tunnel of Death. It’s a 5 kilometer tunnel through the mountains. I actually got a little claustrophobic at one point. Finally, we went to Khujand and visited the Shikh Muslihiddin mosque, the Oriental bazaar, and the Lenin monument. There were lots of symbols and imagery of the old Soviet past throughout the trip.
Kyrgyzstan was one of the most beautiful countries. The Tien Shan mountain range was breathtaking. The drive up was so long and so exhausting, but the scenery was worth it. We did some sightseeing afterward and relaxed for awhile. These trips are fun, but there’s so much crammed in that it’s very tiring. We went on a hike to a waterfall in the Ala Archa National Park.
The last destination was Kazakhstan. We visited the city of Almaty and saw many of the sites in the city. The total cost of the trip was a little over $2,000 and that’s not including the flight to Asia. My friends and I toured Russia before we went on the Stans trip and flew in from there. I can’t remember how much the flight was, but it wasn’t too bad. I enjoyed traveling with Lupine Travel and I’ll likely book with them in the future. But first I’ll have to catch my breath and prepare myself mentally. These group tours are not for the faint of heart!
Much of the trip was spent either riding in the bus or getting settled in the hotel. That’s the problem with these group tours. But one of the perks of group tours is you make lifelong friends. I’ve stayed in touch with almost everyone I met on that tour. I can’t wait to see more of the world and meet more cool travelers!