Cheap flights from Turkmenistan

Not to be confused with Turkey, the country of Turkmenistan is widely different from its fellow Asian state in the borders between Asia and Europe. It is the land of the mysterious Turkmen who have lived in the crossroads of cultures known as the Silk Road that connected China with Europe. Merv was one of the great cities of the Islamic world then, as it was an important stop for the caravan route with China until the mid-15th century.

When Russia extended its reach in formation of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen was unable to resist the onslaught late in the 19th century. Their nomadic life was stripped away, with the agricultural system put to order and the government controlled by the Russians. This ended in 1991 with communist leader Saparmurad Niyazov as the first leader of Turkmenistan who governed as an absolute dictator until his sudden heart attack that caused his death in 2006. This precluded a relatively more stable political life for the Turkmen, making their country one of the intriguing places to visit at present.

Where to go

With a name translating to the 'city of love' in Arabic, Ashgabat is a fine place to visit with its marble palaces, gleaming gold domes, and vast expanses of manicured parks. Tourists intrigued about the capital of one of the infamously reclusive countries in North Asia will find here the large Independence Square at the centre, where the golden-domed Palace of Turkmenbashi can be found with other civic buildings. One will also see here the Earthquake Memorial, a lavish bronze statue of a bull and child that represents Niyazov, which also represents the growth of Turkmenbashi after the worst earthquake tragedy in its history. There is also the National Museum to visit, where one will find collections from the History Museum, Nature and Ethnography, as well as the Presidential Museum. It has beautiful displays of ancient relics, which often makes the highlight of a visit here.

Merv, once standing with Damascus and Baghdad as a great city of Islam, can somewhat be a disappointment today due to the lack of landmarks that used to signify its greatness. Those going here now, however, can still find a number of places to visit with a guide who has a wide knowledge of this fine area of Turkmenistan. The Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar can be found here, which stands at 38 meters high with a simple cubic form and a barrel-mountain dome on top. It commemorates the end of the Seljuk Empire, which Sanjar was part of. Other sights to find here include Kyz Kala, a crumbling remnant of Merv's past. Two 7th-century koshk or fortresses show off some of the most important examples in western Merv archaeology that are fascinating to see.

Istanbul, one of the greatest cities of Asia, sparkles with fame of its landmarks. Once called Constantinople, this city was once a major point of contention between European Christians and Muslim Ottoman Turks. Those visiting here can visit the Suleymaniye Mosque, which was established on one of Istanbul's seven hills. It is one of grandest mosques with an unusual kulliye or mosque complex where original buildings have been retained. There is also the Kariye Museum, a Byzantine monument that was also a church. Decorated with mosaics and frescoes, this church now serves as a museum featuring Byzantine art.

The Basilica Cistern is also an astounding sight here. It was commissioned by Emperor Justinian in 532. This subterranean structure served as a source of about 80,000 cubic metres of water from kilometres of aqueducts across the Black Sea. What is more fascinating about it is that it was built using 336 columns salvaged from ruined temples.

From Ashgabat, tourists can travel all the way to North Korea, a communist country in East Asia. Turkmenistan's past as a communist country and the present situation of North Korea makes an intriguing study. Tourists who want to know more about Pyongyang will find plenty of curious sights starting from the Kim Il-Sung Square, where massive military parades usually occur. This centre in the city is also ringed by various civic buildings such as the Grand People's Study House. One will find here millions of books with an impressive system of conveyor belts to deliver materials needed. There is also the Pyongyang Film Studios to view, which allows visitors to view large sets that recreate various settings for the stories.

From here, tourists can take their time the Mansudae Grand Monument, which features the enormous statues of Kim Il-Sung (Great Leader) and Kim Jong-Il (Dear Leader). A routine will have to be strictly followed to ensure proper show of respect, from the buying and presentation of flowers to photographing the whole monuments instead of taking only a picture of a part.

How to get out

When out to visit other countries from Turkmenistan, tourists can look for connecting flights from Ashgabat International Airport. Airlines serving here include Belavia, China Southern Airlines, flydubai, Lufthansa, S7 Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and Turkmenistan.

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