Eco-friendly travel guide to Ashgabat advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to explore the attractions in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
- Air quality: 4 / 5
- Exploring by foot: 3.5 / 5
- Exploring by bicycle: 4 / 5
- Public transportation: 4 / 5
- Parks: 4 / 5
- Outdoor activities: 3.5 / 5
- Locals' English level: 2.5 / 5
- Safety: 3.5 / 5
- Accommodation: US$10 - $100
- Budget per day: US$40 - $140
- 1 Responsible Travel
- 2 Air Quality and Pollution
- 3 Respect the Culture
- 4 Top 10 Places to Visit
- 5 Explore
- 6 Eat
- 7 Drink
- 8 Activities
- 9 Accommodation
- 10 How to Get There
- 11 Moving Around
- 12 Sustainable Shopping
- 13 Recycling
- 14 Work and Study Abroad
- 15 See Also
Ashgabat is the capital of Turkmenistan, usually the first point of entry for everyone visiting Turkmenistan - one of the most peculiar, strange, and secluded countries on the map. There are many places you can explore for a perfect holiday destination. The city is unique and spread out, but there are many exciting sights to see with tons of bizarre experiences. Ashgabat city is over-the-top and outlandish – from psychedelic, government edifices loomed with empty boulevards over perfectly manicured gardens to white marble buildings flanking wide open, this city gives you ample opportunities to explore the culture, history, and tradition of Ashgabat. It is also known for its rich environment since the country has successfully increased its GDP from its vast natural gas and oil resources, making Ashgabat one of the wealthiest cities in the country.
- While visiting Ashgabat, make sure to learn about the various laws that you need to follow while exploring the city or you may get into trouble.
- Avoid the use of plastic and non-recyclable items as they are very harmful to the environment, and you may even get fined for using such things.
- Always opt for using public transports such as buses, trains, and trams as the private transports such as rental cars, often overcharge tourists, and emit a lot of harmful gases.
- You should prefer using the services of the local businesses as it will help you learn about the local culture, traditions, and livelihood.
Air Quality and Pollution
According to the Air Quality Index (AQI), Ashgabat's pollution level somewhat fluctuates from 'good' to 'moderate'. People need to protect themselves from pollution by wearing protective guards as the use of transports is much higher as compared to other cities. It is so because firstly it is the capital city and secondly it is the best location for spending your holiday time in the country. Here are some statistics based as of October 2020 by the World Health Organization;
- Pollution Index – 38.36
- Pollution Exp Scale – 63.53
- Pollution Level – Good to Moderate
Respect the Culture
While visiting Ashgabat, you must show respect to the culture of Turkmenistan, as it is quite an eerie and peculiar place to be. It would be best if you respect not only the locals but the environment too. As this place has reasonable pollution control, you must use eco-friendly transport facilities so that you could contribute to reducing your impact and help in creating a clean and safe place to breathe in. With this, you'll also get help with brief insights into the history, tradition, and culture of the city.
Top 10 Places to Visit
- Gypjak Mosque: It is the largest mosque in Central Asia and located around 7 kilometres in the west of Ashgabat city in the village of Gypjak. It was opened on 22 October 2004 and constructed by a French company named Bouygues and built by Niyaroz. It has controversy attached to it as inside it that both the Quran and the Ruhnama placed equal that made some of the Muslims outraged.
- Turkmen Carpet Museum: Turkmen Carpet Museum is a national museum sits on 5 Gorogly Street in Ashgabat. It is a Museum that holds a title of largest hanging carpet in Guinness Book of World Record. It was opened on 24 October 1994 and had a rich collection of rugs from medieval to the 20th Century. Here, you can also take a guided tour over here to know a different style or different pattern and even from other religion of the country used for the creation of carpets.
- Parthian Settlement of Nisa: It is an old excavation site which holds the secret of ancient important and influential City of the Parthian Empire. The historians say they were so powerful that they are responsible for preventing Roman expansion in the east. It dates around the mid 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD. It is also a World Heritage site which is marked by UNESCO. It is located about 18 kilometres from the centre of the city. Through archaeological excavation, only two part of the area revealed which is illustrative of domestic, state, richly decorated architecture, and religious functions.
- Ashgabat Cable Car Restaurant: It is considered as the worth visit destination as the country shares border with Iran and Iraq and can find soldiers posted on the mountainside up above the restaurant. It is about 4 km between Ashgabat and the foothills of the Kopetdag. The constitution was stated in 2005 and completed on 18 October 2006.
- Altyn Asyr Bazaar: It is the fifth-largest bazaar in Central Asia. Its located in the outskirts of the Ashgabat. It operates to sell the Turkmen carpet ornament of Ahal province. It is at about 154 hectares. In between the bazaar, there is a tall clock tower as its prominent landmark showcasing the heart of bazaar. It has a total of 2155 shops in the market. It is the largest open area market in Central Asia, especially on Sunday you can find a massive amount of products.
- Monument Arch of Neutrality: It is a monument located initially in Ashgabat. It is a three-legged arch, and was called "The Tripod" and is about 75 meters in height and built-in 1998. Cost about 12 million dollars to construct. On the top of the monument, it has 12-meter tall statue of Niyazov faces the sun always when rotated.
- Ashgabat Hippodrome: The official name of Ashgabat hippodrome is International Equestrian Sports Complex. It is the largest hippodrome in the entire country. It was opened on 29 October 2011 and was constructed by the Turkish company Etkin with the cost of about USD 106,800,000. It sits on Kopetdag Avenue, near the National Museum of Wildlife of Turkmenistan. It has stables for about 600 horses. It has a circuit which allows jump and races along the tracks. Along with tracks, stables and tracks, it has 57 storied cottages and two-family houses for 114 owners, two markets, one playground, and a kindergarten for 160 children as a well social-cultural centre.
- Ertugrul Gazi Mosque: It was inaugurated in 1998 and named after Ertuğrul, father Osman I who was the founder of the ottoman empire. Hilmi Şenalp built it. It is one of the prominent Place of Ashgahat and has four minarets and a central dome in between with interior decoration consisting of fine stained glass windows. It has a sitting space of about 5000 worshippers at a time. It is considered as the cursed mosque due to severals death during the construction of the mosque.
- Turkmenistan Independence Monument: It is number one sight in Ashgabat which located inside the Independence park. Statuary of famous medieval age poets surrounds it, philosophers of Turkmenistan and the monument is about 118 meters tall. This monument was to honour the date of impendence, which is 27 October 1991.
- Darvaza Gas Crater: It is known by different names such as Door to Hell or Gates of Hell because it a natural gas field which collapsed into a cavern. It has been 49 years since 1971 up to when it started. The crater of gas has a total area of 5,350 m2 with 69-meter diameter, and depth is about 30 meter. Its located in between of Karakum Desert, about 260 kilometres north of Ashgabat.
Ashgabat is famous for its culture, monuments, parks, cuisines that are quite popular amongst tourists and locals. You have plenty of opportunities and many other places and landmarks to explore this city. You might experience some tremendous adventurous activities while travelling all over around as this city has many things to explore to such as city parks and national parks, museums, and beaches to visit for a great holiday.
- 2nd Park
- Victory Park
- White City Ashgabat Park
- Independence Park
- Square Inspiration
- Kow Ata Underground Lake
There are no such beaches in Ashgabat, except for one beach, Awaza Beach in Turkmenistan which is the most popular beach in the country. People visiting Ashgabat must go to Awaza Beach for wandering around the ocean.
- National Museum
- Independence Monument
- Giant Ruhnama
- The Walk of Health
- Ashgabat National Museum of History
- Turkmen Carpet Museum
- Turkmen Museum of Fine Arts
Ashgabat provides you with mouth-watering food making your trip a memorable one. Turkmenistani Cuisine's speciality is preserving the original-real flavours of the ingredients and not fusing them with intense spices and herbs, which had been introduced mostly in the 20th Century.
Traditional Local Restaurants
- Anmar Café
- AlpEt Steakhouse
- Kopetdog Restaurant
- Merdem Restaurant
Vegetarian and Vegan
- Sha Coffee
- Melbourne Grill & Sandwich Café
- Coffee House
- Uzum Cafe
- Pilaf: It is a rice dish also known as Pulao, in some regions and usually made inside a stock or broth. It consists of various spices blended with other ingredients such as vegetables or meat. Suppose you are in Ashgabat then you certainly going to have lamb as its ingredients in beef. For preparing it, the slices of roasted meat mixed with other vegetables such as carrot; then it is boiled with rice up-till it gets it the bright yellow colour. It is the main dish and served during most of the festivals.
- Dograma: It is an exclusive dish of Turkmenistan. It means to cut into pieces and has a long back history of special sacrificial rituals during occasions. It begins with the making of homemade flatbread in a clay oven or Tamdyr and boiling the mutton up-till it loses its bones. Then the bread is shredded in small crumbs then mixed with the slices of onions and shredded meat served in a bowl.
- Chorek: Chorek is a type of bread which is a speciality of Turkmenistan as there is saying that bread is the head for everything. It is a flatbread made inside clay over or Tamydr and is considered it as a sacred place. According to tradition, it should not be cut and should break using one hand only.
- Gutap: Flatbreads stuffed with beef or lamb and onions all together make this fantastic mouth-watering dish, Gutap. This Turkmen Gutap consists of several variants for the stuffing, including potatoes, pumpkin or spinach, and most importantly meat.
- Kovurma: It is a famous street food item which you can eat hot or cold doesn't matter at all. It consists of animal meat fried in its animal fat. A fact about this dish is it is one of the ways to preserve meat for a longer time.
- Manti: You can find Manti in various forms found across Turkmenistan. It is cooked inside multilevel steamer or pan-fried, it is a dumpling which has a filling of stuffed meat, with multiple varieties of spices. When fried, it turns out to brown whereas if we go for steaming it remains in its same colour of as the flour used and tastes plump and juicy.
- Shurpa: Made from mutton broth with complete addition of potatoes and tomatoes, it is one the most popular Central Asian and Turkmen soups. The broth and vegetable mix (boiled vegetables cooked together with fried onion, flour, bay leaves, carrots, salt, and pepper) are servable in a bowl along with mutton and a dollop of sour cream.
- Shashlyk: It is a typical Turkic food, different from that of other countries. The skewered pieces are properly places inside a grill in an open fire. It helps in absorbing the flavours and nutrients while they cook with the meat. It is a must-try dish if you're looking for a unique grilled experience.
Being a part of Central Asia, this city restricts the use of alcoholism and heavy drinking, despite common misconceptions about alcohol in the Muslim region there are some great and some not so great bars. Yet, they love to drink and have managed to make an outstanding alcoholic drink out of fermented mares' milk, named as Kumis. The entire city of Ashgabat is coupled with amazingly cheap foods and beverages, especially considering the quality.
- Green Tea
- Shampanski (Sparkling Wine)
Tap-water here is drinkable, and there is no general information, in particular, available in World Health Organisation data about safely managed drinking water in Ashgabat and even in the country. Travellers and locals have rated the water quality and pollution, according to subjective and analytic survey data. If you are a part of this country, it is essential to keep in mind that the water may be safe to drink when it leaves the sewage treatment plant (for purification), but it may pick up dirt or pollutants during its way to your tap.
- Zeytun CAFÉ
- Rahat Coffee
- Coffee House Espresso & Catering Co.
- Uzum Café
- Bazetti Coffee
- AltynDamja Brewery
- PivzavodBiyat H.J. Ashgabat Brewery
- YaslykPiwoZawody – HO Shatlyk
If you're visiting Ashgabat, you might be surprised as this city has a way different story to tell about its history, its culture, its tradition and whatnot. The city offers you many other things to do, ranging from incredible landmarks and monuments to delicious delicacies of the streets. By indulging in all these adventurous activities, you might also enhance the discovery of Ashgabat. There are many top attractions points in this city, giving you plenty of options and places to go to and have a great trip.
Yoga and Retreats
There are no yoga or retreat places in Ashgabat as the government has specific rules regarding public access, and people prefer to stay indoors.
Ashgabat offers you all types of accommodations you require to plan your trip here. Numerous opportunities are available to select accommodation based on your budget and needs.
- Archabil Hotel
- Oguzkent Hotel
- Yyldyz Hotel
- Nusay Hotel
- Hotel Nissa
- Hotel Nebitchi
Hostels and Guest Houses
There are no Hostels and Guest Houses in Ashgabat.
There are plenty of options available for renting apartments in Ashgabat. If your trip to Ashgabat is for a longer duration, then the best way to stay safe with limited amenities is renting apartments which will make your stay comfortable and convenient. You might not have to spend a lot than spending on hotels; apartments are available at reasonable rates, therefore making it the best choice if you're staying for long. Here are some places you might be interested in:
- House 1 – Oguzhan Street
- YediCynar – Turkmenistan
- Holiday-Inn Apartment
Couchsurfing is something many travellers usually prefer. In Ashgabat, there are many residents or say 'hosts' who willingly share their homes and lives in profound and in meaningful ways, giving travellers a genuinely unique social experience in the city. Since it's a Muslim community-based city, you might find some trouble finding the perfect place to stay. For this, many travel agencies collect pertinent information of the hosts who are ready to share their home with travellers. One such agency is Travel Community; you will find everything regarding your needs and preferences from them.
Camping and hiking are the top-most activities in the wish list of travellers. You will find many places where you can set up camps, but not many sites are successful in organizing camps. One such place is camping out in the desert near Darvaza Crater without any hassle. You might find difficulties while camping, as this place has a relatively strict security system. They might trouble you at times, but not to worry if you're having proper documentation of your identity. It is highly not recommended to camp on the outskirts of town as there are vast chances of police interference throughout your base.
How to Get There
Being the capital city of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat has an efficient transportation system for locals as well for travellers that can help them reach all parts of the city as well as the outskirts of the town. Ashgabat Transportation Facility makes sure you have a safe and sound journey in addition to which they also support National and International travels.
Since Turkmenistan has 26 airports, there is this Turkmenistan Airlines- flag carrier of Turkmenistan, which has its headquarters in Ashgabat. This airline connects its home base with destinations in Europe, Asia, and Russia. There are many flights available to Ashgabat, so it is the best option to reach your goal in less time. Ashgabat has its own international airport which goes by the name of Ashgabat International Airport. It was formerly known as Saparmurat Türkmenbasy International Airport.
In Ashgabat, road travel is quicker than rail travel. The journey time that you cover by train is almost double of that by busses. You can reach your desired destination in no time by busses than by rails. Also, big cities have cheap urban bus systems for getting around. In this city, International Passenger Bus Terminal is the central bus station, located in the north of the town, and is the largest one in the country.
There is this central railway station in Ashgabat known as 'Ashgabat Railway Station' providing you with seven train routes, in which two is for transporting goods and five for passenger service. Ashgabat's train service is very efficient and affordable to travel to different parts of the city and outside areas.
Hitchhiking might not be a suitable option for travelling to different cities in Ashgabat. Some may say that Hitchhiking in Ashgabat is a challenging experience, almost all drivers in Ashgabat ask for money, drivers charge you at a very high cost for hitchhikers. To prevent yourself from being in such situations, you must always make it clear before entering the car, that there is no payment involved.
Other than these basic modes of transportation, travellers also have many facilities available for travelling, which includes rental cars and boats. You might not quickly get authorization for renting cars to travel to different cities, but vessels are only for the use of fishing across the sea. Since Ashgabat has no beaches, therefore, boat facilities are only used for fishers.
Since Ashgabat is a Muslim Community-based city, wandering around like any other city might seem to be offending to some people. Ashgabat is a city where people don't come out much. The public only comes out in cases of going for some personal or professional works. It is almost impossible to see people in the central districts of Ashgabat. So travellers might not find any sort of rental bikes or scooters to explore the city. Yet, you can take the help of busses or local trains to learn about the city and visit the famous and unexplored places with the help of a local guide or a resident of the town.
While exploring a city like Ashgabat, you might not see many residents around apart from tourists or travellers. Since there are many restrictions for travellers as well therefore for your safety and security, you must switch to modes of transport available by the government or can rent a car which is must safer than any of the above.
You might not spot any stores or agencies providing you with rental bikes. Since this city is quite strange for being so limited in almost everything; therefore biking is not a suitable option for travelling all over the city. If by chance you get the opportunity to rent a bicycle from any resident, you make sure that the person is not charging you much, and if he does then it's better to take other options to explore the city.
Ashgabat is new to technology in terms of Electronic Vehicles. There are only a few places which introduce Electronic Vehicles; therefore, agencies and businesses offer high-cost rental services as there are only a few options available to people. Although charging high is seen everywhere in Ashgabat, so whatever mode you choose there's a very high percentage of transport being costly to travellers. There’s quite one or two charging stations set up by the government to charge fair for renting electric bikes, motorbikes, or cars.
The public bus system in Ashgabat is quite an efficient way of travel that might save you from lots of money rather than spending on rental car services. The local buses here run from 6 am to 6 pm or 7 pm every day. Tourist office centres are near every bus station from where you can find the bus routes map and can select buses to go to your desired destination accordingly.
Tram, Train and Subway
Ashgabat Cable Car is the only tramway available in Ashgabat; it is a 4 km cableway between Ashgabat and the foothills of the Kopetdog. Its construction was finished in 2006, making it the first and only single tramway in Turkmenistan. There is a total of two stations for this facility – the sending station is in the south of the Main Museum of Turkmenistan. Each cable can accommodate 300 passengers simultaneously, totalling about 1,700 rides per day. Tramways can prove to be essential in travelling to limited cities; hence if your destination spot is nearby the location of its stations, then it very much suggested taking a quick ride to reach your destination fast.
Sustainable shopping is the best way to purchase products that are eco-friendly and support local businesses. Some few sustainable stores/shops in Ashgabat are:
- AltynAsyr Marketing Centre
- Zelyony (Green) Bazaar
- Kenar Bazaar
- Dashoguz Bazaar
- Kamil Market
- Mili Market
- Amalty Market
- Nurana Market
- Altyn Asyr Bazar
- Teke Bazaar
- Russian Market
Second Hand Stores
- Autopartsfor European Cars
- Autocut Opel
- Toyota Center
- Fly-style Enayy
- Yewropa Fashion Boutique
- Yyes Rocher
The recycling waste system in Ashgabat is not much known to the public, while many believe that the recycling system/industry does not even exist inside the country. The government has set up many agencies and businesses, especially for recycling purposes. These centres allow you to visit them at a specified time so that you can also learn to recycle or reuse many items contributing to your role as a responsible tourist or traveller.
Since Ashgabat is not much a people's place, yet there are several strict rules set up by the government to maintain cleanliness and waste management. The local municipality not only advises on proper disposal of the waste but also charges a particular fine if locals or tourists are found guilty of their actions. Separate bins or bags or containers are there for different types of wastes. If people are messing with this management system, then strict measures are taken for their irresponsible behaviour to maintain an eco-friendly environment.
Work and Study Abroad
Ashgabat has a vast number of Muslims, and since there are many restrictions faced by residents, you might not find many options or opportunities for people who want to study abroad or work in the city. There are no such options for outsiders to carry on with their studies, yet few scholarships are only for a handful of children who wants to pursue their research or career abroad. You might spot only a few educational institutes that provide the best education facilities in Ashgabat.
Ashgabat does not provide you with many opportunities – education-wise, yet they are not entirely against the system. You can see that there are quite a few changes in the education facility in some institutes. Although the concept of student exchange among educational institutes are not new to the system, yet here they restrict the number of students to follow through with this procedure. Since it's a city of a conservative mindset, therefore allowing their children to go to another country or city is questionable. If we look at the statistics of the students sent to other institutes or welcomed in Ashgabat's educational institute is very low. To support this educational facility, the Institutes in Ashgabat need to amend some new policies regarding this matter.
Au Pairing – a way of sharing a family's responsibility, such as household, finances, and education, is quite popular in Ashgabat. You can also become an au pair by getting yourself registered on the au pairing website.
The best way to respect the culture and tradition of Ashgabat is by helping in volunteering activities. It might help you in understanding their culture and beliefs, and also you will be able to learn more about their tradition, rituals, or lifestyles. By volunteering, you will learn about the issues faced by the local people, which indirectly helps in being a responsible tourist. There are many Non-Government Organizations and agencies either provided by the government or created by individuals that are involved in volunteering activities and who always welcome tourists who are willing to help them.
- Global Vision International
Participation as a volunteer not only opens opportunities for tourists to be involved in contributing to environmental protection but also acquires skills of interaction with international and local environmental organizations of Ashgabat.