Central Asia Travel Advice
May 24, 2005 6:58 AM   Subscribe

I am headed off to Central Asia for the summer and am looking for some first hand advice.

Specifically I am going to Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijian, Turmenistan, Uzbekistan (hopefully), and Kyrgyzstan for June and July.

I think I have most of the big sites lined up. I am really looking for tips on out of the way things, must do activities, places to eat, and advice on buying handicrafts/ cool local shops and markets.

Would love to hear from anyone who has spent much time in this part of the world.
posted by JPD to Travel & Transportation (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wow - you've picked the hottest months!

I've been to Turkmenistan a few times on business. If you don't already have a visa, start now, and good luck.

Turkmen carpet has a reputation, but it's hard to get good ones there. The only ones for export are typically sold at government factory shops. If you buy stuff in markets beware you'll need export certification to get it out. I bought one there, but you can get better Turkmen-style carpets elsewhere (I got an excellent one in Islamabad).

In Ashgabat, there was a good Persian restaurant in the park near the big "Turkmenbashi Tower". Ashgabat is a sleepy place with not a lot to recommend it.

In Turkmenbashi there was a good Armenian restaurant, but I heard it might have closed. We went swimming in the Caspian off a pier at Awaza before someone told us the sea was toxic - didn't affect me none :) There was good grilled sturgeon on the go at a little beach restaurant at Awaza, too, but I guess that's not so ecofriendly these days.
posted by sagwalla at 8:28 AM on May 24, 2005

What a terrific trip! Turkey is my favorite place to visit. But I haven't ever been to your other destinations (yet).

I assume you'll hit Istanbul. Aya Sofya is a must-see, and the other sights in that vicinity are worth seeing too. I love the Turkic and Islamic Museum, which is nearby.

Kapadokya is another must-see. I've taken the overnight train to Konya, then a bus to Ürgup, but there might be a direct route from Istanbul. Check out the open air museums in Zelve and Göreme. Avoid the ceramic shops in Avanos.

Bursa is also nice, known for its mineral baths. The Green Mosque there is one of my favorites.

I have heard terrific things about Ephesus, and I'd love to get to Turkey's eastern areas: Lake Van and the eastern Black Sea.

I'd avoid buying carpets. If you don't know what you're looking at, you'll get taken since most of what's sold in the shops is junk. If you do buy anything, list it as "handicrafts" on your customs form when you come back. Feel free to contact me if you want to talk more.
posted by booth at 9:35 AM on May 25, 2005

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