Ashgabat lies at the foot of the scenic Kopet Dag Mountains. Many of the small villages in the vicinity of the city offer excellent hiking opportunities. After a while in the capital, every visitor will have chosen their preferred hiking area. General tips are difficult because there are as many opinions among the residents of Ashgabat about the most beautiful hiking and excursion routes as there are nature lovers living in the city. A network of rest and supply areas comparable to the metallurgical industry is unknown. In any case, you must take all of your food with you for the duration of the trip. In the villages there are only very limited supply options – if at all – and none at all outside the villages.
The area around the small settlement Archabil, about 30 km southwest of Ashgabat, is one of the most scenic (and comparatively easy to reach with your own vehicle) regions in the vicinity of the capital. Even the winding approach through the Firuza Gorge is extremely worth seeing. In Archabil itself, several sanatoriums for wealthy Turkmens and their children have been built in recent years. The president also had one of his weekend and summer residences built here. Accordingly, the access road is repeatedly blocked. If this is open, the hike along one of the countless unmarked paths to the attractive plateau above the gorge is worthwhile. The small parking bays along the access road to Archabil are ideal starting points. Alternatively, it is also possible to make Archabil the starting point for smaller excursions or long hikes. Numerous simple cafes and restaurants along the gorge invite you to linger. Particularly attractive are the tapchans (square wooden structures with backrests that are used both for drinking tea and as a sleeping pad) over the cool mountain streams and padded with pillows or blankets.
Health advice: In emergencies it is impossible to call for help outside the villages. Hiking alone can therefore be life-threatening in emergencies and should be avoided at all costs. A sufficient water supply including an emergency reserve is strongly recommended.
Security advice: The proximity to the Iranian border should be considered when exploring. To be on the safe side, it is advisable to compare the areas subject to the reservation of access authorizations with the areas entered in the visa or in the individual permits. If in doubt, it is always advisable to obtain the relevant permits in advance. The (semi-public) Turkmenistan travel agencies can help with the issuing of (temporally and spatially limited) individual permits for the hiking areas in the vicinity of Ashgabat.
Security advice: Even the Turkmenistan government elite have not remained hidden from the beauty of the landscape in the immediate southern vicinity of the capital. As a result, leading politicians have built an increasing number of weekend and summer residences in recent years. The residences were cordoned off across a large area in accordance with their respective security needs and so that they could live out their individual relaxation desires without being disturbed. Some of the most beautiful landscapes – easily accessible a few years ago – can therefore no longer be entered. In some cases, the roads to the villages from which the access roads to the residences are made are already blocked. The barriers to the streets and the area are annoying, but not dangerous. Because the extensive security staff – also in the open area – will inform the uninvited visitor about the new ownership long before they approach an area inaccessible to them. In this case, it is advisable to listen politely to the verbose explanations (or – depending on your temperament – to the abrupt prohibition calls) and then to turn around to walk or drive away from the cordoned-off area on the way came before.
Parks and squares
In line with the importance that the Turkmenistan government attaches to the construction of extensive parks, Ashgabat is characterized by a large number of large parks and green spaces. According to vaultedwatches, most of the new parks and squares can be found in the south and west of the capital. Central monuments and the fountains within these parks are connected by wide, mostly concrete paths. Although the furnishings (seating, lighting) are reminiscent of western parks, the facilities do not invite you to stroll or linger due to the often monotonous paths, the wide concrete surfaces, the light population of young cornifers and the lack of retreat and supply options. In addition, due to their size and age, the trees are not able to provide sufficient shade for the paths.
Examples of parks of this type are the particularly extensive ” Independence Park” in the south, the park ” 10 Years of Independent Turkmenistan ” in the west and the very spacious and somewhat dilapidated ” Парк ВДНХ ” in the east of the inner city.
In contrast, the former city park near the center of the city, which is still known to city residents as the ” First Park ” (Первый парк), appears much more attractive. The comparatively old stock of trees here provides sufficient shade for the paths and meadows, while numerous small restaurants with their Schaschlyk and Kebab intervals offer supply options. Accordingly, the park is well attended at all times of the day in summer and a popular meeting place for young people and families alike in the evening hours. The main entrance is on Makhtymkuli Street (formerly Liberty Street, Свобода).
Another Soviet-era park with a correspondingly mixed and also older tree population is the ” Victory Park ” (Парк Победы) west of the city center, which is more reminiscent of a wide avenue and divided by several broad traffic axes. The State Circus and the Kopet Dag Stadium are in the immediate vicinity.
Even after moving to orderly halls, the former Tolkutschka Bazar, now known as the “Altyn Asyr” (Golden Age), remains a huge market. If you ask Turkmens, they will tell you that products that cannot be found here cannot be bought anywhere in Turkmenistan. And with the exception of a few imported foods (which are on sale in the two supermarkets in the south of the capital described above), this should also be true. Simple restaurants offer typical local supply options. A car racing track has now been opened on the former market site.