THE KARAKUM is one of the largest deserts of Central Asia that hides many unexpected, unexplained and therefore very attractive things. There are so many natural attractions that the ‘terrible’ desert can become an exciting tourist destination.
When travelling across the Karakum one becomes acquainted with the fascinating world of the desert. You can down the huge Ahchkaya depression which is 100 metres below sea level with steep curved sides like nature’s own amphitheatre. Brightly coloured rocks uncover themselves on the cliffs – green, white, red, pink clay, limestone, marl – and form clearly marked stripes. The Kaplankyr State Nature Reserve is a rich territory of deep canyons, streams and lush vegetation where you can drink from the freshwater Lake Yashkan and visit a saxaul grove near the artificial Lake Zenghi Baba which supports dozens of species over an area of 2,000 hectares. Thousands of coots, ducks, pelicans, flamingos, gulls, and cormorants have a rest on the water surface during migration. Koulans and goitered gazelles come to the lake to drink and Saigas come to the lake during migration. Caracals, porcupines and honey badgers inhabit the coastal thickets. The lake is also rich in fish; it is the habitat for catfish, carp and bream. All of this creates ecosystems in one of the greatest deserts in the world and are of universal value; they are Turkmenistan’s national heritage.