9 Breathtaking Destinations in Central Asia (PHOTOS) | The Weather Channel – The Weather Channel
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From turquoise-colored lakes to ancient walled cities, the “Five Stans” of Central Asia are home to some breathtaking sites that deserve a spot on traveler’s bucket lists.
Spanning 1.5 million square miles, the “Five Stans” include Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzebekistan, Kyrgystan and Kazakstan and are home to nearly 68 million people. According to Mother Nature Network, the suffix “stan” means “land of” in Farsi, and each of these country’s names referenced the tribes that historically lived in those lands, including the Kazakhs, Uzbeks and Turkmens. All of these countries share a common legacy of nomadic heritages tied to the famous Silk Road that spans across them.
(MORE: 15 Walled Cities of the World)
So from Registan Square to the dramatic Charyn Canyon, here are nine destinations that are not to be missed:
1. Iskanderkul, Tajikistan
Located at 7,201 feet above sea level in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan, Iskanderkul is a beautiful turquoise-hued alpine lake. It was named in honor of Alexander the Great, reports Mother Nature Network, with Iskandar being Farsi for Alexander. There is almost no aquatic life in the lake because of the high concentration of minerals in the water.
2. Itchan Kala, Uzbekistan
With a history spanning over 2000 years, Itchan Kala, the inner town of the Khiva oasis, is located on the Amu Darya River in Uzbekistan and was once the last resting place for caravans before crossing the desert into Persia. Today, this walled city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the best-preserved examples of Muslim architecture in Central Asia.
3. Lake Kaindy, Kazakhstan
Located in the Tien Shan mountains of Kazakhstan, Lake Kaindy is a sparkling turquoise lake featuring an eerie sunken forest. An enormous limestone landslide, triggered by the 1911 Kebin earthquake, blocked the gorge and formed a natural dam, which filled with rainwater and created the lake. Today, the water in Lake Kaindy is reportedly so cold that the foliage remains on the sunken trees, even after 100 years.
4. Burana Tower, Kyrgyzstan
The Burana Tower in Kyrgyzstan’s Chuy Valley is one of the country’s most important landmarks. Set against a stunning mountain backdrop, the site was completed in the 11th century and includes not only the tower, but also a number of graves, castle ruins and mausoleums. The minaret has been damaged by several earthquakes over its history, so it is much shorter than it used to be.
5. Pamir Highway, Tajikistan
Beginning in Afghanistan and ending in Kyrgyzstan, the Pamir Highway is a scenic, remote historical road that traverses the Pamir Mountains of Tajikisitan. It was once an important link along the ancient Silk Road, but today, travelers making the journey have the chance to see yaks or even a rare herd of Marco Polo sheep along the way.
6. Door to Hell, Turkmenistan
Located in the natural gas field of Derweze in Turkmenistan, the Door to Hell is a natural gas fire in a 230 feet-wide pit that has been continuously burning since it was lit by Soviet petrochemical scientists in 1971. The fire has become a popular tourist attraction in recent years, attracting roughly 12,000 – 15,000 visitors a year.
7. Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan’s colorful Charyn Canyon is a beautiful canyon that spans over 50 miles and is located in the Charyn National Park, near the Chinese Border. The canyon is known for its “Valley of Castles,” where a series of breathtaking rock formations can be found along the 330 feet deep valley.
8. Registan Square, Uzbekistan
Located in the heart of the ancient city of Samarkand, Registan Square is a spectacular example of medieval architecture built in the late 14th century. Located in a city that was on the silk road, the Registan was a public square and the buildings surrounding it were constructed by craftsmen and builders from across the empire, reports The Guardian.
9. Greater Kyz Kala, Turkmenistan
Located along the famous Silk Road, Greater Kyz Kala is an intriguing fortress-like structure in the ancient oasis city of Merv. There are also a number of other well-preserved archeological ruins in this city, all believed to have been built in the eighth and ninth centuries. Merv is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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9 Breathtaking Destinations in Central Asia (PHOTOS) | The Weather Channel – The Weather Channel}