Какие города Туркменистана наиболее интересны для туризма?

Which Turkmenistan cities are the most interesting for tourism?

At the moment, Turkmenistan has 51 cities. Until 2016, there were only 24 cities in the country, and after the administrative-territorial reforms, there are already 47. In other words, the number of cities doubled. At the same time, a settlement can lose its urban status. As an example, Abadan can be mentioned, which was included in Ashgabat, and Gumdag and Khazar, which in 2022 were transferred to the status of villages.

All cities in Turkmenistan are divided into three categories according to the legislation, which are described below. The government of the country maintains a list of municipalities broken down by categories, but this list is published irregularly and is not officially posted on the Internet.

City equivalent to a province (velayat)

Currently, only Ashgabat – the capital of the country – falls into this category. The situation is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Ashgabat is divided into districts with the status of a district, each with its own mayor (“häkim” in Turkmen).

City “equivalent to a district” (Turkmen: etrap hukukly)

Such cities are equated in status to a district and are headed by a mayor appointed by the President of Turkmenistan. Two cities from this category, like the capital of the country, are divided into districts: Arkadag and Turkmenbashi. They themselves control their own budgets. According to the law, cities equivalent to a district must have a population of more than 30,000 and be either the capital of a velayat or one of the economic, cultural, and administrative centers of their region.

Ahal Velayat

  1. Arkadag (since March 23, 2023, it has the status of a city of state significance and is not officially part of the Ahal velayat)

Balkan Velayat

  1. Balkanabat
  2. Turkmenbashi

Dashoguz Velayat

  1. Dashoguz

Lebap Velayat

  1. Turkmenabat

Mary Velayat

  1. Bayramaly
  2. Mary

City “in the district” (Turkmen: etrapdaky)

Such cities are subordinate to the regional government and are jointly managed. All other cities in the country fall into this category. According to the laws of Turkmenistan, such settlements must have a population of more than 8,000, have industrial enterprises, construction and transport organizations, communal enterprises, housing stock owned by the municipality, socio-cultural institutions, trade enterprises, and social service enterprises.

Cities of Turkmenistan from a tourism perspective

Practically any guest of Turkmenistan finds themselves in Ashgabat – the capital of the country, a large modern dynamically developing metropolis. After gaining independence and the collapse of the USSR, it has changed significantly, turning into a “white marble city,” which has become a true legend. Here are the most interesting museums and the most sights. You can learn more about them in a special section on our website.


Turkmenabat – the second largest city in the country, the capital of Lebap velayat, which tourists entering Turkmenistan through the ground checkpoint Farap from Uzbekistan from Bukhara must visit. In the city itself, 10 km from its center, you can see the remains of the medieval fortress Amul-Chardzhu. Once it was an extensive adobe fortification of square shape surrounded by a wide moat with water.

Much more interesting in the Lebap province will be the museum city of Kerki, the main pearls of which are the Mausoleum of Astana-baba and the Mausoleum of Allamberdar (Almutasir), the largest of the surviving early buildings of Northern Khorasan. Both buildings were built in the 11th century and are excellent examples of pre-Mongol architecture of Central Asia.

Mary, the third largest city in Turkmenistan, can definitely be recommended for a visit. It is located in the Murghab Oasis in the inner delta of the Murghab River, which is a very ancient agricultural region. One of the centers of civilization was located here, in the heart of which was Merv (Margiana, Margush) – the oldest known city in Central Asia.

The majestic ruins of old Merv are located 30 km from the center of the modern city of Mary near the city of Bayramaly. In 1999, Merv acquired the status of a cultural object of UNESCO. On the territory of the archaeological reserve are the fortresses of Gyaur-Kala, Big and Small Kyz-Kala, Sultan-Kala, Erk-Kala, the burial places of the brothers Eshabov, the mausoleums of Muhammad ibn Zeyd, the Seljuk Sultan Sanjar, and other attractions.

Turkmenbashi, part of the Balkan velayat, is the most important port of Turkmenistan on the Caspian Sea. Despite not boasting such significant historical and cultural attractions as Mary, it still offers tourist interest, as it is home to the largest seaside resort in the country, Avaza, popular among both Turkmenistan residents and visitors.

Konye-Urgench, also known as Kunya-Urgench, Urgench, Gurganj, is another museum city in Turkmenistan, literally filled with iconic historical attractions. In 2005, the architectural monuments of Konye-Urgench were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. For connoisseurs of architecture of medieval Central Asia, they will be much more interesting than the popular sights of Samarkand, as many of them belong to an earlier period than the Timurid era: the 10th-13th centuries. Among them is, for example, the 60-meter minaret Kutlug-Timur of the first half of the 14th century, the tallest brick minaret in Central Asia. You can learn more about the sights of Konye-Urgench here.

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