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    12 Reasons You Need To Visit Central Asia Now

    More than just yurts and yaks (although they have their charm), Central Asia is the world's last undiscovered country (or countries, we should say). It's a strange and curious place, where historic bazaars, turquoise coloured domes, towering mountains and hospitality all come hand-in-hand. Adventure isn't dead yet, you just need to know where to look for it, and Central Asia is definitely the place. Not convinced yet? Here are some reasons why you need to add the Stans to your bucket list!

    The Cities of the Silk Road

    Fulvio Spada / Via Flickr: lfphotos

    Central Asia might be thought of as the middle of nowhere today, but back in its hayday it was once the trading hub linking up China to Europe. The blue-tiled cities in Uzbekistan, most notably Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, were bustling trading hubs and a cross-roads of goods, knowledge and culture. The Silk Road might be extinct, but the cities still stand proudly.

    The Pamir Highway and the Roof of the World

    Tamás Németh for Central Asia Rally / Via centralasiarally.com

    The Pamir Mountains are some of the hightest in the world, and earned the nickname "Roof of the World." The spread out across the region, from China to Afghanistan, but the most of the range lies in Tajikistan in the Gorno-Badakshan Province. The Pamir Highway has been in use since the times of the Silk Road, but today it's the world's second highest altitude highway (the Ak-Baital Pass, pictured, its highest point at 4655m) and one heck of a tough drive. Not for the faint of heart!

    Yurts

    Tamás Németh for Central Asia Rally / Via centralasiarally.com

    What is Central Asia without yurts? These portable homes have been a core part of the nomadic people who populate the steppes of Central Asia, and you really can't avoid them when you're driving through rural Kyrgyzstan. Yurts are seriously awesome...

    Tamás Németh for Central Asia Rally / Via centralasiarally.com

    ... and ridiculously comfy inside. It makes the perfect place to crash when you've been driving all day or navigating the country on the local buses.

    Wonderful People

    sunriseOdyssey / Via Flickr: sunriseodyssey

    No matter where you go in Central Asia, one thread that runs through the region is the local hospitality and the warmth of the people. The area might be sparse, but if anyone is around you'll always be greeted with a helping hand and an offered shared meal, sometimes even a place to crash.

    Relics of the Aral Sea

    Tamás Németh for Central Asia Rally / Via centralasiarally.com

    The Aral Sea is one of the world's worst ecological disasters. When the rivers feeding into the large saline lake, once one of the world's largest land-locked body of water, were diverted to the cotton plantations by the Soviet Union, most of the sea dried up, except for a small part in Kazakhstan. The town of Muynaq in Uzbekistan was once a vibrant fishing town, but is now mostly abandoned since the sea turned to desert. Today, the only sign water once flowed here are the eerie rusty husks of former fishing boats.

    Incredible Landscapes

    Tamás Németh for Central Asia Rally / Via centralasiarally.com

    Mountains, endless steppes, ruined cities... Central Asia has it all! Not only is the landscape truly stunning, but it's empty and unspoiled. There are probably few places in the world as unspoiled as Central Asia.

    Weird and Wonderful Sights

    Tormod Sandtorv / Via Flickr: tormods

    You'll find some unique and weird places in Central Asia you won't see elsewhere, like the Gates to Hell in Turkmenistan (pictured) or an underground mosque and sunken forest, both in Kazakhstan.

    Amazing Lakes

    Patrick Barry / Via Flickr: pbarry

    Central Asia might be a landlocked area, where even its border with the Caspian Sea doesn't quite count since it's actually a very large saline lake, but it definitely makes up with stunning lakes all across the region, some set in the high mountains and others in grassy steppes. Kyrgyzstan is home to the second largest body of water in the area after the Caspain (since the Aral's demise), Lake Issyk-Kul, which is also salt water, but Song-Kul, high up in the Tian Shan Mountains, is the remote home to Kyrgyz herdsman, more yurts and boundless hospitality.

    Markets and Bazaars

    Dan Lundberg / Via Flickr: 9508280@N07

    With its history of the Silk Road, it goes without saying that Central Asia is home to some amazing markets. Whether they're dotted around historical sites, or in modern enclosures in busy city centres, you'll always get a feel for the magic of the ancient trade route in any of the Stans!

    Off-the-Tourist-Track

    Tamás Németh for Central Asia Rally / Via centralasiarally.com

    If you want to see amazing places without being jostled about by other tourists, then Central Asia is ultimately for you. There are challenges that come from a lack of tourist infrastructure...

    Tamás Németh for Central Asia Rally / Via centralasiarally.com

    ... like this hotel. But the rewards of going off the beaten track are boundless.

    But Ultimately Central Asia is a Unique...

    Tamás Németh for Central Asia Rally / Via centralasiarally.com

    ... and Beautiful Place

    Fulvio Spada / Via Flickr: lfphotos
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