For thousands of years Central Asia has been the stomping ground of true travellers.When the traders of the Silk Road began to traverse between continents, passing rich commodities between Arabian aristocrats and Asian merchants, they became the world’s first overlanders.
Weaving through the ages in the same manner it winded across the desert sands, the Silk Road shaped the course of history forever. Today the caravans of camel and cloth are gone, but the intrigue for modern wanderers lives on.
From Kyrgyzstan to Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan to Afghanistan, the curious collection of nations that make up Central Asia are quickly gaining attention as an adventurer’s hotspot. Years of civil unrest and political turmoil are behind the ‘Stans, and there has never been a better time to explore this fascinating region. And just as it has always been, the best way to explore Central Asia is still by land.
Imagine bouncing along empty roads surrounded by glaciated peaks, strolling through the grounds of ancient mosques or sipping green tea on the floor of a yurt with a nomadic family. This is what awaits you. Sure, you can fly from Turkey to Thailand in a day, but what you save in time you miss out in the countless kilometres filled with culture, history, natural beauty and hospitable people. There are hundreds of reasons why overlanding is the best way to see Central Asia, but here are five of our favourites!
1. Fascinating History
From the timeless mosques of Bukhara to the petroglyphs of Cholpon Ata, Central Asia is full of fascinating historical sites. While some of them may be well known, the amazing secret of the region is that almost every village has some remarkable story to tell. It might be a shining memorial to an influential Kazakh poet, or a forgotten town that played a pivotal role during Soviet times. Central Asia is littered with more history than perhaps any other region on the planet. When you travel overland through the area you get the opportunity to stop and discover these pockets of historical splendor, and piece together the fragments of time.
2. Breathtaking Landscapes Around Every Corner
Few places on earth change scenery so dramatically as Central Asia. In Kyrgyzstan 93% of the land is covered in mountains, while over the border in Uzbekistan 80% is desert. In one day you can encounter sprawling steppe, glaciated valleys, flowing rivers and mountains that peak over 7000m. Central Asia is also perfectly set up for those who want to camp in the countryside as you travel along, meaning you can really get deeper into the pristine wilderness. The only way to truly appreciate the stunning beauty is to overland between every destination, not missing a beat.
3. Famous Hospitality
The only thing that can compete with the stunning scenery and mesmerizing history is the hospitality of the local people in Central Asia. Everyone smiles, wanting to know where you are from, and is eager to show you a good time in their homeland. The tourist season in Central Asia is incredibly short due to the harsh winters, meaning that the locals never get tired of visitors coming to their country. Expect countless invitations to enjoy fresh tea and snacks with them (and maybe a shot or two of vodka), and have your heart warmed by their generosity. If you fly over a place you miss out on all those amazing interactions that may become the highlights of your entire trip!
4. Get Off The Beaten Path
Even though Central Asia is far from being overrun with tourists, there is still a well-defined path that most travellers find themselves on. When you overland with Dragoman you get the chance to really get off the beaten path and into the parts that are just too hard or expensive to visit on your own. A bus might drive direct between two major cities, but with the freedom of your own transport you can take detours to tiny villages or remote valleys that few tourists ever see.
5. Sense Of Accomplishment
There is something special about looking at a map, drawing a line connecting two distant countries, and knowing that you traversed every single kilometre of the journey between them. Overlanding is a true adventure, and the sense of accomplishment you feel at the end of it is overwhelming. You are more connected to the places you travelled through when you have experienced every part of it from the ground. It is not easy, and it is not without its hassles. But one thing you can count on is that when you overland through Central Asia the memories you create will stay with you a lifetime