Central Asia's Silk Road: A Beginner's Guide to the 5-Stans

  • Bunnik Tours
  • 27 Nov 23

How much do you know about the 5-Stans of Central Asia? Nestled between India, Russia and China, each are independent countries with unique identities.

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan by Annelieke Huijgens

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan by Annelieke Huijgens

Mass tourism has not made any inroads in Central Asia, but its popularity is predicted to spike over the next few years. With the region's stunning architecture, breathtaking natural beauty, spectacular cuisines and warm hospitality, a journey around the 5-Stans is unlike anything you've done before. Read on to uncover the countries that make up the '5-Stans'.





Perhaps the most mysterious of Central Asia’s 5-Stans, Turkmenistan is an ancient land of great spirituality, tradition and natural beauty. Largely covered by the Karakum Desert and bordered by the Caspian Sea, the country once included significant stops along the ancient Silk Road. Over 5 million people reside in Turkmenistan and the capital, Ashgabat, is filled with large golden monuments honouring the former president, Saparmurat Niyazov. Ashgabat is often called the 'White City', due to its many marble-clad buildings. 



Uzbekistan is renowned for its impressive mosques, mausoleums and other sites linked to the ancient Silk Road. The cities of Khiva, Samarkand and Bukhara were key stops for traders along the Silk Road and have been restored to their former glory. The country is also home to a range of stunning sites, including Registan Square (a monument of medieval architecture, with three towering madrassas in the heart of Samarkand) and Bibi-Khanym Mosque (once one of the world’s most important Islamic monuments). The country, with a population of over 32 million, is also known for its beautiful assortment of handicrafts, fresh fruit and nuts.



This mountainous country is home to some of the most inspiring high-altitude landscapes in the world, at least half of the country lies 3,000+ metres above sea level! Just outside the capital of Dushanbe lies multi-hued lakes and many stunning peaks. The country is home to over 9 million people, with many living in qishlaqs (settlements consisting of 200 – 700 family houses built alongside the banks of a river). Life is much slower and simple in Tajikistan.



Kyrgyzstan is a country defined by its natural beauty. Here you’ll find Ala Archa National Park, considered to be one of the most beautiful places near the capital of Bishkek, and Lake Issyk-Kul, the world’s second largest alpine lake with vivid blue waters. Kyrgyzstan is also known for its horse-riding culture. The Nomad Horse Games, possibly the most famous of all traditional Central Asian sports, are held in Cholpon Ata.



Due to its abundant reserves of oil and other minerals, Kazakhstan is the most economically advanced of the ‘Stans’. The largest city and former capital, Almaty, has a European vibe with its leafy avenues, modern shopping centres and abundance of restaurants. Even with a population of 18 million, the country is filled with beautiful natural landscapes. Medeu, the highest ice-skating complex in the world, is located just outside of Almaty.


Embark on a journey through the heart of the Central Asian Silk Road, voted by Lonely Planet as the #1 Region to Visit in the 2020 Best In Travel Awards. Join our 5-Stans small group tour to experience the magic of this captivating region.

show me the 5-stans!

All Images by Annelieke Huijgens


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