The stans countries are a group of seven Central Asian nations that share a common suffix in their names: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. These countries have diverse cultures, landscapes and histories that make them fascinating destinations for travelers. Here are some facts about the stans countries that you may not know:
The official languages vary by country, but Russian is commonly spoken and understood throughout the region. The currency used in each country is unique, with some using their own version of the Russian ruble and others using their own currency, such as the Kazakh tenge, Kyrgyz som, Tajik somoni, Turkmen manat, and Uzbek som.
The Silk Road, an ancient trade route connecting China to the Mediterranean, passed through many of the Stans, leading to the development of important cities and cultural centers. Transportation within the region can be challenging, with limited options for public transportation and long distances between major cities. Hiring a private car or joining a tour group may be the best way to get around.
• Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world, with a territory of 2.7 million square kilometers. It is also home to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the world’s first and largest space launch facility, where the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, was launched in 1961.
• Tajikistan is the only Persian-speaking country in Central Asia and has a rich literary heritage. It is also the site of the Pamir Highway, one of the highest and most adventurous roads in the world, which traverses the Pamir Mountains and connects Tajikistan with Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
• Turkmenistan is one of the most isolated and authoritarian countries in the world, ruled by a president who has a cult of personality and a penchant for gold statues. It is also home to the Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as the Door to Hell, a fiery pit that has been burning continuously since 1971, when Soviet engineers accidentally ignited a natural gas field.
• Uzbekistan is famous for its Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, which have preserved their ancient architecture and monuments. It is also the birthplace of Timur, also known as Tamerlane, a 14th-century conqueror who created one of the largest empires in history, stretching from Turkey to India.
• Kyrgyzstan is known for its nomadic traditions and stunning mountain scenery. It hosts the World Nomad Games, a biennial event that showcases the skills and sports of nomadic peoples from around the world, such as horseback archery, eagle hunting and kok-boru, a game similar to polo but played with a goat carcass.
Generally, the best time to go is during the spring or fall when temperatures are moderate and the weather is pleasant. Here are some more details on the best time to visit each country:
Kazakhstan: The best time to visit Kazakhstan is from May to September when temperatures are mild and there is plenty of sunshine. The summer months of July and August can be quite hot, so it’s best to avoid these months if you’re sensitive to heat.
Kyrgyzstan: The best time to visit Kyrgyzstan is from June to September when the weather is dry and mild, making it ideal for trekking and outdoor activities. The high-altitude lakes and mountains can be visited from mid-July to mid-September when the snow has melted.
Tajikistan: The best time to visit Tajikistan is from May to October when the weather is dry and mild. The Pamir Mountains are best visited from June to September when the snow has melted and the roads are passable.
Turkmenistan: The best time to visit Turkmenistan is from March to May and from September to November when temperatures are mild and the weather is dry. The summer months of June to August can be extremely hot, with temperatures reaching over 40°C.
Uzbekistan: The best time to visit Uzbekistan is from April to May and from September to October when temperatures are mild and the weather is dry. The summer months of June to August can be extremely hot, with temperatures reaching over 40°C.
Overall, the best time to visit the Stans is during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, when temperatures are moderate and the weather is pleasant. However, if you plan to visit specific regions or engage in specific activities, it’s best to research the weather and climate patterns for that area before booking your trip.
Start your visit within the salmon-pink walls of the Medina of Marrakech, which contrasts with the white, jagged peaks of the nearby Atlas Mountains and serves as the inspiration for the city’s nickname, the Red City. This ancient part of Marrakech houses the famous Jemaa El Fna square that brims with food vendors selling everything from sheep’s heads to snails beneath creamy awnings. From here, allow yourself to be lured down the shadowy alleyways to souks (or markets) filled with cones of burgundy-, auburn- and citrine-hued spices exuding an aromatic haze. Stroll past the carpet sellers, with their cobalt-, jade-, and crimson-threaded merchandise, and make your way to architectural marvels like Koutoubia Mosque and the Bahia Palace. Should you desire a break from the medina’s bustling streets, retreat to a hammam (public bath) or Majorelle Garden.