Nature of Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan is located in three main natural landscape zones: deserts, oases and mountains. 13 different natural areas may be distinguished in the territory of the country. The plains 15 %, mountains and forelands 12 % water surfaces and non-soil formations (talus, rocks and precipices) occupy a major part of the country – 73 %, the Karakum desert occupies northern and central part of the country (about 80 % of the territory). The fauna of Turkmenistan is marvelous.

The Kopetdag mountains harbor Central Asia’s most thriving leopard population, mountain sheep, the only autochthon population of Kulan found in Badkhyz nature reserve, together with other large carnivores, leopard, hyena and lynx, and a thriving population of gazelles and mountain sheep.

The highest point in Turkmenistan is Ayrybaba Peak of Koytendag Mountains (3139m above the sea level); the lowest point is Akchakaya hollow in the northwest of the Zaunguz Karakum (81m below the sea level). The length of a coastline of the Turkmen part of the Caspian Sea is 1200km.

Most tourists are attracted to Turkmenistan by the unique natural landmarks: tremendous flora — forests of wild fruit and nuts trees, juniper forests on mountain slopes, pistachio savanna forests, flood-plain tugais; diverse fauna — Central Asian leopards, argalis, koulans, goitered gazelles; enchanting sceneries — from picturesque mountain ridges to lifeless desert sands, from green oases to multi kilometer sea coast.


The mountains in Turkmenistan occupy about 20% of the total area Southern border of the country passes along the mountain ridge Kopetdag which lies from northwest to the southeast approximately to 500 km. The peak of Kopetdag at the territory of Turkmenistan is Shahshah Mountain in the southwest of Ashgabat, the height of 2912 m. Kopetdag is the low mountains with narrow valleys. In valleys such settlements, as Archabil, Gokdere, Nohur, Desht and others are located. Kopetdag Mountains consist of igneous and sedimentary rocks (limestone) which hasdeveloped on the sea-bottom. The characteristic phenomenon in foothills of Kopetdag is the thermal sources on the basis of them the world–famous sanatoria Archman, medicalmud resort Mollagara (1951) are created.

In the west the natural continuation of Kopetdag are the mountains of Big and Small Bakan, and in the southeast part of Turkmenistan, on right bank of Amu-Darya the Kugitang-Tau being one of the spurs of Gissarsk Mountains is located.

The highest point of Kugitang is the peak of the Great Turkmenbashy (Airibaba), height 3137m. Some unique natural objects are in mountains Kugitang, namely magnificent, twisting canyon Umbar-dere with the falls overthrown from height of 28 m., hydrosulfide thermal source Keyner-baba, gorge Kyrk-gyz, grove Unabi named under dates growing there (krushin-arnap), karstic fresh water lake Koten. Particular interest causes the Plateau of dinosaurs (length of 500m., width of 200m.) near the settlement Hojapil-ata with more than 2500 forefoots of ancient pangolins (upper Jurassic period, nearby 150 million years ago). Diameter of large footsteps of adult individuals has 70-80 cm., the distance of length of the step makes 1,5m., thus, height of dinosaurs was 8-12m., body length isup to 5m., and weight in the range of 5-10 tons.

Turkmenistan is famous for its caves. The most known of them are the Karlyuk caves. They are located on the slope of Kugitangtau Ridge and are considered unique natural sanctuaries, the are equal to none in entire Eurasia; they are by right included in the List of the World Legacy of UNESCO.The Karlyuk caves are typical representation of various karst forms. There have been found around 60 caves with total length of 50 km, with galleries, passages, halls, labyrinths. The caves are rich in wandering formations of plaster, calcite, aragonite in the form of stalactites, stalagmites, stone curtains etc. A lot of caves have not been explored yet.





“Kov-Ata” cave is very popular among the tourists. The cave is famous for its biggest settlement of bats. In is surrounded by tourist complex consisted of restaurant and cafes. Bakharly underground lake “Kov-ata” is available all year round because of constant temperature of water (33-37◦C) and air. Chemical analysis has shown that water contains a complex combination of chemical elements – 30 have been found to date.

Archabil Gorge is a 10 km narrow intermountain valley with a picturesque natural park on the shores of Firjuzinka — a small mountain stream. There is fresh mountain air and clear blue sky. On the hottest days it is cool and at nights it is even cold there. There are fine conditions for to have a good rest there.Mergenishan Gorge located along the southeast coast of Lake Sarykamysh is a flat bottomed winding canyon of 15 to 70 m in width and up to 35 m steep walls. The gorge was formed in the end of the 13th century as a result of water evacuation from Lake Ty
In the west the waters of the Caspian Sea wash the territory of Turkmenistan and stretch for 600 kilometres. The geographical study of the trans-Caspian region started from the coast of the Caspian Sea. The basis of the economic and cultural relations of Turkmenistan with the neighbouring countries was formed there. The Turkmen coast of the Caspian Sea can be rightfully called one of the unique natural regions of the country.The total area of the Caspian Sea is 372,000 square kilometers, moreover, the territory of the basin is ten times more than the water surface 3.6 million square kilometers. The sea sprawls 1,300 kilometres from the north to the south and its narrowest place is 200 kilometres while the widest one is 800 kilometres. Its average depth is 180 metres while the maximum one is 980 metres. The Caspian Sea lies 28.5 metres below sea level. The Caspian Sea is bordered by Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Russia. Such important rivers as the Volga, Ural, Kura and Terek empty into the Caspian Sea.The coast of the Caspian Sea is inhabited by the representatives of a rich animal and vegetable kingdom many of wich are so rare that it is very difficult to see them in heir natural habitat. We can see this striking beauty in the Khazar State Reserve established in 1932.The main wealth of the sea is fish. Such fish as herring, pike perch, vobla, grey mullet, sprat and sturgeon are caught there. Such valuable fish as white sturgeon can be caught only in the Caspian Sea. The basin of the Caspian Sea is famous for its rich oil, gas and other chemical raw materials. Not only rich mineral resources but an extreme ecological purity of the sea water and remarkable conditions for rest as well made the Turkmen region of the Caspian Sea famous all over the world.
The Karakum canal is one of the sights of Turkmenistan. The huge artificial river has been built in 1955-1962. The general length of Karakum canal is 1100 km, it directly crosses the Southeast Karakums, passing through heart of the desert from Amu Darya up to Ashgabat and providing with water the large industrial cities of Ashgabat, Mary, Balkanabat, Turkmenbashi.Amu Darya is the largest of the rivers of Turkmenistan and central Asia, its general length makes 2540 km.,from them of 1000 km are on the territory of our country. The area of reservior of Amu Darya is measured of 227 thousand square kilometres; the river is fed with thawed snow of glaciers and snows that causes two floods-in the spring and in the summer. From the left bank of Amu Darya the Karakum canal begins. It connects the main waterway of the country with the rivers Murgap and Tedjen.The river Murgap takes the second place under the size and economic value, the common length of the river is 852 km. from them of 350 km. pass under the territory of Turkmenistan.In the southwest part of the country the rivers Atrek and Sumbar are flew. Small Mountain Rivers flowing down from northen slopes of Kopetdag are Arvaz, Altyyab, Sekizyab, Firyuzinka, Ashgabat, Beurminka, Karasu, Kozganchay, Dushak, Minechay.BAKHARLY UNDERGROUND LAKE “KOV-ATA” – is a unique, world known natural object located 100 km from Ashgabat. A warm hydrogen sulphide lake lies in a cave at the Kopet Dag foothills. 276 steps lead into the lake. On your way down you will admire marvelous grapes and lines of stalactites and see bat’s bevies. This cave impresses with its greatness. It has the length of 250 m, width 50 m, depth of 65 m.“Kov-Ata” cave is very popular among the tourists. In is surrounded by tourist complex consisted of restaurant and cafes. The lake is available all year round because of constant temperature of water (33-37◦C) and air. Chemical analysis has shown that water contains a complex combination of chemical elements – 30 have been found to date. Its turquoise shade and medicinal characteristics attract a lot of visitors. The cave is famous for its biggest settlement of bats.Lake Sarakamysh is the largest lake of Turkmenistan. Its area exceeds 2, 200 km. Sarakamysh natural reserve was made for protection of water fowl — pelicans, cormorants and coots.Lake Mollagara is a not drying saline. The water there is so salty that the human body is pushed onto the surface. The depth of the lake varies from 60 m up to 1.5 km depending on the season. There are located the world’s famous therapeutic mud-baths.One of the most beautiful waterfalls of the country is the Big Nokhur waterfall. The water is falling from 30 m height. Equally beautiful are the Koshtemir, Umbardere and Kyrkghyz waterfalls. There are other waterfalls in the north part of the country, for example, the Kyrkdeshk Rapids with a canyon to the north of Lake Sarykamysh.Gara Bogaz Gol is a huge sea basin stretching to the north and the west. In one of gorges of Sumbar Valley is located a picturesque Gochdemir waterfall with crystal-like waters falling like shimmering openwork curtain.

One of the largest and extended deserts of the world – Garagum
is located on the territory of Turkmenistan. In translation from Turkmen language this name means “Black Sand”. The majestic sandy desert is extended from the north to the south on 450 km, from the east to the west on 800 km. The area is 35 million hectares. Under the relief it is divided on Zaunguz, South-eastern and the Central Garagums with Unguz hollow. A climate here is sharply continental with hot summer and the cold winter.

Turkmenistan has several major reserves: Badkhyz, Repetek, Khazar State Reserve, Gaplangyr and Kugitang.BADKHYZ RESERVE is located in the south of Turkmenistan near the border with Iran and Afghanistan in Tedjen – Murgap inter-rivers. The majestic and severe beauty of this edge and the unique population of koulan-onager, which was kept on the Earth only here in quantity no more than 150 heads, wealth and the diversity of Flora and Fauna required taking urgent measures on their conservation. For koulans preservation M.P.Rozanov has performed scientifically sound report of the whole natural complex of Badkhyz on creation of reservation and he has presented it to the Government of Turkmenistan. On December 3, 1941, despite of heavy military time, was founded the Badkhyz State Reserve.Different unique species of plants and animals are protected in Badkhyz Reserve. Natural complexes, represented in Badkhyz reserve have no analogues in Eurasia, and therefore, it was included in the number of the most important world reserves and in early 2000 recommended to be included into the List of World UNESCO cultural and natural heritage.Rare species of fauna and flora make the reserve on of the remarkable site of Turkmenistan. Visiting the reserve, acquaintance with its wonderful beauty is a pleasant unforgettable meeting!THE KUGITANG RESERVE, which is located on the south of the Lebap region, is represented with a unique natural phenomenon: a grandiose canyon “Umbar Depe” with a striking 28 m waterfall, the world-wide famous plateau of Dinosaurs (with 438 footprints), a unique sulpher hydrogen spring “Kainar Baba”, canyon “Kirkgiz” (forty girls), karst caves. And at last a monument of nature Unabi grove! It is located in a mountain natural boundary with a small but deep, karst, unsalted lake. Here one can see a panorama of the Aira – Baba peak, the highest peak in Turkmenistan (3137 m above the sea level). An absolute wonder of Kugitang beautiful spots are the so-called Karluk caves with the underground town and onyx gallery.REPETEK BIOSPHERE RESERVE is located in the hot desert, approximately 70 kilometers far from Turkmenabat, the administrative center of Lebap velayat.In 1927 the desert reserve was established at the station in order to protect the unique black haloxylon forests in the eastern part of the Garagum desert and the deserted places adjoining them. The reserve occupies 35 thousand hectares. Its flora and fauna is highly rich.The plant kingdom of the reserve is rich with its black haloxylon, white haloxylon, sandy borjak, black and white kandym and many others.The animal world of sandy desert reserve attracts the attention of the tourists. You can come across almost all kinds of birds typical of the Garagum Desert. They are a golden eagle, a black vulture, a beautiful bustard, a pink pelican, a saker falcon and an eagle owe. About 30 kinds of large and small animals live in the territory of the reserve such as a wolf, a desert lynx, a fox, a porcupine and a jackal. Here you can watch nature in its primordial state.