Soviet, Islamic Turkish - join the culture club
Jeremy Atiyah offers a guide to all the 'Stans'
Apart from sharing a common syllable at the end of their names, the former
Soviet republics of
16 May 2004
The culture is a mix of Soviet, Islamic and Turkish, which can make for bureaucratic difficulties: separate visas are required for all the countries, and lone tourists are sometimes viewed with suspicion.
A tour operator might help; some offer overland trips spanning several of the Stans together. Explore Worldwide (01252 760100; www.explore.co.uk), runs a 25-day trip through
You get an idea of
Getting there: British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) flies direct to Almaty from £590 return. Tour operators: Naturetrek (01962 733051; www.naturetrek.co.uk) offers two-week, all-inclusive birding and botany tours from £2,000.
As a country, this Stan is the most liberal in the region. It is also by far the easiest to visit: its government (unlike that of most of its neighbours) actively promotes tourism. And given its abundance of stunning mountain scenery, the trekking here is some of the best in the world. After trekking with horses in the
Getting there: British Airways flies direct to Bishkek from £690. Tour operators: Regent Holidays (see above) offers a 12-day tour from £1,250 per person, including flights, b&b in Bishkek, full board and shared facilities outside Bishkek and when camping at Song Kul, transfers and sightseeing with English-speaking guides.
Regrettably, this Stan has hardly been visited by tourists since the fall of the
Getting there: If you want to fly from
This is one of
Getting there: Turkish Airlines (020-7766 9300; www.thy.com) flies twice a week via
As a cultural destination, this is by far the most exciting of the Stans. You can go to the opera on the cheap in the capital city
Getting there: British Airways flies direct to