RapidRequest: picking among the ex-Soviet ‘stans

The Rapid Traveler is under the weather today and soon off to a lie-flat bed, so just a quick entry from the mail bag for those curious about Central Asia and not sure where to start. Also see this 36 Hours In entry on Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Reader Jocelyn G. writes:

I just returned from a 3 week trip — one spent in Beijing with a side trip to Xi’an and two spent in Mongolia. It was amazing and something I will be thinking about for years to come. While there I became interested in the “stans” particularly Kyrgyzstan. Any thoughts you have would be welcome.

The Rapid Traveler loves all five. Kyrgyzstan is lush. Tajikistan is rugged. Uzbekistan has the Silk Road goodies but Samarkand, Bukhara AND Khiva is overload. Turkmenistan is the most memorable for all the crazy personality cult stuff and the Gates of Hell. In retrospect, if giving any a pass it would be Kazakhstan, which is good in itself but the scenery lags Kyrgyzstan, the Silk Road bypasses it, and Ashgabat tops Astana.
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Turkmen cowboys on unmarked Silk Road ruins

Readers, what are your highlights from the ex-Soviet ‘stans?

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