Latest Blog Posts

Traveling Iran — What it’s Like

Old world Persia

As a curious traveler, I believe visiting a place for myself is the best way to learn on-the-ground knowledge and to see a place beyond the headlines. My recent visit to Iran – just like my previous trips to troubled lands like North Korea and Palestine – further reaffirmed that what we see in the media isn’t always the real truth. As [...]

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Photo Highlights of Iran: from Persian Architecture to Outstanding Hospitality

The Zagros Mountain in western Iran

Mention Iran and many think of burkha-clad women, burning flags and war. But these stereotypes can’t be further from the truth. For those who are curious and open to new discoveries, Iran is packed full of surprises. It is a relatively safe country to visit and there’s so much to see and do in terms [...]

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Is Ashgabat the World’s Strangest City?

Turkmenistan Royal Palace

When it comes to peculiar sights, Turkmenistan is off the charts. First it’s the Darvaza gas craters, burning gas craters that resemble the gates to hell, that tops my list of the strangest sights I’ve seen; and as if it weren’t bizarre enough, Ashgabat brings it to a whole new level. After a month of [...]

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The Gates to Hell — Darvaza Gas Craters in Turkmenistan

Darvaza burning gas crater by day

In the middle of the Karakum Desert, a roaring fire burns from deep beneath us, its flames dancing in the darkness taunting and teasing us. The walls of the oval crater drop vertically down into the abyss of fire — one careless step and you may well be on your way to hell. They named [...]

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The Walled City of Khiva: A Place of Myths and Legend

Sunset from Konya Ark

The flaming orange yolk is quickly making its descent, taking with it the blanket of gold it has splashed on the sand-colored medressas and turquoise minarets of the city. By this time, all the other travelers around me have all gone and I’m all alone on the watch tower of Konya Ark, save for another traveler [...]

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Bukhara — Uzbekistan’s Holiest or Most Touristy City?

The dome of Mir-i-Arab medressa

With a history spanning a thousand years, Bukhara is dubbed Central Asia’s holiest city by many publications including Lonely Planet. As part of my Silk Road journey with Oasis Overland, we spent some time in Bukhara, learning about its history and much revered architectural marvels. The collection of medressas, minarets and mosques was outstanding and [...]

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The Golden Road to Samarkand: Uncovering Silk Road History

Turquoise domes are omnipresent in Samarkand

We travel not for trafficking alone, by hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned. For lust of knowing what should not be known. We take the Golden Road to Samarkand. — James Elroy Flecker, The Golden Journey to Samarkand Indeed, nowhere else is as evocative of the Silk Road as Samarkand. This ancient city was [...]

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Uzbekistan’s Architectural Marvels — Best in the Muslim World

A dome in Samarkand

Prior to this Silk Road trip, I had seen photos of Uzbekistan’s monuments and I knew they were beautiful — but I had no idea of the extent and the sheer scale of it all. As my trip unveiled, Uzbekistan is home to some of the Muslim world’s best display of architecture, featuring grandiose gates, intricate [...]

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From Everest Adventurer to Children’s Book Author: Interview with Sophie Helenek

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When I first got to know Sophie, I couldn’t stop reading her stories of adventure from around the world. As an accomplished adventurer, she is the fourth and youngest French woman to scale Mount Everest (29,000+ feet). Even when she was pregnant, she continued to climb mountains and kayak on smooth waters. When she was forty [...]

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Life on the Edge: The Most Extreme Places I’ve Been

Pyongyang subway

Travel to me is about getting out of my comfort zone and exploring places that make me hold on to the edge of my seat. But these days, with travel getting more affordable and easily accessible, it’s getting harder and harder to find untouched destinations – places that remain relatively raw and untainted. That’s why [...]

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The Sunday Animal Market in Taraz, Kazakhstan

Selling their sheeps

Sunday animal farms (mal bazari) are a big thing in Central Asia. Because They are loud, smelly and chaotic; but they also give a glimpse of Central Asian life and culture — which is exactly why I love them. Our first stop on the Central Asia overlanding trip was Taraz, a town in Kazakhstan just [...]

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Exploring Kazakhstan’s Wilderness: Hiking in Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve

Gorgeous, accessible mountains in Aksu Zhabagly

Kazakhstan may be known for its oil and the antics of the pseudo-Kazakh Borat, but few people are aware of the wilderness that covers a large part of the country. Last week, as part of my overlanding trip through Central Asia with Oasis Overland, we spent two nights camping out in the Aksu-Zhabagly nature reserve [...]

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Market Fever at Osh Bazaar in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Locals selling bread

The fragrance of freshly baked Kyrgyz nan (bread) and red hot spices fills the air as I wander through the labyrinth of Osh Bazaar, the most famous market in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I snake my way between the mountains of bread and heaps of fresh vegetables, smiling and greeting friendly vendors with a soft “salaam”. Women with floral scarves wrapped around their heads [...]

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Celebrating Kyrgyzstan’s Independence Day in Bishkek

Horse races

Last week I arrived in Bishkek just in time to celebrate Kyrgyzstan’s Independence Day, the day the country declared freedom from the Soviet Union. The entire city seemed to be pulsating with energy with carnivals and street parties taking place all over the city. Of all the events that was happening, the exciting one of all was the horse races, Central Asia’s favorite sport. [...]

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Traveling Central Asia: The Mind-Boggling Visa Application Process

Central Asia map

Amongst the nuances of travel, applying for visas is one of the things we hate about traveling. Sadly this is probably the most annoying part of planning a trip to Central Asia. Almost every country in Central Asia requires a visa to enter (for most nationalities). The ever-changing rules for visa applications in Central Asian nations [...]

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