In the midst of central Asia, surrounded by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Iran, with the Caspian Sea to the west, Turkmenistan is a country of diverse history and terrain. Over the course of its long and interesting history, the lands that make up modern-day Turkmenistan have been in the hands of the Persian empire, conquered by Alexander the Great, featured on the Great Silk Road and, more recently been annexed Soviet Union, until it won independence in 1991.
Nowadays it is a country of contrasts, with modern cities like the port of Turkmenbashi and the capital Ashgabat thriving with industry and, increasingly, tourism. Meanwhile, a more traditional way of life is led by the nomadic horsemen, moving from settlement to settlement in their yurts, and the ruins of the ancient cities at Merv tell of still earlier history. Similarly,the landscape - broadly characterized by the vast wastes of the Karakum desert - is punctuated by lush green national parks, not to mention the famous and astounding Door to Hell.