Turkmenistan has a lot of public holidays. Of course, there are your regular holidays such as New Year’s Day, Nowruz (traditional new year, celebrated throughout Central Asia and Iran), International Women’s Day (celebrated primarily in communist and former communist countries), Constitution Day (another common one around the world), Victory Day (celebrating the victory over Germany in WWII).
According to the Turkmen Proverb, water is a Turkmen's life, a horse is his wings, and a carpet is his soul. And guess what – there are holidays for all these things too. Turkmenistan celebrates some thoroughly unique public holidays, and here are a few of our favourites.
Independence Day – 27 th September
Although not unique to Turkmenistan, the way they celebrate their Independence Day is pretty special. Turkmenistan gained Independence from the Soviet Union along with the other Soviet Republics in 1991. On the 27 th of October they gained their Independence, however in 2018 they moved the date one month earlier to the 27 th of September.
On the evening before Independence Day there is a large concert in the main stadium, with mass dance displays, words created by the crowd holding large cards, displays of sport, scientific and industrial advancements.
The day of Independence there is a huge parade in front of the Presidential Palace and then finally the day after Independence Day is the Presidential Horse Racing event, another amazing spectacle which includes more artistic displays between the races, large prizes for the winning horses/jockeys/trainers as well as cultural displays in the forecourt of the hippodrome.
Every year we visit Turkmenistan during this time, and it never fails to disappoint. If you're interested in this unique experience check out The Original Turkmenistan Independence Day Tour .
Melon Day – Second Sunday of August
No other country in the world has a holiday celebrating the humble melon, but Turkmenistan isn’t any other country. Introduced in 1994, it specifically celebrates a local breed of melon called the Turkmenbashy melon, named after the first President of Turkmenistan. With that being said, all melons, including the most famous of all melons – the watermelon – are celebrated, with large displays, mass dances and concerts all dedicated to these sweet delights.
Horse Day – Last Sunday of April
Horse Day in Turkmenistan is possibly the most important public holiday after Independence Day. The former President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov loves horses, and this annual holiday takes pride of place on the Turkmen calendar, celebrating one of the oldest breeds of horses in the world, the Akhal Teke.
The day will be celebrated with horse racing, horse beauty contests and performances of equestrian. Of course, with all events in Turkmenistan there is also music and dancing.
If you’ve ever been to Turkmenistan, you’ll know they love the Akhal Teke, with statues, books, and artwork all over the country dedicated to this noble steed.
In 2020 it was announced that 680 million Dollars would be spent to improve the living conditions of Akhal Teke horses and those who work with them.
Carpet Day – Last Sunday in May
Turkmen carpets are probably their most famous export. Known for their beauty and quality, the people of Turkmenistan should be rightly proud of their creations. Turkmen Carpet Day was established in 1992 to celebrate the special techniques and style that separate them from other types. Every Turkmenistan home is filled with carpets and are the pride of families.
They take their carpets very seriously and as well as celebrating Carpet Day, Turkmenistan also has the national carpet museum as well as many carpet related records such as the largest carpet in the world.
On this day, exhibitions of carpets take place all over the country, and forums including the World Association of Connoisseurs of Turkmen Carpets are held. Awards are given to the great carpet makers and concerts are held.
Day of Neutrality – 12 th December
Another important day in Turkmenistan is the Day of Neutrality, celebrating the day that the UN voted in 1995 to officially recognise Turkmenistan as the first permanently neutral country in the world. Yes, you read that right. While Switzerland is probably the most famous neutral country, only Turkmenistan is officially recognised as such.
Turkmenistan is so proud of their neutral position, that they have a huge monument in Ashgabat dedicated to it. Not only that but you’ll see signs up all over the country and things like postage stamps issued to commemorate it.
Huge concerts and parades are held throughout the country, especially in Ashgabat, on the 12 th of December.
Health Day – 7 th April
World Health Day became an increasingly important day under former President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, as his reign increasingly became associated with promoting healthy living. As someone who loved to go to the gym, ride horses and bicycles and generally live a healthy lifestyle, he promoted Health Day as one of the most important events in the country.
On Health Day, roads are often closed, and people are encouraged to cycle, large mass works and other fitness related events are held. The biggest walk is that held at the Walk of Health, a purpose-built long-distance path, with a short version (8km) and long version (28km). If you’re really keen you can do both!
Some other notable public holidays:
Day of Revival, Unity and the Poetry of Magtymguly – 18-19 th of May
Day of the Ministry of Internal Affairs – 29 th of May
Day of Turkmen Workers of Culture and Art – 27 th of June
Celebration of the Wheat Harvest – 3 rd Sunday of July
Border Guards’ Day – 11 th of August
Day of the Workers in the Oil, Gas, Power and Geological Industry – 2 nd Saturday in September
Bakhshi (traditional musician) Day – 2 nd Sunday in September
Day of the Worker in the Organs of National Security – 30 th of September
Good Neighbourliness Day – 1 st Sunday in December
Day of Remembrance of the First President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov Turkmenbashy – 21 st of December
Check out a full list of all our Turkmenistan tours here .