Food and Drink Turkmenistan


Turkmenistan has many fabulous, unique, exciting, and interesting aspects, and there are numerous reasons for you to want to visit. Cuisine though, is not, unfortunately, one of them.

In general, it’s very meat-heavy, quite fatty and heavy, and there isn’t a huge variety in the options of dishes available. You could maybe characterise it as Middle Eastern food combined with Soviet utilitarianism and nomadic technique and ingredients.

We generally don’t include meals on our tours, as one very good thing about food in Turkmenistan is the price, so it’s possible to eat for well under $5 a meal for most meals, and can be a good way for you to experience “real life” by ordering and eating at normal restaurants, or stopping at cafes en-route.


Breakfast

Breakfast for most of you will be the most disappointing meal. They don’t really do breakfast food in the same way as we do, so a lot of the time there are things that would also be available for other meals, and often things that have been left over from the evening before. There’s always bread and jams or honey, and usually eggs, though always hard-boiled, and don’t even wonder about asking for them to be cooked a different way. There will likely be a selection of sweet biscuits and often some other pastries as well. Bliniy, which are basically crepe-style pancakes, are a common breakfast food too, but they’re usually served cold and often rolled up with meat or vegetables inside.


Lunch

What exactly is available for lunch will obviously depend hugely on where you are and how long you’ve got to stop. Some days on tours we’ll be stopping briefly to buy pastries or shawarma, which will cost well under $1 each, other days you’ll get the chance to stop and enjoy a sit-down meal. Pastries and bread are common to be eaten for lunch, but if you are eating in a sit-down restaurant all the same things will be available to you that are eaten for dinner.


Dinner

You’ll end up eating the same three or four dishes for most meals, so on tours we do try and eat at as big a variety of restaurants and cafes as possible. Dinner, more-so than the other meals, does tend to be quite heavy and vegetarian options can be hard to fine.


Vegetarian and Vegan Food

Central Asia is not a region that’s particularly vegetarian-friendly, and other than the handful of people that work closely with western tourists, most locals won’t even properly understand vegetarianism, let alone veganism. Of course, over several years taking tours to Turkmenistan we’ve come to know exactly what to ask for and places that do understand it properly, so it’s definitely possible, however any vegetarians or vegans visiting Turkmenistan should be prepared to have limited options for some of their meals.


Common Dishes in Turkmenistan

Shashlik

Common throughout Central Asia, this is one of the most common dishes you’ll come across. A shashlik is a stick of marinated meat, whether it be chicken, lamb, beef, duck or pork. It will come with a spiced vinegar, a pile of raw onions, and some bread. Shashlik can be really delicious, but like anything you can definitely get over it if you have it too often!

Plov

Also common in the whole region, plov is cooked over the course of several hours, made with rice, meat and vegetables, all cooked in meat fat in a huge pan. Plov can vary region to region, even town to town, so if it’s something you enjoy you can try all the different varieties – some cook the meat with the rice, some cook it separately; some include extra ingredients such as sultanas or variations of carrots; some use beef, others lamb; sometimes there’s a boiled (hard of course) egg, sometimes there isn’t.

Lagman

This is actually a Uyghur dish, so again it’s really common throughout Central Asia, originating in Western China. It’s made from hand-pulled noodles, with a mildly spicy sauce of meat and vegetables.

Yarma

Unique to Turkmenistan, yarma is like a really thick porridge with chunks of meat throughout it. Not many restaurants serve this, so if you come across it and do want to try it, don’t let the opportunity pass.

Dograma

This dish is only found in Turkmenistan. It’s a very basic meaty soup, made from essentially the animal itself, whether it’s mutton or beef, using the heart, intestines and lungs as well as the meat, boiled in a broth with tomatoes and sometimes potatoes, onions or other common vegetables.

Unash

Another Turkmen-only soup, unash is a noodle soup, usually containing a whole chilli and chicken on the bone. Unash is a pretty common dish throughout Turkmenistan, so you’ll get plenty of opportunities to try it.


Drinking in Turkmenistan

Alcohol is incredibly cheap in Turkmenistan, with cheap local beer available just about everywhere for upto about $1 a pint, and of course being a former Soviet country, vodka is aplenty and probably too affordable. There are also other options of course, including normal things like cola and fanta, but there are also some interesting ones too, such as kumis and shubat.



Is Turkmenistan currently open?

Yes!

It was a long wait, and they ended up being closed for 3 years for COVID, but the borders have finally re-opened. Read more about it here .





Example Tours

Turkmenistan Easter Tour
Ashgabat to Avaza, a canyon and a crater, and a bunch of other cool stuff, we hope you'll fall in love with Turkmenistan as much as we have!

March 30, 2024
8 days
US$1395.00
Turkmenistan Easter Tour
Bookings closed!
Turkmenistan Comprehensive Tour
We'll do everything you've heard of, plus some really wacky places that you've never heard of!

March 30, 2024
13 days
US$2015.00
Turkmenistan Comprehensive Tour
Bookings closed!
Turkmenistan Carpet Day Tour
If you thought Turkmenistan was an exciting destination, imagine seeing it on Carpet Day!

May 20, 2024
8 days
US$1495.00
Turkmenistan Carpet Day Tour
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan Comprehensive Carpet Day Tour
From the ever-so Turkmen Carpet Day festivities, to the flaming Gates of Hell, the desolation of the Aral Sea, to the beauty of the Registan, this tour is for those who really want to delve into these two countries.

May 20, 2024
17 days
US$2795.00
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan Comprehensive Carpet Day Tour
Turkmenistan Carpet Day Budget Tour
A great way to see a unique and very Turkmen event - who else has a National Carpet Day?!

May 24, 2024
4 days
US$995.00
Turkmenistan Carpet Day Budget Tour
Turkmenistan Extension
Continues on to the 5 Stans Tour, for anyone who wants to see more of Turkmenistan while you're already there.

June 15, 2024
5 days
US$820.00
Turkmenistan Extension
Turkmenistan Summer Tour
A week in Turkmenistan, why not? You'll get everything from a crazy marble city, to a cemetery adorned with the horns of mountain goats, and everything in between.

June 15, 2024
7 days
US$1440.00
Turkmenistan Summer Tour
5 Stans Summer Tour
Designed to be done in either one big tour, or in smaller sections, this tour is for anyone who wants to experience all the variety that Central Asia has to offer.

June 19, 2024
18 days
US$2680.00
5 Stans Summer Tour
5 Stans Autumn Whirlwind Tour
A great snapshot into 5 amazing countries.

Sept. 7, 2024
23 days
US$3825.00
5 Stans Autumn Whirlwind Tour
5 Stans Autumn Original Tour
Taking the scenic route from Astana to Ashgabat, this tour covers everything that makes Central Asia so special, including the World Nomad Games and Turkmenistan Independence Day.

Sept. 7, 2024
27 days
US$4325.00
5 Stans Autumn Original Tour
5 Stans Autumn Mega Tour
Bishkek to Bukhara, Astana to Ashgabat, and everything in between. This epic tour will take you right across Central Asia through canyons and gorges, cosmopolitan cities, across land borders, and even to a fiery crater.

Sept. 7, 2024
32 days
US$4945.00
5 Stans Autumn Mega Tour
Turkmenistan Independence Day Whirlwind Tour
The tour for anyone who loves to see a spectacle!

Sept. 26, 2024
4 days
US$995.00
Turkmenistan Independence Day Whirlwind Tour
The Original Turkmenistan Independence Day Tour
Some epic special events, the Gates of Hell, and Turkmenistan's favourite beach resort.

Sept. 26, 2024
8 days
US$1495.00
The Original Turkmenistan Independence Day Tour
Turkmenistan Independence Day Mega Tour
Starting with the spectacular Independence Day events, we'll visit the Gates of Hell, Yangykala Canyon, and loads of other places you've never heard of in this mega version of the tour.

Sept. 26, 2024
13 days
US$2195.00
Turkmenistan Independence Day Mega Tour
Turkmenistan Easter Tour
From a fiery crater to a colourful canyon, a beach resort to a mountain village, and a glistening capital to an ancient city. This tour gives a glimpse of all our favourite spots in Turkmenistan.

April 19, 2025
8 days
US$1395.00
Turkmenistan Easter Tour
Turkmenistan Extension
For those who want to see more of Turkmenistan while you're already there for the 5 Stans Summer Tour, exploring the west of the country, as well as Ashgabat and the Gates of Hell.

June 15, 2025
5 days
US$820.00
Turkmenistan Extension
Turkmenistan Summer Tour
Where better to spend your summer holidays than in Turkmenistan?

June 15, 2025
7 days
US$1440.00
Turkmenistan Summer Tour
5 Stans Summer Tour
This is the tour for anyone who wants to get a great snapshot of what Central Asia has to offer. Can be done all in one whack, or in smaller sections, whatever you like!

June 19, 2025
18 days
US$2680.00
5 Stans Summer Tour
Turkmenistan Independence Day Whirlwind Tour
For those who want to see the coolest Independence Day in the world, but only have a couple of days to do it in.

Sept. 26, 2025
4 days
US$995.00
Turkmenistan Independence Day Whirlwind Tour
The Original Turkmenistan Independence Day Tour
We were the very first to ever have foreigners attend the Independence Day events in Ashgabat, and we're still super excited by it every year!

Sept. 26, 2025
8 days
US$1495.00
The Original Turkmenistan Independence Day Tour
Turkmenistan Independence Day Mega Tour
Exclusive access to the epic Independence Day events, plus all the must-sees such as the Gates of Hell and Yangykala Canyon. But that's not all! This mega version of the tour also ventures into the far east to some of the least visited parts of the world.

Sept. 26, 2025
13 days
US$2195.00
Turkmenistan Independence Day Mega Tour
Turkmenistan New Year Tour
What better way to bring in the New Year than in Ashgabat!

Dec. 30, 2023
7 days
US$1350.00
Turkmenistan New Year Tour
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