The Karakala and Nokhur regions are two of most interesting and undiscovered areas in Central Asia. As a leopard protection zone, Karakala is a fascinating Nature Reserve with incredible canyons, picturesque villages and excellent trekking. Nokhur is a unique culture within Central Asia itself - this almost Turkmen tribe inhabits the valleys on both sides of the Sumbar valley. With its peculiar tribal heritage, outstanding carpentry and its typical stone house villages this culture is one of the least researched phenomena of the region.We combine both regions on an intensive trekking tour venturing into the soft hills and canyons of the beautiful countryside and discovering the small secrets of the unusual Nokhur culture on a stay at the Nokhur villages.
Our 7-day trip takes us 300 km west of Ashgabat deep into the Kopetdag mountain range. By bus we drive along the foothills of the Kopetdag Mountains into Karakala's Sumbar Valley. Along the way we detour through the fascinating Firuza gorges and Chuli valley near Ashgabat, pass by the blue dome of Geok-Depe Mosque, as well as one of Turkmenistan's holiest shrines, Paraw Bibi, where we picnic with the numerous worshippers and pilgrims who come here to pray. After leaving the main road we continue along the serpentines and steep passes of the Karakala region, which is located in the Sumbar river valley in the climatically unique, almost sub-tropical, southwest rim of the Kopetdag, which exceptionally blends Central Asian steppe vegetation with Iranian flora. The limestone landscape around Karakala is beaming with almost alien beauty in incredible colours especially in the evening hours. We set up the tent camp in the evening in the valley of the Sumbar river right before the Nature reserve.
The unique valleys and climate in the region are of major importance to the remaining population of Persian leopards inhabiting the ridges. The WWF is currently financing a protection project for these rare cats conducted by Turkmenistan's ecological NGO's. In the morning we go on a first trekking tour into the fascinating Khasardag Mountains within the vicinity of the Nature Reserve returning by the evening into our camp on the river. There are several hot springs along the way where we relax with fascinating views of the valley. Our guides are knowledgeable rangers and activists from the Reserve and with some luck we stand good chance to witness some of the unique wildlife in the valleys.
In the morning we continue on another trekking tour along the Sumbar valley returning to the camp to visit the Karakala research station in the late afternoon. The exceptional botanical collection of hundreds of kinds of grapes and pomegranate-trees is currently under consideration to become a UN World Nature Heritage site. Dining in the village we stay in the same camp for the night.
Day 4 - 5
On the fourth Day we begin our 2-Day trek through the Aidere gorge into the Nokhur region crossing about 40 km of incredible countryside in this untouched and protected part of the Nature reserve. We reach Konegummez, the first village on the Nokhur plateau by the end of the second Day and spend the night in a traditional stone house.
Nokhur is in many respects an extraordinary culture and region in the western Kopetdag range. With almost Indian Indo-European features and very entrepreneurial life-style this tribe has preserved a unique tradition of handicrafts and architecture in their villages. Outstanding carpentry and unusual stone-houses are characteristic for their hillside villages amidst picturesque pomegranate and almond orchards. Visiting the craftsmen we experience extraordinary hospitality and stroll through the tiny alleyways of two of the main villages enjoying the hospitality of the locals.
We spend the next morning in the village before returning to the main road on the next Day to return to Ashgabat.