Yerbent Desert Village
The small village of Yerbent is an oasis in the Karakum Desert and offers a small glimpse of rural life in Turkmenistan.
Situated just of the main Ashgabat to Konye Urgench highway (well, pot holed mud track with numerous police checkpoints), this dusty settlement looks like something straight out of a Mad Max film.
Decaying Russian jeeps sit among rusting engine parts and nestled between small shacks and yurts. Dogs, chickens and camels roam the scorching sand among the battered buildings as in much of Central Asia.
The village is slowly being consumed by the desert due to the overgrazing of camels and might one day be eaten up entirely by the desert.
A Stop in the Desert
It might seem a bleak place but it made for an excellent stop on our way to visit the Door to Hell gas crater at Darvaza.
We had been driving for just over two hours since leaving Ashgabat and the scenery was impressive, if a little repetitive; nothing more than sand dunes and the odd camel grazing by the roadside.
Our driver left the road and sped up a sand dune, electing to take a more fun route into the small village.
We pulled up outside a ramshackle wooden building with a large hound lazing outside. A tanned and rugged looking Turkman in his late thirties came out to greet us with an unsmiling and suspicious air.
We got left the Toyota land cruiser and ordered a couple of beers. The Turkman wandered up to a house 500 metres away and while we were waiting for our refreshment had a wander around the village and outlying dunes.
My travelling companion made friends with the dog which seemed pleased with this small distraction and I scoured the desert floor looking for scorpions or other interesting bugs.
The only thing I saw was a nasty looking black insect that looked suspiciously like a pepsis wasp or tarantula hawk (rated number 4 on the Schmitd pain index for insect stings, above the bullet ant).
After finishing our drinks and buying a couple more to have later, we set off on the bumpy road northwards.
Getting to Yerbent
Yerbent (sometimes Erbent or Jerbent) is 160km north of Ashgabat and about half way between the capital and the Door to Hell at Darvaza. Marshrutkas from Ashgabat will take around 3 hours. The road is pretty bad so expect a bumpy ride.
Getting to Turkmenistan
VISAs for Turkmenistan are notoriously difficult to get and you must either book a tour or try your luck with a transit VISA (you must enter and exit at different places). See my Ashgabat post for detailed information on the VISA process.
Aside from Flying, it’s possible to arrive in Turkmenistan by boat from Azerbaijan or cross by land from Kazakhstan (current information as of September 2019 indicates this border is currently closed), Iran and Uzbekistan.
For some useful information on visiting the country, check out this guide on What to know when visiting Turkmenistan.
Facilities at Yerbent
There is a gas station across from the village and a small store selling drinks and snacks. A hole in the ground surrounded by corrugated iron represents the toilet.
What else is there to see in Turkmenistan? The strange city of Ashgabat, the ancient Silk Road city of Konye Urgenche, and of course the Darvaza Gas Crater, or Door to Hell as it’s popularly known.