The "5 Stans"

10 extraordinary places you should visit in the ‘5 Stans’

Catie Leary


Mountains loom above a herd of horses grazing in Kyrgyzstan. (Photo: Michal Knitl/Shutterstock)

Looking for an adventure that’s off the beaten path and won’t break the bank? Look no further than Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — referred to in shorthand as the “5 Stans.”

Sometimes identified as Central or Middle Asia, these five countries are surrounded by Russia to the north, Afghanistan and Iran to the south, the Caspian Sea to the west and China to the east.

The suffix “-stan” means “land of” in the Farsi language, and each country’s name references the tribes who historically lived there, including the Kazakhs, the Uzbeks, the Turkmens and so on. Together, the Stans make up 1.5 million square miles and boast a population of nearly 68 million people. Although each country speaks its own language and possesses a distinct culture, the region as a whole shares a common legacy of nomadic heritages tied to the historical Silk Road.

In addition to a fascinating history that spans thousand of years, it’s a region filled with a diverse array of natural biomes — from treeless, grassy steppes and lofty snow-capped mountains to cold, arid deserts.

Despite all this, it’s easy to overlook them in favor of other more popular destinations. Here are 10 remarkable places that may change your mind about that. Read more.