The Yangykala Canyon: As Far Off the Beaten Path as it Gets

Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenistan

I lay on my back, gazing up at a sky full of stars, watching the full moon rising in the distance.

A light breeze swirled around me, occasionally breaking the silence as it rustled the flaps of my tent.

Aside from my guide, Oleg, a few feet away, I was completely alone.

I wondered who else might be staring at the same sky full of stars (cue the song “Somewhere Out There”).

And I wondered if it was possible to get any further away from civilization than I was at that moment.

Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenistan

When we arrived at the Yangykala Canyon that afternoon, Oleg told me he only learned of its existence a few years ago. Upon seeing pictures of the canyon, he didn’t believe it was in Turkmenistan. Most people in the country have no clue it is even there.  Indeed, once we turned on to the dusty, rocky road leading to the canyon (which of course was not marked), we passed only one other person – a man on a motorbike who likely lives in the small Kazakh village at least an hour away. Oleg said he has never encountered another person while visiting the canyon – tourist or local.

Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenistan

But there we were, standing on the plateau above the canyon, staring at pink and white rock formations created by an ocean that existed some forty million years ago.

Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenistan

Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenistan

Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenistan

Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenistan

And there I was that night, camping under a full moon on a canyon plateau in the middle of the desert in Turkmenistan.

And there I was the next morning, watching the sun rise in complete solitude over the same canyon.

Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenistan

About as far off the beaten path as you can possibly get.


13 thoughts on “The Yangykala Canyon: As Far Off the Beaten Path as it Gets”

  1. Hello Katie,

    i jumped to your blog by searching for some interesting sights in turkmenistan an this pictures are awesome. i want to go to turkmenistan in september with my wife (she was born an raised there but she doesn’t know any places there).

    so i have some questions:
    * where did you get your guide? and how much is it? wasn’t it dangerous?
    * have you seen the door to hell too? do you know where i can get a guide for this?

    nice greetings from austria

  2. these are pretty damn cool pictures that you took. And you went camping there alone in the middle of nowhere? That is very brave of you !
    I didn’t even hear about that country before I saw your post here. Now that I see the pictures, I feel like traveling there :-). I would love meeting some of the folks who live in Turkmenistan, I haven’t seen any yet.

  3. Dang Katie how incredible! How many nights did you camp out, just the one? Were you scared someone (or bugs) would come for you in the night, well less scared then normal since your guide was there yea?
    It must have felt so magical in the morning to be the only one there. What a great memory!

  4. I’m totally in see of this post! First the fact that you did it alone (with a guide) is AWESOME! And second, your photos just capture the desolate nature of this place, and it’s extreme beauty. Wow. Another place to add to my list.

  5. Stunning color! What a beautiful canyon. Would love to see it with my own eyes. Hard to believe so few people know it is there because it is so beautiful! 🙂

  6. Those photos are gorgeous! Amazing your guide didn’t even know about the place until a few years ago and that no one seems to go there. It looks great!

    1. I was there the first week of August and it was HOT during the day – over 100 F. It cooled off a bit once the sun went down, but not much. I slept in my tent in a tank top and shorts on top of my sleeping bag and left the tent partially open to let a breeze in to cool it down. Would guess it didn’t fall below 80 overnight.

  7. What a stunning canyon. You can’t get much further off the beaten track without going to the moon. The colour of those rocks are stunning – a real photographer’s dream.

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