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Ustyurt Plateau

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan

A vast, seemingly endless stretch of inhospitable desert land extends east from the Caspian towards the legendary cities of Central Asia, harboring remains under its sand.

Located in modern-day Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the Ustyurt Plateau is an expansive, arid region predominately flat for miles around, though some rocky gorges and ravines also make their mark. With its bare desert landscape and extremes of hot and cold weather, traversing the Ustyurt Plateau was one of the most perilous sections of the entire Silk Road, yet a crucial route that caravans had to cross along the northern branch of the Silk Road. These merchants on camel had to carefully plan their crossing of the plateau due the many dangers such as water shortages, bandits, and freezing temperatures due to lack of vegetation. Yet despite the many risks, the Silk Road continued to funnel through this harsh landscape, as the plateau provided the most direct land route between Central Asia and the Caspian Sea.

Further east to the plateau lies scant remains of empires, particularly those of fortresses from the Khorezm, a once prosperous kingdom controlling Silk Road trade passing through the Amu Darya delta flowing into the Aral Sea. That said sea, the Aral Sea, was once one of the four largest lakes in the world. Now it lies engulfed by the desert, evaporated to mere puddles due to the disastrous irrigation from the Soviets. This whole region serves as a reminder to not take lightly the dangers of nature, but to also care for that which is given us.

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How We Got Here

After flying into Aktau, a mining town on the Caspian Sea, we traversed the plateau by train crossing the border into Uzbekistan.

The Highlight

Arriving in Nukus, after 33 hours of brutal travel across the landscape, and simply enjoying the atmosphere, people, and food in our first glimpse into Uzbekistan.

Our Treasure

Although the train by train was profusely hot and boring, we found joy in being in the struggle with all the locals, al, the while making new friends.

Explore More

     ➨  33 Hours Across the Ustyurt

S N A P S H O T S   O N   T H E   R O A D

W H E R E   W I L L   Y O U R   J O U R N E Y   T A K E   Y O U   N E X T ?

The Ustyurt tested your caravan in way you never experienced this far in your journey, nearly losing all your water resources all the while struggling to keep warm in the long, dark nights. Good news await though, as some of the Silk Roads most resplendent cities filled to the brim with goods awaits. The first stop is Khiva, a small walled city of the Khans.


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