Karakum is a sandy desert, one of the largest in Central Asia and on earth. It occupies almost 3/4 of the territory of the Republic of Turkmenistan. It is located between the foothills of Kopetdag, Karabil and Vanhyz in the south, the Khorezm lowland in the north, the Amu Darya valley in the east and the western Uzboy channel in the west.
The Karakum desert is translated as “Black Sand”. This is an endless plain that extends to the horizon, from the south it is pressed by the picturesque cliffs and gorges of the Kopetdag mountains, which break off from a height into the frozen "sea" of the foothills, beyond which the desert begins. In Karakum you can see lakes and areas of dry subtropics, lifeless rocky, clay and gypsum plains, vast areas of loose sand.
“Whoever has not been in the wilderness does not know the world,” says Eastern wisdom. Anyone who has ever visited the desert will always strive to be again among the silent, glowing heat of loose sand, on which life comes to life only with the advent of night. The memory of the cleanest desert air, which perfectly absorbs and purifies Karakum sand, is associated with the smack of salty winds, bitter aromas of desert plants, the rustle of reeds near a few blue lakes. Endless dunes and whole chains of them are the most common sand topography in Central Karakum. And the northern desert steppes with stunted vegetation is another aspect of the desert surrounding a necklace of lakes - Sarykamysh, Zengi-baba, etc.
On the territory of Turkmenistan, three rivers, the Amu Darya, Muragap and Tedjen, cross the desert. Most of the population lives in the oases of these rivers. Though it’s the hottest desert of Central Asia, it still manages to have populated areas. Visiting one of the villages in the desert will give you a clear idea how the Turkmen rural life looks like.
Desert nature is full of contrasts: in spring it blooms, covered with a motley carpet of herbs, and by summer it turns into a dry wasteland, comes to life again with the first autumn rains, and in winter it seems lifeless due to severe frosts. Many plants are ideally suited to tolerate high temperatures, dry air in the summer and frost in the winter, and the ephemera manage to produce seeds by the beginning of summer.
The famous gas crater in Darvaza, popularly known as the "Gates to Hell", is also located in the Karakum. It is one of the creepiest places in the world and attracts hundreds of tourists every year. The gas crater is on fire for decades, that is where the nickname comes from-the Gates to Hell.