Turkmenistan, the country in Central Asia, has opened a new airport terminal in Ashgabat, its capital and largest city. First conceived back in 2007, the reconstruction was designed to make Ashgabat Airport the largest airport in Central Asia.
Visitors of all countries must apply for a visa in order to visit, and you must have an invitation letter from a local travel agency. As a country that is largely closed to outsiders, Turkmenistan’s Ashgabat Airport only welcomed ~100,000 tourists in 2015. Still, it didn’t stop the country from building an airport that has the capacity for 17 million passengers a year. During the opening ceremony of the airport today, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, President of Turkmenistan, said:
With an advantageous geographical position at the crossroads of regional and international communications routes, our country has a solid transit potential we aspire to realise to the maximum.
The new airport is designed to be bird-shaped, and is said to resemble the logo of Turkmenistan Airlines. It costs $2.3 billion to build, which is about 3 times how much the Sochi airport in Russia cost. For comparison, that is also about how much the Denver Airport went over budget by.
Once dubbed a “Presidential Playground,” Ashgabat is no stranger to ornate buildings and fascinating architecture. According to the 2013 Guinness World Record, the city has the highest density of white marble buildings anywhere in the world. Specifically, there is 48,583,619 square feet of white marble spread across 543 buildings—about 840 American Football fields.
I actually find Turkmenistan to be a fascinating country, and hope to visit some day. One of the famous sights is the “Door to Hell,” which was a natural gas field that collapsed to be become a crater. To prevent the spread of methane gas, geologists set fire to the crater, which has been burning since the 1970s. It is located in Derweze, which is about a 3-hour drive from Ashgabat.
For those hoping to use miles and points to visit, there are a few options. From Star Alliance, Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa both serve the airport, from Istanbul and Frankfurt, respectively. Under oneworld, S7 flies from Moscow (DME), and with Skyteam, you can fly China Southern from Ürümqi.