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Kyzylkum is one of the world’s largest deserts, and visitors can trek its red sand on foot or on their very own Silk Road camel.
Named after its red sand, it is the 11th-largest desert in the world and spreads across northern Uzbekistan and up into neighbouring Kazakhstan. From March to May and September to October, you can trek on foot or by camel from the village of Yangi Kazgan, just north of Lake Aidarkul, and camel treks of two days or more include accommodation in the camel hair yurts belonging to local Kazakh nomads. Expect to enjoy the best of local hospitality, from homemade bread dipped in still steaming camel milk to hunks of camel meat. Beds are made up on the floor from piles of rainbow-coloured blankets and rugs, and you’ll often sleep cheek-by-jowl with other guests. You’ll never forget the experience, and certainly won’t get cold at night. You can arrange camel trekking through agents in Nurata or, alternatively, approach the camel camps directly. The two companies that dominate the market, both of which provide a high level of service, are Sputnik Camel Camp (Tel: 223 8081; email: firstname.lastname@example.org) and the nearby Yangi Kazgan Yurt Camp (Tel: 225 1419). In each of these cases you’ll pay US$45–50 per person per day for accommodation, meals and a camel trek. Don’t expect to get too fond of your mount – camels are surprisingly hard creatures to love when you get up close and personal. Wet wipes will undoubtedly come in handy.