Backpacking In Stan: Completion Of Them – I’ve Been To All My Recognised Stan Countries

“My tea’s gone cold, I’m wondering why” – STAN! (By Eminem Featuring Dido)

Backpacking In Stan: Completion Of Them

Firstly this is no raconteur rhetoric, it’s just a reflection of a journey which took me 17 years from the first Stan (Stansted) to the last Stan (Pakistan). Yes, Iran-borderic Pakistan 🇵🇰 was the last of my FIFA 🌏🏆⚽️Stans when I finally secured a visa in September 2023 to backpack it. It took me a long time to get this visa, finish my Stan list and wind up here.

“What took you so long?” – Emma Bunton.

Indeed in the intervening years, I had already backpacked Pakistan’s border and nearby mates and written books about them. Iran (2013), China (2007-2014, 20 visits), Afghanistan (2016 almost borders Pakistan), India (2016) were swallowed in textbook backpacking style. I had already backpacked all the other Stans I recognise in between times. Some things take longer than anticipated.

“Swallowed. I’m with everyone and yet not” – Bush.

Pakpacking In Pakistan🇵🇰: Top 9 Sights In Karachi

Pakpacking In Pakistan🇵🇰: Stan Completion

Pakistan used to be embassy only visa or pull a Trevor Trick here as he did while whackpacking China to Pakistan. Trevor was there before me in Pakistan and I didn’t quite realise that visa option back then, nor when I lived in Asia from 2011 – 2015 or afterwards when I continued to be based there temporarily until April 2016. For a long term overland whackpacker Pakistan should have been easy in those days but my Asian lifestyle ended in April 2016 when I boarded that flight from Bishkek to Moscow then Munich. That was me back in Europe and I haven’t lived in Asia ever since. Nor wanted nor needed to.

Backpacking in Kyrgyzstan: My Top 20 Sights in Bishkek

Of those countries near Pakistan, India was too much youngster fun, Iran was strict love, Afghanistan was inspiring, China was wacaday madness, Bangladesh was pure mentalism and Kyrgyzstan was wildly magnetic. It could and should have been Pakistan earlier in my Stan odyssey, but I was often passing by fast or on route to somewhere. Things never really fitted my itinerary with Pakistan so it was constantly byballed. I was “excuse loyal” you could say. I even whackpacked the dictatorships of slimy Uzbekistan and strict Turkmenistan before I came to Pakistan. That’s the way my life’s packet of travel cookies crumbled. Turkmenistan was 2018 and then came a gap in STAN conqueration.

Arch of Neutrality in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

The gap was because I focused 2018 – early 2020 on Africa and Pacific. In that time, I visited 15 new African countries and 5 new Pacific ones as well as gulping down some other newbies like Saudi Arabia and Malta. COVID era housebound me in March 2020 and Pakistan was left by the wayside. I stayed in my flat in Warszawa. I stuck to writing books, blogging, teaching online and giving up alcohol (2020 for 2 months. 2020 to 2021 for 4 months, 2022 for 7 weeks, 2023 for 53 days). Travel was delayed again and my journey slowed. I was supposed to visit 200 countries by the age of 40, but actually when I landed in British Virgin Islands in 2021, I was 41 and that was country 199. I had fallen short.

Touring Tortola, BVI, British Virgin Islands!! My Country 199, even before Pakistan

Then, a glance at my map in August 2023, revealed that only 4 recognised countries in mainland Asia remained unbackpacked by me in August 2023. They were Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan. I decided to whittle them down to half in September 2023and hence why I finally completed the Stans. Now, only Bhutan 🇧🇹 and Tibet remain. Phew! I’m not sure I want to backpack the world forever. Here is a breakdown of all those Stans in the order and year that I whackpacked them, just for fun and I know some of them are not included by everyone as “STANS” but this is my blog, not yours.

“This is the straw, final straw in the roof of my mouth” – Snow Patrol.

“This is the Stan, final Stan in the list of my Stans” – Snow Patrol for the Stans.

Backpacking Pakistan at Minar in Lahore – my final STAN

1.Stansted Airport (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023)

The first STAN I visited was Stansted Airport and it is also the one I have visited the most times and in the most calendar years. My first visit was actually Stansted to Copenhagen in 2006 to watch Northern Ireland play a Euro 2008 Qualifier in Denmark. That was also my first trip to Denmark, and my fourth London airport (I had previously backpacked Luton, Gatwick and Heathrow). I’d often get to Stansted around midnight and be booked on a 6 to 8 a.m. flight. A great spot to get some blogging done and it even has a Wetherspoons in the departures.

Favourite Stansted Memory – Flying from Stansted to Pisa for San Marino Away!
Another Stansted Moment – Flying From Stansted to Treviso for Venice with Noemi Linzenbold.
Cool Stansted Post – I don’t really write about airports much!

Stansted Airport in 2014.

Morning Flights Out Of Stansted Airport

Backpacking in Stansted

Backpacking in Stansted in 2009 on route till San Marino

2.Azerbaijan (2013, 2018)

Even though it doesn’t include the word “Stan”, Azerbaijan feels like a Stan to me so I’ve included it here. It was actually the fifth former Soviet Union country I backpacked. A lot of these Stans are also ex-Soviet States, although obviously not all of them as the word “Stan” (Kazakhstan/Kazakland/Kazakhia) is equivalent to “Land” (Postan/Poland/Polania) or “Ia” (Northern Irestan/Northern Ireland/Northern Irelandia). I arrived into Azerbaijan by train in October 2013 from Georgia. Before that, I had already been to Russia, Belarus and Latvia.

Favourite Azerbaijan MemoryBackpacking in Xinaliq, Europe’s Highest Village
Another Azerbaijan Moment Backpacking in Qobustan
Cool Azerbaijan Post My Return to Norn Iron Matches

Writing, blogging on the train from Georgia into Azerbaijan in 2013

Writing, blogging on the train from Georgia into Azerbaijan in 2013

Border beer on the train from Georgia to Azerbaijan

Border beer on the train from Georgia to Azerbaijan

Arrival in Azerbaijan

Meeting the local lads of Xinaliq in Azerbaijan

3.Kurdistan (2013, 2014)

At the end of 2013, while backpacking in Turkey, Iran and Iraq, we were actually in Kurdistan. Although this isn’t often listed as a real country, it does have its own “nation” in a sense that the people are Kurds. Kurdish people, people from Kurdistan. Parts of Kurdistan straddle the borders of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq. Officially I’ve been to Kurdistan in 3 of those countries. Iraqi Kurdistan was by far my favourite of them, especially the views at gorgeous Amadiya and the untouristic city of Sulaymaniyeh and Saddam Hussein’s House of Horrors.

Favourite Kurdistan MemoryNew Year’s Eve in Iraq
Another Kurdistan Moment A Backpacker’s Hostel in Duhok
Cool Kurdistan Post A backpacker’s guide to Iraqi Kurdistan

This is the view from the walls of Amadiya in Iraqi Kurdistan.

At the parliament in Erbil – Kurdistan and Iraq flags fly side by side.

4.Podjistan (2015)

Easily the most obscure of the Stans I backpacked was Podjistan, The People’s Republic Of Podjistan. I was the first, only and last tourist to visit this short-lived Republic!! I visited in September 2015. The Head of State Simon, welcomed me in after crossing the border from Northern Ireland, stamped my passport and showed me the sights of the two main settlements in the country including the capital city – The People’s Palace.

Favourite Podjistan MemoryTop 6 Sights in Four Gables
Another Podjistan Moment Top 10 Sights in Podjistan’s capital
All Podjistan Posts Backpacking Podjistan

LEAST VISITED – Getting my passport stamped and becoming the first backpacking tourist to visit Podjistan.

People’s Republic of Podjistan stamp

No queues for passport control at the Four Gables entrance point for the People’s Republic of Podjistan

5.Kazakhstan (2015, 2016, 2023)

My fifth Stan saw me re-enter the former Soviet Union in December 2015 when I landed in Almaty in the southern part of Kazakhstan. I have since amassed a hat-trick of visits here, including as recently as 2023 when I watched Northern Ireland lose 1-0 in Astana.

Favourite Kazakhstan MemoryBackpacking Shimmy (Shymkent)
Another Kazakhstan Moment Ile Alatau National Park
Cool Kazakhstan Post Backpacking Almaty

City Hall in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Backpacking in Kazakhstan: Top 7 Shy Sights in Shymkent

6.Kyrgyzstan (2015, 2016, 2018)

I described Kyrgyzstan as magnetic as I kept returning there. Although in the end it was actually only 4 visits, but I was in the country over a period of five months on and off and it is still my favourite Stan, and probably always will be. While based in Bishkek, I finished my book series, especially Backpacking Centurion Volume 1 – Don’t Look Back In Bangor.

Favourite Kyrgyzstan MemoryPub Crawling The Kek
Another Kyrgyzstan Moment Backpacking Ruh Ordo
Cool Kyrgyzstan Post Backpacking Bishkek

Backpacking in Kyrgyzstan: My Top 20 Sights in Bishkek

Dining out in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Playing Kyrgyz hummus instrument in Bishkek

7.Tajikistan (2016)

After getting a visa for both Tajikistan and Gorno Badakhshan, I started off in the capital city Dushanbe, Monday Town, formerly Stalinabad.

Favourite Tajikistan MemoryBackpacking Dushanbe
Another Tajikistan Moment Crossing Into Uzbekistan
Cool Tajikistan Post Backpacking Hisor

Dining out in Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Backpacking in Tajikistan: A Guided Tour of Dushanbe, on a Monday!

Backpacking in Tajikistan – Dushanbe

Backpacking in Tajikistan: Touring Hissar Fort with Travel in Tajikistan

8.Gorno Badakhshan (2016)

The GBAO region is Gorno Badakhsan and requires a separate visa as officially it’s not part of Tajikistan. I enjoyed my time here, for 4 days but there was a death trip there in icy snow where we almost went off a cliff and died on the Afghanistan border.

Favourite Gorno Badakhshan MemoryBackpacking Khorog
Another Gorno Badakhshan Moment Sleeping in The Pamirs
Cool Gorno Badakhshan Post The Border Crossing

Arrival in Gorno Badakhshan

Touring the regional museum in Khorog, Gorno Badakhshan

Viewpoint of Khorog, Pamirs, Gorno Badakhshan

9.Uzbekistan (2016)

Of all the Stans, my least favourite far and away is unwelcoming Uzbekistan. That opinion will never change and I never want to go back there. Firstly the visa was refused, then when they finally granted me it they only gave me 11 days there which was unfair as I had asked for a 30 day visa. I decided therefore to milk that visa and I left after midnight, when it expired. The corruption, the border checks, the stop-start drivers it’s a country I was hugely disappointed with. However, the highlight was of course sleeping in the southernmost hotel in the former Soviet Union! In Wacaday Termiz.

Favourite Uzbekistan MemoryGetting out to Kazakhstan
Another Uzbekistan Moment Getting out to Afghanistan
Cool Uzbekistan Post Sleeping in the southermost hotel in the Soviet Union – Xorhan, Termiz

Dining out in Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Backpacking in Uzbekistan: Doing a Guided Day Tour of Samarkand City

Backpacking in Uzbekistan: Doing a Guided Day Tour of Samarkand City

On a local bus in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

10.Afghanistan (2016)

After a night sleeping in the Sorhan Hotel in Wacaday Termiz, I was ready to cross into Afghanistan by land. I had a superb time here, it was much nicer than Uzbekistan and with a lot more cool sights to check out such as Balkh, the Blue Mosque in Mazar e Sharif, the Buddhist Temple in Samangan, the palace at Tashkurgan, Hazrat Ali’s tomb, mantoo in Aybak and the walls of Alexander The Great. I highly recommend backpacking Afghanistan and woul put it as my second favourite Stan after Kyrgyzstan.

Favourite Afghanistan MemoryScoring the only goal of a 0-0 match
Another Afghanistan Moment A night on the rip with Shisha in Mazar E Sharif
Cool Afghanistan Post Watching Buzkashi, the National Sport

Backpacking In Afghanistan: Touring Jahan Nama Palace in Kholm, Tashkurgan

Backpacking In Afghanistan: Touring Jahan Nama Palace in Kholm, Tashkurgan

The Day I...Lobbed the Goalkeeper From 30 Yards in Afghanistan

The Day I…Lobbed the Goalkeeper From 30 Yards in Afghanistan

Enjoying our Pilov in Haibak, Afghanistan

Touring the Blue Mosque, Hazrat Ali Shrine, Masar e Sharif Afghanistan

11.Karakalpakstan (2016)

After backpacking in Afghanistan, I came back into Uzbekistan by land, and first visited Khiva, Bukhara and Urgench. From Urgench, I met the infamous “Whiskey Boy” and headed on a trip to Nukus, the capital city of another Stan, Karakalpakstan!

Favourite Karakalpakstan MemoryWhiskey Boy Madness
Another Karakalpakstan Moment Backpacking Nukus
Cool Karakalpakstan Post Sleeping in Nukus

On the rip in Nukus, Former Soviet Union

Flying my Northern Ireland flag in Nukus, Karakalpakstan

Backpacking in Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan: Top 8 Things to Check Out in Nukus, the Capital City

Backpacking in Karakalpakstan, the wacaday adventure to Nukus

12.Turkmenistan (2018)

The main reason I didn’t backpack Turkmenistan in 2016 was due to time restraints, although the tricky visa also played a part. I had spent 5 months in the Stans and India, but skipped Turkmenistan. Then by 2018, I met up with my Polish mate Pawel in Warszawa and he was planning Iran, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan so I joined him and finally got in. The visas are strict though and they gave me just 6 days to get in and out so obviously I backpacked it hardcore.

Favourite Turkmenistan MemoryThe Gas Crater at Darvaza
Another Turkmenistan Moment Backpacking Ashgabat
Cool Turkmenistan Post Backpacking Merv

Goodbye Darvaza, we will never meet again…

My sacrifice at the Darvaza Gas Crater

Backpacking in Turkmenistan: Top 12 Sights in Merv, The UNESCO City of 5 Cities

Backpacking in Turkmenistan: Top 12 Sights in Merv, The UNESCO City of 5 Cities

Backpacking in Turkmenistan: Top 15 Sights in Magnificent Ashgabat, City of the Future

The National Museum, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Backpacking in Turkmenistan: Staying at the Swanky Bagt Koshgi Hotel and Wedding Palace in Ashgabat

Backpacking in Turkmenistan: Staying at the Swanky Bagt Koshgi Hotel and Wedding Palace in Ashgabat

13.Pakistan (2023)

And so this was my final Stan moment. And that’s it. September 2023, I arrived in Pakistan and toured Lahore, Karachi, Shahdara Bagh and Wagah.

Favourite Pakistan MemoryThe Border Ceremony at Wagah
Another Pakistan Moment Backpacking Lahore
Cool Pakistan Post – Backpacking Karachi

Asif And I – My Tuk Tuk Driver To Wagah

World Borders: How To Watch The Famous Pakistan 🇵🇰 To India 🇮🇳 Border Ceremony At Wagah

Backpacking in Lahore, Pakistan

Backpacking in Lahore, Pakistan

I Love Karachi Sign

Pakpacking In Pakistan🇵🇰: Top 9 Sights In Karachi

I’ve also been to a few other linked “Stans”, such as Turkistan (a city in Kazakhstan), Qobustan (ancient inscriptions in Azerbaijan) and Palestine (also not quite a “Stan”) but I decided not to include them in this link or post. Of course, these are just the Stans I decided to recognise and write about. There are many many more – over 100!! Here are some other Stans

  • Arabistan – the name of the Arabian Peninsula and other meanings
  • Arbayistan – a late-antiquity Sasanian satrap
  • Asal Hindustan – a name for the Kingdom of Nepal
  • Asoristan – the province of Babylonia under the Sassanid Empire
  • Azadistan – a short-lived state in the Iranian province of Azarbaijan under Mohammad Khiabani
  • Balawaristan – a revived historical name of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan
  • Balochistan/Baluchistan – a region in Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan
  • Baltistan – a northern region in Pakistan
  • Bantustan – an Apartheid-era South African and South West African black ‘homeland’ (the term coined by analogy)
  • Cholistan Desert – a desert region in Punjab, Pakistan
  • Dagestan – part of Russia near Azerbaijan
  • Dardistan – a region in northern Pakistan of Dardu speakers
  • Dihistan – a Sasanian province
  • East Pakistan – the historic name for pre-independence Bangladesh
  • East Turkestan or Uyghuristan – a region dominated by Uyghurs, located in northwest China
  • Frangistan – a historical term used (by Muslims and Persians in particular) to refer to Western or Christian Europe.
  • Gharchistan – a medieval region in Afghanistan
  • Hazaristan – the Hazarajat, homeland of the Hazaras in central Afghanistan
  • Hindustan – Persian name for India, broadly the Indian subcontinent.
  • Indostan – archaic usage in European languages for Hindostan.
  • Kadagistan – Kadagistan was the name of an eastern Sasanian province in the region of Tokharistan (in what is now north-eastern Afghanistan).
  • Kafiristan (land of the infidels) – historic region in Afghanistan until 1896, now known as Nuristan. A similarly named region exists in north Pakistan.
  • Kohistan – several regions of this name exist
  • Lezgistan – ethnolinguistic region in southern Dagestan and northern Azerbaijan
  • Lleylandistan – a micronation bordering Republic of Ireland
  • North Waziristan – northern part of Waziristan region in Pakistan
  • Pashtunistan – the area of Afghanistan and North-Western Pakistan historically inhabited by the Pashtun tribes
  • Qabailistan – a region in western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
  • Quhistan – a region of medieval Persia, essentially the southern part of Greater Khorasan
  • Registan – historic site in Samarkand, meaning “place of sand”
  • Russian Turkestan – Turkestan in the Russian Empire, later Turkestan Autonomous SSR
  • Sakastan or Sistan – a historical and geographical region in present-day eastern Iran (Sistan and Baluchestan Province) and southern Afghanistan
  • Saraikistan – a region in the south-western part of Punjab, Pakistan, with a majority of Saraiki speakers
  • Slowjamistan – a micronation bordering USA, formed by Randy Williams
  • South Waziristan – southern part of Waziristan region in Pakistan
  • Talyshstan – ethnolinguistic region in the SE Caucasus and NW Iran
  • Tatarstan – administrative division of Russia in eastern Europe
  • Tokharistan, Tocharistan or Tukharistan, also known as Balkh or Bactria – the ancient name of a historical region in Central Asia, located between the range of the Hindu Kush and the Amu Darya (Oxus)
  • Turgistan or Turestan – a Sasanian province
  • Turkestan or Turkistan – ethnolinguistic region of Turkic peoples and languages, encompassing Central Asia, northwest China, parts of the Caucasus, and Asia Minor
  • Uyghurstan, China, same as East Turkestan
  • Waziristan – a region of northwest Pakistan
  • Zabulistan – a historical region roughly corresponding to today’s Zabul Province in southern Afghanistan.


Discover more from Don't Stop Living

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

2 thoughts on “Backpacking In Stan: Completion Of Them – I’ve Been To All My Recognised Stan Countries

  • Hi Trevor, I’ve been in Stansted loads of times. I’d have to count but probably between 40 and 50! Kyrgyzstan 4 and Kazakshtan 3! Safe travels. Jonny

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

CommentLuv badge

Discover more from Don't Stop Living

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading