Bradt's Karakalpakstan is the longest, most detailed and most up-to-date travel guidebook to this autonomous republic - Central Asia's best-kept secret. With detailed information on what to see and do, listings for accommodation and restaurants, and guidance on getting around, this guide provides all the practical advice adventurous tourists need to visit or explore this exciting destination.Roughly the size of Wisconsin, Karakalpakstan borders Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and was, until recently, dominated by the Aral Sea. As the sea water has retreated, the Aralkum - the world's newest desert - and numerous lakes have formed in its place. Ecotourism is developing rapidly here, as local people recognise the need to protect and restore fragile ecosystems while creating meaningful employment opportunities.Amid Karakalpakstan's remote wildernesses, the intrepid traveller will find unique geology (such as the Ustyurt Plateau), rare wildlife (including a substantial population of the critically endangered saiga antelope, whose peculiarly bulbous nose helps filter desert dust and regulate the animal's temperature), and fabulous star gazing.The region also boasts a long history and rich culture. Scattered through the Kyzylkum, the ruins of the 50-plus desert fortresses of Ancient Khorezm (some proposed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites) attest to region's former strategic importance. You can explore ancient settlements (such as the necropolis of Mizdarkhan, said to include the grave of Adam), and see caravanserais, mausolea and even Chilpik Dakhma, a Zoroastrian 'tower of silence'. Alternatively, celebrate Russian avant garde art alongside the superb archaeological and ethnographic collections of Savitsky Museum in Nukus, justifiably known as the 'Louvre of the Steppe'. For something entirely different, why not explore Muynak's ship graveyard on the remains of the Aral Sea, visit the notorious Soviet bioweapons lab Aralsk 7 on Vozrozdeniye (Resurrection Island), raise your binoculars at the Important Bird and Biodiversity Area of Sudochye Lake (where 230 types of birds have been recorded) or dance the night away at the annual Stihia festival of electronic music. Written by two Central Asian experts, Bradt's Karakalpakstan is an indispensable practical companion to visiting this excitingly varied republic.
Sophie Ibbotson (www.maximumexposure.co) is the founder of Maximum Exposure Ltd, a tourism and culture development consultancy focused on emerging destinations. She read Oriental Studies at Clare College, Cambridge, and has a particular interest in Afghanistan and Central Asia, where she has worked since 2008. An author or co-author of six Bradt travel guides, three of which cover central Asia (Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), Ibbotson has also written for publications such as The Financial Times, The Economist and The Telegraph. She is also: the Director of the Silk Road Literary Festival; a consultant for the World Bank; Uzbekistan's Tourism Ambassador to the UK; and Chairman of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs. Stephanie Adams is a bilingual (English and Russian) writer and researcher who has lived and studied in Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus. Having graduated from Plymouth University with a degree in English and Publishing, she works for Maximum Exposure, a tourism development consultancy and PR firm specialising in Central Asia. Her travel writing has been published in outlets including Asian Geographic, TNT Magazine, and The Travel Magazine, and she also contributed to two Bradt guidebooks to Central Asian countries: Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.