Can you take a vacation in an authoritarian country and have a good time? Travel writer Alex Robertson Textor heads to the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan to find out what it’s like.

Who travels to Turkmenistan? Not many people, apparently—although because visitor statistics are not published by the United Nations’ World Travel Organization (UNWTO), it’s difficult to actually identify foreign visitor numbers. The best estimates suggest fewer than 10,000 tourists visit annually. There is additional anecdotal evidence that many visa applications are rejected.

And make no bones about it: Turkmenistan is a totalitarian dictatorship. The Economist Intelligence Unit ranks it fifth from the bottom of its democracy index and Human Rights Watch refers to it as an “extremely repressive” country, where “all fundamental rights and freedoms, including freedoms of association, expression, and religion” are limited.