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Exploring Turkmenistan

Classic Cultural Tour of Turkmenistan

Little visited, Turkmenistan is quite different to its Central Asian neighbours and this cultural tour is a great way to become acquainted with its mix of ancient and modern sites. Full of surprises, you will visit the modern municipal capital which holds the world record for the density of white marble buildings and Kunya-Urgench, a fascinating ancient site, which was once one of Islam’s major cities.  Also camp by the extraordinary flaming gas craters in the Karakum desert before exploring Merv, which 1000 years ago was a magnificent city on the Great Silk Road.

Your Itinerary

DAY 1 - WELCOME TO ASHGABAT

On arrival in the capital you will be met by your guide and driven through the city to your centrally located hotel. After you have checked in, go with your guide on a tour of the main sights of this interesting city. Largely rebuilt after a major earthquake in 1948, it has  huge marble municipal buildings and carefully manicured parks and gardens. Visit the statue of Lenin, the Presidential Palace, the National Museum, the mosque of Khezert Omar and the botanical gardens. Depending on timings, you may also be able to visit Independence Park, the Arch of Neutrality and Talkucha Bazaar, the largest market in the country.

DAY 2 - EXCURSIONS AROUND ASHGABAT

Today head west of Ashgabat to visit the ancient Parthian fortress of Nissa, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which was the capital and winter residence of Partian kings. Continue west to Bakharden cave, famous for the underground Lake of Kow Ata where you can take a dip in the warm therapeutic waters. Next, visit Geok Depe fortress, constructed by the Russians in 1869 and the Saparmurat Hajji mosque. This evening take a trip south of the capital to the Kopet Dag Mountains and join locals walking in the area or take the cable car for a magnificent view of Ashgabat.

DAY 3 - FLY TO KONYA URGENCH

Early this morning fly to Dashoguz, a town located in the northern part of Turkmenistan and close to the border with Uzbekistan. 100 kilometers from here is the ancient city of Kunya-Urgench (Old Urgench) which in the 11th century was capital of Khorezm and one of the most important cities in the Islamic world. With your guide, visit the 15th century mausoleum of Turabeg Khanum, Central Asia’s tallest minaret of Kutlug Temur –  measuring 62 metres in height, the 12th century mausoleum of Sultan Tekesh with its turquoise cone of a dome and the 12th century mausoleum of Il-Arslan, the founder of the pre-Mongol Khorezmshah empire. In the afternoon return to Dashougz and visit the large bazaar.

DAY 4 - VIST THE KARAKUM DESERT & FLAMING CRATERS

Today, drive south through the desert to Izmukshir Fortress (Zamakshar). An ancient mud brick city, this was the birthplace of the great philosopher Az-Zamakshari. After exploring the ruins, journey deep into the Karakum desert with its moving sands, saxaul and kandym desert trees to Darvaza gas crater (known locally as the Gates to Hell).  This unusual site is a massive burning crater in the middle of nowhere.  Camp nearly and experience the impressive flames that billow from its 70m diameter rim while you enjoy a Turkmenistan style barbeque before retiring to your tent.

DAY 5 - DISCOVER A CENTRAL ASIAN BAZAAR

After breakfast explore other craters in this remote desert before travelling to Ashgabat. Before checking into your hotel visit Talkucha Bazaar if you haven’t already done so – (open on Thursday, Saturday and Sundays) considered to be one of Central Asia’s most impressive markets, where the local trade jewellery, carpets, species, nuts and livestock. The rest of the day is at leisure.

DAY 6 - VISIT BRONZE AGE SITES & ANCIENT FORTRESSES

This morning drive south east to the 15th century Anau Mosque which is located on the edge of a Bronze-age site. The site includes the remains of the ancient settlement of Anau-Depe and Gatar fortress. Next it is on to the remains of the Silk Road-era town of Abiverd. This settlement was once a wealthy fortress city with fertile lands and extensive markets. Finally, arrive in Mary the third largest city of Turkmenistan, situated in a big oasis in the middle of the Karakum Desert. Today it is a major centre of the cotton industry and the main center of the gas industry which brings the most revenues to Turkmenistan’s treasury.

DAY 7 - ENJOY A TOUR OF MAGNIFICENT MERV

Spend the day with your local guide discovering the magnificent archaeological site of Merv, once one of Central Asia’s most civilised cities and referred to as the Pearl of the East. In the 11th century the Seljuk Turks appropriated Merv and made it the centre of a dominion that stretched from Afghanistan to Egypt.  This is a vast site of 125 square kilometres and due to its ideal location along the Great Silk Road Route, several cities have existed here. In the afternoon visit the local History Museum and fly back to Ashgabat.

DAY 8 - DEPART ASHGABAT

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

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DETAILS:

This itinerary costs from £1990 per person B&B based on 2 sharing and including all private transfers but not international flights.

You can get flights from as little as £570 per person return and do ask us for advice. Alternatively we can book the flights for you but a booking fee may apply.

What's included?

INCLUDED:
  • Prices start from £1990 per person
  • 7 nights accommodation on B&B basis
  • Accompanied by an English speaking guide
  • Private vehicle and transfers
  • Internal flights (two)
  • All entrance fees for excursions
  • Picnic Lunch on Day 4
  • Dinner on Day 4
  • Tent, sleeping mat & sleeping bag is included on Day 4
  • Local taxes
  • Meals for guides and drivers
  • All trips are ATOL protected or ABTA bonded to ensure you are financially protected
Make a booking

Little visited, Turkmenistan is quite different to its Central Asian neighbours and this cultural tour is a great way to become acquainted with its mix of ancient and modern sites. Full of surprises, you will visit the modern municipal capital which holds the world record for the density of white marble buildings and Kunya-Urgench, a fascinating ancient site, which was once one of Islam’s major cities.  Also camp by the extraordinary flaming gas craters in the Karakum desert before exploring Merv, which 1000 years ago was a magnificent city on the Great Silk Road.

Ashgabat
Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan was founded in 1881 and is the starting point for most of our Turkmenistan tours. The main sights to see in this extravagant city are the statue of Lenin, the Presidential Palace, the National Museum, the mosque of Khezert Omar and Talkucha Bazaar, the largest market in the country.
Mary
Mary is the third largest city of Turkmenistan and is located in a big oasis in the middle of the KaraKum Desert. Accessible by road or air, Mary is the gateway to the ancient city of Merv and the Bronze Age site of Gonur Depe. The local History Museum in Merv is well worth visiting during your stay.
Merv
The magnificent archaeological site of Merv was once one of Central Asia’s most civilised cities and is referred to as the Pearl of the East. This is a vast site of 125 square kilometres and due to its location along the Great Silk Road Route, several cities have existed on the site of current Merv.
Darvaza
Darvaza gas crater (known locally as the Door to Hell) should be on anyone's ‘bucket list’ and is just over half-a-days drive from Ashgabat or Dashoguz. Your journey to Darvaza gas crater takes you deep into the desolate Karakum desert, where you can camp next to the crater and enjoy views of fire and flames erupting in the middle of the desert.
Gonur Depe
Located about 3 hours drive from Mary, Gonur Depe was the largest of dozens of scattered Bronze Age sites established here in the early second millennium. In the 1990s, archaeologists discovered a huge necropolis dating back to the 3-2 millennia B.C.
Turkmenbashi
This morning fly to Turkmenbashi, a major port on the Caspian Sea. On arrival explore the city, visiting the local Fish market and the seaside at Awaza - a popular resort on the eastern coast of this huge inland sea.
Yangy Kala Canyons
The Yangy Kala Canyons are one of the most spectacular attractions in the country. The stunning flame coloured canyons are a mix of vibrant colours from of white, yellow and red with sheer cliffs rising from this ancient land. In your 4WD jeep drive through the so-called ‘Grand Canyon’ before heading north to the sparkling canyons of Yangysuw.
Konye Urgench
Close to the Uzbekistan border, the World Heritage Site of Kunya-Urgench is well worth visiting and was once a glorious capital of the medieval Khorezmshah Empire, the largest Muslim empire of the late 12th and early 13th century. Places of interest include the 15th century mausoleum of Turabeg Khanum and the 12th century mausoleum of Sultan Tekesh.

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