This eleven day tour takes you on an epic adventure around one of Central Asia’s most mysterious and least-visited of countries: Turkmenistan. Beginning in the capital Ashgabat, fly to the Caspian Sea town of Turkmenbashi from where you will make your way across the spectacular Karakum Desert, visiting the stunning UNESCO World Heritage city of Kunya Urgench, before heading to one of the region’s architectural jewels, Mary, which boasts ruins dating back as far as the 12th century. Along the way, you will stay at hotels, as well as sleep under the stars, and even stay at a local’s home in the quaint untouched village of Damla. The trip will end in Ashgabat, along with a trip to an atmospheric fortress situated in the foothills of the Kopet-Dag Mountains.
DAY 1 - ARRIVE IN 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 including the statue of Lenin, the Presidential Palace, the National Museum, the mosque of Khezert Omar and the botanical gardens. You may also be able to visit Talkucha Bazaar, the largest market in the country.Accommodation
DAY 2 - DRIVE TO YANGKALA CANYONS
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. In the afternoon journey into the wilderness of the north through spectacular, stark scenery to the flame-coloured canyons of Yangykala, one of the most spectacular attractions in the country. Drive through the so-called ‘Grand Canyon’ before heading north to the precipice of Kara-Bogaz-Gol (subject to floodings), where you will discover the sparkling canyons of Yangysuw. After dinner, bed down for the night under the stars in a tented camp.
DAY 3 - VISIT ANCIENT SHRINES & MOUNTAIN TRIBES
After a camp breakfast drive through Balkanabat, the oil and gas capital of Turkmenistan, and pause to see Gozli Ata muslim shrine. Gozli Ata was a Sufi who lived here in the 14th century, and he is buried in a mausoleum in this desolate location. Continue overland to the picturesque village of Nokhur in the Kopet Dag Mountains. This region is settled by Turkmens of the mountain tribe Nokhur, who for centuries have preserved their unique culture, traditional crafts and architecture. Mix with the local families to see silk weaving in their homes and visit the tribal cemetery and pilgrim site. Dinner and overnight in tents or local homestay.Accommodation
DAY 4 - TRAVEL TO UNDERGROUND LAKES & ASHGABAT
Today head east to Bakharden cave, famous for the underground Lake of Kow Ata where you can take a dip in the warm therapeutic waters. Continue to the ancient Geok Depe fortress, constructed by the Russians in 1869 and the Saparmurat Hajji mosque. This evening head south from Ashgabat to the Kopet Dag Mountains and join locals walking in the area or take the cable car for a magnificent view of the capital. Overnight in hotel in Ashgabat.Accommodation
DAY 5 - VISIT OLD URGENCH & THE FLAMING CRATERS
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. After lunch journey deep into the desolate Karakum desert to Darvaza gas crater (known locally as the Door to Hell). Camp next to the crater and enjoy a Turkmenistan-style barbeque.Accommodation
DAY 6 - TRAVEL TO DAMLA VILLAGE
In the morning, pack up camp and head towards Damla desert village, stopping off along the way to take photos of the stunning desert landscape, and the ancient riverbed of the Oxus (known as Uzboy). Damla is a very isolated settlement yet the people are very friendly and happy to show their traditional ways of life which still thrive today. Have lunch in the village, either at a local house or a picnic. In the afternoon explore Damla village and spend the night in a homestay for a memorable experience.Accommodation
DAY 7 - CROSS THE DESERT TO ASHGABAT
After breakfast say goodbye to your hosts and head south across the desert back to the capital, Ashgabat. This drive takes between 5 and 6 hours and there will be opportunities to stop and admire this special landscape. On arrival, transfer to your hotel and the rest of the time is free to catch up on or extend any sightseeing you may wish to do. Overnight in AshgabatAccommodation
DAY 8 - DRIVE TO MARY
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 the fortress of Gatar. Continue 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.Accommodation
DAY 9 - GUIDED TOUR OF 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. in the oasis of Mary. Gonur Depe is a temple city of the country Margush and archaeologists have managed to discover convincing facts of spiritual rituals and traditions showing that Gonurians followed Zoroastrianism. Explore this fascinating site with your guide before returning to Mary in the late afternoon.
DAY 10 - EXPLORE MAGNIFICENT MERV & FLY TO ASHGABT
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 location along the Great Silk Road Route, several cities have existed on the site of current Merv. In the afternoon visit the local History Museum and fly back to Ashgabat.Accommodation
This itinerary costs from £2850 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.
- Prices start from £2850 per person
- 10 nights accommodation on B&B basis
- Accompanied by an English speaking guide
- Private vehicle and transfers (saloon car & 4WD vehicle)
- Internal flights (three)
- All entrance fees for excursions
- Lunch on Days 6 & 9
- Dinner on Days 2, 3, 5 & 6
- Tent, sleeping mat & sleeping bag is included on Day 2 & 5
- Local taxes
- Meals for guides and drivers
- All trips are ATOL protected or ABTA bonded to ensure you are financially protected