This six-day tour offers the perfect introduction to one of the least-visited and most mysterious of all the Central Asian countries, Turkmenistan. Spend three action-packed days getting to grips with the fascinating capital, Ashgabat, before embarking on an epic overland journey across this little-known region. Your expert tour guide will take you to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Merv before exploring all the historical ruins of nearby Mary. After making your way back to the capital, there’s chance to witness local life in the quaint countryside village of Bokurdak, where farming, baking and embroidery practices have barely changed over centuries. Finally, head to one of the real cultural jewels of Turkmenistan, Kunya-Urgench, the former capital of the Khorezmshah Empire.
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After an early morning arrival in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat, you’ll be greeted by your friendly tour guide and check in to a quality four-star hotel, allowing plenty of time during the rest of the day to see many of the city’s highlights. The tour takes you to must-see attractions such as the famous white marble ‘Eiffel Tower-like’ monument in the Park of Independence. Two interesting museum visits are also on the itinerary (Earthquake museum and Carpet Museum) before returning to the hotel for a well-earned rest.
The second day in the capital will be spent with your knowledgeable tour guide, visiting the fortress of Old Nisa (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the earliest of all the Parthian Empire capitals, stretching over 14 hectares. After fully exploring this stunning landmark, it’s back to the main Ashgabat city center to see the National Museum of History and Ethnography and then back to the hotel to wind down after what has been a full day of touring.
A final day of getting to know Turkmenistan’s most important region will take you slightly outside the city center, with a short drive to Geok-Depe to see the pure-blood Akhal-Tekke horses that this small town is famous for. The horses live at a farm, and on the way you’ll pass by a former Tekke stronghold, a site of a major Russian battle for domination during the late-19th century. You’ll also pass Kov-Ata cave, home to some naturally-heated water where you can even jump in for a dip!
Leave the capital in the morning for Mary, one of Turkmenistan’s many historical jewels. On the 4-5 hour drive there’s opportunity for a full tour of Merv and its 1200-hectare historical park - a current UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ancient city of Mary also has numerous forts and mausoleum ruins to explore, and you can pay a visit to the local History Museum, which presents a wide array of archaeological finds (dating back to the third millennium BC). After a full day of sightseeing, transfer to your three-star hotel in Mary city via private transportation.
Following breakfast in Mary, it’s time to board an early morning flight back to the capital and then make the 60-mile drive over the Karakum Desert to the quaint local village of Bokurdak. People here live in houses made of unfired brick or in yurts, and you’ll have a chance to visit a local family house and experience the traditional ways of life of the Turkic people. Activities include embroidery, pichme (traditional bakery), baking bread and cooking ishlekli (meat pies). You can also try camel milk, or a cup of tea before making your way back to Ashgabat for your final night in the country.
On this final day, catch a morning flight and then make the 60-mile overland trip to Kunya-Urgencho, a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to some fascinating medieval monuments and the former capital of the Khorezmshah Empire. Your guide will take you to all the worthwhile sites in this ancient city, including mausoleums dating back to the 12th century, as well as fort ruins and museums documenting the rich history of this region. After the day’s sightseeing is over, transfer to the Kunya-Urgench/Khojaeli border and say goodbye to your guide, ready for your onwards trip to your next destination.
Ak Altyn Hotel is a modern four-star hotel located just outside Ashgabat city center in some more tranquil, leafy surroundings, whilst all the main tourist attractions of the Turkmenistan capital can be reached in just a few minutes. This 10-storey hotel was recently refurbished, and the 100 well-appointed guestrooms here all include air conditioning, satellite TV, international telephones, a mini-bar, in-room safes and elegant en-suite bathrooms. Ak Altyn Hotel also has its own large restaurant which serves up a buffet breakfast spread every morning, as well as an on-site swimming pool, bar, conference room, sauna and salon. Popular attractions nearby include the Independence Monument and the National Museum, both of which can be reached on foot or via a cheap taxi ride.
The five-star Grand Turkmen Hotel is one of the most luxurious and famous hotels in Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, and is located right in the heart of this bustling city. Rooms here come with all the facilities you’d expect with any five-star hotel, and guests can also enjoy the added convenience of having on-site cooking facilities, various dining options, an elegant swimming pool and a fitness suite, massage and sauna room. From the comfort of the hotel, some of the city’s standout attractions, including Independence Monument and the National Museum, are just a short walk or drive away, and the immediate area is full of lively restaurants, bars and cafes. The Grand Turkmen Hotel also caters for a wide range of tastes at its large all-day restaurant which serves up Asian, European and international flavours. There’s also an on-site casino and disco for some entertainment after the sun goes down over Ashgabat.
Recently opened in 2011, the comfortable and modern Dayanch Hotel is easily accessed by car from the airport in Mary, Turkmenistan. The rooms sleep two, four, and eight people and all come with private bathrooms and the usual mod-cons. If guests have time to kill, there are enough activities at the Dayanch Hotel to keep everyone occupied for the day, with a sauna, bar, restaurant, and a cute little cafe with tables set inside colorful yurts (traditional tents). The hotel is located in the rural area of Sakarchaga and guests can find plenty of amenities such as local cafes and bars in the nearby area. There’s also several nearby households willing to open their doors for visitors to take a peek into their live craft workshops.
This three-star hotel is one of the most popular places to stay in the oasis city of Mary, which is situated in the Karakum Desert, on the Murghab River. Close to the ancient and famous ‘Murgab’ site, Margush Hotel offers 28 spacious guestrooms, all of which are relatively modern with this hotel only having opened in 2004. What really makes this hotel special is its interior design, such as the impressive white marble at the entrance and pastel tones featured throughout the rooms giving reference to the surrounding desert terrain of Turkmenistan. The hotel also boasts an excellent swimming pool, an all day restaurant serving local and international food, as well as a bar and fitness center.