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Turkmenistan Road Trip: From the Door to Hell to Ashgabat

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

Price is based on double or twin hotel room occupancy and includes accommodation, transfers, car/driver, English-speaking guide, activities and entrance fees, breakfasts and some casual lunches while touring. Flights and optional special activities will be quoted separately. Most personal expenses, including dinners, alcoholic beverages, spa treatments and gratuities can be paid on the spot while traveling. Prices may vary depending on season, choice of accommodation and other factors.

FROM $4,100 PER PERSON
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DURATION

8 days | 7 nights

DESTINATIONS

Turkmenistan

TYPE

Intrepid

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HIGHLIGHTS

  • Sleep under the stars in the desolate Karakum Desert
  • See the local ways of life in the untouched Turkmenistan desert village of Damla, before an unforgettable homestay experience
  • Visit Mary and the ancient ruins at Merv, a historical site spread over 1200 hectares dating back to the 12th century
  • Witness the partly-modernized capital, Ashgabat in all its glory, as well as an out-of-town excursion to the atmospheric fortress of Old Nisa 

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

This eight-day tour takes you on an epic adventure around one of Central Asia’s most mysterious and least-visited of countries: Turkmenistan. Starting off in the tiny border town of Shavat, you’ll 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 of Mary (via the capital), which boasts ruins dating back as far as the 12th century. Along the way, you’ll 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 wind down in Ashgabat, not before a trip to an atmospheric fortress situated in the foothills of the Kopet-Dag Mountains, as well as several stop-offs in and around the capital. 

DAY-TO-DAY

DAY 1: Kunya-Urgench

This nine-day adventure commences at the Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan border town of Shavat, where you’ll become acquainted with your group and guide. A short 19-mile drive to Dashoguz awaits, the capital of the northern region of Turkmenistan, and a city at the very heart of a now artificially-irrigated Khorezmian oasis. Private transportation will take you to your hotel in Dashoguz, where you’ll spend your first night.

DAY 2: Darvaza (Door To Hell)

The first of many excursions on this tour of Turkmenistan will be to the ancient Islamic stronghold of Kunya-Urgench, once the capital of the medieval Khorezmshah Empire and now a World Heritage Site recognized by UNESCO. Countless mausoleums and monuments await, many of which date all the way back to the 12th century. After a full tour of all the main sites, it’s time to hit the road again, this time through the desolate Karakum Desert, passing flaming craters and spectacular caves before bedding down for the night under the stars in a tent.

DAY 3: Damla

After breakfast, pack your camp up and head east (three hours) towards the quaint local village of Damla in the very heart of the Karakum Desert, passing the “naked” bed of the prehistoric Tethys sea, the Uzboy River, and over stunning yellow dunes. The destination of Damla is an incredibly isolated settlement, yet the village people here are accommodating and happy to showcase their traditional ways of life still thriving today. No hotels here: you’ll be spending in a homestay for a particularly memorable local experience.

DAY 4: Ashgabat

Say goodbye to your friendly hosts in the village of Damla and head south across the desert to the capital of Turkmenistan (a 5-6 hour drive), Ashgabat. On the way, there’s time for a quick stop-off at another isolated settlement, Yerbent, a fascinating desert metropolis with a mixture of traditional households and farms alongside modern technology such as satellite dishes and ATMs. Hit the newly-constructed highway again in the afternoon and arrive in the capital in good time, before checking in to your modern hotel for the night.

DAY 5: Mary & Merv

Today, fly to Mary, the capital of the present-day Mary region and the center of the Murghab oasis. Journey 16 miles out of town to Merv, a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site home to some of the most important archaeological ruins in Central Asia. Merv played an important part in the development of the Silk Road, and your guide will take you around the 1200-hectare historical park that is spread across the area. Also visit Gonur Depe, an important archaeological site and the center of a remarkable Bronze Age civilisation, only recently discovered in 1972 by Prof. Victor Sarianidi. This is comprised of a ruined palace complex spread over some 10 hectares, and you’ll have around two hours to explore the area before heading back to Mary.

DAY 6: Ashgabat

This morning, take a look round Mary’s local museum, housing archaeological finds dating back to 3,000 BC, before flying back to Ashgabat. Upon arrival, visit the popular Tolkuchka Market to see some of the camels, cattle, carpets, jewellery on sale, before heading 30 miles out to the beautiful Geok Depe mosque. Then, travel to the underground cave of Kov-Ata which houses a subterranean lake. Here visitors come to swim in the medicinal thermal waters in the dark. On the way back to Ashgabat, stop-off at Kipchak, the largest mosque complex in Turkmenistan.

DAY 7: Ashgabat

On this final full day of your Turkmenistan adventure, there’s an exciting sightseeing trip to the fortress of Old Nisa (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the earliest of Parthian Empire capitals. The large site is located at the foothills of the atmospheric Kopet-Dag Mountains, and there’ll be plenty of time to explore this historic monument in all its glory. Next, it’s onwards to Kipchak village to visit of the biggest mosque complex in Turkmenistan, which is also the family mausoleum of the first President of the country. A return to Ashgabat will offer the chance to do some final sightseeing, with trips to the Arch of Neutrality, the Earthquake Memorial (a composition of a pre-historic bull carrying the Earth and Monument) and Park of Independence. Head back to your modern hotel for your last night’s sleep in Turkmenistan.

DAY 8: Departure

After a buffet breakfast at your hotel, it’s time to check out and bid adieu to wonderful Turkmenistan, after nine days of exploration. You’ll be transferred to the city’s international hotel via private transportation before catching your onwards flight to your next exciting destination.

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TRAVELOGUES

TRAVELOGUES

Dashoguz to Merv: 3 Days to Discover Turkmenistan

Dashoguz to Merv: 3 Days to Discover Turkmenistan

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