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.
This nine-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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This fifth day will be dedicated to travelling east, along an ancient Silk Road route to the ancient and beautiful city of Mary, situated around 220 miles/4-5 hours from the capital. There’s a chance to see modern towns as well as ancient mosque ruins, all whilst observing the incredible beauty of the desert along the way. You’ll arrive in Mary, the capital of the present-day Mary region and the center of the Murghab oasis, all in good time for dinner before you check in to your hotel ready to explore this ancient region the following day.
A short morning drive will take you to 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. In the afternoon, take a look round Mary’s local museum, housing archaeological finds dating back to 3,000 BC. Spend one last night in the hotel in Mary and prepare for a trip back to the capital the following day.
The morning of day seven is dedicated to the must-see site at Merv, an enormous historical park covering some 1200 hectares just outside of Mary. The archaeological site is considered to be one of the most important of its type in Central Asia and has been recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. After exploring the mausoleums, fortress ruins and fascinating monuments, hit the road again and make your way back to the capital Ashgabat, which is located approximately 220 miles away from Mary.
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.
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.