Turkmenistan Encompassed

Turkmenistan Encompassed

Style: PioneerGroundbreaking tours to unique destinations
Duration: 15 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers


Day 1 – Ashgabat

Arrive in Ashgabat and transfer to the hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, you may have the opportunity to explore the city. Overnight at Ak Altyn Hotel or similar.

Day 2 – Ashgabat

Spend the day exploring Ashgabat. Visit the Sunday Bazaar, Independence Park and Neutrality Arch before heading to the National Museum and then the ruins of the ancient Parthian fortress at Nisa. Ashgabat is a city of grandiose monuments, giving an insight into the nation building efforts that took place after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and a good place to start getting to grips with Turkmenistan. Overnight at Ak Altyn Hotel or similar. (B) 

Day 3 – Geok Tepe – Nohur (150 kms- approx 3.5 hrs)

After breakfast visit a private horse stables. We then head off to the Kopetdag Mountains. We stop first at the Turkmenbashi Mosque in Kipchak and then continue to Geok Tepe, site of a famous battle between Russian and Turkmen forces during the conquest of Central Asia. We stop at the underground lake of Kowata,and after lunch we continue to the village of Nohur, our base for the night. Overnight camping. (BD)

Day 4 – Balkanabat (250kms- approx 7 hrs)

Leave Nohur behind and drive through walnut and pomegranate groves to Magtymguly. Our route takes us alongside the Iranian border so we can expect to encounter several checkpoints along the way. We stop at the ‘Moon Mountains’ a series of rather striking barren hills, before continuing on to Balkanabat. Arrive early evening and check in to your hotel. Overnight at Nebitchi Hotel or similar. (BL) 

Day 5 – Yangikala – Gozli Ata (200 kms- approx 7 hrs)

After a visit to the local bazaar to stock up on supplies, we drive to the Balkan Mountains and the canyon of Yangikala, home to some of the best scenery in Turkmenistan. We explore by foot and take a picnic lunch among the cliffs. When the sun sets we drive to the pilgrimage site of Gozli Ata. Overnight at a local pilgrim house (multi-share accommodation). (BLD)

Day 6 – Caspian Sea (200 kms- approx 5.5 hrs)

Drive first to the pilgrimage site of Kemal Ata with its interesting volcanic landscape, where we explore the site and take lunch. From here we continue to the Caspian Sea, stopping at the salt lakes of Mollagara if time permits. We end our day in the seaside resort of Awaza, a sharp contrast to our experiences of the last few days. Overnight at Hotel Seyrana or similar. (B)

Day 7 – Turkmenbashi – Dashoguz

We head first to nearby Turkmenbashi where we visit the port and the fish market. After an early lunch we fly to Dashoguz in the north of the country. We spend our time here visiting the bazaar to stock up on supplies for our desert crossing. Overnight at Hotel Dashoguz or similar. (B) 

Day 8 – Konya - Urgench – Darwaza (400 kms- approx 5 hrs)

Drive to the site of Konye-Urgench, an ancient capital of the land of Khorezm with beautiful mausoleums. After visiting its key sites we travel on the highway through the Karakum Desert to Darwaza, a burning gas crater where flames literally leap from the ground. We set up camp here and watch the sun go down, the crater lighting up the night sky with its fires. Overnight camping. (BD) 

Day 9 – Damla – Ak Molla (200 kms- approx 6 hrs)

We head deeper into the Karakum Desert, across rough tracks and sand dunes, until we reach the small settlement of Damla. We stop here for lunch and explore the village, with superb opportunities to meet and interact with people who rarely see western visitors. Later we continue our desert drive through to Ak Molla, where we camp for the night. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Day 10 – Gonur Depe – Mary (250 kms- 7.5 hrs)

Set off for a full day of driving. We stop at the archaeological site of Gonur Depe, dating back to the Bronze Age. Around 55 hectares in size, the site comprises the remains of a fortified citadel with walls and towers clearly visible. From here continue to Mary for the night, where a hotel room and shower await. Overnight at Hotel Mary or similar. (BL)

Day 11 – Merv - Turkmenabat

Visit the ancient site of Merv, the most important in Turkmenistan and dating back 2500 years with an array of old mosques and citadels. After exploring Merv we head to Turkmenabat for the night passing through Repetek Nature Reserve. Overnight at Jeyhun Hotel or similar. (B) 

Day 12 – Astana Baba – Koyten (450 kms- 7 hrs)

Drive out of Turkmenabat, passing ruins of old Silk Road settlements and stopping at Astana Baba with its interesting mausoleums dating back to the 11th century. From here we follow the Amu Darya River crossing it to continue to the Kugitang Mountains. We reach the village of Koyten, in a lush green valley, by early evening. Overnight at a basic lodge. (BD) 

Day 13 – Koyten

We spend today exploring the surrounding area, discovering dinosaur footprints, hiking to the Umbar Dere waterfall and walking to the Kyrk Kyz pilgrim cave. This area is part of the Kugitang Nature Reserve, and several rare species are found here including the Bukhara Urial, a mountain sheep. Overnight at a basic lodge. (BLD) 

Day 14 – Turkmenabat - Ashgabat (450 kms- approx 7 hrs)

Drive back to Turkmenabat, this time following the northern banks of the Amu Darya. Here the landscape is different, more arid with little agriculture and few settlements, in contrast to the southern banks. Arrive in Turkmenabat in the afternoon and from here fly back to Ashgabat for your final night in Turkmenistan. Overnight at Ak Altyn Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 15 – Ashgabat

Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)

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