Turkmenistan Encompassed Tour

Turkmenistan – Turkmenistan Encompassed Tour – a 15 day Small Group Tour.

From among all the ‘Stans’, Turkmenistan remains that most tightly controlled by an intrusive state security apparatus. The legacy of the late president’s idiosyncratic authoritarian rule endures, as in part does his cult of personality. A perverse throwback to Stalinist repression, for visitors the dearth of personal and political freedom is a curiosity. However, for Turkmenistan’s population the reality is something to be endured.

At a national level tourism is apparently encouraged, though infrastructure, in a country possessing an immense wealth of natural gas reserves, attracts a lower priority. Incredible ancient sites of great historic importance see few visitors, the vast expanse of the Karakum Desert underlines a feeling of isolation and remoteness.

It’s not uncommon to encounter people who’ve never met westerners. This is frontier tourism. However, if you’ve read this far it’s likely you’re already on the way to being a pioneer.

This two week Turkmenistan tour is a comprehensive journey through one of the most mysterious places in Asia. Starting in Ashgabat we combine both ancient and modern, visiting monuments built by the previous ruler Turkmenbashi as well as the Parthian fortress of Nisa, before leaving the city behind and embarking on our journey to the mountains.

We visit a local community in Nohur, reputed to be descended from the armies of Alexander, and then travel through the remarkable canyon landscapes of Yangikala to the pilgrimage site of Gozli Ata. From here we head to the Caspian Sea before flying to Dashoguz and visiting the UNESCO listed site of Konye-Urgench, evidence of former glories of this fascinating region.

Perhaps the most exciting part of our trip is a three day excursion into the Karakum desert, camping at a flaming gas crater and stopping in isolated settlements to meet people who rarely see tourists. After a brief stop in Turkmenabat we then drive to the Kugitang Mountains, with dinosaur footprints, caves and rare species to discover.

Turkmenistan is one of the most exciting countries in Central Asia and this pioneering trip takes you to all corners of the country, doing more than just scratching the surface but allowing you a detailed insight into its culture and history.

Tour ratings.

  • Fitness
  • Off the beaten track 
  • Culture
  • History
  • Wildlife

Tour Pace


Tour style


Relaxed Pace

Relaxed tours are easy paced with plenty of leisure time built in. The tour will in all probability still be off the beaten track, with the occasional early start and there may still be occasional long drives. In general on a relaxed pace tour you can enjoy easy-going activities and experiences with opportunities to absorb the sights and immerse yourself in the local surroundings.

Moderate Pace

Moderate pace tours are ideal if you want a tour experience that combines activities and experiences with some time to relax. Typically you will be active and busy for part of the day but then also have time to rest and recharge your batteries. In general on a moderate paced tour there may be some long journeys involved but the tour is not an expedition or a road trip. On a moderate paced tour it will be necessary to have some early starts.

Busy Pace

A busy paced tour means that you can expect to be doing, seeing or experiencing something new almost every day, and moving on from place to place to pack in as much as possible. There may be early starts, long journeys and tiring days along the way, but you’ll return home feeling you’ve really experienced as much as you possibly could.

Pioneer Class Tours

On our Pioneer tours, you will be amongst an elite group of intrepid travellers and some of the first to explore a country that few have been privileged enough to discover. Of course, exploring such areas of the world will come with its challenges; it may mean several nights camping, long journeys by 4WD and the need to maintain a degree of flexibility for when carefully laid plans change. These are challenging tours in countries and areas that may have poor infrastructure, high levels of poverty and illiteracy. This can translate in to low standards in hotels, bad roads and poor driving standards among other issues. We try and smooth out as much of these issues as we can but you should be prepared to experience the bad with the good.

Traveller Class Tours

Our Traveller itineraries are at the core of our programme. These journeys are designed for travellers who still want to discover a land away from the tourist crowds but expect minimum standards. Accommodation will be primarily hotel based, although you could still find yourself camping, or the guest of a local family. Depending on the destination and itinerary, you’ll likely be travelling in a private vehicle, with occasional use of public transport. This is adventure travel with some of the rough edges smoothed out.


Begin your Turkmenistan tour on arrival in Ashgabat and transfer to the hotel accommodation. If time allows, explore the city independently. Overnight Ak Altyn Hotel or similar. No meals nor guided arrangements included today.

After a briefing by your tour guide, the day is spent exploring Ashgabat. Visits include the bazaar (depending on day and schedule), Independence Park and Neutrality Arch, the National Museum, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the ancient Parthian fortress at Nisa. Ashgabat is a city of grandiose monuments, an insight into nation building efforts that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union. The city is a microcosm of the country and good place to start to get to grips with Turkmenistan. Overnight at Ak Altyn Hotel or similar. (B)

After breakfast we visit the private Ahalteke horse stables, then continue to the Kopetdag Mountains. We stop at Turkmenbashi Mosque in Kipchak, afterwards exploring the battlefield of Geok Tepe, site of a famous engagement between Russian and Turkmen forces during the conquest of Central Asia. Later, we descend to the fascinating underground lake of Kowata. We arrive in Nohur after lunch. Overnight camping (BD)

(Approximate driving time: seven hours)

Leaving Nohur, we drive through walnut and pomegranate groves to Magtymguly. Our route follows 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. We arrive early evening and check-in to our hotel. Overnight Nebitchi Hotel or similar. (BL)

(Approximate driving time: seven hours)

After stocking up on supplies we drive via Mollagara salt lake to the Balkan Mountains and the canyon of Yangikala, some of the most dramatic landscapes in Turkmenistan. Later we continue to the pilgrimage site of Gozli Ata where we arrive in time for a picnic lunch. In the afternoon we visit Yanagisawa canyon before returning to Yangikala. Overnight camping. (BLD)

(Approximate driving time: five-and-a-half-hours)

Today we drive via the volcanic rock formations of Kemal Ata to the Caspian Sea and the city of Turkmenbashi. In 1993 the city was renamed in his own honour by the late President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov, AKA Turkmenbashi. The day ends at the Caspian seaside resort of Awaza, a sharp contrast to the experiences of the last few days. Overnight Hotel Awaza or similar. (B)

After breakfast we first explore Turkmenbashi itself, visiting the port and the fish market. After an early lunch we head to the airport and catch a domestic flight to Dashoguz in the north of the country. On arrival we stock up on supplies at the bazaar in readiness for the forthcoming desert crossing. Overnight Hotel Dashoguz or similar. (B)

(Approximate driving time: six to seven hours)

This morning we drive to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Konye Urgench, an ancient capital of the land of Khorezm, known for its beautiful mausoleums. After visiting its key sights, we take the highway through the Karakum Desert to Darwaza, a burning gas crater where flames literally leap from the ground. Camp is set up nearby and we watch the sun go down, the crater’s flames lighting up the night sky. Overnight in yurt camp. (BD)

(Approximate driving time: six hours)

Heading deeper into the Karakum Desert, the largest in Central Asia encompassing 80% of Turkmenistan, we cross rough tracks and sand dunes until we reach the small settlement of Damla. Here we stop here for lunch and explore the village, where there are exceptional opportunities to meet and interact with people who rarely see western visitors. Later we continue through the Murzachirla desert to Ak Molla. Overnight camping. (BLD)

(Approximate driving time: eight hours)

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

(Approximate driving time: three-and-a-half-hours)

Today we visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Merv, once the world’s largest city and the most important ancient site in Turkmenistan. Here, remains of the silk road city’s mosques and citadels date back 2,500 years. Afterwards we drive to Turkmenabat for the night, passing through the Repetek Nature Reserve. Overnight Hotel Jeyhun or similar. (B)

(Approximate driving time: seven hours)

Driving out from Turkmenabat we pass the ruins of several old Silk Road settlements. We stop at Astana Baba to visit its interesting 11th century mausoleums. From here we follow the Amu Darya river, finally crossing it en route to the Kugitang Mountains. We reach a fertile valley surrounding the village of Koyten in the early evening. Overnight at a basic lodge. (BD)

(Approximate driving time: one-and-a-half-hours)

Today is spent exploring the Kugitang mountain, discovering dinosaur footprints, hiking to the Umbar Dere waterfall and Kyrk Kyz pilgrim cave. The area is part of the Kugitang Nature Reserve, home to several rare species including bukhara urial mountain sheep. Overnight at a basic lodge. (BLD)

(Approximate driving time: seven hours)

From Koyten we drive back to Turkmenabat, arriving in the afternoon, and take a domestic flight to to Ashgabat for a final night in Turkmenistan. Overnight Ak Altyn Hotel or similar. (B)

The Turkmenistan tour ends today after breakfast with airport transfers departing to meet onward flights. (B)

Dates & Price.

Tour Notes

Please note that as of 1st January 2018, a tourist tax of 2 US Dollars per person per night for accommodation will be introduced. This must be paid on checkout and in US Dollars cash.

Single supplement from £295 – not applicable to homestay nights. 

Flights from London to Ashgabat start from £750. Please contact us for a quotation.

Airport transfers are included if you are booking pre and/or post tour accommodation at the hotel mentioned in our tour dossier.

Extra night accommodation pre and/or post tour in Ashgabat costs from £48 per person, per night sharing a twin/double room and £74 per person in a solo occupancy room.

Please note that the prices quoted above are for the category of accommodation and hotel used for this particular tour. Depending on the hotel eventually confirmed there may be some difference in the rate advertised by the hotel, and the prices available through Undiscovered Destinations. It should be noted we will not apply a surcharge should more expensive accommodation be used. At the same time in the event that a lower rate is available for the confirmed hotel we are unable to offer a refund.

If you do not wish to be part of a group tour then you can do the same tour on a private basis. Please contact us for prices.

Kindly note that we can also tailor a similar or totally different itinerary to meet your requirements. Please get in touch so that we can tailor your perfect tour of Turkmenistan.

Mapped itinerary.

Want to see details of your itinerary on a map?

Download PDF.

Download the full tour dossier for this trip here.

Turkmenistan - Turkmenistan Encompassed Tour Map

For expert advice get in touch now with our passionate,
well-travelled team.

+44(0) 191 296 2674 from THE UK
1-800-614-2967 from THE US & CANADA
1-300-956-415 from AUSTRALIA

Tour inclusions.

  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • Transportation throughout
  • Domestic flights
  • All accommodation
  • Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
  • Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
  • Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Tour exclusions.

  • International flights
  • Any airport taxes
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas
  • Drinks

As with previous trips arranged though UD, the service from their UK office and the local arrangements in Turkmenistan was impeccable. They have a range of destinations which would appeal to some of my more well-travelled associates. One friend has already travelled through UD as a result of my recommendations.


Grete Howard, UK