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.


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 Sport 4* Hotel or similar. No meals nor guided arrangements included today.

After a briefing with your tour guide spend the day exploring Ashgabat. Visit a local Bazaar (depending on day and schedule), 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 Sport 4* Hotel or similar. (B)

(150 kms; Approx. 3.5 hrs overall driving time)

After breakfast visit the private Ahalteke 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 descend to the underground lake of Kowata, and after lunch we proceed to the village of Nohur, our base for the night. Overnight camping. (BD)

(250 kms; Approx. 7 hrs overall driving time)

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)

(200 kms; Approx. 7 hrs overall driving time)

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, via Mollagara salt lake. We continue to the pilgrimage site of Gozli Ata, where we take a picnic lunch. In the afternoon we visit the Yanagisawa canyon before returning to Yangikala. Overnight camping. (BLD)

(200 kms; Approx. 5.5 hrs overall driving time)

Today we drive to the Caspian Sea via the volcanic rock formations of Kemal Ata, to the port of Turkmenbashi. We end our day in the seaside resort of Awaza, a sharp contrast to our experiences of the last few days. Overnight at Hotel Awaza or similar. (B)

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)

(400 kms; Approx. 6-7 hrs overall driving time)

Drive to the UNESCO World Heritate 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 or in yurts – the tents are private while the yurts are shared by gender. (BD)

(200 kms; Approx. 6 hrs overall driving time)

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 through the Murzachirla desert to Ak Molla. Overnight camping. (BLD)

(310 kms; Approx. 8 hrs overall driving time)

Set off for a full day of off-road 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 we continue to Mary for the night, where a hotel room and shower await. Overnight at Hotel Mary or similar. (BL)

(250 kms; Approx. 3.5 hrs overall driving time)

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 Turkmenabad for the night passing through Repetek Nature Reserve, although we are not permitted to stop. Overnight at Hotel Jeyhun or similar. (B)

(450 kms; Approx. 7 hrs overall driving time)

Drive out of Turkmenabad, 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 – single rooms may not be available at this lodge. (BD)

(100 kms; Approx. 1.5 hrs overall driving time)

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)

(450 kms; Approx. 7 hrs overall driving time)

Drive to Kerki and from here fly back to Ashgabat for your final night in Turkmenistan. Overnight at Sport 4* Hotel or similar. (B)

Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (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