9 days

Turkmenistan Discoverer

Turkmenistan Discoverer

UNESCO World Heritage-listed Merv

Camp near the 'Gates of Hell' - the Darvaza Gas Crater

Ashgabat's Tolkuchka Bazaar - trading in the spirit of the old Silk Road

Trip rating
  • Discover a mystical side of Central Asia on this nine-day journey back through time. Begin in the marbled metropolis of Ashgabat and delve into an older, slower Turkmenistan – one of medieval ruins, black-sand deserts, prehistoric towns, old Silk Road haunts, nomadic remnants and humble, hospitable locals. This is an often-overlooked destination of immense spiritual and historical depth.


    Warning - this is a new trip for us!
    While we have thoroughly researched this area to put together this trip, it still must be remembered that this is a relatively new trip for us. To be frank, we expect some things to go wrong. When we head to new destinations, we usually find there are more pleasant surprises in store than unpleasant ones, but the warning is sincere. If it concerns you then we recommend that you wait for a year until we get any bugs ironed out.

    Why we love it

    • Visit a city believed to have prehistoric origins – the UNESCO site of Merv
    • Witness the Door to Hell – a vast desert crater that’s been on fire for decades
    • Swim in the warm waters of a lake hidden underground
    • Travel along Asia’s historic Silk Road
    • See desert life up close as you interact with the locals of a Yerbent settlement


    Day 1-2 - Ashgabat

    • Welcome to Turkmenistan!
    • Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6:00pm on Day 1.
    • Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Afterwards head out for a welcome dinner with the group of travellers that you will share the next 8 days with.
    • On Day 2 partake in a city sightseeing tour with your group of Ashgabat. Visiting independence-period parks and monuments, including the Neutrality Square, and the National Museum of history and ethnography, whose halls are dedicated to various themes and historical periods. Demonstrating a rich collection of artefacts from all over Turkmenistan, including ivory rhytons from Old Nisa, the museum will also offer us reconstruction models of most of the sites that we are going to visit. In the evening we head south to the Kopet Dag Mountains to take a cable-car ride and see a splendid view of the white-marble capital city.
    Grand Turkmen Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 3 - Ashgabat - Mary

    • Today we will drive to Mary, pronounced "Mah-rih", (approx 4-5 hours drive).
    • Mary is capital of Mary province whom which history dates back to the 1820's and has a history of cotton production.
    • On our way to Mary we stop in at modern Anau, a former medieval city of Bagabad. This area accommodates the population of early central Asian farmers who are thought to have created the famous Anau culture.
    • Back on the road we take another pit-stop and stretch our legs as we roam through the ruins of Abiverd. Once an important trading town of northern Khorasan and a key link on the Silk Route.
    • Arrive into Mary in the afternoon for an overnight stay.
    Hotel Margusg or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 4 - Mary - (Merv)

    • Today we will head to Merv, also known as Margiana or Margush. Probably Turkmenistan's most recognised heritage site and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Merv was a major oasis-city in Central Asia on the historical Silk Road, visit a number of monuments at this site dating back two millennia. In the afternoon head back to Mary and visit the Mary Regional Museum. Housed in a palace of white marble the museum features archaeological displays and exhibitions on traditional Turkmen life and culture.
    • Overnight in Mary.
    Hotel Margusg or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 5 - Mary - Ashgabat

    • This morning we leave Mary to return to Ashgabat. Driving through Kahka, we will make a stop to enjoy our picnic lunch.
    • Take a short tour of the 18th century fortress of Nadir-shakh, located at the foot of the Kopet Dag Mountains.
    • Reach Ashgabat in the later afternoon and enjoy free time to further explore this Persian city of love.
    Grand Turkmen Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 6 - Ashgabat – Kow-Ata – Ashgabat

    • After breakfast we drive to the fortress of Old Nisa, (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and one of the earliest Parthian Empire capitals.
    • After a packed lunch we continue west to the underground Kow-Ata cave. Kow-Ata is an underwater lake 60m underground with water temperatures around 35C all year! Bring your bathers for a swim in this unique location.
    • In the afternoon we return to Ashgabat with a stop at stud farm near Geok Tepe. Goek Tepe is former Tekke stronghold and was the site of the biggest battle for the Russian domination in Central Asia in the late 19 c. After arrival at the farm, you will be familiarized with the stud-farm and have show of Turkmen horses- Akhal Teke. En-route visit the complex of the Spirituality Mosque, biggest in Turkmenistan, and the family mausoleum of the first President in Kipchak.
    Grand Turkmen Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch

    Day 7-8 - Ashgabat - Darvaza – Ashgabat

    • In the early afternoon you head northbound for a 3-4 hour drive into the 'Door to Hell'.
    • Darvaza, (also known as the Door to Hell) is a crater 70m wide located in the heart of the Karakum Desert.
    • Geologists created it by accidentally tapping into a cavern filled with natural gas and then decided to burn off the gas; the flames within have been burning ever since.
    • On the way to Darvaza, we will also stop at other mud/water bubbling craters.
    • Stay overnight in a basic camp near the Darvaza crater. We will sleep tonight in 2 person tents, sleeping bags and mattresses are provided. Please bring your own sleeping bag liner if you prefer to have one.
    • After breakfast on day 8 we head back south towards civilisation. Stopping at the small settlement of Yerbent which gives us an inside look into local life in the desert. Yerbent is the biggest settlement in central Karakum.
    • The afternoon and evening is free in Ashgabat. Get the group together to celebrate the end of your adventure at a farewell dinner.
    Darvaza Camping
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 9 - Ashgabat

    • There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
    Grand Turkmen Hotel or similar
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • An experienced, English-speaking Peregrine leader and specialist local guides at some sites
    • Arrival transfer
    • Authentic Accommodation includes: 7 nights in comfortable Hotels, 1 night camping
    • Meals: 8 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 5 Dinners
    • Gratuities included for the essential services only that you will receive as part of your tour package. Please see our Tipping section of these trip notes for more information.
    • Sightseeing and entrance fees as per the itinerary
    • Visa support

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Airport departure taxes
    • Departure transfer
    • Visa & permit costs
    • Meals unless specified in the itinerary
    • Optional tours or activities during free time

    Safety Information

    Incidents of mugging, theft and pick pocketing are rare, but take sensible precautions and keep valuables out of sight. Women should avoid going out alone late at night.

    Certain areas of the country, particularly border areas, are designated restricted zones and require special permission to enter. The borders with Afghanistan and Iran are particularly sensitive. Ashgabat, the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi, and the ancient Silk Road city of Merv/Mary are not in restricted areas. Check with your local tour guide before travelling outside the capital.

    Driving standards are poor. Road travel at night outside cities is particularly dangerous because of the condition of the roads.

    Seat belts, if fitted, should be worn at all times.

    Licensed taxis are clearly identified and yellow in colour. Although taxis have meters, drivers will usually ask foreign nationals for a set fee of around 5 to 10 Manat. Taxis from the airport cost more and drivers usually ask for US$. Most taxi drivers do not speak much English. Don’t use unlicensed taxis.

  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PCTK
Group size 1 - 16
Start City: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
End City: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Style: Small Group

What to know

Venturing well away from cities and into remote areas, this trip takes you right off the beaten track. Accommodation and facilities my be basic but the rewards are immeasurable. You will need a good level of general health for this trip. There are some very long driving days over rough terrain, shower and toilet facilities are limited.

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