Days
9
Price from
€2,470EUR

Travel along the Silk Road and into the deserts of Central Asia on this roundtrip from Ashgabat

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.

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2017:
Due to current popularity of Uzbekistan, from 1st January 2017 this trip will be combined with destinations in Uzbekistan to make a new 19 day Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan Discoverer itinerary. Further details will be available in coming months. The itinerary is outlined below:
1 Tashkent
2 Tashkent
3 Samarkand
4 Samarkand
5 Bukhara
6 Bukhara
7 Bukhara
8 Khiva
9 Khiva
10 Nukus
11 Kunya Urgench/Dashoguz
12 Darwaza
13 Ashgabat
14 Ashgabat
15 Mary
16 Mary
17 Ashgabat
18 Ashgabat
19 Depart


Start
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Finish
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Country
Turkmenistan
Style
Peregrine
Theme
Explorer
Code
PCTK
Physical rating
Traveller’s rating
1 review
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • Using Ashgabat as a base, you'll venture right off the beaten track for a taste of the true Turkmenistan

  • See desert life up close as you interact with the locals of the settlement of Yerbent

  • Bask in the temperate waters of Kow-Ata, a hidden thermal lake that reaches as far as 60 metres underground

  • Explore with a local guide the sprawling Silk Road ruins of Merv, where archaeologists have found evidence of prehistoric life

  • Witness the eternal flames of the Darvaza Crater, aka the 'Door to Hell' – one of the strangest, most mesmerising geological oddities on earth

Is this trip right for you?

  • There are some long days of driving over rough terrain, and shower and toilet facilities are limited (especially outside of Ashgabat). While these conditions may not be to your usual standard, the rewards of visiting a country like this are immeasurable.

  • You will need a good level of general health, as there is a fair amount of walking involved. However, in the vast archaological site of Merv, you'll travel between ruins by private vehicle.

  • There is one night of camping on this trip. This is, of course, all part of your adventure in the Karakum Desert. Sleeping bags and tents are provided.

Itinerary

Salam! Welcome to Turkmenistan. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. 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 rest of the group.
Accommodation
  • Grand Turkmen Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ashgabat - Kopet Dag Mountains Cable Car
  • Ashgabat - City tour
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Embark on a tour of Ashgabat. You will visit independence-period parks and monuments such as Neutrality Square, with its three-legged arch (locally known as 'The Tripod'). This is the foremost monument dedicated to the notorious former leader Niyazov. You will also visit the excellent National Museum of history and Ethnography, whose halls boast a rich collection of artefacts from all over Turkmenistan, including ivory rhytons from Old Nisa. The museum also offers reconstruction models of most of the sites that you will be visiting while here. In the evening, head south to the Kopet Dag Mountains to take a cable-car ride and see a splendid view of the white-marble capital city. Spend the night in Ashgabat.
Accommodation
  • Grand Turkmen Hotel or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you will drive to Mary, pronounced 'Mah-rih' (approximately 4–5 hours). Mary is the capital of the province of the same name, whose history dates back to the 1820s. The town's many signs of opulence can be traced to the long-running local cotton industry. On your way to Mary, 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. Stop for lunch on the way (note that this is not included). Back on the road, you will take another pit-stop to stretch your legs and roam through the ruins of Abiverd. This fascinating archaeological site was once an important trading town of northern Khorasan and a key link on the Silk Road. Arrive in Mary in the late afternoon for an overnight stay. Good places to eat are Carlak, Cafe Gyzylgum and Lale.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Margusg or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Abiverd - Archaeological Site
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Today you will drive to Merv, (approximately 30–40 minutes), also known as Margiana or Margush. Take some time to explore Turkmenistan's most recognised site, which is now protected by UNESCO. It's a collection of walled towns from various periods spread across a 1,200-hectare area. It was a major oasis city in Central Asia on the historical Silk Road. You will visit a number of monuments at this site, some of which date back further than 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. Afterwards, head back to Mary, enjoy some dinner and retire for the evening.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Margusg or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Drive back to Ashgabat today (approximately 4–5 hours). Travelling through Kahka, you will make a stop to enjoy your picnic lunch. Take a short tour of the 18th-century fortress of Nadir-shakh, located at the foot of the Kopet Dag Mountains. This is a great opportunity to learn about the Iranian history of this part of Central Asia (the fortress was built under Nadir-Shah, the Iranian ruler from the Afsharid dynasty). Then continue your drive and reach Ashgabat later in the afternoon. On arrival, enjoy some free time to further explore this Persian 'city of love'. Dinner is included tonight in Ashgabat.
Accommodation
  • Grand Turkmen Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kopet Dag Mountains - Nadir-Shakh Fortress
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
After breakfast you will drive to the fortress of Old Nissa, as well as one of the earliest Parthian Empire capitals. Afterwards, sit down to enjoy your packed lunch. Then continue west to the underground Kow-Ata cave, a beautiful lake that goes some 60 metres underground. The temperature of its water sits at around 35°C all year, so it's a great spot for swimming. Be sure to bring your bathers with you. In the afternoon, return to Ashgabat, stopping en route at a stud farm near Geok Tepe. Goek Tepe is a former Tekke stronghold and was the site of the biggest battle for the Russian domination in Central Asia in the late 19th century. After exploring the stud farm, visit the complex of the Spirituality Mosque (the biggest mosque in Turkmenistan) and the family mausoleum of the first President in Kipchak. Enjoy some free time once back in Ashgabat. (The total time spent driving today is approximately 1.5 hours).
Accommodation
  • Grand Turkmen Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Geok Tepe - Stud Farm
  • Kow-Ata - Caves
  • Old Nissa - Fortress
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
This morning is yours to spend as you please. Later, in the early afternoon, you will drive north to the Darvaza Crater, aka the 'Door to Hell' (approximately 3–4 hours). Darvaza is an astounding 70-metre-wide hole in the Karakum Desert that is permanently aflame. Geologists created it by accidentally tapping into a cavern filled with natural gas, which they decided to try and burn off. The flames within have been burning ever since. On the way to Darvaza, you will stop at other bubbling craters of interest, be they mud or water. Your accommodation tonight is a basic camp near the Darvaza crater. Dinner will be a simple but tasty camp meal. Enjoy the strange, surreal glow of the crater as the sun sets.
Accommodation
  • Camping (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Darvaza - Door to Hell Crater
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
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 at the campsite, it's time to pack up and drive back to the capital (approximately 2–4 hours). On the way you will stop in at the small settlement of Yerbent, which gives you an interesting look inside local desert life. Yerbent is the largest settlement in central Karakum, mostly made up of small buildings and yurts. While you're here, take a look at the monument that pays tribute to the group of socialists that died in the Basmachi Revolt in 1931. Then continue to Ashgabat and enjoy some free time on arrival in the afternoon. There is an optional farewell dinner with the group this evening.
Accommodation
  • Grand Turkmen Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Yerbent - Local Settlement Visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Your journey comes to an end after breakfast today. You are free to depart at any time.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

8 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 5 dinners

Transport

4WD Vehicle, Minibus

Accommodation

Comfortable Hotel (7 nights), Camping (1 night)

Included Activities

  • Ashgabat - Kopet Dag Mountains Cable Car
  • Ashgabat - City tour
  • Abiverd - Archaeological Site
  • Kopet Dag Mountains - Nadir-Shakh Fortress
  • Geok Tepe - Stud Farm
  • Kow-Ata - Caves
  • Old Nissa - Fortress
  • Darvaza - Door to Hell Crater
  • Yerbent - Local Settlement Visit

Reviews

Our Turkmenistan Discoverer trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 1 review in the last year.

Turkmenistan Discoverer, May 2015

Nicholas Ledger

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A complimentary arrival transfer is included.
2. 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.
3. Please make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
4. A Single Supplement is available for this trip, however is not available for the night camping.
5. Turkmenistan is almost completely undeveloped in terms of tourism and has a basic infrastructure once outside Ashgabat. During this journey the group will spend time in remote areas without home comforts or easy access to medical facilities. Although a high level of physical fitness is not required, travellers should be comfortable with the realities of a wilderness adventure, and prepared for very basic conditions in the countryside.
6. In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Peregrine's local ground representative Fantastic Asia can be reached on +996 555 30 30 25 and +86 13279717711.

Essential Trip Information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.