Turkmenistan Encompassed (15 Days)

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Run by: Undiscovered Destinations

Reference number: TTE

From: £2499.00

A comprehensive group trip through Central Asia's least known country. Starting from the futuristic capital Ashgabat, travel through remote deserts visiting ancient ruins, camp overnight near a flaming gas crater, and stay as guests of local communities. We explore the magnificent scenery of Yangikala, spend a night on the shores of the Caspian Sea, and of course visit the archaeological site of Merv.

A true journey of discovery and diversity through a hidden land.     

Itinerary

Day 1 – Ashgabat
Arrive in Ashgabat and transfer to the hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, you may have time 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, a little way outside the city. Ashgabat is a city of grandiose monuments giving an insight into the nation building efforts that took place after the end of the Soviet Union, and a good place to start getting to grips with Turkmenistan. Overnight at Ak Altyn Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 3 – Geok Tepe – Nohur
After breakfast we 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. Moving on we stop at private farm dedicated to the breeding of the renowned Ahal Tekke horses, and then the underground lake of Kowata. After lunch we continue to the village of Nohur, our base for the night where we stay as guests of a local family in their house. Overnight local house. (BLD)

Day 4 – Balkanabat
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 meet 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 the hotel. Overnight Nebitchi Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 5 – Yangikala – Gozli Ata
After a visit to the local bazaar to stock up on supplies, we drive to the Balkan Mountains and the canyons of Yangikala, home to some of the best scenery in Turkmenistan. We explore by foot and take a picnic lunch among the canyons. When the sun sets we drive to the pilgrimage site of Gozli Ata. Overnight local pilgrim house (multi-share accommodation). (BLD)

Day 6 – Caspian Sea
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 Kerwen Hotel or similar. (BLD)

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 Uzboy Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 8 – Konya-Urgench – Darwaza
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. (BLD)

Day 9 – Damla – Ak Molla
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 get to 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
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 of 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 awaits. Overnight Hotel Margush or similar. (BLD)

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, citadels and Buddhist stupas. After exploring Merv we head to Turkmenabat for the night. Overnight Jeyhun Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 12 – Astana Baba – Koyten
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 by pontoon bridge, and continue to the Kugitang Mountains. We reach the village of Koyten, in a lush green valley, by early evening. Overnight basic lodge. (BLD)

Day 13 – Koyten
We spend today exploring the surrounding area, discovering dinosaur footprints, hiking to the Umbar Dere waterfall and walking to a cave and hot springs. This area is part of the Kugitang Nature Reserve, and several rare species are found here including the Bukhara urial, a mountain sheep. Overnight basic lodge. (BLD)

Day 14 – Turkmenabat - Ashgabat
Drive back to Turkmenabat, this time following the northern banks of the Amu Darya. Here the landscape is different and much 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 Ak Altyn Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 15 – Ashgabat
Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)     

This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website

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