Grand Turkmenistan Tour
By far the most mysterious and unexplored of Central Asia’s ‘stans, Turkmenistan is a country slowly opening up its borders to tourism so now is the chance to experience all it has to offer while it still remains firmly off the beaten track.
The tour kicks off in the ultra-modern capital city of Ashgabat, sometimes called the “White City” because of the abundance of glistening white marble statues and buildings adorned with gold trim. Although statues and pictures of the President for Life, Saparmurat Niyazov (more famously known as “Turkmenbashy”) are still seen on almost every street, all the parks, and at the front of ministry buildings, his successor, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has begun making his own mark.
Leaving Ashgabat, we’ll drive through the Karakum Desert, visiting Ancient UNESCO world heritage archaeological sites on the Silk Road. We’ll take in ancient fortresses, underground thermal springs, unfinished beach resorts, flaming gas craters and sweeping natural canyons. Turkmenistan is a place oozing in both history and quirkiness. This is a tour designed for the intrepid traveller so join fast – it’s going to be a popular one!
The LOI application process is quite complicated and time-consuming. Independence Day is a special time of the year with extra restrictions. For the best chance of approval, please get in at least 3 months in advance. Late applications are accepted but the approval rate goes down. In most cases you will get a full refund if the application is rejected.
Best of Turkmenistan
- Evening arrival by Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul.
- Meet & greet your local guides at Ashgabat International Airport.
- Transfer to your downtown hotel for a pre-tour briefing followed by dinner and welcome drinks.
- Overnight in Ashgabat.
- Driving tour of Ashgabat’s main sites including Independence Park, the Monument to the Constitution, the Arch of Neutrality, Lenin Park, Ertogrul Ghazi Mosque and the Alem Centre which is the complex that is home to the Wheel of Enlightenment, the largest indoor ferris wheel in the world.
- Visit a bookshop where you can find books written by and about the president in English. They also have postcards and posters. If you’re lucky they might even have a copy of the Ruhnama – the book written by the great Turkmenbashy himself.
- Drive to the outskirts of Ashgabat to Nisa, a UNESCO world heritage site.
- Return to Ashgabat in time for the overnight sleeper train to Turkmenbashi.
- Dinner, drinks and overnight on the train.
- Breakfast on the train.
- Upon arrival in Turkmenbashi drive to Yangykala Canyon. Many Turkmens don’t even know that this place exists. In 4×4’s, we’ll drive over the canyon walls, through the canyon itself, and up the other side to an excellent vantage point from where you will be able to see all the shapes and colours of this spectacular natural phenomenon.
- We will take a packed lunch with us so we can enjoy it at the canyon.
- Afternoon hike at your own leaisure.
- Dinner & overnight in a pilgrim homestay in Gozli Ata.
- After breakfast in the village we’ll drive to Serdar town.
- Stop in Balkanabat for lunch and sightseeing on the way.
- Free time to explore Sedar
- Dinner & overnight in a local guesthouse.
- Drive to Kow Ata. This natural underground thermal spring is said to have many medical attributes, but is also used by locals as a swimming hole and makes for a great afternoon.
- After a revitalizing swim, we’ll have lunch at one of the shashlik restaurants just outside the entrance to the cave.
- Drive north west into the Kopetdag mountains to Nokhur, a traditional tribal village.
- Visit Nokhur Cemetery where each grave is adorned with the horns of a mountain goat.
- Short walk in the mountains and learn about the culture of the Nokhuris.
- Drive back to Ashgabat. Dinner and overnight.
- Morning sightseeing in the marble city of Ashgabat
- Drive 250km to Darvaza (The Gates of Hell) in 4×4’s.
- Visit two other craters on the way – one full of mud, one full of water.
- Traverse the sand dunes of the Karakum Desert to get to Darvaza.
- Watch the sunset over the fiery crater and experience dusk turn to dark at this breathtaking site.
- Set up tents near the Gates of Hell and camp near the fiery crater.
- After a campsite breakfast, rive back towards Ashgabat, stopping at Tolkuchka Bazaar on the way.
- Arrive in Ashgabat for some free time in the afternoon.
- Night tour of Ashgabat. The white marble buildings will be lit up by brightly coloured neon lights. Ashgabat is a truly spectacular city after dark.
- Overnight in Ashgabat.
- Airport transfers according to flight times.
- End of Tour.