Turkmenistan Easter 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. Here you will join the small group of foreigners who have had the opportunity to take part in the colourful Independence Day celebrations. If you thought an Olympic Opening Ceremony was spectacular, think again.
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. 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.
Follow the Silk Road
- Meet your local and Rocky Road guides at Ashgabat International Airport.
- 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.
- Stop for lunch at Berkarar Shopping Center where you can go ice-skating, ride a miniature double-decker bus, and even have a cappuccino in a hipster place (don’t get your hopes up too much about the cappuccino, it is still from a machine which has a “cappuccino” button…).
- Visit the university 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.
- Dinner and drinks at a local pub in Old Ashgabat which serves kebabs and local draught beer.
- Overnight at the Ak Altyn Hotel.
- Drive to the outskirts of Ashgabat to Nisa, a UNESCO world heritage site.
- Visit Anau on the eastern outskirts of Ashgabat and see the remains of its Fortress and Sheikh Jemaladdin Mosque which was destroyed in the 1948 earthquake.
- Next you’ll visit Kipchak to see the Turkmenbashy Mosque, where the man himself is buried beside his mother, father, and two brothers in their marble mausoleum.
- Return to Ashgabat
- Dinner, drinks and overnight
- 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. Admission included.
- 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.
- Relax in the mountains and learn about the culture of the Nokhuris.
- Dinner (included) and overnight in a local homestay.
- Drive 450 km west to Avaza.
- We’ll stop for lunch along the way at a local restaurant.
- Arrive in Turkmenbashy
- After dinner, we’ll take a walk along the Caspian Sea coast.
- Overnight in Turkmenbashy, a ten minute drive from Avaza.
- 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.
- Return to Turkmenbashy.
- Dinner at the hotel.
- Hop to Avaza for a driving tour of the beach resort. Although the facilities are extravagant and the buildings futuristic, the town is still best described as a ghost town.
- Lunch in one of the glamorous hotels of Avaza.
- After lunch some free time to enjoy this strange town
- Return to Ashgabat on Turkmenistan Airlines.
- Dinner and drinks at the British Pub.
- Overnight in Ashgabat
- In the morning, we drive to the outskirts of Ashgabat arriving at Serdar Yoly, the “health path”. Stretching 28km along the Kopetdag mountain range, this fitness project was instigated by Turkmenbashy. the current president has continued to encourage people to make the trek. You’ll have some time to either walk some of the path, or you can just soak in the atmosphere in the park at the base.
- Take a ride on the cable car which reaches all the way to the Iranian border. At the top you’ll get spectacular views over Ashgabat
- Lunch at the Russian bazaar, where you can also buy some snacks, drinks and dinner for camping.
- 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.
- Drive back towards Ashgabat, stopping at Tolkuchka Bazaar on the way, where you’ll be able to buy lunch, with some time to explore the largest bazaar in Central Asia.
- Arrive in Ashgabat for some free time
- Dinner at the Yyldiz Hotel. Modeled on the Burj Al Arab in Dubai and by far the most luxurious hotel in Ashgabat, the restaurant on the 18th floor is a special place to be as the sun sets.
- 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.
- We’ll make a stop at the Palace of Happiness in the foothills of the Kopetdag Mountains. Fabulous views from up here.
- Overnight in the Paytagt guesthouse
- Airport transfers according to flight times.
- End of Tour.