What's it all about?
This tour kicks off in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan’s capital city. Described by some as the “Dictator’s Playground” with its white marble facades, gold monuments and buildings with titles such as the “Wheel of Enlightenment” and the “Arch of Neutrality”, Ashgabat is a tour in itself. From here we’ll take a drive through the Karakum Desert to the eternally burning fire pit known as the “Door to Hell”. We’ll then visit the futuristic ghost-town beach resort of Avaza and a huge canyon.
After heading back to Ashgabat where Group A concludes, the tour will then head east to Merv – the Silk Road city that was once the largest in the world. Heading even further east into the remotest corner of Turkmenistan we’ll climb into the largest repository of dinosaur footprints in the world, see a cave covered in cloth stalactitesand take a natural mud bath.
Day 1 – Saturday June 22nd
- 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.
- 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.
- Drive back to Ashgabat.
- 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.
- Stop at a new shopping center in Independence Park which is in the shape of a pyramid. From the restaurant and viewing deck you’ll get a 360 degree view of the city.
- Dinner and drinks at a local pub in Old Ashgabat which serves kebabs and local draught beer.
- Overnight at the Ak Altyn Hotel.
Day 2 – Sunday June 23rd
- Drive to the outskirts of Ashgabat to Nisa, a UNESCO world heritage site.
- 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.
- Continue on 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.
Day 3 – Monday June 24th
- Drive 450 km west to Avaza.
- We’ll stop for lunch along the way at a local restaurant.
- Arrive in 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.
- Dinner in one of the glamorous hotels of Avaza.
- After dinner, we’ll take a walk along the Caspian Sea coast.
- Overnight in Turkmenbashy, a ten minute drive from Avaza.
Day 4 – Tuesday June 25th
- 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.
Day 5 – Wednesday June 26th
- Return to Ashgabat on Turkmenistan Airlines.
- 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.
Day 6 – Thursday June 27th
- 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.
- Free time in the afternoon.
- Spend the night at the Ak Altyn Hotel.
- Catch the train to Mary, arriving at 10pm.
Day 7 – Friday June 28th
- Transfer to the airport according to flight times.
- Drive to Merv, which is just half an hour’s drive from the modern city of Mary and now a UNESCO world heritage site. Merv is the oldest and best preserved ancient oasis city along the Silk Road, and at one point during the 12th Century was possibly the largest city in the world.
- Spend the morning exploring the shrines, temples, city walls, fortresses, castles and mausoleums, the most notable of which is that of Sultan Sandzhar Dar-al-Akhir which reaches forty metres into the sky.
- Leaving Merv, we drive towards Turkmenabat, stopping along the way to admire and take photos of the Karakum Desert.
- Arrive in Turkmenabat.
Day 8 – Saturday June 29th
- Drive into the Koytendag mountains.
- Stop along the way at Astana Baba mausoleum.
- Stop in the small town of Atamyrat, where we’ll have lunch at a local chaykhana.
- Spend the night at a lodge in Kugitang.
Day 9 – Sunday June 30th
- Continue exploring the Koytendag mountains by climbing through gorges and swimming in waterfalls.
- Return to the lodge in Kugitang.
Day 10 – Monday July 1st
- Walk up onto the Dinosaur Plateau, the largest repository of dinosaur footprints in the world. Discovered in 1980, the limestone slab that sits on the side of the mountain is covered in pre-historic footprints ranging from 20-70cm in size. Although scientifically explained as this, one local legend tells us that the plateau was a place where white elephants gathered to perform sacred dances.
- Continue on to Kyrk Gyz Cave. This cave is covered in a peculiar layer of stalactites, which are in fact cloth rags dangling from the ceiling.
- Return to the lodge in Kugitang.
Day 11 – Tuesday July 2nd
- Drive back to Turkmenabat.
- Fly back to Ashgabat and spend the night at the Ak Altyn Hotel.
Day 12 – Wednesday July 3rd
- Airport transfers according to flight times.
- End of Tour.
– Letter of Invitation and registration
– Transport and itinerary according to the itinerary
– Local English speaking guide and Western YPT guide
– Entrance fees
– Breakfast every day and one dinner
•Flights to and from Ashgabat
•Visa (roughly $90 for most nationalities on arrival at Ashgabat airport)
•Immigration tax at the airport ($12)
•Meals other than those stipulated (allow up to $10 per meal)
•Single supplement for accommodation ($155)
•Photo/video fees at sites