Turkmenistan & Uzbek Combo Tour
Our very first Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan 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.
We’ll then cross the land border into Uzbekistan. After exploring the beautiful ancient cities of Khiva and Bukhara, we’ll move onto stunning Samarqand, before slowing making our way to Tashkent – Uzbekistan’s vibrant capital, the highlight of which will surely be Tashkentland, Central Asia’s answer to Disneyland!
The LOI application process for Turkmenistan is complicated and time-consuming. For the best chance of approval, please apply at least 3 months in advance. Late applications are accepted but the approval rate decreases. In most cases you will receive a full refund if the application is rejected.
Day 1 – Thursday August 20th
- 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 – Friday August 21st
- 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 250km to Darvaza (The Gates of Hell) in 4x4’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 3 – Saturday August 22nd
- Drive back to Ashgabat
- Free time in the afternoon before we take the overnight train to Turkmenbashy
Day 4 – Sunday August 23rd
- 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.
- 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.
- Return to Turkmenbashy.
Day 5 – Monday August 24th
- Fly to Turkmenabat in the morning.
- Visit the Lebap Museum. This museum is home to a fascinating (and amusing) array of taxidermy, dioramas, models and murals of the surrounding area. It also has some very informative displays about wheat production and oil production in Turkmenistan.
- Cross the border into Uzbekistan and drive to Bukhara.
- Overnight in Bukhara.
Day 6 – Tuesday August 25th
- Tour the main sites of Bukhara.
- We’ll start with the Samanid Dynasty Mausoleum, the Lyabi Hauz Square, Bolo-Hauz Mosque, the elegant blue-tiled Ulughbek Madrassa (Islamic school), the summer palace of Bukhara’s last Emir and more!
- On your way in and out of town we'll see a massive structure that looks like a giant ark. Known as the Ancient Ark Fortress, this was the Palace of Bukhara’s Emirs, and parts of it are still open to visit.
- Dinner & Folklore Show in Nodir Devon Begi Madrassah.
- Overnight in Bukhara.
Day 7 – Wednesday August 26th
- Morning free time in Bukhara to look around or relax.
- Drive to the city of Samarqand in the afternoon.
- Arrive in Samarqand in the early evening and make our way to some wine tasting at the Khovrenko Winery, a small local wine factory with a museum (admission not included).
- Dinner at a local restaurant (included in the tour cost!).
- Overnight in Samarqand
Day 8 – Thursday August 27th
- Explore the main sites of Samarqand.
- Samarqand is a city synonymous with the Silk Road. It's packed full of towering minarets, gleaming domes and home to a technicolour bazaar, which you will have time to wander around and discover for yourself.
- Possibly the highlight of your tour around Samarqand is likely to be the famous Registan Square which is flanked by three beautifully decorated, sparkling blue mosaic madrassas. Once upon a time, the city’s commercial centre, Registan Square is modern Samarkand’s centre piece and a pride of the Silk Road.
- We’ll also pay visits to the Biki Khanum Mosque, Siyab Bazaar, the grave of St. Daniel and the Afrasiyab Museum – a museum dedicated to the long history of Samarqand, especially since the time of Alexander the Great.
- Visit Romanenko Fashion Show House. This small suburban house has been transformed into a unique textile workshop where thirty men and women redesign ancient clothing into colourful & modern designs.
- Free time in the evening.
- Overnight in Samarqand
Day 9 – Friday August 28th
- Drive to Tashkent - Uzbekistan’s capital city.
- Unlike Ashgabat for the most part, Tashkent is a vibrant capital city with lots to do!
- We’ll take several rides on the Tashkent subway system while we’re here, one of only two metro systems in Central Asia (the other one being in Almaty). Like other Soviet era metro's the stations are beautifully decorated.
- Continuing with our transport theme, we’ll visit the Museum of Railway Techniques’. This outdoor museum is full of all sorts of old locomotives which we can jump aboard! We can even take a little train ride around the train museum. You don’t have to be a train lover to enjoy this charming place.
- After dinner we can explore the central park of Tashkent.
- Overnight in Tashkent
Day 10 – Saturday August 29th
- We’ll explore the narrow lanes and mud brick houses of the old town, before visiting the huge Chorsu Bazaar.
- Visit the Tashkent TV Tower for stunning views of the city.
- If you’ve ever wondered about all the tv towers of the world, this is the place for you. Huge models of the tallest tv towers flank the entrance to the building, and when you reach the top, smaller models of the rest of them line the walls.
- Head to the Plov Centre! This gigantic hall, is set up for large numbers of people to eat plov. Mixed and cooked just outside by an army of Uzbek women, it serves some pretty good plov It's also an exceptionally unique experience.
- Visit Tashkent Land, Central Asia’s answer to Disneyworld!
- Most tourists don’t make it to this gem of Soviet infrastructure. If you’re really game you can try out the “Boomerang” rollercoaster, or if you’d like something a bit more relaxing you can take a ride on the “African tour”, a boat trip through the African jungle.
- Overnight in Tashkent
Day 11 – Sunday August 30th
- Airport transfers according to flight times.
- End of Tour.