Turkmenistan

April 23rd – May 4th

We took over 17 people in 2015 and we’re offering a variation of it again with the same guides: The Silk Road.

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”. Here we will have the privilege of attending some of the events that are part of the national Horse Festival, one of the President’s favourite festivals. From Ashgabat we’ll take a drive through the Karakum Desert to the eternally burning fire crater known as the “Gates of Hell”, before visiting the futuristic ghost-town beach resort of Avaza and a canyon grander than the Grand Canyon, that even most Turkmens don’t know exist.

After heading back to Ashgabat where Group A concludes, the tour will head east to Merv – the Silk Road city that was once the largest city in the world. Heading even further east into the remotest corner of Turkmenistan we’ll climb onto the largest repository of dinosaur footprints in the world, and see a cave covered in cloth stalactites. Group B will then head back to Ashgabat to fly home.

Saturday 23 April

Morning

  • Meet your local and YPT guides at Ashgabat International Airport.
  • Driving tour of Ashgabat’s main sites including Independence Park and Independence Monument, 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. And yes, for just $1 you can even take a ride!
  • If the food court at the Alem Centre’s open we’ll have lunch there, however it is often closed in which case we’ll go to the Russian Bazaar. Either way, lunch will cost around $1-3.

Afternoon

  • Visit the university bookshop where you can find books written by and about the president, Ashgabat and Turkmenistan in English. They also have postcards and posters, and if you’re lucky they might even have a copy of the Ruhnama, the book written by Turkmenbashy.
  • Continue on to Nisa, a UNESCO site which was once the capital of the Parthian Empire.
  • Visit Anau on the eastern outskirts of Ashgabat and see the remains of Anau Fortress and Sheikh Jemaladdin Mosque which was destroyed in the 1948 earthquake.
  • Continue on to Kipchak to see the resplendent Turkmenbashy Mosque, where Turkmenbashy is buried beside his mother, father and two brothers in their white marble mausoleum.
  • Return to Ashgabat.

Evening

  • Night tour of Ashgabat. With the white marble buildings lit up by brightly coloured neon lights, Ashgabat is a truly spectacular place after dark.
  • We’ll make a stop at the Palace of Happiness in the foothills of the Kopetdag Mountains, from where you can get a fantastic panorama of the whole city.
  • And another stop at the Altyn Asyr Sowda Merkezi, a new shopping centre in Independence Park which is in the shape of a pyramid, and the outside of which is covered in fountains and colourful lights. From the restaurant and viewing deck you’ll get 360 degree views of the city lights, whilst enjoying a nice cold draught beer.
  • Dinner and drinks at a local pub in Old Ashgabat which serves shashlicks, kebabs and local draught beer. Approximately $8 pp.
  • Spend the night at the Ak Altyn Hotel.

Sunday 24 April

Morning

  • Attend an event that is part of the National Horse Festival. It’s possible that we might even be at an event with the President himself.
  • Akhal Teke horses have been treasured by the Turkmen people for centuries, and are widely accepted, even by the rest of the world, as a super-breed of horse. More importantly though, they are a great pride of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and depictions of them are found on billboards, television adverts, bus stops, vending machines, and the national emblem.

Afternoon

  • Drive to the outskirts of Ashgabat 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 very fun and relaxing swim. Admission included.
  • After a revitalising swim in the lake, we’ll enjoy lunch at one of the shashlik restaurants just outside the entrance to the cave. Approximately $3-6 pp.

Evening

  • Drive 175km 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 homestay.

Monday 25 April

Morning and Afternoon

  • Drive 450 km west to Avaza.
  • We’ll stop for lunch along the way at a local chaykhana. Approximately $2-5 pp.

Evening

  • Arrive in Avaza and have a driving tour of the beach resort. Although the facilities are extravagant and the buildings futuristic, the town is somehow best described as a ghost town.
  • Dinner in one of the glamorous hotels of Avaza. Approximately $10-12 pp.
  • After dinner, we’ll take a walk along the coast of the Caspian Sea.
  • Overnight in Turkmenbashy, a ten minute drive from Avaza.

Tuesday 26 April

Morning and Afternoon

  • Yangykala Canyon. Most Turkmens don’t even know that this place exists, but once you’ve been there you’ll start calling the Grand Canyon the “Pretty Good Canyon”. 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 canyons. You can either buy yourself something at the bazaar on the way, or we can organise a lunch box for approximately $7 pp.

Evening

  • Return to Turkmenbashy.
  • Dinner at the hotel. Approximately $8-10 pp.

Wednesday 27 April

Morning

  • Return to Ashgabat on Turkmenistan Airlines
  • Lunch at the Russian bazaar, where you can also buy some snacks, drinks and dinner for camping.

Afternoon

  • Drive 250km to Darvaza (The Gates of Hell) in 4WD’s.
  • Stop en-route at Erbent, one of the few nomadic villages still left in Central Asia.
  • Pass through the ruins of Darvaza village.
  • Visit two other craters – one full of mud, one full of water.

Evening

  • 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.

Thursday 28 April

Morning

  • Drive back towards Ashgabat.
  • Stop at Tolkuchka Bazaar on the outskirts of Ashgabat.

Afternoon and Evening

  • Lunch at Tolkuchka Bazaar. Approximately $5 pp.
  • Arrive in Ashgabat.
  • Group A – spend the night at the Ak Altyn Hotel.
  • Group B – catch the train to Mary, arriving at around 10pm.

Friday 29 April

  • Group A – transfers to airport according to flight times.

Morning

  • Drive to Merv, which is just half an hour’s drive from the modern city of Mary and now a UNESCO world heritage listed site. Merv is the oldest and best preserved ancient oasis city along the Silk Road, and at one point during the 12 Century was possibly even the largest city in the world.
  • Spend the morning exploring the shrines, temples, towers, 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, topped by an almost completely intact brick dome.

Afternoon

  • Leaving Merv, drive towards Turkmenabat, stopping along the way to admire and take photos of the Karakum Desert.

Evening

  • Arrive in Turkmenabat.

Saturday 30 April

Morning and Afternoon

  • Drive into the Koytendag mountains.
  • Stop along the way at Astana Baba mausoleum, Alamberdar mausoleum.
  • Stop in the small town of Atamyrat, where we’ll have lunch at a local chaykhana

Evening

  • Spend the night at a lodge in Kugitang.

Sunday 1 May

Morning and Afternoon

  • Continue driving through the Koytendag mountains
  • Cross Amudarya river and drive along Kugitang mountains.

Evening

  • Return to the lodge in Kugitang.

Monday 2 May

Morning and Afternoon

  • Walk up onto the Dinosaur Plateau, the largest repository of dinosaur footprints in the world. Discovered in 1980, the limestone slab that sits at a 20 degree angle 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, and another tells us that the footprints are those of battle elephants brought by Alexander the Great.
  • 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. Legend has it that anyone who can fling a mud pie with a cloth attached to it, and make it stick, will have a wish come true.

Evening

  • Return to the lodge in Kugitang.

Tuesday 3 May

Morning

  • Return to Turkmenabat.

Afternoon and Evening

  • Fly back to Ashgabat and spend the night at the Ak Altyn Hotel.

Thursday 4 May

  • Airport transfers according to flight times.

Price Inclusive of:

  • Letter of Invitation
  • Registration into Turkmenistan
  • A/C bus, A/C cars, 4×4’s, train tickets and domestic flights according to itinerary
  • Local English speaking guides
  • Western YPT guides
  • Entrance fees to all museums and attractions listed in the itinerary
  • Accommodation according to itinerary in twin/double share (except in the homestay and the yurts)
  • Breakfast every day
  • Dinner at the homestay in Nokhur

 

Price Exclusive of:

  • Visas
  • Immigration taxes at the airport/borders
  • Meals other than those stipulated (allow up to $10 per meal)
  • Single private room supplement if you choose for accommodation (Group A $115, Group B $185)
  • Photo/video fees at sites (not at all sites, but usually $2-10 depending on the site)
  • Tips for guides (not obligatory, and up to your personal discretion)
  • Any other personal expenses such as souvenirs and drinks

This is a trip that was originally co-planned and co-led by The Monsoon Diaries and Young Pioneer Tours in 2015. Crediting to that trip’s success, we are happy to sponsor this as a recurring trip led and planned fully by Young Pioneer Tours. Therefore, this is a trip separate from The Monsoon Diaries (hereafter referred as “MD”) with no MD staff present on tour. We secure exclusive sales agreements with Young Pioneer Tours whereby we can advertise and sell these tours at a significant discount to the customer.

Please note that this discount can only be secured when the booking is made though The Monsoon Diaries. Contact us for information on other tours run by these companies as we may be able to offer further discounts across all tours!

Group A

$1065/pax
  • April 23rd-29th

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