Discover Turkmenistan's main highlights on this essential 8-day tailor-made tour. Visit ancient archaeological sites such as Konye Urgench and Merv, barter for goods at the huge Tolkuchka Market, spend the night camping in the Kara Kum desert and explore the ultra clean marble capital city of Ashgabat.
Depart the UK on your flight to Ashgabat via Istanbul
Arrive in Ashgabat and meet with the guide and driver. Transfer to a local 4-star hotel for an early check in. Later in the morning embark upon a morning sightseeing tour of Ashgabat. Visit parks and monuments including Neutrality Square and the National Museum. This sumptuous building with its blue dome silhouetted against the backdrop of the Kopet Dag Mountains offers eight halls of exhibits dedicated to the history of Turkmenistan. One of the highlights are the rhytons - intricately decorated ivory drinking horns discovered in Nisa in 1948. In the evening head south to the Kopet Dag Mountains and join locals walking in the area or take the cable car for a magnificent view of Ashgabat.
Head west this morning taking the road at the foot of the Kopet Dag mountain range, the mountains separate Turkmenistan from Iran and wind your way in to the villages of Nokhur. The houses are built with clay mud and the cemetery shows how Islam has mixed with older beliefs as the graves are decorated with goat horns. Take time to explore some of the villages and learn about the lives of those living in the villages and have lunch here. On the return to Ashgabat stop off at the Kow Ata underground lake where there is the option of bathing (B&L).
Head east today to the town of Mary, stop first of all though at the vast Tolkuchka bazaar in Ashgabat, one of the largest in Central Asia. A short drive on from Mary is the site of ancient Merv, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and one of the major archaeological sites of Central Asia. This ancient city played an important part in the development of the Silk Road for more than 2,000 years and is made up of five separate but adjacent cities. After your visit return to Mary and visit the local bazaar (B).
This morning discover the local History Museum which displays archaeological finds from both Ancient Merv and the Bronze Age sites of the Margush country. After your visit, fly to Dashoguz, a town located very near the border with Uzbekistan. Although there is not much in the way of sightseeing in this remote town, there is a small museum with archaeological finds from the area—and of course the room dedicated to the President. You may also like to visit the local bazaar, quite different from the large bazaars in Ashgabat (B).
This morning visit Konye Urgench, once the capital of Khorezm and one of the most important cities in the Islamic world. Visit the 15th century mausoleums, the minaret of Kutlug Temur (the highest medieval minaret in Central Asia from the 11-14th century) and explore the small museum. Drive 20 km south of Dashoguz to Izmukshir - an ancient stronghold and the mausoleum of Abulkasim az-Zamakhshari before you travel deep into the Kara Kum desert towards the gas crater. In the day light this sight is impressive but as the sun sets the glow and the fire from this large hole in the middle of the desert is truly incredible. Enjoy a Turkmen barbeque and camp in the desert overnight. Please note that this is wild desert camping. (BLD)
Visit more craters before leaving the desert behind. Continue to Ashgabat and check in to the hotel. This afternoon head out to Old Nisa, a Parthian site on the outskirts of the city. Some of the mudbrick walls have been rebuilt in order to show the scale of the site but much is left uncovered. Nisa was a large fortress under the Parthians but was destroyed in an earthquake in the 1st century BC. On the way back in to the city visit the vast Turkmenbashy Mosque (B).
Transfer to the airport for the flight back to the UK. (B)
Single Room Supplement £150
(please ask about a cost for a solo traveller)