Tour itinerary can be seen below.
Arrive in Ashgabat in the early morning and transfer to your hotel to drop luggage off before starting a tour of the capital. There is also an option of arriving a day earlier and having a free day before the tour starts – extra accommodation and airport transfer will be an additional cost. In the morning we will visit the Nawruz festival village, 15km west of Ashgabat to participate in festivities. Here we will experience Turkmen culture, traditional yurts, cooking of national dishes, carpet making, embroidery, singing and dancing. Locals will be dressed in traditional costume and there will be the chance to see national dances and music played with traditional instruments such as dutar and gyjak. Afterwards we return to Ashgabat and spend the evening at leisure.
In the morning we will visit the parks and squares of the capital, Ertogrul Ghazi mosque, and the archaeological site of Nisa. Here there are mud brick remains of fortifications and palaces, temples, ceremony hall and treasury building. It covers the remains of Parthian civilization, which combined traditional Turkmen art and culture with Greek and Roman elements. The richly decorated architecture of religious, royal power and ordinary domestic functions has been revealed as the result of archaeological excavations which started at the beginning of 20th century and continues in the present day. Nisa or Parthaunisa is presumed to be the first capital of Parthians. The ancient civilisation lived along the Kopet Dag mountain range (modern Turkmenistan and Iran). UNESCO states that Nisa played an important role of a barrier to Roman Empire expansion to the east, whilst also acting as the communication and trading centre between the east and west and between Central Asia and Mediterranean cultures. Afterwards we visit Turkmenbashy spiritual mosque in Kipchak before returning to hotel and spending the evening at leisure.
After breakfast we will drive to the Kopetdag mountain range, visiting en route the Kov Ata cave lake and Akhal Teke private horse farm. The Akhal-Teke horses are one of the most prized breeds in the world. It is believed they are the last remaining strain of the Turkoman horse, which has existed since 2400BC. In the middle ages, Akhal-Tekes lived with nomadic tribesmen near the Kopet Dag Mountains, with the nomads treating the horses as part of their families. In the early 1900s, Russians used Akhal-Tekes as cavalry horses. Today they excel in sport, particularly in racing, show jumping, dressage and endurance racing. The breed has preserved its purity and performance abilities through to modern times thanks to the geographically isolated area of the harsh Karakum desert where the horses have been bred by the Akhal-Teke tribe since ancient times. Afterwards we proceed to the underground cave of Kov-Ata for an optional swim. The cave features a unique hot-water sulphur lake which is 35C all year round. We drive onwards and leaving the asphalt road at Archman we ascend into the mountains and drive to Nohur village. Experience the old traditional way of life as we meet the villagers and stay overnight with a local family.
Today there will be further sightseeing in Nohur in the morning before starting our drive to Balkanabat. We will visit the Parau Bibi pilgrim site along the way. Arrive in the Western Turkmen city of Balkanabat and check into the 3 star Nebitch hotel. Evening at leisure.
Drive to Yangy Kala, arguably the most breathtaking and incredible natural sight in Central Asia. The south eastern border area of Gara Bogaz Gol bay has spectacular views of the former sea bed, and canyons of bizarre shapes and variety of colours. After exploring the region we will drive to Turkmenbashy and check into the 4 star Serdar hotel, located in the Awaza Caspian Sea resort area. Evening at leisure.
We will depart in the early morning departure via Ashgabat to the incredible Darvaza gas crater and en route we stop off for supplies in the desert village of Erbent. We then turn off road and drive across huge desert dunes. Arrive at Darvaza early evening when the light is fading and all you can see for miles around is the glow of the crater. Our guide will set up camp in tents at a safe distance from the crater before cooking dinner while you relax and stare in awe at the gas crater.
In the morning we will drive back to Ashgabat. We will visit Tolcuchka bazaar before returning to your hotel. We will spend the rest of day at leisure around the capital.
Transfer to the airport for your flight home or take an optional extension to Merv and Gonur Depe. For those taking the extension we will depart Ashgabat early morning by domestic flight to Mary. Then transfer to the Margush Bronze Age capital, Gonur Depe. The journey is 100km, taking 3 hours with a 30km drive across desert roads. Greek-Russian archaeologist Viktor Sariandi had been excavating the site from 1972 until his death in 2013. Excavation work is still ongoing and new finds are being found daily. Lack of funds means there is still much more to uncover at the huge site but current indications suggest Gonur Depe should be considered the world’s fifth centre of ancient civilisation. After the tour we will return to Mary and check into our hotel. Evening at leisure.
After breakfast we head out to visit the site of Ancient Merv (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the biggest archaeological site in Central Asia. Merv was an important destination along the ancient Silk Route and was briefly the world’s biggest city during the 12th Century. We will visit Alexandria Margiana (Erk Kala), Antiochia Margiana (Gyaur Kala) remains, Sultan Kala, Sultan Ahmad Sanjar mausoleum, Yusuf Hamadany shrine, Mohammed ibn Zaid mausoleum and Gyz Kala castles. Later we return to Mary and take an evening flight back to Ashgabat. Transfer to hotel.
Day at leisure before checking out of your hotel and transferring to the airport for your flight home.
Single supplement is £169. If you prefer to arrive a day earlier then there is a £55 surcharge for an additional night (based on two people sharing). There is also an extra charge for the airport transfer if you arrive a day earlier. Merv and Gonur Depe extension - £349 p/p with optional £60 single supplement cost.