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Gems of Turkmenistan (Guaranteed Departure for 2019)

Turkmenistan is a republic in Central Asia. The geographical position of the Republic is more advantageous than that of its neighbors due to the outlet to the Caspian Sea. However, one can also see sandy deserts with barchans when traveling far inland. Turkmenistan is the country of deserts and oases as well as unique historical and cultural traditions. The most ancient civilizations of the world prospered on its territory. Turkmenistan is definitely the country of contrasts, especially today, when the cities of the republic have completely changed and become more similar to European mega cities. But despite all the changes their Oriental character has been preserved in special architecture, decoration of buildings, numerous mosques and ancient monuments. It is the least explored country on the Silk Road. A rich ethnic tradition, world-famous carpets, moon-like landscapes, newly-discovered ancient civilizations, spectacular Islamic monuments, deserted caravan cities - a lost world of Central Asia. Four fifths of the country is covered by the large and spectacular Kara Kum or Black Sands desert, which for centuries has been Turkmenistan's best defensive weapon, successfully repelling outsiders and armies of the invaders. The country is home to Turkmen, who trace their descent from nomadic tribes living in the Altai Mountains above Mongolia in the 5th century AD. A warm and friendly Turkmen people are some of the most appealing in Central Asia. The Turkmen traditional clothes with huge sheepskin hats, long coats and boots are true to their nomadic traditions. From the middle of the 1st millennium BCE until the 10th century CE the territories of modern Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan were part of the Persian Empire. Later the Silk Road connecting China with Europe ran through the region.

1 person: $5,395.00 based on single room occupancy

Land prices per person based on sharing in double occupancy:

2 people: $3,665.00 per person

3 people: $3,395.00 per person

4 people: $3,125.00 per person

5 people: $2,995.00 per person

Single Supplement: $350

Led by local guide

Tour Includes:

  • Airport transfers and travel by modern, air-conditioned transport throughout. 4WD A/C Jeep for Darvaza/Nokhur ( 3 people per vehicle)

  • Superior, first class, 4* or best available accommodations.

  • One night at the local guest house with basic bathroom facility though still clean and suitable at Nokhur village.

  • Meals on full board basis as mentioned in the itinerary.

  • Picnic lunch on day 3.

  • English-speaking private guide throughout.

  • All activities described in the tour and entrance fees to all sites mentioned unless listed as optional.

  • Letter of invitation for visa.

  • Bottled water daily.

  • Domestic flights: Ashgabat – Mary – Ashgabat

  • Ashgabat – Turkmenbashy-Ashgabat

Tour Does Not Include:

  • International airfare (call for airfares)- The main option is Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul), currently approx. fare with taxes: $1100-$1400.

  • Visa fee for Turkmenistan (currently $100 obtainable on arrival – subject to change)

  • All gratuities to guide, drivers, porters, hotel and restaurant staff etc.

  • Photography and video making fees.

  • Dayrooms or extra hotel overnights if necessary.

  • Expenses of a personal nature such as: beverages with meals, telephone, email, laundry bills, camera fees, etc.

  • Travel Insurance (highly recommended).

The Fine Print:

We reserve the right to change the order of activities or places visited due to unforeseen schedule conflicts or in order to make the itinerary run smoothly. We will have 4 stars hotels acceptable by western standards during the trip but some of the hotels still can be rather basic and plain especially in small towns. Elevations can reach up to 3,000 ft above sea level. Some drive days may be long and can be exhausting in nature but we will be making frequent rest stops. Bathroom facilities along the way may be rather primitive and at times that will mean “in the wilderness”.

Note on visas:

The process of obtaining Turkmenistan visa is very simple. Turkmenistan requires letter of invitation or visa support letter to claim your visa.  For all travelers we will assist with arrangements of letter of invitation. We need to start applying for the letter of invitation 2 months prior to the start date of the trip, WITHOUT need for actual passport, just a scanned copy of it. In very rare occasions letter of invitation may not be secured by issuing authorities with no given reason. On basis of approved letter of invitation you are eligible to claim the tourist visa at the Turkmenistan Embassy located in Washington, DC or upon entering Turkmenistan.

Trip Grade:

II Active - Some hikes, slightly more demanding walks at or to sites, few elevations, comfortable but busy schedule and some long rides.

Lodging Level:

*** Superior – Outside of main cities, lodges and hotels with additional amenities, refined service and comfort level acceptable to western standards (4 stars) while in Ashgabat your hotel is a 5*

View Tour Itinerary

Day 01 (Arrival Thu, Sat, Sun)
USA to Ashgabat

Early morning arrival to Ashgabat in Turkmenistan. You will be met upon arrival and transferred to the hotel where you can rest, relax and refresh after your journey. Late in the morning, visit the fabled Sunday Bazaar of Tolkuchka (Open: Thu, Sat, and Sun). Attracting colorfully dressed people from all over the country to buy or sell camels, cattle and poultry, amulets, carpets, jewelry, and myriads other things. From the market we head back to hotel to have rest. Later on we will enjoy our dinner in the city. (B,D)

Day 02

In the morning we visit the fortress of Old Nisa (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the earliest of Parthian Empire capitals. En-route visits the Spirituality Mosque, biggest in Turkmenistan, and the family mausoleum of the first President. Then we return to the main city to explore the “Pearl of Central Asia”, capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat. Within the city we visit the Park of independence with its independence monument, and Neutrality Square, famous for its Arch of Neutrality topped by a rotating gold-plated statue of the first President of Turkmenistan, and Wedding Palace-“Bagt Koshgi” and National Memorial Complex “Halk Hakydasy” with WWII memorial and the Earthquake Memorial dedicated to the victims of the 1948 earthquake. In the afternoon we visit the National Museum of History and Ethnography (more than 32g more than 327.000 exhibits) to see exclusive ancient artifacts from numerous historical & archeological sites of the country. Overnight at hotel. (B,L,D)

Day 03
Ashgabat – Mary-Gonurdepe-Mary

Take morning flight from Ashgabat to Mary. Upon arrival we head to northeast from Mary to Margush/Gonur Depe (40 km Off Road). Here first agricultural settlements appeared in the delta of Murgab River as back as 3 millennium BC. Fertile silt coming from mountains, abundance of water and moderate climate had created favorable conditions for good crops and the progress of the ancient economy was continuing for several centuries. The American newspaper "Boston Globe" wrote that before we knew the four oldest centers of the world's civilizations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and China, and due to the fantastic results of the Margiana expedition it is quite possible to think that there was another, the fifth center. We will enjoy our picnic lunch at the archeological site. Drive back to Mary city. Free afternoon for leisure. Overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)

Day 04
Mary –Ashgabat

After breakfast in the morning we head 25 km to the east of Mary, towards Bayram-Ali, the contemporary re-incarnation of and humble suburb of the glorious Ancient Merv (UNESCO World Heritage Site). One of the major archaeological sites of Central Asia, Merv played an important part in the development of the Silk Road for more than 2 000 years. Within the limits of the archaeological park, which is 1200 ha, we will have a chance to observe all constituent parts of the “wandering city”. A series of adjacent cities, which can be roughly divided into the ancient (Erk Kala and Gyaur Kala), the medieval (Sultan Kala with its suburbs), and post-medieval (Abdulla-Khan Kala and Bayram-Ali-Khan Kala), appeared in the course of time as a token of the natural progress of the city from initial stages of its existence to a more advanced level. Besides remnants of the cities of Merv, we will visit the VI-IX cc. AD forts of Big and Little Kyz-Kalas, excellent examples of the so-called corrugated Koshks; the splendid XII c. mausoleums of Sultan Sanjar and Muhammed ibn-Zeyd, demonstrating exquisite Seljuk period brickwork and architectural décor. If time and enthusiasm permits, it is possible to visit several more interesting spots within the site. After sightseeing, we head back to Mary. On arrival in Mary, we visit local History Museum, presenting a wide array of archaeological finds (dating back to the III mill. BC through the late XIX century) from both Ancient Merv and Bronze Age sites of the Margush country. Tranfer to the Mary airport to take afternoon flight back to Ashgabat. Overnight at hotel. (B,L,D)

Day 05
Ashgabat – Darwaza-Ashgabat

Late in the morning depart to the village of Bokurdak, located about 100 km from Ashgabat. People here live either in village houses made of unfired brick (excellent for withstanding the extremes of temperature) or in yurts. Visit a local family house, meet with the family and see traditional activities: embroidery, pichme (traditional bakery), baking bread and cooking ishlekli (meat pies). See making felt if in season and milking camels. Try the camel milk if you like, or a cup of tea. Learn the significance of the amulets and protective Alaja strings used in the everyday life of Turkmen semi-nomads. Later we set off north to former Darvaza, along the newly-built north-south highway. On the way, we will make a short stop at a desert settlement, Yerbent, which can give us an idea of what desert life looks like. A mixture of traditional households, satellite dishes and incidental oasis-type vegetation, looking out of place in the yellow-sand neighbourhood, Yerbent is the major and biggest settlement in the Central Karakum. Before we turn off the main road for eight-kilometre off-road drive, we visit two other craters, having mud and water bubbling with gas coming out from underground. The drive over, we find ourselves a couple of hundred metres away from the flaming crater. Enjoy the photo session of the Fire crater. Driving back to Ashgabat. Overnight at hotel. (B,L,D)

Day 06

Just after the hotel breakfast and 40 minutes’ drive by car from Ashgabat we make a short stop at Gokdepe fortress. This site includes the remains of the ancient fortress Gokdepe (Green Hill) and modern Mosque Gokdepe. Gokdepe is a fortress from the 19* century where a particular bloody battle (1881) was fought between the Turkmen and the Russians who were attempting to take over Turkmenistan. In honor of the people who perished during the fierce battle marvelous blue-domed Mosque was erected inside the fortress, making a little stop to see stylized Muslim inscriptions and astonishing decoration skillfully painted by French company. We will make our lunch stop (optional; not included) at one of the outdoor cafes near Kov Ata underground lake. If willing, you can swim in the lake (originating from a natural hot-spring water temperature in the lake is +33-+36 C degrees all-year-round). Then we go on to Nokhur, which is set at 1,100 m above the Karakum Desert in the cool mountain valleys of southwestern Turkmenistan. Nokhur is full of astonishing natural wonders. From early times, its people developed a life-style, cultural tradition, arts and crafts uniquely their own. Crossing through stone houses of the local inhabitants of Nokhur, we reach a home of a local family (subject to availability) for dinner and overnight. (B,D)

Day 07
Nokhur- Geokdepe-Ashgabat

After breakfast we will explore the Nokhur village. You will have a look at one of the biggest tree (archa) in Turkmenistan, which is in the middle of the village and it is pretty close to the local cinema club. Probably never else you will see how originally Nokhur people are buried with the mountain goats above the grave at Nokhur cemetery (the mountain goats are considered to be the symbol of Nokhur people as the mark of bravery, wisdom and freedom). Make your sacred wishes visiting wish tree named after Kyz Bibi - one of the seven sisters who considered holly in Turkmenistan. From Geokdepe fortress we will drive 1 km further to a local private stud farm, where we’ll have a look at fabled Akhalteke horses of Turkmens. Drive back to Ashgabat. Overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)

Day 08

Morning transfer to the airport for flight to Turkmenbashi. On arrival explore Turkmenbashy–“San Francisco of Turkmenistan”– visiting the city bazaar which is known for fish section where we may hunt for famous Caspian Caviar and taste smoked sturgeon, the local lore museum, Russian Orthodox Church and a cemetery of the Japanese POWs. Transfer to the national resort “AWAZA”. Overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)

Day 09

Free time at leisure and enjoy the blue waters of the Caspian Sea. If willing, guests can choose to swim in the sea, take 1 hour cruise along the shoreline on a boat (subject to availability). Late afternoon transfer to the airport for flight to Ashgabat (60 minutes by Boeing-717). Arrival to Ashgabat, transfer to hotel. (B,L,D)

Ashgabat to the US

Transfer to the airport for your flight back to the US via Istanbul.