Expedition to the world's most beautiful capital, to the Grand Canyon of Central Asia and to Darvaza crater


October 5 - 12, 2024
tour Turkmenistan
Welcome to Turkmenistan, a hidden gem in Central Asia, a land of contrasts!

For millennia, Turkmenistan's territory has served as a crossroads for trade routes of various empires and cultures, and until recently, it remained one of the most closed-off countries in the world.

During our short but eventful journey, we will explore modern Ashgabat, often referred to as the most beautiful capital in the world, and ancient Merv, known in medieval times as the "Mother of the World." We will witness the blazing "Hell-gate" in the middle of the desert and the tranquil expanse of the Caspian Sea, the picturesque Yangykala Canyon, and the underground lake of Kov Ata.

Furthermore, we will discover the exquisite Turkmen carpets, the renowned Akhal-Teke horses—pride of Turkmenistan, savor the delicious Turkmen cuisine, experience the hospitality of the Turkmen people, and much, much more.


Dates: October 5 - 12, 2024

Duration: 8 days / 8 nights

Number of participants: 8 – 12

Cost of participation per person:
– 2 290 USD for 11 – 12 participants,
– 2 390 USD for 9 - 10 participants.
– 2 490 USD for 8 participants.

10% early booking discount (in case you book before May 5, 2024)

Everything is included (including domestic flight and 3 meals a day), except for:
- International flights to and from Ashgabat,
- Medical insurance,
- Turkmenistan visa.
(Cost of visa organization for Russian citizens: $210 USD, including: Visa fee ($160 USD), Migration tax ($15 USD), PCR test ($30 USD), and Bank fee ($5 USD). This amount is to be paid in cash in US dollars at Ashgabat airport. To obtain a visa, it is necessary to submit a completed application, a copy of the passport, and a 5x6 photo in electronic form at least 3 weeks before departure. Based on these documents, an invitation letter will be issued, upon which we will obtain a visa upon arrival.

Estimate cost of the Moscow - Ashgabat - Moscow flight: from $400 - 500 USD.

Single supplement: $400 USD (provided throughout the entire itinerary).

TRAVEL PROGRAM: tour to Turkmenistan

Day 1. October 5, 2024 (Saturday). ASHGABAT – NISA ASHGABAT

Arrival in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan.

Accommodation at the Sport Hotel (this night is fully paid), breakfast, and rest. After the breakfast we head to Nisa, once the capital of the Parthian Empire. In 2007, the ancient fortresses of Nisa were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as outstanding universal values. The fortresses of Nisa were recognized by UNESCO not only as cultural monuments but also as objects of the "cultural landscapes" category.

Later, we will head north to visit the Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as the "Hell - Gates". You will have the opportunity to admire the fantastic view of the crater, feel the heat, listen to the wind, and experience the sounds created by this giant furnace. Nearby, we will visit two more craters—one filled with mud and the other with turquoise-colored water.
On the way, we will make stops in Bahardok village to get acquainted with the life of people in Turkmen villages.

Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation included: Overnight stay in a yurt near the crater

* Recommended flights:
- S7, flight S7-3235, departure from Moscow on October 4 at 22:50, arrival in Ashgabat on October 5 at 04:50 in the morning,
- Another flight from any city arriving in Ashgabat no later than 07:00 in the morning on October 5. Alternatively, you can also arrive in the evening of October 4 — the night at the Sport hotel from the 4th to the 5th of October is included in the price


After breakfast, we will visit the Altyn Asyr Bazaar - the largest bazaar in Ashgabat, resembling a colorful carpet spread over a huge area of 154 hectares. At the center of the bazaar is a tall clock tower, the main landmark. The territory houses 2155 shops, where you can experience the beauty of Turkmen carpets and silverware.

Next, we will head to a large local farm, where you can learn about Turkmen agriculture and also taste dairy products, various cheeses, enjoy a fresh drink called 'chal,' and savor traditional local dishes.

Then, we will embark on off-road vehicles to the north to see the Gas Crater of Darvaza, marvel at the fantastic view of the crater, feel the heat, listen to the wind, and the sound created by this giant furnace. Nearby, we will visit two more craters — one mud, and the other filled with water of a turquoise color.

On our way, we will stop at the village of Bakhardok to get acquainted with the life of people in a Turkmen village.

Accommodation included: night in yurts near the crater
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3. October 7, 2024 (Monday). DARVAZA – ASHGABAT (280 km)

In the morning, we will observe the crater and have a photo session. After breakfast, we will return to Ashgabat and check into the hotel. After lunch, we will visit the Carpet Museum, where you can explore the history of the carpet industry in Central Asia. This museum holds the largest collection of Turkmen carpets among all museums. It boasts a rich collection of Turkmen carpets from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, including over 1000 carpets from the 19th and 20th centuries. Next, we will visit the Russian Bazaar. The range of goods here is extremely vast, and you can also see a wide selection of products from the Ashgabat Textile Complex.

To conclude the day, we will enjoy a night tour of the main streets of Ashgabat before returning to our hotel.

Accommodation included: Sport Hotel in Ashgabat
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner


In the morning, transfer to the airport for a local flight from Ashgabat to Turkmenbashi at 6:20 (the flight lasts 1 hour. Flight schedules may vary). Upon arrival in Turkmenbashi, we will head to the amazing lake, once a bay of the Caspian Sea. In translation, "Kara Bogaz" means "black throat" or "black trap." The Caspian Sea waters rushed into Kara Bogaz through a narrow strait, ranging from 200 to 1000 meters wide, at a tremendous speed of up to 1 meter per second. Where the waters went was unclear, and this created fears about the place. Now it is understood that the lake is surrounded by a scorching desert, and the water simply evaporates. Depending on the water level in the lake, it now resembles the Dead Sea or the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia.

Next, we will head north to see the amazing natural wonder - the Yangykala Canyon, known as the "Grand Canyon of Central Asia," a stunningly beautiful place with formations of pink, white, and yellow sandstone, breathtaking views, and the captivating rock formation known as the "crocodile's mouth." The canyon is located in the Balkan Region of Northwest Turkmenistan. From the Turkmen language, Yangi-kala translates to "fiery fortresses." These canyons got their name due to the predominant red color of the rocks that form the mountain ranges and cliffs. The canyons offer an incredibly beautiful sight, especially stunning at sunset when everything around is painted in fiery tones.

On the way, we will visit the Gozli Ata shrine. It is said that Gozli Ata was a respected Sufi who lived in the early 14th century.

Then we will return to Turkmenbashi and check into the Charvak Hotel on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Accommodation included: Charvak Hotel in Turkmenbashi
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5. October 9, 2024 (Wednesday). TURKMENBASHI – BALKANABAD – NOHUR – KOV-ATA – ASHGABAT (580 km)

After breakfast, we depart towards Ashgabat.

On the way, we will visit Balkanabad. Balkanabad or Nebit-Dag (Oil Mountain) is the capital of Turkmenistan's oil and gas industry. The city's symbol is a monument in the shape of an oil derrick silhouette against the backdrop of the mountain.

Next, we will travel to the village of Nohur. Nohur is listed among the "100 most romantic places in the world." The road to this "paradise corner" is long and challenging with ascents, descents, and mountainous serpentine roads. However, all the hardships of the journey are forgotten upon seeing this exceptionally beautiful place surrounded on all sides by high mountains.

In Nohur, there is an ancient plane tree with a hollow large enough to accommodate several people. On the outskirts of the village, there is a special place for making wishes called Gyz-bibi, a narrow crack in the rock that locals believe is one of the doors to paradise. Make a wish, and it will surely come true. Additionally, there is an unusual cemetery here, where all tombstones are adorned with the horns of argali sheep.

We will then visit the underground lake of Kov-Ata, located 107 km from Ashgabat. The Turkmen name Kov-Ata means "Father of Caves." At first glance, this underground chamber looks like a magnificent auditorium. The cave floor is covered with clusters of dissolved limestone (stalagmites) and filled with warm, flowing water of emerald color. The water maintains a constant temperature of 33–37°C, and swimming is allowed for up to 30-40 minutes.

Afterward, we return to Ashgabat for accommodation at our Sport hotel and relaxation.

Accommodation included: Sport Hotel in Ashgabat
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner"

Day 6. October 10, 2024 (Thursday). ASHGABAT – MARY – MERV (475 km)

Early in the morning, we will travel to Mary for a visit to the historical park of Ancient Merv, located at the crossroads of the Great Silk Road and quickly becoming one of the largest cities. The capital rivaled such cities of the Islamic world as Baghdad, Cairo, and Damascus. We will explore Gyz Gala, Erk Gala, Sultan Gala, the mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, Eshbii, Yusup Hamadani, and the mausoleum of Ibn Zeyd. Next, we will visit the Museum of History, which houses a plethora of artifacts excavated from the Margush and Merv territories. Then we will transfer to the hotel for accommodation and rest.

Greeks, Parthians, and later the Sasanids transformed Merv into an important administrative, military, and trading center. In 1999, Ancient Merv was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Merv oasis was settled as early as the late 3rd to early 2nd millennium BCE; in cuneiform texts, it is mentioned as Margu, from which the name of the surrounding area derives. At the turn of the era, Merv was one of the main central centers of Parthia, covering an area of 60 km² and several rings of walls.

In the 3rd century, the city had its first Christians. Here, the powerful Mervian metropolis was formed. Evidence of their activity is the Christian necropolis of the 3rd-6th centuries in the area of Old Merv, as well as the construction of Haroba-Koshuk, located 18 kilometers from Merv, which some researchers consider the ruins of a Christian church.

After the Arab conquest of Central Asia in the 7th century, it found a second life as a base for conquest expeditions to the north and east. Under the Abbasids, Merv became one of the main centers of Arab book scholarship, housing ten libraries. The city was known as the home of immigrants from Arab countries, as well as from Sogdiana and other countries of Central Asia. From 813 to 818, the temporary residence of the caliph al-Mamun in Merv practically made the city the capital of the entire Caliphate.

Merv reached its peak in the mid-12th century when Sultan Sanjar made it the capital of the Seljuk state. During this time, Merv amazed contemporaries with the scope of its buildings, and by some criteria, it was even larger than Constantinople and Baghdad.

During this period, Merv expanded to its largest size — Arab and Persian geographers called it the "mother of the world," the "meeting place of the great and the ballet," the "main city of Khurasan," and the capital of the eastern Islamic world. Written sources also testify to a large library and madrasa founded by Nizam al-Mulk (vizier: 1064—1092), as well as many other major cultural institutions.

By the 12th century, Merv was one of the largest cities in the world. By 1210, it possibly had a population of up to 500,000 people.

In 1221, Merv was destroyed by the Mongols and did not revive until the 15th century when the Timurids finally restored its irrigation systems, but Merv could not achieve such greatness, so the settlement was moved to the site of the modern Turkmen city of Mary.

Accommodation included: Margush Hotel in Mary
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7. October 11, 2024 (Friday). MARY – ASHGABAT – GOKDEPE MOSQUE – KONEFERMA – KIPCHAK – ASHGABAT (550 km)

After breakfast, we will return to Ashgabat.

After lunch, we will head to Gokdepe. Here stands the Gokdepe Fortress erected in memory of the warrior-defenders.
Next, we will visit Koneferma to acquaint ourselves with the pride of the Turkmen people - the Akhal-Teke horses. There will be a traditional tea break, a short show program featuring the Akhal-Teke horses, as well as opportunities for photography and visiting the stables.
Then, we will travel to the largest mosque in Central Asia, the Ruhyyet Palace Mosque in Kipchak, and the mausoleum of the first President of Turkmenistan.
Return to our hotel in Ashgabat.

Accommodation included: Sport Hotel in Ashgabat
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8. October 12, 2024 (Saturday). ASHGABAT – RETURN FLIGHT

After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport. International flight back home.

Meals included: breakfast
Accommodation included: none

* Recommended flights:
- S7, direct flight to Moscow, departure from Ashgabat on October 12 at 5-50 am, arrival in Moscow at 8-50 am, or
- Turkish Airlines, flight TK 323 to Istanbul, departure from Ashgabat on October 12 at 03-20 am, or
- any other flight from Ashgabat to any city departing from Ashgabat at any time on October 12.

* The order of the program may be changed in the interests of the expedition due to weather conditions, depending on road conditions or for safety reasons.

Cost includes:

  • local flight: Ashgabat - Turkmenbashi
  • transport with experienced drivers along the entire rout as per the program, including Toyota Land Cruiser, Prado, Mitsubishi Pajero off-road vehicles to the Darvaza Crater and Yangikala Canyon (seating for 3 people, 2 in the back and 1 in the front, with working air conditioning). For the rest of the route, a new model Toyota Hiace minibus with comfortable seating, working air conditioning and experienced drivers.
  • twin/double accommodation in hotels throughout the route.
  • double аccommodation in yurts near the Darvaza Crater based on occupancy.
  • сamping equipment, including sleeping bags and utensils.
  • three meals a day throughout the route.
  • drinking water throughout the route.
  • cook, local guides, and helpers throughout the route.
  • all entrance tickets according to the program.
  • all activities and excursions according to the program.
  • all permits for the route and visa support (invitation, registration: travel voucher).
  • local professional specialized English-speaking guide.
  • Russian and English-speaking team leader.

Cost excludes (additionally paid):

  • international airfare to and from Ashgabat.
  • international medical insurance.
  • Turkmenistan visa (costs $210 USD for Russian citizens).
  • soft and alcoholic beverages and personal expenses.
  • tips/gifts to the local population.
  • single accommodation

To take with:

  • 3 sets of clothing (trousers, long-sleeved shirt, t-shirt, underwear, socks, sun hat).
  • comfortable trekking shoes and lightweight shoes (sneakers).
  • warm jacket and a hat.
  • raincoat.
  • swimsuit.
  • sunglasses and sunscreen.
  • personal first-aid kit (painkillers, antiseptics, antibiotics, antiviral drugs, multivitamins, rehydration solution, gastrointestinal drugs, and any other necessary medications).
  • personal hygiene items, including a towel and wet wipes.
  • headlamp.
  • your sleeping bag suitable for 5 degrees Celsius (comfort temperature) – as per your preference.
  • various repellents for application on skin and clothing.
  • waterproof document pouch.
  • photo and video equipment.
  • an additional set of batteries and a power bank for photo and video equipment.
  • suitcase for luggage and a small backpack for personal items.
    • 1
      We find the most astonishing places on Earth and speed up to reach them. Our motto is to go ahead of road roller, touch the unique and unknown, before it disappears.
    • 2
      Wherever we go, we look for challenging activities and adventures, filling the journey with absolutely different spirit and emotions. That is why people join us over and over again.
    • 3
      In our trips we pay special attention to safety. All our travels are based on personal experience, equipped with the best gear, involving proved providers and experienced local guides who perfectly know local features.
    • 4
      We have a unique experience of the most offbeat expeditions and ascents, deep knowledge of countries and peoples, and are ready to share it with you.

    © MZUNGU EXPEDITIONS LLC, 2009-2024. All Rights Reserved
    Our Data Privacy policy
    Made on