The expedition to the most beautiful capital in the world, ancient Merv, and to the Darvaza Crater.


November 25 – December 2, 2023
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 "Gates of Hell" 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: November 25 – December 2, 2023

Duration: 7 days / 8 nights

Number of participants: 7 – 12

Cost of participation per person:


Everything is included, 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 $750 USD.

Single supplement: $350 USD (provided throughout the entire route).


Day 1: November 25, 2023 (Saturday). ASHGABAT

Arrival in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan.

Accommodation at the Sport Hotel (this night is fully paid), breakfast, and rest. During the day, there will be a guided tour of Ashgabat, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. You will visit the main tourist attractions in the capital, including parks, monuments, impressive mosques, and other iconic buildings.

Later, we will head north to visit the Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as the "Gates of Hell." 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 the villages of Bahardok and Yerbent to get acquainted with the life of people in Turkmen villages.

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

Recommended flights:

  • S7, Flight S7-3235, departure from Moscow on November 24 at 10:50 PM, arrival in Ashgabat on November 25 at 4:50 AM.
  • Turkish Airlines, Flight TK 322, departure from Istanbul on November 24 at 9:00 PM, arrival in Ashgabat on November 25 at 2:45 AM.
  • Any other flight from any city arriving in Ashgabat no later than 7:00 AM on November 25. Alternatively, you can arrive on the evening of November 24, as the night at Sport Hotel from November 24 to 25 is included in the cost.

Day 2: November 26, 2023 (Sunday). ASHGABAT - NISA - KYPCHAK - KONEFERMA - ASHGABAT (300 km)

After breakfast, we return to Ashgabat and head to Nisa, which was once the capital of the Parthian Empire (a UNESCO World Heritage site). In 2007, the ancient fortresses of Nisa were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as an outstanding universal value. The Nisa fortresses were included not only as cultural monuments but also as part of the "cultural landscapes" group.

We then visit the largest mosque in Central Asia, the Ruhy Mosque (Kypchak), and the mausoleum of the first president of Turkmenistan. Next, we visit a horse farm to get acquainted with the pride of the Turkmen people—the Akhal-Teke horses. There will be a traditional tea break, a short show featuring Akhal-Teke horses, and an opportunity to see the stables and interact with the horses. We conclude the day with a night tour of the main streets of Ashgabat.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Sport Hotel in Ashgabat

Day 3: November 27, 2023 (Monday). ASHGABAT - MERV - MARY (380 km

Early in the morning, we depart for Mary, taking a journey to the historical park of Ancient Merv, which once stood at the crossroads of the Great Silk Road and quickly became one of the largest cities. The capital rivaled cities in the Islamic world such as Baghdad, Cairo, and Damascus. The excursion includes visits to Gyz Gala, Erk Gala, Sultan Gala, the mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, Eshb, Yusup-Hamadani, and the mausoleum of Ibn Zeyd. We then visit the Museum of History, which houses numerous artifacts excavated in the Margush and Merv regions. Afterward, we proceed to the hotel for accommodation and relaxation.

Greeks, Parthians, and later the Sassanids turned Merv into an important administrative, military, and trade 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 and is mentioned in cuneiform texts as Margu, from which the name of the surrounding area is derived. By the turn of our era, Merv became one of the major central centers of Parthia, covering an area of 60 square kilometers with multiple concentric walls.

In the 3rd century, the first Christians appeared in the city, and the powerful Mervian diocese was established. Evidence of their activities includes a Christian necropolis dating from the 3rd to 6th centuries in the Old Merv area, as well as the construction of Haroba-Koshuk, located 18 kilometers from Merv, which some researchers consider the ruins of a Christian temple.

After the Arab conquest of Central Asia in the 7th century, Merv found a second life as a platform for conquests 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 a home for immigrants from Arab countries, as well as from Sogdiana and other Central Asian regions. During the period from 813 to 818, the temporary residence of Caliph al-Mamun in Merv effectively made the city the capital of the entire Caliphate.

Merv reached its zenith in the mid-12th century when Sultan Sanjar made it the capital of the Seljuk Empire. During this time, Merv astonished contemporaries with the scale of its constructions and, by some criteria, was even larger than Constantinople and Baghdad.

In this period, Merv expanded to its greatest size, and Arab and Persian geographers called it the "Mother of the World," the "meeting place of great and small," the "chief city of Khorasan," and the capital of the Eastern Islamic world. Written sources also attest 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, possibly with a population of up to 500,000 by 1210.

In 1221, Merv was destroyed by the Mongols and did not recover until the 15th century when the Timurids finally restored its irrigation systems. However, Merv could not regain its former glory, and the settlement was moved to the site of the modern Turkmen city of Mary.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Margush Hotel in Mary

Day 4: November 28, 2023 (Tuesday). MARY - ASHGABAT (380 km)

After breakfast, we will drive back to the city of Ashgabat. In the second half of the day, we will visit the Carpet Museum, where you can learn about the history of the carpet industry in Central Asia. This museum houses the largest collection of Turkmen carpets. It has a rich collection of Turkmen carpets from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, including over 1,000 carpets from the 18th and 19th centuries. After lunch, we will visit the Russian Bazaar, where you can experience the beauty of Turkmen carpets in person and purchase souvenirs.

In the evening, there will be a night tour of Ashgabat, followed by dinner at a local restaurant with a national-style show.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Sport Hotel in Ashgabat

Day 5: November 29, 2023 (Wednesday). ASHGABAT - TURKMENBASHI - YANGYKALA CANYON - TURKMENBASHI (200 km)

In the morning, you will be transferred to the airport for a local flight from Ashgabat to Turkmenbashi at 10:20 AM (the flight lasts for 1 hour). Upon arrival, you will visit the local market and the city center. In the second half of the day, we will embark on a trip to the stunning Yangykala Canyon, known as the "Grand Canyon of Central Asia." It's an incredibly beautiful place with formations made of pink, white, and yellow sandstone, breathtaking views, and the captivating rock formation known as the "crocodile's mouth." On the way, you will visit the Gozli Ata shrine. It is believed that Gozli Ata was a respected Sufi who lived in the early 14th century. Afterward, we will return to Turkmenbashi and check into a hotel by the Caspian Sea.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Charvak Hotel in Turkmenbashi

Day 6: November 30, 2023 (Thursday). TURKMENBASHI - KOV ATA - NOKHUR - ASHGABAT (220 km)

After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for a local flight from Turkmenbashi to Ashgabat at 08:30 AM (the flight lasts for 1 hour). Upon arrival, you will check into a hotel, have some rest, and after lunch, you will visit the underground Kov-Ata Lake, located 107 km from Ashgabat. The Turkmen name Kov-Ata means "Father of Caves." At first glance, this underground chamber resembles a magnificent auditorium. The bottom of the cave is covered with clusters of dissolved limestone (stalagmites) and is filled with warm flowing water of emerald color. The water maintains a constant temperature of 33-37°C.

Next, we continue our journey to the village of Nokhur. The path to this "compact world" is long and challenging, with slopes, inclines, and steep mountain turns. In Nokhur, you will find an old plane tree with a hollow that can 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 local residents consider one of the doors to paradise. Make a wish, and it will definitely come true. Additionally, there is an unusual cemetery here, where all tombstones are adorned with the horns of wild goats. Afterward, we return to Ashgabat for accommodation and relaxation.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Sport Hotel in Ashgabat


After breakfast, you will visit the National Museum of Turkmenistan, which houses a unique collection of paintings, drawings, and sculptures, including not only Turkmen visual art but also masterpieces by some Russian and Western European artists. You will then continue your visit to Alem, the Ashgabat observation wheel, known as "The Universe." At the time of its opening, the Guinness World Records recognized Alem as the world's tallest enclosed Ferris wheel. In the evening, there will be a night tour of Ashgabat's main streets with a stop near the Palace of Happiness. You will also visit the "Altyn Asyr" bazaar, Ashgabat's largest market, where you can experience the beauty of Turkmen carpets and silver jewelry and purchase souvenirs.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation: Sport Hotel in Ashgabat

Day 8: December 2, 2023 (Saturday). RETURN FLIGHT

After breakfast at the hotel, you will be transferred to the airport for your international flight back home.

Meals: Breakfast
Accommodation: None

Recommended flights
S7, flight S7-3236, departure from Ashgabat on December 2 at 05:50 AM,
Turkish Airlines, flight TK 323, departure from Ashgabat on December 2 at 04:05 AM, or
Another flight from Ashgabat to any city departing on December 2 at any time.
Cost includes:

  • 2 local flights: Ashgabat - Turkmenbashi - Ashgabat.
  • 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 _____ 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
      Мы находим самые удивительные места на планете и спешим успеть. Наше кредо – двигаться впереди асфальтового катка, прикоснуться к уникальному и неизведанному, прежде чем оно станет историей.
    • 2
      Куда бы мы не поехали, мы ищем нестандартные активности и авантюры, наполняющие путешествие совсем иными эмоциями. Поэтому к нам возвращаются снова и снова :)
    • 3
      Мы уделяем особое внимание безопасности в поездках. Все наши путешествия основаны на личном опыте, экипированы лучшим оборудованием, с привлечением проверенных поставщиков и опытных местных гидов, идеально знающих особенности местности.
    • 4
      Мы обладаем уникальным багажом самых необычных экспедиций и восхождений, глубокими знаниями о странах и народах, и будем делиться ими с вами. Все экспедиции и восхождения ведет сам Мзунгу, гарантируя увлекательное путешествие и ваш комфорт.
    • 5
      Все наши путешествия максимально насыщенные, с качественным проживанием, транспортом и включенным питанием, мы не экономим на этом. Благодаря надежным контактам с поставщиками, мы предлагаем отличные цены, уверенно соответствующее качеству поездок.


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