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

TURKMENISTAN

April 26 – May 3, 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.

SCHEDULE & COST:

Dates: April 26 – May 3, 2024

Duration: 8 days / 8 nights

Number of participants: 8 – 12

Cost of participation per person:
– 2 090 USD for 10 – 12 participants,
– 2 190 USD for 8 – 9 participants.

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 $300 - 500 USD.

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



TRAVEL PROGRAM: tour to Turkmenistan

Day 1. April 26, 2024 (Friday). ASHGABAT – DARVAZA CRATER (270 km)

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 "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 direct flight from Moscow, departure from Moscow on April 25 at 22-50, arrival in Ashgabat on April 26 at 04-50 am,
- Turkmenistan Airlines, flight T5 922, departure from Istanbul on April 25 at 22-15, arrival in Ashgabat on April 26 at 04-05 am,
- any other flight from any city with arrival in Ashgabat no later than 07-00 am on April 26. You can also arrive in the evening of April 25 – the night at the Sport Hotel from April 25 to 26 is included in the price.


Day 2. April 27, 2024 (Saturday). DARVAZA – ASHGABAT (270 km)

In the morning, we observe the crater and take photos.
After breakfast, we return to Ashgabat and check into the Sport Hotel. After lunch, we visit the National Museum of Turkmenistan, housing unique collections of paintings, graphics, and sculptures, including not only Turkmen visual arts but also masterpieces by some Russian and Western European artists. Following lunch, we embark on a city tour of Ashgabat: Independence Park, Arch of Neutrality, and the observation platform. We continue our visit to the Ashgabat Ferris wheel known as "Alem," which translates to "Universe." The Guinness World Records has recognized "Alem" as the world's tallest indoor Ferris wheel. An evening tour of the main streets of Ashgabat will conclude our journey.

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


Day 3. April 28, 2024 (Sunday). ASHGABAT – TURKMENBASHI – YANGIKALA CANYON – TURKMENBASHI (200 km)

In the morning, we transfer to the airport for a local flight from Ashgabat to Turkmenbashi at 6:20 (the flight duration is 1 hour). Upon arrival in Turkmenbashi, we head to witness the astonishing natural wonder – Yangikala Canyon, known as the "Grand Canyon of Central Asia." It is an incredibly beautiful place with formations of pink, white, and yellow sandstone, stunning views, and the captivating rock formation known as the "Crocodile's Jaws."
The canyon is located in the Northwest of Turkmenistan in the Balkan velayat (province). In Turkmen, Yangi-kala means "fire fortresses," named so because of the prevailing red color of the rocks that make up the mountain ranges and cliffs. The canyons offer an incredibly beautiful spectacle, especially during sunset when everything around is painted in fiery tones.
On the way, we visit the Gozli Ata Shrine. It is said that Gozli Ata was a respected Sufi who lived in the early 14th century.
Then, we return to Turkmenbashi and check into a hotel on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

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


Day 4. April 29, 2024 (Monday). TURKMENBASHI – BALKANABAD – NOKHUR – KOV-ATA – ASHGABAT (580 km)

After breakfast, we depart towards Ashgabat. Along the way, we visit Balkanabat. Balkanabat or Nebit-Dag (Oil Mountain) is the capital of Turkmenistan's oil and gas industry. The city's symbol is a monument resembling an oil derrick against the backdrop of a mountain.
We then head to the village of Nokhur. Nokhur has been listed among the "100 Most Romantic Places in the World." The journey to this "heavenly corner" is long and challenging – uphill climbs, descents, and mountainous switchbacks. However, all the road hardships are forgotten when you witness this exceptionally beautiful place surrounded by high mountains. In Nokhur, an old plane tree grows, large enough to accommodate several people in its hollow. On the outskirts of the village, there is a special place for making wishes – Gyz-bibi, a narrow crack in the rock that locals believe is one of the heaven-gates. Make a wish, and it will come true. There is also an unusual cemetery here, where all tombstones are adorned with the horns of aoudads.
We visit the underground lake Kov-Ata, located 107 km from Ashgabat. The Turkmen name Kov-Ata means "Father of Caves." At first glance, this underground space looks like a magnificent auditorium. The cave's 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 no more than 30-40 minutes.
Afterwards, we return to Ashgabat, check into our Sport Hotel, and relax.

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


Day 5. April 30, 2024 (Tuesday). ASHGABAT – MARY – MERV (475 km)

Early in the morning, we travel to Mary and visit 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 explore Gyz-gala, Erk-gala, Sultan-gala, the mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, Ashabi, Yusup-Hamadani, and the mausoleum of Ibn Zeid. Next, we visit the Museum of History, which houses numerous artifacts excavated from the Margiana and Merv territories. Then, we transfer to the hotel for accommodation and relaxation.
Greeks, Parthians, and later the Sassanids transformed Merv into a significant administrative, military, and trading center. In 1999 Ancient Merv was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The oasis of Merv was inhabited as early as the late 3rd to the beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE, mentioned in cuneiform texts as Margu, from which the name of the surrounding area is derived. By the turn of the era, Merv became one of the major central centers of the Parthian Empire, covering an area of 60 km² and several ring-walls.
In the 3rd century, the city saw the presence of the first Christians. A powerful Mervian metropolis emerged, evidenced by the Christian necropolis of the 3rd–6th centuries in the vicinity of Old Merv and 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 gained a second life as a base for conquest expeditions to the north and east. Under the Abbasids, Merv became a major center of Arab book scholarship, boasting ten libraries. The city was known as a home for immigrants from Arab countries and also from Sogdiana and other Central Asian countries. In the period from 813 to 818, the temporary residence of Caliph al-Mamun in Merv essentially 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 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 largest size – Arab and Persian geographers called it the "Mother of the World," the "local meeting of the great and ballet," the "main city of Khurasan," 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.
In the 12th century, Merv was one of the largest cities in the world. By 1210, possibly up to 500,000 people lived in it.
In 1221, Merv was destroyed by the Mongols and did not revive until the 15th century when the Timurids finally restored its irrigation structures. However, Merv could not achieve the same greatness, so the settlement was moved to the site of the modern Turkmen city of Mary.

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


Day 6. May 1, 2024 (Wednesday). MARY – MARGUSH – ASHGABAT (500 km)

After breakfast, we return to Ashgabat. On the way, we will stop in Ak-Oy, where celebrations for the main spring festival, Novruz Bayram, will be taking place. Here, we can participate in mass festivities, taste traditional dishes, and enjoy the sweet "semeni" prepared in honor of Novruz Bayram. Additionally, festive swings will be available for a joyful experience.
Novruz (Navruz) is a celebration of the arrival of spring and the New Year in the astronomical solar calendar observed by Iranian and Turkic peoples. Novruz is an international tradition unrelated to Islamic customs. It gained official status in the Achaemenid Empire as a religious holiday of Zoroastrianism. Novruz has continued to be celebrated universally even after Arab conquests, up to the present day. In modern times, it is observed on the days corresponding to the spring equinox. On September 30, 2009, Novruz was inscribed on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and March 21 has since been declared International Novruz Day.
Return to Ashgabat. To conclude the day, a night excursion awaits us through the main streets of Ashgabat.

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


Day 7. May 2, 2024 (Thursday). ASHGABAT – NISA – GOKDEPE – HORSE FARM – KYPCHAK – ASHGABAT (200 km)

After 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.
We then travel to the city of Gokdepe, where the Hekdepe Fortress stands as a memorial to warrior-defenders.
Next, we visit a horse farm to acquaint ourselves with the pride of the Turkmen people – the Akhal-Teke horses. A traditional break for tea, a short show featuring Akhal-Teke horses, photo opportunities, and a tour of the stables with the horses.
We continue to the largest mosque in Central Asia, the Ruhy Mosque in Kypchak, and the mausoleum of the first President of Turkmenistan.

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


Day 8. May 3, 2024 (Friday). 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 May 3 at 5-50 am, arrival in Moscow at 8-50 am, or
- Turkmenistan Airlines, flight T5 921, departure from Ashgabat on May 3 at 18-40, or
- Turkish Airlines, flight TK 323 to Istanbul, departure from Ashgabat on May 3 at 03-20 am, or
- any other flight from Ashgabat to any city departing from Ashgabat at any time on May 3.


* 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 _____ 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.
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