Turkmenistan Highlights Group Tour 20208 Days | Ashgabat, Turkmenbashi, Balkanabat, Nokhur, Mary, Merv, Darvaza Gas Crater, Kunya-Urgench, Dashoguz

Tour map

Discover this mysterious and fascinating country on our 8-day tour that showcases Turkmenistan’s historical and scenic highlights – from the gleaming city of Ashgabat to the ancient ruins of Merv, the fiery Karakum desert, and beyond... This longer Turkmenistan tour is suitable for those with a bit more time, who want to see as much of the country as possible. See and experience what Turkmenistan is most famous for, including tracing the legacy of the former President, Niyazov, in the marble capital city of Ashgabat, camping next to the glowing Darvaza Gas Crater, and exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Ancient Merv and Kunya-Urgench. In addition, take the opportunity to get to know the real Turkmenistan as you observe life in desert and mountain villages and journey west to see the stunning Yangikala and Yangisuv Canyons and some of the country’s holiest pilgrimage sites.

This scheduled tour can easily be combined with the Scheduled Uzbekistan Group Tour.

Tour itinerary:

Day 1, Sun: Ashgabat
 
Arrive in Ashgabat. Transfer to the hotel. Free time. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 2, Mon: Ashgabat – Turkmenbashi – Yangikala and Yangisuv Canyons – Gozli Ata Mausoleum
 
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your 08:30 flight to Turkmenbashi. After arriving at 09:30, drive to Yangikala Canyons (175km, 2.5 hours), one of Turkmenistan’s scenic highlights. The word “yangikala” means “fire fortress” in the Turkmen language, and the sheer red, yellow, ochre, purple and white cliffs, carved over thousands of years by wind and rain, are a stunning sight. After exploring the canyons, have a picnic lunch. Then continue to Yangisuv Canyon, which is 1 hour away and close to the Garabogaz Gulf. Walk along a narrow corridor to enjoy the fantastic views and stunning variations in colour. The canyon becomes progressively narrower, until you can touch both walls at the same time. When the sun sets, drive to Gozli Ata, one of Turkmenistan’s holiest pilgrimage sites. This mausoleum is positioned against the backdrop of stunning pink and red limestone rock formations. Dinner and overnight at a local pilgrim house (shared accommodation) or campsite near the mausoleum.
Day 3, Tue: Gozli Ata – Kemal Ata Mausoleum – Balkanabat – Serdar
 
Picnic style breakfast. Drive to Kemal Ata Mausoleum (0.5 hours) where water has carved out a small valley through various ancient volcanic rock formations. After exploring the area, drive to Nokhur village (6 hours), stopping in Balkanabat for lunch. Overnight at guest house at Serdar town.
Meals: breakfast
Day 4, Wed: Serdar – Nokhur – Kow-Ata Underground Lake – Gokdepe – Ashgabat
 
After breakfast, drive to Nokhur is located in a small valley in the Kopet Dag mountains, and its nature differs from the surrounding places. According to legend, this is where Noah’s Ark moored, all the animals were let out, and various seeds were planted. The culture of the Nokhuri people who populate this remote mountain village is also quite different to that of other Turkmen tribes. Apart from the main street through the middle of the town, the streets are so narrow that a car can only just fit between the high stone walls on each side. Visit the great sycamore tree and the unique cemetery, where nearly every grave is marked by a wooden post decorated with the horns of a mountain goat. Then make a wish at the special place in the rock, named after Kyz Bibi. Traditional lunch with a local family in the village. After lunch, transfer to Ashgabat via Kow-Ata underground lake, which is 107km from Ashgabat. The Turkmen name, Kow-Ata, means “father of caves”, and this cave is like a magnificent auditorium, with an overall length of 230m, height of up to 20m, and width of up to 57m. The bottom of the cave is covered with stalagmites, and there is a lake that you can swim in. The water is clear and emerald-coloured, with a constant temperature of 33-37°C.
Afterwards, drive to Gokdepe Fortress, which was attacked in December 1880 by the army of the Russian empire. The siege of Gokdepe lasted 23 days, after which the city was taken by storm. Visit Gokdepe Mosque (Saparmurat Hajji), which was built in 1995 to commemorate the defeat and is notable for its mint-turquoise roof and white marble structure. Then visit Gokdepe Museum to learn about the battle between the Russians and the local Akhal Teke tribe. Drive to the horse farm, which has over 35 of Turkmenistan’s famous Akhal Teke horses. Turkmens began to breed Akhal Teke horses 5,000 years ago, and this unique breed was never mixed with others. Famous people like Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Darius I prized these horses. According to local tradition, every sick person who touches an Akhal Teke horse will get well soon. End the day with a drive to Ashgabat via Turkmenbashi Ruhy (“Spiritual”) Mosque, the largest mosque in Central Asia. Overnight at a hotel in Ashgabat.
Meals: breakfast, lunch
Day 5, Thu: Ashgabat – Mary – Merv – Mary – Ashgabat
 
Breakfast at the hotel. Drive to Mary (4 hours) via the ruins of Seyitjemalledin Mosque in Anau. The mosque was built in 1456, when Abu-ibn-Kasim Baber Bahadurkhan ruled in Khorasan. Bahadurkhan’s vizier, Muhammed Hudaidot, financed the mosque’s construction and chose the site – near the grave of his father, Sheikh Jemaleddin, a native of Anau. The square central hall, with sides 10.5m high, was crowned with a dome. Later on, the mosque was partially reconstructed. By the 19th century, land subsidence had damaged the building heavily, and the 1948 Ashgabat earthquake destroyed it completely. Now, only lower parts of the portal and some fragments of the walls remain. Visit Abiward, which was once an important trading town of North Khorasan. It was a key location on the Great Silk Road between Nisa and Merv, and also linked to Nishapur, across the Kopetdag Mountains to the south.
Continue to Merv, an ancient city that was a major centre of international trade and crafts on the Silk Road. Discover the Historical and Cultural Park of “Ancient Merv” (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which was one of the most important capitals of Islam along with Baghdad, Cairo, and Damascus. See the Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum, Large and Small Kyz Kala, Erk Kala, Gyaur Kala, Mausoleum Complex of the Askhabs, Hoja Yusuf Hamadani complex, and Mohammed Ibn Zeid Mausoleum. Then drive to Mary airport for your flight to Ashgabat. Overnight at a hotel in Ashgabat.
Day 6, Fri: Ashgabat city tour – Darvaza Gas Crater
 
Breakfast, followed by a sightseeing tour of this fascinating city, the capital of Turkmenistan.
Ashgabat holds the Guinness World Record as the city with the highest density of white marble buildings in the world. During the city tour, explore the archeological site of Old Nisa, a UNESCO World Heritage site; and Spiritual Mosque, one of the biggest mosques in Central Asia. Visit the National Museum of History, the Monument of Neutrality, Ertugrul Gazi Mosque, and the newly built Independence Park.
In the afternoon, drive to the Darvaza gas crater (3.5 hours), which locals call the “Door to Hell”, located in the middle of the Karakum Desert. This area is rich in natural gas and, while drilling in 1971, Soviet geologists tapped into a gas-filled cave. The ground beneath the drilling rig collapsed, leaving a large hole 70m wide. To avoid poisonous gas discharge, it was decided the best solution was to burn it off. Geologists had hoped the fire would use all the fuel in a matter of days, but the gas is still burning today. On the way, stop at Erbent village to see how locals live in these desert surroundings. Set up camp for the night, watch the spectacular and fascinating view of the burning crater, and enjoy a delicious fire-cooked dinner. Overnight in tents.
Day 7, Sat: Darvaza – Kunya-Urgench – Dashoguz – Ashgabat
 
Picnic style breakfast, then drive to Kunya-Urgench (3.5 hours), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit mausoleums of Turebek-Khanym, Sultan Tekesh, Sultan Il Arslan, Najmad-din-Kubra, Sultan Ali. Discover the Kutlug-Timur Minaret and Kyrk Molla Hill. Then drive to Dashoguz for your flight to Ashgabat. Transfer to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel in Ashgabat.
Optional extension: Drive from Kunya-Urgench to Khiva to join the Uzbekistan group tour
Day 8, Sun: Ashgabat – departure
 
Breakfast and hotel check-out. Free time until your transfer to Ashgabat International Airport. Departure. End of the tour.
  • All transfers: regular air-conditioned, with 4x4 vehicles if required;
  • Accommodation based on double/twin room sharing (unless otherwise specified), breakfasts included;
  • Sightseeing tour program with local, English speaking guide;
  • Entrance fees to sights as per itinerary;
  • Economy class tickets for flights: Ashgabat-Turkmenbashi, Mary-Ashgabat, Dashoguz-Ashgabat;
  • Turkmenistan visa support letter;
  • Meals as specified in the itinerary;
  • Mineral water (1.5 litres per person per day)
  • Travel tax: US$2 per person per night.
  • Consular fees for Turkmenistan tourist visa;
  • Turkmenistan migration tax - 14 USD;
  • Tips to local driver and guide (although they would be appreciated);
  • Travel insurance;
  • International flight tickets before and after the tour;
  • Full board (lunches and dinners unless otherwise specified);
  • Hotel charges for additional services;
  • Camera fees, charged separately by museums.

Accommodation:

Ashgabat - 4 nights
Archabil
Gozli Ata - 1 night
Pilgrim house (shared accommodation)
Serdar - 1 night
Guesthouse
Darvaza - 1 night
Tents (optional alternative: yurt shared with other group members)

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