Day 1: Ashgabat arrival (B)
Early in the morning arrive in Ashgabat. Meet Turkmen guide and driver. Transfer to hotel for overnight. Late morning start sightseeing Ashgabat, visiting independence-period parks and monuments, including the Neutrality Square, and the National Museum, demonstrating a rich collection of artifacts from all over Turkmenistan, including ivory rhytons from Old Nisa, the museum will also offer us reconstruction models of most of the sites that we are going to visit. In the evening we head south to the Kopetdag Mountains to take a cable-car ride (subject to change) and see a splendid view of the white-marble capital city. Overnight at hotel in Ashgabat.
Day 2: Ashgabat - Mary (by air) - Gonur depe / Margush (90 km, incl. 35 km off-road) (B, L)
Early in the morning take a flight to Mary. On arrival drive northeast from Mary to Margush / Gonur Depe (90 km including 40 km by 4WD) – the largest Bronze Age archeological complex of Central Asia! The American newspaper "Boston Glob" wrote that before we knew the four oldest centres 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. Picnic lunch. Later drive back to Mary. Overnight at hotel in Mary.
Day 3: Mary – Merv – Ashgabat (by air) (B)
This morning we will take a close look Ancient Merv Historical Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Consisting of a series of cities, succeeding one another as capitals of the famous oasis, Ancient Merv is the only site of its kind in Central Asia. Today we’ll see:
- the 7 c. BC Erk-Kala (Alexandria of Margiana in the 4 c. BC)
- the 3 c. BC Gyaur-Kala (Antioch of Margiana)
- medieval Sultan-Kala (Seljuk “Queen of Cities”), Abdullakhan-Kala and Bayramalikhan-Kala
- the oldest of still standing corrugated mud-brick “keshks” – Great and Little Kiz Kalas
- magnificent Seljuk mausoleums of Sultan Sanjar and Muhammad ibn Zaid
- the palace and keshk in the royal Seljuk citadel of Shahriar Ark
- Timurid eyvans and Arab tombs of the Profet’s companions, Askhabs, and some others.
After sightseeing we return to Mary to visit Mary Regional Museum. Then take an evening flight to Ashgabat (40 minutess with Boing-737/717). Overnight at hotel in Ashgabat.
Day 4: Ashgabat – Darvaza (260 km) (B, D)
Morning is free at leisure.
PM we drive deep into the Karakum desert, following the traditional travel route across the Karakum desert. Arrive in the village of Erbent, located about 152 km from Ashgabat. People live here either in village houses made of unfired brick (excellent for withstanding the extremes of temperature) or in yurts. Spend here about 20-30 min (walking through the village; take some photos). Then continue on to Darvaza. On the way we visit two more craters, located 100 m from the main road, one with water and the other with mud, both bubbling with natural gas seeping from underground. Dinner & overnight in tents not far from the flaming gas crater (wild camping).
Day 5: Darvaza – Damla (100 km; 3-4 hrs drive) (B, L, D)
In the morning, we pack up our camp and head on, towards Damla desert village. Some stops on the way to take photos of stunning desert landscape, and the ancient riverbed of the Oxus (known as Uzboy). Lunch in the village at local house or picnic lunch. PM exploration of Damla village. Dinner and overnight in yurts/house/ tents.
Day 6: Damla – Ashgabat (250 km; 4-6 hrs) (B)
After breakfast drive back to Ashgabat. On arrival transfer to hotel. Rest of the time is free at leisure. Overnight at hotel in Ashgabat.
Day 7: Ashgabat - Nokhur (175 km) (B, D)
After breakfast head west, towards Nokhur mountain village. On the way we’ll stop in Kipchak, to visit a complex of the biggest mosque in Turkmenistan and the family mausoleum of the first President. We’ll also visit beautiful Geok Depe mosque (50 km from Ashgabat), built within a former Tekke stronghold, which was the site of the biggest battle for the Russian domination in Central Asia in the late 19 c. 10 km from the mosque, visit a private stud farm to see beautiful and legendary Akhal-Tekke horses. Having finished photo session with horses, proceed to the underground cave of Kov-Ata, accommodating a unique hot-water (+ 35-37C all year round) sulphur lake (90 km from Ashgabat). After a swim in the lake, we drive on to Nokhur village located about 1100 m above the sea level, on the Kopetdag Mountains. En-route visit ruins of Old Murche village. Lunch at one of local cafes near Kov Ata (not included). Dinner & overnight in local family house/tents (subject to availability).
Day 8: Nokhur – Balkanabat (350 km) (B)
In the morning Kopetdag mountains exploration. PM drive to Balkanabat. Lunch en-route at one of road cafes (not included).Overnight at hotel in Balkanabat.
Day 9 Balkanabat – Yangy kala canyons – Turkmenbashi (410 km) (B, L)
In the morning drive to Yangykala canyons. These canyons are known for their multi-colored cliffs once located on the coast of the Caspian sea. Picnic lunch. Later continue on to Turkmenbashi. Overnight at one of hotels in Avaza Caspian Sea resort.
Day 10: Turkmenbashi – Ashgabat (by air) (B)
In the morning City tour of Turkmenbashi and Awaza sea resort. In the evening take a flight to Ashgabat. On arrival transfer to hotel. Overnight in hotel Grand Turkmen/ Ak Altyn (subject to availability).
Day 11: Ashgabat (B)
In the morning visit famous market of Ashgabat – “Altyn Asyr Gundogar bazar” (open on Thu, Sat and Sun only). The market is considered the largest one in Turkmenistan and still attracts locals from all other country. The best time to visit this market is on Sunday, when its full of locals and you can see the animal market here too. After the market we’ll continue on to Old Nissa fortress (UNESCO World Heritage site, the 1st capital of Parthian Empire and winter residence of Parthian kings). Rest of day is free at leisure. Overnight at hotel in Ashgabat.
Day 12: Departure
Early morning transfer to airport for your departure flight home. End of the program.
NOTE: B – breakfast, L – lunch, D – dinner.