Caspian and the Karakum
13 days | Guided | From £1,699
There are special destinations and then there are those that are just extra-special. The rarely visited land of Turkmenistan most certainly belongs in the extra-special category. Possibly top of the list - Afficionados of the 'Great Game' played out between Imperial Russia and the British, as well as tales of the Silk Road will know all about the renowned affairs that took place in this fascinating country.
13 days | Guided | From £1,699
Adventures at the edge of the 'Great Game'
- Visit the site of Ancient Merv
- Swim in the glittering Caspian Sea
- See amazing landscapes
- See the "Door to Hell" gas crater in the Karakum desert
- Meet the legendary Turcoman people
There are special destinations and then there are those that are just extra-special. The rarely visited land of Turkmenistan most certainly belongs in the extra-special category. Possibly top of the list- Afficionados of the 'Great Game' played out between Imperial Russia and the British, as well as tales of the Silk Road will know all about the renowned affairs that took place in this fascinating country. Although 80% of Turkmenistan is desert, its landscapes are quite varied with sub-tropical forest valleys, limestone canyons, karst caves and even mountains too. This is a land steeped in history. From the early Bronze Age settlers, to the Mongol Hordes and the arrival of the Turkic tribes. The Turcomans horses are the stuff of legend, as well as traditional carpet making, embroidery and tribal jewellery.
Our journey of adventure exploration throughout Turkmenistan is the stuff of dreams. From the capital, Ashgabat we head out to Nohur mountain village where we set up camp and meet locals before heading into the Balkan Mountains discovering remote canyons along the way. Here we will have a unique experience of staying at a Pilgrim's Guest House. We then drive to the 'Turkic Riviera' and the Caspian Sea. A short flight takes us to Dashoguz and here we venture into the vast Karakum desert. Visit desert settlements, see the remarkable "Door to Hell" gas crater and gain a full appreciation of this hostile, barren environment. Next, the 'Jewel in the Crown' of Turkmenistan, the legendary city of Merv and Gonur Depe. Our Caspian to Karakum crossing is complete as we meet the famous Turcoman horses before spending our final night in Ashgabat.
Overland adventure journeys don't come any better than this!
- Day 1. Depart UK
- Day 2. Arrive Ashgabat
- Arrive Ashgabat. Rendezvous at the group hotel in Ashgabat in time for a 2000hrs pre-trip briefing.
- Day 3. To the Nohur Valley
- Leaving Ashgabat we travel by 4WD vehicles to the Kopetdag Mountains, visit an underground lake, and pass by hazelnut and pomegranate groves.
- Day 4. Through the Moon Mountains to Balkanabad
- We progress with our Turkmenistan adventure and travel through the "Moon Mountains", view the minarets of Dehistan, which are reminders of its Silk Road heyday and overnight in Balkanabad.
- Day 5. Gozli Ata
- Heading in the general direction of the Caspian we leave the mountains and into the vividly coloured and surreal karstic canyons of Yangikala. Meeting the local shepherds along the way we reach Gozli Ata, one of the holiest pilgrim sites in Turkmenistan.
- Day 6. To the Caspian Sea
- The bizarre lanscapes caused by old volcanic activity around the Kemal Ata site are quite something, so we stop here for a picnic on our joureny to the world's largest lake, the Caspian Sea. Now we are actually just below sea-level and we spend tonight at the seaside resort of Azawa.
- Day 7. Fly to Dashoguz
- We can enjoy the morning taking a stroll along the beach, or a dip in the waters of the Caspian before we fly north and right across the width of Turkmenistan to Dashoguz. Here we stock up on supplies for our forthcoming crossing of the Karakum Desert, so overnight in Dashoguz.
- Day 8. To Darwaza
- We drive to Kunya Argench by mini-bus. Here in the former capital of the Khorezm Empire by the banks of the Oxus River (known as the Amu Darya in Turkmenistan) and view the tallest minaret in Central Asia. Leaving the main highway we swap back to 4WD vehicles and drive to our camp by the burning gas craters of Darwaza. Quite something to see at night time.
- Day 9. Towards Ashgabat
- Drive into central Karakum; visit the Damla desert settlement and onwards to Ashgabat.
- Day 10. On to Mary
- We continue our journey onto the city of Mary. Along the way we visit the Anau and Abiverd remains and the Mary Museum in the afternoon.
- Day 11. Ancient Merv
- This morning we head to perhaps the most famous site of all in Turkmenistan - the ruins of the ancient Silk Road City of Merv. We shall remain at Merv until the sunset as the rays of the sun seemingly make the ruins glimmer with gold. Afterwards, we take an evening flight back to Ashgabat.
- Day 12. Ashgabat
- Today we will explore the fascinating city of Ashgabat. We dedicate our attention to two of Turkmenistans greatly valued symbols; carpets and "heavenly" horses. We visit the National Carpet Museum and a Turcoman Horse Farm.
- Day 13. Depart Ashgabat
- Free to depart Ashgabat at any time for onwards travel.
- Trip features : Remote overland travel, history, culture, desert, nomadic tribes
- Trip Code: ATCK
- Physical Grade: B - Moderate
- Adventure Grade: B/C
- Group Size (Min - Max) : 4 - 12
- Accommodation : Hotel x8,Pilgrim's House x1, Camping x2
- Meals : 11 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 3 evening meals incl
- Overseas joining point : Group hotel in Ashgabat