Central Asia and Beyond

We have carefully selected these destinations as they are places we love to travel to ourselves. Many are so remote that the cost and travel arrangements would just not make it practical to arrange yourself, so we make sure we arrange all of this for you. You just need to sit back and enjoy the journey. A thread of common history and culture connects them, but above all else, we love to take people to meet our friends, family and just share our enthusiasm for these amazing places. Have a look below and explore where your next journey will be. Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

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Why should you choose Koryo Tours?

Choosing to travel to unusual destinations such as North Korea is a big decision, and choosing the right people to take you is an incredibly important part of that. Learn about how we facilitate tourism responsibly in some of the most interesting and unique destinations on our planet, and at the same time ensure you get the most out of your once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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August 20 - August 30 2022

Pamir Highway & Afghan Borderlands Tour

Travel across the roof of the
world! **New itinerary for 2022**

This 10-night tour traces the route of the M41 Pamir Highway as it snakes
south from the capital, Dushanbe, to the borderlands between Tajikistan
and Afghanistan.

From 2,700 USD per person

Please apply by 1st August, 2022.

Pamir Highway & Afghan Borderlands Tour

Travel across the roof of the
world! **New itinerary for 2022**

This 10-night tour traces the route of the M41
Pamir Highway as it snakes south from the capital,
Dushanbe, to the borderlands between Tajikistan
and Afghanistan.

From 2,700 USD per person

  • Overall

    This tour starts in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. From here, we'll follow the route of the historical M41 Pamir Highway and head down south to the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan along the Wakhan Valley.

    Traversing high passes and past beautiful lakes and snow-capped mountains, staying in small towns and villages along the way, this journey will take you to some of this region’s most remote but rewarding destinations, to ultimately arrive back in Dushanbe — Tajikistan’s lovely, laid back capital.

    This tour will be led by one of our most experienced tour leaders, Rich Beal. Rich has led tours all over the world since 2004 and has personally designed and researched all our Tajikistan tours. Because of his close connection to the country, his fellow Tajik guides and friends like to joke the country is his second home (Mongolia being first )!

    Highlights

    • M41 Pamir Highway road trip of a life-time 
    • Tajikistan, drive next to the Afghanistan border
    • Wakhan Valley and the Tajik-Afghan Cross-Border Market

     

  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 11
    1. Saturday 20th August

      Arrive into Dushanbe

      After arrival in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, all travellers will be met at the International Airport in the capital for transfer to the hotel.

      After some time to relax in our local hotel, the whole tour group will meet for a pre-tour briefing where we’ll discuss the upcoming adventure as a group before allowing you some free time in Tajikistan’s laid-back capital, Dushanbe. Alternatively, you can take the afternoon to recover from any jet lag before our adventure begins early the following day.
       

      Accommodation: 3-4 Star Hotel

      Included Meals: Lunch, Dinner

    2. Sunday 21st August

      Dushanbe to Qal'ai Khumb

      This morning we’re up and out early as our journey into the heart of southern Tajikistan begins in earnest.
      Our first step will be the small town of Norak, home to the Norak Dam. Formerly the tallest dam in the world, it was completed in 1980 under the communist administration of the Tajik SSR. Today, it remains the second-largest man-made dam in the world, and a wonderful highlight for us as we trundle through the rural provinces south of Dushanbe.

      Following our dam visit, we’ll stop at the small town of Danghara, home to a fascinating local bazaar and an ancient fortress – we’ll stop first at the bazaar to mingle with local Tajiks and purchase all manner of goods, as well as any supplies we may need for our onward journey.
      Leaving the Danghara Bazaar, we’ll make our way to Khulbuk Fortress; this ancient fortress is seen by many as a symbol of ancient civilization in Tajikistan – formerly a palace for the local ruler, it has been heavily reconstructed to show visitors the original gradiosity which the palace once commanded.

      Departing Khulbuk, we’ll arrive at the town of Kulob where we’ll head straight to the local museum to learn about the history of the region, and the town itself. Following on from the museum, we’ll stop by a beautiful mosaic of Vladimir Lenin, harking back to the days of the Soviet Union, before we trundle onwards, leaving Kulob, destined for our overnight stop – the city of Qal’ai Khumb.

       

      Accommodation: Karon Palace Hotel

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    3. Monday 22nd August

      Qal'ai Khumb to Khorogh

      This morning we’ll say goodbye to Qal’ai Khumb, although don’t worry, we’ll pass back through this regional centre on our return to Dushanbe. However, today we’re venturing further into the mountainous heart of Tajikistan as we shadow the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan on our way to the city of Khorogh.

      On the way, we’ll visit the village of Rushon where we’ll have the chance to visit local family homes and see how locals live in this far flung corner of Central Asia. Local people across this region are very friendly and welcoming. We will not be there to exoticise them but to interact, and hear what their lives are like, to learn and experience even in brief moments a little bit of commonality – you’ll see when we are there what a treat this can be!

      Following our visit to Rushon, we’ll make a stop at Khorogh Airport – famed locally for its difficult approach and requirement for special training for pilots landing at this airport.

       

      Accommodation: Hotel Zafar

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    4. Tuesday 23rd August

      Drive to Langar

      This morning, we’ll set out along the internationally-famed M41 Pamir Highway. This ribbon of tarmac stretches from the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, through the mountains of eastern Tajikistan and the Pamiri region, finally ending in Tajikistan’s northern neighbour, Kyrgyzstan.

      We’ll traverse mountain passes and deep valleys to reach our destination today. Langar.
      Not to be confused with the village of the same name just across the border in Afghanistan, we’ll spend the night peering over the Afghan border – marked by the Panj River, which will be our guide through this part of Tajikistan in the coming days.

       

      Accommodation: Local Guesthouse

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    5. Wednesday 24th August

      Langar to Ishkashim

      We’re up bright and early this morning as we venture out along the Panj River, the border between the Republic of Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
      As we trundle along the road, stopping for photos of the mysterious land beyond the river, we’ll stop at Vrang village – a small settlement near the border, home to the Buddhist Stupa. Thought to have been constructed in the 6th century, the stupa is a sign that Buddhist civilisations thrived in this part of Central Asia many centuries ago. We’ll also stop to visit the hand-carved caves used by Buddhist monks to pray all those years ago.

      We’ll visit shrines built by the Zoroastrians, an ancient religion which originates in Persia, modern-day Iran. After a final visit to Osorkhonai Abdullo Ansori Museum, dedicated to the region and its colourful history, we’ll set off to our final destination for today – Ishkashim.

       

      Accommodation: Local Accommodation

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    6. Thursday 25th August

      Ishkashim to Khorogh

      Today we’ll complete our loop through the mighty Pamir region of southern Tajikistan as we’ll return for an extended stay at the city of Khorogh.
      However, before we arrive in the city, there’s still plenty to do. Our day begins with a visit to the Ishkashim Bazaar where we’ll have a chance to mingle with locals as we venture into the local bazaar where Tajiks trade various goods with one another, creating a buzz of activity in this far flung corner of Tajikistan.

      In case you’ve not bought enough local goods, we’ll make our way to the Afghan-Tajik cross-border market where Tajiks and Afghans buy and sell across the border with remarkably little restriction. So, if you’re looking to tick Afghanistan off your list, this may be the place to do it!
      Next up, is the ancient Kakha Fortress. These huge defensive complex ruins sit on the side of a mountain overlooking the Panj river. The area has been used as a defensive settlement since the 2nd Century BCE; some theorized that the fortress was built to defend caravans traversing the vital silk road which passed through this region for centuries.

      Our final stop before Khorogh is the calcium-filled Garm Chashma Hot Spa. This natural spring is made up of numerous pools, all stained light blue by the high calcium content. After exploring this natural wonder, we’ll depart and make our way, once again, to the city of Khorogh where we’ll check in to our hotel to get some rest before exploring the city tomorrow.

       

      Accommodation: Hotel Zafar

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    7. Friday 26th August

      Khorogh City Tour

      Today we have a welcome change to our adventure as we’ll set out on foot to explore the beautiful city in which we spent the night. The city of Khorogh.
      Today it's off to a more leisurely pace with a visit to Khorogh Bazaar. The bazaar is a typical Central Asian market crammed with fresh fruit, vegetables, milk products and various other wares. Not commonly visited by tourists, we may be as much a spectacle to the locals as the colourful traders are to us.
      Following our market visit, we’ll call at the Ismaili Jamatkhana Centre not only an architectural delight but the centre for Isma’ilism in the region. Once inside the Ismaili Centre, we will learn a little more about this fascinating sub-sect of Shia Islam. We’ll also have the unique opportunity to ask their opinion on the recent political change in Afghanistan, clearly visible from the ornate terraced grounds around us.

      We head out of the city centre and climb higher as we drive high above Khorogh to visit the beautiful Botanical Gardens. A little unkempt, the Khorogh Botanical Gardens were begun in the 1940s as a project of the Soviet Union to observe the survival rate of plants at altitude and the associated climatic conditions. Not only do the gardens now boast of over 2,300 species of trees and plants and a beautiful residence fit for a president, but they also afford mesmerising views over the city.

      From the gardens, we make sure to stop for a spot of lunch but not before visiting Victory Park and its Soviet monuments harking back to a different era in history.

      Following lunch you have the choice of staying to relax in Khorogh, exploring a little more of the city or enjoying a drink by the river. If, however, you have the energy there is the option of an afternoon hike in some of the surrounding countryside. It is very mountainous, but the views over the surrounding valleys are reward enough.

       

      Accommodation: Hotel Zafar

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    8. Saturday 27th August

      Drive to Qal’ai Khumb

      As we continue to trace the Panj River, we eventually bid farewell to the Pamir territory and enter Khatlon Province - located in the country's Southeast and one of the least visited parts of Tajikistan.

      During the Soviet period, this was also one of the country's poorest regions. We will stop to view towns and cities along the way while looking out for the Soviet architecture dotted around this area. One of these towns is Shurobod, where very few changes have taken place since independence was achieved in 1991. Here we will stop here to see impressive mosaics of Lenin that remain on the side of the buildings.
      We will also stop at Kulyab, the centre of Khatlon province and the fourth-biggest town in Tajikistan. Kulyab has a history stretching back over 2500 years and borders Afghanistan. We will walk around the city, stop in at the local museum, and visit the market (one of the best ways to mix with the locals and their culture).

      Finally, we’ll arrive in Qal’ai Khumb.

       

      Accommodation: Karon Palace Hotel

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    9. Sunday 28th August

      Drive to Roghun

      Today we have a fascinating drive lined up. Leaving Qal’ai Khumb, we’ll head north, on the true M41, peeling away from the Afghan border. The road we take is tough, on a route closed for much of the year. As the winter snow and spring rain makes the route unpassable. The driving will still be challenging and complex, but the scenery is astonishing. Along the way, we will pass over the 3,852-metre high Khaburabot Pass. The Russians say unless you take the M41 over the Khaburabot Pass, then you haven’t truly travelled the Pamir Highway. We will regularly stop to admire and photograph this most rugged region of Tajikistan.

      This route used to be the only way to reach Tajikistan’s western region. Built during the Soviet period, the road was almost destroyed during Tajikistan's bloody civil war when Western rebels tried to cut this vital link. As we take the central route, we will pass through some of Tajikistan’s poorest regions, but the villages are still lovely, the scenery beautiful, and the local people no less friendly. Journeying along the Obikhingou River we’ll pass Tavildara, home of the first Tajiks.

      Our final visit for the day will be the in-construction Roghun Dam. Originally started by the Soviets, construction had been halted until 2017 when construction restarted. We may even get the chance to venture inside this beheamoth, depending on permission.
      Finally, we’ll arrive at our final accommodation before Dushanbe where we’ll get some rest before returning to the capital city.

       

      Accommodation: Local Accommodation

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    10. Monday 29th August

      Return to Dushanbe

      This morning we’ll roll back into Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, ending our Pamir Highway adventure, although today we have a jam-packed itinerary to hit all the highlights this city has to offer.

      We will visit Victory Park on the hills above Dushanbe where we'll have great views of the city. We will then stop on Rudaki Street to walk to Dushanbe's Central Park, stopping for photos at the Monument of Ismaili Somoni that is situated on the site of the old Lenin statue. Passing Rudaki Park, we will then walk on to the entrance of the National Museum, where we will learn a little more about the beautiful country we have been visiting.

      After lunch, we will drive to the Victory tank monument ("Oslinie Ushi" — "The donkey ears", the local name for this monument), and visit the botanical gardens, before finishing our day with a visit to the world's largest tea house with its amazingly decadent interior.

      There will be some free time in the afternoon where you are welcome to join your tour leader on a walking tour of Dushanbe catching a few of the hidden Soviet Gems as well as other historical spots. Those who don't wish to join can enjoy a spot of last-minute shopping, a welcome coffee or an afternoon relax.

       

      Accommodation: Hotel Vatan

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    11. Tuesday 30th August

      Departure day!

      Airport transfers are provided for everyone regardless of the time of flight or where you are going.

      There is also the option of extending your room until a later date – contact us to discuss this.

       

      Included Meals: Breakfast

      End of Tour

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • Airport pick up and drop at the start and end of tour
    • Hotel accommodation
    • Tajiki tour guides A driver per group
    • A member or Koryo Tours
    • All transportation in the country
    • All entry fees for attractions and sights

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Flights to Tajikistan Single room supplement unless otherwise specified (US $50 per night)
    • Spending money for drinks and souvenirs
    • Tajikistan visa fees this must include GBAO travel permit
    • Tip for the guides (approx. US $10 per day)
    • Not all meals are covered but we will make recommendations if needed
    • We occasionally have the opportunity to visit a performance which is extra

Please apply by 1st August, 2022.

September 24 - October 4 2022

Mongolia - Golden Eagle Festival Tour

10 unforgettable
Mongolian nights

Join us as we depart Ulaanbaatar travel
to Altai Tavan Bogd in search of Kazakh
Eagle hunters!

From 2,800 USD per person

Please apply by 1st September, 2022.

Mongolia - Golden Eagle Festival Tour

10 unforgettable
Mongolian nights

Join us as we depart Ulaanbaatar
travel to Altai Tavan Bogd
in search of Kazakh Eagle hunters!

From 2,800 USD per person

  • Overall

    This tour takes us across Mongolia and out to the far west to witness an event that is certainly one of Mongolia’s most incredible spectacles, if not the world’s; the Golden Eagle Festival. It’s one thing to watch a local Kazakh Eagle Hunter working alongside his expertly trained bird, but imagine 70 such hunters all competing against one another against a backdrop of snow-capped Mongolian mountains. That’s the Eagle Festival! We’ll explore the capital, Ulaanbaatar, before catching a flight out to Bayan Olgii, one of the largest cities in the far-west. Here we’ll explore the region’s incredible sights such as the Altai Tavan Bogd National Park and the Khurgan & Khoton Lakes, to name but a few. Sightseeing over, we’ll head to Sagsai Village to witness the festival. We’re heading this far away from modern civilization to get a real sense of how the locals celebrate this festival as opposed to the over-commercialised versions taking place in other cities across Mongolia. It truly is something you’ll not want to miss and will never forget!

    **As with all our tours, we pay great attention to your safety. Of course, we will be delivering even greater care this year due to the ongoing COVID situation. Although Mongolia is one of the best countries globally for social distancing (due to its low population level and vast open spaces), all travellers will be issued masks daily and hand sanitisers available throughout travel. This tour is available for booking, although we will not ask for a tour deposit until we can 100% guarantee your place on this adventure!**

    Highlights

    Experience the Kazakh Golden Eagle festival -- the biggest festival of the year for Kazakhs Visit Mongolian Kazak and Tuva nomadic families Enjoy camel trekking and horseback riding Hike the great mountains (with views across to Russia and China) Explore the Altai and Bayan Ulgii region of Mongolia Marvel at the skill of local eagle hunters. We'll stop at glaciers, mountains and waterfalls all the while sleeping in Tents, gers and yurts 

  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 11
    1. Saturday 24th September.

      Arrive in Ulaanbaatar

      Upon landing in Mongolia's capital, we make our way to our centrally located hotel to recharge before our adventure begins. If you're feeling energetic, you can take our optional walking tour to get your first taste of this fascinating city before returning for our 4 pm hotel briefing.

      Here we'll give you an overview of the country and culture, along with some etiquette tips for visiting the homes of the shamans, Kazakhs, and Tuvan people we'll meet along the way. Then join us for another city walk, this time by night. Get a glimpse of Sükhbaatar Square, named for revolutionary hero Damdinii Sükhbaatar; its perfect geometric angles make this – technically – the world's largest square. The statues of Genghis Khan and other Mongolian generals are even more impressive when all lit up.

      Meals | Dinner

      Overnight | Hotel 9, Ulaanbaatar. A local hotel situated in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, within 5 minutes walk from the main square. This hotel offers a great location from which to step out and explore the city.

       

    2. Sunday 25th September.

      Tour of the city, and then fly to Bayan Olgii.

      We start our day at Gandantegchinlen, Ulaanbaatar's largest Buddhist monastery, where we can see practising monks and learn about the role of Mongolia's largest religion.

      • Then it's back to the city centre, where we'll stop off for supplies at the State Department Store. Today privately owned, this is a throwback to the old Soviet sales system, where everything is under one roof, and you pay with multiple receipts before returning for your purchases. This is an ideal time to stock up on trip supplies, even outdoor gear, so if you've discovered your sleeping bag has a hole, now's the time to upgrade.
      • We'll then see Sükhbaatar Square by day and then head to the National Historical Museum, which takes us through Mongolian history from the Stone Age to the collapse of Communism. We'll also see the Natural History Museum, filled with those dinosaur fossils the country is known for.
      • After lunch, we'll take a two-hour flight to Bayan Olgii and pile into Russian jeeps for a short drive to our accommodation for tonight, the traditional Kazakh yurt. Once we have had a bite to eat and you've settled into your home away from home, we will head into the city for a little exploration.
      • First, stop the Olgii Museum; it may have that mothballed Soviet feel about it; however, the guides there and exhibits give us a great overview of the region, its history and culture.
      • Olgii Market is a perfect site to pick up extras for those who have realised you've under packed towels, old Russian army jackets and blankets are just some of the things you can pick up here; if you don't need to shop, then people watching and photography is also an option.
      • The Central Mosque a great way to begin our look at Bayan Olgii by learning a little about the religion in this region. The Central mosque is a newer building, brightly coloured and welcoming, a true reflection of the people in this part of remote Mongolia.
      • Before heading to our ger camp, our final stop will be to pick up a few supplies for the coming days in a nearby supermarket.

      This evening after a true Kazakh meal, we'll have the chance to listen to some traditional Kazakh music as a local group trying to keep the tradition alive will serenade us playing Dombra and Jetigen.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist Ger (yurt) Camp. We'll stay in one of the tourist ger areas found on the outskirts of Ulgii city. This camp offers a shower block with warm running water and wash facilities and a restaurant area where our chief can provide more delicious food.

    3. Monday 26th September.

      Sagaan Gol and Shiveet Khairkhan Mountain

      Today it's up and out early as the adventure truly begins; we're into our Russian trucks and away! We work our way through mountain passes, river valleys skirting remote villages to reach the mouth of Tsagaan Gol (White River), a mighty water source with enough limestone deposits to give the milky river its name.

      We'll stop for pictures at the stunning Shiveet Khairkhan, with more rock carvings and an unforgettable view of Tavan Bogd (Five Saints), a mountain massif on the border of Mongolia, China and Russia. To the indigenous minority Tuvan, Shiveet is sacred – as is the 400 mountain ibex, which are never hunted. Each year the Tuvan climb Shiveet's summit and perform shamanistic rituals, making offerings to the local ghosts and paying ancestral respects. The Tuvan are herders and known for their archery skills. This evening, they'll teach us to cook some of their favourite dishes. And after days of having the locals watch us pitch our tents – and comment on how long it takes us, how thin the material is, and how we'll never survive the night – today we'll build our felt-lined ger (with a little help), to see how the nomads do it.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Camping / tent. Camping on this night will be based around a pre-booked ger, offering us the chance to prepare meals and equipment ready for tomorrow's hike. The scenery here is amazing, surrounded by snow-capped mountains while listening to the roar of the white river.

    4. Tuesday 27th September.

      Hike to the base camp of Altai Tavan Bogd

      Today we leave our vehicles and heaviest luggage behind, load everything else onto camels, and then trek up Tavan Bogd with a local Tuvan guide. It’s about 15 kilometres to our base camp (camels can also carry tired trekkers), which is located at the edge of Potanin Glacier, the longest in Mongolia – listen carefully, you might hear it cracking. Potanin is at the foot of Malchin Peak, one of Tavan Bogd’s five sacred mountains. This hike will take us through lush alpine tundra and herds of camels, providing fantastic views across the glacier to the peaks. Once at our camp, you're free to explore, relax or sleep but do make time to soak up the stunning scenery. 

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. 

      Overnight | Camping / tent. Camping at the Tavan Bogd base camp. Toilet facilities are provided, and we will build a restaurant tent for dinner and breakfast. This area is remote yet beautiful, being at the base of the main mountain range and only a stone’s throw from the main glacier.

    5. Wednesday 28th September.

      Khurgan and Khoton Lakes

      Another early start sees us trek to our waiting trucks in order to begin our most amazing drive. It's a long but spectacular journey taking us through wildlands, over moraines (glacial debris) and past ancient burial sites, with stone-age rock carvings of animals and hunting scenes covering the mountainside. The wonderful Khurgan and Khoton Lakes lie at an altitude of 2,073 metres and are surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

      We set up camp with a local Kazakh family in the forests fringing these high alpine lagoons. The families here are Kazah eagles hunters and it will be our first opportunity to learn a little more. 

      Meals |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight |  Camping / Tent. We will build tents as a group next to a local family on this night with the assistance of our local team.

    6. Thursday 29th September 

      Unseen valleys and hidden waterfalls

       

      As we're in this beautiful region for two nights, there's no need to break camp today. However, those into photography may want to awake early to catch the livestock being milked and released to roam free.

      Today is your free day to further interact with the local family, enjoy a well-deserved rest or join us for a mini-adventure.

      We will carry a packed lunch for those who wish to join, borrow some resident horses, and ride out to Turgen Falls.

      The 36-metre high Turgen falls are some of the largest in Mongolia and make for an excellent photographic opportunity roaring away with the snow-capped Altai mountain as the backdrop. The Turgen falls are beautiful but a little touristy, so we make a slight detour and take a different route from here. Our expert guide knows this region well as we break off the beaten track making our way into the valleys beyond, searching out pure rivers, hidden valleys and unseen hikes; very few travel this way; hiking can be challenging but rewarding.

      Meals |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight |  Camping / Tent. We will build tents as a group next to a local family on this night with the assistance of our local team.

    7. Friday 30th September 

      Drive to Sagsai and stay with a Kazakh eagle family

      We leave after a leisurely breakfast, slowly making our way to the heart of the Mongolian Kazakh eagle hunters Sagsai village.

      Our drive to Sagsai traces the route of the Hovd river and is a leisurely scenic journey passing local dwellings set in amongst the beautiful Altai mountains. 

      Sagsai, located high in the Altai mountains region, has for many years been regarded as the home of eagle hunting in Mongolia. This small village is made up of Kazakhs, some semi Nomadic and some more permanent. We call Sagsai our home for tonight as it is here that we stay with an eagle hunter, not just any eagle hunter but one taking part in tomorrows Golden eagle festival. We aim to reach our host family mid-afternoon to learn a little more about how these traditional hunters live and if they have any special preparations for tomorrows big event. 

      Meals |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight |  Camping / Tent. We will build tents as a group next to the local eagle hunting family, our last night under canvas, but what an adventure!

    8. Saturday 1st October.

      Golden Eagle festival Day 1 

      After waking, it's a hearty breakfast to prepare for the day, and not just any day as after breaking camp, we join our host and follow him to the regions biggest event, the Golden Eagle festival

      The Golden Eagle Festival began in 1999 and has grown to be the largest event for eagles and their hunters globally and recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage cultural event.  

      There are smaller, more corporate events across the region, but this is the largest and most traditional. Over 70 hunters are involved yearly who show their Eagle skills and show some more traditional Kazakh games.  

      Once at the festival, we first watch the opening ceremony, which sees each participant parading in on horseback with their eagles.

      • The competition gets going when the hunters show their hunting outfit and accessories, with the most elaborate and beautiful receiving the highest points.
      • One of the events at the festival is the Uriankhai archery competition. The Uriankhai are a small ethnic group found in this region and famed for their unique style of archery.
      • Bactrian camel racing is also a unique event held at the festival, making quite a grand photographic opportunity. 
      • There is also an event for couples who parade within the arena showcasing their traditional Kazakh costumes perfect for those into fashion shows. 

      After the events, we will head back to Ulgii city and freshen up in our ger camp before heading back out for the evening. This evening we will enjoy a Kazakh Concert with traditional songs and music within the Bayan Ulgii theatre, a real soviet gem.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist Ger (yurt) Camp. We'll stay in one of the tourist ger areas found on the outskirts of Ulgii city. This camp offers a shower block with warm running water and wash facilities and a restaurant area where our chief can provide more delicious food.

    9. Sunday 2nd October. 

      Golden Eagle Festival day 2

      Today, Is the day when the Golden Eagle Festival gets real, and the anticipated eagle flying begins. So we leave the comfort of our yurts after another great breakfast and arrive early at the event to find the best spot. 

      The day starts with some traditional equestrian activities, some a little comical although all steeped in tradition. 

      The first eagle hunter event involves the hunter calling to his eagle, who is atop a nearby mountain; the eagle is expected to fly down and land gracefully on the hunter's arm.  

      The final event sees the eagles tempted to hunt when a horse pulls a lure to simulate a rabbit, hare or fox. This is a real test of not just the hunter's skill in controlling his bird but also showcases the eagles hunting ability. 

      The grand finale is the closing ceremony that sees winners from each event named and the overall eagle hunting champion crowned. The eagle hunting champions eagle will then be taken to hunt either a fox or wolf within the wild; traditionally, this marks the beginning of the Eagle hunting season. 

      Let's hope our host family win this year!

      We will defiantly find time for those all-important photo opportunities with the hunters, their eagles, and their families during the event. 

      Our last night in Bayan Ulgii sees us enjoy an evening meal with our crew as well as the entertainment of a traditional Mongolian throat singer. 

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist Ger (yurt) Camp. We'll stay in one of the tourist ger areas found on the outskirts of Ulgii city. This camp offers a shower block with warm running water and wash facilities and a restaurant area where our chief can provide more delicious food.

    10. Monday 3rd October.

      Fly to Ulaanbaatar

      Leaving our horses, camels, Russian jeeps and friends behind for good, we board a plane and return to Ulaanbaatar. This is a free day where you can shop ‘til you drop at the city market – you’ll never find cheaper cashmere, and you might pick up a shamanistic, Buddhist artefact or a relic from Soviet times. 

      History lovers can stop by the winter palace of the Bogd Khan (1869-1922), who became Khagan (theocratic ruler) when the country split from China in 1911. Or you can relax with a coffee or cocktail at an outdoor café and watch this fascinating city unfold before you. Then we’ll meet up for dinner at a local family’s home so that we can see Mongolian home life away from the steppes.

      Overnight | Hotel 9, Ulaanbaatar. A local hotel situated in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, within 5 minutes walk from the main square. This hotel offers a great location from which to step out and explore the city.

    11. Tuesday 4th October.

      Departure day

      We end our adventure in the morning, with transfers to the airport for international flights. Pack your souvenirs, your dirty clothes and your memories, and have a safe trip home!

       

  • What is / is not included?

    English speaking guide Western tour leader All meals outside Ulaanbaatar Camels for luggage Internal flights Horse riding All included sight seeing All taxes & entrance fees to protected areas All camping equipment (not sleeping bags.)

    Sleeping bags International flights Any alcoholic beverages Meals where specified Medical insurance (can be arranged.) Visas (if needed) Airport pick up 25 USD one way Helmet rental 30 USD Sleeping bag hire (incl cleaning 30 USD for tour) Items of personal nature

  • Notes

    Please note! This tour has been specifically arranged to visit these areas; it may have elements of an expedition about it due to the nature and ruggedness of the terrain. As such, any change in the itinerary at the time cannot be helped. We will keep to the advertised itinerary as closely as possible, although please be aware that things are subject to change, especially if we encounter extreme weather conditions. Along the way, all tour decisions will rest with Rich (tour manager) and an expedition leader. We will also be taking advice from local people on the ground whose expertise will far exceed our own.

    For those who have booked international flights, should there be any change in the scheduling of these or route cancellation, Koryo tours can not be held liable; however, our crew on the ground will do all they can to help find an alternate flight or make your stay as a little easier.

    We insist that with all of our tours, you book comprehensive travel insurance not only to cover your dates of travel but your departure and return. 

Please apply by 1st September, 2022.

March 16 - March 25 2023

Tajikistan Buzkashi and Persian New Year Tour

Dushanbe to Ancient Sogdia
and the Fergana Valley

See Buzkashi, Central Asia’s 'most dangerous sport',
and travel to Tajikistan over the Nowruz Persian
New Year.

From 2,400 USD per person

Please apply by 1st March, 2023.

Tajikistan Buzkashi and Persian New Year Tour

Dushanbe to Ancient Sogdia
and the Fergana Valley

See Buzkashi, Central Asia’s 'most
dangerous sport', and travel to Tajikistan
over the Nowruz Persian New Year.

From 2,400 USD per person

  • Overall

    Travel to Tajikistan over the Nowruz Persian New Year and experience Buzkashi ('goat-pulling' on horseback sport), ancient history, and breathtaking scenery.

    As a crossroads of Central Asia and the Silk Road, Tajikistan has a rich and vibrant culture bringing together Persian, Greek, Turkic, Mongol, Russian, and Soviet culture throughout the ages. Beginning from the capital Dushanbe, the centre of modern Tajik culture, we'll explore southern Tajikistan and set out across the countryside to find Buzkashi - goat pulling. Watch as hundreds of horse riders work in teams and as individuals to pull a goat carcass through a goal. Dubbed the 'world's most dangerous sport', Buzkashi is a sight to behold!

    We'll then head north over the beautiful and rugged Fann Mountains in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and Babur, the first Mughal emperor, on the way stopping at the large Khoja Obi Garm Soviet sanatorium - a gigantic Bond villain-like hideout - and the crystal clear waters of Lake Alexander. You'll then pass through the 5 km long Anzob tunnel before reaching the Sughd region, once ancient Sogdia at the mouth of the Fergana Valley.

    This tour will be led by expert tour leader Rich Beal, who has extensive experience planning and leading tours throughout Tajikistan and Central Asia. Because of Rich's close connection to the country, his fellow Tajik guides and friends like to joke that Tajikistan is his third home (China and Mongolia being first and second)!

    Looking to travel the Pamir Highway? See Koryo Tours' Pamir Highway Mountain Crossroads Tour in August from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to Dushanbe, Tajikistan on the M41 Highway through the Pamir Mountains.

    Please see below for the Buzkashi and Persian New Year Tour highlights, itinerary, and additional information.

    Highlights

    • Travel north across the stunning landscape of the Fann Mountains
    • Experience Buzkashi (goat-pulling), Central Asia's most dangerous sport
    • Explore the ancient Sogdian culture and the history of the Fergana Valley, crossroads of the world and once the farthest outpost in Alexander the Great’s empire
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 10
    1. Thursday 16th March

      Arrival day in Dushanbe

      AM

      • This morning is a free morning for settling in, exploring and acclimatising while we wait for the whole tour group to arrive on different flights.

      PM

      • After our initial pre-tour meeting and briefing, we drive to the Hissar fortress. This massive fort is said to date back to Cyrus the Great (600BC) and to have been captured 21 times by invading forces. The restoration may be a little excessive, but it has a lovely museum that offers a gentle introduction to this fascinating country - a great chance to learn about the country's history and catch up with local people.
         
      • Upon our return to Dushanbe, we will stop by a local school to photograph an impressive statue of Lenin

      Meals | Lunch and Dinner.

      Overnight | Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe. A new hotel located within 5 minutes walk of the central city. This comfortable hotel has beautiful rooms located on a designated floor with free laundry facilities, kitchen area and reading room. Breakfast provided a buffet-style in the main restaurant area.

    2. Friday 17th March

      Dushanbe City Tour

      AM

      • We begin our day with a morning tour of Dushanbe both by car and by foot, visiting the following locations: 
         
      • Victory Park | Built-in 1975 commemorating the Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, this Soviet-built monument offers excellent views of Dushanbe. 
      • Rudaki & Somoni Avenues | are two main streets in Dushanbe which were formally known as Lenin street and Putovskiy street. These grand avenues were renamed in the early 1990s after the poet Rudaki and the ancient king Ismail Somoni, lined with a mixture of past Soviet architecture and modern Tajik grand buildings.
      • Rudaki Park | is a beautifully laid out park with a grand statue of the poet Rudaki, located opposite the brilliant national library building. 
      • Ismaili Somoni Monument | This fantastic statue of the ancient king stands on the former site of Lenin. Somoni's crown atop this impressive monument contains 10 kilograms of Tajik gold making it even more attractive. 
      • Mehrgon market building | With many of the cities old market places now closed in Dushanbe's drive for modernization we visit one of the new areas where local people travel to buy fruit and vegetables as well as other necessities. 

      PM

      • National Museum of Antiquities | this museum gives us a more in-depth look at the complicated history of Tajikistan and the surrounding countries.
      • Botanical Gardens | Popular for wedding groups as well as housing a vast range of Central Asian flora.
      • National Tea house | For end-of-day relaxation, this was once the largest tea house in the world, now been remodelled as an entertainment facility for local people. it houses a cinema, bowling alleys and various shops. We can still visit to view the amazingly intricate work carried out in its construction.  

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch.

      Overnight |  Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe. 

    3. Saturday 18th March

      Anzob Village and the Varzob Valley

      AM

      • After breakfast, we drive out of Dushanbe following the Varzob River north to the stunning Varzob Valley along the way we pass scenic lakes, stunning geological formations, and bizarre palatial residences of the Tajik elite. 
      • Our destination for the morning is the small village of Anzob, where we join our friends for some traditional Tajik hospitality at their home. For those who wish to, we can hike into the mountains for amazing views of the surrounding valley.

      PM

      • Upon our return to Dushanbe, if there are any local events such as holiday wrestling, dancing or singing, we will stop making the most of our time.
      • Late afternoon is left to free time for your explorations and adventures in Dushanbe - holiday decorations would be up by now and a lively atmosphere on the weekend can be expected.

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch.

      Overnight | Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe. 

    4. Sunday 19th March 

      The Buzkashi, Tajikistan and Central Asia's most exciting and dangerous sport

      AM

      • Today we go to see the most remarkable sporting event imaginable – Buzkashi! Is a flamboyantly violent and aggressive game played by hundreds of men on horseback, wrestling over a goat carcass to try to score goals with it. It merely has to be seen to be believed, the photos you will get will blow the mind of anyone you show them to! Please note that we may have a long drive as the location of this spectacular event does change from year to year. The aim is to arrive when the game is in the throes of setting up watching the competitors arrive. We will stay until the end to make the best use of our time for photography and enjoyment.

      PM

      • The day will be spent at the sports fields, in addition to Buzkashi, there may be wrestling and dancing giving us the opportunity for mingling and people-watching considered to be the friendliest people in all of Central Asia. Snacks and drinks are often available for sale as well as an incredible day is assured.

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch.

      Overnight | Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe.

    5. Monday 20th March

      The Fann Mountains and the surreal Khoja Obi Garm Spa

      AM

      • After a later start today we will drive through the mountains until we reach our destination; the Khoja Obi Garm Spa, a massive sanatorium built into the mountainside above natural hot springs – like a James Bond villain’s lair meets the hotel from The Shining! An authentic relic of the USSR days.

      PM

      • Once settled in a full range of ‘treatments’ can be enjoyed here, from radon baths to massages, leeches to swimming, or simply explore and relax. One of those large Soviet-era buildings that are hard to find these days; you will love this experience!

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

      Overnight | Khoja Obi Garm Spa, Fann Mountains. The rooms in this Soviet monster are a little more basic and older, although warm and comfortable. Use of many of the health facilities included along with some free time to explore this surreal complex late into the evening (if you’re brave enough.)

    6. Tuesday 21st March 

      Drive to Khujand, farthest extent of Alexander the Great's empire

      AM

      • This morning we bid farewell to our villain's lair and drive onwards to the northern city of Khujand, passing over. Through the Hissar Mountains, the route itself is part of the adventure including a drive into the 5km long Iranian-built Anzob Tunnel. On the way, we will stop at Iskander Kul – Alexander Lake –where Alexander the Great himself stopped for lunch during his advance through Central Asia.

      PM

      • We continue and cross into the Fergana Valley – the ancient crossroads of cross-continental trade and home to some of the great cities of the Silk Road, Arriving in Khujand (previously known as Leninabad) we'll stop at a giant Lenin statue at a hydro-electric dam. Communism personified!

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.  

      Overnight | local hotel in the city.

    7. Wednesday 22nd March

      Explore Khujand

      AM

      • A day of exploration today as we first stop by the traditional Panjshanbe Market one of the largest in Central Asia. We immerse ourselves in local life while trying to pick up a bargain or two buying everything from local snacks to Soviet memorabilia.
      • Opposite the market sits the beautiful Sheikh Muslihiddin Mausoleum and Mosque. This complex erected on the Tomb of Muslihiddin Khudjandi the sixteenth-century building allows us to learn a little more about Islam in central Asia while also marvelling at the ancient carpentry from inside the main prayer hall.  
      • Before lunch, we have one more stop to visit the Khujand fortress, this Silk Road fortification has been in situ for over 2500 years in its many forms. Its current build includes a fascinating museum looking at the history of not only the area but the whole region.

      PM

      • After a local lunch, we continue the tour of the city by visiting the giant statue of Lenin (the biggest in Central Asia,) and on to the bizarre Arbob Cultural Palace originally housing the former headquarters of a Soviet collective farm. It was designed as a recreation of the St. Petersburg Winter Palace and built during the Soviet 1950s; is a fantastic local curiosity.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. 

      Overnight | Local hotel.

    8. Thursday 23rd March

      Drive to ancient Panjikent

      AM

      • Departing Khujand, we retrace some of our steps back over the Fann Mountains before following a stunning river valley on to the ancient city of Panjikent. The drive is a real treat as apricot blossoms dot the countryside our only other distraction as we’re dwarfed by the enormous geological features evident in this part of the world. 
      • We will make a detour en route to visit the tomb and Museum of Rudaki – (Panjikent is the birthplace of Abu Abdullah Rudaki, considered by many to be the father of Persian poetry)

      PM

      • This afternoon we have a historic tour of ancient Panjikent, viewing ruins of the Sogdian town founded in the 5th century and finally abandoned in the 8th century by the Arabs after their conquest of the region. Foundations of houses, a citadel city bazaar, and Zoroastrian fire temples are all visible as we walk around this UNESCO listed site. Dinner tonight will be a traditional style in a beautiful local home.

      Meals: | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

      Overnight | Sugd Hotel, Panjikent. This locally owned and run hotel is a small guest house with comfortable rooms, beds and warm showers. The owner is always happy to engage guests in conversation, often sharing the travel stories of his visits to Europe. 

    9. Friday 24th March

      Return to Dushanbe

      AM

      • This morning we bid farewell to Panjikent but not before a stop as its exciting and colourful local market. Driving out back to the Fann Mountains, we will visit an old Soviet Cognac factory, we have the opportunity to sample its produce and photograph this large partially abandoned site.

      PM

      • By mid-afternoon, we arrive back into Dushanbe where you can make the use of your free afternoon for some last-minute sightseeing into one of the history museums, local shopping or browsing one of the unique Soviet-era antique shops

      Meals: | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

      Overnight | Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe. 

    10. Saturday 25th March

      Departure day 

      • All group members will be taken to the airport for their flights as we bid each other a fond goodbye after this eventful epic journey!

      Extensions are possible to other regions of Tajikistan and beyond– please speak to your Tour Manager to discuss options.

      End of Tour

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • Airport pick up and drop off to and from Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe
    • Hotel accommodation
    • Tajiki tour guides
    • A driver per group
    • A member of Koryo Tours
    • All transportation in the country
    • All entry fees for attractions and sights

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Flights to Tajikistan Single room supplement unless otherwise specified (US $50 per night)
    • Early check-in US $50 per night
    • Spending money for drinks and souvenirs
    • Tajikistan visa fees at other embassies vary
    • Tip for the guides (approx. US $15 per day)
    • Not all meals are covered but we will make recommendations if needed
    • We occasionally have the opportunity to visit a performance which is extra
  • Notes

    **This tour will be accompanied by a western tour leader if there are over five passengers booked**

    VISA APPLICATION TO TAJIKISTAN

    It is now possible to purchase your visa online, which makes our visit to Tajikistan a lot easier. Please see the following link for more information: https://www.evisa.tj Upon booking we will help should any further information be required.

    IMPORTANT NOTE TO TOURISTS

    This tour is a group trip designed to have a good amount of free time. We will give you ideas if you want to go out exploring or just take it easy at a café. Please be on time and return to that the hotel in the evening. Please note we will be driving relatively long distances, and seats can be hard, so we suggest bringing a travel pillow/neck support – the view and experience more than make up for a little discomfort though. Khoja Obi Garm Spa - please note this is a Radon spa which has radioactive properties. There are various thoughts on whether this is good for you or not! - please read up beforehand and make your own decision. The different types of treatment with steam sauna and water jets, massage etc. It is in a beautiful mountain area and worthwhile even for those not taking the spa treatments. The Russians built the spa over a religious shrine – for those of you not taking a sauna go pop out and try and find it in this beautiful mountainscape. Massage is 60 somoni head body arms, just need to wear pants or towel provided (radon shower included if you want! ) Carry a colour photocopy of your passport with you at all times.

    USEFUL TIPS

    Taxis – In 2017 most journeys cost around 20-30 somoni but make sure you agree to a price beforehand. Segafroid Café in Dushanbe is a good place for internet, and Western food- open for billiards and ten pin bowling cost 120 somonis per hour. The Segafroid Café is about a 20 somoni taxi ride from the Hotel Lotus. Dushanbe has the world’s largest tea house open for billiards, and ten-pin bowling cost 120 per hour. Bring sun protection cream. Bring hand sanitiser and toilet paper.

    WEATHER

    Early Spring weather so bring a light jumper and jacket; however, we will be heading into the mountains so have some warm clothing also as there will be snow.

Please apply by 1st March, 2023.

May 3 - May 20 2023

Kazakhstan And Turkmenistan Adventure

The Heart of
Central Asia

Visit vibrant multi-cultural Kazakhstan
and enigmatic Turkmenistan

From 4,250 USD per person

Please apply by 2nd April, 2023.

Kazakhstan And Turkmenistan Adventure

The Heart of
Central Asia

Visit vibrant multi-cultural
Kazakhstan and enigmatic
Turkmenistan

From 4,250 USD per person

  • Overall

    On our most adventurous 18-night adventure, we will start in the new capital of Kazakhstan, Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana) and finish in the ostentatious city of Ashgabat Turkmenistan.

    In between these two fascinating cities, we will travel by road, rail, and air as we adventure and explore parts places only few have seen before, combining ancient history and the bizarre with the sublime. We will be heading to the industrial base of Karaganda, the infamous Semipalatinsk (in two words; Gulags and Nukes), and Kurchatov - the Los Alamos of the USSR, where the Red Bomb was developed and tested.

    Plus, we will even visit ‘The Polygon’; the vast nuclear testing range full of abandoned measuring platforms, bunkers, craters, buried machinery, and the scenic yet chilling ‘Atomic Lake’. We will make sure to visit the main sites during our time in Turkmenistan such as Ashgabat and the Darvaza Gas Crater (Gates of Hell), but also take you off the beaten path to really experience and understand Turkmenistan. Meet local people, learn about their lives and history, their differences and commonalities.

    Dates don't suit? Check out our Explore Kazakhstan | Nur-Sultan to Almaty September Tour, or contact us for more information on private tours.

    Highlights

    • Combine Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan for the ultimate adventure
    • Nur-Sultan (Astana) | Ashgabat | Almaty Nuclear Polygon – USSR’s testing range for atmospheric and underground nukes
    • Darvaza Gas Crater - This Giant burning crater known as the ‘Mouth of Hell’ 
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 19
    1. Wed 3rd May

      Arrival Day

      • Flights to Nur-Sultan (airport code NQZ) arrive from many international destinations – let us know which flight you will be on and we will arrange your pick-up and transfer to the hotel. Arriving even earlier is, of course, fine and can be accommodated.
         
      • Today we start the tour with a group dinner of some excellent local food, coordination and briefing session, before the adventure ahead!

      Overnight:

      Nur-Sultan - Kazakhstan's shiny new Capital City!

    2. Thurs 4th May

      Nur-Sultan

      • Nur-Sultan is a new city rightly famed for its unique approach to architecture; in that it piles together a wide range of different styles and forms with the end result being either a glimpse at the future of post-modern cities, or a horrifying un-curated mish-mash of clashing buildings.
         
      • Bayterek Tower – now the icon of the city, this ornate monument has a viewing platform 97 metres above the ground (1997 is when Astana become the capital city) and is designed to evoke a folk tale about a bird laying an egg in a tree. Amazing views over the city from here.
         
      • Palace of Peace and Reconciliation – glass Pyramid from the eminent architect Norman Foster with the vague but noble aim of reconciling the world’s faiths and ideologies and bringing an end to violence. Even if this goal remains elusive it is a stunning building and worth exploring!
         
      • Hazret Sultan Mosque – the biggest in Kazakhstan (and second in the region only to the monstrous Gypjak Mosque in Turkmenistan). Classically Islamic in style and Kazakh in décor, this impressive building can house up to 5000 worshippers at once.
         
      • Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre – perhaps the building that architecturally sums up modern Astana more than any other. Another Carbuncle/work-of-genius (delete as you prefer) from Norman Foster, this ingenious structure looking somewhat like a lop-sided tent maintains an even temperature year-round and provides leisure facilities, shopping, entertainment in general.
         
      • River Ishim – we’ll stroll the banks of this waterway in the centre of town, a good way to see a slice of local life and people enjoying their time. Remember that almost all of Astana’s population are recent arrivals so a big mix of people from around the country and beyond can be encountered here

      • May Day Events – While the massive Soviet military parades are a thing fo the past there may be events going on this day. We will keep the itinerary as flexible as possible to include whatever is going on and is open to the public. We will, of course, keep those who have signed up for this tour up to date on what is planned and what they can expect in Nur-Sultan on this national holiday.

      Overnight:

      Nur-Sultan - Kazakhstan's shiny new Capital City!

    3. Fri 5th May

      Nur-Sultan & Train Ride

      • We take a drive out of the city to the nearby village of Akmol; home of the chilling Museum of the Camp for Wives of Traitors to the Motherland – A sensitively-done spot telling the story of the loyal (going to such a place could often be avoided with a divorce and public denunciation) women sent here when their husbands were persecuted.
         
      • We see a little more of this settlement on a walk around; church, mosque, and apartment buildings now occupying this former gulag-site before stopping for an excellent home-cooked lunch with a local family and a supermarket visit for train snacks/drinks.
      • All aboard! We jump onto a sleeper train making its way through the night and across the country to the city of Kurchatov - home of the soviet atomic weapons program. Comfy beds and a clean restaurant await us as well as rolling steppe outside the windows for this 800km journey. We will have dinner delivered to us on the platform at Ekibastusz Station that evening.

      Overnight:

      Onboard the train – 4 beds in each room. Comfortable and clean

    4. Sat 6th May

      Kurchatov/Nuclear Polygon

      • We arrive very early in the morning in Kurchatov and head for an early check-in at a local guesthouse as well as breakfast and freshening up after the train ride. Then our atomic adventure begins! Kurchatov was founded in 1947 simply to make Soviet Nuclear weapons a reality. Under the control of the KGB Chief Lavrentiy Beria and scientist Igor Kurchatov, this is where the arms race became a two-horse event.
         
      • Museum of the Semipalatinsk Test Site – a detailed and deep explanation of what this place is, what happened here, and what effect their inventions can have. Some machines from that time are displayed here too. (note: this museum opens and closes at the whim of higher powers, so its opening cannot be 100% confirmed)
         
      • We board our vehicle and take a drive, deep into a formerly off-limits (very off limits!) area; the Semipalatinsk Polygon – nuclear testing ground chosen due to its remoteness, lack of population, and because it seemed like a good spot to blow a few things up. we provide protective gear of course
         
      • Next stop is Chagan – once a deeply secret long-range bomber base. Now a deeply abandoned former long-range bomber base. See the massive runways, the remaining ammunition hangars, and the collapsing main buildings of the base. Plus the garrison town nearby which housed the base staff from 1954 to 1994 and now stands completely stripped like a spooky post-apocalyptic warning. A bit of UrbEx here to finish the day.

      Overnight:

      Workers' Guesthouse – A very local experience in this hostel, housed in a Soviet-era apartment building. Currently, also the only place open for visitors to Kurchatov. get a taste of life as the locals live it!

    5. Sun 7th May

      Atomic Lake/Kurchatov

      • We again go deep into the Polygon, this time we head for the sinister-sounding Atomic Lake.
         
      • We’ll make a few stops on the way through but most significantly Atomic Lake – caused by a deep underground nuclear blast – this was in fact made deliberately and is known as the world’s first and only use of industrial nuclear weapons. Find out what on earth they were thinking and also meet some fishermen looking for three-eyed fish in the 180m deep lake.
         
      • We’ll have a Roadside Picnic (note to non-literature lovers, this is a joke – read this book and you will find some eerie similarities to this part of the trip) and continue to see some relics of the testing program. A local expert will also be with us to explain in detail, answer questions, etc.
         
      • We arrive back in Kurchatov where we’ll have a walking tour of this semi-abandoned settlement dotted with monuments, fascinating buildings, and of course locals going about their lives.
         
      • A free evening to explore the town – there are cafes and bars, the locals are friendly and curious. It’s walkable and hospitable (one shop even has town souvenirs). Get out there and enjoy it!

      Overnight | Mayak Hotel

    6. Mon 8th May

      Semipalatinsk/Semey

      • Back to Kurchatov Railway Station for a 2 hour ride in comfort across the steppe to the nearby city of Semipalatinsk.
         
      • Semipalatinsk is actually the former name of this city, correctly it is now referred to as Semey, we explore with a city tour of this little-visited settlement.
         
      • Once upon a time Semipalatinsk was a wealthy trading city, situated between China and Russia, as well as acting as a gateway to the Central Asian territories added to the Russian Empire in the 19th Century. We will explore mainly on foot and see buildings from various eras, statues and monuments, mosaics and a little-known part of history. All explained to us as we make our way around this unexpectedly-charming place. Sites we visit include...
      • Lenin Alley – a common sight in Kazakhstan’s smaller cities; a collection of Lenins in a nice park setting. The central piece is particularly impressive.
         
      • Victory Park – with statues, tank monument, and a hang-out place for locals.
         
      • Dostoyevsky Museum – the titan of Russian Literature was exiled out here in Semipalatinsk and this museum explains the importance of his works. Pro-tip: read Crime and Punishment before your visit.
         
      • After lunch we liberate you for free time – a couple of recommendations include;​​​​​​Fine Arts Museum – not just the best collection in Kazakhstan but also a display of abnormal anatomy, something quirky and troubling (especially with our trip to the nuclear test site coming up)
        Stronger Than Death Monument – in the Tatar section of town (itself an attraction we will explore some more) – shows the resilience of those who live and have lived in this remote part of the world.
         
      • We plan a special addition to the local experience on this tour too, see for yourself on the trip!

      Overnight | Semey Hotel – very Soviet-style place with an aesthetic unlike what you may be used to! All the charm of the late-USSR but with free wifi! You’ll love it!

    7. Tues 9th May

      To Karaganda

      • We rise early and drive a mere 250km east to Ust-Kamenogorsk. Our destination is simply the airport where we board a local flight to take us over the test-sites, abandoned gulags, coal mines, fields, and miles of endless undulating grasses that make up eastern Kazakhstan. Our final destination today is the city of Karaganda. We will find time before the flight for a quick walk in a local park with an excellent collection of Lenin Statues and Soviet-era tanks
      • An introductory walking tour of the city centre - focusing on the architecture, history, and local culture of this city (all of which is varied and fascinating), we’ll visit the central park as well and see and mix with locals spending leisure time here.
         
      • Karaganda is a large city but with a very walkable centre – the Russian/Soviet influence here is strong and our guide (a local to this place) will tell us all about the city, you’ll find it fascinating for sure! He can also recommend good spots for dinner/evening socialising/etc
         
      • Victory Day - today is one of the major anniversaries for all former Soviet states; the anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War (WWII). We will join whatever marches and events are going on, and an amazing time is guaranteed!

      Overnight | Chaika Hotel – amazing brutalist Soviet monstrosity. Real time-warp stuff. One part of the hotel was built specifically for the visit of Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. The rooms are comfy and modern, the building itself is timeless!

    8. Wed 10th May

      Karaganda

      • We drive an hour out to the museum of KarLag, the local gulag system – a dark part of history indeed told through the rooms of this former NKVD HQ. State ‘enemies’, departed nationalities (a vast number of whom were dumped in central Asia due to Stalin’s paranoia about enemies within – the largest numbers being Germans from the west and Koreans from the east. Their stories are told here in this chilling memorial to the all-too-recent evils.
         
      • The village around this museum is made up largely of former Gulag barracks, admin buildings, and medical centres, we will take a look around and also visit the depressing cemetery for children who died in this cruel system.
         
      • The nearby town of Shahtinsk hosts us for lunch and some views of local industries; coal mining primarily, but also steel production and agriculture.
         
      • In the afternoon we offer the choice between free time to further explore Karaganda city or a trip to a former execution ground (what a choice, we know!) marked by tasteful and meaningful memorials to the various nationalities whose people were among the unfortunate souls to perish here.
         
      • In the evening we will board the modern Spanish-made overnight train for a trip to the south of Kazakhstan, and the largest of the nation’s cities - Almaty, 1000km away through the night.

      Overnight:

      On the train. Comfy beds in small, but modern and spotless rooms

    9. Thurs 11th May

      Almaty

      • We arrive in the morning in the cultural capital (and former actual capital) or Kazakhstan. The beautiful city of Almaty. Nestled against the precipitous Tian Shan Mountain range and dotted with parks, theatres, boulevards, and much more, this is a modern multi-cultural city wrongfully ignored too little-known.
      • Almaty Metro – one of only two subway systems in the whole of Central Asia (the other is the Moscow knock-off in Tashkent) this system opened in 2012 and strikes a balance between Moscow opulence and modern efficiency.
         
      • Green Bazaar & Rakhat Chocolate Factory – these neighbouring sites are local institutions. You can smell the sweetness from the latter all across this part of the city. Banter and barter with sellers in the market, pick up the apples that Almaty if known for as well as all manner of other delicious local delicacies. Get your sweet tooth into action with the terrific and very affordable selection at the chocolate factory (ideal for gifts too!)
         
      • Panfilovets Park – Almaty's main place of leisure. Very pleasant and marked with stunning and evocative monuments to the Kazakh soldiers who fell while fighting to defend Moscow from the Nazi invasion. Zenkov Cathedral is also located in this park.
         
      • Central Mosque – With its broad ethnic mixture and clear secularism it is easy to forget that Kazakhstan is a majority-Muslim country. We’ll have a look at the main mosque in Almaty to see how the locals worship and what their faith means to them.
         
      • Arbat Street – every good former USSR town has one; a pedestrian area ideal for promenading, window shopping, café culture, public art sales, and so on. This one is very modern and it lined with some great examples of brutalist apartment buildings.
         
      • Kok-Tebe – a cable car ride up to a mountain overlooking the city. Amazing views, a statue of the Beatles, A Ferris Wheel and toboggan ride, small zoo, bars, and entertainment in general. Simply put this is the city’s best spot and a very popular area for local families, youths, and everyone really. We’ll have a final lunch of the tour here. A fitting relaxing end to an intense, mind-blowing week!

      Overnight | Hotel Kazakhstan – a towering monstrosity offering great views over the city as well as faded-luxury. An iconic structure in an iconic city; ideal for finishing off our Kazakhstan adventure.

    10. Fri 12th May

      Goodbye Almaty welcome Ashgabat 

      This morning you have the chance to relax or explore a little further why not venture out for a coffee on one of the leafy Almaty streets. As this afternoon it's off to the great marbled boulevards of Ashgabat.

      Early afternoon we take our flight from Almaty/ Kazakhstan to Ashgabat/ Turkmenistan entering Ashgabat through its multi-billion dollar marble-clad eagle-shaped airport. The kind of airport any country in the middle east would be proud of. Once we have exchanged our letters of invitation for visas were off to the hotel with our local guide.

      This evening is free for your own short exploration or to relax into another exciting country.

      Meals: Breakfast,

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat - A comfortable hotel that has escaped the marble-isation of the main city centre. Situated around 15 minutes walk from the main area it has easy access to the local regions of the city such as the Teke Bazar and good restaurant options.

    11. Sat 13th May

      Arrival

      This morning there is time to relax and soak up your surrounding before this afternoons orientation walk around the city visiting.

      • Tekke Bazaar - Walk through this real local slice of life, a true local market very popular amongst local people for shopping. on weekends there are also local booksellers in the park opposite selling a selection of second-hand books, if your lucky you may be able to pick up a copy of the Ruhnama the book written by Saparmurat Niyazov the president of Turkmenistan. Niyazov famously said, "a person that reads Ruhnama three times becomes smart, and after it, he will go straight to heaven".
         
      • Inspiration park - A public park at the centre of Ashgabat this narrow parkland is lined with sculptures of Persian poets, scholars and great thinkers all surrounding an artificial river and impressive water fountains. 
         
      • Russian Bazaar - located in the very centre of town, this covered bazaar is where you can go to buy almost everything you may need in daily life; fruit & nuts, cables & chargers, sweets, kimchi, baked goods, souvenirs, and so on. Nearby is also the Alty Asyr Shopping Centre which is a good place to buy cotton goods (tracksuits, towels, bedsheets, etc all made from local cotton, and all very cheap).
         
      • Lenin statue - Best described as a small Lenin on a giant plinth decorated in central Asian tile work. 
         
      • Pushkin Monument - this small bust erected to Russia's most famous poet Pushkin is easily visited only 5 minutes from Lenin.
         
      • Pervyy park - this is one of Ashgabat's oldest parks founded in 1890 named officer park, Lenin park, first park and independence park.
         
      •  Ashgabat Train station - originally built in 1888 the first railway station was completely destroyed in the earthquake of 1948 along with much of the city. A new station was built shortly after in 1950 although this was remodelled 2009 taking on its now grand form crowned by the eight-pointed star (Rub El Hizb).

      We return to the hotel after this mini-adventure to meet the new tour members at dinner.

      Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat - A comfortable hotel that has escaped the marbleisation of the main city centre. Situated around 15 minutes walk from the main area it has easy access to the local regions of the city such as the Teke Bazar and good restaurant options.

    12. Sun 14th May

      Ashgabat

      • Tolkuchka Bazaar - The nation’s largest market, built outside the city and home to various sections selling household goods, clothes, the famous Turkmen carpets, camels & other animals, and much more!
      • Ashgabat Hippodrome – Sunday is a day at the races, with the sacred Ahal-Teke horses in full display.
      • Afternoon city tour including Independence Park and Monument, Arch of Neutrality topped by the gold statue of Turkmenbashi, Ahal-Teke Horse Monument, Earthquake Monument and Museum.
      • Free evening for a night out in the city.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat
    13. Mon 15th May

      Darvaza Gas Crater & Bokhurdag

      • Desert adventure! We head off in a fleet of 4x4s into the deep desert today.
      • Bokhurdag semi-nomadic village for a look at what desert life is like today and lunch at a local family home.
      • Onwards to the bizarre mud and water craters, scenes of accidents that opened sinkholes in the desert.
      • Finally we arrive at the stunning and unforgettable Darvaza Gas Crater, in the centre of the country and the scene of a 40-year-old industrial accident that ended with a giant flaming pit burning to this day. A hypnotic sight and one of the strangest and most spectacular things you can possibly see!
      • We camp tonight besides the crater, it is best seen at night, dinner cooked on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: Camping at Darvaza Gas Crater - Tents, sleeping bags and roll mats provided. we will also provide tents based on your rooming options. This affords us the best opportunity to view the amazing gas crater from before sunset to sunrise.

    14. Tues 16th May

      Ashgabat

      • We return to Ashgabat, driving through the morning with a stop at a monument to the Soviet defeat (or suppression) of the Basmachi Rebellion, guerillas who resisted first Russian Imperial and then Soviet rule in Central Asia.
      • Once back in the capital the rest of the day is yours to do with as you please; explore, relax, shop, take a side-trip (drivers are available for hire), we and our local guides can give advice on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.

    15. Wed 17th May

      Dashoguz & Konye-Urgench

      • We take a morning 1 hour flight from Ashgabat to the northern city of Dashoguz, in the Uzbek-majority part of the country.
      • We’ll see the local bazaar and a taste of life in this very different city.
      • The ancient silk road ruined city of Konye-Urgench, ravaged by successive invaders over the centuries and now hope to minarets, impressive mausoleums, and all manner of historical tales and stories – one of the most important sites on the old silk-road.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Uzboy, Dashoguz - This local hotel may be basic although there are not many options in this far flung town. It does offer us the chance to walk out into the local streets and experience life away from the marble city of Ashgabat.

    16. Thurs 18th May

      Ashgabat & Kow Ata

      • We’ll fly back to Ashgabat and get on with some more touring activities straight upon arrival.
      • Ahal-Teke horses are considered as heavenly and sacred beasts in Turkmenistan, this stud farm visit will show you why. Have a ride on one of the horses if you like.
      • We then drive on to the bizarre Kow-Ata underground lake. A Sulphur-heated lake 100m deep underground. Take a swim, explore the cave, and then have lunch at a shashlik restaurant on the spot.
      • After lunch we will visit a couple of large mosques; first the Geok Deppe Mosque, built on the site of a late 19th Century massacre that marked the beginning of Russian dominance in the region.
      • Then we see the even more massive Gypjak Mosque, built on the site of the 1949 Earthquake that devastated the city, this is also home to the Turkmenbashi Mausoleum which we will visit.
      •  Back to the city for relaxing evening before beginning the final day of this adventure!

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.
    17. Fri 19th May

      Ashgabat & Kopet Dag Mountains

      • A free morning in Ashgabat for any final shopping, wandering, relaxing that you want to do and then we meet for a packed final afternoon.
      • Cable car ride into the Kopet Dag mountains to see a view of the city from above.
      • The world’s largest indoor Ferris Wheel – yes indeed! A very weird and quite fun trip to this oddity at the edge of town.
      • An evening drive around the marble city, stopping at some viewpoints for some great photos of the nighttime illuminations which are very impressive.
      •  Final dinner of the tour, time for goodbyes and a last night out if you’ve got the energy!

      Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.
    18. Sat 20th May

      Departure day

      • Departure day – airport transfers provided for everyone regardless of the time of flight or where you are going

      End of tour, OR;

      OPTIONAL EXTENSION (+550 EUR)

      Extension Day 1: Mary & Margush

      • Flight from Ashgabat to Mary, in the centre of the country and the nearest city to the ancient silk road metropolis of Merv
         
      • Visit Gonur-Deppe (Margush); another ancient city in this area, with some lovely extent architectural features
         
      • Back to Mary City and explore this modern town, mix with the locals, go to parks, bars, etc as you like, a sleepy area with welcoming and friendly locals

      Meals: Breakfast

    19. Sun 21st May

      Extension Day 2: Ancient Merv

      •  Excursion to ancient Merv, probably the most important city in the world at certain times of its history and a place where you will learn a great deal about the history of Central Asia, the rise and fall of dynasties and cities, the silk road, and human civilization in this part of the world in general. This vast area is roamed by animals, explorers, extant buildings, ruins, etc. All contributing to a sense of the dynamism of the ancient silk road.
      • In the afternoon you fly back to Ashgabat for a final rest/night out before departure. Hotel not included.

      Please let us know if you wish to book an extra night in Ashgabat. the flight should return to the capital at around 8PM - 9PM.

  • Extras

    • Upgrade to your own room in Kazakhstan

      All hotel rooms on our all-inclusive group tours to Kazakhstan feature twin beds, and will be shared. If you'd like a room to yourself then you can upgrade for an extra $30 USD per night

    • Upgrade to your own room in Turkmenistan

      The default rooming option for this tour is shared hotel room or tent (one night). Each hotel room on tour has two separate beds. If you'd like a room to yourself then you can upgrade for an extra $50 USD per night

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • English-speaking local guides
    • Western tour leader
    • Meals where indicated
    • Accommodation
    • One international flight from Almaty to Ashgabat
    • Internal flights X2
    • Internal trains x 2
    • All included sightseeing
    • All taxes & entrance fees to areas where special permits are required
    • Airport transfers
    • An amazing time in two very different yet amazing countries!

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Tips for local guides and drivers
    • Incidentals, extra drinks, etc
    • Optional single supplement: USD 30 per night (Kazakhstan) USD 50 Per night (Turkmenistan)
    • Kazakhstan: Visa fee - depending on nationality – most western nationalities do not need visas to Kazakhstan. Please do check first to be sure
    • Turkmenistan: All visitors will need a visa USD 80 to USD 140 depending on nationality, we will do the work required for this
    • International flights to Kazakhstan and from Ashgabat not included
    • Extra nights accommodation
  • Notes

    How to Apply: To apply simply click on the application button listed with this tour and fill out the online form, upload a passport copy and photo (or send to us by email) and you can consider yourself to be booked on this adventure! For any questions, comments, etc about this trip get in touch with Rich at [email protected] We ask for an application to be completed a minimum of one month in advance of the tour, ideally six weeks or more if possible: We will require a deposit to be paid at this time as we start taking on administrative costs as well as an obligation to pay for the visa invitation as soon as we send off an application. We ask for a deposit of 50% of the tour fee. Cancellation & Refunds: Please note that if you require a visa for Kazakhstan you will need to pay this fee yourself. Most visitors do not require visas though.

    Check https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_Kazakhstan For Turkmenistan everyone will need a letter of invitation this is used upon arrival to obtain your visa for the country. We will send you further details upon booking. We practice the same cancellation policy with this tour as we do with our DPRK tours. This is listed on our website T&C. However, we do not seek profit from people who cannot go on tours but we do make arrangements and commit to payments in good faith once a booking is received and payment is made. So we always try to refund more than the minimum. As with any trip it is best to be as sure as possible that you will be able to attend the trip when making the final booking. If the tour is cancelled by Koryo Tours for any reason then a full refund is of course made. In all cases we return as much as we can and we do not take a fee for client's cancellation. Please be sure that you will definitely be joining the tour when you send all application details.

Please apply by 2nd April, 2023.

May 3 - May 12 2023

Explore Kazakhstan | Nur-Sultan to Almaty (May)

Enigmatic Central Asian
Giant Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is where a vibrant multi-cultural society
meets the dark legacy of deportations, gulags, and nuclear
weapons.

From 2,100 USD per person

Please apply by 4th April, 2023.

Explore Kazakhstan | Nur-Sultan to Almaty (May)

Enigmatic Central Asian
Giant Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is where a vibrant multi-cultural
society meets the dark legacy of deportations,
gulags, and nuclear weapons.

From 2,100 USD per person

  • Overall

    On this incredible 9-night adventure we will start in the new capital of Kazakhstan, Astana and finish in the old, Almaty.

    In between these two fascinating cities, we will travel by road, rail, and air as we adventure and explore parts of Kazakhstan only a few have seen before. We will be heading to the industrial base of Karaganda, the infamous Semipalatinsk (in two words; Gulags and Nukes), and Kurchatov - the Los Alamos of the USSR, where the Red Bomb was developed and tested. Plus, we will even visit ‘The Polygon’; the vast nuclear testing range full of abandoned measuring platforms, bunkers, craters, buried machinery, and the scenic yet chilling ‘Atomic Lake’.

    We’ll get a history lesson on the darker side of this little-known land, as well as updates on what’s been going on in the cities and countryside as we pass between them seeing local life, industry, and so much more. Combining our expertise working in the country, contacts, and in-depth research, we’ve put together a tour that is like no other to offer you the best in Kazakhstan tourism.

    Dates don't suit? Check out our Explore Kazakhstan | Nur-Sultan to Almaty September Tour, or contact us for more information on private tours.

    Scroll down for an overview of our Explore Kazakhstan - Nur-Sultan to Almaty May tour highlights, tour itinerary, transport options, DPRK tourist visa information, and extra add-ons.

    Highlights

    Astana - once the centre of the Virgin Lands campaign, now national capital

    Semipalatinsk – fascinating small city and once home to an exiled Dostoyevsky

    Nuclear Polygon – USSR’s testing range for atmospheric and underground nukes

    Chagan – Abandoned long-range bomber base and garrison town

    Kurchatov – Home of the bomb-boffins and Beria. Semi-abandoned these days

    Karaganda – In the heart of Kazakhstan, also the heart of the old Central Asian Gulag system

    Almaty – The old capital nestled against the Tian Shan Mountains

  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 10
    1. Wednesday 3rd May

      Arrival Day

      • Flights to Nur-Sultan (airport code NQZ) arrive from many international destinations – let us know which flight you will be on, and we will arrange your pick-up and transfer to the hotel. Arriving even earlier is, of course, fine and can be accommodated.
      • Today we start the tour with a group dinner of some excellent local food, coordination and briefing session, before the adventure ahead!

      Overnight:

      Nur-Sultan - Kazakhstan's shiny new Capital City!

    2. Thursday 4th May

      Astana

      • Nur-Sultan is a new city rightly famed for its unique approach to architecture; it piles together with a wide range of different styles and forms. The result is either a glimpse at the future of post-modern cities or a horrifying un-curated mish-mash of clashing buildings.
      • Bayterek Tower – now the icon of the city, this ornate monument has a viewing platform 97 metres above the ground (1997 is when Astana become the capital city) and is designed to evoke a folk tale about a bird laying an egg in a tree. Amazing views over the city from here.
         
      • Palace of Peace and Reconciliation – glass Pyramid from the eminent architect Norman Foster with the vague but noble aim of reconciling the world’s faiths and ideologies and bringing an end to violence. Even if this goal remains elusive, it is a stunning building and worth exploring!
         
      • Hazret Sultan Mosque – the biggest in Kazakhstan (and second in the region only to the monstrous Gypjak Mosque in Turkmenistan). Classically Islamic in style and Kazakh in décor, this impressive building can house up to 5000 worshippers at once.
         
      • Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre – perhaps the building that architecturally sums up modern Astana more than any other. Another Carbuncle/work-of-genius (delete as you prefer) from Norman Foster, this ingenious structure looking somewhat like a lop-sided tent maintains an even temperature year-round and provides leisure facilities, shopping, entertainment in general.
         
      • River Ishim – we’ll stroll the banks of this waterway in the centre of town, a good way to see a slice of local life and people enjoying their time. Remember that almost all of Astana’s population are recent arrivals so a big mix of people from around the country and beyond can be met with here.

      Overnight:

      Nur-Sultan - Kazakhstan's shiny new Capital City!

    3. Friday 5th May

      Akmol & Train Ride

      • We take a drive out of the city to the nearby village of Akmol; home of the chilling Museum of the Camp for Wives of Traitors to the Motherland – A sensitively-done spot telling the story of the loyal (going to such a place could often be avoided with a divorce and public denunciation) women sent here when their husbands were persecuted.
         
      • We see a little more of this settlement on a walk around; church, mosque, and apartment buildings now occupy this former gulag-site before stopping for an excellent home-cooked lunch with a local family and a supermarket visit train snacks/drinks in Astana.
      • All aboard! We jump onto a sleeper train making its way through the night and across the country to the city of Kurchatov - home of the soviet atomic weapons program. Comfy beds and a clean restaurant await us and rolling steppe outside the windows for this 800km journey. We will have dinner delivered to us on the platform at Ekibastusz Station that evening.

      Overnight:

      Onboard the train – 4 beds in each room. Comfortable and clean

    4. Saturday 6th May

      Kurchatov/Nuclear Polygon

      • We arrive very early in the morning in Kurchatov and head for an early check-in at a local guesthouse as well as breakfast and freshening up after the train ride. Then our atomic adventure begins! Kurchatov was founded in 1947 simply to make Soviet Nuclear weapons a reality. Under the control of the KGB Chief Lavrentiy Beria and scientist Igor Kurchatov, this is where the arms race became a two-horse event.
         
      • Museum of the Semipalatinsk Test Site – a detailed and deep explanation of what this place is, what happened here, and what effect their inventions can have. Some machines from that time are displayed here too. (note: this museum opens and closes at the whim of higher powers, so its opening cannot be 100% confirmed)
         
      • We board our vehicle and take a drive, deep into a formerly off-limits (very off limits!) area; the Semipalatinsk Polygon – nuclear testing ground chosen due to its remoteness, lack of population, and because it seemed like a good spot to blow a few things up. we provide protective gear of course
         
      • Next stop is Chagan – once a deeply secret long-range bomber base. Now a deeply abandoned former long-range bomber base. See the massive runways, the remaining ammunition hangars, and the collapsing main buildings of the base. Plus the garrison town nearby which housed the base staff from 1954 to 1994 and now stands completely stripped like a spooky post-apocalyptic warning. A bit of UrbEx here to finish the day.

      Overnight:

      Workers' Guesthouse – A very local experience in this hostel, housed in a Soviet-era apartment building. Currently, also the only place open for visitors to Kurchatov. get a taste of life as the locals live it!

    5. Sunday 7th May

      Atomic Lake/Kurchatov

      • We again go deep into the Polygon, this time we head for the sinister-sounding Atomic Lake.
         
      • We’ll make a few stops on the way through but most significantly Atomic Lake – caused by a deep underground nuclear blast – this was in fact made deliberately and is known as the world’s first and only use of industrial nuclear weapons. Find out what on earth they were thinking and meet some fishermen looking for three-eyed fish in the 180m deep lake.
         
      • We’ll have a Roadside Picnic (note to non-literature lovers, this is a joke – read this book and you will find some eerie similarities to this part of the trip) and continue to see some relics of the testing program. A local expert will also be with us to explain in detail, answer questions, etc.
         
      • We arrive back in Kurchatov where we’ll have a walking tour of this semi-abandoned settlement dotted with monuments, fascinating buildings, and of course locals going about their lives.
         
      • A free evening to explore the town – there are cafes and bars, the locals are friendly and curious. It’s walkable and hospitable (one shop even has town souvenirs). Get out there and enjoy it!

      Overnight:

      Mayak Hotel

    6. Monday 8th May

      Semipalatinsk/Semey

      • Today is also Victory Day – the anniversary of the German surrender to the victorious Red Army. Events are happening across the former USSR on this occasion, and whatever will be happening in Semey, we will go along for a look. In true Soviet style, there will likely be a drink or two involved, plus some flag-waving and nostalgic nationalism to join in with or observe.
         
      • Back to Kurchatov Railway Station for a 2-hour ride in comfort across the steppe to the nearby city of Semipalatinsk.
         
      • Semipalatinsk is actually the former name of this city; correctly it is now referred to as Semey, we explore with a city tour of this little-visited settlement.
         
      • Once upon a time Semipalatinsk was a wealthy trading city, situated between China and Russia, and acted as a gateway to the Central Asian territories added to the Russian Empire in the 19th Century. We will explore mainly on foot and see buildings from various eras, statues and monuments, mosaics and a little-known part of history. All explained to us as we make our way around this unexpectedly-charming place. Sites we visit include...
      • Lenin Alley – a common sight in Kazakhstan’s smaller cities; a collection of Lenin's in a nice park setting. The central piece is awe-inspiring.
         
      • Victory Park – with statues, tank monument, and a hang-out place for locals.
         
      • Dostoyevsky Museum – the titan of Russian Literature, as exiled out here in Semipalatinsk and this museum explains the importance of his works. Pro-tip: read Crime and Punishment before your visit.
         
      • After lunch, e liberate you for free time – a couple of recommendations include; a) Fine Arts Museum – not just the best collection in Kazakhstan but also a display of abnormal anatomy, something quirky and troubling (especially with our trip to the nuclear test site coming up). b) Stronger Than Death Monument – in the Tatar section of town (itself an attraction we will explore some more) – shows the resilience of those who live and have lived in this remote part of the world.
      • We plan a special addition to the local experience on this tour, see for yourself on the trip!

      Overnight:

      Semey Hotel – very Soviet-style place with an aesthetic unlike what you may be used to! All the charm of the late-USSR but with free wifi! You’ll love it!

    7. Tues 9th May

      To Karaganda

      • We rise early and drive a mere 250km east to Ust-Kamenogorsk. Our destination is simply the airport where we board a local flight to take us over the test-sites, abandoned gulags, coal mines, fields, and miles of endless undulating grasses that make up eastern Kazakhstan. Our final destination today is the city of Karaganda. We will find time before the flight for a quick walk in a local park with an excellent collection of Lenin Statues and Soviet-era tanks
      • An introductory walking tour of the city centre - focusing on the architecture, history, and local culture of this city (all of which is varied and fascinating), we’ll visit the central park as well and see and mix with locals spending leisure time here.
         
      • Karaganda is a large city but with a very walkable centre – the Russian/Soviet influence here is strong and our guide (a local to this place) will tell us all about the city, you’ll find it fascinating for sure! He can also recommend good spots for dinner/evening socialising/etc
         
      • Victory Day - today is one of the major anniversaries for all former Soviet states; the anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War (WWII). We will join whatever marches and events are going on, and an amazing time is guaranteed!

      Overnight | Chaika Hotel – amazing brutalist Soviet monstrosity. Real time-warp stuff. One part of the hotel was built specifically for the visit of Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. The rooms are comfy and modern, the building itself is timeless!

    8. Wednesday 10th May

      Karaganda

      • We drive an hour out to the museum of KarLag, the local gulag system – a dark part of history indeed told through the rooms of this former NKVD HQ. State ‘enemies’, departed nationalities (a vast number of whom were dumped in central Asia due to Stalin’s paranoia about enemies within – the largest numbers being Germans from the west and Koreans from the east. Their stories are told here in this chilling memorial to the all-too-recent evils
      • The village around this museum is made up largely of former Gulag barracks, admin buildings, and medical centres, we will take a look around and also visit the depressing cemetery for children who died in this cruel system
      • The nearby town of Shahtinsk hosts us for lunch and some views of local industries; coal mining primarily, but also steel production and agriculture
      • In the afternoon we offer the choice between free time to further explore Karaganda city or a trip to a former execution ground (what a choice, we know!) marked by tasteful and meaningful memorials to the various nationalities whose people were among the unfortunate souls to perish here
      • In the evening we will board the modern Spanish-made overnight train for a trip to the south of Kazakhstan, and the largest of the nation’s cities - Almaty, 1000km away through the night

      Overnight:

      On the train. Comfy beds in small, but modern and spotless rooms

    9. Thursday 11th May

      Almaty

      • We arrive in the morning in the cultural capital (and former actual capital) or Kazakhstan. The beautiful city of Almaty. Nestled against the precipitous Tian Shan Mountain range and dotted with parks, theatres, boulevards, and much more, this is a modern multi-cultural city wrongfully ignored too little-known.
         
      • Almaty Metro – one of only two subway systems in the whole of Central Asia (the other is the Moscow knock-off in Tashkent) this system opened in 2012 and strikes a balance between Moscow opulence and modern efficiency
      • Green Bazaar & Rakhat Chocolate Factory – these neighbouring sites are local institutions. You can smell the sweetness from the latter all across this part of the city. Banter and barter with sellers in the market, pick up the apples that Almaty is known for as well as all manner of other delicious local delicacies. Get your sweet tooth into action with the terrific and very affordable selection at the chocolate factory (ideal for gifts too!)
         
      • Panfilovets Park – Almaty's main place of leisure. Very pleasant and marked with stunning and evocative monuments to the Kazakh soldiers who fell while fighting to defend Moscow from the Nazi invasion. Zenkov Cathedral is also located in this park.
         
      • Central Mosque – With its broad ethnic mixture and clear secularism, it is easy to forget that Kazakhstan is a majority-Muslim country. We’ll have a look at the main mosque in Almaty to see how the locals worship and what their faith means to them.
         
      • Arbat Street – every good former USSR town has one; a pedestrian area ideal for promenading, window shopping, café culture, public art sales, and so on. This one is very modern, and is lined with some great examples of brutalist apartment buildings.
         
      • Kok-Tebe – a cable car ride up to a mountain overlooking the city. Amazing views, a statue of the Beatles, A Ferris Wheel and toboggan ride, small zoo, bars, and entertainment in general. Simply put, this is the city’s best spot and a very popular area for local families, youths, and everyone really. We’ll have a final lunch of the tour here. A fitting relaxing end to an intense, mind-blowing week!

      Overnight:

      Hotel Kazakhstan – a towering monstrosity offering great views over the city as well as faded-luxury. An iconic structure in an iconic city; ideal for finishing off our Kazakhstan adventure

    10. Friday 12th May

      Departure Day

      Flights leave from Almaty airport to various destinations both international and domestic. Let us know where you are going, and we will get you there in time!

      You may also wish to spend more time in Almaty, a charming city – walkable, friendly people, lots to see and do. We recommend continuing at least one more day to make the most of the trip – you won’t regret it!

      Don’t forget that Almaty is also very close to the border with Kyrgyzstan – the capital city of Bishkek is just a few hours away, and there are buses and shared taxis plying this route very frequently. We can help with this if you like and can recommend a visit to Bishkek too.

      TOP RECOMMENDATION – however, this is the best choice – Join our tour to Turkmenistan! If you take this option not only do you join the ranks of Koryo Tours’ extra-special veterans but also get an extra night in Ashgabat. We fly from Almaty to Turkmenistan this afternoon. When there we meet our local partners and have time to relax, explore, do whatever you like really until the Turkmenistan Tour (more info on this here) begins on Saturday 11th May. Continue your Central Asian adventure with us – it’s the best way to see the region's most amazing parts!

  • Extras

    • Upgrade to your own room in Kazakhstan

      All hotel rooms on our all-inclusive group tours to Kazakhstan feature twin beds, and will be shared. If you'd like a room to yourself then you can upgrade for an extra $30 USD per night

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • English-speaking local guide
    • Western tour leader
    • Meals other than those taken at leisure
    • Accommodation
    • Internal flight
    • Internal train
    • All included sightseeing
    • All taxes & entrance fees to areas where special permits are required.
    • Airport transfers
    • An amazing time in a fascinating country!

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Tips for local guides and drivers Incidentals, extra drinks, etc
    • Optional single supplement: USD 30 per night
    • Visa fee - depending on nationality – most western nationalities do not need visas to Kazakhstan. Please do check first to be sure
    • International flights to/from Kazakhstan not included
  • Notes

    How to Apply: To apply click on the application button listed with this tour and fill out the online form, upload a passport copy and photo (or send to us by email) and you can consider yourself to be booked on this adventure! For any questions, comments, etc. about this trip get in touch with Simon Cockerell at [email protected] We ask for an application to be complete a minimum of one month in advance of the tour, ideally, six weeks or more if possible: Please also indicate where you plan to join the tour from and finish the tour by going (we can offer advice on this, drop us a line to discuss it) We also require a deposit to be paid at this time as we start taking on administrative costs as well as an obligation to pay for the visa invitation as soon as we send off an application. We ask for a deposit of 50% of the tour fee. Cancellation & Refunds: Please note that if you require a visa for Kazakhstan, you will need to pay this fee yourself. Most visitors do not require visas, though. Check https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_Kazakhstan We practice the same cancellation policy with this tour as we do with our DPRK tours. This is listed on our website T&C. However we do not seek profit from people who cannot go on tours, but we do make arrangements and commit to payments in good faith once a booking is received and payment is made. So we always try to refund more than the minimum. As with any trip it is best to be as sure as possible that you will attend the trip when making the final booking. If Koryo Tours cancels the tour for any reason, then a full refund is of course made. In all cases, we return as much as we can, and we do not take a fee for the client's cancellation. Please be sure that you will definitely be joining the tour when you send all application details.

Please apply by 4th April, 2023.

May 13 - May 20 2023

Turkmenistan Tour (May): Ashgabat, Darvaza Gas Crater & Beyond

7 nights exploring
Turkmenistan

Featuring the white marble fantasy-capital of Ashgabat, a night camping
at the bizarre Darvaza gas crater, the ancient Silk Road ruins of Konye-Urgench,
and more!

From 2,100 USD per person

Please apply by 4th April, 2023.

Turkmenistan Tour (May): Ashgabat, Darvaza Gas Crater & Beyond

7 nights exploring
Turkmenistan

Featuring the white marble fantasy-capital of Ashgabat,
a night camping at the bizarre Darvaza gas crater,
the ancient Silk Road ruins of Konye-Urgench, and
more!

From 2,100 USD per person

  • Overall

    Join experts in Turkmenistan travel, Koryo Tours, on this epic journey to Central Asia’s most enigmatic and least-visited country; Turkmenistan.

    We will see history unfold as we travel from ruined ancient cities to gleaming modern marble-clad towers. From flaming pits deep in the desert to deep subterranean pools of health-infusing water. We will make sure to visit the main sites during our time in Turkmenistan such as Ashgabat and the Darvaza Gas Crater (Gates of Hell), but also take you off the beaten path to really experience and understand Turkmenistan. Meet local people, learn about their lives and history, their differences and commonalities.

    We look forward to sharing it with you in Turkmenistan!

    This tour will be led by our general manager and travel specialist Simon Cockerell, who first travelled to Turkmenistan in 2004 — on the very first flight from Beijing! He has been to the country over 25 times since. Over the years, he has made close friends there, explored widely, and maintained a deep fascination since first visiting many years ago. You can rest assured that you will be in safe hands during your Turkmenistan tour and that you will get the most out of your trip into this unexplored land!

    If dates don’t suit, check out our Turkmenistan tour in October, or contact us to organise a private tour.

    Scroll down for an overview of the Turkmenistan Tour highlights, tour itinerary, transport options, Turkmenistan visa information, and extra add-ons.

    Highlights

    • Ashgabat - All the highlights and local colour
    • Darvaza Gas Crater - The ‘Mouth of Hell’
    • Kow Ata Underground Lake - Natural hot spring 80m under the ground
    • Nisa Fortress – UNESCO listed archaeological site
    • The Ancient ruins of Konye-Urgench
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 9
    1. May 13th - Saturday

      Arrival

      • Assemble in Ashgabat - Airport pickups will be arranged wherever you fly in from and we will have a group dinner to get introduced and start the adventure! 

      Meals: Dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat - A comfortable hotel that has escaped the marble-isation of the main city centre. Situated around 15 minutes walk from the main area it has easy access to the local regions of the city such as the Teke Bazar and good restaurant options.
    2. May 14th - Sunday

      Ashgabat

      • Tolkuchka Bazaar - The nation’s largest market, built outside the city and home to various sections selling household goods, clothes, the famous Turkmen carpets, camels & other animals, and much more!
      • Ashgabat Hippodrome – Sunday is a day at the races, with the sacred Ahal-Teke horses in full display.
      • Afternoon city tour including Independence Park and Monument, Arch of Neutrality topped by the gold statue of Turkmenbashi, Ahal-Teke Horse Monument, Earthquake Monument and Museum.
      • This evening is free for further exploration of Ashgabat

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat
    3. May 15th - Monday

      Darvaza Gas Crater & Bokhurdag

      • Desert adventure! We head off in a fleet of 4x4s into the deep desert today.
         
      • Bokhurdag: This Semi-nomadic village affords us a great look at what desert life is like today. The visit here is made even better as we enjoy lunch in a local family home.
         
      • Onwards to the bizarre mud and water craters, scenes of accidents that opened sinkholes in the desert.
      • Finally, we arrive at the stunning and unforgettable Darvaza Gas Crater in the centre of the country and the scene of a 40-year-old industrial accident that ended with a giant flaming pit burning to this day. A hypnotic sight and one of the strangest and most spectacular things you can see.
      • We camp tonight besides the crater; it is best seen at night, dinner cooked on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: Camping at the Darvaza Gas Crater - Camping in the desert with tents, sleeping bags and roll mats provided. We will also provide tents based on your rooming options. Camping affords us the best opportunity to view the fantastic gas crater from before sunset to sunrise.

    4. May 16th - Tuesday

      Ashgabat

      • We return to Ashgabat, driving through the morning with a stop at a monument to the Soviet defeat (or suppression) of the Basmachi Rebellion, guerillas who resisted first Russian Imperial and then Soviet rule in Central Asia.
      • Once back in the capital the rest of the day is yours to do with as you please; explore, relax, shop, take a side-trip (drivers are available for hire), we and our local guides can advise on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast 
      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.

    5. May 17th - Wednesday

      Dashoguz & Konye-Urgench

      • We take a morning 1-hour flight from Ashgabat to the northern city of Dashoguz, in the Uzbek-majority part of the country.
      • We’ll see the local bazaar and a taste of life in this very different city.
      • The ancient silk road ruined city of Konye-Urgench, ravaged by successive invaders over the centuries and now hope to minarets, impressive mausoleums, and all manner of historical tales and stories – one of the most important sites on the old silk-road.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Uzboy, Dashoguz - This local hotel may be basic although there are not many options in this far-flung town. It does offer us the chance to walk out into the local streets and experience life away from the marble city of Ashgabat.

    6. May 18th - Thursday

      Ashgabat & Kow Ata

      • We’ll fly back to Ashgabat and get on with some more touring activities straight upon arrival.
      • Ahal-Teke horses considered as heavenly and sacred beasts in Turkmenistan; this stud farm visit will show you why. Have a ride on one of the horses if you like.
      • We then drive on to the bizarre Kow-Ata underground lake. A Sulphur-heated lake 100m deep underground. Take a swim, explore the cave, and then have lunch at a shashlik restaurant on the spot.
      • After lunch, we will visit a couple of large mosques; first, the Geok Deppe Mosque, built on the site of a late 19th Century massacre that marked the beginning of Russian dominance in the region.
      • Then we see the even more massive Gypjak Mosque, built on the site of the 1949 Earthquake that devastated the city; this is also home to the Turkmenbashi Mausoleum which we will visit.
      •  Back to the city for a relaxing evening before beginning the final day of this adventure!

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.
    7. May 19th - Friday

      Ashgabat & Kopet Dag Mountains

      • Free morning in Ashgabat for any final shopping, wandering, relaxing that you want to do and then we meet for a packed last afternoon.
      • The cable car rides into the Kopet Dag mountains to see a view of the city from above.
      • The world’s largest indoor Ferris Wheel – yes, indeed! A bizarre and quite fun trip to this oddity at the edge of town.
      • An evening drive around the marble city, stopping at some viewpoints for some great photos of the nighttime illuminations which are very impressive.
      •  Final dinner of the tour, time for goodbyes and the last night out if you’ve got the energy!

      Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.
    8. May 20th - Saturday

      Departure day

      • Departure day – airport transfers provided for everyone regardless of the time of flight or where you are going

      End of tour, OR;

      OPTIONAL EXTENSION (+550 EUR)

      Extension day 1: Mary & Margush

      • Flight from Ashgabat to Mary, in the centre of the country and the nearest city to the ancient silk road metropolis of Merv.
      • Visit Gonur-Deppe (Margush); another ancient city in this area, with some lovely extent architectural features.
      • Back to Mary City and explore this modern town, mix with the locals, go to parks, bars, etc. as you like, a sleepy area with welcoming and friendly locals.

      Meals: Breakfast

    9. May 21st - Sunday

      Extension day 2: Ancient Merv

      • Excursion to Ancient Merv. Merv was once one of the most important cities in the world at certain times of its history. This ancient site is now a place where you will learn a great deal about the history of Central Asia, the rise and fall of dynasties and cities, the silk road, and human civilisation in this part of the world. Animals, travellers and archaeologists now roam the existing building, ruins, etc. All contribute to a sense of the dynamism of the ancient silk road.
      • In the afternoon you fly back to Ashgabat for a final rest/night out before departure.

        Please let us know if you wish to book an extra night in Ashgabat. The flight should return to the capital at around 8 - 9 PM.
  • Extras

    • Upgrade to your own room in Turkmenistan

      The default rooming option for this tour is shared hotel room or tent (one night). Each hotel room on tour has two separate beds. If you'd like a room to yourself then you can upgrade for an extra $50 USD per night

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • English speaking guide
    • Western tour leader
    • Meals
    • Accommodation
    • Internal flights
    • All included sight seeing
    • All taxes & entrance fees to protected areas

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Optional extension to Merv is USD 550
    • Optional single supplement: USD 50 per night
    • Visa issuing fee - USD 80 to USD 140 depending on nationality
    • Room extension - USD 120
    • International fights to/from Turkmenistan not included
    • Return flights from Beijing to Ashgabat cost approximately USD 780 Return flights from London to Ashgabat cost approximately USD 1040 (Estimates only, we can book these tickets for you or you can purchase separately)
  • Notes

    **This tour will be accompanied by a western tour leader if there are over five passengers booked**

    HOW TO APPLY

    Please email Rich Beal at [email protected] to begin your tour application. We do require a deposit paid upon booking the tour as we start paying tour costs when your visa application process had begun. We ask for a deposit of 50% of the tour fee. You must apply at least four weeks before the tour departure date as the Letter of Invitation that we need to obtain to facilitate the visa can take several days to be issued by the Turkmenistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Most travellers opt to have the visas issued upon arrival into Turkmenistan. If you would prefer to have the visa issued before your arrival or have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. aThe LOI's will be issued to coordinate as closely as possible with the tour dates if you need extra days at each end of your journey please do let us know in advance of your application. If you are joining the tour from somewhere other than Beijing and buying a ticket via Koryo tours; We will email the e-ticket voucher to you as soon as it has been received into our office. If you are purchasing your flight ticket via other airlines or agents, we need these flight details ASAP. We, unfortunately, can not accept any liability for delayed flights and any issue associated with times associated letters of invitations. It is entirely possible to join the tour by flying in from other destinations also. We can also accommodate people joining the tour after entering by land or sea, and a range of exit methods are available to those joining this tour. Single supplement is accessible on this tour at 50 USD per night; if you are travelling alone and wish to share a room to avoid this fee, we will attempt to match you up with another traveller. You will also have to pay the visa issuing fee, at Ashgabat airport this ranges from US$80 to $130 (depending on nationality) payable in cash only.

    CANCELLATION & REFUNDS

    Please note: The visa fee for this tour is not covered in the tour cost and you will be responsible for this. Due to the extended amount of time that it takes to have a visa authorised and sent to an Embassy of Turkmenistan it is much simpler to collect the visa on arrival at Ashgabat Airport, the fee payable here varies according to your nationality, its usually around US$100. The visa is stamped in your passport and is the same as it would be if issued at a Turkmen Embassy. If you insist on having your visa issued at an Embassy, then please be sure to apply for the tour as early as possible. The deposit is non-refundable if the tourist cancels himself. If however we cannot arrange visas or for whatever reason, it is not possible to travel at the specified time (or you cannot make rescheduled dates) a full refund will be issued. Should the client wish to cancel after the visa application has submitted, charges imposed on us will be paid out of the 50% deposit with the balance being returned to the client. If you have paid in full, we will return 50% plus the balance of what is left after the cancellation fee we pay to our partners in Turkmenistan. If you book and cancel a plane ticket through us, we charge only the airline's cancellation fee. In all cases, we return as much as we can, and we do not take a fee for the client's cancellation. Please be sure that you will be joining the tour when you send all application details.

Please apply by 4th April, 2023.

July 1 - July 13 2023

Naadam Festival Mongolia Tour: Beyond the Steppe
2023

Ulaanbaatar to Hovd and Bayan
Olgii in far western Mongolia

Explore Mongolia’s Wild West over the Naadam Festival. Meet Kazakh eagle hunters, hike
in the stunning Altai Mountains, and experience Mongolia’s largest holiday celebration.
Go beyond the Steppe!

From 2,900 USD per person

Please apply by 6th June, 2023.

Naadam Festival Mongolia Tour: Beyond the Steppe 2023

Ulaanbaatar to Hovd and Bayan
Olgii in far western Mongolia

Explore Mongolia’s Wild West over the Naadam Festival. Meet
Kazakh eagle hunters, hike in the stunning Altai Mountains,
and experience Mongolia’s largest holiday celebration. Go
beyond the Steppe!

From 2,900 USD per person

  • Overall

    The summer Naadam Festival is one of the best times to travel to Mongolia for the annual games of horse racing, archery, and wrestling. It is also the busiest time to visit the country. We’ll get you to Mongolia’s far west to see how the Naadam Festival is celebrated away from the crowds. Starting in Ulaanbaatar, we’ll fly west to Hovd and travel overland to Bayan Olgii. Along the way, we’ll experience not only traditional Mongolian life but also the culture of the Kazakh and Tuvan people. Meet and chat with eagle hunters, shamans, and nomads who live in the region.

    Travelling off-road and sleeping in ger and tents, we'll also get our hands dirty in the great outdoors of the Altai mountains and have the chance to try out horseback riding. Come along for 12 unforgettable Mongolian summer nights over the Nadaam festival.

    Koryo Tours’ tour leader Rich Beal has been leading tours in Mongolia for 15 years and frequently travels beyond the capital Ulaanbaatar to the country’s far west, far north, and south into the Gobi Desert. Looking to see more of Mongolia? Come along for Koryo Tours’ Gobi Explorer right after Naadam.

    See below for highlights, a full itinerary, and additional information about the Naadam Festival Western Mongolia Tour - Beyond the Steppe.

    Highlights

    Experience Nadaam -- the biggest festival of the year for Mongolians
    Visit Mongolian, Kazak and Tuva nomadic families
    Enjoy horseback riding Hike the high mountains (with views across to Russia and China)
    Swim in mountain lakes and rivers
    Explore the Altai and Bayan Ulgii region of Mongolia
    Construct and sleep in a traditional Mongolian ger (yurt)
    Marvel at the skill of local eagle hunters
    Stay with and learn from local Yak herders

  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 13
    1. Friday 1st July

      Arrive in Ulaanbaatar

      Upon landing in Mongolia’s capital, we make our way to our centrally located hotel to recharge before our adventure begins. If you’re feeling energetic, you can take our optional walking tour to get your first taste of this fascinating city before returning for our 4 pm hotel briefing.

      Here, we’ll give you an overview of the country and culture along with some etiquette tips for visiting the homes of the Shamans, Kazakhs, and Tuvan people we’ll meet along the way. Then join us for a city walk, this time by night. Get a glimpse of Sükhbaatar Square, named after the revolutionary hero Damdinii Sükhbaatar; the statues of Genghis Khan and other Mongolian generals are even more impressive when lit up at night.

      Meals | Dinner

      Overnight | Hotel 9, Ulaanbaatar. A local hotel situated in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, within 5 minutes walk from the main square. This hotel offers a great location from which to step out and explore the city.

    2. Saturday 2nd July

      Tour of the city, and then fly to Bayan Olgii

      We start our day with a visit to Gandantegchinlen, Ulaanbaatar’s largest Buddhist monastery, where we can see practising monks and learn about the role of Mongolia’s largest religion.

      After visiting Ganden Monastery, we’ll head back to the city’s heart, stopping for supplies at the State Department Store. Today privately owned, this is a throwback to the old Soviet sales system where everything is under one roof and you pay with multiple receipts before returning for your purchases. This is an ideal opportunity to stock up on trip supplies, even outdoor gear, so if you’ve discovered your sleeping bag has a hole, now’s the time to upgrade.

      After lunch, we’ll take a two-hour flight to Bayan Olgii and pile into our UAZ 452s. We’ll begin our drive as soon as we arrive, heading out into the Altai Mountains to Khar Us Lake. Bayan-Olgii (or Ulgii) Province, known locally as the ’Roof of Mongolia’, is a remote land of glaciers and mountain peaks; travellers can go for days without seeing a soul. This area is home to the Kazakh people, practising Muslims and Mongolia’s most significant ethnic group; here, we’ll learn how nomadic life in the mountains differs from that on the steppe.

      We’ll stop by mud-brick winter houses that Kazakhs use when the temperature drops below -30*C in the winter months and the famed Kazakh yurts can’t keep out the cold. As we journey, we will cross high passes and trundle through beautiful picturesque summer valleys made all the more stunning as herds of yak frolic in the sun.

      We will arrive at our host eagle hunting family in the late afternoon in time to pitch our tents before learning a little more about the Kazakh way of life.

      Most families keep their golden eagles for hunting rabbits, hares, and even small deer; it is even claimed that many eagle hunters treat their eagles as well as their children.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight |  Camping / Tent. We will build tents as a group next to a local family on this night with the assistance of our local team. 

    3. Sunday 3rd July

      Khurgan and Khoton Lakes

      Today’s journey takes us through the western Mongolian wildlands, over moraines (glacial debris) and ancient burial sites, with stone-age rock carvings of animals and hunting scenes covering the mountainside. The spectacular Khurgan and Khoton Lakes lie at an altitude of 2,073 metres, surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

      We’ll set up camp not far from the shore of Khoton Lake amongst the trees of the high alpine forest alongside a local family. Once the tents have been erected and our friendly hosts have greeted us, it’s time to relax.

      You may wish to spend the afternoon relaxing, exploring, or swimming in the crystalline waters of the nearby lakes. After dinner, should you wish, we will interact a little more with our Kazakh hosts, enjoying their hospitality around an evening bonfire all the while the mighty snow-capped Altai mountains silhouette our stay.

      The Altai mountains are a rocky border that divides the untamed nomadic lands of Mongolia from its vast southern neighbour, China.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight |  Camping / Tent. We will build tents as a group next to a local family on this night with the assistance of our local team.

    4. Monday 4th July

      Exploring the Khoton Lake region

      For some, today may be a day of leisure and further relaxation whilst for others a day of exploration, adventure and excitement in this beautiful yet secluded part of the world. For those who wish, it’s an early wake-up to help our host family round up the herd to complete the morning milking.

      After breakfast, you’ll have a chance to enjoy some independent hiking in the surrounding hills, go for a dip in one of the glacial streams that run past the family’s yurt, or head back to the lakes with one of the drivers and try your hand at a spot of fishing. (If you don’t catch anything, don’t worry, neither do they!)

      For those who wish, this afternoon is your opportunity to ride the Mongolian horse most famed of all Mongolian animals. Our journey takes us on a three-hour round trip as we ride up into the foothills of the Altai mountains. We’ll pass local nomadic encampments, bubbling brooks and raging rivers, our destination, one of Mongolia’s largest waterfalls, ­­­Turgen Falls.

      Turgen Falls sit in a most picturesque setting surrounded by alpine forests, lush green summer meadows, and framed by the snow-capped peaks of the Altai range. If the weather is good, you may feel that you have just entered a chocolate bar commercial.

      After returning to camp we’ll have a chance to repack and prepare for tomorrow’s long drive to Tavan Bogd National Park. ­­­

      Meals |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight |  Camping / Tent. We will build tents as a group next to a local family on this night with the assistance of our local team.

    5. Tuesday 5th July

      Tsagaan Gol and Shiveet Khairkhan Mountain

       

      After breakfast, we’ll bid farewell to our host family and work our way through the mountains to reach the mouth of Tsagaan Gol (White River), a mighty water source with enough limestone deposits to give the milky river its name.

      We’ll stop for pictures at the stunning Shiveet Khairkhan, home to some of the best rock carvings in Mongolia. Shiveet Khairkhan is an important mountain, especially to the indigenous Tuvan people and the wide variety of animals that call this remote mountain their home. Each year Tuvan shamans climb to Shiveet’s summit and perform various rituals, making offerings to the local ghosts and paying ancestral respects. The Tuvan are traditional herders found across the region renowned for their archery skills.

      As we draw nearer to the National Park entrance, we’ll begin to catch glimpses of Tavan Bogd (Five Saints), a mountain massif on the border of Mongolia, China and Russia, our destination.

      Once we have passed through the park entrance, completing the formalities as needed, we’ll build our camp for the night. The area is beautiful, surrounded by the region’s most beautiful peaks, along with the roaring sound of the white river. After a bit of exploration and a visit to a local Tuvan family, we will tuck into another fine meal, served up in the warmth of our very own Ger.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Camping / tent. Camping on this night will be based around a pre-booked ger, offering us the chance to prepare meals and equipment ready for tomorrow's hike. The scenery here is amazing, surrounded by snow-capped mountains while listening to the roar of the white river.

    6. Wednesday 6th July

      Hike to the base camp of Altai Tavan Bogd

      We’ll leave our vehicles and none essential luggage at the foot of the mountains today. The kit needed for our overnight stay is to be carried by our camels. We will then begin our trek up Tavan Bogd with the help of our local Tuvan guide.

      The journey to the camp is around 15 kilometres, located next to the stunning Potanin Glacier, Mongolia’s largest. The hike is truly unique as we walk across lush alpine tundra, through mountain valleys and cross bubbling mountain brooks, all the while rewarded by views of untouched mountains. Once at our camp, we can relax and soak up the area’s ambience; the distant rumble of mountain avalanches and the crackling can be heard in the distance.

      After lunch and a good old cup of tea, we’ll follow our local guide for a hike up over the moraines to look at the natural marvel of the Potanin Glacier. From a distance, the moraines look small, but it will take over an hour to reach the glacier. Once there, should you wish, we would only advise walking on its frozen surface with the assistance of the local guide. Around the glacier, the ring of mountains makes this breathtaking journey truly awe-inspiring.

      Once we have finished our exploration, it’s back to camp for a well-deserved meal and rest as we bed down early, making use of our warm sleeping bags before the evening chill sets in.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. 

      Overnight | Camping / tent. Camping at the Tavan Bogd base camp. Toilet facilities are provided, and we will build a restaurant tent for dinner and breakfast. This area is remote, yet beautiful being at the base of the main mountain range and only a stone’s throw from the main glacier.

    7. Thursday, 7th July

      Return trek to Tsagaan Gol (White River) and on to Tsengle

      Today we’ll make the journey back down the valley. For those who rented horses yesterday, you have the option again today, or you can walk with the others back to the Tsagaan Gol ranger station, where our trucks and drivers will be waiting.

      As we walk down through these mountain valleys, it is truly amazing to see the small rivers and streams from the glacier forming into the mightly White River. Once repacked and refreshed, we’ll continue the adventure and board our UAZs.

      We’ll retrace some of our journey down the long valley, eventually passing small local villages, now sparsely populated if at all. At one of these small habitations, we will stop to visit one of the caretaker families, with whom we will enjoy a cup of tea and see his central ward, the local school. We’ll drive on to make camp in the beautiful Tsengle Valley tonight, close to the Khovd River, where we camp near another local family we have known for several years.

      Tonight, our host family are locally known wrestlers, so should you be thinking about entering Naadam as a wild card entrant, I am sure our host will oblige with a few tips and pointers.

      Before dinner tonight, there is the possibility of washing and freshening up in one of the small tributaries and enjoying a few drinks or snacks from the nearby village.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. 

      Overnight | Camping / Tent. Tonight we pitch tents with another local family located near to the town of Tsengle in a low river valley. We look at life here and experience yet another regional variation in hospitality.

    8. Friday 8th July

      Drive through Bayan Olgii

      We bid farewell to our Nomadic friends and take a scenic drive back to Olgii, where we’ll spend the night in a Kazakh Tourist Camp, stopping for pictures and greeting nomad families along the way. We may also catch a local festival nestled in this mountainous region if we’re lucky. This afternoon we will have time to explore Bayan Ulgii’s capital, Olgii city. Olgii is an exciting place with a mix of Soviet period architecture and more recent builds.

      Olgii Market is a perfect site to pick up a few bargains and souvenirs and if you don’t need to shop, then people-watching and photography is also an excellent option.

      From the market, we will continue to the Central Mosque, a great way to learn a little about the religion in this region. The Central mosque is a newer building, brightly coloured and welcoming, a true reflection of the people in this part of remote Mongolia.

      The city centre is also interesting to explore the home to an ageing yet interesting Soviet period history museum and numerous newer built but refreshing coffee shops. After exploring the town, we will make one final stop at an impressive mountain viewpoint offering views over Olgii city and the surrounding countryside.

      Our ger camp tonight is a real treat after the past few days under canvas – hot and cold running water, showers, and beds. This evening after an authentic regional Kazakh meal, we’ll have the chance to listen to some traditional Kazakh music from a group of musicians trying to keep part of their Kazakh culture alive. They will serenade us playing Dombra and Jetigen.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist Ger (yurt) Camp. We'll stay in one of the tourist ger areas found on the outskirts of Ulgii city. This camp offers a shower block with warm running water and wash facilities as well as a restaurant area from where our chief can provide some more delicious food.

    9. Saturday 9th July

      Drive to and enjoy Tolbo Lake

      We’ll leave Olgii City at a more leisurely pace, our drive made all the easier on one of the country’s newer roads as we head east to the picturesque Tolbo Lake. Tolbo sits at an altitude of 2,080 meters. It is famous for its remote beauty, and as the site of a crucial 1921 battle between the Bolshevik and White Russian forces – the locals still find belt buckles and buttons in the field.

      We will not only spend the night in gers by the side of the lake but have the chance for further enjoyment of the area. You’ll have time to swim or bathe in the lake’s clear waters, or just unwind and take in the mountain views. The site also boasts lovely hiking routes around the shoreline and over the protruding rocky outcrops, perfect for a bit of exercise or to catch some fantastic photos of the gorgeous surroundings.

      In the evening our team will provide another delicious meal, after which you may choose to visit the on-site sauna or take an early night before tomorrow’s adventure.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

      Overnight | Tourist Ger (yurt) Camp. We'll stay in a tourist ger camp found on the shores of the lake where you may swim relax or enjoy a sauna. 

    10. Sunday 10th July

      A morning swim, a Shaman visit and an afternoon around Hovd market

      This morning, the hardy amongst you may want to take a chilly early morning dip in the lake or sip on a coffee and watch the sunrise above Tolbo; no matter your choice, after breakfast it’s back into our trucks as we journey on to the last leg of our adventure. We’ll head east, leaving Bayan Olgii behind us and entering Khovd, our destination is Khovd city which will be our home for the next few nights.

      Khovd city is the province’s capital, established in the early 17th century. Khovd has a rich history and it is home to 10 ethnic groups and not commonly on the tourist trail so it makes for an interesting stop on our adventure.

      Once we have pulled into town and checked into our gers, we’ll immediately use our time by visiting the local Uriankhai Shaman.

      Although predominantly a Tibetan Buddhist country, Shamanism is still an essential part of many people’s everyday life in Mongolia, especially in these more rural parts. We will witness some of the ancient and mysterious rituals that the community still holds dear such as mirrors that repel evil spirits or sacred fire and water.

      Following our Shamanistic introduction to Khovd, we will also call at the local monastery, which is in a picturesque setting on the city’s outskirts, home to a few resident monks, and a perfect stop to learn further about the religion of the region.

      From temple to market we go as we stop at another important local institution; Khovd Market is found at the heart of the city and will likely be busy as many locals prepare for tomorrow’s big holiday, Naadam. Naadam sees most locals wanting to look their best, opting to wear their traditional dress, the Deel, and prepare a few meals for friends and family from afar. We will call at the local market and check out the best dress shop in town, perfect for photographers and those into local traditions alike. They may not have time to suit and boot you, but it's great to see.

      After our slice of local life, we’ll return to our ger camp in time to charge those all-important batteries ready for tomorrow’s big day, Nadaam!

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist ger (yurt) Gamp. One of only two camps found around the city of Hovd. This camp has fantastic views over the surrounding countryside while being situated on the outskirts of the central city. It has a separate shower block and facility for our chef to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    11. Monday 11th July

      Experience the local Mongolian Naadam Festival

       

      Although there have already been many highlights on this adventure, today is an important one as it is the Naadam Festival; this annual event takes place all across the country drawing many nomadic folk from their isolated existence to designated hubs to celebrate.

      Naadam is held in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, provincial capitals, small towns and even pre-arranged points out in the middle of nowhere.

      Ulaanbaatar’s Naadam is the most widely known, but that is now the domain of overcrowded tour buses, overpriced tickets and a tad sterile. For us, a world-famous cultural event such as this should be celebrated at its roots with the real, local people. Khovd’s Naadam is still a truly local affair, virtually unchanged over generations. Khovd town is a rural town for many Mongolians gathering for this fantastic event.

      Naadam in Khovd draws people from all over the region, with some locals even returning from overseas. To compete in the traditional events is a real honour – especially wrestling, horse racing and archery and even lesser-known events such as ankle bone shooting.000 Naadam is also a time for families and friends to reconnect, share their news eat their favourite foods, and maybe even find a future husband or wife.

      Whilst attending, we’ll learn a lot more about the events, such as the unusual wrestling costume of undershorts and an open waistcoat. Legend has it that a woman in disguise once outwrestled all the men and so, to prevent future humiliation, the outfits were altered.

      Our aim today is to view the opening ceremony, watch the wrestling, archery and ankle bone shooting which all take place in the same location. Following a local Naadam lunch, we will head out of town to catch a few of the long-distance horse races.

      Once all of the excitement is over, we will head back to our ger camp for one more treat of local Mongolian Throat Singing.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Ger (yurt) Tourist Camp.

    12. Tuesday 12th July

      Fly to Ulaanbaatar

      Leaving our horses, camels, and Russian jeeps behind for good, we’ll board our plane and return to Ulaanbaatar. The flight takes us out across central Mongolia, from where the views from the plane will drive home how vast this country really is.

      We should arrive back in Mongolia’s capital around lunchtime; after we have transferred to our hotel, you’ll have the rest of the day free.

      This afternoon, time permitting, you can shop ’til you drop at the city market, the State Department Store or search out one of the many souvenir shops. Cheap cashmere, felt curios, leather bags and purses, and Soviet antiques are often the pick of the day,

      History lovers can stop by one of the many museums found in the capital or walk to the beautiful Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan (1869-1922), who became Khagan (theocratic ruler) when the country split from China in 1911.

      If none of the above appeal after our nomadic expedition, you may just wish to chill and relax with a coffee or cocktail at an outdoor café and watch this fascinating city unfold before you.

      Before we say goodbye, we’ll have one more meal together at one of Ulaanbaatar’s popular haunts, where we will enjoy a mix of food and a few goodbye drinks to boot.

      Meals | Breakfast, Dinner with a city family

      Overnight | Hotel 9, Ulaanbaatar. 

    13. Wednesday 13th July

      Departure day

      We end our adventure in the morning, with transfers to the airport for international flights. Pack your souvenirs, your dirty clothes and your memories, and have a safe trip home!

      For those adventurous souls that can’t stop travelling, you can also add the option to join our Gobi Explorer Tour. If you wish to add this, please contact your tour manager for more information. 

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • English speaking guide
    • Western tour leader
    • All meals outside Ulaanbaatar
    • Camels for luggage
    • Internal flights
    • Horse riding
    • All included sightseeing
    • All taxes & entrance fees to protected areas
    • All camping equipment (not sleeping bags)
    • All tents are on two-person bases, but single options are available upon booking

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Sleeping bags
    • Extra horse riding 30 - 60 USD
    • International flights
    • Any alcoholic beverages
    • Meals (specified)
    • Medical insurance (can be arranged.)
    • Visas (if needed)
    • Helmet rental 30 USD
    • Sleeping bag hire (incl cleaning 30 USD for tour)
    • Items of personal nature
  • Notes

    Please note! This tour has been specifically arranged to visit remote areas. As such it may have elements of an expedition about it, due to the nature and ruggedness of the terrain. Due to this, any change in itinerary at the time cannot be helped. We will do our best to keep to the advertised itinerary as closely as possible. However, please be aware that things are subject to change, especially if we encounter any extreme weather conditions. Along the way all tour decisions will rest with Rich (tour manager) and an expedition leader. We will also be taking advice from local people on the ground whose expertise will far exceed our own.

Please apply by 6th June, 2023.

September 20 - October 7 2023

Kazakhstan And Turkmenistan Adventure

The Heart of
Central Asia

Visit vibrant multi-cultural Kazakhstan and eclectic
Turkmenistan. Come with us and see all of the above
and much more!

From 4,350 USD per person

Please apply by 1st September, 2023.

Kazakhstan And Turkmenistan Adventure

The Heart of
Central Asia

Visit vibrant multi-cultural Kazakhstan
and eclectic Turkmenistan. Come with
us and see all of the above and much
more!

From 4,350 USD per person

  • Overall

    On our most adventurous 18-night adventure, we will start in the new capital of Kazakhstan, Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana) and finish in the ostentatious city of Ashgabat Turkmenistan.

    In between these two fascinating cities, we will travel by road, rail, and air as we adventure and explore parts places only few have seen before, combining ancient history and the bizarre with the sublime. We will be heading to the industrial base of Karaganda, the infamous Semipalatinsk (in two words; Gulags and Nukes), and Kurchatov - the Los Alamos of the USSR, where the Red Bomb was developed and tested.

    Plus, we will even visit ‘The Polygon’; the vast nuclear testing range full of abandoned measuring platforms, bunkers, craters, buried machinery, and the scenic yet chilling ‘Atomic Lake’. We will make sure to visit the main sites during our time in Turkmenistan such as Ashgabat and the Darvaza Gas Crater (Gates of Hell), but also take you off the beaten path to really experience and understand Turkmenistan. Meet local people, learn about their lives and history, their differences and commonalities.

    This tour will be led by our general manager and travel specialist Simon Cockerell, who first travelled to Turkmenistan in 2004 — on the very first flight from Beijing! He has been to the country over 25 times since. Combining our 15-year expertise working in this region, contacts, and in-depth research, we’ve put together a tour that is like no other to offer you the best in Kazakhstan & Turkmenistan tourism.

    Dates don't suit? Check out our Explore Kazakhstan | Nur-Sultan to Almaty September Tour, or contact us for more information on private tours.

    Highlights

    • Combine Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan for the ultimate adventure
    • Nur-Sultan (Astana) | Ashgabat | Almaty Nuclear Polygon – USSR’s testing range for atmospheric and underground nukes
    • Darvaza Gas Crater - This Giant burning crater known as the ‘Mouth of Hell’ 
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 19
    1. Wednesday 20th September

      Arrival Day

      • Flights to Nur-Sultan (airport code NQZ) arrive from many international destinations – let us know which flight you will be on and we will arrange your pick-up and transfer to the hotel. Arriving even earlier is, of course, fine and can be accommodated.
         
      • Today we start the tour with a group dinner of some excellent local food, coordination and briefing session, before the adventure ahead!

      Overnight:

      Nur-Sultan - Kazakhstan's shiny new Capital City!

    2. Thursday 21st September 

      Nur-Sultan

      • Nur-Sultan is a new city rightly famed for its unique approach to architecture; in that, it piles together with a wide range of different styles and forms with the end result being either a glimpse at the future of post-modern cities or a horrifying un-curated mish-mash of clashing buildings.
         
      • Bayterek Tower – now the icon of the city, this ornate monument has a viewing platform 97 metres above the ground (1997 is when Astana become the capital city) and is designed to evoke a folk tale about a bird laying an egg in a tree. Amazing views over the city from here.
         
      • Palace of Peace and Reconciliation – glass Pyramid from the eminent architect Norman Foster with the vague but noble aim of reconciling the world’s faiths and ideologies and bringing an end to violence. Even if this goal remains elusive, it is a stunning building and worth exploring!
         
      • Hazret Sultan Mosque – the biggest in Kazakhstan (and second in the region only to the monstrous Gypjak Mosque in Turkmenistan). Classically Islamic in style and Kazakh in décor, this impressive building can house up to 5000 worshippers at once.
         
      • Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre – perhaps the building that architecturally sums up modern Astana more than any other. Another Carbuncle/work-of-genius (delete as you prefer) from Norman Foster, this ingenious structure looking somewhat like a lop-sided tent maintains an even temperature year-round and provides leisure facilities, shopping, entertainment in general.
         
      • River Ishim – we’ll stroll the banks of this waterway in the centre of town, a good way to see a slice of local life and people enjoying their time. Remember that almost all of Astana’s population are recent arrivals so a big mix of people from around the country and beyond can be encountered here.

      Overnight:

      Nur-Sultan - Kazakhstan's shiny new Capital City!

    3. Friday 22nd September

      Nur-Sultan & Train Ride

      • We take a drive out of the city to the nearby village of Akmol; home of the chilling Museum of the Camp for Wives of Traitors to the Motherland – A sensitively-done spot telling the story of the loyal (going to such a place could often be avoided with a divorce and public denunciation) women sent here when their husbands were persecuted.
         
      • We see a little more of this settlement on a walk around; church, mosque, and apartment buildings now occupying this former gulag-site before stopping for an excellent home-cooked lunch with a local family and a supermarket visit for train snacks/drinks.
      • All aboard! We jump onto a sleeper train making its way through the night and across the country to the city of Kurchatov - home of the soviet atomic weapons program. Comfy beds and a clean restaurant await us as well as rolling steppe outside the windows for this 800km journey. We will have dinner delivered to us on the platform at Ekibastusz Station that evening.

      Overnight:

      Onboard the train – 4 beds in each room. Comfortable and clean

    4. Saturday 23rd September

      Kurchatov/Nuclear Polygon

      • We arrive very early in the morning in Kurchatov and head for an early check-in at a local guesthouse as well as breakfast and freshening up after the train ride. Then our atomic adventure begins! Kurchatov was founded in 1947 simply to make Soviet Nuclear weapons a reality. Under the control of the KGB Chief Lavrentiy Beria and scientist Igor Kurchatov, this is where the arms race became a two-horse event.
         
      • Museum of the Semipalatinsk Test Site – a detailed and deep explanation of what this place is, what happened here, and what effect their inventions can have. Some machines from that time are displayed here too. (note: this museum opens and closes at the whim of higher powers, so its opening cannot be 100% confirmed)
         
      • We board our vehicle and take a drive, deep into a formerly off-limits (very off limits!) area; the Semipalatinsk Polygon – nuclear testing ground chosen due to its remoteness, lack of population, and because it seemed like a good spot to blow a few things up. we provide protective gear of course
         
      • Next stop is Chagan – once a deeply secret long-range bomber base. Now a deeply abandoned former long-range bomber base. See the massive runways, the remaining ammunition hangars, and the collapsing main buildings of the base. Plus the garrison town nearby which housed the base staff from 1954 to 1994 and now stands completely stripped like a spooky post-apocalyptic warning. A bit of UrbEx here to finish the day.

      Overnight:

      Workers' Guesthouse – A very local experience in this hostel, housed in a Soviet-era apartment building. Currently, also the only place open for visitors to Kurchatov. get a taste of life as the locals live it!

    5. Sunday 24th September

      Atomic Lake/Kurchatov

      • We again go deep into the Polygon, this time we head for the sinister-sounding Atomic Lake.
         
      • We’ll make a few stops on the way through but most significantly Atomic Lake – caused by a deep underground nuclear blast – this was in fact made deliberately and is known as the world’s first and only use of industrial nuclear weapons. Find out what on earth they were thinking and also meet some fishermen looking for three-eyed fish in the 180m deep lake.
         
      • We’ll have a Roadside Picnic (note to non-literature lovers, this is a joke – read this book and you will find some eerie similarities to this part of the trip) and continue to see some relics of the testing program. A local expert will also be with us to explain in detail, answer questions, etc.
         
      • We arrive back in Kurchatov where we’ll have a walking tour of this semi-abandoned settlement dotted with monuments, fascinating buildings, and of course locals going about their lives.
         
      • A free evening to explore the town – there are cafes and bars, the locals are friendly and curious. It’s walkable and hospitable (one shop even has town souvenirs). Get out there and enjoy it!

      Overnight | Mayak Hotel

    6. Monday 25th September

      Semipalatinsk/Semey

      • Back to Kurchatov Railway Station for a 2-hour ride in comfort across the steppe to the nearby city of Semipalatinsk.
         
      • Semipalatinsk is actually the former name of this city, correctly it is now referred to as Semey, we explore with a city tour of this little-visited settlement.
         
      • Once upon a time Semipalatinsk was a wealthy trading city, situated between China and Russia, as well as acting as a gateway to the Central Asian territories added to the Russian Empire in the 19th Century. We will explore mainly on foot and see buildings from various eras, statues and monuments, mosaics and a little-known part of history. All explained to us as we make our way around this unexpectedly-charming place. Sites we visit include...
      • Lenin Alley – a common sight in Kazakhstan’s smaller cities; a collection of Lenins in a nice park setting. The central piece is particularly impressive.
         
      • Victory Park – with statues, tank monument, and a hang-out place for locals.
         
      • Dostoyevsky Museum – the titan of Russian Literature was exiled out here in Semipalatinsk and this museum explains the importance of his works. Pro-tip: read Crime and Punishment before your visit.
         
      • After lunch we liberate you for free time – a couple of recommendations include;​​​​​​Fine Arts Museum – not just the best collection in Kazakhstan but also a display of abnormal anatomy, something quirky and troubling (especially with our trip to the nuclear test site coming up)
        Stronger Than Death Monument – in the Tatar section of town (itself an attraction we will explore some more) – shows the resilience of those who live and have lived in this remote part of the world.
         
      • We plan a special addition to the local experience on this tour too, see for yourself on the trip!

      Overnight | Semey Hotel – very Soviet-style place with an aesthetic unlike what you may be used to! All the charm of the late-USSR but with free wifi! You’ll love it!

    7. Tuesday 26th September

      To Karaganda

      • We rise early and drive a mere 250km east to Ust-Kamenogorsk. Our destination is simply the airport where we board a local flight to take us over the test-sites, abandoned gulags, coal mines, fields, and miles of endless undulating grasses that make up eastern Kazakhstan. Our final destination today is the city of Karaganda. We will find time before the flight for a quick walk in a local park with an excellent collection of Lenin Statues and Soviet-era tanks
      • An introductory walking tour of the city centre - focusing on the architecture, history, and local culture of this city (all of which is varied and fascinating), we’ll visit the central park as well and see and mix with locals spending leisure time here.
         
      • Karaganda is a large city but with a very walkable centre – the Russian/Soviet influence here is strong and our guide (a local to this place) will tell us all about the city, you’ll find it fascinating for sure! He can also recommend good spots for dinner/evening socialising/etc

      Overnight | Chaika Hotel – amazing brutalist Soviet monstrosity. Real time-warp stuff. One part of the hotel was built specifically for the visit of Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. The rooms are comfy and modern, the building itself is timeless!

    8. Wednesday 27th September

      Karaganda

      • We drive an hour out to the museum of KarLag, the local gulag system – a dark part of history indeed told through the rooms of this former NKVD HQ. State ‘enemies’, departed nationalities (a vast number of whom were dumped in central Asia due to Stalin’s paranoia about enemies within – the largest numbers being Germans from the west and Koreans from the east. Their stories are told here in this chilling memorial to the all-too-recent evils.
         
      • The village around this museum is made up largely of former Gulag barracks, admin buildings, and medical centres, we will take a look around and also visit the depressing cemetery for children who died in this cruel system.
         
      • The nearby town of Shahtinsk hosts us for lunch and some views of local industries; coal mining primarily, but also steel production and agriculture.
         
      • In the afternoon we offer the choice between free time to further explore Karaganda city or a trip to a former execution ground (what a choice, we know!) marked by tasteful and meaningful memorials to the various nationalities whose people were among the unfortunate souls to perish here.
         
      • In the evening we will board the modern Spanish-made overnight train for a trip to the south of Kazakhstan, and the largest of the nation’s cities - Almaty, 1000km away through the night.

      Overnight:

      On the train. Comfy beds in small, but modern and spotless rooms

    9. Thursday 28th September

      Almaty

      • We arrive in the morning in the cultural capital (and former actual capital) or Kazakhstan. The beautiful city of Almaty. Nestled against the precipitous Tian Shan Mountain range and dotted with parks, theatres, boulevards, and much more, this is a modern multi-cultural city wrongfully ignored too little-known.
      • Almaty Metro – one of only two subway systems in the whole of Central Asia (the other is the Moscow knock-off in Tashkent) this system opened in 2012 and strikes a balance between Moscow opulence and modern efficiency.
         
      • Green Bazaar & Rakhat Chocolate Factory – these neighbouring sites are local institutions. You can smell the sweetness from the latter all across this part of the city. Banter and barter with sellers in the market, pick up the apples that Almaty if known for as well as all manner of other delicious local delicacies. Get your sweet tooth into action with the terrific and very affordable selection at the chocolate factory (ideal for gifts too!)
         
      • Panfilovets Park – Almaty's main place of leisure. Very pleasant and marked with stunning and evocative monuments to the Kazakh soldiers who fell while fighting to defend Moscow from the Nazi invasion. Zenkov Cathedral is also located in this park.
         
      • Central Mosque – With its broad ethnic mixture and clear secularism it is easy to forget that Kazakhstan is a majority-Muslim country. We’ll have a look at the main mosque in Almaty to see how the locals worship and what their faith means to them.
         
      • Arbat Street – every good former USSR town has one; a pedestrian area ideal for promenading, window shopping, café culture, public art sales, and so on. This one is very modern and it lined with some great examples of brutalist apartment buildings.
         
      • Kok-Tebe – a cable car ride up to a mountain overlooking the city. Amazing views, a statue of the Beatles, A Ferris Wheel and toboggan ride, small zoo, bars, and entertainment in general. Simply put this is the city’s best spot and a very popular area for local families, youths, and everyone really. We’ll have a final lunch of the tour here. A fitting relaxing end to an intense, mind-blowing week!

      Overnight | Hotel Kazakhstan – a towering monstrosity offering great views over the city as well as faded-luxury. An iconic structure in an iconic city; ideal for finishing off our Kazakhstan adventure.

    10. Friday 29th September

      Goodbye Almaty welcome Ashgabat 

      This morning you have the chance to relax or explore a little further why not venture out for a coffee on one of the leafy Almaty streets. As this afternoon it's off to the great marbled boulevards of Ashgabat.

      Early afternoon we take our flight from Almaty/ Kazakhstan to Ashgabat/ Turkmenistan entering Ashgabat through its multi-billion dollar marble-clad eagle-shaped airport. The kind of airport any country in the middle east would be proud of. Once we have exchanged our letters of invitation for visas were off to the hotel with our local guide.

      This evening is free for your own short exploration or to relax into another exciting country.

      Meals: Breakfast,

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat - A comfortable hotel that has escaped the marble-isation of the main city centre. Situated around 15 minutes walk from the main area it has easy access to the local regions of the city such as the Teke Bazar and good restaurant options.

    11. Saturday 30th September

      Ashgabat

      This morning there is time to relax and soak up your surrounding before this afternoon's orientation walk around the city visiting.

      • Tekke Bazaar - Walk through this real, local slice of life, a true local market very popular amongst local people for shopping. On weekends, there are also local booksellers in the park opposite the market selling a selection of second-hand books. If you're lucky, you may pick up a copy of the Ruhnama the book written by Saparmurat Niyazov, the Turkmenistan president. Niyazov famously said, "a person that reads Ruhnama three times becomes smart, and after it, he will go straight to heaven".
         
      • Inspiration park - A public park at the centre of Ashgabat this narrow parkland is lined with sculptures of Persian poets, scholars and great thinkers all surrounding an artificial river and impressive water fountains. 
         
      • Russian Bazaar - located in the very centre of town, this covered bazaar is where you can buy almost everything you may need in daily life; fruit & nuts, cables & chargers, sweets, kimchi, baked goods, souvenirs, and so on. Nearby is also the Alty Asyr Shopping Centre which is a good place to buy cotton goods (tracksuits, towels, bedsheets, etc. all made from local cotton, and all very cheap).
         
      • Lenin statue - Best described as a small Lenin on a giant plinth decorated in central Asian tile work. 
         
      • Pushkin Monument - this small bust erected to Russia's most famous poet Pushkin is easily visited only 5 minutes from Lenin.
         
      • Pervyy park - this is one of Ashgabat's oldest parks founded in 1890 named officer park, Lenin park, first park and independence park.
         
      •  Ashgabat Train station - originally built in 1888 the first railway station was destroyed in the earthquake of 1948 along with much of the city. A new station was built shortly after in 1950 although this was remodelled 2009 taking on its now grand form crowned by the eight-pointed star (Rub El Hizb).

      We return to the hotel after this mini-adventure to meet the new tour members at dinner.

      Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat - A comfortable hotel that has escaped the main city centre's marbleisation. Situated around 15 minutes walk from the main area, it has easy access to the city's local regions such as the Teke Bazar and good restaurant options.

    12. Sunday 1st October

      Ashgabat

      • Tolkuchka Bazaar - The nation’s largest market, built outside the city and home to various sections selling household goods, clothes, the famous Turkmen carpets, camels & other animals, and much more!
      • Ashgabat Hippodrome – Sunday is a day at the races, with the sacred Ahal-Teke horses in full display.
      • Afternoon city tour including Independence Park and Monument, Arch of Neutrality topped by the gold statue of Turkmenbashi, Ahal-Teke Horse Monument, Earthquake Monument and Museum.
      • Free evening for a night out in the city.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat
    13. Monday 2nd October

      Darvaza Gas Crater & Bokhurdag

      • Desert adventure! We head off in a fleet of 4x4s into the deep desert today.
      • Bokhurdag semi-nomadic village for a look at what desert life is like today and lunch at a local family home.
      • Onwards to the bizarre mud and water craters, scenes of accidents that opened sinkholes in the desert.
      • Finally, we arrive at the stunning and unforgettable Darvaza Gas Crater in the centre of the country and the scene of a 40-year-old industrial accident that ended with a giant flaming pit burning to this day. A hypnotic sight and one of the strangest and most spectacular things you can possibly see.
      • We camp tonight besides the crater; it is best seen at night, dinner cooked on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: Camping at the Darvaza Gas Crater - Camping in the desert with tents, sleeping bags and roll mats provided. we will also provide tents based on your rooming options. this affords us the best opportunity to view the amazing gas crater from before sunset to sunrise.

    14. Tuesday 3rd October

      Ashgabat

      • We return to Ashgabat, driving through the morning with a stop at a monument to the suppression of the Basmachi rebellion.
      • Once back in the capital the rest of the day is yours to do with as you please; explore, relax, shop, take a side-trip (drivers are available for hire), we and our local guides can advise on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.

    15. Wednesday 4th October

      Nisa Fortress and Kow Ata Underground Lake

      • Nisa Fortress - a UNESCO site and former capital of the mighty Parthian state in ancient times.
      • Ahal-Teke horses are considered heavenly and sacred beasts in Turkmenistan, and this stud farm visit will show you why. Have a ride on one of the horses if you like.
      • We then drive on to the bizarre Kow-Ata underground lake. A Sulphur-heated lake 100m deep underground. Take a swim, explore the cave, and then have lunch at a shashlik restaurant on the spot.
      • We will drive in our 4x4 fleet on to the remote city of Balkanabad; this sleepy town is easily explored on foot in a couple of hours of free time before dinner and overnight in a hotel shaped like a giant yurt.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Niebitchi, Balkanabat - Yurt-shaped curiosity in the town centre, well-situated for wandering around and exploring.

    16. Thursday 5th October

      Yangykala Canyon & Turkmenbashi

      • We drive to the stunning Yangykala Canyon, known as the ‘Turkmen Grand Canyon’ little-known but a gorgeous area with shifting colours in the rocks, amazing formations, and some wonderful photos to be taken.
      • Through the afternoon we make our way across the country, stopping at scenic areas, pilgrimage sites and so on until we reach our destination; the Caspian sea city of Turkmenbashi and the bizarre ‘touristic zone’ of Awaza. This place has to be seen to be believed, and we will have a look around the hotel-covered peninsular before checking in for a relaxing evening at the coast.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner 

      Overnight: Serdar Hotel. A comfortable beachside option. You can also upgrade to the Yelken Yacht Club, the finest establishment in Awaza. Contact us for more details!

    17. Friday 6th October

      Awaza to Ashgabat

      • A free morning to relax at the coastal resort, try swimming (although the Caspian is a cold sea) or some watersports, wandering around, or even sleeping in!
      • Late morning we will take a boat ride down a canal stretching the length of the Awaza area, see the different architectural styles of the buildings here, all of which have sprung up in the last few years.
      • We will drive to Turkmenbashi city for lunch, the oldest city in the country and one settled by Russians during their invasion from across the sea during the late Great Game.
      • A city tour of Turkmenbashi – the local bazaar, railway station, Oil Workers’ Square, various monuments, and even a cemetery for Japanese POW’s who were brought here to labour after their capture at the end of WWII, and never got home again.
      • Flight back to Ashgabat for the final dinner of the tour, time for goodbyes and the last night out, if you’ve got the energy!

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner 

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.

    18. Saturday 7th October

      Departure

      • Departure day – airport transfers provided for everyone regardless of the time of flight or where you are going.

      End of tour, OR;

      OPTIONAL EXTENSION (+550 EUR)

      Extension day 1: Mary & Margush

      • Flight from Ashgabat to Mary, in the centre of the country and the nearest city to the ancient silk road metropolis of Merv.
      • Visit Gonur-Deppe (Margush); another ancient city in this area, with some lovely ancient architectural features.
      • Back to Mary City and explore this modern town, mix with the locals, go to parks, bars, etc. as you like, a sleepy area with welcoming and friendly locals.

      Meals: Breakfast 

    19. Sunday 8th October

      Extension day 2: Ancient Merv

      • Excursion to Ancient Merv, probably the most important city in the world at certain times of its history and a place where you will learn a great deal about the history of Central Asia, the rise and fall of dynasties and cities, the silk road, and human civilisation in this part of the world in general. This vast area is roamed by animals, explorers, extant buildings, ruins, etc. All contributing to a sense of the dynamism of the ancient silk road.
      • In the afternoon you fly back to Ashgabat for a final rest/night out before departure.

        Please let us know if you wish to book an extra night in Ashgabat. the flight should return to the capital at around 8 PM - 9 PM.
  • Extras

    • Upgrade to your own room in Kazakhstan

      All hotel rooms on our all-inclusive group tours to Kazakhstan feature twin beds, and will be shared. If you'd like a room to yourself then you can upgrade for an extra $30 USD per night

    • Upgrade to your own room in Turkmenistan

      The default rooming option for this tour is shared hotel room or tent (one night). Each hotel room on tour has two separate beds. If you'd like a room to yourself then you can upgrade for an extra $50 USD per night

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • English-speaking local guides
    • Western tour leader
    • Meals where indicated
    • Accommodation
    • One international flight from Almaty to Ashgabat
    • Internal flights X2
    • Internal trains x 2
    • All included sightseeing
    • All taxes & entrance fees to areas where special permits are required
    • Airport transfers
    • An amazing time in two very different yet amazing countries!

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Tips for local guides and drivers
    • Incidentals, extra drinks, etc
    • Optional single supplement: USD 30 per night (Kazakhstan) USD 50 Per night (Turkmenistan)
    • Kazakhstan: Visa fee - depending on nationality – most western nationalities do not need visas to Kazakhstan. Please do check first to be sure
    • Turkmenistan: All visitors will need a visa USD 80 to USD 140 depending on nationality, we will do the work required for this
    • International flights to Kazakhstan and from Ashgabat not included
    • Extra nights accommodation
  • Notes

    How to Apply: To apply simply click on the application button listed with this tour and fill out the online form, upload a passport copy and photo (or send to us by email) and you can consider yourself to be booked on this adventure! For any questions, comments, etc about this trip get in touch with Rich at [email protected] We ask for an application to be completed a minimum of one month in advance of the tour, ideally six weeks or more if possible: We will require a deposit to be paid at this time as we start taking on administrative costs as well as an obligation to pay for the visa invitation as soon as we send off an application. We ask for a deposit of 50% of the tour fee. Cancellation & Refunds: Please note that if you require a visa for Kazakhstan you will need to pay this fee yourself. Most visitors do not require visas though.

    Check https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_Kazakhstan For Turkmenistan everyone will need a letter of invitation this is used upon arrival to obtain your visa for the country. We will send you further details upon booking. We practice the same cancellation policy with this tour as we do with our DPRK tours. This is listed on our website T&C. However, we do not seek profit from people who cannot go on tours but we do make arrangements and commit to payments in good faith once a booking is received and payment is made. So we always try to refund more than the minimum. As with any trip it is best to be as sure as possible that you will be able to attend the trip when making the final booking. If the tour is cancelled by Koryo Tours for any reason then a full refund is of course made. In all cases we return as much as we can and we do not take a fee for client's cancellation. Please be sure that you will definitely be joining the tour when you send all application details.

Please apply by 1st September, 2023.

September 20 - September 29 2023

Explore Kazakhstan | Nur-Sultan to Almaty (September)

Epic Journey in
Remote Central Asia

Kazakhstan is where a vibrant multi-cultural society
meets the dark legacy of deportations, gulags, and nuclear
weapons.

From 2,100 USD per person

Please apply by 1st September, 2023.

Explore Kazakhstan | Nur-Sultan to Almaty (September)

Epic Journey in
Remote Central Asia

Kazakhstan is where a vibrant multi-cultural
society meets the dark legacy of deportations,
gulags, and nuclear weapons.

From 2,100 USD per person

  • Overall

    Visit Kazakhstan on this Explore Kazakhstan adventure with Koryo Tours!

    From the new capital city, Nur-Sultan - formerly Astana, to the old capital city Almaty, we will spend 9 nights travelling by road, rail, and air, as we give you the best in Kazakhstan travel. Over the 9-night Kazakhstan adventure, we will tour little-explored areas of Kazakhstan including; the industrial base of Karaganda, the infamous Semipalatinsk (in two words; Gulags and Nukes), and Kurchatov – the Los Alamos of the USSR, where the Red Bomb was developed and tested (over and over again!).

    We will even visit ‘The Polygon’. This is the vast nuclear testing range full of abandoned measuring platforms, bunkers, craters, buried machinery, and the scenic yet chilling ‘Atomic Lake’. Like nowhere you will have explored before, visit Kazakhstan and get a history lesson on the darker side of this little-known land. This, as well as updates on what’s been going on in the cities and countryside as we pass between them and talk with locals, seeing local life and industry, and so much more..! Koryo Tours have combined our expertise working in the country, contacts, and in-depth research to offer you the best in Kazakhstan travel.

    Visit Kazakhstan with us and it will be a trip of a lifetime!

    Dates don’t suit? Check out our Explore Kazakhstan | Nur-Sultan to Almaty tour, or contact us for details on private tours.

    Scroll down for an overview of our Explore Kazakhstan - Nur-Sultan to Almaty September tour highlights, tour itinerary, transport options, DPRK tourist visa information, and extra add-ons.

    Highlights

    • Nur-Sultan - once the centre of the Virgin Lands campaign, now national capital
    • Dostoyevsky Nuclear Polygon – USSR’s testing range for atmospheric and underground nukes 
    • Semi-abandoned these days Karaganda – in the heart of Kazakhstan, also the heart of the old Central Asian Gulag system 
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 10
    1. Wednesday 20th September

      Arrival Day

      • Flights to Nur-Sultan (airport code NQZ) arrive from many international destinations – let us know which flight you will be on, and we will arrange your pick-up and transfer to the hotel. Arriving even earlier is, of course, fine and can be accommodated.
         
      • Today we start the tour with a group dinner of some excellent local food, coordination and briefing session, before the adventure ahead!

      Overnight:

      Nur-Sultan - Kazakhstan's shiny new Capital City!

    2. Thursday 21st September

      Nur-Sultan

      • Nur-Sultan is a new city rightly famed for its unique approach to architecture; in that, it piles together with a wide range of different styles and forms with the result being either a glimpse at the future of post-modern cities or a horrifying un-curated mish-mash of clashing buildings.
         
      • Bayterek Tower – now the icon of the city, this ornate monument has a viewing platform 97 metres above the ground (1997 is when Astana become the capital city) and is designed to evoke a folk tale about a bird laying an egg in a tree. Amazing views over the city from here.
         
      • Palace of Peace and Reconciliation – glass Pyramid from the eminent architect Norman Foster with the vague but noble aim of reconciling the world’s faiths and ideologies and bringing an end to violence. Even if this goal remains elusive, it is a stunning building and worth exploring!
         
      • Hazret Sultan Mosque – the biggest in Kazakhstan (and second in the region only to the monstrous Gypjak Mosque in Turkmenistan). Classically Islamic in style and Kazakh in décor, this impressive building can house up to 5000 worshippers at once.
         
      • Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre – perhaps the building that architecturally sums up modern Astana more than any other. Another Carbuncle/work-of-genius (delete as you prefer) from Norman Foster, this ingenious structure looking somewhat like a lop-sided tent maintains an even temperature year-round and provides leisure facilities, shopping, entertainment in general to local people.
         
      • River Ishim – we’ll stroll the banks of this waterway in the centre of town, a good way to see a slice of local life and people enjoying their time. Remember that almost all of Astana’s population are recent arrivals so a big mix of people from around the country and beyond can be met with here.

      Overnight:

      Nur-Sultan - Kazakhstan's shiny new Capital City!

    3. Friday 22nd September

      Nur-Sultan & Train Ride

      • We take a drive out of the city to the nearby village of Akmol; home of the chilling Museum of the Camp for Wives of Traitors to the Motherland – A sensitively-done spot telling the story of the loyal (going to such a place could often be avoided with a divorce and public denunciation) women sent here when their husbands were persecuted.
         
      • We see a little more of this settlement on a walk around; church, mosque, and apartment buildings now occupying this former gulag-site before stopping for an excellent home-cooked lunch with a local family and a supermarket visit for train snacks/drinks.
      • All aboard! We jump onto a sleeper train making its way through the night and across the country to the city of Kurchatov - home of the soviet atomic weapons program. Comfy beds and a clean restaurant await us as well as rolling steppe outside the windows for this 800km journey. We will have dinner delivered to us on the platform at Ekibastusz Station that evening.

      Overnight:

      Onboard the train – 4 beds in each room. Comfortable and clean

    4. Saturday 23rd September

      Kurchatov/Nuclear Polygon

      • We arrive very early in the morning in Kurchatov and head for an early check-in at a local guesthouse as well as breakfast and freshening up after the train ride. Then our atomic adventure begins! Kurchatov was founded in 1947 simply to make Soviet Nuclear weapons a reality. Under the control of the KGB Chief Lavrentiy Beria and scientist Igor Kurchatov, this is where the arms race became a two-horse event.
         
      • Museum of the Semipalatinsk Test Site – a detailed and deep explanation of what this place is, what happened here, and what effect their inventions can have. Some machines from that time are displayed here too. (note: this museum opens and closes at the whim of higher powers, so its opening cannot be 100% confirmed)
         
      • We board our vehicle and take a drive, deep into a formerly off-limits (very off limits!) area; the Semipalatinsk Polygon – nuclear testing ground chosen due to its remoteness, lack of population, and because it seemed like a good spot to blow a few things up. we provide protective gear of course
         
      • Next stop is Chagan – once a deeply secret long-range bomber base. Now a deeply abandoned former long-range bomber base. See the massive runways, the remaining ammunition hangars, and the collapsing main buildings of the base. Plus the garrison town nearby which housed the base staff from 1954 to 1994 and now stands completely stripped like a spooky post-apocalyptic warning. A bit of UrbEx here to finish the day.

      Overnight:

      Workers' Guesthouse – A very local experience in this hostel, housed in a Soviet-era apartment building. Currently, also the only place open for visitors to Kurchatov. get a taste of life as the locals live it!

    5. Sunday 24th September

      Atomic Lake/Kurchatov

      • We again go deep into the Polygon, this time we head for the sinister-sounding Atomic Lake.
         
      • We’ll make a few stops on the way through but most significantly Atomic Lake – caused by a deep underground nuclear blast – this was in fact made deliberately and is known as the world’s first and only use of industrial nuclear weapons. Find out what on earth they were thinking and also meet some fishermen looking for three-eyed fish in the 180m deep lake.
         
      • We’ll have a Roadside Picnic (note to non-literature lovers, this is a joke – read this book and you will find some eerie similarities to this part of the trip) and continue to see some relics of the testing program. A local expert will also be with us to explain in detail, answer questions, etc.
         
      • We arrive back in Kurchatov where we’ll have a walking tour of this semi-abandoned settlement dotted with monuments, fascinating buildings, and of course locals going about their lives.
         
      • A free evening to explore the town – there are cafes and bars, the locals are friendly and curious. It’s walkable and hospitable (one shop even has town souvenirs). Get out there and enjoy it!

      Overnight | Mayak Hotel

    6. Monday 25th September

      Semipalatinsk/Semey

      • Back to Kurchatov Railway Station for a 2 hour ride in comfort across the steppe to the nearby city of Semipalatinsk.
         
      • Semipalatinsk is actually the former name of this city, correctly it is now referred to as Semey, we explore with a city tour of this little-visited settlement.
         
      • Once upon a time Semipalatinsk was a wealthy trading city, situated between China and Russia, as well as acting as a gateway to the Central Asian territories added to the Russian Empire in the 19th Century. We will explore mainly on foot and see buildings from various eras, statues and monuments, mosaics and a little-known part of history. All explained to us as we make our way around this unexpectedly-charming place. Sites we visit include...
      • Lenin Alley – a common sight in Kazakhstan’s smaller cities; a collection of Lenins in a nice park setting. The central piece is particularly impressive.
         
      • Victory Park – with statues, tank monument, and a hang-out place for locals.
         
      • Dostoyevsky Museum – the titan of Russian Literature was exiled out here in Semipalatinsk and this museum explains the importance of his works. Pro-tip: read Crime and Punishment before your visit.
         
      • After lunch we liberate you for free time – a couple of recommendations include;​​​​​​Fine Arts Museum – not just the best collection in Kazakhstan but also a display of abnormal anatomy, something quirky and troubling (especially with our trip to the nuclear test site coming up)
        Stronger Than Death Monument – in the Tatar section of town (itself an attraction we will explore some more) – shows the resilience of those who live and have lived in this remote part of the world.
         
      • We plan a special addition to the local experience on this tour too, see for yourself on the trip!

      Overnight | Semey Hotel – very Soviet-style place with an aesthetic unlike what you may be used to! All the charm of the late-USSR but with free wifi! You’ll love it!

    7. Tuesday 26th September

      To Karaganda

      • We rise early and drive a mere 250km east to Ust-Kamenogorsk. Our destination is simply the airport where we board a local flight to take us over the test-sites, abandoned gulags, coal mines, fields, and miles of endless undulating grasses that make up eastern Kazakhstan. Our final destination today is the city of Karaganda. We will find time before the flight for a quick walk in a local park with an excellent collection of Lenin Statues and Soviet-era tanks.
      • An introductory walking tour of the city centre - focusing on the architecture, history, and local culture of this city (all of which is varied and fascinating), we’ll visit the central park as well and see and mix with locals spending leisure time here.
         
      • Karaganda is a large city but with a very walkable centre – the Russian/Soviet influence here is strong, and our guide (a local to this place) will tell us all about the city, you’ll find it fascinating for sure! He can also recommend good spots for dinner/evening socialising/etc.

      Overnight | Chaika Hotel – amazing brutalist Soviet monstrosity. Real time-warp stuff. One part of the hotel was built specifically for the visit of Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. The rooms are comfy and modern; the building itself is timeless!

    8. Wednesday 27th September

      Karaganda

      • We drive an hour out to the museum of KarLag, the local gulag system – a dark part of history indeed told through the rooms of this former NKVD HQ. State ‘enemies’, departed nationalities (a vast number of whom were dumped in central Asia due to Stalin’s paranoia about enemies within – the largest numbers being Germans from the west and Koreans from the east. Their stories are told here in this chilling memorial to the all-too-recent evils.
         
      • The village around this museum is made up largely of former Gulag barracks, admin buildings, and medical centres, we will take a look around and also visit the depressing cemetery for children who died in this cruel system.
         
      • The nearby town of Shahtinsk hosts us for lunch and some views of local industries; coal mining primarily, but also steel production and agriculture.
         
      • In the afternoon we offer the choice between free time to further explore Karaganda city or a trip to a former execution ground (what a choice, we know!) marked by tasteful and meaningful memorials to the various nationalities whose people were among the unfortunate souls to perish here.
         
      • In the evening, we will board the modern Spanish-made overnight train for a trip to the south of Kazakhstan, and the largest of the nation’s cities - Almaty, 1000km away through the night.

      Overnight:

      On the train. Comfy beds in small, but modern and spotless rooms

    9. Thursday 28th September

      Almaty

      • We arrive in the morning in the cultural capital (and former actual capital) or Kazakhstan. The beautiful city of Almaty. Nestled against the precipitous Tian Shan Mountain range and dotted with parks, theatres, boulevards, and much more, this is a modern multi-cultural city wrongfully ignored too little-known.
      • Almaty Metro – one of only two subway systems in the whole of Central Asia (the other is the Moscow knock-off in Tashkent) this system opened in 2012. It struck a balance between Moscow opulence and modern efficiency.
         
      • Green Bazaar & Rakhat Chocolate Factory – these neighbouring sites are local institutions. You can smell the sweetness from the latter all across this part of the city. Banter and barter with sellers in the market, pick up the apples that Almaty is known for as well as all manner of other delicious local delicacies. Get your sweet tooth into action with the terrific and very affordable selection at the chocolate factory (ideal for gifts too!)
         
      • Panfilovets Park – Almaty's main place of leisure. Very pleasant and marked with stunning and evocative monuments to the Kazakh soldiers who fell while fighting to defend Moscow from the Nazi invasion. Zenkov Cathedral is also located in this park.
         
      • Central Mosque – With its broad ethnic mixture and clear secularism, it is easy to forget that Kazakhstan is a majority-Muslim country. We’ll have a look at the main mosque in Almaty to see how the locals worship and what their faith means to them.
         
      • Arbat Street – every good former USSR town has one; a pedestrian area ideal for promenading, window shopping, café culture, public art sales, and so on. This one is very modern and is lined with some great examples of brutalist apartment buildings.
         
      • Kok-Tebe – a cable car ride up to a mountain overlooking the city. Amazing views, a statue of the Beatles, A Ferris Wheel and toboggan ride, small zoo, bars, and entertainment in general. Simply put, this is the city’s best spot and a trendy area for local families, youths, and everyone really. We’ll have a final lunch of the tour here. A fitting relaxing end to an intense, mind-blowing week!

      Overnight | Hotel Kazakhstan – a towering monstrosity offering great views over the city as well as faded-luxury. An iconic structure in an iconic city; ideal for finishing off our Kazakhstan adventure.

    10. Friday 29th September

      Departure Day

      • Flights leave from Almaty airport to various destinations both international and domestic. Let us know where you are going and we will get you there on time!
         
      • You may also wish to spend more time in Almaty, a truly lovely city – walkable, friendly people, lots to see and do. We recommend continuing at least one more day to make the most of the trip – you won’t regret it!

      Don’t forget that Almaty is also very close to the border with Kyrgyzstan – the capital city of Bishkek is just a few hours away and there are buses and shared taxis plying this route very frequently. We can help with this if you like and can recommend a visit to Bishkek too.

      TOP RECOMMENDATION – however, this is the best choice - Join our tour to TURKMENISTAN! If you take this option not only do you join the ranks of Koryo Tours’ extra-special veterans but you also get an extra night in Ashgabat. We fly from Almaty to Turkmenistan this afternoon and when there we meet our local partners and have time to relax, explore, do whatever you like really, until the Turkmenistan Tour (more info on this here) begins on Saturday 28th September.

      Continue your Central Asia adventure with us – it’s the best way to see the most amazing parts of the region!

  • Extras

    • Upgrade to your own room in Kazakhstan

      All hotel rooms on our all-inclusive group tours to Kazakhstan feature twin beds, and will be shared. If you'd like a room to yourself then you can upgrade for an extra $30 USD per night

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • English-speaking local guide Western tour leader
    • Meals other than those taken at leisure
    • Accommodation Internal flight Internal train
    • All included sightseeing
    • All taxes & entrance fees to areas where special permits are required
    • Airport transfers
    • An amazing time in a fascinating country!

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Tips for local guides and drivers
    • Incidentals, extra drinks, etc
    • Optional single supplement: USD 30 per night
    • Visa fee - depending on nationality – most western nationalities do not need visas to Kazakhstan. Please do check first to be sure
    • International flights to/from Kazakhstan not included
  • Notes

    How to Apply: To apply simply click on the application button listed with this tour and fill out the online form, upload a passport copy and photo (or send to us by email) and you can consider yourself to be booked on this adventure! For any questions, comments, etc about this trip get in touch with Simon Cockerell at [email protected] We ask for application to be complete a minimum of one month in advance of the tour, ideally six weeks or more if possible: Please also indicate where you plan to join the tour from and finish the tour by going (we can offer advice on this, drop us a line to discuss it) We also require a deposit to be paid at this time as we start taking on administrative costs as well as an obligation to pay for the visa invitation as soon as we send off an application. We ask for a deposit of 50% of the tour fee. Cancellation & Refunds: Please note that if you require a visa for Kazakhstan you will need to pay this fee yourself. Most visitors do not require visas though. Check https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_Kazakhstan We practice the same cancellation policy with this tour as we do with our DPRK tours. This is listed on our website T&C. However we do not seek profit from people who cannot go on tours but we do make arrangements and commit to payments in good faith once a booking is received and payment is made. So we always try to refund more than the minimum. As with any trip it is best to be as sure as possible that you will be able to attend the trip when making the final booking. If the tour is cancelled by Koryo Tours for any reason then a full refund is of course made. In all cases we return as much as we can and we do not take a fee for client's cancellation. Please be sure that you will definitely be joining the tour when you send all application details.

Please apply by 1st September, 2023.

September 30 - October 7 2023

Turkmenistan Tour (October): Ashgabat, Darvaza Gas Crater & Beyond

An amazing Turkmenistan
adventure!

Spend 7 nights in Central Asia’s least visited country! Visit Ashgabat, Turkmenistan’s white
marble fantasy capital, see the bizarre Darvaza Gas Crater, and explore the ancient Silk Road
ruins of Konye-Urgench.

From 2,190 USD per person

Please apply by 1st September, 2023.

Turkmenistan Tour (October): Ashgabat, Darvaza Gas Crater & Beyond

An amazing Turkmenistan
adventure!

Spend 7 nights in Central Asia’s least visited country! Visit
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan’s white marble fantasy capital, see the
bizarre Darvaza Gas Crater, and explore the ancient Silk Road
ruins of Konye-Urgench.

From 2,190 USD per person

  • Overall

    Join Koryo Tours this October for our Turkmenistan tour as the adventures continue. Turkmenistan is Central Asia’s least visited country.

    This means it may be a bit difficult to access and travel around, but it certainly doesn’t have any less to offer! Join Koryo Tours as we explore the beautiful capital city Ashgabat, camp over at the famous Darvaza Gas Crater, otherwise known as ‘the Gates of Hell’, and be dazzled by the colourful desert canyons to the Caspian Coast.

    As we journey through the country we will see the serious and the sublime, the freaky and the frivolous – join us on this amazing adventure that we simply do better than anyone else. Koryo Tours have been working in Turkmenistan for over a decade. Over this time, we’ve built this special experience through dozens of visits and the best local contacts and relationships meaning our Turkmenistan tours are unrivalled in quality, experience, and fun!

    We look forward to sharing it with you in Turkmenistan!

    This tour will be led by one of our most experienced tour leaders, Rich Beal. Rich has led tours all over the world since 2004 and has been leading tours to Turkmenistan for a decade (and to the rest of Central Asia much longer!). He is incredibly knowledgable about the area and a great storyteller — ask and he will tell you plenty of fascinating travel anecdotes from his many adventures!

    If dates don’t suit, check out our Turkmenistan tour in May, or contact us to organise a private tour.

    Scroll down for an overview of the Turkmenistan Tour highlights, tour itinerary, transport options, Turkmenistan visa information, and extra add-ons.

    Highlights

    • Ashgabat - All the highlights and local colour Darvaza Gas Crater - The ‘Mouth of Hell’
    • Kow Ata Underground Lake - Natural hot spring 80m under the ground
    • Nisa Fortress – UNESCO listed archaeological site
    • The stunning Yangykala Canyon, known as the ‘Grand Canyon of Central Asia’
    • The Caspian Sea city of Turkmenbashi & the unique & Weird Awaza Area
    • Extend the tour to visit the Capital of the Silk Road – Ancient Merv
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 9
    1. Saturday 30th September

      Arrival in Ashgabat
      • Assemble in Ashgabat, airport pickups will be arranged wherever you fly in from and we will have a group dinner to get introduced and start the adventure!
      Meals: Breakfast 
       
      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat - A comfortable hotel that has escaped the marbalisation of the main city centre. situated around 15 minutes walk from the main area it has easy access to the local regions of the city such as the Teke Bazar and good restaurant options.
    2. Sunday 1st October

      Ashgabat City Tour

      • Tolkuchka Bazaar – The nation’s largest market, built outside the city and home to various sections selling household goods, clothes, the famous Turkmen carpets, camels & other animals, and much more!
      • Ashgabat Hippodrome – Sunday is a day at the races, with the sacred Ahal-Teke horses in full display.
      • Afternoon city tour – Including Independence Park and Monument, Arch of Neutrality topped by the gold statue of Turkmenbashi, Ahal-Teke horses monument, Earthquake Monument and Museum.
      • Free evening for a night out in the city.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat
    3. Monday 2nd October

      Darvaza Gas Crater & Bokhurdag

      • Desert adventure! We head off in a fleet of 4x4s into the deep desert today.
      • Bokhurdag semi-nomadic village for a look at what desert life is like today and lunch at a local family home.
      • Onwards to the bizarre mud and water craters, scenes of accidents that opened sinkholes in the desert.
      • Finally, we arrive at the stunning and unforgettable Darvaza Gas Crater in the centre of the country and the scene of a 40-year-old industrial accident that ended with a giant flaming pit burning to this day. A hypnotic sight and one of the strangest and most spectacular things you can possibly see.
      • We camp tonight besides the crater, it is best seen at night, dinner cooked on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: Camping at the Darvaza Gas Crater - Camping in the desert with tents, sleeping bags and roll mats provided. we will also provide tents based on your rooming options. this affords us the best opportunity to view the amazing gas crater from before sunset to sunrise.

    4. Tuesday 3rd October

      Ashgabat

      • We return to Ashgabat, driving through the morning with a stop at a monument to the suppression of the Basmachi rebellion.
      • Once back in the capital the rest of the day is yours to do with as you please; explore, relax, shop, take a side-trip (drivers are available for hire), we and our local guides can give advice on the spot

      Meals: Breakfast

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.
    5. Wednesday 4th October

      Nisa Fortress and Kow Ata Underground Lake

      • Nisa Fortress - a UNESCO site and former capital of the mighty Parthian state in ancient times.
      • Ahal-Teke horses are considered as heavenly and sacred beasts in Turkmenistan, this stud farm visit will show you why. Have a ride on one of the horses if you like.
      • We then drive on to the bizarre Kow-Ata underground lake. A Sulphur-heated lake 100m deep underground. Take a swim, explore the cave, and then have lunch at a shashlik restaurant on the spot
      • We will drive in our 4x4 fleet on to the remote city of Balkanabad, this sleepy town is easily explored on foot in a couple of hours of free time before dinner and overnight in a hotel shaped like a giant yurt.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Niebitchi, Balkanabat - Yurt-shaped curiosity in the centre of town, well-situated for wandering around and exploring.

    6. Thursday 5th October

      Yangykala Canyon & Turkmenbashi

      • We drive to the stunning Yangykala Canyon, known as the ‘Turkmen Grand Canyon’ little-known but an absolutely beautiful area with shifting colours in the rocks, amazing formations, and some wonderful photos to be taken.
      • Through the afternoon we make our way across the country, stopping at scenic areas, pilgrimage sites and so on until we reach our destination; the Caspian sea city of Turkmenbashi and the bizarre ‘touristic zone’ of Awaza. This place has to be seen to be believed and we will have a look around the hotel-covered peninsular before checking in for a relaxing evening at the coast.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner 

      Overnight: Serder Hotel. A comfortable beachside option. You can also upgrade to the Yelken Yacht Club, the finest establishment in Awaza. Contact us for more details!
    7. Friday 6th October

      Awaza

      • A free morning to relax at the coastal resort, try swimming (although the Caspian is a cold sea) or some watersports, wandering around, or even sleeping in!
      • Late morning we will take a boat ride down a canal stretching the length of the Awaza area, see the different architectural styles of the buildings here, all of which have sprung up in the last few years.
      • We will drive to Turkmenbashi city for lunch, the oldest city in the country and one settled by Russians during their invasion from across the sea during the late Great Game.
      • A city tour of Turkmenbashi – the local bazaar, railway station, Oil Workers’ Square, various monuments, and even a cemetery for Japanese POW’s who were brought here to labour after their capture at the end of WWII, and never got home again.
      • Flight back to Ashgabat for the final dinner of the tour, time for goodbyes and the last night out, if you’ve got the energy!

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner 

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.
    8. Saturday 7th October

      Departure

      • Departure day – airport transfers provided for everyone regardless of the time of flight or where you are going.

      End of tour, OR;

      OPTIONAL EXTENSION (+550 EUR)

      Extension Day 1: Mary & Margush

      • Flight from Ashgabat to Mary, in the centre of the country and the nearest city to the ancient silk road metropolis of Merv.
      • Visit Gonur-Deppe (Margush); another ancient city in this area, with some lovely extent architectural features.
      • Back to Mary City and explore this modern town, mix with the locals, go to parks, bars, etc as you like, a sleepy area with welcoming and friendly locals.

      Meals: Breakfast 

    9. Sunday 8th October

      Extension day 2: Ancient Merv

      • Excursion to Ancient Merv, probably the most important city in the world at certain times of its history and a place where you will learn a great deal about the history of Central Asia, the rise and fall of dynasties and cities, the silk road, and human civilisation in this part of the world in general. This vast area is roamed by animals, explorers, extant buildings, ruins, etc. All contributing to a sense of the dynamism of the ancient silk road.
      • In the afternoon you fly back to Ashgabat for a final rest/night out before departure.

        Please let us know if you wish to book an extra night in Ashgabat. the flight should return to the capital at around 8 PM - 9 PM.
  • Extras

    • Upgrade to your own room in Turkmenistan

      The default rooming option for this tour is shared hotel room or tent (one night). Each hotel room on tour has two separate beds. If you'd like a room to yourself then you can upgrade for an extra $50 USD per night

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • English speaking guide
    • Western tour leader
    • Meals
    • Accommodation
    • Internal flights
    • All included sightseeing
    • All taxes & entrance fees to protected areas

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Optional extension to Merv is USD 550
    • Optional single supplement: USD 50 per night
    • Visa issuing fee - USD 80 to USD 140 depending on nationality
    • Room extension - USD 120
    • International fights to/from Turkmenistan not included
    • Return flights from Beijing to Ashgabat cost approximately USD 780 Return flights from London to Ashgabat cost approximately USD 1040 (Estimates only, we can book these tickets for you or you can purchase separately)
  • Notes

    HOW TO APPLY

    Please email Rich Beal at [email protected] the following information a minimum of one month in advance of the tour, ideally six weeks or more if possible: Full Name Gender Date of Birth Passport Number Address Job Title Company Details of any previous visits to Turkmenistan Please also indicate where you plan to join the tour from (London, Beijing, Istanbul etc). We also require a deposit to be paid at this time as we start taking on administrative costs as well as an obligation to pay for the visa invitation as soon as we send off an application. We ask for a deposit of 50% of the tour fee. You must apply at least 4 weeks before the tour departure date as the Letter of Invitation that we need to obtain in order to facilitate the visa can take several days to be issued by the Turkmenistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We can arrange to have the visas issued on arrival at Ashgabat airport or any other point of entry to the country, but if you would prefer to have it issued at the Turkmenistan Embassy in your home country or have any questions at all about the visa process (it is rather complicated!) please contact us early! the LOI's will be issued to coordinate as closely as possible with the tour dates if you need extra days at each end of your journey please do let us know in advance of your application. If you are joining the tour from somewhere other than Beijing and buying a ticket via our offices we email the e-ticket voucher to you and also inform you if anyone else is joining the tour from your place of departure so that you can meet up on the way to join the tour. If you are purchasing your own flight ticket via alternate airlines or agents we need these flight details ASAP. We, unfortunately, can not accept any liability for delayed flights and any issue associated with times associated letters of invitations. It is entirely possible to join the tour by flying in from other destinations also. We can also accommodate people joining the tour after entering by land or sea, and a range of exit methods are available to those joining this tour. Single supplement is available on this tour at 50 USD per night, if you are travelling alone and wish to share a room to avoid this fee we will attempt to match you up with another traveller. You will also have to pay the visa issuing fee, at Ashgabat airport this ranges from US$80 to $130 (depending on nationality) payable in cash only.

    CANCELLATION & REFUNDS

    Please note that for this tour you are required to pay the fee for the issuance of the visa yourself. Due to the extended amount of time that it takes to have a visa authorized and sent to an Embassy of Turkmenistan it is much simpler to collect the visa on arrival at Ashgabat Airport, the fee payable here varies according to your nationality, its usually around US$100. The visa is stamped in your passport and is the same as it would be if issued at a Turkmen Embassy. If you insist on having your visa issued at an Embassy then please be sure to apply for the tour as early as possible. The deposit is non-refundable if the tourist cancels himself. If however we cannot arrange visas or for whatever reason, it is not possible to travel at the specified time (or you cannot make rescheduled dates) a full refund will be made. Should the client wish to cancel after visa application has been made, charges imposed on us will be paid out of the 50% deposit with the balance being returned to the client. If you have paid in full we will return 50% plus the balance of what is left after the cancellation fee we pay to our partners in Turkmenistan. If you book and cancel a plane ticket through us we charge only the airline’s cancellation fee. In all cases we return as much as we can and we do not take a fee for client's cancellation. Please be sure that you will definitely be joining the tour when you send all application details.

Please apply by 1st September, 2023.

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[email protected] | + 86 10 6416 7544
Room A409, Jucai Building. No. 76 Caoyuan Hutong.
Dongcheng District, Beijing, 100027, PR China

中国北京市东城区草园胡同76号聚才大厦A 座409 室,
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