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 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. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions at all.

April 16 - April 20 2020

Run Dushanbe Short tour

New Tour for 2019 - Dushanbe International
Half Marathon Short Tour!

4 -night tour exploring Dushanbe and running in their AIMS certified Half
Marathon. Plus join in the local celebrations for the 10th anniversary
of the Day of the City!

From 1,100 USD per person

Please apply by 30th March, 2020.

Run Dushanbe Short tour

New Tour for 2019 - Dushanbe International
Half Marathon Short Tour!

4 -night tour exploring Dushanbe and running in
their AIMS certified Half Marathon. Plus join in
the local celebrations for the 10th anniversary
of the Day of the City!

From 1,100 USD per person

  • Overall

    Incredible, yet relatively unknown, Tajikistan is one of the most unique countries in the world. Sitting in Central Asia, it not only has a fascinating history as a former Soviet bloc country but the friendliest people you will ever meet and the most incredible breathtaking scenery.

    This tour will not only get you there to experience all of this, but to also join in the local Tajik celebrations for their 'Day of the City' running in the 2019 Dushanbe International Half Marathon - an AIMS certified race. Learn more about the marathon and Tajikistan at www.rundushanbe.com

    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 basically his third home (China and Mongolia being first and second)!

    Highlights

    • Participate in the little known Dushanbe half marathon, as the streets are lined with locals cheering you on
    • Get a massage at the surreal Soviet health spa of Khoja Obi Garm, which looks like something straight from a movie
    • A tour designed for those on a shorter time frame who would still like to scratch the surface of this beautiful country
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 5
    1. Thursday April 16th

      AM

      • The tour group meets at 13.30 in the hotel reception for an orientation & introduction meeting.

      PM

      • Afternoon drive to Hissar Fortress. This large and impressive site is said to date back to the days of Cyrus the Great (around 600BC) and to have been captured 21 times by invading forces – making one question how effective a fortress it is!. Much of this area has been restored over the years and there is a lovely museum offering a nice introduction to the country and history- a great chance to learn about the country's history and catch up with local people who also visit the site.

       

      • Upon our return to Dushanbe we will stop by a local school to photograph an interesting statue of Lenin, a soviet remnant, and learn a bit about the educational system too

      Meals: Lunch, dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan – newly built and with an excellent location. This comfortable hotel has beautiful rooms located on a designated floor with free laundry facilities, kitchen area, and reading room. Breakfast provided buffet style in the main restaurant area.

    2. Friday, April 17th

      AM

      • We begin with a half-day walking tour of the sleepy capital of Dushanbe, including Victory Park, Rudaki Street, Central Park, Monument of Ismaili Somoni. We will also follow the route of the Dushanbe Marathon. Along this route, we will learn about the development of the city over the years. From its ancient origins to the Soviet-era (when it was called Frunze), to modern-day Dushanbe.

      PM

      • This afternoon is free for further exploration or for training for tomorrow’s big event, we have secured the use of Dushanbe’s premier gym should you wish to work out and get ready for the adventure ahead!

      Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

    3. Saturday, April 18th

       

      AM

       

      • Today is our main event! We make an early start for this unique opportunity; The Dushanbe International Half Marathon! Running with local athletes and amateurs, winding through the city, a life-changing experience – medals and prizes for finishers and winners!

      PM

      • After the morning’s exertions, you deserve some rest! Therefore the afternoon will be free for relaxation or for further exploration with your tour leader visiting the nearby local market for some local flavours and experiences.
      • We also expect celebrations in some local parks to mark the City Day Holiday. So we will find them and join in, the most welcoming people in the world will definitely show you a good time on this occasion – be ready for some socializing and great photo opportunities too! Be prepared for Dancing and horse racing.  
      • Tonight we have a special invite to the City day celebrations to enjoy a show, dress smartly as there will be important guests.

      Meals: Breakfast and dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

    4. Sunday, April 19th 

       

       

      AM

      • The tour continues as we depart Dushanbe and follow the Varzob river into the mountains, driving up through the Varzob Gorge where we will stop on the way for photos of this scenic area. Our goal for this morning is the small village of Takob. Upon arrival, we will hike for 30 minutes through this hamlet where we will be rewarded by a visit to a local family whose home has amazing views of the surrounding area

      PM

      • We will have lunch given to us in the local Tajik way; sitting on the floor. You will lose count of the number of courses!
      • We continue our drive through the mountains until we reach our destination;  the Khoja Obi Garm Spa, a vast sanatorium built into the side of a mountain above natural hot springs – like a James Bond villain’s lair meets the hotel from The Shining! A true relic of the USSR days.
      • A full range of ‘treatments’ can be enjoyed here, from radon baths to massages, leeches to swimming, or simply explore and relax. This is one of those great Soviet-era buildings that are hard to find these days, you will love this experience!
      • After dinner, you will be taken back to Dushanbe ready for your final night.

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

    5. Monday April 20th

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

       

      Extensions are possible – please speak to your Tour Manager to discuss options.

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • Airport pick up and drop off to and from Vatan, Dushanbe
    • Hotel accommodation
    • A Koryo Tours leader, Tajiki tour guides and a driver per group
    • Marathon Entry Fee
    • Warm-up in Dushanbe's no 1 Gym pre-marathon
    • All transportation in the country
    • All entry fees for attractions and sights
    • Meals where listed

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Flights to Tajikistan Single room supplement (unless otherwise specified, US $50 per night)
    • Spending money for drinks and souvenirs Tajikistan visa (visa fees vary at different embassies)
    • Tip for the guides, drivers, porters and local crew ( US $ 70 for the tour)
    • We occasionally have the opportunity to visit a performance - this is to be paid on the spot

Please apply by 30th March, 2020.

April 16 - April 23 2020

Run Dushanbe

Dushanbe International
Half Marathon Tour

7-night tour exploring unknown Tajikistan and run in the AIMS certified Dushanbe
Half Marathon. Marvel at its scenery, discover its history and meet the friendliest
people we know!

From 1,400 USD per person

Please apply by 1st April, 2020.

Run Dushanbe

Dushanbe International
Half Marathon Tour

7-night tour exploring unknown Tajikistan and run in
the AIMS certified Dushanbe Half Marathon. Marvel at
its scenery, discover its history and meet the friendliest
people we know!

From 1,400 USD per person

  • Overall

    Incredible, yet relatively unknown, Tajikistan is one of the most unique countries in the world.

    Sitting in Central Asia, it not only has fascinating history as a former Soviet bloc country, but the friendliest people you will ever meet and the most incredible breathtaking scenery.

    This tour will not only get you there to experience all of this, but to also join in the local Tajik celebrations for their 'Day of the City' running in the 2020 Dushanbe International Half Marathon - an AIMS certified race. Learn more about the marathon and Tajikistan at www.rundushanbe.com

    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 basically his third home (China and Mongolia being first and second)!

    Highlights

    • Participate in the little known Dushanbe half marathon, as the streets are lined with locals cheering you on
    • Explore the UNESCO-listed ruins of ancient Panjikent Journey across the beautiful snow-capped Fan mountains
    • Camp on the shores of stunning glacial Lake Alexander 
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 8
    1. Thursday April 16th

      AM

      • The tour group meets at 13.30 in the hotel reception for an orientation & introduction meeting.

      PM

      • Afternoon drive to Hissar Fortress. This large and impressive site is said to date back to the days of Cyrus the Great (around 600BC) and to have been captured 21 times by invading forces – making one question how effective a fortress it is!. Much of this area has been restored over the years and there is a lovely museum offering a nice introduction to the country and history- a great chance to learn about the country's history and catch up with local people who also visit the site.
         
      • Upon our return to Dushanbe, we will stop by a local school to photograph an interesting statue of Lenin, a soviet remnant, and learn a bit about the educational system too.

      Overnight | Hotel Vatan – newly built and with an excellent location. This comfortable hotel has beautiful rooms located on a designated floor with free laundry facilities, kitchen area, and reading room. Breakfast provided buffet style in the main restaurant area.

    2. Friday April 17th

      AM

      • We begin with a half-day walking tour of the sleepy capital of Dushanbe, including Victory Park, Rudaki Street, Central Park, Monument of Ismaili Somoni. We will also follow the route of the Dushanbe Marathon. Along this route, we will learn about the development of the city over the years. From its ancient origins to the Soviet-era (when it was called Frunze), to modern-day Dushanbe

      PM

      • This afternoon is free for further exploration or for training for tomorrow’s big event, we have secured the use of Dushanbe’s premier gym should you wish to work out and get ready for the adventure ahead!

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

    3. Saturday April 18th

      AM

       

       

      • Today is our main event! We make an early start for this unique opportunity; The Dushanbe International Half Marathon! Running with local athletes and amateurs, winding through the city, a life-changing experience – medals and prizes for finishers and winners!

      PM

      • After the morning’s exertions you deserve some rest! Therefore the afternoon will be free for relaxation or for further exploration with your tour leader visiting the nearby local market for some local flavours and experiences.
      • We also expect celebrations in some local parks to mark the City Day Holiday. So we will find them and join in, the most welcoming people in the world will definitely show you a good time on this occasion – be ready for some socializing and great photo opportunities too!

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

    4. Sunday April 19th

      AM

       

       

      • The tour continues as we depart Dushanbe and follow the Varzob river into the mountains, driving up through the Varzob Gorge where we will stop on the way for photos of this scenic area. Our goal for this morning is the small village of Takob. Upon arrival we will hike for 30 minutes through this hamlet where we will be rewarded by a visit to a local family whose home has amazing views of the surrounding area

      PM

      • We will have lunch given to us in the local Tajik way; sitting on the floor. You will lose count of the number of courses!
      • We continue our drive through the mountains until we reach our destination;  the Khoja Obi Garm Spa, a vast sanatorium built into the side of a mountain above natural hot springs – like a James Bond villain’s lair meets the hotel from The Shining! A true relic of the USSR days.
      • A full range of ‘treatments’ can be enjoyed here, from radon baths to massages, leeches to swimming, or simply explore and relax. This is one of those great Soviet-era buildings that are hard to find these days, you will love this experience!

      Overnight | Khoja Obi Garm Spa - the rooms in this Soviet monster are a little more basic and older, although warm and comfortable. Use of many of the health facilities is included whilst also giving us to opportunity to explore this surreal complex late into the evening (if you’re brave enough.)

    5. Monday April 20th

      AM

       

       

      • We begin with a long drive from the health resort over mountain roads out across the Fan Mountains working our way up through the ‘Tunnel of Death’ – an Iranian-built long road tunnel burrowing under he mountains, the nickname overstates the danger but it can be nerve-wracking although it is very safe in reality. We stop along the way from breathtaking shots of this beautiful mountain range. Our destination is Panjikent. 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 historical 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.

      Overnight | Sugd Hotel - 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.

    6. Tuesday April 21st

      AM

       

       

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

       PM

      • We drive along small mountain roads past local villages, abandoned factories, and scenic and stunning views. Eventually arriving at the remote and secluded Iskanderkul (Alexander Lake – named for Alexander the Great). We have the option of hiking or relaxing by its beautiful shores. The lake sits at an altitude of 2195 metres; a stunning alpine body of water.

      Overnight | Alexander Lake Chalets - we stay in small holiday cabins on the shores of this amazing lake, for those who wish to you may watch sunset and sunrise (recommended!)

    7. Wednesday April 22nd

      AM

      • After a relaxing morning for photos, further hiking or sleeping, we return over the mountain pass to Dushanbe.

      PM

      • We should arrive at the capital mid-afternoon. 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.

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

       

    8. Thursday April 23rd

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

       

      Extensions are possible – please speak to your Tour Manager to discuss options.

  • Extras

    • Insurance (7 to 9 nights)

      We're unable to take you on one of our tours if you do not have medical insurance that covers the destination in question. Issues of isolation and infrastructure where we go mean it would be irresponsible of us to do so. We can provide this if you do not have it — or you can use your own.

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • Airport pick up and drop off to and from Vatan, Dushanbe
    • Hotel accommodation
    • A Koryo Tours leader, Tajiki tour guides and a driver per group
    • Warm-up in Dushanbe's no 1 Gym pre-marathon
    • All transportation in the country All entry fees for attractions and sights
    • All meals on the tour

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Flights to Tajikistan
    • Single room supplement (unless otherwise specified, US $50 per night)
    • Spending money for drinks and souvenirs Tajikistan visa (visa fees vary at different embassies)
    • Tip for the guides (approx. US $15 per day)
    • We occasionally have the opportunity to visit a performance - this is to be paid on the spot

Please apply by 1st April, 2020.

April 29 - May 8 2020

Explore Kazakhstan | Nur-Sultan to Almaty (May)

Enigmatic Central
Asian Giant

Kazakhstan is where a vibrant multi-cultural society meets the dark legacy
of deportations, gulags, and nuclear weapons. Come with us and see all of
the above and much more!

From 2,100 USD per person

Please apply by 1st April, 2020.

Explore Kazakhstan | Nur-Sultan to Almaty (May)

Enigmatic Central
Asian Giant

Kazakhstan is where a vibrant multi-cultural society
meets the dark legacy of deportations, gulags, and
nuclear weapons. Come with us and see all of the above
and much more!

From 2,100 USD per person

  • Overall

    On this incredible 9-night adventure we will start in the new capital of Kazakhstan, Nur-Sultan (formerly 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 get to ground zero in ‘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 - Astana to Almaty May tour highlights, tour itinerary, transport options, DPRK tourist visa information, and extra add-ons.

    Highlights

    Nur-Sultan (Astana) - once the centre of the Virgin Lands campaign, now national capital

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

    Chagan – Abandoned long-range bomber base, and garrison town.

  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 10
    1. Wed 29th April

      Arrival Day

      • Flights to Nur-Sultan (airport code TSE) 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 30th April

      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 met with here.

      Overnight:

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

    3. Fri 1st 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:

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

    4. Sat 2nd May

      Kurchatov/Nuclear Test Epicentre

      • We arrive very early in the morning in Kurchatov and head for an early check-in at a local hotel 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 affect their inventions can have. Some machines from that time are displayed here too.
         
      • 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.
         
      • Our target is the Nuclear Epicentre - where the first Soviet Atomic Bomb was tested: Ground Zero. We stop at markers, increasingly-destroyed bunkers and towers, as we make our way to ground zero; the epicentre of this bang heard around the world. Radiation is only higher than normal in one spot and we provide protective gear of course.
         
      • We spend some time checking out more of the relics of this ground-breaking (literally) test before returning to the Kurchatov once more
      • 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 | Mayak Hotel – not named for the site of another nuclear disaster - see here. Mayak means ‘Beacon’ and was a common name for places and institutions in the USSR. This 1980s beauty belongs to the Kazakh Institute of Atomic Energy. Fans of the Soviet Aesthetic will adore this place!

    5. Sun 3rd 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 4th 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 wealth 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 5th 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

      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 6th 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 7th 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 8th 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 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 11th May. 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 sight - seeing 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 simon@koryogroup.com 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 April, 2020.

April 29 - May 16 2020

Kazakhstan And Turkmenistan Adventure

The Heart of
Central Asia

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

From 4,250 USD per person

Please apply by 1st April, 2020.

Kazakhstan And Turkmenistan Adventure

The Heart of
Central Asia

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

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 get to ground zero in ‘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. Wed 29th April

      Arrival Day

      • Flights to Nur-Sultan (airport code TSE) 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!

      Meals: Dinner

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

    2. Thurs 30th April

      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 met with here.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

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

    3. Fri 1st 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.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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

    4. Sat 2nd May

      Kurchatov/Nuclear Test Epicentre

      • We arrive very early in the morning in Kurchatov and head for an early check-in at a local hotel 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 affect their inventions can have. Some machines from that time are displayed here too.
         
      • 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.
         
      • Our target is the Nuclear Epicentre - where the first Soviet Atomic Bomb was tested: Ground Zero. We stop at markers, increasingly-destroyed bunkers and towers, as we make our way to ground zero; the epicentre of this bang heard around the world. Radiation is only higher than normal in one spot and we provide protective gear of course.
         
      • We spend some time checking out more of the relics of this ground-breaking (literally) test before returning to the Kurchatov once more.
         
      • 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.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

      Overnight: Mayak Hotel – not named for the site of another nuclear disaster - see here. Mayak means ‘Beacon’ and was a common name for places and institutions in the USSR. This 1980s beauty belongs to the Kazakh Institute of Atomic Energy. Fans of the Soviet Aesthetic will adore this place!

    5. Sun 3rd 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!

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

      Overnight: Mayak Hotel

    6. Mon 4th 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 wealth 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!

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

      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 5th 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.

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch

      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 6th 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.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

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

    9. Thurs 7th 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 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!

      Meals: Lunch

      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 8th 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 its of 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 of 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 center. 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. May 09 - Saturday

      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 center of Ashgabat this narrow park land 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 center 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, bed sheets, 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 marble-isation of the main city center. 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. May 10 - 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.
      • Free evening for a night out in the city.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat
    13. May 11 - Monday

      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. May 12 - 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 give advice on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.

    15. May 13 - 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.

    16. May 14 - Thursday

      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. May 15 - Friday

      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. May 16 - 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

    19. May 17 - Sunday

      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 rich@koryogroup.com 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 April, 2020.

May 9 - May 16 2020

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 5th April, 2020.

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 15 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 09 - 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 center. 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 10 - 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.
      • Free evening for a night out in the city

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat
    3. May 11 - Monday

      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.

    4. May 12 - 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 give advice on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast 
      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.

    5. May 13 - 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 14 - Thursday

      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 a relaxing evening before beginning the final day of this adventure!

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.
    7. May 15 - Friday

      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.
    8. May 16 - 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 17 - Sunday

      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 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 flights 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 acompanied by a western tour leader if there are over 5 passengers******

    HOW TO APPLY

    Please email Rich Beal at rich@koryogroup.com 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 traveler. 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 5th April, 2020.

June 30 - July 8 2020

Norilsk Tour: Forbidden Remotest Russia

Adventure in a forbidden part of
Remotest Russia - new and expanded
for 2020!

Koryo Tours' newest adventure - epic
journey to a unique and forbidden
place!

From 2,800 USD per person

Please apply by 30th April, 2020.

Tour full Tour Details

Norilsk Tour: Forbidden Remotest Russia

Adventure in a forbidden part of
Remotest Russia - new and expanded
for 2020!

Koryo Tours' newest adventure
- epic journey to a unique
and forbidden place!

From 2,800 USD per person

  • Overall

    Closed to outsiders since its foundation as a forced-labour nickel mining colony, Norilsk has since grown into an absolutely fascinating and utterly remote region of apocalyptic industrial landscapes, stunning natural beauty, a fascinating and hardy local population, and so much more for pioneering adventurers to discover – see this very remote and very special area with Koryo Tours!

    We start the tour in Igarka, an unknown and super-remote place. It is reachable only by a very rare flight and home to some fascinating museums. From here, we travel up to Norilsk by ship along the Yenisei River. 

    Norilsk is a closed city in the arctic circle, known for being the world's most polluted city and the base of the largest nickel mines in the world - but is so much more than this! We will also travel to Dudinka - Port settlement controlling access from the arctic to the Siberian interior, and Talnakh, a Fascinating town and the base of some of the dirtiest and most apocalyptic industry on the planet. Beautiful and terrifying all at once.

     

    Highlights

    • Explore remote Russia the only way possible
    • Norilsk - Closed city in the Arctic Circle
    • Entry to a closed and forbidden area - be one of the very few foreigners ever granted permission to visit this area, and see what life is like for those who inhabit these settlements - we guarantee you'll experience the unexpected and amazing!
  • Itinerary

    Briefing Day
    1. Tuesday June 30th

      Our epic adventure begins on arrival in Igarka (flights to here are only from Krasnoyarsk, we can assist in buying these tickets as well as any pre-tour accommodation or tour in Krasnoyarsk via our local partners, get in contact for more information on this). deep in the remote north of Russia. A tiny town known (if at all) for being the centre for gulag prisoners working on a never-completed railway project. This unlikely spot is where we begin this unlikely trip. We will have a walking tour of the town including the Museum of Polar Aviation to get us oriented and then some free time before we stay overnight in the local hotel

      Overnight: Igarka

    2. Wednesday July 1st

      We have a full day in Igarka as our onward transportation doesn't depart until the following day. So we will be led on further explorations in the morning until lunchtime in a local restaurant, then in the afternoon we will visit the award-winning Museum of Permafrost. Something crucial to any and all structures and indeed life itself in these regions. A free evening to explore and make the most of the time in this remote area follows, we depart the next day on a river cruise!

      Overnight: Igarka

    3. Thursday July 2nd

      We depart from Igarka heading north on a boat trip up the mighty Yenisei River. Our ship is the V. Chkalov, a comfortable vessel equipped with cabins, furnishings, bathrooms, and so on. We will ride in relative comfort (Especially considering where we are at this point!) and leave Igarka at 09:00. the views of the river along this route are known to be excellent and the remoteness of the journey emphasised by the experience. Lunch and Dinner will be served on the ship and we will make final arrival in the port city of Dudinka (part of the Norilsk area) at around 21:00. from there we disembark and check into our hotel for the night.

      So here we are in the Norilsk Area - being a closed region all foreigners need a special permit to enter this area (which has been closed to foreigners since 1937) and we will provide this. Dudinka was founded as a settlement in 1667, due to its position giving it access to both the interior of the Russian north as well as the river flowing from the arctic ocean down deep into Siberia. The modern town functions mostly as the site from where the main product of the region, nickel, is shipped to the outside world on barges. A somewhat sleepy but highly interesting settlement you can find sports facilities, shops, monuments, and much more here.

      Overnight: Dudinka

    4. Friday July 3rd

      Welcome to Norilsk! You need a special permit to enter this area (which has been closed to foreigners since 1937) and we will provide this.The first settlement we explore in this region is Dudinka, on the mighty Yenisei River. Dudinka was founded as a settlement in 1667, due to its position giving it access to both the interior of the Russian north as well as the river flowing from the arctic ocean down deep into Siberia. The modern town functions mostly as the site from where the main product of the region, nickel, is shipped to the outside world on barges. A somewhat sleepy but highly interesting settlement you can find sports facilities, shops, monuments, and much more here.

      We will visit some of the highlights of Dudinka, including the port area itself with its fascinating collection of aged cranes, the de rigueur Lenin statue, the city museum which contains fascinating exhibits of northern culture, indigenous peoples, and the often-tragic history of this area, War Memorials, and more! We’ll walk around the city centre and soak up the vibes too – prepare for an amazing first day! We will finish off by heading for the city of Norilsk, a 90 min drive away. We’ll make the time to stop at some of the outer mining settlements, amazing for photos and dotted with quirky sites such as an old plane used as a town marker in one case, as well as other scenic spots. On arrival in Norilsk, we will check into our hotel. Free time in the evening for dinner and evening exploring – remember it doesn’t get dark at all so keep an eye on the time if out on the town in the evening!

      Overnight: Norilsk

    5. Saturday July 4th

      After breakfast we begin a long walking tour of this most-amazing of cities. Leninsky Prospekt, the main street through the centre, is designed to evoke St. Petersburg’s Nevsky Prospekt (you have to squint a bit and use some imagination, but the similarity is there!), we’ll walk this street, see some monuments around the city, pass the World’s most northern Mosque, see good old Lenin again, stand on the foundation stone of the city, see the First House (built by prospectors surveying the area), a WW2 monument, the Zapolyanrnik recreation ground (with one of Russia’s omnipresent Pushkin parks nearby), and so much more too! We will stop for a hearty lunch, coffee shop break and so on but we will cover as much ground as possible and see as much of the city as we can. While Norilsk is not a huge place it is still big enough to contain many gems and a range of buildings. Of specific architectural interest are some of the older buildings (of which several are derelict now), as well as some of the utterly massive Soviet-era apartment buildings that stretch for enormous distances. As this is the arctic all buildings are on stilts above the permafrost, gas pipes run through the city also providing heating and energy, churches, shops, bars, restaurants, and much more exist here too – for the free time in the evening you’ll find much to do as well – it’s a surprisingly lively town for somewhere so remote and shrouded in mystery!

      Wear good shoes for this day – we will see and do a great deal and cover a long distance – at the end of the day you’ll have a much better sense of what it is like to live in such a city

      Overnight: Norilsk

    6. Sunday July 5th

      This morning we will take a drive to Staryy Gorod, the ‘Old Town’ in a place founded less than a century ago. This is the original mining settlement here, an area still used for mineral extraction as well as some of the administration of the mines. Here some buildings survive form the early days such as the first hospital, former gulag admin buildings and so on, most re-purposed and still in use for various reasons. The first mine can be seen and the difference between this simple wooden structure and the modern behemoths is stark. The first miners here didn’t come voluntarily; they were prisoners and victims of the Great Terror. Shipped here in their thousands and put to work in this unwelcoming environment very few of them ever left. To the memory of these unfortunates there is a Gulag Memorial; a tasteful small chapel and some evocative monuments in this area, we will visit these and have an explanation of how this place came to be and the dark history of the area.

      We’ll continue our drive around the old town and stop at some curios such as a small abandoned factory, a quirky marker stone, and a well-done Komsomol Monument, before crossing back to the ‘new’ town for lunch and the rest of the day at leisure (we can recommend some extra activities if you like, there is much more to see and do and areas of the city to explore)

      Overnight: Norilsk

    7. Monday July 6th

      There are in fact three settlements in the Norilsk area, and today we head for the third of these; the town of Talnakh. This is just a short distance from Norilsk but strangely seems to have a different micro-climate and general vibe too. We take a drive through a wooded area, doted with (some derelict, some still in use) sanitaria and dachas. We will stop at the bridge over the Norilskaya River and see some of the fishing and pleasure boat fleets that are moored here (also great for photos), and on arrival at the edge of the town of Talnakh will have a peek at their very own ski resort (one slope, no other real facilities, quite quirky). We’ll drove on to a hilltop viewpoint that will give us a good sense of the topography of the area and show how dominated by mines this part of the world is. There are many massive nickel mines surrounding the city and employing almost the entire labour force here. We’ll have a picnic on this hill and then descend to visit the massive abandoned Noriskgeologiya Research Facility site. This was a geological research and study centre which fell into disuse and lies derelict – locals use it for various things such as a base for free wood as well as a place to play a violent form of Russian paintball set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, you will see how very apt this is when you’re there!

      After exploring here we finally make our way into the town itself, past monuments to miners we will go to a central viewpoint to see what the settlement looks like from up close and above (there is a cliff in the middle of the place, allowing for amazing views), and then get down into the streets to see the local museum and have a walking tour of the central part. This town is much smaller than Norilsk but it is compact and easy to navigate, you’ll love it!

      A free evening follows (we can recommend interesting places to have some dinner and drinks)

      Overnight: Talnakh

    8. Tuesday July 7th

      As you know now, and as will be abundantly clear when we are there, nickel mining is the lifeblood of this entire area. Without nickel there would be no larger settlements here at all (and much less environmental damage too!). We will have the rare chance to visit one of the nickel mines here, to speak to workers and to find out what they do, where they come from, what it is like working in such a place, what nickel is and does, and so much more about the place; direct from the mouths of local people. The degree of access to the mine is not confirmed yet (don’t expect to be hacking away at the rock-face underground though!) but we will get as much as possible and see this heavy industry up close – essential to modern technological life, but disastrous for the environment and the health of many who work up close to it, this industry in many ways characterizes the harshness as well as the stark beauty and wonder of the environment and the place we have come to visit

      We head back to Norilsk city – on arrival checking back into our hotel and then you’re free for a final afternoon of exploration, souvenir shopping (yes there are some places to get local souvenirs – we will show you where), relaxing, sending postcards, walking around some of the remoter parts of town, whatever you like really! We will meet up for a group dinner at an excellent restaurant - a final dinner for this fast-paced but comprehensive and guaranteed life-changer of a trip!

      Overnight: Norilsk

    9. Wednesday July 8th

      Departure Day – Flights depart from Norilsk airport, again all are domestic flights within the Russian Federation. We arrange transfers to the airport and then you can head home or continue your adventures in the amazing and massive country. Let us know if we can be of any assistance in recommending further travels of course! This is the end of the adventure but the start of many years of amazing memories of this remarkable place!

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • Accommodation throughout the trip
    • Meals apart from during free time
    • Transportation by various means - boat, mini-bus, etc
    • Entry fees at attractions visited
    • Airport transfers Russian visa support (LOI)
    • Special permission to enter Norilsk area (required for all non-Russian visitors)
    • Guide and translation services throughout
    • An utterly amazing experience in a place still closed to outsiders - something to amaze/bore your friends about for many years!

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Flights to start and finish the tour - we can assist with these (flight from Krasnoyarsk to Igarka = approx $270)
    • Meal expenses during free time (approx 4 - 5, mostly evenings)
    • Russian visa fee (varies according to nationality and place of issue)
    • Single room accommodation (it is optional. $50 supplemental per person per night)
    • Tips for the local guides, drivers
    • Camera fees where charged (usually around $1 in museums)
    • Incidentals such as souvenirs, laundry, alcoholic drinks, phone calls, etc

Please apply by 30th April, 2020.

Tour full Contact us

July 18 - July 30 2020

Naadam Festival Mongolia Tour: Beyond the Steppe

Ulaanbaatar to Hovd and Bayan Olgii in far
western Mongolia and join the locals for Danshig
Naadam

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

From 2,900 USD per person

Please apply by 30th July, 2020.

Naadam Festival Mongolia Tour: Beyond the Steppe

Ulaanbaatar to Hovd and Bayan Olgii in far
western Mongolia and join the locals for Danshig
Naadam

Explore Mongolia’s Wild West over the Naadam
Festival. Meet Kazakh eagle hunters and hike
in the stunning Altai Mountains. 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.

    This year its an even more special event as we will be celebrating Danshig Naadam with the locals. Bigger prizes, bigger wrestlers and even more of a local experience.

    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, 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, stay with and learn from local Yak herders
    • Enjoy horseback riding
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 13
    1. Saturday 18th July

      Arrive in Ulaanbaatar

      • Upon landing in Ulaanbaatar, 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 6 pm hotel briefing.
         
      • Here we’ll give you an overview of the country and culture, along with some etiquette tips for the trip, especially for visiting the homes of the shamans, Kazakhs, and Tuvan people we’ll meet along the way.
         
      • Then, join us for another city walk after the briefing. Get a glimpse of Sükhbaatar Square, named after the revolutionary hero Damdinii Sükhbaatar; whose statue marks the place where his horse was seen urinating whilst on parade in 1921. The statues of Genghis Khan and 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 walk out and explore the city.

    2. Sunday 19th July

      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. We begin our drive as soon as we arrive out beyond Sagasi Village, near Khar Us Lake and the magnificent Altai Mountains. Bayan-Olgii (or Uglii) 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 largest ethnic minority; here we’ll learn about how nomadic life in the mountains differs from life on the steppe.
         
      • We’ll stop by mud brick winter houses that Kazakhs use when the temperature drops below minus-30, when even their felt-lined ger can’t keep out the cold. We can also ride horses and learn about eagle hunting – not what you think! Up here, food is scarce, and the locals need a little help. Most families keep their own golden eagles for hunting rabbit, hare, and even small deer; and they’re happy to show us how it’s done. 
         
      • Then we’ll pitch our tents next to the local families and share a traditional dinner.

      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. Monday 20th July

      Khurgan and Khoton Lakes

      • Today’s journey takes us through the western Mongolian wild lands, 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 and are surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
         
      • We set up camp on the shores of Khoton Lake, and spend the afternoon relaxing, exploring, or swimming in crystalline waters. After dinner, we meet the local Kazakh people and see the comparative affluence (by Mongolian standards) of lakeside Kazakhs, with their multiple gers and fertile land.

      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. Tuesday 21st July

      Khoton Lake

      • Today is our day of leisure. Experience a little more of local life or relax after our long journey to the beautiful, yet secluded part of the world.
         
      • Wake up early if you wish and you may help our host family to round the herd and do the milking. After breakfast, you have a chance to enjoy independent hiking in the surrounding hills or go for a dip in one the streams of the invigorating mountain river.
         
      • This afternoon we will take horses, for those that wish, riding into the hills surrounding the lake. This 3 hr return trek will take us past some ger encampments through woodland up to Mongolia’s largest waterfall. The waterfall itself is beautifully framed against the mountains.

      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. Wednesday 22nd July

      Tsagaan Gol and Shiveet Khairkhan Mountain

      • After breakfast we 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, 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 are 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 favorite 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 own 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, whilst listening to the roar of the white river.

    6. Thursday 23rd July

      Hike to 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. Our camp is a great starting point to other area hikes in one of the world’s best trekking areas. We’ll also meet another Tuvan family, who can teach us more about raising and training golden eagles.

      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. Friday 24th July

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

      1. Today we follow the camels back down to our camp in Tsagaan Gol. Passing through Tavan Bogd’s numerous valleys, we can see how the melting glacier transforms into the roaring White River. Upon arrival, we board our trucks once more as we drive on and continue the adventure. We will pass winter villages only cared for by a caretaker family, whom we will visit for tea.

      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. Saturday 25th July

      Drive through Bayan Olgii

      • Today 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. If we’re lucky we may also catch a local festival nestled in this mountainous region. 
      • This afternoon we will have time to explore the regional capital Olgii from its central square you may wish to visit its ageing museum, local market or just rest in one of the locally-owned coffee shops after snapping up a few souvenirs.

      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. Sunday 26th July

      Drive to Tolbo Lake

      • After stopping for a few snacks we make our journey to Tolbo Lake. The drive today is a smooth run on the sealed road. Tolbo has an altitude of 2,080 meters, it is famous not only for its remote beauty but 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 stop for photographs along the way, as nomads lead their herds across the vast lands, or make their way to the Naadam Festival, then we’ll spend the night in a lakeside tourist camp where you can swim or bathe in the clear waters, or just unwind and take in the mountain views.  There will be time for some optional hiking in the surrounding mountains which offer stunning views over the lake.

      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. Monday 27th July

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

      • This morning, after the brave amongst the group have taken a chilly early morning dip in the lake, its back into our Russian trucks for our drive to Hovd town. When we arrive in Hovd we will visit the local Uriankhai shaman and his family. Here we can 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. After our visit to the local shaman, we drive back to Hovd.
         
      • This afternoon we drive back to Hovd town where we will settle into our gers in preparation for tomorrows Naadam festival. We will have time to pay a visit to the local market and catch the last rush as people to prepare their best clothes for the big day.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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

    11. Tuesday 28th July

      Experience the local Mongolian Naadam Festival

      • We end our adventure with one of the world’s most fascinating festivals, an annual event that draws tribes from all over Mongolia to compete in traditional skills and feats of strength – especially wrestling, horse racing and archery. Here, families reconnect, share their news and favorite foods, have parties, and compete in games together. Naadam has become a world-famous tourist draw, but while Ulaanbaatar is filled with tour buses and day visitors, Hovd's event is still a local affair, virtually unchanged over generations. Hovd town is a rural town for many Mongolians gathering for this amazing event.
         
      • Here we’ll learn the secrets of Naadam, 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 to prevent future humiliation, outfits were altered – these tops have no secrets. 
         
      • Also, if you see a sumo-sized wrestler defeated by a delicate youth, don’t be surprised; the loser is probably from another area, and it’s disrespectful to beat others at their own Naadam.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Ger (yurt) Tourist Camp.

    12. Wednesday 29th July

      Fly to Ulaanbaatar

      • Leaving our horses, camels, and Russian jeeps 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 simply 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 we can see Mongolian home life away from the steppes.

      Meals | Breakfast, Dinner with city family

      Overnight | Hotel 9, Ulaanbaatar

    13. Thursday 30th 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 sight seeing
    • All taxes & entrance fees to protected areas
    • All camping equipment (not sleeping bags)
    • All tents are on a two persons 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 30th July, 2020.

July 30 - August 5 2020

The Gobi Explorer

Mongolia Gobi
Desert Explorer

This tour into the vast Gobi Desert offers
a great insight into local life, geology
and scenery.

From 1,600 USD per person

Please apply by 1st July, 2020.

The Gobi Explorer

Mongolia Gobi
Desert Explorer

This tour into the vast Gobi
Desert offers a great insight
into local life, geology and
scenery.

From 1,600 USD per person

  • Overall

    A short adventure for those who wish to see the great Gobi Desert in a short space of time. During this short but intensive tour, we delve deep into the Gobi Desert and become true explorers. Our first stop is at Mandalagovi.

    This desert town was once home to factories during the Soviet Union period. Heading further south, we will check out the Yol Am Valley. This is located in the Gurvan Saikhan Mountain range. Before setting off on our hike, we will pay a visit to the small local natural history museum which includes strange exhibits and 10 million-year-old dinosaur eggs. During this Gobi Desert tour, we also visit the Khongor Sand Dunes, also known as the ‘Singing Dunes’ for the eerie noise they make when swept by the wind, as well as visiting Bayanzag.

    This is otherwise known as ‘Flaming Cliff’s due to the rich red colouration of the clays and rocks which have been pushed up to form this landscape. All this, whilst checking out the herds of camels as we go, hiking through untouched and unexplored areas, enjoying breathtaking sunrises, and experiencing life in a Mongolian tent/Mongolia Ger.

    Tour leader Rich Beal has 15 years of experience leading tours to Mongolia, including remote areas of Mongolia’s far west and Gobi Desert. If you’re looking for an even more unique experience, head to Mongolia for the Naadam Festival which directly precedes this Gobi Desert Explorer Tour.

    See below for the Gobi Explorer Tour highlights, itinerary, and notes.

    Highlights

    • The Gobi desert, one of Mongolia's must-see locations - enjoy the peace and tranquillity in this rugged yet beautiful terrain
    • Visit the awe-inspiring Khongor Sand Dunes
    • Hike through the exciting Vulture Gorge Visit Bayanzag this once home of dinosaurs such as the T-rex is now their encased in its beautiful red cliffs.
  • Itinerary

    Briefing Day
    1. July 29th Wednesday

      Ulaanbaatar

      PM

      All the passengers joining this tour will be met at the airport and taken to the group hotel this evening, we will then join together as a group for a Pre-Tour Briefing followed by a Mongolian BBQ meal. Those not feeling too jet-lagged can join us in one of UB’s famous bars.

      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 walk out and explore the city.
    2. Thursday 30th July

      Into the Gobi Desert

      • We start our adventure early as we have a long drive south towards the Gobi Desert. On the journey, we will see the lush green rolling hills of UB open up to the semi-arid middle Gobi region.
         
      • For lunch, we will stop at a local restaurant in the regional capital Mandalagovi.  This desert town was once home to factories during the Soviet Union period and now survives mostly on farming and the local farming college. 
         
      • Continuing the drive southwards we see more signs of desertification, as well as herds of camels roaming the desolate desert plains.
         
      • Just as we cross from the Middle Gobi Region to the south, we turn to our destination for today - the White Stupa Cliffs, a rocky area of Tsagaan Suvarga National Park. The White Stupa Cliffs are so named as this massive feature is said from a distance to resemble a deserted city surrounded by crumbling white pagodas. In truth, its 60 meter high cliffs have been eroded by the winds and rain over 10 million years.  

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist Ger Camp. We stay in tourist gers out in this desert region we have access to the restaurant area as well as bathroom facilities with hot showers and western style toilets.

    3. Friday 31st July

      • Those who wish to wake up early enough, you will be able to catch a glimpse of sunrise over the surrounding desert.
         
      • After breakfast, we depart the Ger camp and make our bumpy drive back to the main road continuing south to the city of Dalanzadgad. This is our next regional capital at the heart of the South Gobi Province. We will check into our Ger camp, one of the best in the area where we will also eat lunch. 
         
      • After finishing lunch, we will have a short drive to the deep and narrow Yol Am Valley, which is located in the Gurvan Saikhan Mountain range southern Mongolia. Before we set off on our hike, we will pay a visit to the small local natural history museum, this quirky museum has some strange exhibits along with some 10 million-year-old dinosaur eggs.
         
      • We will then hike for around 2 ½ hrs through the beautiful Yol Valley. If we’re lucky, we'll see some of the local wildlife as well as catching a glimpse of the famous ice field, which is slowly disappearing. 

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist Ger Camp. We stay in tourist Gers this is one of the best camps in the area and its lovely location means its great for relaxing.

    4. Saturday 1st August

      • After a big breakfast, we set out off on the road again as we head deeper into the clutches of the Gobi desert. After a brief stop for fuel, it's off-road as we make our way to the Khongor Sand Dunes. These dunes are also known as the Singing dunes, due to the eerie noise the sand makes when swept by the wind. The dunes stretch from the Gobi all the way to the Altai Mountain Range some 180 km away.
         
      • We arrive in time for our afternoon tea with a local nomadic family. When the heat of the afternoon has passed, we start our late afternoon camel riding to the base of the highest dunes. For those that can hike to the top of the largest dune, this affords us breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
         
      • After this, we return to our dessert ger camp for a nice meal and the chance to enjoy a drink looking out over a Gobi sunset.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist Ger Camp  We stay in tourist gers. This camp is another of the best camps in the area.

    5. Sunday 2nd August 

      • Today we will drive to Bayanzag, which bizarrely translates as ‘rich in saxual scrubs', but its other name 'the Red Flaming Cliffs' is more preferable. This area was first claimed to have been found in 1922 by Roy Chapman. It is known now for the discovery of many dinosaur fossils and as well as its beauty. It is named 'Flaming Cliffs' due to the rich red colouration of the clays and rocks which have been pushed up to form this landscape.
         
      • We will spend some time enjoying this Mongolian grand canyon, taking photos whilst enjoying some short hiking. If you are lucky and do discover a fossil, don't forget these must now be declared.
         
      • After we have enjoyed our time, its a short journey to our Ger camp where we can relax or return to the cliffs to enjoy the sunset.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist Ger camp

    6. Monday 3rd August

      • For those early risers today you may wish to awake early to view the changing colors one more time over the flaming cliffs sunrise is said to be the best time to see the true beauty of this famous land formation. Following breakfast we make our way across country continuing our journey onto Baga Gazriin Chuluu . The journey will take us across typical Gobi scrub transitioning into more traditional Mongolian steppe.
         
      • Baga Gazriin Chuluu is located at 1768 meters above sea level its name translates to 'rocks in a small place': in reality it is a red granite outcrop located in the center of Mongolian steepe, designated a national park home to 20 rare species of plant, Ibex, marmot and mountain sheep. This otherworldly site is not only great for hiking but seeing the rock images petroglyphs and burial mounds. is a Here gives us a great opportunity to visit to the local nomadic herders who live in this region making the Khangai their home. We will stop for tea and learn about the differences among the various Mongolia herders. For those whom want to experience more there will be the opportunity to travel further riding horses with the locals.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

       

      Overnight | Tourist Ger camp

    7. Tuesday 4th August

      • After breakfast we begin our final drive to Ulaanbaatar the tour isn't over just yet though as this region affords us a great opportunity to visit to the local nomadic herders who live in this area making the steepe their home. We will stop for tea and learn about the differences among the various Mongolia herders.
         
      • Upon return to Ulaanbaatar time permitting you will be able to spend the afternoon exploring one of the museums or last minute shopping in the state department store.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Hotel in Ulaanbaatar.

    8. Wednesday 5th August

      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?

    INCLUDED

    • 2 nights hotel in Ulaanbaatar
    • Transportation in Japanese 4X4 airconditioned vehicles
    • 5 nights Ger camps
    • Entrance fees and national park taxes
    • All meals included
    • English speaking local guides
    • Western tour leader

    NOT INCLUDED

    • International flights
    • Any alcoholic beverages
    • Meals (specified)
    • Medical insurance
    • Visas (if needed)
    • Items of personal nature
  • Notes

    Please note! This tour has been designed to visit not only a few of the more remote areas but also those must see sites that are firmly on the tourist trail. Although with any tour to Mongolia there is still an element of 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 1st July, 2020.

August 1 - August 8/9 2020

Bhutan Highlights Tour

Bhutan Highlights

Bhutan Travel | A seven day adventure across Bhutan giving
a great insight into this remote and otherwise secluded
country

From 2,700 USD per person

Please apply by 1st July, 2020.

Bhutan Highlights Tour

Bhutan Highlights

Bhutan Travel | A seven day adventure
across Bhutan giving a great insight
into this remote and otherwise secluded
country

From 2,700 USD per person

  • Overall

    Our Bhutan highlights tour is designed by Koryo tours and its local partners to give you a brief but insightful look into the Bhutanese way of life. Join us on this exhilarating journey as we discover not only the untouched culture and tradition of Bhutan, but catch a glimpse of its unique and rich cultural heritage.

    Your Bhutan travel adventure will take you on a journey around the highlights of Bhutan, as well as to see some exclusive and unexplored areas of this mysterious country. This includes a trip to a local families house in Bhutan where we will enjoy a feel for local life, and a trip to a school in Bhutan to see the local Bhutanese children studying (or playing) hard. A tour to one of the worlds most unusual countries must strike first at its 50-year-old capital Thimphu, after landing in Paro Airport - Bhutan's only international airport and labelled as "the world's most dangerous flight landing". This vibrant young capital offers the old and the new. Enjoy a freshly brewed coffee whilst gazing at the red-robed monks mixing in with Bhutan's modern crowds with a snow-capped mountain background.

    Our Bhutan tours continue to the lush green valleys of Punakha and beyond to Phobjikha. Along the way, we'll visit homes, temples, a school and of course Bhutan's ultimate highlight; the Tiger's Nest Monastery. All the while travelling across the vast empty lands of this country surrounded by mountains and never-ending stunning landscapes. Due to Bhutan's tourism policy, there are very few tourists to the Kingdom of Bhutan every year.

    We take it one step further, visiting Bhutan on the offseason period where tourism in Bhutan is at its lowest. Enjoy the vast landscapes, history-rich sites and tranquil temples in peace!


    For more on Bhutan, visit out Bhutan Travel Guide page.
    10 Quick Facts About Bhutan
    How to Get to Bhutan, and Why You Should Visit Bhutan
    Bhutan Flag
    Bhutan Visa
    King & Queen of Bhutan

    Highlights

    • Tiger's Nest Monastery (Taktsang)
    • Explore the sites of Thimphu city Hiking in the stunning Phobjikha Valley
    • Visit a local Bhutanese school
    • Visit a traditional Bhutanese paper factory for the King Help prepare a meal for some of Bhutan's monks in one of the famous monasteries
  • Itinerary

    Briefing Day
    1. Saturday 1st August 2020 Paro - Thimphu

      Welcome to Bhutan

      The tour begins as you fly into Paro Airport; Bhutan’s only international airport. It's one of the world’s most challenging, known as "the world's most dangerous flight landing". If you are lucky, you will have a glorious view of the snow-capped Himalayas.

      After visa formalities and collection of baggage, you will be met as always by your Koryo staff and Bhutan tour guide who will be there to welcome you to this amazing country.

      Due to the mountainous terrain, the national airport is located in Paro. We will then drive to Thimphu the nation’s capital.  Along the way we will stop to view Tachog Monastery built in the 15th century by Thangthong Gyalpo, Popularly known as Lama Chazampa the Iron Bridge builder.

      • Thang Thong Gyalpo (1385 – 1464) was a Monk from Tibet who came to Bhutan in 1433 looking for Iron Ore. It is said that he built 50 - 108 bridges across Tibet and Bhutan, out of which 8 were built in Bhutan. His only surviving bridge here is located in Duksum. Interestingly he was also a physician, blacksmith, architect, and pioneering civil engineer. As well as being a reincarnation of Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (a Buddhist master from Nepal), he was also known as the Madman of the Empty Valley.

      Upon arrival into the capital we will take time to visit the:

      • Memorial Chorten, a monument dedicated to the Third King of Bhutan King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, for any visitor to Bhutan this is a must as his late majesty was responsible for not only moving the county forward to Democratization and modernization but allowing it to open up to foreign visitors. The Monument also contains some amazing statues and paintings which provide a very rare insight into Buddhist Philosophy.
      • As we continue with our visit we stop for the Weekend market located near the Wangchhu RiverThimphu’s weekend market is by far the largest domestic market for the farmers in Bhutan. Farmers come from all over the country to sell their farm products here, with its wide assortment of fresh, organic produce; the Farmer’s Market has become a favourite spot for not only the locals to gather but also a great location for people watching, photography or to submerge one’s self into local life.
      • Once we have checked into our hotel we will be off for our first group dinner and to mix it up with the locals.

       Meals: Lunch, Dinner.

    2. Sunday 2nd August 2020
      Thimphu city tour

      After our first hearty breakfast, we're straight out of our hotel for our tour around Thimphu the capital. Thimphu is located in the western central area of Bhutan and is now the largest city in this isolated country with a population of 115,000 people. Pre 1960, it was just a collection of small villages dotted across the valley. This was until the 3rd Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck moved the capital from Punakha to here.

      The first site to visit is one of the world’s largest Buddhist statues: 

      • Buddha Dordenma, this gigantic 52 meter statue is built in the form of the Shakyamuni (the Buddha). It was completed in 2015 celebrating the 60th anniversary of fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck. 
         
      • Changangkha Lhakhang. This amazing building is the oldest temple in the city. It was established in the 12th century. Its impressive fortress-like appearance atop a hilly ridge is a hum of activity as Locals come from all around to name their children and seek blessings from the protective deity Tamdrin.
         
      • Drubthob Gompa Nunnery, home to around 60 -70 Nuns, obvious by their short hair. These pillars within the community play a vital role in the religious affairs of the area. The whole area is a must for visitors and photographers as the building offers great views over the (Sangaygang) of Thimphu valley. 
         
      • Tashi Cho Dzong, the final visit for the day is the seat of Bhutan's government since 1968. We will be allowed to visit this extraordinary place after office hours. From here, you will also get a glimpse of the Palace of the present King and the Queen observed nestled in the grounds nearby this area photography not allowed.
      • Jungshi Paper factory, If you have ever wondered how paper is made then this is the factory for you, if you haven't it will still be an interesting visit. This factory makes traditional Bhutanese paper by boiling the bark from the Daphne bush. We will catch the whole production process from start to a product fit for a king, as this is where his highness own personnel paper is produced.
         
      • We finish our day by visiting the local art gallery and weaving centre at Chamzamtog.  

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

    3. Monday 3rd August 2020
       

      Thimphu – Punakha

       

      After another fine breakfast, we load our tour bus as we prepared to leave the capital heading to Punakha the former capital of Bhutan although not before stopping for a rather strange visit.

      • National Postal Museum, this unusual visit is located at the heart of Thimphu. At first glance, it's home to the history of the postal service in Bhutan. But after a second glance it also contains scented, talking, and musical stamps and for those that wish they will also add your own image to a stamp great for those postcards home. 

      As we drive onwards to Punakha, we stop for our many visits along the way.

      • Punakha Dzong (palace of great happiness or bliss), this imposing building was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It is located between two large rivers Pho Chu (Male River) and Mo Chu (Female River). For many years until the time of the second king, it served as the seat of the Government. Inside the building, there are many historical relics including materials captured during the battle with Tibet.
      • Not far from the palace is the Punakha Suspension bridge. One of the longest suspension bridges in Bhutan, a nail-biting 148m high above the Po Chhu River. This amazing bridge is made even more special as it is draped with prayer flags. The bridge connects the town of Punakha and Punakha Dzong.
      • We stop for another temple visit Chimi Lhakhang, built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley (The Divine Madman), in the year 1499. It is said that he subdued demons with his magical Thunderbolts and thus built the temple on site. This temple is worthy of a visit seeing the way lined with prayer flags placed there by many local ladies who visit in the hope of conceiving a child.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

    4. Tuesday 4th August 2020

      Punakha

       

      After breakfast, we head out for our hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, we will walk for around one hour uphill through rice terraces as we go stopping to admire stunning views and picnic next to the river nearby.

      • Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten is a newly built Stupa constructed at the bequest of her majesty the Queen Mother, Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck in 2004. This Chorten/ Stupa is unique in that it is not designed for community worship, educational or monastic purposes as with other Buddhist constructions.
        It is designed as a tool built by the Queen Mother for the protection of negative forces as well as to bring peace and harmony to all living beings. Aside from its design and function, the views from the top over the surrounding countryside are jaw-dropping and well worth the hike to the top.
      • Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup nunnery is located on top of a hill overlooking the magnificent Punakha, Toebesa and Wangduephodrang valleys. For many, the temple is a true depiction of Bhutanese construction style expressing rich traditional values dating back to centuries.
        As we drive up the winding road, beautiful flowers line the way. The complex is home to a large bronze sculpture of Avalokiteshvara as well as housing other statues such as the 21 Taras, Padmasambhava, Buddha of Longevity, and Zhabdrung Ngawang. Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery was constructed as a college for training nuns giving us a great opportunity to talk with its local students about life here and the study and commitment needed in their everyday life.
      • This afternoon there is a Rafting Option. For those that wish we will raft on one of the rivers around Punakha. Depending on the weather it may be an exhilarating ride or a tame river relax. Both are enjoyable in the most beautiful area of Bhutan.

       Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

    5. Wednesday 5th August 2020

      Punakha- Phobjikha

       

      Today we are off and out early as we continue our adventure on to Phobjikha with much to see on the way.

      • The valley of Wangdiphodrang. This includes views of the Wangdiphodrang Dzong/ fortress (razed by fire in 2012), situated at the confluence of Mo Chu and Tang Chu rivers. It is now under renovation, originally built in 1638.
        This imposing construction stands guard over the surrounding valley. Passing through this beautiful valley we are rewarded with stunning views of traditional Bhutanese villages reminiscent of a long-ago national geographic article. This region is also well known for its craft people working with Bamboo and slate.
         
      • Gangtey nature trek, we take this well known hike for around 90 mins trekking through the Phobjikha Valley passing local villages as we go. We walk from a hilltop overlooking Gangtey Goemba, heading downhill through flower meadows to Semchubara village and from there through beautiful forests and into the open valley. After passing a Stupa and Khewa Lhakang (built in the 15th century by Tibetan sculptors), the trek ends with a visit to a local farm.
         
      • Gangteng Monastery, of course no visit to the Phobjikha valley is complete with out a visit to this amazing monastery. It is said to be so important that when the black necked cranes fliy into and out of the valley they will always circle it 3 times.
         
      • Tractor Ride, we'll meet one of the local famers riding his tractor through this beautiful valley to visit his livestock and perhaps see how he milks his herd.
      • After lunch we continue to explore the Phobjikha valley, even stopping by the roosting ground of the Rare Black-necked Cranes in winter and visit the Crane Information centre.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

    6. Thursday 6th August 2020

      Phobjikha to Paro

       

      Today we complete our circuit travelling back to Paro - although not before more adventures along the way.

      • Before we leave Gantey we have an appointment to join assembly at Bayta primary school, we have been invited to this amazing place by the school principle where we will help take an English class and deliver much needed supplies from Koryo tours. Bayta school was set up in 2005 with only 12 students in attendance now it has 186.
         
      • Dochula pass, from here we view the DrukWangyalChortens - these 108 Chortens (stupas) were built by the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, in the memory of the Bhutanese soldiers killed by Indian insurgents in 2003. If the weather is with us and the skies are clear, you can catch a glimpse of the beautiful Himalayas in their full glory and grandeur.
         
      • After lunch, we visit Ta Dzong (built in 1656 and renovated in 1968), an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Below the museum is the Paro Rimpung Dzong (Heap of Jewels). Built-in 1646, it was the centre of civil and religious authority in this valley. A short walk takes you to the base of the dzong and across a traditional cantilevered, covered bridge.
         
      • Srongsen Gampo was a Tibetan king who married the Chinese princess Wenchen in 641 this cemented Chinese Tibetan relations at that time. In 659 when Srongsen was a small boy, he decided to build 108 Temples in a single day these temples were to pin an evil ogress to the earth forever - so the story goes. 6 of these temples are known to lie in Bhutan. The most prominent of them are Jambay Lhakhang and Kichu Lhakhang in Paro. Kichu Lhakhang is said to hold the left foot of an Ogress and Jambay Lhakhang houses pins from her left knee both of which we will stop to visit.
      • Namgyal Artisanal Brewery, for those that have worked up a thirst this is a great place to visit as we see not only the brewing process of this microbrewery but sample some of its products.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

    7. Friday 7th August 2020

      (Paro) Hike to Tigers Nest

      This is our last full day of adventure but we have a real Bhutanese highlight ahead of us as today we hike to the Tigers nest a short drive takes us to Satsam Chorten.

      • Taktsang Monastery/Tiger's Nest is a prominent Himalayan temple complex located high on a cliff face. We will hike for around 2 hours following a trail through a beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with mosses and lichens, as we climb we pass fluttering prayer flags.
        Stopping for refreshments at the Taktsang Jakhang (cafeteria) we then walk a short distance until we finally see, Taktsang monastery. Built around Guru Rimpoche’s meditation cave in the 1684 by the Penlop of Paro Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgay, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff plunging 900 meters into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, flew here on the back of a flying tiger, hence the name.
      • For those who wish, prayer flags can be hoisted near the monastery, and you may offer your prayers inside the monastery.
      • After the hike, one may also try out the traditional stone bath considered by many - the best way to unwind after a long day in Bhutan. It is not only practised as a comforting soak but also a way to treat various alignments.
      • This evening over dinner we will also enjoy our final meal whilst watching a traditional show incorporating many of the mask dances.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

    8. Saturday 8th August 2020 

      Departure

       

       

       

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • Visas for Bhutan Western tour leader Royalty & Govt. Taxes Meals
    • [Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner]
    • 3-star Accommodation on twin sharing basis
    • All transportation within the country including airport transfers
    • English speaking, trained and experienced local guide
    • Entrance fees for Museums and Monuments
    • Sightseeing
    • Mineral water

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Travel and medical insurance
    • Single room supplement 60 USD per night
    • Payments for service provided on a personal basis
    • Cost for any services not mentioned in the "Cost Include head"
    • Cost incurred due to mishaps, strikes, political unrest etc
    • Personal expense in items such as laundry, soft drinks, souvenirs Incidentals, Portage, Bellboy charges
    • TIPS or any other services
    • Airfare for international flights to and from Bhutan
    • Optional rafting
  • Notes

    Bhutan Visa

    Visa Application to Bhutan For all travelling to Bhutan, your Bhutan visa must be applied for ahead of your travel plans through us and our partners in Bhutan. Once Koryo receives your tour booking and your tour payment is confirmed we will use the supporting documents provided to obtain your visa ready for your adventure!

    Bhutan Flight Information

    We will need information regarding your flight details upon booking. All customers will be met and transferred from the airport upon arrival as is the norm for any of our Koryo other destinations tours.

    Flights for Bhutan are two-fold. You will need to book a flight to any of the airports which either service Druk Airlines or Air Bhutan. These flights will then also need to be booked separately. The national airline ‘Drukair’ operates; New Delhi & Kolkata in India, Kathmandu-Nepal and Bangkok-Thailand and Singapore. There is a flight from Paro to Bangkok via Kolkata and Bangkok to Paro via Kolkata every day and there is a flight from Delhi to Paro via Kathmandu on Monday, Thursday & Saturday and Paro to Delhi via Kathmandu on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and fly back the same. There is a flight from Singapore to Paro via Kolkatta on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. We can be of assistance if you need help with your Druk air reservations.

    Bhutan Currency/Money in Bhutan

    All meals are included on your tour to Bhutan meaning that you only need spending money for souvenirs, drinks and tips etc which are not included in the trip cost. My recommendation would be to bring cash, as it is easily exchanged into local currency. ATMs are available in Thimphu and Paro but not other areas. The official currency of Bhutan is the Bhutanese Ngultrum (BTN). It is also possible to use Indian Rupee although larger denominations may be refused. Most major currencies can be exchanged at the airport on arrival but as with many countries in the region make sure you have only clean, crisp and undamaged notes. Read more on Bhutan currency and how much money to bring to Bhutan.

    Bhutan Suggested Packing

    Generally speaking, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible and make sure that you are able to carry and lift your own luggage and walk with it for short distances. Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient. A lockable bag or small padlock is useful as your luggage may get stowed separately and unattended while you travel. Bhutan Packing Essentials • Day pack: for carrying essentials when exploring destinations like water, camera, snacks, jacket, etc. • Lightweight clothing: A mixture of covering lightweight clothing and some warm layers are recommended. It is best to check the weather and seasonal information before travelling. Please also bring clothing that covers arms and pants/skirts that go past the knee for entry into local religious sites. • Temperatures can get very low overnight in some parts of Bhutan – be prepared for changes in temperature throughout the day. • Comfortable shoes for full-day walking/trekking. Closed-in shoes will help to protect your feet from cuts and scratches when walking through cities as well as bush/grasslands, and will also act as a barrier protection in rare cases against bites or stings. • Wind and waterproof jacket • Sun protection: hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and lip balm. In some areas, it will still be cold so something warm, such as a fleece, should be brought along. Bhutan Packing Recommended • Personal medical kit. We recommend you carry items such as mild pain killers, electrolytes, Band-Aids and insect repellent. • Water bottle. We recommend a 1.5-litre capacity for which we can provide potable water. Bottled water is also available but we prefer to use safe drinking water rather than contribute to polluting the environment. • Spare batteries - our trips have access to power to recharge batteries for phones and cameras most days, but we recommend you take spare batteries for your camera. • Travel adapter plug • Inner sleep sheet/bag for added comfort during overnight stays. • Money belt • Torch or flashlight • Hand sanitizer • Neck pillow for those long, bumpy drives Bhutan Packing Optional • Earplugs to guard against street noise and snorers. • A good book, a journal and music player for longer drives. • Images from home. During our trip, there will be many opportunities for you to meet and talk with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos/postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.

Please apply by 1st July, 2020.

August 15 - August 25 2020

The Pamir Highway Mountain Crossroads Tour

Travel across the
roof of the world !

This 10-night tour traces the route of the ancient Silk Road and the adventures of Marco Polo. Starting in the
capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, we will follow the M41 Pamir Highway to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, while passing
the most amazing mountain scenery.

From 2,700 USD per person

Please apply by 1st August, 2020.

The Pamir Highway Mountain Crossroads Tour

Travel across the
roof of the world !

This 10-night tour traces the route of the ancient Silk Road and the adventures
of Marco Polo. Starting in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, we will follow
the M41 Pamir Highway to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, while passing the most amazing
mountain scenery.

From 2,700 USD per person

  • Overall

    This tour starts in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. We visit the fascinating capital of Bishkek before flying to Osh. From here, we follow the route of the historical M41 Pamir Highway.

    We will cross into Tajikistan over 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 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 basically his third home (China and Mongolia being first and second)!

    Highlights

    • Bishkek to Dushanbe road trip of a life-time 
    • Kyrgyzstan & Tajikistan, drive next to the Afghanistan border
    • Osh bazaar an amazing produce market which gives us our first chance of taking photos of local life
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 11
    1. Saturday 15th August

      • After arrival in Biskek, Kyrgyzstan all group members will be met at the airport and be taken to the tour hotel. We will gather at 13:00 in the hotel reception for our tour briefing and orientation. We will start city tour of Bishkek the capital city of Kyrgyzstan.
         
      • We begin our visit by stopping at the Osh bazaar an amazing produce market which gives us our first chance of taking photos of local life. After experiencing the shopping with the locals we stop at the building of the National Philharmonic, this Soviet-style building is an imposing structure dominating the surrounding area. To Learn more about Kyrgyzstan a stop at the Central square Ala Too and the State Historical Museum is a must. Whilst a short tour of Oak Park gives us the chance to view some local sculptures as well as the Open-air art gallery. on route to our final stop, we will call at Victory Square the traditional state department store ZUM once located in most capital cities across the USSR.

      Meals: Lunch and dinner

      Overnight: 3-4 star hotel

    2. Sunday August 16th

      • After an early morning flight arriving in Osh, we will first drive to our hotel and check in before lunch.
         
      • In the afternoon, we will tour the city and visit the Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain and its various sites. This beautiful area has amazing views over Osh and was once a place of worship for Muslims as well as earlier pre-Islamic people. It is also one of Kyrgyzstan's first UNESCO listed sites.
         
      • At the top of the mountain, we will view the Babur's house, which is now a mosque. The history of this small building is fascinating, and we'll learn about the stories surrounding it. Other sites that we will visit on the mountain are the Tahti Suleiman Mosque, a cave complex and the Museum of Suleiman.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and dinner.

      Overnight | The Classic hotel: this aptly named hotel is conveniently located in the heart of this thriving city within walking distance of some of the main city sites.

    3. Monday August 17th

      • This morning we visit the Jaima Bazaar, an amazing market that is one of the largest in Central Asia and sells everything you could possibly need and a lot you wouldn’t! Locals say Jaima Bazaar has been in existence for over 2000 years. We will have some time to explore the stalls and see trade being conducted from the backs of old shipping containers and the remains of Soviet-era trucks. Practice your haggling skills before lunch.
         
      • This afternoon we begin our adventure with a drive to the village of Sary-Tash through the high Taldyk Pass. This road was constructed between 1930 and 1932, and offers some grand views as we snake up over 3615 meters.
         
      • After our first day of driving we stay in this remote village with a population of only 1500 hardy souls. This backwater is surrounded by high mountains, seemingly cut off from the world outside.

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Overnight | Sary Tosh(village) guest house: Along the route this accommodation is a real mix of local homestay and traditional-style guest house.

       

       

    4. Tuesday August 18th

      • After an early start we leave heading out back onto the highway, driving up through the Kyzyl Art border point up to 4,280 m. We say goodbye to our Kyrgyz guides and drivers and greet our Tajik hosts at the Kizil Art border point. The stark landscape on our route will make for some great photography as we make stops along the way. We are now in the Republic of Tajikistan!
         
      • After lunch we continue on to Karakul Lake. This high altitude lake was formed millions of years ago after a meteorite impact. We will stop here to enjoy the stunning views of the lake with the snow-capped Lenin Peak (which reaches 7134m, but is considered one of the easiest 7000m peaks in the world to climb) as its backdrop.
         
      • We drive upwards over the 4650m Ak-Baital Pass, the highest point on the M41 (Pamir) highway. In Tajikistan it is said that you are closest to the moon here, not only for the height of the place, but also due to the scenery looking like a lunar landscape. We eventually arrive in Murgab — formerly known as the Pamirsky Post, which was founded by the Russians in 1893 as their most advanced military outpost and remains the highest town in Tajikistan at 3,618 metres. The town is now home to around 4000 inhabitants. In Murgab, we will pay an afternoon visit to the local bazaar, the nearby Lenin statue and some Soviet reliefs.
         
      • Before dinner we will stop by a local yak herder's house to see what life is like in these remote regions of the country as well as learning just one herds yak!

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Overnight | Hotel Pamir: in this small town the hotel Pamir may be basic but offers us hot showers and relatively comfortable beds. whilst nestling among a backdrop of mountains akin to a lunar landscape.

       

       

    5. Wednesday August 19th

      • Today we drive to Langar village, continuing along the Pamir highway over the Khargush Pass at 4344 meters, driving past mountain lakes and arid lunar landscapes. We will stop for photographs as we go.
         
      • The pass leads us out to the Wakhan Valley, which runs for about 350km sandwiched between the Pamir and the Karakorum mountain ranges. This valley supports around 12,000 inhabitants in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Along the route we will follow the Panj River as it flows along the border with Afghanistan. We will regularly stop to take photos of the beautiful landscapes; time permitting we will also view some ancient petroglyphs (rock carvings).
         
      • We will stay the night in Langar village, (not to be confused with the village of the same name just across the border in Afghanistan).

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Overnight | Local guesthouse

       

       

    6. Thursday August 20th

      • After breakfast and a short walk though the village, we continue along the Panj River and the border with Afghanistan following the Wakhan corridor.
         
      • We will stop at Vrang village to see Osorkhonai Abdullo Ansori and its museum. This once-important site is well worth the visit to view the ancient cave dwellings of Buddhist monks who lived here in the past, at the fringes of Buddhist civilisation.
         
      • As we continue onwards after lunch, we will tour the  Kahkaha Fortress — to view the remains of this 4th century A.D fortress. This once-great, clay-built fortification is said to be named after a legendary epic hero; a king of fire-worshippers. Its ruins now offer views of the surrounding countryside as well as a history lesson.
         
      • Our aim today is to make it to the town of Khorogh, the regional capital of the GBO area (Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region) with a population of 28,000. We will be able to squeeze in a chance to relax or soak in the outdoor Garm Chashma Hot Springs and the grave of Nosiri Khisrav Qabodieni.


      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Accommodation | Hotel LA'L: This newly built hotel offers us a welcome break on our journey, within a great setting and comfortable rooms. A little heavy on the decoration of carpets and rocks but it certainly has a quirky feel.

       

       

    7. Friday August 21st

      • We continue our journey along the Panj River bordering Afghanistan, following the route of the old Silk Road and tracing in the footsteps of explorers such as Marco Polo.
         
      • On our drive today we will visit the many small towns and villages that line this well-trodden path. In Rushan, Dekh, Amun, and Kevran we will visit local family homes and catch a glimpse of life in this remote corner of the world. Local people across this region are very friendly and welcoming. We will not be there to exoticise them but to interact, the 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!

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Overnight | Karon Palace hotel: A jewel in this interesting gateway town. This hotel looks out of place with its gold trim and blue shaded windows. Although with its soft beds, warm showers and clean rooms it offers a relaxing stay.

       

       

    8. Saturday August 22nd

      • As we continue to trace the Panj River, we eventually bid farewell to the Pamir territory and enter Khatlon Province - Located in the Southeast of the country 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 center of Khatlon province and 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).

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Overnight | Khatlon Hotel: This hotel offers us a hotel designed during the period of the Soviet Union. Giving us the chance to relax after our long day in a traditional soviet hotel.

    9. Sunday August 23rd

      • Today is our final drive on the M41 Pamir Highway as we drive to towards the national capital, Dushanbe. En route we will stop to see the amazing Khulbuk Fortress, built in the 9th - 12th centuries AD and once a governor's palace. The fortress has been shortlisted at UNESCO as a place of "outstanding universal value to the world".
         
      • Later, we will also stop to view Norak Basin - a large reservoir that was created in 1961 when the 300 meter Nurek Dam was constructed. The dam is currently the second highest in the world. Unfortunately, we cannot get right next to it, but we can view it from a distance.
         
      • We make our final leg driving into the Dushanbe city for a well-deserved rest! We'll have dinner, and afterwards will have the opportunity to have a much-needed drink in one of Dushanbe's bars – the first one is on us!

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

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

       

       

    10. Monday August 24th

      • This morning we begin our day with a city tour of Dushanbe. 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.

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      *Overnight | Hotel Vatan

       

    11. Tuesday August 25th

      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

       

      End of Tour

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • Airport pick up and drop at the start and end of tour
    • Half-day tour in Bishkek Internal flight from Bishkek to Osh
    • 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)
    • 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, 2020.

September 16 - September 25 2020

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. Come with us and see all of
the above and much more!

From 2,100 USD per person

Please apply by 1st August, 2020.

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. Come with us and see all of the above
and much more!

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 get to ground zero in ‘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 | Astana to Nur-Sultan May tour, or contact us for details on private tours.

    Scroll down for an overview of our Explore Kazakhstan - Astana to Almaty May 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. Wed 16th Sept

      Arrival Day

      • Flights to Nur-Sultan (airport code TSE) 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 17th Sept

      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. On this day we will get the chance to decide for ourselves!
         
      • 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. Fri 18th Sept

      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 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 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 19th Sept

      Kurchatov/Nuclear Test Epicentre

      • We arrive very early in the morning in Kurchatov and head for an early check-in at a local hotel 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 affect their inventions can have. Some machines from that time are displayed here too.
         
      • 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.
         
      • Our target is the Nuclear Epicentre - where the first Soviet Atomic Bomb was tested: Ground Zero. We stop at markers, increasingly-destroyed bunkers and towers, as we make our way to ground zero; the epicentre of this bang heard around the world. Radiation is only higher than normal in one spot and we provide protective gear of course.
         
      • We spend some time checking out more of the relics of this ground-breaking (literally) test before returning to the Kurchatov once more.
         
      • 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 | Mayak Hotel – not named for the site of another nuclear disaster - see here. Mayak means ‘Beacon’ and was a common name for places and institutions in the USSR. This 1980s beauty belongs to the Kazakh Institute of Atomic Energy. Fans of the Soviet Aesthetic will adore this place!

    5. Sun 20th Sept

      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 21st Sept

      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 wealth 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 22nd Sept

      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. Wed 23rd Sept

      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 24th Sept

      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 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. Fri 25th Sept

      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 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 simon@koryogroup.com 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 August, 2020.

September 26 - October 3 2020

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 14th August, 2020.

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 5 years (and to the rest of Central Asia twice as long!). 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 26th 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 27th September

      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 28th September

      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 29th September

      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 30th September
       

      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 1st 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 2nd 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 a last night out, if you’ve got the energy!

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner 

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.
    8. Saturday 3rd 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 4th 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 8PM - 9PM.
  • 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 rich@koryogroup.com 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 14th August, 2020.

March 18 - March 27 2021

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 2,200 USD per person

Please apply by 13th March, 2021.

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 2,200 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 horsemen 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 colossal 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 the country is basically 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 18 March

      Arrival day in Dushanbe

      AM

      • This morning is a free morning for settling in, exploring and acclimatizing whilst 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 large fort is said to date back to Cyrus the Great (600BC) and to have been captured 21 times by invading forces. Much of this area has been restored, but it has a lovely museum that offers a nice 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 interesting statue of Lenin

      Meals | Lunch and Welcome Dinner in Dushanbe.

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

    2. Friday 19 March

      Dushanbe City Tour

      AM

      • We begin our day with a morning walking 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 great views of Dushanbe. 
      • Rudaki & Somoni Avenues | The two main streets in Dushanbe 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 | A beautifully laid out park with a grand statue of the poet Rudaki, located opposite the brilliant national library building. 
      • Ismaili Somoni Monument | This amazing statue of the the ancient king stands on the former site of Lenin. it is said that Somoni's crown contains 10 kilograms of Tajik gold. 
      • 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, but it has now been remodelled as an entertainment facility for local people. now holding 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 20 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 the small village of Anzob, where we join our friends for some traditional Tajik hospitality at their home. For those whom 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 own 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 21 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! This 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 simply 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 event is in the throes of setting up watching the competitors arrive. We will stay until the end so as 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 22 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 vast sanatorium built into the side of a mountain above natural hot springs – like a James Bond villain’s lair meets the hotel from The Shining! A true 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. This is one of those great 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 is included whilst also giving us to opportunity to explore this surreal complex late into the evening (if you’re brave enough.)

       

       

    6. Tuesday 23 March 

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

      AM

      • This morning we bid farewell to our villains lair and drive onwards to the northern city of Khujand, passing over and 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 on 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 24 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 whilst 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 was erected on the Tomb of Muslihiddin Khudjandi the sixteenth century building allows us to learn a little more about Islam in central Asia whilst also marveling 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 1950's. This is a fantastic local curiosity.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. 

      Overnight | Local hotel.

    8. Thursday 25 March

      Drive to ancient Panjikent

      AM

      • Departing Khujand, we retrace some of our route 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 huge 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 historical 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 his travel stories of his visits to Europe. 

    9. Friday 26 March

      Return to Dushanbe

      AM

      • This morning we bid farewell to Panjikent but not before a stop as its interesting 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 27 March

      Departure day 

      • All group members will be taken to the airport for their individual 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 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)
    • 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

    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 but 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 makeup for a little discomfort though. Khoja Obi Gharm 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 various 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 spa was built by the Russians 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 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 somoni per hour. The Segafroid Café is about a 20 somoni taxi ride from the Hotel Lotus. Dushanbe has the world’s largest tea house is 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 13th March, 2021.

April 15 - April 22 2021

Run Dushanbe

Dushanbe International
Half Marathon Tour

7-night tour exploring unknown Tajikistan and run in the AIMS certified Dushanbe
Half Marathon. Marvel at its scenery, discover its history and meet the friendliest
people we know!

From 1,500 USD per person

Please apply by 1st April, 2021.

Run Dushanbe

Dushanbe International
Half Marathon Tour

7-night tour exploring unknown Tajikistan and run in
the AIMS certified Dushanbe Half Marathon. Marvel at
its scenery, discover its history and meet the friendliest
people we know!

From 1,500 USD per person

  • Overall

    Incredible, yet relatively unknown, Tajikistan is one of the most unique countries in the world.

    Sitting in Central Asia, it not only has a fascinating history as a former Soviet bloc country but the friendliest people you will ever meet and the most incredible breathtaking scenery.

    This tour will not only get you there to experience all of this, but to also join in the local Tajik celebrations for their 'Day of the City' running in the 2020 Dushanbe International Half Marathon - an AIMS certified race. Learn more about the marathon and Tajikistan at www.rundushanbe.com

    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 basically his third home (China and Mongolia being first and second)!

    Highlights

    • Participate in the little known Dushanbe half marathon, as the streets are lined with locals cheering you on
    • Explore the UNESCO-listed ruins of ancient Panjikent Journey across the beautiful snow-capped Fan mountains
    • Camp on the shores of stunning glacial Lake Alexander 
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 8
    1. Thursday April 15th

      AM

      • The tour group meets at 13.30 in the hotel reception for an orientation & introduction meeting.

      PM

      • Afternoon drive to Hissar Fortress. This large and impressive site is said to date back to the days of Cyrus the Great (around 600BC) and to have been captured 21 times by invading forces – making one question how effective a fortress it is!. Much of this area has been restored over the years and there is a lovely museum offering a nice introduction to the country and history- a great chance to learn about the country's history and catch up with local people who also visit the site.
         
      • Upon our return to Dushanbe we will stop by a local school to photograph an interesting statue of Lenin, a soviet remnant, and learn a bit about the educational system too

      Overnight | Hotel Vatan – newly built and with an excellent location. This comfortable hotel has beautiful rooms located on a designated floor with free laundry facilities, kitchen area, and reading room. Breakfast provided buffet style in the main restaurant area.

    2. Friday April 16th

      AM

      • We begin with a half-day walking tour of the sleepy capital of Dushanbe, including Victory Park, Rudaki Street, Central Park, Monument of Ismaili Somoni. We will also follow the route of the Dushanbe Marathon. Along this route we will learn about the development of the city over the years. From its ancient origins, to the Soviet-era (when it was called Frunze), to modern day Dushanbe

      PM

      • This afternoon is free for further exploration or for training for tomorrow’s big event, we have secured the use of Dushanbe’s premier gym should you wish to work out and get ready for the adventure ahead!

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

    3. Saturday April 17th

      AM

       

       

      • Today is our main event! We make an early start for this unique opportunity; The Dushanbe International Half Marathon! Running with local athletes and amateurs, winding through the city, a life-changing experience – medals and prizes for finishers and winners!

      PM

      • After the morning’s exertions you deserve some rest! Therefore the afternoon will be free for relaxation or for further exploration with your tour leader visiting the nearby local market for some local flavours and experiences.
      • We also expect celebrations in some local parks to mark the City Day Holiday. So we will find them and join in, the most welcoming people in the world will definitely show you a good time on this occasion – be ready for some socializing and great photo opportunities too!

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

    4. Sunday April 18th

      AM

       

       

      • The tour continues as we depart Dushanbe and follow the Varzob river into the mountains, driving up through the Varzob Gorge where we will stop on the way for photos of this scenic area. Our goal for this morning is the small village of Takob. Upon arrival we will hike for 30 minutes through this hamlet where we will be rewarded by a visit to a local family whose home has amazing views of the surrounding area

      PM

      • We will have lunch given to us in the local Tajik way; sitting on the floor. You will lose count of the number of courses!
      • We continue our drive through the mountains until we reach our destination;  the Khoja Obi Garm Spa, a vast sanatorium built into the side of a mountain above natural hot springs – like a James Bond villain’s lair meets the hotel from The Shining! A true relic of the USSR days.
      • A full range of ‘treatments’ can be enjoyed here, from radon baths to massages, leeches to swimming, or simply explore and relax. This is one of those great Soviet-era buildings that are hard to find these days, you will love this experience!

      Overnight | Khoja Obi Garm Spa - the rooms in this Soviet monster are a little more basic and older, although warm and comfortable. Use of many of the health facilities is included whilst also giving us to opportunity to explore this surreal complex late into the evening (if you’re brave enough.)

    5. Monday April 19th

      AM

       

       

      • We begin with a long drive from the health resort over mountain roads out across the Fan Mountains working our way up through the ‘Tunnel of Death’ – an Iranian-built long road tunnel burrowing under he mountains, the nickname overstates the danger but it can be nerve-wracking although it is very safe in reality. We stop along the way from breathtaking shots of this beautiful mountain range. Our destination is Panjikent. 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 historical 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.

      Overnight | Sugd Hotel - 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 his travel stories of his visits to Europe.

    6. Tuesday April 20th

      AM

       

       

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

       PM

      • We drive along small mountain roads past local villages, abandoned factories, and scenic and stunning views. Eventually arriving at the remote and secluded Iskanderkul (Alexander Lake – named for Alexander the Great). We have the option of hiking or relaxing by its beautiful shores. The lake sits at an altitude of 2195 metres; a stunning alpine body of water.

      Overnight | Alexander Lake Chalets - we stay in small holiday cabins on the shores of this amazing lake, for those whom wish to you may watch sunset and sunrise (recommended!)

    7. Wednesday April 21st

      AM

      • After a relaxing morning for photos, further hiking or sleeping, we return over the mountain pass to Dushanbe.

      PM

      • We should arrive into the capital mid afternoon. 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.

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

       

    8. Thursday April 22nd

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

       

      Extensions are possible – please speak to your Tour Manager to discuss options.

  • Extras

    • Insurance (7 to 9 nights)

      We're unable to take you on one of our tours if you do not have medical insurance that covers the destination in question. Issues of isolation and infrastructure where we go mean it would be irresponsible of us to do so. We can provide this if you do not have it — or you can use your own.

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • Airport pick up and drop off to and from Vatan, Dushanbe
    • Hotel accommodation
    • A Koryo Tours leader, Tajiki tour guides and a driver per group
    • Warm-up in Dushanbe's no 1 Gym pre-marathon
    • All transportation in the country All entry fees for attractions and sights
    • All meals on the tour

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Flights to Tajikistan
    • Single room supplement (unless otherwise specified, US $50 per night)
    • Spending money for drinks and souvenirs
    • Tajikistan visa (visa fees vary at different embassies) Tip for the guides (approx. US $15 per day)
    • We occasionally have the opportunity to visit a performance - this is to be paid on the spot

Please apply by 1st April, 2021.

April 15 - April 19 2021

Run Dushanbe Short tour

Dushanbe International
Half Marathon Short Tour

4 - night tour exploring Dushanbe and running in their AIMS certified Half
Marathon. Plus join in the local celebrations for the 10th anniversary
of the Day of the City!

From 1,200 USD per person

Please apply by 2nd April, 2021.

Run Dushanbe Short tour

Dushanbe International
Half Marathon Short Tour

4 - night tour exploring Dushanbe and running in
their AIMS certified Half Marathon. Plus join in
the local celebrations for the 10th anniversary
of the Day of the City!

From 1,200 USD per person

  • Overall

    Incredible, yet relatively unknown, Tajikistan is one of the most unique countries in the world.

    Sitting in Central Asia, it not only has a fascinating history as a former Soviet bloc country but the friendliest people you will ever meet and the most incredible breathtaking scenery.

    This tour will not only get you there to experience all of this, but to also join in the local Tajik celebrations for their 'Day of the City' running in the 2019 Dushanbe International Half Marathon - an AIMS certified race. Learn more about the marathon and Tajikistan at www.rundushanbe.com

    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 basically his third home (China and Mongolia being first and second)!

    Highlights

    • Participate in the little known Dushanbe half marathon, as the streets are lined with locals cheering you on
    • Get a massage at the surreal Soviet health spa of Khoja Obi Garm, which looks like something straight from a movie
    • A tour designed for those on a shorter time frame whom would still like to scratch the surface of this beautiful country
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 5
    1. Thursday April 15th

      AM

      • The tour group meets at 13.30 in the hotel reception for an orientation & introduction meeting.

      PM

      • Afternoon drive to Hissar Fortress. This large and impressive site is said to date back to the days of Cyrus the Great (around 600BC) and to have been captured 21 times by invading forces – making one question how effective a fortress it is!. Much of this area has been restored over the years and there is a lovely museum offering a nice introduction to the country and history- a great chance to learn about the country's history and catch up with local people who also visit the site.
         
      • Upon our return to Dushanbe we will stop by a local school to photograph an interesting statue of Lenin, a soviet remnant, and learn a bit about the educational system too

      Meals: Lunch, dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan – newly built and with an excellent location. This comfortable hotel has beautiful rooms located on a designated floor with free laundry facilities, kitchen area, and reading room. Breakfast provided buffet style in the main restaurant area.

    2. Friday, April 16th

      AM

      • We begin with a half-day walking tour of the sleepy capital of Dushanbe, including Victory Park, Rudaki Street, Central Park, Monument of Ismaili Somoni. We will also follow the route of the Dushanbe Marathon. Along this route, we will learn about the development of the city over the years. From its ancient origins to the Soviet-era (when it was called Frunze), to modern-day Dushanbe

      PM

      • This afternoon is free for further exploration or for training for tomorrow’s big event, we have secured the use of Dushanbe’s premier gym should you wish to work out and get ready for the adventure ahead!

      Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

    3. Saturday, April 17th

       

      AM

       

      • Today is our main event! We make an early start for this unique opportunity; The Dushanbe International Half Marathon! Running with local athletes and amateurs, winding through the city, a life-changing experience – medals and prizes for finishers and winners!

      PM

      • After the morning’s exertions, you deserve some rest! Therefore the afternoon will be free for relaxation or for further exploration with your tour leader visiting the nearby local market for some local flavours and experiences.
      • We also expect celebrations in some local parks to mark the City Day Holiday. So we will find them and join in, the most welcoming people in the world will definitely show you a good time on this occasion – be ready for some socializing and great photo opportunities too! Be prepared for Dancing and horse racing.  
      • Tonight we have a special invite to the City day celebrations to enjoy a show, dress smartly as there will be important guests.

      Meals: Breakfast and dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

    4. Sunday, April 18th 

       

       

      AM

      • The tour continues as we depart Dushanbe and follow the Varzob river into the mountains, driving up through the Varzob Gorge where we will stop on the way for photos of this scenic area. Our goal for this morning is the small village of Takob. Upon arrival, we will hike for 30 minutes through this hamlet where we will be rewarded by a visit to a local family whose home has amazing views of the surrounding area

      PM

      • We will have lunch given to us in the local Tajik way; sitting on the floor. You will lose count of the number of courses!
      • We continue our drive through the mountains until we reach our destination;  the Khoja Obi Garm Spa, a vast sanatorium built into the side of a mountain above natural hot springs – like a James Bond villain’s lair meets the hotel from The Shining! A true relic of the USSR days.
      • A full range of ‘treatments’ can be enjoyed here, from radon baths to massages, leeches to swimming, or simply explore and relax. This is one of those great Soviet-era buildings that are hard to find these days, you will love this experience!
      • After dinner, you will be taken back to Dushanbe ready for your final night.

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

    5. Monday April 19th

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

       

      Extensions are possible – please speak to your Tour Manager to discuss options.

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • Airport pick up and drop off to and from Vatan, Dushanbe
    • Hotel accommodation
    • A Koryo Tours leader, Tajiki tour guides and a driver per group
    • Marathon Entry Fee
    • Warm-up in Dushanbe's no 1 Gym pre-marathon
    • All transportation in the country All entry fees for attractions and sights
    • Meals where listed

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Flights to Tajikistan
    • Single room supplement (unless otherwise specified, US $50 per night)
    • Spending money for drinks and souvenirs
    • Tajikistan visa (visa fees vary at different embassies)
    • Tip for the guides, drivers, porters and local crew ( US $ 70 for the tour)
    • We occasionally have the opportunity to visit a performance - this is to be paid on the spot

Please apply by 2nd April, 2021.

May 15 - May 22 2021

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 10th April, 2021.

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 15 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 15 - 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 center. 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 16 - 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.
      • Free evening for a night out in the city

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat
    3. May 17 - Monday

      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.

    4. May 18 - 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 give advice on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast 
      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.

    5. May 19 - 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 20 - Thursday

      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.
    7. May 21 - Friday

      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.
    8. May 22 - 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 23 - Sunday

      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 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

    HOW TO APPLY

    Please email Rich Beal at rich@koryogroup.com 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 10th April, 2021.

August 21 - August 31 2021

The Pamir Highway Mountain Crossroads Tour

Travel across the
roof of the world !

This 10-night tour traces the route of the ancient Silk Road and the adventures of Marco Polo. Starting in the
capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, we will follow the M41 Pamir Highway to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, while passing
the most amazing mountain scenery.

From 2,700 USD per person

Please apply by 1st August, 2021.

The Pamir Highway Mountain Crossroads Tour

Travel across the
roof of the world !

This 10-night tour traces the route of the ancient Silk Road and the adventures
of Marco Polo. Starting in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, we will follow
the M41 Pamir Highway to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, while passing the most amazing
mountain scenery.

From 2,700 USD per person

  • Overall

    This tour starts in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. We visit the fascinating capital of Bishkek before flying to Osh. From here, we follow the route of the historical M41 Pamir Highway.

    We will cross into Tajikistan over 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 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 basically his third home (China and Mongolia being first and second)!

    Highlights

    • Bishkek to Dushanbe road trip of a life-time 
    • Kyrgyzstan & Tajikistan, drive next to the Afghanistan border
    • Osh bazaar an amazing produce market which gives us our first chance of taking photos of local life

     

  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 11
    1. Saturday 21st August

      After arrival in Biskek, Kyrgyzstan all group members will be met at the airport and be taken to the tour hotel. We will gather at 13:00 in the hotel reception for our tour briefing and orientation. We will start city tour of Bishkek the capital city of Kyrgyzstan.

       

      • We begin our visit by stopping at the Osh bazaar an amazing produce market which gives us our first chance of taking photos of local life. After experiencing the shopping with the locals we stop at the building of the National Philharmonic, this Soviet-style building is an imposing structure dominating the surrounding area. To learn more about Kyrgyzstan a stop at the Central square Ala Too and the State Historical Museum is a must. Whilst a short tour of Oak Park gives us the chance to view some local sculptures as well as the Open-air art gallery. on route to our final stop, we will call at Victory Square the traditional state department store ZUM once located in most capital cities across the USSR.

      Meals: Lunch and dinner.

      Overnight: 3-4 star hotel

    2. Sunday 22nd August

      • After an early morning flight arriving in Osh, we will first drive to our hotel and check-in before lunch.
         
      • In the afternoon, we will tour the city and visit the Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain and its various sites. This beautiful area has amazing views over Osh and was once a place of worship for Muslims as well as earlier pre-Islamic people. It is also one of Kyrgyzstan's first UNESCO listed sites.
         
      • At the top of the mountain, we will view the Babur's house, which is now a mosque. The history of this small building is fascinating, and we'll learn about the stories surrounding it. Other sites that we will visit on the mountain are the Tahti Suleiman Mosque, a cave complex and the Museum of Suleiman.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and dinner.

      Overnight | The Classic hotel: this aptly named hotel is conveniently located in the heart of this thriving city within walking distance of some of the main city sites.

    3. Monday 23rd August

      • This morning we visit the Jaima Bazaar, an amazing market that is one of the largest in Central Asia and sells everything you could possibly need and a lot you wouldn’t! Locals say Jaima Bazaar has been in existence for over 2000 years. We will have some time to explore the stalls and see trade being conducted from the backs of old shipping containers and the remains of Soviet-era trucks. Practice your haggling skills before lunch.
         
      • This afternoon we begin our adventure with a drive to the village of Sary-Tash through the high Taldyk Pass. This road was constructed between 1930 and 1932, and offers some grand views as we snake up over 3615 meters.
         
      • After our first day of driving, we stay in this remote village with a population of only 1500 hardy souls. This backwater is surrounded by high mountains, seemingly cut off from the world outside.

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Overnight | Sary Tosh(village) guest house: Along the route this accommodation is a real mix of local homestay and traditional-style guest house.

       

       

    4. Tuesday 24th August

      • After an early start we leave heading out back onto the highway, driving up through the Kyzyl Art border point up to 4,280 m. We say goodbye to our Kyrgyz guides and drivers and greet our Tajik hosts at the Kizil Art border point. The stark landscape on our route will make for some great photography as we make stops along the way. We are now in the Republic of Tajikistan!
         
      • After lunch we continue on to Karakul Lake. This high altitude lake was formed millions of years ago after a meteorite impact. We will stop here to enjoy the stunning views of the lake with the snow-capped Lenin Peak (which reaches 7134m, but is considered one of the easiest 7000m peaks in the world to climb) as its backdrop.
         
      • We drive upwards over the 4650m Ak-Baital Pass, the highest point on the M41 (Pamir) highway. In Tajikistan it is said that you are closest to the moon here, not only for the height of the place, but also due to the scenery looking like a lunar landscape. We eventually arrive in Murgab — formerly known as the Pamirsky Post, which was founded by the Russians in 1893 as their most advanced military outpost and remains the highest town in Tajikistan at 3,618 metres. The town is now home to around 4000 inhabitants. In Murgab, we will pay an afternoon visit to the local bazaar, the nearby Lenin statue and some Soviet reliefs.
         
      • Before dinner we will stop by a local yak herder's house to see what life is like in these remote regions of the country as well as learning just one herds yak!


      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Overnight | Hotel Pamir: in this small town the hotel Pamir may be basic but offers us hot showers and relatively comfortable beds. whilst nestling among a backdrop of mountains akin to a lunar landscape.

       

       

    5. Wednesday 25th August

      • Today we drive to Langar village, continuing along the Pamir highway over the Khargush Pass at 4344 meters, driving past mountain lakes and arid lunar landscapes. We will stop for photographs as we go.
         
      • The pass leads us out to the Wakhan Valley, which runs for about 350km sandwiched between the Pamir and the Karakorum mountain ranges. This valley supports around 12,000 inhabitants in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Along the route we will follow the Panj River as it flows along the border with Afghanistan. We will regularly stop to take photos of the beautiful landscapes; time permitting we will also view some ancient petroglyphs (rock carvings).
         
      • We will stay the night in Langar village, (not to be confused with the village of the same name just across the border in Afghanistan). 

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Overnight | Local guesthouse

       

       

    6. Thursday 26th August

      • After breakfast and a short walk though the village, we continue along the Panj River and the border with Afghanistan following the Wakhan corridor.
         
      • We will stop at Vrang village to see Osorkhonai Abdullo Ansori and its museum. This once-important site is well worth the visit to view the ancient cave dwellings of Buddhist monks who lived here in the past, at the fringes of Buddhist civilisation.
         
      • As we continue onwards after lunch, we will tour the  Kahkaha Fortress — to view the remains of this 4th century A.D fortress. This once-great, clay-built fortification is said to be named after a legendary epic hero; a king of fire-worshippers. Its ruins now offer views of the surrounding countryside as well as a history lesson.
         
      • Our aim today is to make it to the town of Khorogh, the regional capital of the GBO area (Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region) with a population of 28,000. We will be able to squeeze in a chance to relax or soak in the outdoor Garm Chashma Hot Springs and the grave of Nosiri Khisrav Qabodieni.

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Accommodation | Hotel LA'L: This newly built hotel offers us a welcome break on our journey, within a great setting and comfortable rooms. A little heavy on the decoration of carpets and rocks but it certainly has a quirky feel.

       

       

    7. Friday 27th August

      • We continue our journey along the Panj River bordering Afghanistan, following the route of the old Silk Road and tracing in the footsteps of explorers such as Marco Polo.
         
      • On our drive today we will visit the many small towns and villages that line this well trodden path. In Rushan, Dekh, Amun, and Kevran we will visit local family homes and catch a glimpse of life in this remote corner of the world. Local people across this region are very friendly and welcoming. We will not be there to exoticise them but to interact, the 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!

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Overnight: | Karon Palace hotel: A jewel in this interesting gateway town. This hotel looks out of place with its gold trim and blue shaded windows. Although with its soft beds, warm showers and clean rooms it offers a relaxing stay.

       

       

    8. Saturday 28th August

      • As we continue to trace the Panj River, we eventually bid farewell to the Pamir territory and enter Khatlon Province - Located in the Southeast of the country 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 center of Khatlon province and 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).

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Overnight | Khatlon Hotel: This hotel offers us a hotel designed during the period of the Soviet Union. Giving us the chance to relax after our long day in a traditional soviet hotel.

    9. Sunday 29th August

      • Today is our final drive on the M41 Pamir Highway as we drive to towards the national capital, Dushanbe. En route we will stop to see the amazing Khulbuk Fortress, built in the 9th - 12th centuries AD and once a governor's palace. The fortress has been shortlisted at UNESCO as a place of "outstanding universal value to the world".
         
      • Later, we will also stop to view Norak Basin - a large reservoir that was created in 1961 when the 300-meter Nurek Dam was constructed. The dam is currently the second-highest in the world. Unfortunately, we cannot get right next to it, but we can view it from a distance.
         
      • We make our final leg driving into the Dushanbe city for a well-deserved rest! We'll have dinner, and afterwards will have the opportunity to have a much-needed drink in one of Dushanbe's bars – the first one is on us!

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

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

       

       

    10. Monday 30th August

      • This morning we begin our day with a city tour of Dushanbe. 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.

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      *Overnight | Hotel Vatan

       

    11. Tuesday 31st 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

       

      End of Tour

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • Airport pick up and drop at the start and end of tour
    • Half-day tour in Bishkek Internal flight from Bishkek to Osh
    • 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, 2021.

October 2 - October 9 2021

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 2nd September, 2021.

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 5 years (and to the rest of Central Asia twice as long!). 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 2nd October

      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 3rd 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 4th 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 5th 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 6th 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 7th 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 8th 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 a last night out, if you’ve got the energy!

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner 

      Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn, Ashgabat.
    8. Saturday 9th 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 10th 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 8PM - 9PM.
  • 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 rich@koryogroup.com 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 2nd September, 2021.

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info@koryogroup.com | + 86 10 6416 7544
27 Bei Sanlitun Nan (East Courtyard).
Chaoyang District. Beijing 100027. P.R China

中国北京市朝阳区北三里屯南 27 号 (东侧院),
邮编:100027
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