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.

February 17 - February 24 2020

Lake Khuvsgul Ice Marathon and Mongolian Reindeer Tour

From Ulaanbaatar across the
snow-covered Mongolian Steppe

Run the Lake Khuvsgul Ice Marathon and experience
life among Mongolian reindeer herders in northern
Mongolia!

From 1,900 USD per person

Please apply by 1st February, 2020.

Lake Khuvsgul Ice Marathon and Mongolian Reindeer Tour

From Ulaanbaatar across the
snow-covered Mongolian Steppe

Run the Lake Khuvsgul Ice Marathon
and experience life among Mongolian
reindeer herders in northern Mongolia!

From 1,900 USD per person

  • Overall

    A unique 8-day winter adventure to run the Lake Khuvsgul Ice Marathon and experience life among Mongolian reindeer herders.

    We’ll travel from Ulaanbaatar across the snow-covered Mongolian Steppe, stopping in Soviet-era industrial towns and beautiful Buddhist monasteries, until we reach Khuvsgul National Park in the Taiga close, to the Russian border.

    In the far north, we’ll stay with Dukha (Tsaatan) herdsmen and their families to learn about the role of Mongolian reindeer in their traditional way of life, and take part in one of the world’s coldest marathons.

    Ice Marathon runners can join 10km, half marathon, or full marathon races across the frozen Khuvsgul Lake, then warm up in a cozy Mongolian 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.

    Want to add to your collection of bizarre and unique marathon runs? Join Koryo for the Pyongyang Marathon in North Korea on April 7 or the Dushanbe Half Marathon in Tajikistan on April 20.

    See below for the Ice Marathon and Mongolian Reindeer Tour highlights, itinerary, and notes.

    Highlights

    • Run in Mongolia's first Ice Marathon on frozen Khuvsgul Lake
    • Visit the north of Mongolia
    • Experience the culture of Mongolian reindeer herders and Ger living
    • Stop at Amarbayasgalant Monastery
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 8
    1. Monday 17th  February 

      Arrive in Ulaanbaatar

      When arriving into Ulaanbaatar (UB), all passengers will be met and taken to the group hotel.

      We meet early evening for a Pre-Tour Briefing followed by a group meal; those not feeling too jet-lagged can join us in one of UB’s famous bars.

      Meals | Dinner

      Overnight | Standard hotel; single room available
    2. Tuesday 18th February


      Flight to Moron and on to Khatgul

      This morning after breakfast we're up and out early as we board our flight and head to the city Moron. This small town is our gateway into the Khuvsgul National Park area and in particular the small lakeside hamlet of Khatgul, our base for the next few days.

      Upon arrival, we will sort into our ger before driving onto the frozen lake. Here we will travel our Ice Marathon Route as well as utilizing the local horse sleds. The traditional horse sled has been taxiing locals across the frozen lake long before mechanisation reached this part of the world. Khuvsgul Lake starts to freeze in late September/ early October and remains frozen until May. As we near our tented home, you will have one final chance to see the Marathon route ready for tomorrow’s chilly adventure.

      Meals |
      Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

      Overnight | Ger camp: Ger, or traditional Mongolian tent – the way most locals still do. This tourist ger camp is purpose built with a restaurant area. Although there is no running water in this region we have eco-toilets and a purpose built sauna. For those whom wish there are shower facilities only 5 minutes away in town. The ger may be a little chilly but our local hosts keep the fires regularly burning throughout the night.
    3. Wednesday 19th February

      Marathon Day


      Today is the day of the Mongolian Ice Marathon. You have the chance to run a 10km option, half marathon, or full marathon.

      The event will begin at 9 am near to the small harbor whose ships remain held within the icy clutches of the lake.

      For the 10km event and half marathon, there will be a heated ger at each finish line. Those who wish to complete the full event will run the return course.

      There will be Russian 4X4s on hand to help out as well as horse sleds to aid runners returning to the start point. For those who are not running, you can cheer at the start line along with the locals or even help at one of the drink stations supplying heated beverages to our runners.

      Upon completion of the run, all who wish will be taken back to our ger camp immediately for a hot sauna and well-deserved rest.

      This afternoon is free for relaxing or one final look at the lake before this evening’s dinner and celebration.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

      Overnight | Ger camp

    4. Thursday 20th February

      Travel to the Reindeer Herders.

      Today we leave the comfort of our ger as we drive into the Mongolian Taiga. The aim is to locate the local reindeer herders and spend some time learning about their fascinating existence. There are no roads and the drive will be long as we drive across the frozen lake and into heavily forested hills to the north of Khuvsgul. Be prepared for a bumpy yet amazing journey with cameras at the ready.

      Upon arrival, we will meet with Dukha herdsmen and their families. The Dukha way of life revolves entirely around the reindeer herd: their herd provides them with milk, cheese, and even transportation. The clothes they traditionally wear are made from reindeer hair. Reindeer dung fuels their stoves for heat and cooking whilst antlers are fashioned to make tools and other ceremonial items.

      After spending time with them we will bed down for the night in the traditional tepee. It is maybe not the most comfortable sleep, so there will be a ger available for those who need it.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

      Overnight | Ger camp/ Tepee

    5. Friday 21st February

      Return to Khatgul

      This morning after spending a little more time with our hosts we board our 4X4s and journey back towards our temporary home Khatgul.

      Along the way, we will certainly stop for more photos of the Taiga and frozen lake areas. We will see the different areas of the lake and our local guide will explain how the lake takes on its surprisingly diverse frozen forms. In places, we will see where the waves of the lake have been frozen holding their rippled form until the season's end.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

      Overnight | Ger camp

    6. Saturday 22nd February

      Drive to Erdenet city

      Today we bid farewell to our amazing hosts as we drive through Moron on our journey to Erdenet city. After an early start, we begin our adventure driving into the frozen Steppe of Mongolia. We will stop along the way to take photos of the magnificent scenery which appears to run endlessly into the distance. This 5-6 hr drive will take us into the stunning Mongolian countryside where rolling hills blanketed in snow offer vistas of unparalleled natural beauty.

      Erdenet was once known as 'Little Russia'. This relatively prosperous city has grown around Mongolia's largest copper mines (and the 4th largest mine in the world), which were once home to a large Russian population, although its numbers have declined in recent years since the mines have now become nationalized. on entering the city we will stop at the Communist Monument and the Karl Marx Mural along with a picture of Lenin.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

      Overnight | Standard 3*hotel; single room available


    7. Sunday 23rd February

      Return to Ulaanbaatar and visit Amarbayasgalant Monastery

      Upon leaving Erdenet we first drive to the picturesque Amarbayasgalant Monastery one of the three largest monastic centers in Mongolia, being one of the very few monasteries to have partly escaped destruction during the Stalinist purges in 1937. Located at the foot of Mount Büren-Khaan this beautiful yet remote temple offers us a great opportunity for photography before our drive onto Ulaanbaatar the worlds coldest capital.

      For those who want to see more, we can visit Gandantegchinlen Monastery, Ulaanbaatar’s largest Buddhist monastery, where we can see practicing monks and learn about the role of Mongolia’s largest religion.

      Then it’s back to the city center, where we’ll stop off for any last minute souvenir shopping 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. As we journey back to the hotel we will also be sure to stop at Sükhbaatar Square, the central square of UB.

      Tonight's farewell dinner will be a Mongolian BBQ.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

      Overnight | 3* hotel

    8. Monday 24th February

      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!

      Meals | Breakfast

  • What is / is not included?

    • Included
      English-speaking local guide
      Western tour leader
      All meals outside Ulaanbaatar
      Internal flights
      Horse riding
      All included sightseeing
      All taxes & entrance fees to protected areas
    • Not included
      Optional extra 1: + $550 Flight from Beijing to Ulan Bator, and return by train (subject to availability)
      Optional extra 2: + $650 Return flights Beijing–Ulan Bator and Ulan Bator–Beijing (subject to availability)
      Sleeping bags
      International flights
      Any alcoholic beverages
      Meals where specified
      Medical insurance.
      Visas if needed
      Items of personal nature
  • Notes

    We meet and say goodbye in Mongolia/Ulaanbaatar. You will need to make your own way to and from Ulaanbaatar.

    Please note!

    This tour has been specifically arranged to visit these areas and it may have elements of an expedition about it due to the nature and ruggedness of the terrain. As such any change in itinerary at the time cannot be helped. We will keep to the advertised itinerary as closely as possible, although please be aware that things are subject to change, especially if we encounter 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 February, 2020.

March 19 - March 28 2020

Tajikistan Buzkashi and Persian New Year Tour

Dushanbe to Ancient Sogdia
and the Fergana Valley

See the 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 9th March, 2020.

Tajikistan Buzkashi and Persian New Year Tour

Dushanbe to Ancient Sogdia
and the Fergana Valley

See the 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 see the Buzkashi(goat-pulling on horseback), 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 the Buzkashi. 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, and 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.
    • Drive through the infamous 5-km Anzob Tunnel.
    • 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.
    • Get a taste of Czarist Russia at the Arbob Palace, a recreation of St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace in the heart of Central Asia.
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 10
    1. Thursday 19 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 20 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 remodeled 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 21 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 22 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 23 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 24 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 25 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 26 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 27 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 28 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 make up 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 mountain scape. 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 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 9th 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 1,300 USD per person

Please apply by 17th 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 1,300 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 our 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
    • Get a massage at the surreal Soviet health spa of Khoja Obi Garm, which looks like something straight from a movie
  • 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 his 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 whom wish to you may watch sunset and sunrise (recommended!)

    7. Wednesday April 22nd
      • Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

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

    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 17th 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 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
    • Semipalatinsk – fascinating small city and once home to an exiled Dostoyevsky
    • Nuclear Polygon – USSR’s testing range for atmospheric and underground nukes
    • Chagan – Abandoned long-range bomber base, and garrison town
    • Kurchatov – Home of the bomb-boffins and Beria. Semi-abandoned these days
    • Karaganda – in the heart of Kazakhstan, also the heart of the old Central Asian Gulag system
    • Almaty – Serene and charming – the old capital nestled against the Tian Shan Mountains
  • 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.

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!

    Scroll down for an overview of the Turkmenistan Tour highlights, tour itinerary, transport options, Turkmenistan visa information, and extra add-ons.
    If dates don’t suit, check out our
    Turkmenistan tour in October
    , or contact us to organise a private tour.

    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 Fortess – 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 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 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 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.

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 tentsl, 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
    • Enjoy horseback riding
    • Stay with and learn from local Yak herders
  • 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

      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.

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 our 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)!

  • 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 home stay 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 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, 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
    • Semipalatinsk – fascinating small city and once home to an exiled Dostoyevsky
    • Nuclear Polygon – USSR’s testing range for atmospheric and underground nukes
    • Chagan – Abandoned long-range bomber base, and garrison town
    • Kurchatov – Home of the bomb-boffins and Beria. Semi-abandoned these days
    • Karaganda – in the heart of Kazakhstan, also the heart of the old Central Asian Gulag system
    • Almaty – Serene and charming – the old capital nestled against the Tian Shan Mountains
  • 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:

      On board 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 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 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 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 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!

    Scroll down for an overview of the Turkmenistan Tour highlights, tour itinerary, transport options, Turkmenistan visa information, and extra add-ons.
    If dates don’t suit, check out our
    Turkmenistan tour in May
    , or contact us to organise a private tour.

    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 Fortess – 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 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 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 14th August, 2020.

Latest news

New Year Celebrations Around The World

The new year holidays; eagerly anticipated for the whole year, and usually a large disappointment. Have you organised where to spend your New Year’s this year?

Read full story
See Blog

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
Download contact card