Central Asia Tours

Why should you choose Koryo Tours?

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

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Koryo Tours Central Asia Tours; With The Experts.

Extraordinary adventures to handpicked destinations that have captivated our hearts, and will yours, too.

Each tour has been inspired by our staff’s personal experiences with the country.

Our Central Asia tours are some of our favourites, yet often the least visited. This vast expanse of land is home to some of the most interesting hidden gems. Nestled in remote corners, they are often a logistical challenge and often too expensive to arrange independently. Relax as we meticulously handle all the details for you.

With decades years of experience in the Central Asia region, specially curated Koryo Tours Central Asia tours are truly like no other, helping you to immerse yourself in the captivating landscapes and cultures that define Central Asia.

Discover your next journey below. Reach out with any questions, and join us in the joy of introducing you to our friends, family, and the wonders of these incredible places.

Turkmenistan

Kazakhstan

Kyrgyzstan

Tajikistan

Uzbekistan

Join our mailing list to get alerts on new Central Asia tours and destinations, early-bird prices, discounts, and much more. 

Turkmenistan Darvaza Gas Crater

Tajikistan Mountains

Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan

Uzbekistan

August 2024 — 1 tour

August 17 - August 30 2024

The Pamir Highway Mountain Crossroads Tour

Travel across the roof of the world along the
Pamir Highway! A unique tour from Kyrgyzstan
to Tajikistan.

This 13-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 2900 USD per person

Please apply by 1st August, 2024.

The Pamir Highway Mountain Crossroads Tour

Travel across the roof of the world along the
Pamir Highway! A unique tour from Kyrgyzstan
to Tajikistan.

This 13-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 2900 USD per person

This tour is managed by...

Rich Beal

Rich Beal is our International Tours Manager.

Rich is one of our most experienced tour leaders. He has led tours worldwide since 2004, specialising in Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the surrounding area. Currently living in Mongolia, he leads multiple specialised trips annually and has over 20 years of experience running and designing tours of the region. 

  • Overall

    On this Tajikistan tour, you will start in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. In this fascinating capital, we'll immerse ourselves in its serene parks and vibrant streets, where the fusion of Persian and nomadic cultures creates a unique and captivating atmosphere. From here, we follow the route of the historical M41 Pamir Highway.

    Journeying along the Pamir Highway is truly an experience like no other. We'll drive through rugged terrain, where towering peaks and winding roads offer a glimpse into the untamed beauty of Central Asia. It is also otherwise known as the roof of the world and the world's second-highest 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.

    Our adventures will lead us ultimately to Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s lovely, laid-back capital.

    Throughout your tour in Tajikistan, our knowledgeable guides will accompany you and be at hand to provide local insight and knowledge on the region, its history, and traditions, sharing insights into the ancient Silk Road routes and enduring customs of its people. From the hospitality of Tajikistan to the lush landscapes of Kyrgyzstan, and everything in between. 

    ✍️ For more information on this tour, our experience, and what you can expect from this Pamir Highway Tour, see our blogs below. 

    High Pamirs Reading

    What's a Trip to the Pamir's Really Like?
    High Pamirs & the Kuhistani-Badakhshan Autonomous Region
    Towns & Villages on the M41
    Travelling the Pamir Highway

    Note: Due to the adventurous nature of this tour, this itinerary is subject to change depending on adverse weather conditions or other factors that are out of our control. It's all part of the adventure! 

    Highlights

    • Explore the highlights of the capitals of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
    • Follow the historic M41 Pamir Highway and see the most remote and dramatic scenery Tajikistan has to offer, passing lunar landscapes, ancient fortresses, and hot springs along our way .
    • Traverse the Wakhan Corridor and the Afghan Border.
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 14
    1. August 17 | Saturday

      Arrival Day

      Flights to Bishkek
      • Arrive at Bishkek Manas International Airport (FRU) from a handful of international destinations. All group members will be met at the airport and be taken to our hotel. The latest recommended arrival time is this morning.
         
      • We will gather at 13:00 in the hotel reception for our tour briefing and orientation.
      Bishkek City Tour
      • Osh Bazaar | We begin our visit by stopping at the Osh Bazaar. This is an amazing produce market which gives us our first chance to take photos of local life.
         
      • National Philharmonic | 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.
         
      • Ala-Too Square | The central square of Bishkek that was built in 1984 to commemorate the foundation of the Kirghiz SSR. A Lenin Statue stood on the square till 2003, then moved to a smaller park. In 2011 the statue of Manas, the legendary khagan of the Kyrgyz Khaganate took its place.
         
      • State Historical Museum | Opened in 1925, it follows the history of Kyrgyzstan and its area from the time when nomadic people lived here till the present days.
         
      • Oak Park | The city's oldest park where the trees are the same age as the city of Bishkek. It gives us the chance to view some local sculptures as well as the Open-air Art Gallery that was born in 1984 when works on the theme of 'Labor and Peace' were first installed.
         
      • Victory Square | Built in 1985 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War 2. It is where Victory Day celebrations take place each May 9th.
         
      • ZUM | Central Universal Department Store, once located in most capital cities across the USSR. It sells goods every department store would, but if you head up to the top floor you can browse Bishkek souvenirs as well as antiques from the Soviet period.

      Accommodation | 3-4 star hotel

      Included Meals | Lunch, Dinner

    2. August 18 | Sunday

      M41 Highway: Bishkek to Song Kul Lake

      • M41 Pamir Highway Begins! | This morning we'll begin our adventure along the M41 Pamir Highway, making our way out of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. We head south along this Soviet-era ribbon of tarmac.
         
      • Burana Tower | Making our way out of the city, we'll stop to visit the 12th-century Burana Tower. A fantastic example of classic architecture in Central Asia, and a handy detour on our way towards our next destination.
         
      • Song Kul Lake | Our next stop will be Song Kul Lake, a stunningly beautiful alpine lake nestled in the Naryn region of Kyrgyzstan. The lake is the second largest in the entire country. And the largest of Kyrgyzstan's freshwater lakes.

      Accommodation | Shoreside Yurt

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    3. August 19 | Monday

      M41 Highway: Song Kul Lake to Tash Rabat Silk Road

      • Moldo Ashuu Pass | This morning we'll be up bright and early as we head out from Song Kul Lake to reach Moldo Ashuu Pass. This drive will give us the chance to enjoy a pleasant drive, admiring the colourful mountains passing by.
         
      • Naryn City | Finally, we'll arrive in Naryn City where we'll stop for a bite to eat. Naryn City was established as a fortress city along one of the region's major Silk Road caravan routes. It has since grown to encompass over 40,000 people deep in the heart of central Kyrgyzstan.
         
      • Tash Rabat Silk Road | Having enjoyed a hearty Kyrgyz lunch, we're off again, heading towards the Tash Rabat Silk Road caravanserai. Once we arrive, we'll spend time touring this historical site, marvelling at the architecture and wonderous buildings which populated this centre for trading in everything from tea to silk.
         
      • Yurt Camp | Tonight we'll spend the night under canvas in a traditional Kyrgyz yurt, the famous design of Central Asian tent which serves as a semi-permanent home to the many nomads who live throughout the country.

      Accommodation | Kyrgyz Yurt

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    4. August 20 | Tuesday

      M41 Highway: Tash Rabat Silk Road to Kazarman

      • Leave Yurt Camp | Today we'll leave our Yurt camp and make our way back up the road towards Naryn City. Just passing by today, we'll continue through Naryn, making our way deeper and deeper into the mountainous core of the country.
         
      • Kazarman Village and Homestay | Our destination today is Kazarman Village. Today will be filled with progress on our expedition along the M41 highway. Leaving the comfortable flats in exchange for more and more beautiful mountain passes. Passing local yurts, shepherds tending their flocks, and locals going about their daily business, we'll finally arrive at our homestay accommodation in Kazarman.

      Accommodation | Local Homestay

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    5. August 21 | Wednesday

      M41 Highway: Kazarman to Osh

      • Kaldama Pass | Today, we will be traversing the incredible Kaldama Pass. Leaving our homestay, and saying a thankful goodbye to our hosts, we'll head out once again onto the road. Eventually, we will arrive at the Kaldama Pass, an incredible natural mountain pass that we'll have to drive through should we wish to arrive at our destination for today.
         
      • Osh | Finally, with a long drive under our belts, we'll pull into Osh, Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city. We will spend the night here.

      Accommodation | 3-4 star hotel

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    6. August 22 | Thursday

      Osh

      • Explore Osh | Today you will have a free morning to explore Osh. Discover its hidden secrets, tiny shops, and winding alleyways!
         
      • Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain | This beautiful area has fantastic 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.
         
      • Babur's House | Situated on the top of the mountain, the history of this small building is fascinating. We'll learn about the stories surrounding it.
         
      • Tahti Suleiman Mosque | A cave complex and the Museum of Suleiman.

      Accommodation | The Classic Hotel

      This aptly named hotel is conveniently located in the heart of this thriving city within walking distance of some of the central city sites.

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    7. August 23 | Friday

      M41 Highway: Osh to Sary Tash

      • Jaima Bazaar | A fantastic market that is one of the largest in Central Asia and sells everything you could 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.
         
      • Sary-Tash | 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.
         
      • Remote Village Stay | After our first day of driving, we stay in this remote village with a population of only 1500 hardy souls. High mountains surround this backwater settlement, seemingly cut off from the world outside.

      Accommodation | Sary Tash (village) Guest House

      Along the route, this accommodation is a real mix of local homestay and traditional-style guest houses.

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    8. August 24 | Saturday

      M41 Highway: Entry into Tajikistan and Ak-Baital Pass

      • Kyzyl Art Border Point | 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.
         
      • Entry into Tajikistan | We are now in the Republic of Tajikistan!
         
      • 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 as its backdrop. The 7134-meter-high Lenin Peak is considered to be one of the most accessible 7000-meter peaks in the World to climb.
         
      • Highest Point on the Pamir Highway | We drive upwards over the 4650-meter 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.
         
      • Murgab | We eventually arrive in Murgab. Formerly known as the Pamirsky Post, it was founded by the Russians in 1893 as their most advanced military outpost. It now remains the highest town in Tajikistan at 3,618 meters. This far-flung settlement 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.
         
      • Visit Local Herder's Home | Before dinner (time permitting), we will stop by a local herder's home to see what life is like in these remote regions.

      Accommodation | Hotel Pamir

      In this small town, the Hotel Pamir may be basic but offers us hot showers and relatively comfortable beds. Some facilities may be shared in this Soviet relic.

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    9. August 25 | Sunday

      M41 Highway: Murgab to Langar

      • 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.
         
      • Wakhan Valley | 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.
         
      • Afghanistan Border | 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).
         
      • Village Stay | We will stay the night in Langar village. (Not to be confused with the town of the same name just across the border in Afghanistan).

      Accommodation | Local guesthouse

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    10. August 26 | Monday

      M41 Highway: Langar to Khorogh

      • Wakhan Corridor | After breakfast and a short walk through the village, we continue along the Panj River and the border with Afghanistan following the Wakhan corridor.
         
      • Osorkhonai Abdullo Ansori | 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 civilization.
         
      • Kahkaha Fortress | This once-great, 4th-century clay-built fortification is said to be named after a legendary hero known as a king of fire-worshippers. Its ruins now offer views of the surrounding countryside with stunning vistas into neighboring Afghanistan.
         
      • Khorogh | 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.

      Accommodation | Hotel LA'L

      This newly built hotel offers us a welcome break on our journey, within a great setting and comfortable rooms.

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    11. August 27 | Tuesday

      M41 Highway: Khorog to Kalaikhum, along the Afghan Border

      • We continue our journey along the Panj River bordering Afghanistan. This follows the route of the old Silk Road and traces in the footsteps of explorers such as Marco Polo.
         
      • Small Towns, Villages, and Local Families | 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 friendly and welcoming. We will not be there to exoticize them but to interact. Hear what their lives are like, 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!

      Accommodation | Karon Palace Hotel

      A jewel in this delightful 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.

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    12. August 28 | Wednesday

      M41 Highway: Khataon Province to Dushanbe

      • Khatlon Province | 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 is one of the least visited parts of Tajikistan.
         
      • Glimpse of Afghanistan | During the Soviet period, this was also one of the country's poorest regions. We will stop to catch some final glimpses of Afghanistan along the way as well as pass a couple more high passes. Impressive but not a reflection on our earlier adventures.
         
      • Kulyab | We stop at Kulyab, the center of Khatlon province and the fourth-biggest town in Tajikistan.

        Kulyab has a history stretching back over 2500 years and borders Afghanistan. We will walk around the city, stop at the local museum, and visit the market. This is one of the best ways to mix with the locals and their culture. Kulyab is changing rapidly, but mosaics of Lenin remain along with some impressive Soviet architecture.
         
      • Norak Basin | Later, we will also stop to view Norak Basin. This is 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.
         
      • Dushanbe | We make our final leg driving into Dushanbe city for a well-deserved rest! We'll have dinner and afterwards the opportunity to have a much-needed drink in one of Dushanbe's bars. The first one is on us!

      Accommodation | Hotel Vatan

      A new hotel located within a 5-minute walk of the central city. This comfortable hotel has beautiful rooms located on a designated floor with free laundry facilities, a kitchen area, and a reading room. A buffet-style breakfast is provided in the main restaurant area.

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    13. August 29 | Thursday

      Dushanbe City Tour

      • Victory Park | This memorial complex was constructed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941–1945). It bestows its visitors with the best views over the capital. It is also a tranquil spot from where to enjoy a nice shaded walk.
         
      • Rudaki AvenueFormerly Lenin Street, this road runs north from Dushanbe Train Station, past many of the city sites and highlights. For many visitors, this is not only a walk through the capital but a walk back through the history of Dushanbe. The Avenue shaded by beautiful trees incorporates a central tree-lined boulevard perfect for cover on those hot summer days.
         
      • Park of the Flag of Tajikistan | The flag of Tajikistan weighs 700 kilograms and flies on a flagpole that once was the tallest in the world. With its 'mere' 165 meters, today it only ranks no. 4. The flagpole was erected for the anniversary of Tajik independence in 2011.
         
      • Monument of Ismaili Somoni | The statue of the former amir of the Sadamik Empire and Tajik national hero is situated on the site of the old Lenin statue.
         
      • Rudaki Park | A scenic, meticulously landscaped garden area featuring fountains, statues, manicured lawns, trees from across the globe, and a plethora of stunning flowers.
         
      • National Museum | Here we will learn a little more about the beautiful country we have been visiting.
         
      • Victory Tank Monument | After lunch, we will drive to this monument known by locals as Oslinie Ushi which translates to “The donkey ears" and visit the botanical gardens.
         
      • World’s Largest Tea House | We finish our day with a visit to the world’s largest tea house with its amazingly decadent interior.

      Accommodation | Hotel Vatan

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    14. August 30 | Friday

      Departure day

      • Flights leave from Dushanbe International Airport (DYU) to a few international destinations (Istanbul, Dubai, and Almaty offering the best worldwide connections). Let us know when and where you are going and we will get you there on time!
         
      • There is also the option of extending your room until a later date. Contact us to discuss this.

      Included Meals | Breakfast

      End of Tour

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • English-speaking local guides and Koryo Tours Tour Leader
    • Meals as indicated on the itinerary
    • Hotel accommodation
    • All entry fees for attractions and sights
    • All transportation in the country
    • Airport pick-up and drop-off at the start and end of the tour

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Tips for the local guides and the driver (approx. $10 USD per day)
    • Spending money on incidentals such as drinks and souvenirs
    • Meals that are not included on the itinerary
    • Single-room supplement ($50 USD per night)
    • International Flights to Bishkek and from Dushanbe
    • GBAO permit
    • Visa fee, if applicable
    • We occasionally have the opportunity to visit a performance; this may cost extra
  • Notes

    How 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 it to us by email) and you can consider yourself booked on this adventure!

    For any questions or comments about this trip get in touch with Rich Beal at [email protected].

    We ask for applications to be completed a minimum of one month in advance of the tour.

    We ask for a deposit of 50% of the tour fee.

    Kyrgyzstan Visa

    Up to 83 countries can travel without a visa to the Kyrgyz Republic. To see a full list of visa-free countries, please visit the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic. You can also check your availability here.

    If the country that issued your passport is not included on the list of visa-free countries, in most cases you can apply for an e-Visa.

    Please note that should you need a visa, it needs to be arranged and paid for by yourself.

    Tajikistan Visa

    Due to the ever-changing nature of the visa policy of the Republic of Tajikistan, please contact your Tour Manager to confirm whether you need a visa or not.

    In case you need a visa, it needs to be arranged and paid for by yourself. In most cases, you can do so via the official e-Visa site of the Republic of Tajikistan.

    Please note that for this tour you will need to obtain a GBAO permit.

    If you need to apply for a visa, the GBAO permit can be obtained at the same time.

    If you do not need a visa, your Tour Manager will advise you about the procedure for obtaining a GBAO permit.

    Cancellation and Refund

    We practice the same cancellation policy with this tour as we do with our DPRK tours. Please check our Terms and Conditions for further details.

    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.

    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 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 be joining the tour when you send all application details

    Additional notes

    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.

    Any change in the 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 or other factors that are out of our control.

    Along the way, all tour decisions will rest with our Tour Leader Rich Beal, 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 August, 2024.

September 2024 — 2 tours

September 23 - October 12 2024

Kazakhstan And Turkmenistan Adventure

Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan Tour.
Visit the heart of Central Asia.

Visit vibrant multi-cultural Kazakhstan and eclectic Turkmenistan.
Ticking off all the highlights as well as getting off the beaten
path!

From 4900 USD per person

Please apply by 1st September, 2024.

Kazakhstan And Turkmenistan Adventure

Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan Tour.
Visit the heart of Central Asia.

Visit vibrant multi-cultural Kazakhstan and
eclectic Turkmenistan. Ticking off all the
highlights as well as getting off the beaten
path!

From 4900 USD per person

This tour is managed by...

Rich Beal

Rich Beal is our International Tours Manager.

Rich is one of our most experienced tour leaders. He has led tours worldwide since 2004, specialising in Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the surrounding area. Currently living in Mongolia, he leads multiple specialised trips annually and has over 20 years of experience running and designing tours of the region. 

  • Overall

    On our most adventurous 20-night adventure, we will start in the new capital of Kazakhstan, Astana and finish in the ostentatious city of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

    In between these two fascinating cities, we will travel by road, rail, and air as we adventure and explore parts of Kazakhstan only a few have seen before.

    This tour will be heading to the industrial base of Karaganda, the infamous Semipalatinsk (gulags and nukes, in two words), and Kurchatovthe Los Alamos of the USSR where the Red Bomb was developed and tested.

    To make our adventure complete, we will even visit The Polygon. The vast nuclear testing range in Kazakhstan, full of abandoned measuring platforms, bunkers, craters, buried machinery, and the scenic yet chilling ‘Atomic Lake’.

    In Turkmenistan, our tour pays visits to the main sites, such as Ashgabat and the Darvaza Gas Crater (Gates of Hell).

    But, we will also take you off the beaten path to really experience and understand Turkmenistan.

    Meet local people, and learn about their lives and history. Their differences and commonalities.

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

    Highlights

    • The capital cities of two former Soviet Republics in Central Asia | Astana the new, and Almaty the old, in Kazakhstan; and Ashgabat in Turkmenistan. All very different!
    • Semipalatinsk Nuclear Polygon | The former testing site for Soviet nuclear weapons.
    • Darvaza Gas Crater | The perpetually burning gas crater in the Karakum Desert since the 1980s.
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 21
    1. September 23 | Monday

      Arrival Day

      Flights to Astana
      • Arrive at Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport (NQZ) from many international destinations. The latest recommended arrival time is before noon. Arriving even earlier is, of course, fine and can be accommodated.
         
      • Let us know which flight you will be on, and we will arrange your pick-up and transfer to the hotel.

      Welcome group dinner
      • We start our tour with a group dinner of some excellent local food, coordination, and a briefing session, before the adventure ahead!


      Accommodation | Hotel in Astana. Kazakhstan's shiny new Capital City!

      Included Meals | Dinner

    2. September 24 | Tuesday

      Astana

      Astana City Tour
      • A new city rightly famed for its unique approach to architecture, Astana piles together a wide range of different styles and forms. The result is either a glimpse at the future of post-modern cities or a horrifying un-curated mish-mash of clashing buildings.
         
      • Bayterek Tower | The icon of the city, this ornate monument has a viewing platform 97 metres above the ground. This relates to 1997 when Astana became the capital city. It 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!
         
      • Hazrat 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 | The building that architecturally sums up modern Astana more than any other. Another work-of-genius from Norman Foster, this ingenious structure looks somewhat like a lop-sided tent that maintains an even temperature year-round. It provides leisure facilities, shopping, and 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.

      Accommodation | Hotel in Astana

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    3. September 25 | Wednesday

      Akmol and Karaganda

      Akmol
      • We take a drive out of the city to the nearby village of Akmol. It is home to the chilling Museum of the Camp for Wives of Traitors to the Motherland.
         
      • Museum of the Camp for Wives of Traitors to the Motherland | A sensitive area. It tells the story of the loan women sent here when their husbands were persecuted. Going to such a place could often be avoided with a divorce or public denunciation.  
         
      • Akmol sightseeing | We see a little more of this settlement on a walk around. A church, mosque, and apartment buildings now occupy this former gulag site before leaving for a 3-hour drive to the major city of Karaganda. We will stop for lunch along the way.
      Karaganda
      • A large city with a very walkable centre, the Russian/Soviet influence in Karaganda is strong. Our guide from Karaganda will tell us all about the city. You're sure to find it fascinating!

        Our local guide can also recommend good spots for dinner and evening socializing.
         
      • An introductory walking tour of the city centre | Focusing on the architecture, history, and local culture of this city. All of which are varied and fascinating. We’ll visit the central park, and see and mix with locals spending leisure time here.
         
      • Local painter | He is famed for having no arms and painting with the brush in his mouth. He sells his amazing work and can speak about his history growing up close to the nearby nuclear weapons testing area.

      Accommodation | Chaika Hotel.

      This hotel is an amazing brutalist Soviet monstrosity. You will feel like you’ve entered a time-warp here. 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, and the building itself is timeless. 

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    4. September 26 | Thursday

      Karaganda Region

      KarLag
      • We drive an hour out to the museum of KarLag, the local gulag system.
         
      • KarLag Gulag Memorial Museum | A dark part of history told through the rooms of this former NKVD HQ. State ‘enemies’ and 'departed nationalities' were interned here. 

        A vast number of them were Germans from the west and Koreans from the east and dumped in Central Asia due to Stalin’s paranoia about enemies within. 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. Primarily coal mining, but also steel production and agriculture.
      Karaganda
      • We take a trip to a former execution ground marked by tasteful and meaningful memorials to the various nationalities whose people were among the unfortunate souls to perish here.
         
      • Alternatively, you can stay in Karaganda to further explore the city at your own pace.

      Accommodation | Chaika Hotel

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    5. September 27 | Friday

      Return to Astana and Train to Kurchatov

      Astana
      • We return to Astana by road in the morning.
         
      • Lunch with a local family | A special treat of local delicacies and traditional Kazakh hospitality awaits us when we arrive back in the Kazakh capital.
         
      • Free time before train departure to shop for some supplies for the overnight train ride ahead of us.
      Overnight Train through the Kazakh Steppe
      • All aboard! We jump onto a sleeper train making its way through the night and across the country to the city of Kurchatov, the home of the Soviet atomic weapons program.
         
      • Comfy beds and a clean restaurant await us, and rolling steppe outside the windows for this 800 km journey. In the evening, we will have a delicious homemade dinner delivered to us on the platform at Ekibastusz Station.

      Accommodation | Overnight train in 4-berth compartments

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    6. September 28 | Saturday

      Semey, Nuclear Polygon, and Kurchatov

      Semey
      • We arrive in the morning in the eastern city of Semey where we grab breakfast and the chance to leave our luggage in a local hotel.
         
      • We will be back in a couple of days. We then board our vehicles for an epic adventure in a fascinating and formerly forbidden area.
      Nuclear Polygon
      • Deep into the Polygon | We will head for a wide range of sites associated with the Soviet nuclear weapons program. This includes the Atomic Lake, abandoned and derelict ICBM sites, underground bunkers, buildings erected and then destroyed in nuclear test explosions, and much more.

      It will be an epic adventure and, of course, protective clothing is provided when required.
       

      • Atomic Lake | Formed by a deep underground nuclear blast, it was made deliberately and is known as the world’s first and only use of industrial nuclear weapons.

        Find out what on earth they were thinking and meet some fishermen looking for three-eyed fish in the 180-meter-deep lake.
         
      • Roadside Picnic | To non-literature lovers, this is a joke – read this book and you will find some eerie similarities to this part of the trip.
         
      • After the picnic, we will continue to see some relics of the testing program.
         
      • A local expert will also be with us to explain in detail, answer questions, etc.
      Kurchatov
      • Kurchatov | The town was founded in 1947 simply to make Soviet Nuclear weapons a reality. Under the control of then-KGB Chief Lavrentiy Beria and scientist Igor Kurchatov, this is where the arms race became a two-horse event.
         
      • As we arrive in Kurchatov, we will check in at our hotel used mainly by scientists still studying the effects of all the nuclear tests in this region.  

      Accommodation | Mayak Hotel.

      Another time-warp hotel with period furnishings and decor.

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    7. September 29 | Sunday

      Kurchatov and Chagan

      Kurchatov
      • Museum of the Semipalatinsk Test Site | A detailed and deep explanation of what this place is, what happened here, and what effect their inventions can have. Some machines from that time are displayed here too.

      Please note that this museum opens and closes at the whim of higher powers, so its opening cannot be guaranteed. If not open, we will have a lecture on the history of the area at a different location.

      • Semipalatinsk Polygon | We board our vehicle and take a drive deep into a formerly off-limits (very off-limits!) area. The nuclear testing ground was chosen due to its remoteness, lack of population, and because it seemed like a good spot to blow a few things up.
         
      • We provide protective gear of course.
      Chagan
      • Cold War Bomber Base | Once a deeply secret long-range bomber base, today a deeply abandoned former long-range bomber base. See the massive runways where the Tupolev Tu-95s took off and landed, the remaining ammunition hangars, and the collapsing main buildings of the base.
         
      • Garrison Town | Nearby the Bomber Base, this is the place where the base staff was housed from 1954 to 1994 and now stands completely stripped like a spooky post-apocalyptic warning. A bit of UrbEx here.
         
      • Visit with a local family | The family used to live in Chagan. You will hear their stories of what it was like living at the front line of the Cold War so far in the USSR interior, and what things have been like for them since the base closed and their lives changed forever.

      Accommodation | Mayak Hotel

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    8. September 30 | Monday

      Semey

      Return to Semey
      • Semey | We leave Kurchatov and the Polygon/Test Field behind us today as we return to the administrative centre of the region, formerly known as Semipalatinsk. 

        Once upon a time Semipalatinsk was a wealthy trading city, situated between China and Russia, and acted as a gateway to the Central Asian territories added to the Russian Empire in the 19th Century.
      Semey City Tour
      • Cultural Exchange (Koryo Tours Style) | We will spend some time with a very special group of people. The students of a local school that specializes in teaching disadvantaged children from more modest backgrounds.
         
      • They teach English to a very high level here. We will meet with some teachers and children from the school who will give us some information about their hometown and give us a performance. We will have a unique opportunity to learn from these kids as well as help them with a chance for conversation time with visitors.

        This is another Koryo Tours exclusive and something you will never forget.
         
      • 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 | Located in the Tatar section of town, which is an attraction in itself we will explore some more. It shows the resilience of those who live and have lived in this remote part of the world.
         
      • Free time at your own leisure from the later afternoon to explore the city more. Have an evening out away from the shadow of nuclear tests, and enjoy a very unique place on a very special day.

      Accommodation | Semey Hotel.

      A 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!

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    9. October 1 | Tuesday

      Semey and Domestic Flight to Almaty

      Semey City Tour
      • 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 on a short walking tour around this unexpectedly charming place.
         
      • Lenin Alley | A common sight in Kazakhstan’s smaller cities. It is a collection of Lenins in a nice park setting. The central piece is awe-inspiring.
         
      • Victory Park | 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.
      Domestic flight and arrival to Almaty
      • After an early lunch, we head to Semey Airport and board FlyAryastan flight KC7151 to Almaty, the former capital and the most charming city in the country.
         
      • Upon arrival, we will transfer to our hotel and you can head out to explore, enjoying the very lively coffee shop scene, hit up some amazing restaurants and bars, and pamper yourself at a beauty centre.
         
      • Do whatever you like in this very modern but also laid-back place. You've earned it after the long journeys of the last few days!

      Accommodation | 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.

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    10. October 2 | Wednesday

      Almaty

      Almaty City Tour
      • We embark on a walking tour of this amazing city nestled against the precipitous Tian Shan Mountain range and dotted with parks, theatres, boulevards, and much more.
         
      • 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's opulence and modern efficiency.
         
      • Green Bazaar and Rakhat Chocolate Factory | These neighbouring sites are local institutions. You can smell the sweetness from the latter all across this part of the city.
         
      • Banter and barter with sellers in the market, pick up the apples that Almaty is known for as well as all manner of other delicious local delicacies. Get your sweet tooth into action with the terrific and very affordable selection at the chocolate factory. This place is ideal for gifts too!
         
      • Panfilovets Park | Almaty's main place of leisure. Very pleasant and marked with stunning and evocative monuments to the Kazakh soldiers who fell while fighting to defend Moscow from the Nazi invasion.
         
      • Zenkov Cathedral is also located in this park.
         
      • Central Mosque | With its broad ethnic mixture and clear secularism, it is easy to forget that Kazakhstan is a majority-Muslim country. We’ll have a look at the main mosque in Almaty to see how the locals worship and what their faith means to them.
         
      • Arbat Street | Every good former USSR town has one; a pedestrian area ideal for promenading, window shopping, café culture, public art sales, and so on. This one is very modern and is lined with some great examples of brutalist apartment buildings.
         
      • Kok-Tebe | A cable car ride up to a mountain overlooking the city. Amazing views, a statue of the Beatles, a Ferris Wheel and toboggan ride, a 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. We’ll have a final lunch of the tour along the way. A fitting relaxing end to an intense, mind-blowing week!
      Free time at own leisure
      • You may also wish to spend more time exploring Almaty. A truly lovely city, walkable, with friendly people, and lots to see and do.

      Accommodation | Hotel Kazakhstan

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    11. October 3 | Thursday

      Goodbye Almaty, welcome Ashgabat!

      Flight from Kazakhstan to Turkmenistan
      • Currently, there are no direct flights between Almaty International Airport (ALA) and Ashgabad International Airport (ASB). If a direct flight becomes available, we can help with the booking of the direct flight.
         
      • The safer and most reliable route would be to fly via Istanbul or Dubai. If you opt for any of these options, flights depart from Almaty early in the morning and arrive late in the night in Ashgabad.
      Arrival in Ashgabat
      • Arriving in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan you pass through its multi-billion dollar marble-clad eagle-shaped airport. The kind of ostentatious building any country in the Middle East would be proud of.
         
      • Exchange the Letter of Invitation (LOI) we have sent you in advance for a visa on arrival and a pickup and transfer to the hotel will be provided along with a local guide.

      Accommodation | Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

      Built for the 2017 Asian indoor martial arts game this well-located and modern hotel allows access to malls, shops, and restaurants. It also provides guests with quality facilities in a fascinating part of the city.

      Included Meals | Breakfast

    12. October 4 | Friday

      Ashgabat

      Relaxing morning
      • This morning there is time to relax and soak up your surroundings before this afternoon's orientation walk around the city.
      Ashgabat Walking Tour
      • Tekke Bazaar | Walk through this real, local slice of life, a true local market very popular amongst local people for shopping.

      On weekends, there are also local booksellers in the park opposite the market selling a selection of second-hand books. If you're lucky, you may pick up a copy of the Ruhnama. This book was written by Saparmurat Niyazov, the 1st president of Turkmenistan. Niyazov famously said, "a person that reads Ruhnama three times becomes smart, and after it, he will go straight to heaven."

      • Inspiration Park | A public park at the centre of Ashgabat. This narrow parkland is lined with sculptures of Persian poets, scholars, and great thinkers. There is also an artificial river and impressive water fountains.
         
      • Russian Bazaar | Located in the very centre of town, this covered bazaar is where you can buy almost everything you may need in daily life. Fruits, nuts, cables and chargers, sweets, kimchi, baked goods, souvenirs, and so on.

      Nearby is also the Alty Asyr Shopping Centre which is a good place to buy cotton goods, all made from local cotton. All very cheap.

      • Lenin statue | Best described as a small Lenin on a giant plinth decorated in central Asian tile work.
         
      • Pushkin Monument | This small bust was erected for Russia's most famous poet. Pushkin is only 5 minutes away from Lenin.
         
      • Pervyy Park | This is one of Ashgabat's oldest parks founded in 1890. Throughout history, this park has been known by many names. Officer Park, Lenin Park, First Park, and Independence Park.
         
      • Ashgabat Train Station | Originally built in 1888, the first railway station was destroyed in the earthquake of 1948 along with much of the city. A new station was built shortly after in 1950. It was then remodelled in 2009 taking on its now grand form crowned by the eight-pointed star (Rub El Hizb).

      Accommodation | Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Dinner

    13. October 5 | Saturday

      Ashgabat

      Ashgabat at your leisure
      • A free day in Ashgabat. We can make recommendations for what to do and help to arrange drivers, and guides, as needed for excursions outside of the city. Or you can simply wander, relax, go shopping, use leisure facilities, and so on.
         
      • Ashgabat has malls, galleries, museums, and other sites open to visitors. Just tell us what kind of thing you would like to do and our local partners and we can help with making a plan for you.
      Welcome group dinner
      • We start our tour with a group dinner of some excellent local food, coordination, and a briefing session, before the adventure ahead!

      Accommodation | Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Dinner

    14. October 6 | Sunday

      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.
         
      • Cooking course | For today's lunch, we attend a local restaurant which gives us a tutorial and the opportunity to bake some local Turkmen pies. If it's not for you, don't worry, you'll be able to relax whilst your meal is cooked for you.
      Afternoon city tour of Ashgabat
      • Independence Park and Independence Monument | Constructed to celebrate the independence of Turkmenistan on the 27th of October 1991.
         
      • Monument of Neutrality | From Independence to Neutrality, we go! Our next visit is the Monument of Neutrality built in 1998; a gold statue of Turkmenbashi tops this impressive structure.
         
      • Earthquake Monument and Museum | We hope you’re not too tired of statues just yet as we have a few more to go! Next up, is the Earthquake Monument and Museum.

      A grim reminder of the terrible earthquake that struck Ashgabat in 1948, killing 110,00 people and leveling the city. Both are tastefully presented and very educational.

      • Free evening for a night out in the city.

      Accommodation | Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    15. October 7 | Monday

      Bokhurdag and Darvaza Gas Crater

      • Desert adventure! We head off in a fleet of 4x4 vehicles into the deep desert today.
      Bokhurdag
      • Our first stop is the small desert village of Bokhurdag. It is here that we stop to sample the local cuisine and learn a little more about living outside the bright lights of Turkmenistan’s flamboyant capital.
      Desert Trip (Mining History)
      • Once our journey resumes, we’ll continue stopping as we travel to see other examples of the desert’s mining history, visiting two other craters (one filled with water, the other with mud). A perfect pretext for the great Darvaza Gas Crater.
      Darvaza Gas Crater
      • Finally, we arrive at the stunning and unforgettable Darvaza Gas Crater in the center 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 beside the crater as it is best seen at night.
         
      • Our accommodation provides us with the best opportunity to see the burning bit from sunset to sunrise.
         
      • Dinner will be cooked on the spot.

      Accommodation | 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.

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    16. October 8 | Tuesday

      Ashgabat

      • We return to Ashgabat, driving through the morning with a stop at the Basmachi Revolutionary Monument. It was built here as this area was a Basmachi stronghold during the 1920s. The Basmachi were an Islamic group fighting the occupying Soviet forces.
      Free time in Ashgabat at your leisure
      • Once back in the capital the rest of the day is yours to do with as you please.
         
      • You can explore, relax, shop, or take a side trip.
         
      • Drivers are available for hire.
         
      • We and our local guides can give advice on the spot.

      Accommodation | Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

      Included Meals | Breakfast

    17. October 9 | Wednesday

      Nisa Fortress and Kow Ata Underground Lake

      Nisa Fortress
      • A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Fortress of Nisa was the former capital of the mighty Parthian Empire in ancient times.
         
      • We will also visit a stud farm where Ahal-Teke horses are bread. This Turkmen horse breed is considered a heavenly and sacred beast in Turkmenistan. The farm visit will show you why. You can also have a ride on one of the horses if you like.
      Kow-Ata Underground Lake
      • We drive on to the bizarre Kow-Ata Underground Lake | A Sulphur-heated lake 100 meters 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 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.

      Accommodation | Hotel Niebitchi, Balkanabat

      Yurt-shaped curiosity in the center of town, well situated for wandering around and exploring.

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    18. October 10 | Thursday

      Yangykala Canyon and Turkmenbashi

      • We drive to the stunning Yangykala Canyon, known as the ‘Turkmen Grand Canyon’. A little-known but an absolutely beautiful area with shifting colors 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.
         
      • By the evening we will reach the Caspian Sea city of Turkmenbashi and the bizarre ‘tourist zone’ of Awaza. This place has to be seen to be believed and we will have a look around the hotel-covered peninsula before checking in for a relaxing evening at the coast.

      Accommodation | 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!

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    19. October 11 | Friday

      Awaza and Turkmenbashi

      Awaza
      • A free morning to relax at the coastal resort of Awaza.
         
      • 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, and see the different architectural styles of the buildings here, all of which have sprung up in the last few years.
      Turkmenbashi
      • We will drive to the city of Turkmenbashi for lunch.
         
      • It is the oldest city in the country and was once settled by Russians during their invasion from across the sea during the late Great Game.
         
      • City tour of Turkmenbashi | We will visit the local bazaar, pre-Soviet railway station, Oil Workers’ Square, various monuments, and even a cemetery for Japanese POWs who were brought here to labor after their capture at the end of WWII, and never got home again.
         
      • Flight back to Ashgabat for the final dinner of the tour, It's time for goodbyes and the last night out, if you’ve got the energy!

      Accommodation | Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    20. October 12 | Saturday

      Departure
      • Airport transfers are provided to Ashgabat International Airport (ASB) for everyone regardless of the time of flight or where they are flying.

      Included Meals | Breakfast

      End of Tour

      OR

      Optional Mary and Margush Extension (+600 EUR)

      Mary and Margush
      • Flight from Ashgabat to Mary International Airport (MYP) on Turkmenistan Airlines flight T5^127 at 6:20.
         
      • Arrival to Mary at 7:00.
         
      • Mary is in the center of the country and the nearest city to the ancient Silk Road metropolis of Merv.
         
      • Gonur-Deppe (Margush) is 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, and go to parks, bars, etc as you like. A sleepy area with welcoming and friendly locals.

      Accommodation | Hotel in Mary

      Included Meals | Breakfast

    21. October 13 | Sunday

      Optional Mary and Margush Extension

      Ancient Merv
      • Excursion to Ancient Merv, probably the most important city in the world at certain times of its history.
         
      • At this place, 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, and ruins all contributing to a sense of the dynamism of the ancient Silk Road.
      Return to Ashgabat
      • Fly back to Ashgabat for a final rest or night out before departure on Turkmenistan Airlines flight T5^130 departing at 19:30.
         
      • Flight arrival to Ashgabat International Airport (ASB) at 20:10.
         
      • Please let us know if you wish to book an extra night in Ashgabat.

      Included Meals | Breakfast

      End of Tour Extension

  • 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 $50 USD per night

    • Upgrade to your own room in Turkmenistan

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

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • English-speaking local guide and a Koryo Tours tour leader
    • Meals other than those taken at leisure
    • Accommodation
    • All transportation in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan including internal flights and trains
    • Airport transfers
    • All included sightseeing
    • All taxes and entrance fees to areas where special permits are required

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Tips for local guides and drivers
    • Incidentals, extra drinks, etc.
    • Optional single supplement: $50 USD per night (Kazakhstan), and $55 USD per night (Turkmenistan)
    • Kazakhstan visa fee, if applicable
    • Turkmenistan visa issuing fee ($50-$150 USD depending on nationality)
    • International flights (to Astana, Almaty to Ashgabad, from Ashgabad)
    • Optional extension to Merv ($600 USD)
       
  • Notes

    How 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 it to us by email) and you can consider yourself booked on this adventure!

    For any questions or comments about this trip get in touch with Rich Beal at [email protected].

    We ask for applications to be completed a minimum of one month in advance of the tour, ideally six weeks or more if possible.

    Please note that you must apply at least 4 weeks before the tour departure date as the Letter of Invitation (LOI) 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.

    Please also indicate where you plan to join the tour from and where you are headed after the tour. We can offer advice on this. Drop us a line to discuss.

    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.

    Kazakhstan Visa

    Most nationals can travel to Kazakhstan without a visa. However, please note that if you require a visa, you will need to pay this fee yourself.

    To check whether you need a visa or not, please visit the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan.


    Turkmenistan Visa

    Please note that for this tour you are required to pay the fee for the issuance of the visa yourself.

    Koryo Tours will provide you with a Letter of Invitation (LOI) which acts as a guarantee of a visa and the actual issuance of the visa itself is a matter of procedure from this point on.

    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 or any other point of entry to the country.

    The fee payable on arrival varies according to your nationality. It ranges between $50-$150 USD.

    Visa on arrival is payable in cash only.

    The visa is stamped in your passport and is the same as it would be if issued at a Turkmen Embassy.

    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, please contact us early!

    The LOI 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.

    To read in detail about the Turkmenistan visa-issuing process and its complexities, please read our blog post on Turkmen visas here.


    Flights to Turkmenistan

    Currently, there are no direct flights between Almaty and Ashgabat. You will need to transfer via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, or Dubai on flydubai.

    A range of exit methods are available to those joining this tour.


    Cancellation and Refunds

    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 and you cannot make rescheduled dates, a full refund will be made.

    Should the client wish to cancel after the 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 note that we can not accept any liability for delayed flights and any issues associated with times in relation to Letters of Invitations.

    Additional Notes

    The situation vis-a-vis access to the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Polygon is very much changeable with no notice.

    While we do intend to run the tour as scheduled here there is a chance that things may change and we have to adjust to which areas we visit, where we stay overnight, and so on.

    We have explored this area thoroughly and have redundancies and backup plans in place.

    We can assure all visitors that they will experience as much access to the site as possible when they visit with Koryo Tours.

Please apply by 1st September, 2024.

September 23 - October 3 2024

Explore Kazakhstan | Astana to Almaty (September)

Epic Kazakhstan Trip; Journey
in Remote Central Asia

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

From 2500 USD per person

Please apply by 1st September, 2024.

Explore Kazakhstan | Astana to Almaty (September)

Epic Kazakhstan Trip; Journey
in Remote Central Asia

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

From 2500 USD per person

This tour is managed by...

Simon Cockerell

Simon has been Koryo’s General Manager since 2002. He has travelled to North Korea more than 175 times and has probably been to the country more than any other Westerner. He is a respected speaker on the country and appears regularly in international media. He is also a tour specialist in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and the Russian Far East where he has personally designed and led multiple tours over the years.

  • Overall

    Our incredible Kazakhstan Tour is new and improved for 2024. This 10-night adventure will start in the new capital of Kazakhstan, Astana and finish in the old, Almaty.

    In between these two fascinating cities, we will travel by road, rail, and air as we adventure and explore parts of Kazakhstan only a few have seen before.

    We will be heading to the industrial base of Karaganda and the infamous Semipalatinsk. In two words, Gulags and Nukes. We will also visit Kurchatov. This is the Los Alamos of the USSR, where the Red Bomb was developed and tested.

    Plus, we will even visit The Polygon’. This vast nuclear testing range is 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. Plus, 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.

    NOTE: Access to the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Polygon is very much changeable with no prior notice. We plan to run the tour as scheduled. But, there is a chance that things may change. We may have to adjust which areas we visit, where we stay overnight, and so on. 
     
    We have explored this area thoroughly and have redundancies and backup plans in place. Rest assured all visitors will experience as much access to the sites as possible when they visit with Koryo Tours.
     

    Dates don’t suit? Check out our Explore Kazakhstan in May tour, or consider combining your tour with Turkmenistan. Contact us for details on private tours.

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

    ⬇⬇⬇


    Koryo Tours International Tours

    Mongolia | Turkmenistan | Kazakhstan | Bhutan | Russia | Tajikistan 


     

    Highlights

    • Nur-Sultan: once the center of the Virgin Lands campaign, now the national capital.
    • Semipalatinsk Nuclear Polygon: the USSR’s testing range for atmospheric and underground nukes.
    • Semi-abandoned Karaganda in the heart of Kazakhstan, is also the heart of the old Central Asian Gulag system.
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 11
    1. September 23 | Monday

      Arrival Day

      Flights to Astana
      • Arrive at Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport (NQZ) from many international destinations. The latest recommended arrival time is before noon. Arriving even earlier is, of course, fine and can be accommodated.
         
      • Let us know which flight you will be on, and we will arrange your pick-up and transfer to the hotel.

      Welcome group dinner
      • We start our tour with a group dinner of some excellent local food, coordination, and a briefing session, before the adventure ahead!


      Accommodation | Hotel in Astana. Kazakhstan's shiny new Capital City!

      Included Meals | Dinner

    2. September 24 | Tuesday

      Astana

      Astana City Tour
      • A new city rightly famed for its unique approach to architecture, Astana piles together a wide range of different styles and forms. The result is either a glimpse at the future of post-modern cities or a horrifying un-curated mish-mash of clashing buildings.
         
      • Bayterek Tower | The icon of the city, this ornate monument has a viewing platform 97 metres above the ground. This relates to 1997 when Astana became the capital city. It 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!
         
      • Hazrat 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 | The building that architecturally sums up modern Astana more than any other. Another work-of-genius from Norman Foster, this ingenious structure looks somewhat like a lop-sided tent that maintains an even temperature year-round. It provides leisure facilities, shopping, and 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.


      Accommodation | Hotel in Astana

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    3. September 25 | Wednesday

      Akmol and Karaganda

      Akmol
      • We take a drive out of the city to the nearby village of Akmol. It is home to the chilling Museum of the Camp for Wives of Traitors to the Motherland.
         
      • Museum of the Camp for Wives of Traitors to the Motherland | A sensitive area. It tells the story of the loan women sent here when their husbands were persecuted. Going to such a place could often be avoided with a divorce or public denunciation.  
         
      • Akmol sightseeing | We see a little more of this settlement on a walk around. A church, mosque, and apartment buildings now occupy this former gulag site before leaving for a 3-hour drive to the major city of Karaganda. We will stop for lunch along the way.
      Karaganda
      • A large city with a very walkable centre, the Russian/Soviet influence in Karaganda is strong. Our guide from Karaganda will tell us all about the city. You're sure to find it fascinating!

        Our local guide can also recommend good spots for dinner and evening socializing.
         
      • An introductory walking tour of the city centre | Focusing on the architecture, history, and local culture of this city. All of which are varied and fascinating. We’ll visit the central park, and see and mix with locals spending leisure time here.
         
      • Local painter | He is famed for having no arms and painting with the brush in his mouth. He sells his amazing work and can speak about his history growing up close to the nearby nuclear weapons testing area.


      Accommodation | Chaika Hotel.

      This hotel is an amazing brutalist Soviet monstrosity. You will feel like you’ve entered a time-warp here. 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, and the building itself is timeless. 

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    4. September 26 | Thursday

      Karaganda Region

      KarLag
      • We drive an hour out to the museum of KarLag, the local gulag system.
         
      • KarLag Gulag Memorial Museum | A dark part of history told through the rooms of this former NKVD HQ. State ‘enemies’ and 'departed nationalities' were interned here. 

        A vast number of them were Germans from the west and Koreans from the east and dumped in Central Asia due to Stalin’s paranoia about enemies within. 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. Primarily coal mining, but also steel production and agriculture.
      Karaganda
      • We take a trip to a former execution ground marked by tasteful and meaningful memorials to the various nationalities whose people were among the unfortunate souls to perish here.
         
      • Alternatively, you can stay in Karaganda to further explore the city at your own pace.


      Accommodation | Chaika Hotel

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    5. September 27 | Friday

      Return to Astana and Train to Kurchatov

      Astana
      • We return to Astana by road in the morning.
         
      • Lunch with a local family | A special treat of local delicacies and traditional Kazakh hospitality awaits us when we arrive back in the Kazakh capital.
         
      • Free time before train departure to shop for some supplies for the overnight train ride ahead of us.
      Overnight Train through the Kazakh Steppe
      • All aboard! We jump onto a sleeper train making its way through the night and across the country to the city of Kurchatov, the home of the Soviet atomic weapons program.
         
      • Comfy beds and a clean restaurant await us, and rolling steppe outside the windows for this 800 km journey. In the evening, we will have a delicious homemade dinner delivered to us on the platform at Ekibastusz Station.


      Accommodation | Overnight train in 4-berth compartments

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    6. September 28 | Saturday

      Semey, Nuclear Polygon, and Kurchatov

      Semey
      • We arrive in the morning in the eastern city of Semey where we grab breakfast and the chance to leave our luggage in a local hotel.
         
      • We will be back in a couple of days. We then board our vehicles for an epic adventure in a fascinating and formerly forbidden area.
      Nuclear Polygon
      • Deep into the Polygon | We will head for a wide range of sites associated with the Soviet nuclear weapons program. This includes the Atomic Lake, abandoned and derelict ICBM sites, underground bunkers, buildings erected and then destroyed in nuclear test explosions, and much more.

      It will be an epic adventure and, of course, protective clothing is provided when required.
       

      • Atomic Lake | Formed by a deep underground nuclear blast, it was made deliberately and is known as the world’s first and only use of industrial nuclear weapons.

        Find out what on earth they were thinking and meet some fishermen looking for three-eyed fish in the 180-meter-deep lake.
         
      • Roadside Picnic | To non-literature lovers, this is a joke – read this book and you will find some eerie similarities to this part of the trip.
         
      • After the picnic, we will continue to see some relics of the testing program.
         
      • A local expert will also be with us to explain in detail, answer questions, etc.
      Kurchatov
      • Kurchatov | The town was founded in 1947 simply to make Soviet Nuclear weapons a reality. Under the control of then-KGB Chief Lavrentiy Beria and scientist Igor Kurchatov, this is where the arms race became a two-horse event.
         
      • As we arrive in Kurchatov, we will check in at our hotel used mainly by scientists still studying the effects of all the nuclear tests in this region.  


      Accommodation | Mayak Hotel.

      Another time-warp hotel with period furnishings and decor.

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    7. September 29 | Sunday

      Kurchatov and Chagan

      Kurchatov
      • Museum of the Semipalatinsk Test Site | A detailed and deep explanation of what this place is, what happened here, and what effect their inventions can have. Some machines from that time are displayed here too.

      Please note that this museum opens and closes at the whim of higher powers, so its opening cannot be guaranteed. If not open, we will have a lecture on the history of the area at a different location.
       

      • Semipalatinsk Polygon | We board our vehicle and take a drive deep into a formerly off-limits (very off-limits!) area. The nuclear testing ground was chosen due to its remoteness, lack of population, and because it seemed like a good spot to blow a few things up.
         
      • We provide protective gear of course.
      Chagan
      • Cold War Bomber Base | Once a deeply secret long-range bomber base, today a deeply abandoned former long-range bomber base. See the massive runways where the Tupolev Tu-95s took off and landed, the remaining ammunition hangars, and the collapsing main buildings of the base.
         
      • Garrison Town | Nearby the Bomber Base, this is the place where the base staff was housed from 1954 to 1994 and now stands completely stripped like a spooky post-apocalyptic warning. A bit of UrbEx here.
         
      • Visit with a local family | The family used to live in Chagan. You will hear their stories of what it was like living at the front line of the Cold War so far in the USSR interior, and what things have been like for them since the base closed and their lives changed forever.
         

      Accommodation | Mayak Hotel

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    8. September 30 | Monday

      Semey

      Return to Semey
      • Semey | We leave Kurchatov and the Polygon/Test Field behind us today as we return to the administrative centre of the region, formerly known as Semipalatinsk. 

        Once upon a time Semipalatinsk was a wealthy trading city, situated between China and Russia, and acted as a gateway to the Central Asian territories added to the Russian Empire in the 19th Century.
      Semey City Tour
      • Cultural Exchange (Koryo Tours Style) | We will spend some time with a very special group of people. The students of a local school that specializes in teaching disadvantaged children from more modest backgrounds.
         
      • They teach English to a very high level here. We will meet with some teachers and children from the school who will give us some information about their hometown and give us a performance. We will have a unique opportunity to learn from these kids as well as help them with a chance for conversation time with visitors. This is another Koryo Tours exclusive and something you will never forget.
         
      • 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 | Located in the Tatar section of town, which is an attraction in itself we will explore some more. It shows the resilience of those who live and have lived in this remote part of the world.
         
      • Free time at your own leisure from the later afternoon to explore the city more. Have an evening out away from the shadow of nuclear tests, and enjoy a very unique place on a very special day.


      Accommodation | Semey Hotel.

      A 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!

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    9. October 1 | Tuesday

      Semey and Domestic Flight to Almaty

      Semey City Tour
      • 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 on a short walking tour around this unexpectedly charming place.
         
      • Lenin Alley | A common sight in Kazakhstan’s smaller cities. It is a collection of Lenins in a nice park setting. The central piece is awe-inspiring.
         
      • Victory Park | 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.
      Domestic flight and arrival to Almaty
      • After an early lunch, we head to Semey Airport and board FlyAryastan flight KC7151 to Almaty, the former capital and the most charming city in the country.
         
      • Upon arrival, we will transfer to our hotel and you can head out to explore, enjoying the very lively coffee shop scene, hit up some amazing restaurants and bars, and pamper yourself at a beauty centre.
         
      • Do whatever you like in this very modern but also laid-back place. You've earned it after the long journeys of the last few days!


      Accommodation | 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.

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    10. October 2 | Wednesday

      Almaty

      Almaty City Tour
      • We embark on a walking tour of this amazing city nestled against the precipitous Tian Shan Mountain range and dotted with parks, theatres, boulevards, and much more.
         
      • 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's opulence and modern efficiency.
         
      • Green Bazaar and Rakhat Chocolate Factory | These neighbouring sites are local institutions. You can smell the sweetness from the latter all across this part of the city.
         
      • Banter and barter with sellers in the market, pick up the apples that Almaty is known for as well as all manner of other delicious local delicacies. Get your sweet tooth into action with the terrific and very affordable selection at the chocolate factory. This place is ideal for gifts too!
         
      • Panfilovets Park | Almaty's main place of leisure. Very pleasant and marked with stunning and evocative monuments to the Kazakh soldiers who fell while fighting to defend Moscow from the Nazi invasion.
         
      • Zenkov Cathedral is also located in this park.
         
      • Central Mosque | With its broad ethnic mixture and clear secularism, it is easy to forget that Kazakhstan is a majority-Muslim country. We’ll have a look at the main mosque in Almaty to see how the locals worship and what their faith means to them.
         
      • Arbat Street | Every good former USSR town has one; a pedestrian area ideal for promenading, window shopping, café culture, public art sales, and so on. This one is very modern and is lined with some great examples of brutalist apartment buildings.
         
      • Kok-Tebe | A cable car ride up to a mountain overlooking the city. Amazing views, a statue of the Beatles, a Ferris Wheel and toboggan ride, a 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. We’ll have a final lunch of the tour along the way. A fitting relaxing end to an intense, mind-blowing week!
      Free time at own leisure
      • You may also wish to spend more time exploring Almaty. A truly lovely city, walkable, with friendly people, and lots to see and do.
         

      Accommodation | Hotel Kazakhstan

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    11. October 3 | Thursday

      Departure Day

      • Flights leave from Almaty International Airport (ALA) to various destinations both international and domestic. Let us know when and where you are going and we will get you there on time!
         
      • 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, 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.
      Koryo Tours Turkmenistan Tour
      • Join our tour of 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 for free of charge.
         
      • We fly from Almaty to Ashgabat this afternoon with a connecting flight.
         
      • Upon arrival to Turkmenistan, we meet our local partners and have time to relax, explore, and do whatever you like until the tour begins.
         
      • Continue your Central Asia adventure with us. It’s the best way to see the most amazing parts of the region!
         
      • You can book our Kazakhstan And Turkmenistan Adventure here.
  • 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 $50 USD per night

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

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

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Tips for local guides and drivers
    • Incidentals, extra drinks, etc
    • Optional single supplement: USD 50 per night
    • International flights to and from Kazakhstan
    • Visa fee, if applicable
  • Notes

    How 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 or comments about this trip get in touch with Simon Cockerell at [email protected].

    We ask for applications to be completed 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 where you are headed after the tour (we can offer advice on this, drop us a line to discuss).

    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.

    Kazakhstan Visa

    Most nationals can travel to Kazakhstan without a visa. However, please note that if you require a visa, you will need to pay this fee yourself.

    To check whether you need a visa or not, please visit the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

    Cancellation and Refunds

    We practice the same cancellation policy with this tour as we do with our DPRK tours. Please check our Terms and Conditions for further details.

    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.

    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 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 be joining the tour when you send all application details.

Please apply by 1st September, 2024.

October 2024 — 4 tours

October 5 - October 12 2024

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 coast
of the glorious Caspian!

From 2400 USD per person

Please apply by 1st September, 2024.

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 coast of the
glorious Caspian!

From 2400 USD per person

This tour is managed by...

Rich Beal

Rich Beal is our International Tours Manager.

Rich is one of our most experienced tour leaders. He has led tours worldwide since 2004, specialising in Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the surrounding area. Currently living in Mongolia, he leads multiple specialised trips annually and has over 20 years of experience running and designing tours of the region. 

  • 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 colorful 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 has 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.

    Our Turkmenistan tours are unrivaled in quality, experience, and fun!

    We look forward to sharing it with you in Turkmenistan!

    This tour will be led by one of our most experienced tour leaders, Rich Beal. Rich has led tours all over the world since 2004 and has been leading tours to Turkmenistan for a decade.

    Rich is also an expert in other Central Asian countries where he has been leading tours for much longer! He is incredibly knowledgeable about the area and a great storyteller. Ask Rich and he will tell you plenty of fascinating travel anecdotes from his many adventures!

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

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

    Highlights

    • Ashgabat | Marvel at the World's largest collection of marble buildings. Like 'Pyongyang meets Las Vegas'!
    • Darvaza Gas Crater | Also known as the 'Gates of Hell' it is a wonderfully hypnotic sight. It is one of the strangest and most spectacular things you will possibly ever get to see!
    • Caspian Sea Resort at Awaza | The most unusual holiday resort you will ever go to!
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 9
    1. October 5 | Saturday

      Arrival in Ashgabat

      • For those who arrived in Turkmenistan earlier, there will be an optional walking tour around Ashgabat this afternoon. We'll see some architecture, local markets, and a slice of local life.
      Flights to Ashgabat
      • Arrive at Ashgabad International Airport (ASB) from a handful of international destinations.
         
      • Airport pickups will be arranged wherever you fly in from.
      Welcome group dinner
      • We start our tour with a group dinner of some excellent local food, coordination, and a briefing session, before the adventure ahead!
         

      Accommodation | Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

      Built for the 2017 Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games, this well-located and modern hotel allows access to malls, shops, and restaurants and provides guests with quality facilities in a fascinating part of the city. Should the heat of the day prove too much, you can quench your thirst in the rooftop bar or take a plunge in the swimming pool.

      Included Meals | Dinner

    2. October 6 | Sunday

      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.
         
      • Cooking course | For today's lunch, we attend a local restaurant which gives us a tutorial and the opportunity to bake some local Turkmen pies. If it's not for you, don't worry, you'll be able to relax whilst your meal is cooked for you.
      Afternoon city tour of Ashgabat
      • Independence Park and Independence Monument | Constructed to celebrate the independence of Turkmenistan on the 27th of October 1991.
         
      • Monument of Neutrality | From Independence to Neutrality, we go! Our next visit is the Monument of Neutrality built in 1998; a gold statue of Turkmenbashi tops this impressive structure.
         
      • Earthquake Monument and Museum | We hope you’re not too tired of statues just yet as we have a few more to go! Next up, is the Earthquake Monument and Museum.

      A grim reminder of the terrible earthquake that struck Ashgabat in 1948, killing 110,00 people and leveling the city. Both are tastefully presented and very educational.

      • Free evening for a night out in the city.

      Accommodation | Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    3. October 7 | Monday

      Bokhurdag and Darvaza Gas Crater

      • Desert adventure! We head off in a fleet of 4x4 vehicles into the deep desert today.
      Bokhurdag
      • Our first stop is the small desert village of Bokhurdag. It is here that we stop to sample the local cuisine and learn a little more about living outside the bright lights of Turkmenistan’s flamboyant capital.
      Desert Trip (Mining History)
      • Once our journey resumes, we’ll continue stopping as we travel to see other examples of the desert’s mining history, visiting two other craters (one filled with water, the other with mud). A perfect pretext for the great Darvaza Gas Crater.
      Darvaza Gas Crater
      • Finally, we arrive at the stunning and unforgettable Darvaza Gas Crater in the center 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 beside the crater as it is best seen at night.
         
      • Our accommodation provides us with the best opportunity to see the burning bit from sunset to sunrise.
         
      • Dinner will be cooked on the spot.

      Accommodation | 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.

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    4. October 8 | Tuesday

      Ashgabat

      • We return to Ashgabat, driving through the morning with a stop at the Basmachi Revolutionary Monument. It was built here as this area was a Basmachi stronghold during the 1920s. The Basmachi were an Islamic group fighting the occupying Soviet forces.
      Free time in Ashgabat at your leisure
      • Once back in the capital the rest of the day is yours to do with as you please.
         
      • You can explore, relax, shop, or take a side trip.
         
      • Drivers are available for hire.
         
      • We and our local guides can give advice on the spot.

      Accommodation | Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

      Included Meals | Breakfast

    5. October 9 | Wednesday

      Nisa Fortress and Kow Ata Underground Lake

      Nisa Fortress
      • A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Fortress of Nisa was the former capital of the mighty Parthian Empire in ancient times.
         
      • We will also visit a stud farm where Ahal-Teke horses are bread. This Turkmen horse breed is considered a heavenly and sacred beast in Turkmenistan. The farm visit will show you why. You can also have a ride on one of the horses if you like.
      Kow-Ata Underground Lake
      • We drive on to the bizarre Kow-Ata Underground Lake | A Sulphur-heated lake 100 meters 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 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.

      Accommodation | Hotel Niebitchi, Balkanabat

      Yurt-shaped curiosity in the center of town, well situated for wandering around and exploring.

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    6. October 10 | Thursday

      Yangykala Canyon and Turkmenbashi

      • We drive to the stunning Yangykala Canyon, known as the ‘Turkmen Grand Canyon’. A little-known but an absolutely beautiful area with shifting colors 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.
         
      • By the evening we will reach the Caspian Sea city of Turkmenbashi and the bizarre ‘tourist zone’ of Awaza. This place has to be seen to be believed and we will have a look around the hotel-covered peninsula before checking in for a relaxing evening at the coast.

      Accommodation | 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!

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    7. October 11 | Friday

      Awaza and Turkmenbashi

      Awaza
      • A free morning to relax at the coastal resort of Awaza.
         
      • 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, and see the different architectural styles of the buildings here, all of which have sprung up in the last few years.
      Turkmenbashi
      • We will drive to the city of Turkmenbashi for lunch.
         
      • It is the oldest city in the country and was once settled by Russians during their invasion from across the sea during the late Great Game.
         
      • City tour of Turkmenbashi | We will visit the local bazaar, pre-Soviet railway station, Oil Workers’ Square, various monuments, and even a cemetery for Japanese POWs who were brought here to labor after their capture at the end of WWII, and never got home again.
         
      • Flight back to Ashgabat for the final dinner of the tour, It's time for goodbyes and the last night out, if you’ve got the energy!

      Accommodation | Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    8. October 12 | Saturday

      Departure
      • Airport transfers are provided to Ashgabat International Airport (ASB) for everyone regardless of the time of flight or where they are flying.

      Included Meals | Breakfast

      End of Tour

      OR

      Optional Mary and Margush Extension (+600 EUR)

      Mary and Margush
      • Flight from Ashgabat to Mary International Airport (MYP) on Turkmenistan Airlines flight T5^127 at 6:20.
         
      • Arrival to Mary at 7:00.
         
      • Mary is in the center of the country and the nearest city to the ancient Silk Road metropolis of Merv.
         
      • Gonur-Deppe (Margush) is 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, and go to parks, bars, etc as you like. A sleepy area with welcoming and friendly locals.

      Accommodation | Hotel in Mary

      Included Meals | Breakfast

    9. October 13 | Sunday

      Optional Mary and Margush Extension

      Ancient Merv
      • Excursion to Ancient Merv, probably the most important city in the world at certain times of its history.
         
      • At this place, 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, and ruins all contributing to a sense of the dynamism of the ancient Silk Road.
      Return to Ashgabat
      • Fly back to Ashgabat for a final rest or night out before departure on Turkmenistan Airlines flight T5^130 departing at 19:30.
         
      • Flight arrival to Ashgabat International Airport (ASB) at 20:10.
         
      • Please let us know if you wish to book an extra night in Ashgabat.

      Included Meals | Breakfast

      End of Tour Extension

  • 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 local guide
    • Koryo Tours tour leader
    • Accommodation
    • Meals as indicated on the itinerary
    • All transportation in the country including internal flights, and airport transfers
    • All included sightseeing
    • All taxes, and entrance fees to protected areas

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Optional single supplement ($55 USD per night)
    • Optional extension to Merv ($600 USD)
    • Visa issuing fee ($50-$150 USD depending on nationality)
    • Extra nights at the hotel in Ashgabat ($120 USD)
    • International flights to and from Turkmenistan not included
    • Optional return flights from Beijing to Ashgabat cost approximately $1000 USD, while return flights from London LGW to Ashgabat cost approximately $1040 USD
  • Notes

    How 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 it to us by email) and you can consider yourself booked on this adventure!

    For any questions or comments about this trip get in touch with Rich Beal at [email protected].

    We ask for applications to be completed a minimum of one month in advance of the tour, ideally six weeks or more if possible.

    Please note that you must apply at least 4 weeks before the tour departure date as the Letter of Invitation (LOI) 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.

    Please also indicate where you plan to join the tour from and where you are headed after the tour. We can offer advice on this. Drop us a line to discuss.

    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.


    Turkmenistan Visa

    Please note that for this tour you are required to pay the fee for the issuance of the visa yourself.

    Koryo Tours will provide you with a Letter of Invitation (LOI) which acts as a guarantee of a visa and the actual issuance of the visa itself is a matter of procedure from this point on.

    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 or any other point of entry to the country.

    The fee payable on arrival varies according to your nationality. It ranges between $50-$150 USD.

    Visa on arrival is payable in cash only.

    The visa is stamped in your passport and is the same as it would be if issued at a Turkmen Embassy.

    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, please contact us early!

    The LOI 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.

    To read in detail about the Turkmenistan visa-issuing process and its complexities, please read our blog post on Turkmen visas here.


    Flights to Turkmenistan

    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. If anyone else is joining the tour from your place of departure we will inform you 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 as soon as possible.

    It is entirely possible to join the tour by flying in from other destinations. We can also accommodate people joining the tour after entering by land or sea.

    A range of exit methods are available to those joining this tour.


    Cancellation and Refunds

    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 and you cannot make rescheduled dates, a full refund will be made.

    Should the client wish to cancel after the 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 note that we can not accept any liability for delayed flights and any issues associated with times in relation to Letters of Invitations.

Please apply by 1st September, 2024.

October 5 - October 17 2024

Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan Adventure

Combine the best of two Stans; Explore the deserts
of Turkmenistan, ancient cities of Uzbekistan, & meet
the locals!

Join us as we venture across the deserts of Turkmenistan, ancient
cities of Uzbekistan, and meet the local people who call this incredible
region home!

From 3750 USD per person

Please apply by 10th September, 2024.

Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan Adventure

Combine the best of two Stans; Explore the deserts
of Turkmenistan, ancient cities of Uzbekistan, & meet
the locals!

Join us as we venture across the deserts of
Turkmenistan, ancient cities of Uzbekistan,
and meet the local people who call this incredible
region home!

From 3750 USD per person

  • Overall

    This adventure will take us through the heart of Central Asia, beginning with a journey across Turkmenistan’s vast deserts, experiencing the stunning Darvaza Gas Crater and the shining white capital city of Ashgabat, built entirely of marble. Plus, you will take a visit to the far west of the country to venture through the mysterious Awaza Resort.

    After Turkmenistan, we’ll make a crossing into neighbouring Uzbekistan for a trip through time as we visit the ancient capitals of Samarkand and Bukhara. After here, you'll head north to round off your adventure in the nation’s capital, Tashkent. It's home to incredible history and a few secrets which few know about!

    If you’re looking for a true adventure in Central Asia, this is the trip for you. Hitting all the highlights of these two great republics, you can mix ancient history with stunning modernity. All in the company of Koryo Tours and local experts. 

    A truly great Central Asian adventure that you won't find anywhere else!

    Highlights

    • Gateway to Hell: The Darvaza Gas Crater
    • The Mysterious Caspian Resort at Awaza
    • The Rarely Visited Turkmenbashi City
    • The Pearls of Persia: Bukhara & Samarkand
    • The Mighty Tashkent Solar Furnace
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 13
    1. Saturday, 5th October

      • We’ll meet in the heart of Turkmenistan’s capital. After a bit of rest, we’ll begin our day with an optional in-depth orientation walk around Ashgabat.
         
      •  Tekke Bazaar. Upon leaving the hotel, we’ll wander along the tree-lined boulevards of the nation’s capital, heading to the Tekke Bazaar. Tekke Bazaar is a busy market, popular amongst local people; this covered bazaar sells it all. Meat, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and clothing. Opposite, second-hand booksellers set up on weekends in the small park. If you’re lucky, you may find a copy of the Ruhnama, written by the president of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov. Niyazov famously said, ”A person who reads Ruhnama three times becomes smart, and after it, he will go straight to heaven”.
         
      • Inspiration Park. From the Tekke Bazaar, we will wander to Inspiration Park. This is a public park at the centre of downtown Ashgabat. Inspiration Park is a narrow parkland lined with sculptures of Persian poets, scholars and great thinkers, surrounded by beautiful natural scenery.
         
      • Russian Bazaar. We’ll continue our exploration, calling at another Bazaar, the Russian Bazaar. A covered market where you will be able to pick up a vast array of items – the perfect stop if there’s anything you’ve forgotten to pack! Cables, chargers, sweets, kimchi, baked goods, fruit & nuts as well as souvenirs. This market has it all, unless you’re after Turkmen cotton.
         
      • The Alty Asyr Shopping Centre over the road is an excellent stop for some well-priced Turkmen cotton goods offering everything from tracksuits and T-shirts to towels and bedsheets.
         
      • Statue of Lenin. Once we have stopped for a spot of lunch, we will continue the walk, checking out Ashgabat’s Soviet past on our visit to the Statue of Lenin. Ashgabat’s Lenin may not be the biggest, but his enormous carpet-patterned plinth compensates for this. Not far from Lenin, we’ll catch a glimpse of Russia’s most famous poet, Pushkin at the Pushkin Monument. From Pushkin, we will walk onwards to visit Pervyy Park – Ashgabat’s oldest park, founded in 1890, formerly named Officer Park, Lenin Park, First Park and Independence Park.
         
      • From the park, it’s a short stroll to Ashgabat Train Station. Initially built in 1888, the first railway station was destroyed in the 1948 earthquake along with much of the city. A new station was built in 1950 and remodelled in 2009; the station looks impressive, crowned by the eight-pointed star (Rub El Hizb). Finally, we will head back to the hotel for our first group meal.

      Accommodation: Olympic Hotel,  Ashgabat

      Included Meals: Dinner

    2. Sunday, 6th October

      • Altyn Asyr Bazaa. After a hearty breakfast, we’re up and out into Ashgabat, our first stop, the Altyn Asyr Bazaar, formerly the Tolkuchka Bazaar. Located on the outskirts of Ashgabat, it’s the largest market in the country and one of the largest in Central Asia. Relocated to its current location in 2011, Altyn Asyr is a massive affair. It sells everything from household goods, clothes, Turkmen carpets, camels and much more!
         
      • Ashgabat Hippodrome. After our mega shopping experience, it’s off to the races as we make our way to the Ashgabat Hippodrome. Sunday is race day here in Ashgabat, and what better animal to watch racing than the legendary Turkmen Akhal-Teke Horses. The greyhound of the horse world, the Akhal-Teke horse is one of the oldest existing horse breeds in the world.
         
      • Independence Park & Moument. After a delicious lunch, we’ll explore a little more of Turkmenistan’s marbled capital. Our first visit to Independence Park and Independence Monument, was constructed to celebrate the independence of Turkmenistan on the 27th of October 1991. As well as the memorial, the park is home to an impressive array of statues of characters from Turkmen history.
         
      • Monument of Neutrality. From Independence to Neutrality, we go! Our next visit is the Monument of Neutrality built in 1998. A gold statue of Turkmenbashi tops this impressive structure.
         
      • Earthquake Monument and Museum. We hope you’re not too tired of statues just yet as we have a few more to go. Next up, the Earthquake Monument and Museum. A grim reminder of the terrible earthquake that struck Ashgabat in 1948, killing 110,00 people and levelling the city. Both are tastefully presented and very educational.
         
      • Ashgabat's Unusual Architecture. On our way back to the hotel, we will pass a few of Ashgabat’s more unusual buildings, The Ministry of Gas is shaped like a giant cigarette lighter. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is shaped like a globe... And our personal favourite, The Ashgabat Dental Hospital is shaped like a massive tooth!
         
      • Once we have returned to the hotel, you are free to continue exploring Ashgabat or enjoy some well-deserved rest.

      Accommodation: Olympic Hotel,  Ashgabat

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

    3. Monday, 7th October

      • Free time. This morning there is a bit of free time for relaxing or shopping for supplies. This is useful as later today we’re off into the desert.
         
      • Into the Desert. Our first stop is the small desert village of Bokhurdag. It is here that we stop to sample the local cuisine and learn a little more about living outside the bright lights of Turkmenistan’s flamboyant capital. After lunch, before heading a little deeper into the Karakum Desert, we will make a stop at the village of Erbent.
         
      • Erbent. Erbent is similar to most of the surrounding desert settlements, however, it is here that the Monument to the Basmachi Revolution is located. The Basmachi revolutionary monument was built here as this area was a Basmachi stronghold during the 1920s. The Basmachi were an Islamic group fighting the occupying Soviet forces.
         
      • Once our journey resumes, we’ll continue stopping as we travel to see other examples of the desert’s mining history. We visit two other craters (one filled with water, the other with mud). A perfect pretext for the great Darvaza Gas Crater.
         
      • Darvaza Gas Crater. The incredible Darvaza Gas Crater, continuously burning since 1971, was created when Soviet engineers were drilling what they thought were vast oil fields. No oil was found, and the fields turned out to be rich in gas, evident when the drilling rig at Darvaza hit a void and collapsed in on itself. Sometime later it’s believed that the escaping gas was set alight to prevent methane from polluting a nearby village. Here we are all these years later. And the gas crater has now become one of the world’s most unusual tourist attractions.
         
      • We’ll arrive during daylight hours to observe the transition from light to dark as the night sky becomes illuminated by the flickering blaze of the crater.
         
      • Camping at Darvaza Gas Crater. Camping next to this burning void, we will enjoy a delicious Turkmen BBQ prepared by our local crew.

      Accommodation: Camping, Darvaza Gas Crater

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    4. Tuesday, 8th October

      • For some, it may be a little bit of a hazy start after enjoying a night of peering into the flaming heart of the Darvaza Gas Crater. After breakfast, we’ll climb back into the 4X4s, arriving in Ashgabat before lunch.
         
      • Ashgabat. Once we have checked in and had a chance to freshen up, we will take local taxis into Ashgabat’s marble-clad city centre to see its famous white heart. First stop, Ashgabat’s grandiose, opulent shopping mall, Berkerar. 
         
      • Berkerar Mall was opened in 2015 and it looks like a cross between a mosque and a palace, from the outside at least. While the inside is just as grand, for us it’s an excellent opportunity to grab a spot of lunch and see some local life before starting our walk.
         
      • City Tour. Once we’ve eaten, it’s out into the city passing wide open streets and pristine white apartments as we make our way back to the hotel. The start of our city hike takes us past the imposing 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games Stadium Area. The stadium area was built at the cost of around 5 billion USD. At its heart lies the Saparmurat Turkmenbashy Olympic Stadium, noticeable as part of the stadium is the shape of a giant Akhal-Teke Horse Head.
         
      • As we walk on through the city, we will skirt the Presidential Area Complex, forbidden to head inside, but we can still marvel at the magnificent golden domes and massive structures.
         
      • Before we reach our hotel, we will pass more statues, mosaics, and impressively whitened buildings.

      Accommodation: Olympic Hotel, Ashgabat

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    5. Wednesday, 9th October

      • After breakfast today, we’ll be checking out of our hotel and once again heading out of Ashgabat to explore a little more of Turkmenistan.
         
      • Nisa Fortress. Our first stop is the ancient Nisa Fortress. A UNESCO-listed site, this former Parthian capital is now just a shadow of its former self. But still fascinating. A journey around Nisa Fortress is a must for those interested in history. Believed to have been started by the first Parthian king, Arsaces I, Nisa Fortress was later named Mithradatkirt (Fortress of Mithradates) after the famed Parthian who elevated the Parthian Empire to historic greatness!
         
      • Akhal-Teke Horses. The Parthians, like their Turkmen descendants, were famed for their beautiful horses. And our next stop gets us up close to the magnificent Akhal-Teke horses as we visit a nearby stud farm. We will learn more about the famed Turkmen horse and its actual value at the stud farm.
         
      • Bakharden Cave. As we slowly edge away from Ashgabat, we’ll make one more stop at the Bakharden Cave around 60 km away from the city. The Bakharden Cave is a popular stop for locals on holidays and weekends who travel here to venture deep underground and swim in the Kow-Ata Underground Lake.
         
      • Kow-Ata Underground Lake. Yes, it’s dark, smelly, and a little bizarre, but the 100m deep sulphur-heated lake is one of those things worth trying just once. Once you’ve taken a swim or watched everyone else attempt it, we will have lunch at one of the delicious Shashlik restaurants just outside.
         
      • Balkanabad. After lunch, it’s on with the adventure as we travel further with our 4X4s to the remote desert city of Balkanabad. We should arrive in late afternoon, giving you the chance to explore a little of this friendly city on your own.

      Accommodation: Hotel Niebitchi, Balkanabat

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    6. Thursday, 10th October

      • We’ll depart our hotel early this morning as we have a lot of driving and a lot to see. Our first stop is the Balkanabat Market. It may be small, but it’s still an exciting stop to catch a little of the local life in this town. As we pass many of the local Soviet-style buildings on our way through town, we will make one final stop.
         
      • Monument to the Desert Explorers. Located on the outskirts of town, the Monument to the Desert Explorers is an impressive memorial constructed to honour those early Russian researchers who discovered oil and were responsible for the founding of Balkanabat.
         
      • Yangykala Canyon. Once we leave the dusty streets of Balkanabat, we’re out into the desert on our way to the Yangykala Canyon. Along the way, we pass impressive desert features such as rolling dunes, cliffs and geological features such as fossil beds containing evidence that this whole area was once a vast inland sea.
         
      • Turkmen Grand Canyon. Known by some as the ’Turkmen Grand Canyon’, the Yangykala Canyon is an impressive yet little-known geological feature located deep within the desert. Never failing to impress, the canyon plays host to rock formations sporting many varied colours and cliffs and canyons to make even the best-travelled visitor happy to have made this lengthy detour. With breathtaking views all around us, we will be sure to stop and enjoy our packed lunch in this most stunning location. Once you have taken as many photos as you can, we will board our 4X4s and drive to Turkmenbashi.
         
      • Caspian Sea. As we cut our way through the desert, we’ll eventually catch sight of the mighty Caspian Sea, the largest inland sea in the world. Clinging to the Caspian coast, we will pass through the port city of Turkmenbashi on our way to our final destination of the day, the resort town of Awaza.
         
      • Awaza. A bizarre collection of grandiose tourist hotels, attractions and sites, Awaza is a place that has to be seen to be believed. We have a real treat in store as our accommodation is one of the best in the area, and the most surreal. We will check in with enough time to catch the sunset over the Capsian before a well-deserved rest.

      Accommodation: Yelken Yacht Club, Awaza

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    7. Friday, 11th October

      • Today, unlike previous days on this Turkmen adventure, you’ll have a free morning to rest, relax or explore your unusual surroundings. If it’s warm enough or you're feeling particularly daring, you can take a plunge into the Caspian, wander along the shoreline looking at the interesting architecture or enjoy the Truman Show feel of our hotel resort.
         
      • Awaza Canal. If it’s operating, we will make the day a little more bizarre and take a boat ride on the artificial Awaza Canal. A short 50-minute ride set to puzzle and confuse you is a perfect prelude to a pleasant lunch in Turkmenbashi, the oldest city in the country. Whilst the city is nowhere near as visually impressive as Ashgabat, it does have some exciting sites dotted around, many of which we will be sure to visit.
         
      • Turkmenbashi. Formerly Krasnovodsk, the city was named after a fort built by the Russians after their second invasion in 1869. Krasnovodsk served as a vital jumping point for Russian imperial soldiers as they continued forward with their conquests of Khiva and Bukhara.
         
      • Turkmenbashi Railway Station. On the 8th of October 1993, President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov renamed the city after himself Turkmenbashi (Head of all Turkmens). First, we will visit the Turkmenbashi Railway Station. This pleasant Russian-built station was constructed in 1895 and still departures and arrivals to and from locations across Central Asia.
         
      • From the station, we’ll cross the road to see the Oil Worker’s Square and the Monument to the Great Patriotic War commemorating all of those Turkmen who lost their lives in this distant conflict. Including Atamurat Niyazov, the father of Saparmurat Niyazov. From the square, we will look at some of the city’s architecture, which may not be so inspiring, but much of it was built by Japanese and German POWs from the war.
         
      • Our final stop of the day will be the Cheryomushki Bazaar, located at the heart of Turkmenbashi. This bustling market is one of the country’s best, with friendly stallholders selling local snacks and crafts. For those interested in fish from the Caspian, the fish market on site boasts an impressive selection of the sea’s bounty.
         
      • Once we’ve had our fill of Turkmenbashi, we’ll head to the nearby airport for our flight to Ashgabat. We will arrive in time for our last group meal in Turkmenistan, and prepare ourselves for the adventure onward to Uzbekistan!

      Accommodation: Olympic Hotel, Ashgabat

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    8. Saturday, 12th October

      Turkmenistan - Uzbekistan
      • Border Crossing. This morning we’ll depart Ashgabat and make our way to the airport for our connecting flight to Turkmenabat, Turkmenistan’s border city with its northern neighbour, Uzbekistan. Once we’ve arrived in the city, we’ll head for the border, passing through the various customs checks before finally waving goodbye to our Turkmen friends, and heading into Uzbekistan.
         
      • Bukhara. Once we’ve crossed the border, we’ll meet up with our new Uzbek guides, and head towards the nearby city of Bukhara, an ancient city that was once the heart of empires in the region. Along with nearby Samarkand, Bukhara served as the heart of the Persian world for centuries under numerous empires, and continues today as Uzbekistan’s seventh largest city, and one of its most popular attractions for foreign travellers, owing to its rich history as a Persian capital, and an outpost on the renowned Silk Road.
         
      • We’ll head straight for our hotel where we’ll have a free evening to relax, before heading out tomorrow to experience Bukhara!

      Accommodation: 3* Hotel

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

    9. Sunday, 13th October

      • Today we’ll enjoy a day in the picturesque surroundings of Bukhara, exploring the ancient legacy of this stunning city. Our first stop of the day will be the magnificent Kalyan Minaret.
         
      • Kalyan Minaret. Built in 1127, the Kalyan Minaret is all that survives of a once grandiose Djuma Mosque, designed for crowds of people to worship at once. Today, the site has been rebuilt around the footprint of this great tower, now at the centre of a courtyard surrounded by galleries and stunning architecture. It’s from here that the ancient call to prayer would have blasted across the city, and many locals would have descended on the site. It was built twice. Evidence suggests the soft ground led it to collapse after being nearly completed the first time. However, after almost a millennium, it shouldn’t fall again!
         
      • Khoja-Gaukushon. Next, we’ll make our way to Khoja-Gaukushon. A great ensemble at the heart of the city, home to a mosque, madrassah, and minaret. The area once served as a kind of plaza for local people to meet, trade, set up market stalls, and (rather oddly) slaughter animals. The name ‘Gaukushon’ means ‘Slaughter of Bulls’. Later, a large minaret, mosque, and madrassah were built on the site, adding to the great patchwork of beautiful buildings littered across the skyline of Bukhara.
         
      • Finally, we’ll wrap up with the Mausoleum of Naqshbandi and the summer residence of the last Emir of Bukhara which sits a few kilometres outside the city itself. The mausoleum is a place of pilgrimage for many Sufis and a place of incredible beauty, whilst the summer palace is known as ‘the place where the moon meets the stars.
         
      • This evening, we’ll head to the train station to catch a late high-speed train to nearby Samarkand, another gem in the heart of this region.

      Accommodation: 3* Hotel

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    10. Monday, 14th October

      • Samarkand. This morning we’ll wake up surrounded by the ancient city of Samarkand. We have a full day to experience the sights and sounds of this bustling place.
         
      • Registan Square. Our first stop will be Registan Square. The Registan is an ensemble of majestic and stunningly beautiful madrassahs, the most incredible example of Islamic architecture. The plaza would once have been dominated by a great bazaar, allowing local people to go about their business. Meanwhile, the surrounding madrassahs allow scholars to work and create a centre for Islamic scholars across Central Asia. Today, the Registan is the number one, must-see sight in the country. An unmissable experience!
         
      • Mausoleum of Tamerlane. We will also make a stop at the Mausoleum of Tamerlane, known as the Gur Emir, a national icon in Uzbekistan. This is followed by a visit to a necropolis which graces the northern part of the city, Shah-i-Zinda. A fabulous example of traditional Islamic architecture in the region, comprising numerous buildings, towers and beautiful domed rooves. The turquoise mosaic tiling contrasts against the arid sandy backdrop of Samarkand’s desert surroundings.
         
      • Bibi-Khanym Mosque. We’ll also visit the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, once the largest in Central Asia.
         
      • Siab Baazar. We break away from the ancient history to explore the local market, known as the Siab Baazar. Whether you’re searching for textiles and fabrics, exquisite and intriguing foodstuffs, or just looking for an opportunity to rub shoulders with Samarkand’s locals – Siab Baazar is the place to visit. The market is a great place to pick up souvenirs, clothes, snacks, and all manner of things, but it’s also an oddly peaceful and fun place to spend some time. Wander the aisles, chat with shoppers and market vendors, and experience life as it’s truly lived in this city.

      Accommodation: 3* Hotel

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    11. Tuesday, 15th October

      • Tashkent. This morning we’ll bid farewell to Samarkand as we head to the train station to catch a high-speed train from the city and head north. This journey will take around 3 hours to our destination, Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Since its near destruction during an earthquake in 1966, the city has been redeveloped. This was initially by the Soviet Union, leaving an obvious trace of the USSR in its city planning.
         
      • Institute of Solar Physics. This afternoon, we’ll take a trip outside of the city to the Institute of Solar Physics. A huge series of mirrors used to heat a large furnace. The institute will open just for us. They will run a test of the system to demonstrate the immense power of this Soviet-era megaproject.
         
      • Uzbekistan’s Countryside. 45km outside the city, we’ll pass through some of Uzbekistan’s northern countryside, a far cry from the dry desert-like environment which dominates the rest of the country. Upon arrival, we’ll witness the effect of these huge parabolic mirrors, heating the furnace to over 3000*C. We’ll also learn about the potential that exists for clean energy from this system, since the energy produced is completely clean, and could be put to work in the future for clean energy.
         
      • Our accommodation tonight will be the Hotel Uzbekistan. This was once the premiere hotel in the country for visiting dignitaries, government officials, and rare foreign tourists.

      Accommodation: Hotel Uzbekistan

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    12. Wednesday, 16th October

      • Tashkent. This morning we’ll step out into the bustling city of Tashkent.
         
      • Amir Timur Square. Our day begins with a visit to Amir Timur Square at the heart of this vibrant capital.  One of the main squares in Tashkent, Amir Timur is graced with a magnificent Statue of Tamerlane, a medieval conqueror, on horseback. Although Amir Timur is not the largest square in the city, the tree-lined pavements and bright green grass make it perfect for an evening stroll amidst the locals of Tashkent.
         
      • Chorus Bazaar. From here, we will spend some time in the beautifully domed Chorus Bazaar. A great place to observe local life or buy those last-minute bargains, and another chance to chat with locals from the city, as well as support local independent businesses in Tashkent.
         
      • Tashkent Metro. No visit to Tashkent would be complete without a ride on the Tashkent Metro built in the former USSR. The metro network consists of three lines which crisscross beneath the streets of the city. This incredibly ornate metro system opened in 1977 and has only grown in beauty. Not only is it an incredible tourist attraction in its own right, but you can use it to get between Tashkent’s other incredible above-ground sites! Tashkent Metro is one of only two subway systems currently operating in Central Asia (the other is the Almaty Metro).
         
      • Fine Arts Museum of Uzbekistan. Our last stop for the day will be the Fine Arts Museum of Uzbekistan. There are, of course, hundreds of museums across the Uzbek capital worth poking your head in. However, our favourite must be the State Fine Arts Museum, home to thousands of artefacts from across Russia and Europe. This Soviet-era museum holds many of the treasures confiscated from the Grand Duke Romanov, who himself likely stole them from St Petersburg. In addition, artwork from across Russia and the Soviet Union is displayed throughout this museum.
         
      • Hotel Uzbekistan. Finally, we’ll return to our Soviet hotel – from here, we’ll have a free evening. You’ll be able to wander the streets, find and try unusual delicacies, and meet local Tashkenters.

      Accommodation: Hotel Uzbekistan

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

    13. Thursday, 17th October

      This morning, airport transfers will be provided to all travellers heading to the airport for international flights. For extension opportunities, please contact your tour manager.

      END OF TOUR

      Included Meals: Breakfast

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED
    • English Speaking Guide
    • Western Tour Leader
    • All Listed Meals
    • Accommodation
    • Internal Flights
    • All Included Sightseeing
    • All Taxes & Entrance Fees
    NOT INCLUDED
    • Single Supplement
    • Extra Night(s) Accommodation
    • International Flights
    • Uzbekistan Visa
    • Snacks
    • Tips

Please apply by 10th September, 2024.

October 19 - November 8 2024

The Five Stans Tour

Discover the heart of the ancient Silk Road & Tour the
5 Stans! Kyrygztsan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan

A 21-Day Odyssey across Central Asia following the ancient
Silk Road; Exploring highlights & getting off the beaten
path!

From 5450 USD per person

Please apply by 1st October, 2024.

The Five Stans Tour

Discover the heart of the ancient Silk Road & Tour the
5 Stans! Kyrygztsan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan

A 21-Day Odyssey across Central Asia
following the ancient Silk Road; Exploring
highlights & getting off the beaten
path!

From 5450 USD per person

  • Overall

    Spend 3 weeks ticking off all 5 of the 'Stan Countries'!

    This trip, curated and led by our expert tour leaders and in-country partners, is designed to show you the best of Central Asia in the limited time we have. All with a special Koryo-Twist that makes all of our tours so unique.

    It will take you from the mountainous republic of Kyrgyzstan on a 3-week adventure. You'll walk the path of the ancient Silk Road, as we wind between vast mountain ranges, cross stunning rivers, traverse great deserts, and rub shoulders with local people from across Central Asia.

    Having worked in Central Asia for over two decades, Koryo Tours are extremely happy to be able to announce this trip that has been years in the making. Truly the ultimate trip for those travellers wishing to get a thorough insight into Central Asia from those who know and love it best. Crossing multiple borders by land can be tricky... Sit back and let us do all the hard work and planning - leaving you more time for enjoying! 

    Let's take a look at an introduction to what you can expect from each of these unique countries. 

    Kyrgyzstan

    This journey begins in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, known for its incredible mountain ranges and ancient history.

    We’ll spend a couple of days in the country, both in the capital and in the surrounding region, exploring the beauty and history of this great country.

    Kazakhstan

    No true adventure to this region would be complete without a visit to Almaty, Kazakhstan.

    This ancient city is still a thriving hub in this intriguing and enigmatic country, and also the perfect gateway from which to fly into the heart of Central Asia.

    Tajikistan

    Another great mountainous republic, Tajikistan is home to a handful of incredible cities. We’ll begin in Dushanbe. Perhaps the most laid-back, and beautiful capital in the region.

    Home to ancient cultural traditions, and the more modern trappings of the Soviet Union.

    Uzbekistan

    Once home to ancient Persian capitals.

    Uzbekistan is where we transition from towering mountains to blistering deserts as we journey to explore what remains of Samarkand and Bukhara. Once a hub of Islamic culture and architecture, and still home to some of the most beautiful sites in Asia.

    Turkmenistan

    One of the strangest offerings from this adventure.

    Whether you’re looking to marvel at ancient cities in Merv & Mary, stare into the gateway to hell at the Darvaza Gas Crater, or wonder at the pure white marble capital, Turkmenistan has something for everyone!



    Looking for something shorter? We run individual and combo tours to all of the above countries, as well as private tours for those travellers looking for something more flexible. 

    Turkmenistan Tours | Uzbekistan Tours | Tajikistan Tours | Kyrgyzstan Tours | Kazakhstan Tours

    Highlights

    • The stunning natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan: The Mountain Republic.
    • Enjoy mountains and rivers, and mix with locals in beautiful, laid-back Dushanbe (Tajikistan)
    • Almaty & Little-Known Tashkent Solar Furnace (Kazakhstan)
    • The Ancient Cities of Samarkand & Bukhara (Uzbekistan)
    • The Gateway to Hell: Darvaza Gas Crater & Ashgabat. The Marble Capital! (Turkmenistan)
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 21
    1. October 19 | Saturday

      Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

      • Our adventure begins in the heart of Central Asia’s mountainous heart of the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek.
         
      • Airport Pick-Up | All travellers will be met at the airport and taken straight to the group hotel where we’ll meet for introductions and a pre-tour briefing.
      Bishkek City Tour
      • Osh Bazaar | Our first stop will be the Osh Bazaar. A bustling market at the heart of Bishkek. This gives us a chance to rub shoulders with the locals and pick up bits and bobs from the market traders.
         
      • National Philharmonic | From the market, we’ll make our way to the Soviet-era National Philharmonic building an austere, communist-era building. The hard edges of the concrete are softened somewhat by the bright flowers and magnificent bronze statue which graces the front of the building.
         
      • Next, we’ll stop off at the Ala-too Square and the nearby State Historical Museum. And we follow this with a walk through Oak Park. We can enjoy the local Open-air art gallery and the various sculptures contained within.
         
      • State Department Store | Finally, we’ll head to Victory Square and the nearby State Department Store, ZUM. These state-run department stores are a main-stay across former communist states, home to everything from traditional souvenirs to home appliances.
         
      • Return to Hotel | As the day draws to a close, we’ll head back to the hotel. This evening, we’ll prepare for the epic adventure ahead of us as we relax before we depart from Bishkek in the morning.

      Accommodation | Soviet-style Hotel

      Included Meals | Lunch

    2. October 20 | Sunday

      Bishkek - Chon Kemin

      • Kyrgyzstan Countryside | This morning it’s up and out as we depart the nation’s capital and make our way out into the countryside. 
      Burana Tower
      • Our first stop today is the Burana Tower. This is an 11th-century construction that marks the site of the once-great city of Balasagun. Once a major stopover along the Silk Road.
         
      • The city is nowhere to be seen today. The tower is the only remaining building at the site. Even the tower used to be taller than it is today!
      Tokmok Stadium
      • After marvelling at the ancient tower, we’ll continue our journey to Tokmok Stadium. This is the home of many horse sports, which remain popular across Central Asia to this day.
         
      • We’ll spend the afternoon enjoying some of these horse games. We will enjoy a Kyrgyz version of ‘tag'. Except on horses... and with grown men rather than primary school children!
      Chon Kemin
      • Finally, we’ll arrive in Chon Kemin, our rest stop for this evening. Chon Kemin is set deep in a valley, surrounded by beautiful flora and fauna.
         
      • There are also pine forests which coat the higher slopes above us. Here, we’ll rest for the night before carrying on our journey tomorrow towards Issyk Kul Lake.

      Accommodation | Local Guesthouse

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    3. October 21 | Monday

      Chon Kemin - Lake Issyk Kul

      Local Family Visit | This morning, we’ll visit a local family in Chon Kemin. Here, we can some time with the locals and learn about life in this strange, small town. Whilst we’re there, we may have a chance to try (or even make) some traditional Kyrgyz cuisine alongside our hosts.

      Local Co-Operative (Traditional Felt Carpets)
      • Shyrdaks and Ala-kiyiz | We’ll make our way to a local cooperative. They are responsible for the creation of traditional felt carpets, known locally as Shyrdaks and Ala-kiyiz.
         
      • This visit gives us a great chance to meet with local people keeping historical traditions alive in Kyrgyzstan. We can also learn about the arts and culture which has continued uninterrupted in Central Asia for hundreds of years.
      Eagle Hunters
      • Next, we’ll visit a local eagle hunter, another great example of Kyrgyz culture in action.
      Yurt Camp
      • Finally, we head to our overnight stop. A yurt camp on the banks of Lake Issyk Kul.
         
      • Here, we’ll enjoy a free evening of relaxing, swimming (for those who wish) and generally decompressing on the shores of the stunning lake, hidden deep amidst the mountains of Kyrgyzstan.

      Accommodation | Yurt Camp

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    4. October 22 | Tuesday

      Lake Issk Kul - Tepke

      Skazka Canyon
      • Continuing our exploration of Kyrgyzstan's natural wonders, we'll depart Issyk Kul Lake and head towards Skazka Canyon, known locally as 'Fairytale Canyon'.
         
      • This natural wonder is a mixture of intriguing rock formations made of red sandstone. From a distance, it looks almost like flames rising from the valley floor and towering into the sky.
         
      • We'll spend some time admiring this Martian landscape before boarding our trusty vehicles once more and making our way to Karakol City.
      Karakol City
      • The city of Karakol sits at the northern tip of Issyk Kul Lake and is the country's fourth largest city.
         
      • Dungan Mosque | Our first stop will be the oddly charming Dungan Mosque. This mosque is famous for being built without a single nail back in 1904. It was built as a place for Muslims from China to worship in the country. Something noticeable in its design. Distinctly Chinese style of architecture.
         
      • Orthodox Church | Nearby sits the local Orthodox church, built at the end of 1860 entirely from wood. It's a marvel that the building continues to stand today. But it does!
         
      • Museum of Przkevalski | After visiting the church, we'll stop at the Museum of Przkevalski, a Russian Explorer who once gave his name to the town. Przkevalski is famous across Russia and Central Asia, and this museum allows us to learn a little more about this enigmatic adventurer!
      Tepke
      • Finally, we'll drive to our local guesthouse near the village of Tepke.

      Accommodation | TBC

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    5. October 23 | Wednesday

      Kyrgyzstan - Kazakhstan

      Tien Shen Mountain Range
      • Today, we'll make our final journey in Kyrgyzstan as we leave our guesthouse and make a beeline for the border with neighbouring Kazakhstan.
      Kazakhstan
      • Border Crossing | Our journey will take us to the eastern edge of the Tien Shen Mountain Range. Here, we'll make our border crossing, and head down into the steppe of southern Kazakhstan.
      Charyn Canyon
      • Before reaching our destination, Almaty, we'll stop at the Charyn Canyon.
         
      • Similar to the canyon in Kyrgyzstan, this rocky valley is filled with unusual and mesmerizing rock formations. We'll spend the afternoon here, enjoying the scenery, and the cool water of the river which runs through the bottom of the canyon.
      Almaty
      • After we've had a pleasant packed lunch, we'll finally make our way to the world-famous city of Almaty.
         
      • Once the capital of Kazakhstan, it now serves as the largest city. And the culture hub of the country.
         
      • A major stop on the ancient Silk Road, people of all different nationalities and ethnicities have been mixing and mingling in Almaty for centuries. Something which continues to this day.
         
      • The Soviet planning of the city will become evident as we drive through wide-open boulevards lined with trees. And low-rise Soviet-style apartment blocks lining the smaller backroads.
         
      • Almaty is a city of contrasts. The modern Soviet city making way for the traditional, ancient aspects of the city. All while being nestled in the foothills of the surrounding mountains.

      Accommodation | Hotel Kazakhstan

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    6. October 24 | Thursday

      Almaty

      • This morning, we'll wake up in the beautiful city of Almaty. Nestled against the precipitous Tian Shan Mountain range and dotted with parks, theatres, boulevards, and much more.
      Panfilovets Park
      • We'll begin our walking tour of the city with a trip to Panfilovets Park. This is Almaty's main place of leisure.
         
      • It is 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.
      Green Bazaar & Rakhat Chocolate Factory
      • These neighbouring sites are local institutions. You can smell the sweetness from the latter all across this part of the city.
         
      • Banter and barter with sellers in the market, pick up the apples that Almaty is known for as well as all manner of other delicious local delicacies.
         
      • Get your sweet tooth into action with the terrific and very affordable selection at the chocolate factory. (Ideal for gifts too!)
      Arbat Street
      • Every good former USSR town has one. A pedestrian area ideal for promenading, window shopping, cafe culture, public art sales, and so on.
         
      • This one is very modern and it is lined with some great examples of brutalist apartment buildings. We'll visit some local coffee shops, visit the site of the former GUM department store in the heart of the city, and enjoy some lunch in downtown Almaty.
      Almaty Metro
      • Following on from our relaxing city centre, we'll board the Almaty Metro. One of only two subway systems in the whole of Central Asia. (The other is Tashkent).
         
      • This system opened in 2012 and strikes a balance between Moscow's opulence and modern efficiency.
      Cable Car Ride
      • Finally, those who wish can take a trip on a cable car ride up to a mountain overlooking the city.
         
      • Amazing views, a statue of the Beatles, a Ferris Wheel and toboggan ride, a 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 else.
      Evening Free Time
      • We'll wrap the day up with a free evening to explore the city. For those who prefer to stay in the hotel, you're welcome to eat at the restaurant. Otherwise, you're free to roam the streets to find some delicious local cuisine for dinner.

      Accommodation | Hotel Kazakhstan

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    7. October 25 | Friday

      Kazakhstan - Tajikistan

      Flight to Tajikistan
      • This morning, we'll bid farewell to Kazakhstan as we board our flight. This flight takes us from Almaty to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.
         
      • The flight is only around 2 hours, and we'll fly over the majestic Pamir Mountain Range which blankets this part of Central Asia.
      Dushanbe
      • Upon arrival in Dushanbe, we'll meet our local guides and head into the city.
         
      • Dushanbe is a relatively young capital. It was little more than a small town at the beginning of the 20th century. As a result, the influence of city planning by the ruling Soviet Union is stark in this city. Wide open boulevards, tree-lined streets, and a relaxed atmosphere make Dushanbe one of the greatest cities in the region for weary travellers.
         
      • Victory Park | Victory Park was built in 1975 to commemorate the Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, this Soviet-built monument offers great views of the city.
         
      • Rudaki & Somoni Avenues | Two main streets in Dushanbe formally known as Lenin Street and Petoskey Street. Rudaki Avenue and Somoni Avenue 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 | We'll take our time meandering through the streets of Dushanbe, making sure to stop at 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 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 | As the afternoon approaches, we'll head to the Mehrgon Market Building. As with many of the cities, old marketplaces are 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.
         
      • National Museum of Antiquities | The National Museum of Antiquities is next on our list of must-see sites. This museum gives us a more in-depth look at the complicated history of Tajikistan and the surrounding countries.
         
      • Botanical Gardens | We will then enjoy a visit to the Botanical Gardens. Popular for wedding groups as well as housing a vast range of Central Asian flora.
         
      • Dushanbe Tea House | For a bit of end-of-day relaxation, we'll visit the Dushanbe Tea House. This was once the largest tea house in the world, but it has now been remodelled as an entertainment facility for local people. It has recently been renovated and holds a small cinema, bowling alleys and even various shops. We can still visit to view the amazingly intricate work carried out in its construction.

      Accommodation | Hotel Tajikistan

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    8. October 26 | Saturday

      Khoja Obi Garm Health Spa

      Khoja Obi Garm Spa
      • Today we'll depart our hotel a little later, allowing you the chance to repack and prepare for the following day's journey.
         
      • Today, we leave Dushanbe and make our way into the mountains.
         
      • Our destination is the mammoth, brutalist Soviet health spa that is Khoja Obi Garm Health Spa. This ageing Soviet marvel sits perched against the mountains like a Bond villain's mountain fortress. The building is an impressive display of brutalist-style architecture looking out of place against the stunning mountain backdrop.
      Read all about the Khoja Obi Garm Health Spa here
      • Construction began on Khoja Obi Garm in 1935 inspired by Lenin's decree that more attention should be paid to workers' health within the Soviet Union. From 1922, two weeks' holiday were given to workers during this time. Often, they would visit one of the many spa resorts being constructed across the Soviet Union. Construction of Khoja Obi Garm continued right up until the collapse of the Union in 1991!
      • The spa will not fail to impress. Its gargantuan size from the outside fills the mountain slopes. However inside, its rooms and facilities have begun to decay.
         
      • We'll spend the afternoon with the feeling that we've travelled back to the 1960s. Whilst attendants poke, prod and recommend varying scary-sounding treatments. We'll be able to wander around this ageing building where time appears to have stood still.
         
      • If plunging into radioactive water, steam baths, and massages are not for you, then you're free to head out and about photographing this behemoth from the outside. Or view the surrounding stunning snow-capped mountains which cage this ageing monster.

      Accommodation | Khoja Obi Garm Health Spa

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    9. October 27 | Sunday

      Panjikent Ancient City

      • Our destination is the ancient city of Panjikent. The drive there is a worthy mention. We pass small Soviet-era villages, busy rural markets and farms dotted by blossoming apricot trees.
         
      • On our way, we'll make a few intriguing stops. A visit to the infamous 'Tunnel of Death', past the burning cliffs which have been emanating smoke for longer than anyone can remember, and a visit to the local cognac factory.
         
      • Tracing the Zeravshan, we'll drive through deep mountain gorges with cliffs that tower above us lined with waving sediment. A testament to the region's rich geological value.
      Zarafshan Valley
      • Eventually, the steep valley sides open out to the lush Zarafshan Valley, a welcome sight. This means Panjikent is close! As well as a well-deserved lunch.
      Panjikent City Tour
      • Once we have eaten and checked into our hotel, we will continue our exploration of the city, journeying to ancient Panjikent on the fringes of the town.
         
      • Walking around the foundations of ancient houses, Bazaars, temples and citadels, we will learn about the area's history from our excellent local guide. From the 5th-century Sogdian construction to the settlement's decline and abandonment at the hands of the invading Arabs in the 8th century (now a UNESCO-listed site).
         
      • Statue of Lenin | We'll also stop at a small statue of Lenin in a local park, outside a former Soviet ministerial building. A strange addition to this interesting little city.
      Sarazm
      • We drive to the bronze age settlement of Sarazm. 
         
      • This is another regional UNESCO-listed site. It is believed to have been founded in the 4th millennium BC. We walk around the heavily protected area learning about the rich finds and discoveries made within the covered pits.
      Pajikent Central Market
      • From the 4th millennium, BC, we're brought back to the present as we journey back to Panjikent and visit its colourful local bazaar.
         
      • Panjakent Central Market is an absolute delight to wander around and soak up the local atmosphere, helped by the smell of freshly cooked Tajik bread.
         
      • Before we retire to our local guesthouse, we will head to a real showcase of a family home for our evening meal and some local entertainment.

      Accommodation | Sugd Hotel or similar

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    10. October 28 | Monday

      Tajikistan - Uzbekistan

      • Today, we’ll load up our trusty vehicles and make our way towards the Uzbek border. Our destination for today is the ancient city of Samarkand.
         
      • Uzbekistan Border Crossing | After passing through the border formalities, we’ll enter our fourth country on this adventure. Uzbekistan is home to some of the most incredible ancient cities in the region, and our first stop is one of the jewels in the crown.
      Samarkand
      • Perhaps there is no city associated more with the ancient Silk Road than Samarkand. The muse of poets and playwrights throughout history, Samarkand has an aura like no other.
         
      • Today, the city is split into the ancient and the modern, with the ancient districts still reminiscent of the days of merchants and traders, and the new part, a much more Soviet, functional affair.
      Registan Square
      • The Registan is an ensemble of majestic and stunningly beautiful madrassahs. The most incredible example of Islamic architecture.
         
      • The plaza would once have been dominated by a great bazaar, allowing local people to go about their business. Meanwhile, the surrounding madrassahs allow scholars to work and create a centre for Islamic scholars across Central Asia. Today, the Registan is the number one, must-see sight in the country, an unmissable experience!
         
      • Gur Emir | We will also make a stop at the mausoleum of Tamerlane, known as the Gur Emir. A national icon in Uzbekistan.

      Accommodation | Local 3* Hotel

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    11. October 29 | Tuesday

      Samarkand - Tashkent

      Shah-i-Zinda
      • Our day will begin with a visit to a necropolis which graces the northern part of the city, Shah-i-Zinda. A fabulous example of traditional Islamic architecture in the region, comprising numerous buildings, towers and beautiful domed rooves.
         
      • The turquoise mosaic tiling contrasts against the arid sandy backdrop of Samarkand’s desert surroundings.
         
      • Bibi-Khanym Mosque | We’ll also visit the Bibi-Khanym Mosque. Once the largest in Central Asia.
         
      • Siab Baazar | We then break away from the ancient history to explore the local market, known as the Siab Baazar.
         
      • Whether you’re searching for textiles and fabrics, exquisite and intriguing foodstuffs, or just looking for an opportunity to rub shoulders with Samarkand’s locals – Siab Baazar is the place to visit.
         
      • The market is a great place to pick up souvenirs, clothes, snacks, and all manner of things, but it’s also an oddly peaceful and fun place to spend some time. Wander the aisles, chat with shoppers and market vendors, and experience life as it’s truly lived in this city.
      Train to Tashkent
      • After lunch, we’ll bid farewell to Samarkand as we head to the train station to catch a high-speed train from the city and head north. This journey will take around 3 hours to our destination, Tashkent. The capital of Uzbekistan.
      Tashkent
      • Since its near destruction during an earthquake in 1966, the city has been redeveloped. Initially, this was by the Soviet Union. Leaving an obvious trace of the USSR in its city planning.
         
      • Following the communist theme, our accommodation tonight will be the Hotel Uzbekistan. Hotel Uzbekistan was once the premiere hotel in the country for visiting dignitaries, government officials, and rare foreign tourists.

      Accommodation | Hotel Uzbekistan

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    12. October 30 | Wednesday

      Tashkent

      • This morning we’ll step out into the bustling city of Tashkent.
      Tashkent City Tour 
      • Amir Timur Square | Our day begins with a visit to Amir Timur Square at the heart of this vibrant capital. One of the main squares in Tashkent, Amir Timur is graced with a magnificent statue of Tamerlane, a medieval conqueror, on horseback.
         
      • Although Amir Timur is not the largest square in the city, the tree-lined pavements and bright green grass make it perfect for an evening stroll amidst the locals of Tashkent.
         
      • Bazaar | From here, we will spend some time in the beautifully domed chorus Bazaar. A great place to observe local life or buy those last-minute bargains. And another chance to chat with locals from the city, as well as support local independent businesses in Tashkent.
         
      • Tashkent Metro | No visit to Tashkent would be complete without first a ride on the Tashkent Metro. Built in the former USSR, it opened in 1977.
         
      • The metro network consists of three lines which crisscross beneath the streets of the city. This incredibly ornate metro system was opened in 1977 and has only grown in beauty since then. Not only is it an incredible tourist attraction in its own right, but you can use it to get between Tashkent’s other incredible above-ground sites!
         
      • Tashkent Metro is one of only two subway systems currently operating in Central Asia (the other one is the Almaty Metro).
         
      • Fine Arts Museum of Uzbekistan | Our last stop for the day will be the Fine Arts Museum of Uzbekistan. There are, of course, hundreds of museums across the Uzbek capital worth poking your head in. However, our favourite must be the State Fine Arts Museum. Home to thousands of artefacts from across Russia and Europe.
         
      • This Soviet-era museum holds many of the treasures confiscated from the Grand Duke Romanov, who himself likely stole them from St Petersburg. In addition, artwork from across Russia and the Soviet Union is displayed throughout this museum.
         
      • Finally, we’ll return to our Soviet hotel. From here, we’ll have a free evening. You’ll be able to wander the streets, find and try unusual delicacies, and meet local Tashkenters.

      Accommodation | Hotel Uzbekistan

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    13. October 31 | Thursday

      Uzbekistan's Northern Countryside

      • Today, we’ll take a trip outside of the city to the Institute of Solar Physics. A huge series of mirrors that used to heat a large furnace.
      Institute of Solar Physics
      • The institute will open just for us, and run a test of the system to demonstrate the immense power of this Soviet-era megaproject.
         
      • Situated 45km outside the city, we’ll pass through some of Uzbekistan’s northern countryside. A far cry from the dry desert-like environment which dominates the rest of the country.
         
      • Upon arrival, we’ll witness the effect of these huge parabolic mirrors, heating the furnace to over 3000*C. We’ll also learn about the potential that exists for clean energy from this system, since the energy produced is completely clean, and could be put to work in the future for clean energy.
         
      • After our close call with the heat of the sun, we’ll head back into Tashkent for our final evening in the capital before returning to the heart of the country tomorrow.

      Accommodation | Hotel Uzbekistan

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    14. November 1 | Friday

      Tashkent - Bukhara

      • After breakfast, we’ll head back to Tashkent’s magnificent railway station. We’ll board the high-speed train back towards the desert. Today, our destination is Bukhara, another ancient city that was once the heart of empires in the region.
         
      • After our 4-and-a-half-hour train journey, we’ll arrive at Bukhara train station and begin our adventure through the bustling streets of Bukhara.
      Bukhara City Tour
      • The city of Bukhara, along with nearby Samarkand, served as the heart of the Persian world for centuries under numerous empires. It continues today as Uzbekistan’s seventh-largest city. And one of its most popular attractions for foreign travellers, owing to its rich history as a Persian capital, and an outpost on the renowned Silk Road.
         
      • The modern city is home to dozens of architectural sites, uncovering the legacy of Persia, and the many mosques, minarets, and madrassahs it left behind. Many of these sites are visitable and make for a wonderful experience for any adventurer looking for a glimpse back into this city’s majestic past.
         
      • Ark of Bukhara | This afternoon we begin our exploration with a visit to the fantastic Ark of Bukhara.  The Ark of Bukhara citadel has stood defending the city from the 5th century until its final stand against the Red Army in 1920.
         
      • Bolo-Hauz Mosque | We make a short walk from the Ark to the Bolo-Hauz Mosque famed for its elegant wooden carvings, Built in 1712, it served as a Friday mosque during the time of the emir of Bukhara and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
         
      • Ismail Samani Mausoleum | A short drive will take us to the Ismail Samani Mausoleum. Built in the 9th century, this mausoleum is an example of the excellent artistry of architects at this time.
         
      • The tomb is the final resting place of Ismail Samani, founder of the Samanid dynasty and the last true Persian king of the region.
         
      • Local Family Visit | Tonight we will sample some traditional food at the residence of a local family.

      Accommodation | 3* Hotel or similar

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    15. November 2nd | Saturday

      Bukhara

      • Today we’ll enjoy another day in the picturesque surroundings of Bukhara, exploring the ancient legacy of this stunning city. Our first stop of the day will be the magnificent Kalyan Minaret.
      Kalyan Minaret
      • Built in 1127, the Kalyan Minaret is all that survives of a once grandiose Djuma Mosque, designed for crowds of people to worship at once.
         
      • Today, the site has been rebuilt around the footprint of this great tower, now at the centre of a courtyard surrounded by galleries and stunning architecture. It’s from here that the ancient call to prayer would have blasted across the city, and many locals would have descended on the site.
         
      • It was actually built twice. Evidence suggests the soft ground led it to collapse after being nearly completed the first time. However, after almost a millennium, it shouldn’t fall again!
      Khoja-Gaukushon
      • Next, we’ll make our way to Khoja-Gaukushon. A great ensemble at the heart of the city, home to a mosque, madrassah, and minaret.
         
      • The area once served as a kind of plaza for local people to meet, trade, set up market stalls, and (rather oddly) slaughter animals. Hence the name ‘Gaukushon’ which means ‘Slaughter of Bulls’.
         
      • Later, a large minaret, mosque, and madrassah were built on the site, adding to the great patchwork of beautiful buildings littered across the skyline of Bukhara.
      Mausoleum of Naqshbandi
      • Finally, we’ll wrap up with the Mausoleum of Naqshbandi and the summer residence of the last Emir of Bukhara which sits a few kilometres outside the city itself.
         
      • The mausoleum is a place of pilgrimage for many Sufis and a place of incredible beauty. And the summer palace is known as ‘the place where the moon meets the stars.
         
      • Free Time | Finally, we’ll return to the city for a free evening to explore, discover and marvel at this ancient city.

      Accommodation | 3* Hotel or similar

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    16. November 3 | Sunday

      Uzbekistan - Turkmenistan

      • This morning, we’ll depart Bukhara and make our way south towards the river that marks the border between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
         
      • Turkmenistan Border Crossing | We’ll make our crossing into our fifth and final country, Turkmenistan. However, our adventure is far from over.
      Turkmenabat
      • We’ll head down to Turkmenabat, the border city on the Turkmen side of the river. Then, we continue our adventure south to Ancient Merv.
      Ancient Merv
      • Merv was once one of the most important cities in the world at certain times of its history.
         
      • This ancient site is now a place where you will learn a great deal about the history of Central Asia. The rise and fall of dynasties and cities, the Silk Road, and human civilisation in this part of the world. Animals, travellers and archaeologists now roam the existing buildings, ruins, etc. All contribute to a sense of the dynamism of the ancient Silk Road.
      Mary
      • Finally, we’ll make our way to the nearby city of Mary. Here, we’ll bed down for the night and prepare for the Turkmen adventure which lies ahead!

      Accommodation | Mary Hotel

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    17. November 4 | Monday

      Ashgabat

      • Domestic Flight to Ashgabat | Departing Mary, we’ll board a flight from this relatively small city to the nation’s capital. A city coated entirely in white marble.
      Ashgabat City Tour
      • Independence Park and Independence Monument | Arriving in Ashgabat, our first stop is Independence Park and Independence Monument. These were constructed to celebrate the independence of Turkmenistan on the 27th of October 1991.
         
      • As well as the memorial, the park is home to an impressive array of statues of characters from Turkmen history.
         
      • Monument of Neutrality | From Independence to Neutrality, we go! Our next visit is the Monument of Neutrality built in 1998; a gold statue of Turkmenbashi tops this impressive structure.
         
      • Bake Turkmen Pies | For today's lunch, we’ll visit a local restaurant, which will give us a tutorial and the opportunity to bake some local Turkmen pies. If it's not for you, don't worry. You'll be able to relax while your meal is cooked for you.
         
      • Earthquake Monument and Museum | We hope you’re not too tired of statues just yet as we have a few more to go! Next up, is the Earthquake Monument and Museum.
         
      • A grim reminder of the terrible earthquake that struck Ashgabat in 1948, killing 110,00 people and levelling the city. Both are tastefully presented and very educational.
      Ashgabat Architecture
      • On our way back to the hotel, we will pass a few of Ashgabat’s more unusual buildings, The Ministry of Gas is shaped like a giant cigarette lighter, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is shaped like a globe, and our personal favourite, The Ashgabat Dental Hospital is shaped like a massive tooth!
         
      • Free Time | Once we have returned to the hotel, you are free to continue exploring Ashgabat or enjoy some well-deserved rest.

      Accommodation | Sport Hotel

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    18. November 5 | Tuesday

      Turkmen Desert & Darvaza Gas Crater

      • This morning there is a bit of free time for relaxing or shopping for supplies, which may be useful as later today we’re off into the desert.
      Bokhurdag
      • Our first stop is the small desert village of Bokhurdag. It is here that we stop to sample the local cuisine and learn a little more about living outside the bright lights of Turkmenistan’s flamboyant capital.
      Desert Trip (Mining History)
      • Once our journey resumes, we’ll continue stopping as we travel to see other examples of the desert’s mining history, visiting two other craters (one filled with water, the other with mud). A perfect pretext for the great Darvaza Gas Crater.
      The Darvaza Gas Crater
      • The incredible Darvaza Gas Crater, continuously burning since 1971, was created when Soviet engineers were drilling what they thought were vast oil fields. No oil was found, and the fields turned out to be rich in gas, evident when the drilling rig at Darvaza hit a void and collapsed in on itself.
         
      • Sometime later it’s believed that the escaping gas was set alight to prevent methane from polluting a nearby village.
         
      • Here we are all these years later, and the gas crater has now become one of the world’s most unusual tourist attractions.
         
      • We’ll arrive during daylight hours to observe the transition from light to dark as the night sky becomes illuminated by the flickering blaze of the crater.
      Darvaza Gas Crater Camping
      • Turkmen BBQ | Camping next to this burning void, we will enjoy a delicious Turkmen BBQ prepared by our local crew

      Accommodation | Camping

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    19. November 6 | Wednesday

      Ashgabat & Erbent

      • Today we’ll pack up and head back to Ashgabat.
         
      • After lunch, before heading back towards the capital, we will make a stop at the village of Erbent.
      Village of Erbent
      • Erbent is similar to most of the surrounding desert settlements. However, it is here that the Monument to the Basmachi Revolution is located.
         
      • The Basmachi Revolutionary Monument | The Basmachi Revolutionary Monument was built here as this area was a Basmachi stronghold during the 1920s. The Basmachi were an Islamic group fighting the occupying Soviet forces.
         
      • Upon arrival back in the capital city, the rest of the day is yours to enjoy. You’re welcome to spend this free day however you please – exploring, shopping, or even just resting before the adventure continues tomorrow!

      Accommodation | Sport Hotel

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    20. November 7 | Thursday

      Ashgabat

      • Our final day on tour begins with a relaxed walking tour of the city, a chance to unwind and catch a few of the things we didn’t get to during our last day in this odd marble city.
      Ashgabat City Tour
      • Tekke Bazaar | We’ll start with a walk through the Tekke Bazaar. A real, local slice of life, a true local market very popular amongst local people for shopping. On weekends, there are also local booksellers in the park opposite the market selling a selection of second-hand books.
         
      • If you're lucky, you may pick up a copy of the Ruhnama the book written by Saparmurat Niyazov, the Turkmenistan president. Niyazov famously said, "A person that reads Ruhnama three times becomes smart, and after it, he will go straight to heaven".
         
      • Inspiration Park | Next up, we’ll visit Inspiration Park. A public park at the centre of Ashgabat this narrow parkland is lined with sculptures of Persian poets, scholars and great thinkers. All surrounding an artificial river and impressive water fountains.
         
      • The Russian Bazaar | Following this, another market! The Russian Bazaar is located in the very centre of town. This covered bazaar is where you can buy almost everything you may need in daily life; fruit & nuts, cables & chargers, sweets, kimchi, baked goods, souvenirs, and so on.
         
      • Nearby is also the Alty Asyr Shopping Centre which is a good place to buy cotton goods (tracksuits, towels, bedsheets, etc. all made from local cotton, and all very cheap).
         
      • Lenin Statue | We’ll stop by the local Lenin statue, best described as a small Lenin on a giant plinth decorated in central Asian tile work, followed by a visit to the Pushkin Monument.
         
      • Pushkin Monument | This small bust erected for Russia's most famous poet Pushkin is easily visited only 5 minutes from Lenin. And, nearby our next stop - Pervyy Park.
         
      • Pevvy Park | This park is one of Ashgabat's oldest parks founded in 1890 named Officer Park, Lenin Park, First Park and Independence Park.
         
      • Ashgabat Train Station | Finally, we’ll visit Ashgabat Train Station. Originally built in 1888, the first railway station was destroyed in the earthquake of 1948 along with much of the city.
         
      • A new station was built shortly after in 1950. Although, this was remodelled in 2009 taking on its now grand form crowned by the eight-pointed star (Rub El Hizb).
      Free Time
      • As our walking tour draws to a close, you’ll have the rest of the day free to enjoy. This is our last day on our epic 3-week adventure, so perhaps explore the city some more, pick up souvenirs, try new foods, or just relax for the afternoon.
         
      • We’ll end the day with a group meal, a chance to say farewell and to reminisce about our adventures together.

      Accommodation | Sport Hotel

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    21. November 8 | Friday

      End of Tour

      Airport transfers are available to all travellers from our group hotel to Ashgabat International Airport, no matter your time of departure.

      For independent extensions, contact your tour leader.

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED
    • Guides & Drivers
    • All Meals Where Listed
    • Regional Flights
    • Turkmenistan Visa (LOI)
    • All Vehicles & Transport
    • Entrance Fees
    NOT INCLUDED
    • Visas (other than Turkmenistan)
    • Pre/Post Tour International Flights
    • Snacks/Alcoholic Drinks
    • Tips
    • Travel Insurance

Please apply by 1st October, 2024.

October 28 - November 6 2024

Uzbekistan and Karakalpakstan Adventure Tour

Explore the heart of
Central Asia, Uzbekistan!

We follow the ancient Silk Road to remote, fascinating Karakalpakstan, where
the shrinking Aral Sea has become the world’s youngest desert, and a treasure
trove of art awaits.

From 2670 USD per person

Please apply by 1st July, 2024.

Uzbekistan and Karakalpakstan Adventure Tour

Explore the heart of
Central Asia, Uzbekistan!

We follow the ancient Silk Road to remote, fascinating
Karakalpakstan, where the shrinking Aral Sea has become
the world’s youngest desert, and a treasure trove of
art awaits.

From 2670 USD per person

  • Overall

    Join experts in Central Asian travel, Koryo Tours, on our inaugural Uzbekistan tour. Enjoy the blockbuster sights of Uzbekistan, the heart of the Silk Road... And explore its hidden treasures, too!

    Tempted by the Golden Road to Samarkand? Uzbekistan’s highlights have drawn travellers for centuries. From the showstoppers in Tamerlane’s blue-domed capital to Holy Bukhara, where the sky-scraping Tower of Death so impressed Genghis Khan he spared it from the city-wide orgy of destruction.

    Uzbekistan boasts many more survivors against the odds. On this Uzbekistan tour, we voyage into the remote northwest, Karakalpakstan, where trawlers lie beached far from the tragic Aral Sea. Here, we will see spell-binding paintings saved from Soviet authorities who had killed some of the artists.

    This Uzbekistan tour, taking you by road, rail and air, will unlock amazing human survival stories. On a collective farm outside Tashkent, we’ll learn about the Koreans deported here en masse from the Soviet Far East. Some ended up Heroes of Socialist Labour as they grew the best rice for plov, the Uzbek pride and joy, and embodied the spirit of internationalism.

    An Uzbekistan Tour like no other. Relish the oasis cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. And discover Soviet thrills like a top-secret solar furnace built, surely, for a Bond villain...

    Scroll down for an overview of the Uzbekistan and Karakalpakstan Tour highlights, tour itinerary, transport options, Uzbekistan visa information, and extra add-ons. Nick Bonner and Calum MacLeod will accompany this tour.

    Looking to see more? Our Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan Adventure Tour offers you the chance to experience two incredible stans in one tour! 

    More Central Asia Tours

     


    Guest lecturer: Calum MacLeod

    Calum explored Uzbekistan in 1992, the first year of independence. He has been returning ever since to enjoy more of its cultural and natural treasures. He co-wrote the first dedicated guidebook to Uzbekistan in English (Odyssey, with Bradley Mayhew) and has designed Koryo’s inaugural tour.

    Calum worked as China correspondent for The Times and The Independent, and Asia correspondent for USA Today. But says nothing beats a round of shashlik kebabs, on a plate of warm naan bread, at an Uzbek bazaar.
    ✍️ A Night Train to North Korea; Hop Aboard the First-Ever Koryo Tour (1993).

    Images ©Calum MacLeod.


     

    Highlights

    • Ships’ graveyard in Muynak, a fishing port deserted by the Aral Sea.
    • Walk the walls of Khiva, the most intact Silk Road city and see Samarkand’s 'Street of the Dead', a ceramic celebration.
    • The ultimate hall of mirrors – a massive, Soviet solar furnace.
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 10
    1. Monday 28th October

      Arrival Day

      • Flights to Tashkent (airport code TAS). 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 excellent local food, coordination and a briefing session, before the adventure ahead!

      Meals | Dinner
      Overnight | Tashkent

    2. Tuesday 29th October

      Tashkent and Parkent – Peeling back Uzbekistan’s multilayered capital.

      • Polar Star Collective Farm. We head south to explore the fascinating story and enduring legacy of the Korean people in Central Asia, forced here by Stalin from the Soviet Far East in 1937. The museum at this former kolkhoz commemorates Kim Pen Hwa, who led farmers in transforming marshland, winning a record haul of Socialist Labour Hero medals, raising football stars and changing public sentiment.
         
      • Institute of the Sun. Bond villain lair! Next, we travel east through the Parkent wine country to the foothills of the Tien Shan Mountains and the formerly off-limits Institute of the Sun. This giant solar furnace, one of only two worldwide, was a top-secret military installation fired by 12,000 mirrors. Melting experiments continue today…so mind your step.
         
      • Evening – Transfer to Tashkent airport for evening flight to Nukus, capital of Karakalpakstan.

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch
      Overnight | Nukus

    3. Wednesday 30th October

      • Nukus and Muynak. The “Land of Black Hats”, deserts and drama, Karakalpakstan is the Stan within a Stan, a (nominally) autonomous republic that occupies over one-third of Uzbekistan’s land and hides many Soviet secrets – including a bioweapons island on the Aral Sea.
         
      • Mizdakhan Cemetery. For legends, ladders and star-crossed lovers, we join local pilgrims at hilltop Mizdahkan, the oldest active necropolis in Central Asia. Highlights include the cool beauty of the Mazlumkhan Sulu mausoleum, where bow-tie tiles reflect the citadel’s first, fire-worshipping faith, Zoroastrianism. At the legendary tomb of Adam, better known as a world clock, visitors pile up seven bricks to delay doomsday.
         
      • Aral Sea Ship Graveyard. We travel by road to Muynak, the fishing port and holiday town abandoned by the sea. Trawlers rust below a lighthouse on a dry, toxic seabed now over 100km from the shoreline. Two museums illustrate one of the world’s worst ecological disasters: the Aral has shrunk by 90% thanks to thirsty cotton farming.

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch
      Overnight | Nukus

    4. Thursday 31st October

      Nukus and Khorezm – a day packed with fabulous art and desert forts.

      This trip to Karakalpakstan will be fulfilling a decades-long dream of Koryo Tours' co-founder and CEO, Nick Bonner to visit the stunning 'lost' avant-garde art at the Savitsky Museum.

      • Igor Savitsky Art Museum. The remoteness of Karakalpakstan helped canny collector Savitskiy (1915-84) save from oblivion what’s become the region’s top attraction. He rescued the twilight zone of the Russian avant-garde by squirrelling paintings away in his adopted home Nukus. Highlights include Yevgeny Lysenko’s The Bull, with its shotgun eyes, and sketches on food wrappers of her seven gulag years by Nadezhda Borovaya – Savitsky fooled officials by saying they depicted Nazi concentration camps.
         
      • The Egypt of Central Asia. We make the overland transfer to Khiva by exploring the clay fortresses (kala) that protected the “lost” civilisation of ancient Chorasmia (Khorezm). From the 4th century BC to the 3rd century AD, its people worshipped at Zoroastrian fire temples, traded widely, painted graceful murals, studied the stars and loved their wine. Our stops will include a clamber up the Chilpik Dakhma, a Tower of Silence where birds of prey picked clean the departed.

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch
      Overnight | Khiva

    5. Friday 1st November

      Khiva

      • This walled wonder remains so intact you can still believe, like a visitor in 1873, that it’s no “real city, but a leaf torn from the enchanted pages of the Arabian Nights.”
         
      • Minarets, madrasahs, mausolea and more. Our walking tour enters Khiva’s UNESCO-listed inner city through the West Gate. The Kalta Minaret, the first of several outstanding towers, stayed “Short” when Bukhara’s jealous emir enticed the architect away mid-project (legend has it).
         
      • Muhammad Rahim Khan Madrasah. The city’s last grand madrasah (Islamic college), built by the reformist ruler better known as poet Feruz. Meet his waxwork in the history museum here – and watch out for circus acts.
         
      • Pakhlavan Mahmoud Mausoleum. “Will I be remembered over my ashes?” runs a poem above the tombstone of Khiva’s wrestler-saint. Seven centuries later, join the crowds of pilgrims answering his question.
         
      • The Juma (Friday) Mosque. This offers a cool retreat from the bright desert heat. Over 200 wooden pillars are carved with symbols stretching back into Khorezm’s Zoroastrian roots.
         
      • Grab a bike to roam the outer city, including the dilapidated charm of Islam Khodja’s summer retreat. Feruz’s modernising prime minister received Russian and other ambassadors in its beautiful reception halls.

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch
      Overnight | Khiva

    6. Saturday 2nd November

      Khiva to Bukhara

      • Cross Kyzyl Kum (Red Sands). Today, it is time to cross the vast Kyzyl Kum, the biggest desert plain in Central Asia at around 300,000 square kilometres. Silk Road traders battled the elements for centuries. Miners dig for them at remote gold and uranium towns Zarafshan and Uchkuduk. The Kyzyl Kum stretches the width of Uzbekistan here between the region's two major rivers.
         
      • The Syr Darya to the north (the Jaxartes to the ancients) long marked the boundary between the nomadic steppe and settled civilisations. The Amu Darya (Oxus) to the south separates the Kyzyl Kum from the Kara Kum (Black Sands) desert of Turkmenistan and long divided the Persian and Turkic worlds. At the journey’s end, we enter Bukhara, which beautifully combines these elements and more.

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch
      Overnight | Bukhara

    7. Sunday 3rd November

      Bukhara

      • Everywhere else, it was said, light shone down from heaven. In Holy Bukhara, the light shone up.
         
      • Lyabi-Hauz ensemble. We stay in a nearby boutique hotel, so this atmospheric square forms your hub too as it’s long been for Bukharans drawn by the mulberry-tree shaded pool (hauz), teahouses and madrasah, now packed with tempting handicrafts.
         
      • Trading places. Our city walk follows the network of 16th-century domed bazaars, including the Cap Makers, Jewellers and Money Changers, that fuelled Bukhara’s second golden age – and still offer great shopping.
         
      • Kalon Minaret. Bukhara’s world-beating “Great” Minaret is an 11th-century masterpiece and lighthouse for trade caravans seeking oasis refuge. It was dubbed the Tower of Death for the criminals, sewn into sacks, and tossed from the top on market days.
         
      • Ismail Samani Mausoleum. The sands of time hid this brilliant brick cube, packed with symbolism, from the Mongol war machine. Its builder (849-907) ushered in a golden age when Central Asia’s scientists and writers led the world.
         
      • Backstreet delights. We have a wealth of recommendations to reward the curious. 

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch
      Overnight | Bukhara

    8. Monday 4th November

      Bukhara to Samarkand

      • Royal Road. Today, we take the Royal Road, an ancient caravan route linking the foremost cities of Transoxiana.
         
      • Gijduvan. After the towering Vabkent Minaret, we pause in Gijduvan where the tomb of Khoja Abdulkhaliq Gijduvani (1103–79) draws the faithful on the Bukhara pilgrimage circuit of Seven Sufi Saints.
         
      • The town is also famous for master potters such as brothers Abdullo and Alisher Narzullaev, who craft traditional floral designs of local browns and yellows with unique colour glazing fired in huge tandyr kilns. Further east, we stop at two 11th-century survivors: the intriguing, nine-domed Deggoroniy Mosque and the Rabati Malik caravanserai, a Silk Road service station.

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch
      Overnight | Samarkand

    9. Tuesday 5th November

      Samarkand

      • Follow in the footsteps of giants to savour the Mirror of the World.
         
      • Gur Emir Mausoleum. From peerless blue dome to epic occupant, the “Tomb of the Ruler” has it all, although he’d planned a simpler resting place. Amir Timur (Tamerlane, 1336-1405) was the last nomadic conqueror to shake the world, from Russia to India.
         
      • Registan ensemble. The crossroads of Tamerlane’s capital, where six arteries met under a domed bazaar, bloomed into Samarkand’s stunning centrepiece after grandson Ulug Beg, the astronomer-king, built his beautiful madrasah (Islamic college). Two more, two centuries later, complete the most photographed sight on the Silk Road.
         
      • Shah-i-Zinda necropolis. Climb the Staircase of Sinners to enter the street of the dead, the city’s holiest site. Timurid family tombs from the 14th century showcase an unrivalled celebration of ceramic art in turquoise blues and floral motifs.
         
      • Tomb of Daniel. Yes, of the lions’ den. Tamerlane brought the saint’s remains to Samarkand where they grew each year, so the grave was enlarged into today’s super-sized sarcophagus. Join pilgrims here from all three major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
         
      • Kalontarov mansion. On former Soviet Street, in the UNESCO-protected European town, explore the eclectic home of Jewish merchant Abram Kalontarov. He hoped to entertain Tsar Nicholas II, but instead had to house the Central Committee of the Uzbek Communist Party from 1925-30.

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch
      Overnight | Samarkand

    10. Wednesday 6th November

      Samarkand to Tashkent

      • Transfer by fast Afrosiyob train to Tashkent.
         
      • If time allows before your flight, ride the jaw-dropping metro to imposing squares, monumental buildings and fine museums. No longer demolishing Soviet cultural heritage, the capital now celebrates its architecture as Tashkent Modernism.
         
      • Afternoon - Transfer to the airport. Departure.

      End of tour. 

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED
    • English-speaking local guides
    • Western tour leader (Nick Bonner) & Uzbek expert (Calum MacLeod)
    • Meals where indicated
    • Accommodation
    • Internal flights
    • Internal trains
    • All included sightseeing
    • All entrance fees where required
    • Airport transfers
    • An amazing time in two Stans!
    NOT INCLUDED
    • Tips for local guides and drivers
    • Incidentals, extra drinks, etc
    • Optional single supplement: USD 50 per night
    • Visa fee - depending on nationality. Most Western nationalities do not need visas to visit Uzbekistan. Please do check first to be sure (see below)
    • International flights to and from Tashkent
  • Notes

    Upgrade to your own room in Uzbekistan

    All hotel rooms on our all-inclusive group tours to Uzbekistan feature twin beds, and will be shared. If you'd like a room to yourself, you can upgrade for an extra USD 50 per night.

    How to Apply

    To apply, simply click on the application button listed with this tour.

    Fill out the online form, upload a passport copy and photo (or send it to us by email, if you prefer) and you can consider yourself to be booked on this adventure!

    For any questions, comments, etc about this trip get in touch with Nick Bonner at [email protected]. We ask for applications to be completed a minimum of one month in advance of the tour. Ideally, at least six weeks or more if possible. Please also indicate where you plan to join the tour from and where you’re headed after the tour. We can offer advice on this. 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.

    Visas

    Please note that if you require a visa for Uzbekistan you will need to pay this fee yourself. Most visitors do not require visas. Check here for more information. 

    Cancellation & Refunds

    We practice the same cancellation policy with this tour as we do with our DPRK tours. This is listed on our website T&C. 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. We do not charge a fee for a client's cancellation.

    Please be sure that you will be joining the tour when you send all application details.

Please apply by 1st July, 2024.

March 2025 — 1 tour

March 20 - March 29 2025

Tajikistan Buzkashi and Persian New Year Tour
2025

Tajikistan Tour from Dushanbe to
Ancient Sogdia and the Fergana Valley.

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

From 2450 USD per person

Please apply by 1st March, 2025.

Tajikistan Buzkashi and Persian New Year Tour 2025

Tajikistan Tour from Dushanbe to
Ancient Sogdia and the Fergana Valley.

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

From 2450 USD per person

This tour is managed by...

Rich Beal

Rich Beal is our International Tours Manager.

Rich is one of our most experienced tour leaders. He has led tours worldwide since 2004, specialising in Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the surrounding area. Currently living in Mongolia, he leads multiple specialised trips annually and has over 20 years of experience running and designing tours of the region. 

  • Overall

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

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

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

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

    Looking to travel the Pamir Highway? See Koryo Tours' Pamir Highway Mountain Crossroads Tour in August from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to Dushanbe, Tajikistan on the M41 Highway through the Pamir Mountains.
    (Please email to inquire about this tour!). 

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

    Highlights

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

    Day 1 of 10
    1. Thursday 20th March

      Arrival day in Dushanbe

      AM

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

      PM

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

      Meals | Lunch and Dinner.

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

    2. Friday 21st March

      Dushanbe City Tour

      AM

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

      PM

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

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch.

      Overnight |  Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe. 

    3. Saturday 22nd March

      Anzob Village and the Varzob Valley

      AM

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

      PM

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

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch.

      Overnight | Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe. 

    4. Sunday 23rd 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!

        Buzkashi | Buzkashi is a flamboyantly violent and aggressive game played by hundreds of men on horseback. All whilst wrestling over a goat carcass to try to score goals with it. It merely has to be seen to be believed. The photos you will get will blow the mind of anyone you show them to!

        Please note that we may have a long drive as the location of this spectacular event changes annually. The aim is to arrive when the game is in the throes of setting up watching the competitors arrive. We will stay until the end to make the best use of our time for photography and enjoyment.

      PM

      • The day will be spent at the sports fields. In addition to Buzkashi, there may be wrestling and dancing. Here we have the opportunity for mingling and people-watching. Tajiks are 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 24th 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. This is a massive sanatorium built into the mountainside above natural hot springs. Like a James Bond villain’s lair meets the hotel from The Shining!

        An authentic relic of the USSR days.

      PM

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

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

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

    6. Tuesday 25th March 

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

      AM

      • This morning we bid farewell to our villain's lair and drive onwards to the northern city of Khujand. 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. This is where Alexander the Great himself stopped for lunch during his advance through Central Asia.

      PM

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

        Communism personified!

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.  

      Overnight | Local hotel in the city.

    7. Wednesday 26th March

      Explore Khujand

      AM

      • A day of exploration today as we first stop by the traditional Panjshanbe Market. This is one of the largest in Central Asia. We immerse ourselves in local life while trying to pick up a bargain or two buying everything from local snacks to Soviet memorabilia.
      • Opposite the market sits the beautiful Sheikh Muslihiddin Mausoleum and Mosque. This complex was erected on the Tomb of Muslihiddin Khudjandi.

        The sixteenth-century building allows us to learn a little more about Islam in Central Asia. We will also marvel 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. This is the biggest in Central Asia. We will then drive on to the bizarre Arbob Cultural Palace. Originally, it housed the former headquarters of a Soviet collective farm. It was designed as a recreation of the St. Petersburg Winter Palace and built during the Soviet 1950s.

        It is a fantastic local curiosity.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. 

      Overnight | Local hotel.

    8. Thursday 27th March

      Drive to ancient Panjikent.

      AM

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

      PM

      • This afternoon we have a historic tour of ancient Panjikent. We begin with 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 is a traditional style in a beautiful local home.

      Meals: | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

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

    9. Friday 28th March

      Return to Dushanbe.

      AM

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

      PM

      • By mid-afternoon, we arrive back to Dushanbe. Make use of your free afternoon for some last-minute sightseeing. Head to one of the history museums, enjoy some local shopping or browse one of the unique Soviet-era antique shops

      Meals: | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

      Overnight | Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe. 

    10. Saturday 29th March

      Departure day 

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

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

      End of Tour

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • Airport pick up and drop off to and from Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe
    • Hotel accommodation
    • Tajiki tour guides
    • A driver per group
    • A member of Koryo Tours
    • All transportation in the country
    • All entry fees for attractions and sights
    • Airport Transfer (only on trip start/end dates)

    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
    • Airport Transfer (outside of trip start/end dates) 30 USD
  • Notes

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

    VISA APPLICATION TO TAJIKISTAN

    It is now possible to purchase your visa online, making our visit to Tajikistan much easier. Please see here for more information. Upon booking we will help should further information be required.

    IMPORTANT NOTE TO TOURISTS

    This tour is a group trip designed to have a good amount of free time. We will give you ideas if you want to go out exploring or just take it easy at a café.

    Please be on time and return to the hotel in the evening.

    Please note we will be driving relatively long distances, and seats can be hard. So we suggest bringing a travel pillow/neck support. The view and experience more than make up for a little discomfort, though.

    Khoja Obi Garm Spa

    Please note this is a Radon spa which has radioactive properties. There are various thoughts on whether this is good for you or not!

    Please read up beforehand and make your own decision.

    The different types of treatment with steam sauna and water jets, massage etc. It is in a beautiful mountain area and worthwhile even for those not taking the spa treatments. The Russians built the spa over a religious shrine. For those of you not taking a sauna go pop out and try and find it in this beautiful mountainscape. Massage is 60 somoni for head body arms. You just need to wear pants, and towels are provided. (Radon shower included if you want!).

    More on Khoja Obi Spa here.

    Carry a colour photocopy of your passport with you at all times.

    USEFUL TIPS

    Taxis

    In 2017 most journeys cost around 20-30 somoni but make sure you agree to a price beforehand.

    Internet

    Segafroid Café in Dushanbe is a good place for internet, and Western food- open for billiards and ten-pin bowling cost 120 somonis per hour.

    The Segafroid Café is about a 20 somoni taxi ride from the Hotel Lotus. Dushanbe has the world’s largest tea house open for billiards, and ten-pin bowling costs 120 per hour.

    Weather

    Bring sun protection cream. Bring hand sanitiser and toilet paper.

    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.

    If fewer than 6 to 7 passengers are booked, this tour will be led by a local leader only.

Please apply by 1st March, 2025.

May 2025 — 1 tour

May 10 - May 17 2025

Turkmenistan Tour (May) 2025: 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 much more!

From 2250 USD per person

Please apply by 20th April, 2025.

Turkmenistan Tour (May) 2025: 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
much more!

From 2250 USD per person

This tour is managed by...

Rich Beal

Rich Beal is our International Tours Manager.

Rich is one of our most experienced tour leaders. He has led tours worldwide since 2004, specialising in Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the surrounding area. Currently living in Mongolia, he leads multiple specialised trips annually and has over 20 years of experience running and designing tours of the region. 

  • 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, and 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 Destinations manager and travel specialist Rich Beal, who first travelled to Turkmenistan more than ten years ago. Over many trips, he has made close friends there, explored widely, and maintained a deep interest in the country and region. 

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

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

    Highlights

    • Nisa Fortress – UNESCO listed archaeological site.
    • Darvaza Gas Crater - The ‘Mouth of Hell’.
    • Kow Ata Underground Lake - Natural hot spring 80m under the ground.
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 9
    1. May 10th, Saturday

      Arrival

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

      Meals | Dinner

      Overnight | Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat. Built for the 2017 Asian indoor martial arts game this well-located and modern hotel allows access to malls, shops, and restaurants. It provides guests with quality facilities in a fascinating part of the city.
    2. May 11th, Sunday

      Ashgabat

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

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

      Overnight | Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat
    3. May 12th, Monday

      Darvaza Gas Crater & Bokhurdag

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

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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

    4. May 13th, Tuesday

      Ashgabat

      • Once back in the capital the rest of the day is yours to do with as you please. Explore, relax, shop, or take a side-trip. Drivers are available for hire. We and our local guides can advise on the spot.

      Meals | Breakfast 
      Overnight | Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

    5. May 14th, 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. It was ravaged by successive invaders over the centuries. Today, it is home to minarets, impressive mausoleums, and all manner of historical tales and stories. It's 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 15th, 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. Fiirst, the Geok Deppe Mosque. It was 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. This mosque was built on the site of the 1949 Earthquake that devastated the city. This is also home to the Turkmenbashi Mausoleum which we will visit.
      •  Back to the city for a relaxing evening before beginning the final day of this adventure!

      Meals | Breakfast, lunch

      Overnight | Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat
    7. May 16th, Friday

      Ashgabat & Kopet Dag Mountains

      • Free morning in Ashgabat for any final shopping, wandering, or relaxing that you want to do. We meet for a packed last afternoon.
      • A 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 bizarre and quite fun trip to this oddity at the edge of town.
      • An evening drive around the marble city, stopping at some viewpoints for some great photos of the nighttime illuminations which are very impressive.
      •  Final dinner of the tour, time for goodbyes and the last night out if you’ve got the energy!

      Meals | Breakfast, Dinner

      Overnight | Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat
    8. May 17th, Saturday

      Departure day

      • Departure day – airport transfers are 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). This is 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 18th, Sunday

      Extension day 2: Ancient Merv

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

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

    • Upgrade to your own room in Turkmenistan

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

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

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

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Optional extension to Merv is USD 550
    • Optional single supplement: USD 55 per night
    • Visa issuing fee - USD 80 to USD 140 depending on nationality
    • Room extension - USD 120
    • International flights to/from Turkmenistan not included
    • Return flights from Beijing to Ashgabat
  • Notes

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

    HOW TO APPLY

    Please email Rich Beal at [email protected] to begin your tour application. 

    Deposit

    We require a deposit paid upon booking the tour as we start paying tour costs when your visa application process has begun. We ask for a deposit of 50% of the tour fee.

    Application Deadline

    You must apply at least four weeks before the tour departure date as the Letter of Invitation that we need to obtain to facilitate the visa can take several days to be issued by the Turkmenistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    Turkmenistan LOI & Turkmenistan Visa

    Most travellers opt to have visas issued upon arrival into Turkmenistan. If you would prefer to have the visa issued before your arrival or have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

    The LOI 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.

    Flight Purchases

    If you are joining the tour from somewhere other than Beijing and buying a ticket via Koryo Tours, we will email the e-ticket voucher to you as soon as it has been received in our office. If you are purchasing your flight ticket via other airlines or agents, we need these flight details ASAP.

    We, unfortunately, can not accept any liability for delayed flights and any issue associated with times associated letters of invitations. It is entirely possible to join the tour by flying in from other destinations also.

    Entry by Land or Sea

    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

    Single supplement is accessible on this tour at 50 USD per night. If you are travelling alone and wish to share a room to avoid this fee, we will attempt to match you up with another traveller.

    Visa Issuing Fees

    You will also have to pay the visa-issuing fee. At Ashgabat airport, this ranges from US$80 to $130 (depending on nationality) payable in cash only.

    CANCELLATION & REFUNDS

    Please note: The visa fee for this tour is not covered in the tour cost and you will be responsible for this. Due to the extended amount of time that it takes to have a visa authorised and sent to an Embassy of Turkmenistan, it is much simpler to collect the visa on arrival at Ashgabat Airport. The fee payable here varies according to your nationality.

    The visa is stamped in your passport and is the same as it would be if issued at a Turkmen Embassy.

    If you insist on having your visa issued at an Embassy, then please be sure to apply for the tour as early as possible.

    The deposit is non-refundable if the tourist cancels himself.

    If however we cannot arrange visas or for whatever reason, it is not possible to travel at the specified time (or you cannot make rescheduled dates) a full refund will be issued. Should the client wish to cancel after the visa application has been submitted, charges imposed on us will be paid out of the 50% deposit with the balance being returned to the client. If you have paid in full, we will return 50% plus the balance of what is left after the cancellation fee we pay to our partners in Turkmenistan.

    If you book and cancel a plane ticket through us, we charge only the airline's cancellation fee. In all cases, we return as much as we can, and we do not take a fee for the client's cancellation. Please be sure that you will be joining the tour when you send all the application details.

Please apply by 20th April, 2025.

August 2025 — 1 tour

August 16 - August 29 2025

The Pamir Highway Mountain Crossroads Tour

Travel across the roof of the world!
A unique tour from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan.

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 2900 USD per person

Please apply by 1st August, 2025.

The Pamir Highway Mountain Crossroads Tour

Travel across the roof of the world!
A unique tour from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan.

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 2900 USD per person

This tour is managed by...

Rich Beal

Rich Beal is our International Tours Manager.

Rich is one of our most experienced tour leaders. He has led tours worldwide since 2004, specialising in Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the surrounding area. Currently living in Mongolia, he leads multiple specialised trips annually and has over 20 years of experience running and designing tours of the region. 

  • Overall

    On this unique tour, you will start in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and head on a road trip of a lifetime to Tajikistan.

    In the fascinating capital of Bishkek, we'll immerse ourselves in its serene parks and vibrant streets, where the fusion of Persian and nomadic cultures creates a unique and captivating atmosphere, before flying to Osh. From here, we follow the route of the historical M41 Pamir Highway.

    Journeying along the Pamir Highway is truly an experience like no other. We'll drive through rugged terrain, where towering peaks and winding roads offer a glimpse into the untamed beauty of Central Asia. It's also otherwise known as the roof of the world and the world's second-highest 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.

    Our adventures lead us ultimately to Dushanbe. Tajikistan’s lovely, laid-back capital.

    Throughout your tour in Tajikistan, our knowledgeable guides will accompany you and be at hand to provide local insight and knowledge on the region, its history, and traditions, sharing insights into the ancient Silk Road routes and enduring customs of its people. From the hospitality of Tajikistan to the lush landscapes of Kyrgyzstan, and everything in between. 

    ✍️ For more information on this tour, our experience, and what you can expect from this Pamir Highway Tour, see our blogs below. 

    High Pamirs Reading

    What's a Trip to the Pamir's Really Like?
    High Pamirs & the Kuhistani-Badakhshan Autonomous Region
    Towns & Villages on the M41
    Travelling the Pamir Highway

    Note: Due to the adventurous nature of this tour, this itinerary is subject to change depending on adverse weather conditions or other factors that are out of our control. It's all part of the adventure! 

    Highlights

    • Explore the highlights of the capitals of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
    • Traverse the Wakhan Corridor & the Afghan Border
    • Stand a stone's throw away from Afghanistan
    • Stay in a traditional Kyrgyz Yurt
    • Drive through the mighty Pamir Mountains
    • Visit Karakol Lake created by an ancient meteor
    • Visit local people in small villages throughout the Pamiri region
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 14
    1. Saturday 16th 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.
         
      • Bishkek City Tour | We will start the city tour of Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan.
         
      • Osh Bazaar | We begin our visit by stopping at the Osh Bazaar. This is an amazing produce market which gives us our first chance to take photos of local life.
         
      • National Philharmonic | 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.
         
      • Bishkek Attractions | To learn more about Kyrgyzstan a stop at the Central Square Ala Too and the State Historical Museum is a must. A short tour of Oak Park gives us the chance to view some local sculptures as well as the Open-air art gallery. Making our way to the final stop, we will make sure to call at Victory Square before reaching the state department store ZUM. Once located in most capital cities across the USSR!

      Meals: Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: 3-4 Star Hotel

    2. Sunday 17th August

      • M41 Pamir Highway Begins! | This morning we'll begin our adventure along the M41 Pamir Highway, making our way out of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. We head south along this Soviet-era ribbon of tarmac.
         
      • Burana Tower | Making our way out of the city, we'll stop to visit the 12th-century Burana Tower. A fantastic example of classic architecture in Central Asia, and a handy detour on our way towards our next destination.
         
      • Song Kul Lake | Our next stop will be Song Kul Lake, a stunningly beautiful alpine lake nestled in the Naryn region of Kyrgyzstan. The lake is the second largest in the entire country. And the largest of Kyrgyzstan's freshwater lakes.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Accommodation: Shoreside Yurt

    3. Monday 18th August

      • Moldo Ashuu Pass | This morning we'll be up bright and early as we head out from Song Kul Lake to reach Moldo Ashuu Pass. This drive will give us the chance to enjoy a pleasant drive, admiring the colourful mountains passing by.
         
      • Naryn City | Finally, we'll arrive in Naryn City where we'll stop for a bite to eat. Naryn City was established as a fortress city along one of the region's major Silk Road caravan routes. It has since grown to encompass over 40,000 people deep in the heart of central Kyrgyzstan.
         
      • Tash Rabat Silk Road | Having enjoyed a heart Kyrgyz lunch, we're off again, heading towards the Tash Rabat Silk Road caravanserai. Once we arrive, we'll spend time touring this historical site, marvelling at the architecture and wonderous buildings which populated this centre for trading in everything from tea to silk.
         
      • Yurt Camp | Tonight we'll spend the night under canvas in a traditional Kyrgyz yurt, the famous design of Central Asian tent which serves as a semi-permanent home to the many nomads who live throughout the country.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Accommodation: Kyrgyz Yurt

    4. Tuesday 19th August

      • Leave Yurt Camp | Today we'll leave our Yurt camp and make our way back up the road towards Naryn City. Just passing by today, we'll continue through Naryn, making our way deeper and deeper into the mountainous core of the country.
         
      • Kazarman Village & Homestay | Our destination today is Kazarman village. Although - it is a long drive away. Today will be filled with progress on our expedition along the M41 highway. Leaving the comfortable flats in exchange for more and more beautiful mountain passes. Passing local yurts, shepherds tending their flocks, and locals going about their daily business, we'll finally arrive at our homestay accommodation in Kazarman.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Accommodation: Local Homestay

    5. Wednesday 20th August

      • Kaldama Pass | Today, we will be traversing the incredible Kaldama Pass. Leaving our homestay, and saying a thankful goodbye to our hosts, we'll head out once again onto the road. Eventually, we will arrive at the Kaldama Pass, an incredible natural mountain pass which we'll have to drive through should we wish to arrive at our destination for today.
         
      • Osh | Finally, with a long drive under our belts, we'll pull in to Osh - the second city of Kyrgyzstan and our stop for tonight.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Accommodation: 3-4 Star Hotel

    6. Thursday 21st August

      • Explore Osh | Today you will have a free morning to explore Osh. Discover its hidden secrets, tiny shops, and winding alleyways!
         
      • Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain (UNESCO)In the afternoon, we will tour the city and visit the Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain and its various sites.
        This beautiful area has fantastic 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.
         
      • Babur's House & Tahti Suleiman Mosque | At the top of the mountain, we will view 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.

      Accommodation: The Classic Hotel. This aptly named hotel is conveniently located in the heart of this thriving city within walking distance of some of the central city sites.

    7. Friday 22nd August

      • Jaima Bazaar | This morning we visit the Jaima Bazaar. A fantastic market that is one of the largest in Central Asia and sells everything you could 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.
         
      • Sary-Tash | 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.
         
      • Remote Village Stay | After our first day of driving, we stay in this remote village with a population of only 1500 hardy souls. High mountains surround this backwater settlement, seemingly cut off from the world outside.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

      Accommodation: Sary Tash (village) Guest House. Along the route, this accommodation is a real mix of local homestay and traditional-style guest houses.

    8. Saturday 23rd August

      • Kyzyl Art Border Point | 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.
         
      • Entry into Tajikistan | We are now in the Republic of Tajikistan!
         
      • Karakul Lake | After lunch, we continue 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 it is considered one of the most accessible 7000m peaks in the world to climb) as its backdrop.
         
      • Highest Point on the Pamir Highway | 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.
         
      • Murgab | We eventually arrive in Murgab. Formerly known as the Pamirsky Post, it was founded by the Russians in 1893 as their most advanced military outpost. It now remains the highest town in Tajikistan at 3,618 metres. This far-flung settlement 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.
         
      • Visit Local Herder's Home | Before dinner (time permitting), we will stop by a local herder's home to see what life is like in these remote regions.

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Accommodation: Hotel Pamir. In this small town, the Hotel Pamir may be basic but offers us hot showers and relatively comfortable beds. Some facilities may be shared in this Soviet relic.

    9. Sunday 24th August

      • Langar Village | 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.
         
      • Wakhan Valley | 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.
         
      • Afghanistan Border | 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).
         
      • Village Stay | We will stay the night in Langar village. (Not to be confused with the town of the same name just across the border in Afghanistan).

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Accommodation: Local Guesthouse. 

    10. Monday 25th August

      • Wakhan Corridor | After breakfast and a short walk through the village, we continue along the Panj River and the border with Afghanistan following the Wakhan corridor.
         
      • Osorkhonai Abdullo Ansori | 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.
         
      • Kahkaha Fortress | As we continue onwards after lunch, we will tour the Kahkaha Fortress. To view the remains of this 4th century A.D castle. This once-great, clay-built fortification is said to be named after a legendary hero; known as a king of fire-worshippers. Its ruins now offer views of the surrounding countryside with stunning vistas into neighbouring Afghanistan.
         
      • Khorogh | 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.

    11. Tuesday 26th August

      • Panj River Bordering Afghanistan | We continue our journey along the Panj River bordering Afghanistan. This follows the route of the old Silk Road and traces in the footsteps of explorers such as Marco Polo.
         
      • Small Towns, Villages, & Local Families | 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 friendly and welcoming. We will not be there to exoticise them but to interact, 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.

      Accommodation: Karon Palace Hotel. A jewel in this delightful 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.

    12. Wednesday 27th August

      • Khatlon Province | 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.
         
      • Glimpse of Afghanistan | During the Soviet period, this was also one of the country's poorest regions. We will stop to catch some final glimpses of Afghanistan along the way as well as pass a couple more high passes, impressive but not a reflection on our earlier adventures.
         
      • Kulyab | We stop at Kulyab, the centre of Khatlon province and the fourth-biggest town in Tajikistan. Kulyab has a history stretching back over 2500 years and borders Afghanistan. We will walk around the city, stop in at the local museum, and visit the market. This is one of the best ways to mix with the locals and their culture. Kulyab is changing rapidly, but mosaics of Lenin remain along with some impressive Soviet architecture.
         
      • Norak Basin | Later, we will also stop to view Norak Basin. This is 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.
         
      • Dushanbe | We make our final leg driving into Dushanbe city for a well-deserved rest! We'll have dinner and afterwards the opportunity to have a much-needed drink in one of Dushanbe's bars. The first one is on us!

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

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

    13. Thursday 28th August

      • Dushanbe City Tour | 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 National Flag, stopping for photos at the Monument of Ismaili Somoni which 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.
         
      • Victory Tank Monument | 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. 
         
      • World’s Largest Tea House | We finish our day with a visit to the world’s largest tea house with its amazingly decadent interior.

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Accommodation: Hotel Vatan

    14. Friday 29th August

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

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

      End of Tour

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • Airport pick-up and drop at the start and end of the tour
    • Hotel accommodation
    • Tajiki tour guides
    • A driver per group
    • A member of Koryo Tours
    • All transportation in the country
    • All entry fees for attractions and sights
    • Airport Transfer (on trip start/end dates)

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Flights to Tajikistan
    • Single-room supplement unless otherwise specified ($50 per night)
    • Spending money on drinks and souvenirs
    • Tajikistan visa fees must include a GBAO travel permit
    • Tip for the guides (approx. $10 per day)
    • Not all meals are covered, but we will make recommendations if needed
    • We occasionally have the opportunity to visit a performance; this may cost extra.
    • Airport Transfer (outside of trip start/end dates) 30 USD

Please apply by 1st August, 2025.

October 2025 — 2 tours

October 4 - October 11 2025

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 coast
of the glorious Caspian!

From 2400 USD per person

Please apply by 1st September, 2025.

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 coast of the
glorious Caspian!

From 2400 USD per person

This tour is managed by...

Rich Beal

Rich Beal is our International Tours Manager.

Rich is one of our most experienced tour leaders. He has led tours worldwide since 2004, specialising in Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the surrounding area. Currently living in Mongolia, he leads multiple specialised trips annually and has over 20 years of experience running and designing tours of the region. 

  • 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 has 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!

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

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

    Highlights

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

    Day 1 of 9
    1. Saturday 4th October

      Arrival in Ashgabat

      • Assemble in Ashgabat, airport pickups will be arranged wherever you fly in from, and we will have a group dinner to get introduced and start the adventure!
         
      • For those who arrived in Turkmenistan earlier, there will be an optional walking tour around Ashgabat this afternoon; we'll see some architecture, local markets and a slice of local life. 

      Meals: Dinner 

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat. Built for the 2017 Asian indoor martial arts game, this well-located and modern hotel allows access to malls, shops, and restaurants and provides guests with quality facilities in a fascinating part of the city. Should the heat of the day prove too much you can quench your thirst in the rooftop bar or take a plunge in the included swimming pool.

    2. Sunday 5th October

      Ashgabat City Tour

      • Tolkuchka Bazaar | The nation's largest market, built outside the city and home to various sections selling household goods, clothes, the famous Turkmen carpets, camels & other animals, and much more!
      • Ashgabat Hippodrome | Sunday is a day at the races, with the sacred Ahal-Teke horses in full display.
      • cooking course | For today's lunch, we attend a local restaurant which gives us a tutorial and the opportunity to bake some local Turkmen pies. If it's not for you, don't worry, you'll be able to relax whilst your meal is cooked for you. 
      • 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: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat
    3. Monday 6th October

      Darvaza Gas Crater & Bokhurdag

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

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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

    4. Tuesday 7th October

      Ashgabat

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

      Meals: Breakfast

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat
    5. Wednesday 8th October

      Nisa Fortress and Kow Ata Underground Lake

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

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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

    6. Thursday 9th 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 10th October

      Awaza

      • A free morning to relax at the coastal resort of Awaza, 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, pre-Soviet railway station, Oil Workers’ Square, various monuments, and even a cemetery for Japanese POWs 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, It's time for goodbyes and the last night out, if you’ve got the energy!

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner 

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat
    8. Saturday 11th October

      Departure

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

      End of tour, OR;

      OPTIONAL EXTENSION (+600 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 12th October

      Extension day 2: Ancient Merv

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

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

    • Upgrade to your own room in Turkmenistan

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

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

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

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Optional extension to Merv is USD 600
    • Optional single supplement: USD 55 per night
    • Visa issuing fee - USD 80 to USD 140, depending on nationality
    • Room extension - USD 120
    • International flights to/from Turkmenistan not included
    • Return flights from Beijing to Ashgabat cost approximately USD 1000 Return flights from London to Ashgabat cost approximately USD 1040 (Estimates only, we can book these tickets for you or you can purchase separately)
  • Notes

    HOW TO APPLY

    Please email Rich Beal at [email protected] the following information a minimum of one month in advance of the tour, ideally six weeks or more if possible: Full Name Gender Date of Birth Passport Number Address Job Title Company Details of any previous visits to Turkmenistan Please also indicate where you plan to join the tour from (London, Beijing, Istanbul etc). We also require a deposit to be paid at this time as we start taking on administrative costs as well as an obligation to pay for the visa invitation as soon as we send off an application. We ask for a deposit of 50% of the tour fee. You must apply at least 4 weeks before the tour departure date as the Letter of Invitation that we need to obtain in order to facilitate the visa can take several days to be issued by the Turkmenistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We can arrange to have the visas issued on arrival at Ashgabat airport or any other point of entry to the country, but if you would prefer to have it issued at the Turkmenistan Embassy in your home country or have any questions at all about the visa process (it is rather complicated!) please contact us early! the LOI's will be issued to coordinate as closely as possible with the tour dates if you need extra days at each end of your journey please do let us know in advance of your application. If you are joining the tour from somewhere other than Beijing and buying a ticket via our offices we email the e-ticket voucher to you and also inform you if anyone else is joining the tour from your place of departure so that you can meet up on the way to join the tour. If you are purchasing your own flight ticket via alternate airlines or agents we need these flight details ASAP. We, unfortunately, can not accept any liability for delayed flights and any issue associated with times associated letters of invitations. It is entirely possible to join the tour by flying in from other destinations also. We can also accommodate people joining the tour after entering by land or sea, and a range of exit methods are available to those joining this tour. Single supplement is available on this tour at 55 USD per night, if you are travelling alone and wish to share a room to avoid this fee we will attempt to match you up with another traveller. You will also have to pay the visa issuing fee, at Ashgabat airport this ranges from US$80 to $150 (depending on nationality) payable in cash only.

    CANCELLATION & REFUNDS

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

Please apply by 1st September, 2025.

October 25 - November 14 2025

The Five Stans Tour

Discover the heart of the ancient Silk Road & Tour the
5 Stans! Kyrygztsan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan

A 21-Day Odyssey across Central Asia following the ancient
Silk Road; Exploring highlights & getting off the beaten
path!

From 5600 USD per person

Please apply by 30th August, 2025.

The Five Stans Tour

Discover the heart of the ancient Silk Road & Tour the
5 Stans! Kyrygztsan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan

A 21-Day Odyssey across Central Asia
following the ancient Silk Road; Exploring
highlights & getting off the beaten
path!

From 5600 USD per person

  • Overall

    Spend 3 weeks travelling to all the stans, ticking off all 5 of the 'Stan Countries'!

    This trip, curated and led by our expert tour leaders and in-country partners, is designed to show you the best of Central Asia in the limited time we have. All with a special Koryo-Twist that makes all of our tours so unique.

    It will take you from the mountainous republic of Kyrgyzstan on a 3-week adventure. You'll walk the path of the ancient Silk Road, as we wind between vast mountain ranges, cross stunning rivers, traverse great deserts, and rub shoulders with local people from across Central Asia.

    Having worked in Central Asia for over two decades, Koryo Tours are extremely happy to be able to announce this trip that has been years in the making. Truly the ultimate trip for those travellers wishing to get a thorough insight into Central Asia from those who know and love it best. Crossing multiple borders by land can be tricky... Sit back and let us do all the hard work and planning - leaving you more time for enjoying! 

    Let's take a look at an introduction to what you can expect from each of these unique countries. 

    Kyrgyzstan

    This journey begins in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, known for its incredible mountain ranges and ancient history.

    We’ll spend a couple of days in the country, both in the capital and in the surrounding region, exploring the beauty and history of this great country.

    Kazakhstan

    No true adventure to this region would be complete without a visit to Almaty, Kazakhstan.

    This ancient city is still a thriving hub in this intriguing and enigmatic country, and also the perfect gateway from which to fly into the heart of Central Asia.

    Tajikistan

    Another great mountainous republic, Tajikistan is home to a handful of incredible cities. We’ll begin in Dushanbe. Perhaps the most laid-back, and beautiful capital in the region.

    Home to ancient cultural traditions, and the more modern trappings of the Soviet Union.

    Uzbekistan

    Once home to ancient Persian capitals.

    Uzbekistan is where we transition from towering mountains to blistering deserts as we journey to explore what remains of Samarkand and Bukhara. Once a hub of Islamic culture and architecture, and still home to some of the most beautiful sites in Asia.

    Turkmenistan

    One of the strangest offerings from this adventure.

    Whether you’re looking to marvel at ancient cities in Merv & Mary, stare into the gateway to hell at the Darvaza Gas Crater, or wonder at the pure white marble capital, Turkmenistan has something for everyone!



    Looking for something shorter? We run individual and combo tours to all of the above countries, as well as private tours for those travellers looking for something more flexible. 

    Turkmenistan Tours | Uzbekistan Tours | Tajikistan Tours | Kyrgyzstan Tours | Kazakhstan Tours

    Highlights

    • Kyrgyzstan | The stunning natural beauty of The Mountain Republic.
    • Tajikistan | Enjoy mountains and rivers, and mix with locals in beautiful, laid-back Dushanbe.
    • Kazakhstan | Almaty & Little-Known Tashkent Solar Furnace.
    • Uzbekistan | The Ancient Cities of Samarkand & Bukhara.
    • Turkmenistan | The Gateway to Hell: Darvaza Gas Crater & Ashgabat. The Marble Capital! 
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 21
    1. October 25 | Saturday

      Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

      • Our adventure begins in the heart of Central Asia’s mountainous heart of the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek.
         
      • Airport Pick-Up | All travellers will be met at the airport and taken straight to the group hotel where we’ll meet for introductions and a pre-tour briefing.
      Bishkek City Tour
      • Osh Bazaar | Our first stop will be the Osh Bazaar. A bustling market at the heart of Bishkek. This gives us a chance to rub shoulders with the locals and pick up bits and bobs from the market traders.
         
      • National Philharmonic | From the market, we’ll make our way to the Soviet-era National Philharmonic building an austere, communist-era building. The hard edges of the concrete are softened somewhat by the bright flowers and magnificent bronze statue which graces the front of the building.
         
      • Next, we’ll stop off at the Ala-too Square and the nearby State Historical Museum. And we follow this with a walk through Oak Park. We can enjoy the local Open-air art gallery and the various sculptures contained within.
         
      • State Department Store | Finally, we’ll head to Victory Square and the nearby State Department Store, ZUM. These state-run department stores are a main-stay across former communist states, home to everything from traditional souvenirs to home appliances.
         
      • Return to Hotel | As the day draws to a close, we’ll head back to the hotel. This evening, we’ll prepare for the epic adventure ahead of us as we relax before we depart from Bishkek in the morning.

      Accommodation | Soviet-style Hotel

      Included Meals | Lunch

    2. October 26 | Sunday

      Bishkek - Chon Kemin

      • Kyrgyzstan Countryside | This morning it’s up and out as we depart the nation’s capital and make our way out into the countryside. 
      Burana Tower
      • Our first stop today is the Burana Tower. This is an 11th-century construction that marks the site of the once-great city of Balasagun. Once a major stopover along the Silk Road.
         
      • The city is nowhere to be seen today. The tower is the only remaining building at the site. Even the tower used to be taller than it is today!
      Tokmok Stadium
      • After marvelling at the ancient tower, we’ll continue our journey to Tokmok Stadium. This is the home of many horse sports, which remain popular across Central Asia to this day.
         
      • We’ll spend the afternoon enjoying some of these horse games. We will enjoy a Kyrgyz version of ‘tag'. Except on horses... and with grown men rather than primary school children!
      Chon Kemin
      • Finally, we’ll arrive in Chon Kemin, our rest stop for this evening. Chon Kemin is set deep in a valley, surrounded by beautiful flora and fauna.
         
      • There are also pine forests which coat the higher slopes above us. Here, we’ll rest for the night before carrying on our journey tomorrow towards Issyk Kul Lake.

      Accommodation | Local Guesthouse

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    3. October 27 | Monday

      Chon Kemin - Lake Issyk Kul

      Local Family Visit | This morning, we’ll visit a local family in Chon Kemin. Here, we can some time with the locals and learn about life in this strange, small town. Whilst we’re there, we may have a chance to try (or even make) some traditional Kyrgyz cuisine alongside our hosts.

      Local Co-Operative (Traditional Felt Carpets)
      • Shyrdaks and Ala-kiyiz | We’ll make our way to a local cooperative. They are responsible for the creation of traditional felt carpets, known locally as Shyrdaks and Ala-kiyiz.
         
      • This visit gives us a great chance to meet with local people keeping historical traditions alive in Kyrgyzstan. We can also learn about the arts and culture which has continued uninterrupted in Central Asia for hundreds of years.
      Eagle Hunters
      • Next, we’ll visit a local eagle hunter, another great example of Kyrgyz culture in action.
      Yurt Camp
      • Finally, we head to our overnight stop. A yurt camp on the banks of Lake Issyk Kul.
         
      • Here, we’ll enjoy a free evening of relaxing, swimming (for those who wish) and generally decompressing on the shores of the stunning lake, hidden deep amidst the mountains of Kyrgyzstan.

      Accommodation | Yurt Camp

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    4. October 28 | Tuesday

      Lake Issk Kul - Tepke

      Skazka Canyon
      • Continuing our exploration of Kyrgyzstan's natural wonders, we'll depart Issyk Kul Lake and head towards Skazka Canyon, known locally as 'Fairytale Canyon'.
         
      • This natural wonder is a mixture of intriguing rock formations made of red sandstone. From a distance, it looks almost like flames rising from the valley floor and towering into the sky.
         
      • We'll spend some time admiring this Martian landscape before boarding our trusty vehicles once more and making our way to Karakol City.
      Karakol City
      • The city of Karakol sits at the northern tip of Issyk Kul Lake and is the country's fourth largest city.
         
      • Dungan Mosque | Our first stop will be the oddly charming Dungan Mosque. This mosque is famous for being built without a single nail back in 1904. It was built as a place for Muslims from China to worship in the country. Something noticeable in its design. Distinctly Chinese style of architecture.
         
      • Orthodox Church | Nearby sits the local Orthodox church, built at the end of 1860 entirely from wood. It's a marvel that the building continues to stand today. But it does!
         
      • Museum of Przkevalski | After visiting the church, we'll stop at the Museum of Przkevalski, a Russian Explorer who once gave his name to the town. Przkevalski is famous across Russia and Central Asia, and this museum allows us to learn a little more about this enigmatic adventurer!
      Tepke
      • Finally, we'll drive to our local guesthouse near the village of Tepke.

      Accommodation | TBC

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    5. October 29 | Wednesday

      Kyrgyzstan - Kazakhstan

      Tien Shen Mountain Range
      • Today, we'll make our final journey in Kyrgyzstan as we leave our guesthouse and make a beeline for the border with neighbouring Kazakhstan.
      Kazakhstan
      • Border Crossing | Our journey will take us to the eastern edge of the Tien Shen Mountain Range. Here, we'll make our border crossing, and head down into the steppe of southern Kazakhstan.
      Charyn Canyon
      • Before reaching our destination, Almaty, we'll stop at the Charyn Canyon.
         
      • Similar to the canyon in Kyrgyzstan, this rocky valley is filled with unusual and mesmerizing rock formations. We'll spend the afternoon here, enjoying the scenery, and the cool water of the river which runs through the bottom of the canyon.
      Almaty
      • After we've had a pleasant packed lunch, we'll finally make our way to the world-famous city of Almaty.
         
      • Once the capital of Kazakhstan, it now serves as the largest city. And the culture hub of the country.
         
      • A major stop on the ancient Silk Road, people of all different nationalities and ethnicities have been mixing and mingling in Almaty for centuries. Something which continues to this day.
         
      • The Soviet planning of the city will become evident as we drive through wide-open boulevards lined with trees. And low-rise Soviet-style apartment blocks lining the smaller backroads.
         
      • Almaty is a city of contrasts. The modern Soviet city making way for the traditional, ancient aspects of the city. All while being nestled in the foothills of the surrounding mountains.

      Accommodation | Hotel Kazakhstan

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    6. October 30 | Thursday

      Almaty

      • This morning, we'll wake up in the beautiful city of Almaty. Nestled against the precipitous Tian Shan Mountain range and dotted with parks, theatres, boulevards, and much more.
      Panfilovets Park
      • We'll begin our walking tour of the city with a trip to Panfilovets Park. This is Almaty's main place of leisure.
         
      • It is 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.
      Green Bazaar & Rakhat Chocolate Factory
      • These neighbouring sites are local institutions. You can smell the sweetness from the latter all across this part of the city.
         
      • Banter and barter with sellers in the market, pick up the apples that Almaty is known for as well as all manner of other delicious local delicacies.
         
      • Get your sweet tooth into action with the terrific and very affordable selection at the chocolate factory. (Ideal for gifts too!)
      Arbat Street
      • Every good former USSR town has one. A pedestrian area ideal for promenading, window shopping, cafe culture, public art sales, and so on.
         
      • This one is very modern and it is lined with some great examples of brutalist apartment buildings. We'll visit some local coffee shops, visit the site of the former GUM department store in the heart of the city, and enjoy some lunch in downtown Almaty.
      Almaty Metro
      • Following on from our relaxing city centre, we'll board the Almaty Metro. One of only two subway systems in the whole of Central Asia. (The other is Tashkent).
         
      • This system opened in 2012 and strikes a balance between Moscow's opulence and modern efficiency.
      Cable Car Ride
      • Finally, those who wish can take a trip on a cable car ride up to a mountain overlooking the city.
         
      • Amazing views, a statue of the Beatles, a Ferris Wheel and toboggan ride, a 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 else.
      Evening Free Time
      • We'll wrap the day up with a free evening to explore the city. For those who prefer to stay in the hotel, you're welcome to eat at the restaurant. Otherwise, you're free to roam the streets to find some delicious local cuisine for dinner.

      Accommodation | Hotel Kazakhstan

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    7. October 31 | Friday

      Kazakhstan - Tajikistan

      Flight to Tajikistan
      • This morning, we'll bid farewell to Kazakhstan as we board our flight. This flight takes us from Almaty to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.
         
      • The flight is only around 2 hours, and we'll fly over the majestic Pamir Mountain Range which blankets this part of Central Asia.
      Dushanbe
      • Upon arrival in Dushanbe, we'll meet our local guides and head into the city.
         
      • Dushanbe is a relatively young capital. It was little more than a small town at the beginning of the 20th century. As a result, the influence of city planning by the ruling Soviet Union is stark in this city. Wide open boulevards, tree-lined streets, and a relaxed atmosphere make Dushanbe one of the greatest cities in the region for weary travellers.
         
      • Victory Park | Victory Park was built in 1975 to commemorate the Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, this Soviet-built monument offers great views of the city.
         
      • Rudaki & Somoni Avenues | Two main streets in Dushanbe formally known as Lenin Street and Petoskey Street. Rudaki Avenue and Somoni Avenue 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 | We'll take our time meandering through the streets of Dushanbe, making sure to stop at 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 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 | As the afternoon approaches, we'll head to the Mehrgon Market Building. As with many of the cities, old marketplaces are 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.
         
      • National Museum of Antiquities | The National Museum of Antiquities is next on our list of must-see sites. This museum gives us a more in-depth look at the complicated history of Tajikistan and the surrounding countries.
         
      • Botanical Gardens | We will then enjoy a visit to the Botanical Gardens. Popular for wedding groups as well as housing a vast range of Central Asian flora.
         
      • Dushanbe Tea House | For a bit of end-of-day relaxation, we'll visit the Dushanbe Tea House. This was once the largest tea house in the world, but it has now been remodelled as an entertainment facility for local people. It has recently been renovated and holds a small cinema, bowling alleys and even various shops. We can still visit to view the amazingly intricate work carried out in its construction.

      Accommodation | Hotel Tajikistan

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    8. November 01 | Saturday

      Khoja Obi Garm Health Spa

      Khoja Obi Garm Spa
      • Today we'll depart our hotel a little later, allowing you the chance to repack and prepare for the following day's journey.
         
      • Today, we leave Dushanbe and make our way into the mountains.
         
      • Our destination is the mammoth, brutalist Soviet health spa that is Khoja Obi Garm Health Spa. This ageing Soviet marvel sits perched against the mountains like a Bond villain's mountain fortress. The building is an impressive display of brutalist-style architecture looking out of place against the stunning mountain backdrop.
      Read all about the Khoja Obi Garm Health Spa here
      • Construction began on Khoja Obi Garm in 1935 inspired by Lenin's decree that more attention should be paid to workers' health within the Soviet Union. From 1922, two weeks' holiday were given to workers during this time. Often, they would visit one of the many spa resorts being constructed across the Soviet Union. Construction of Khoja Obi Garm continued right up until the collapse of the Union in 1991!
      • The spa will not fail to impress. Its gargantuan size from the outside fills the mountain slopes. However inside, its rooms and facilities have begun to decay.
         
      • We'll spend the afternoon with the feeling that we've travelled back to the 1960s. Whilst attendants poke, prod and recommend varying scary-sounding treatments. We'll be able to wander around this ageing building where time appears to have stood still.
         
      • If plunging into radioactive water, steam baths, and massages are not for you, then you're free to head out and about photographing this behemoth from the outside. Or view the surrounding stunning snow-capped mountains which cage this ageing monster.

      Accommodation | Khoja Obi Garm Health Spa

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    9. November 02 | Sunday

      Panjikent Ancient City

      • Our destination is the ancient city of Panjikent. The drive there is a worthy mention. We pass small Soviet-era villages, busy rural markets and farms dotted by blossoming apricot trees.
         
      • On our way, we'll make a few intriguing stops. A visit to the infamous 'Tunnel of Death', past the burning cliffs which have been emanating smoke for longer than anyone can remember, and a visit to the local cognac factory.
         
      • Tracing the Zeravshan, we'll drive through deep mountain gorges with cliffs that tower above us lined with waving sediment. A testament to the region's rich geological value.
      Zarafshan Valley
      • Eventually, the steep valley sides open out to the lush Zarafshan Valley, a welcome sight. This means Panjikent is close! As well as a well-deserved lunch.
      Panjikent City Tour
      • Once we have eaten and checked into our hotel, we will continue our exploration of the city, journeying to ancient Panjikent on the fringes of the town.
         
      • Walking around the foundations of ancient houses, Bazaars, temples and citadels, we will learn about the area's history from our excellent local guide. From the 5th-century Sogdian construction to the settlement's decline and abandonment at the hands of the invading Arabs in the 8th century (now a UNESCO-listed site).
         
      • Statue of Lenin | We'll also stop at a small statue of Lenin in a local park, outside a former Soviet ministerial building. A strange addition to this interesting little city.
      Sarazm
      • We drive to the bronze age settlement of Sarazm. 
         
      • This is another regional UNESCO-listed site. It is believed to have been founded in the 4th millennium BC. We walk around the heavily protected area learning about the rich finds and discoveries made within the covered pits.
      Pajikent Central Market
      • From the 4th millennium, BC, we're brought back to the present as we journey back to Panjikent and visit its colourful local bazaar.
         
      • Panjakent Central Market is an absolute delight to wander around and soak up the local atmosphere, helped by the smell of freshly cooked Tajik bread.
         
      • Before we retire to our local guesthouse, we will head to a real showcase of a family home for our evening meal and some local entertainment.

      Accommodation | Sugd Hotel or similar

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    10. November 03 | Monday

      Tajikistan - Uzbekistan

      • Today, we’ll load up our trusty vehicles and make our way towards the Uzbek border. Our destination for today is the ancient city of Samarkand.
         
      • Uzbekistan Border Crossing | After passing through the border formalities, we’ll enter our fourth country on this adventure. Uzbekistan is home to some of the most incredible ancient cities in the region, and our first stop is one of the jewels in the crown.
      Samarkand
      • Perhaps there is no city associated more with the ancient Silk Road than Samarkand. The muse of poets and playwrights throughout history, Samarkand has an aura like no other.
         
      • Today, the city is split into the ancient and the modern, with the ancient districts still reminiscent of the days of merchants and traders, and the new part, a much more Soviet, functional affair.
      Registan Square
      • The Registan is an ensemble of majestic and stunningly beautiful madrassahs. The most incredible example of Islamic architecture.
         
      • The plaza would once have been dominated by a great bazaar, allowing local people to go about their business. Meanwhile, the surrounding madrassahs allow scholars to work and create a centre for Islamic scholars across Central Asia. Today, the Registan is the number one, must-see sight in the country, an unmissable experience!
         
      • Gur Emir | We will also make a stop at the mausoleum of Tamerlane, known as the Gur Emir. A national icon in Uzbekistan.

      Accommodation | Local 3* Hotel

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    11. November 04 | Tuesday

      Samarkand - Tashkent

      Shah-i-Zinda
      • Our day will begin with a visit to a necropolis which graces the northern part of the city, Shah-i-Zinda. A fabulous example of traditional Islamic architecture in the region, comprising numerous buildings, towers and beautiful domed rooves.
         
      • The turquoise mosaic tiling contrasts against the arid sandy backdrop of Samarkand’s desert surroundings.
         
      • Bibi-Khanym Mosque | We’ll also visit the Bibi-Khanym Mosque. Once the largest in Central Asia.
         
      • Siab Baazar | We then break away from the ancient history to explore the local market, known as the Siab Baazar.
         
      • Whether you’re searching for textiles and fabrics, exquisite and intriguing foodstuffs, or just looking for an opportunity to rub shoulders with Samarkand’s locals – Siab Baazar is the place to visit.
         
      • The market is a great place to pick up souvenirs, clothes, snacks, and all manner of things, but it’s also an oddly peaceful and fun place to spend some time. Wander the aisles, chat with shoppers and market vendors, and experience life as it’s truly lived in this city.
      Train to Tashkent
      • After lunch, we’ll bid farewell to Samarkand as we head to the train station to catch a high-speed train from the city and head north. This journey will take around 3 hours to our destination, Tashkent. The capital of Uzbekistan.
      Tashkent
      • Since its near destruction during an earthquake in 1966, the city has been redeveloped. Initially, this was by the Soviet Union. Leaving an obvious trace of the USSR in its city planning.
         
      • Following the communist theme, our accommodation tonight will be the Hotel Uzbekistan. Hotel Uzbekistan was once the premiere hotel in the country for visiting dignitaries, government officials, and rare foreign tourists.

      Accommodation | Hotel Uzbekistan

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    12. November 05 | Wednesday

      Tashkent

      • This morning we’ll step out into the bustling city of Tashkent.
      Tashkent City Tour 
      • Amir Timur Square | Our day begins with a visit to Amir Timur Square at the heart of this vibrant capital. One of the main squares in Tashkent, Amir Timur is graced with a magnificent statue of Tamerlane, a medieval conqueror, on horseback.
         
      • Although Amir Timur is not the largest square in the city, the tree-lined pavements and bright green grass make it perfect for an evening stroll amidst the locals of Tashkent.
         
      • Bazaar | From here, we will spend some time in the beautifully domed chorus Bazaar. A great place to observe local life or buy those last-minute bargains. And another chance to chat with locals from the city, as well as support local independent businesses in Tashkent.
         
      • Tashkent Metro | No visit to Tashkent would be complete without first a ride on the Tashkent Metro. Built in the former USSR, it opened in 1977.
         
      • The metro network consists of three lines which crisscross beneath the streets of the city. This incredibly ornate metro system was opened in 1977 and has only grown in beauty since then. Not only is it an incredible tourist attraction in its own right, but you can use it to get between Tashkent’s other incredible above-ground sites!
         
      • Tashkent Metro is one of only two subway systems currently operating in Central Asia (the other one is the Almaty Metro).
         
      • Fine Arts Museum of Uzbekistan | Our last stop for the day will be the Fine Arts Museum of Uzbekistan. There are, of course, hundreds of museums across the Uzbek capital worth poking your head in. However, our favourite must be the State Fine Arts Museum. Home to thousands of artefacts from across Russia and Europe.
         
      • This Soviet-era museum holds many of the treasures confiscated from the Grand Duke Romanov, who himself likely stole them from St Petersburg. In addition, artwork from across Russia and the Soviet Union is displayed throughout this museum.
         
      • Finally, we’ll return to our Soviet hotel. From here, we’ll have a free evening. You’ll be able to wander the streets, find and try unusual delicacies, and meet local Tashkenters.

      Accommodation | Hotel Uzbekistan

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    13. November 06 | Thursday

      Uzbekistan's Northern Countryside

      • Today, we’ll take a trip outside of the city to the Institute of Solar Physics. A huge series of mirrors that used to heat a large furnace.
      Institute of Solar Physics
      • The institute will open just for us, and run a test of the system to demonstrate the immense power of this Soviet-era megaproject.
         
      • Situated 45km outside the city, we’ll pass through some of Uzbekistan’s northern countryside. A far cry from the dry desert-like environment which dominates the rest of the country.
         
      • Upon arrival, we’ll witness the effect of these huge parabolic mirrors, heating the furnace to over 3000*C. We’ll also learn about the potential that exists for clean energy from this system, since the energy produced is completely clean, and could be put to work in the future for clean energy.
         
      • After our close call with the heat of the sun, we’ll head back into Tashkent for our final evening in the capital before returning to the heart of the country tomorrow.

      Accommodation | Hotel Uzbekistan

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    14. November 07 | Friday

      Tashkent - Bukhara

      • After breakfast, we’ll head back to Tashkent’s magnificent railway station. We’ll board the high-speed train back towards the desert. Today, our destination is Bukhara, another ancient city that was once the heart of empires in the region.
         
      • After our 4-and-a-half-hour train journey, we’ll arrive at Bukhara train station and begin our adventure through the bustling streets of Bukhara.
      Bukhara City Tour
      • The city of Bukhara, along with nearby Samarkand, served as the heart of the Persian world for centuries under numerous empires. It continues today as Uzbekistan’s seventh-largest city. And one of its most popular attractions for foreign travellers, owing to its rich history as a Persian capital, and an outpost on the renowned Silk Road.
         
      • The modern city is home to dozens of architectural sites, uncovering the legacy of Persia, and the many mosques, minarets, and madrassahs it left behind. Many of these sites are visitable and make for a wonderful experience for any adventurer looking for a glimpse back into this city’s majestic past.
         
      • Ark of Bukhara | This afternoon we begin our exploration with a visit to the fantastic Ark of Bukhara.  The Ark of Bukhara citadel has stood defending the city from the 5th century until its final stand against the Red Army in 1920.
         
      • Bolo-Hauz Mosque | We make a short walk from the Ark to the Bolo-Hauz Mosque famed for its elegant wooden carvings, Built in 1712, it served as a Friday mosque during the time of the emir of Bukhara and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
         
      • Ismail Samani Mausoleum | A short drive will take us to the Ismail Samani Mausoleum. Built in the 9th century, this mausoleum is an example of the excellent artistry of architects at this time.
         
      • The tomb is the final resting place of Ismail Samani, founder of the Samanid dynasty and the last true Persian king of the region.
         
      • Local Family Visit | Tonight we will sample some traditional food at the residence of a local family.

      Accommodation | 3* Hotel or similar

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    15. November 08 | Saturday

      Bukhara

      • Today we’ll enjoy another day in the picturesque surroundings of Bukhara, exploring the ancient legacy of this stunning city. Our first stop of the day will be the magnificent Kalyan Minaret.
      Kalyan Minaret
      • Built in 1127, the Kalyan Minaret is all that survives of a once grandiose Djuma Mosque, designed for crowds of people to worship at once.
         
      • Today, the site has been rebuilt around the footprint of this great tower, now at the centre of a courtyard surrounded by galleries and stunning architecture. It’s from here that the ancient call to prayer would have blasted across the city, and many locals would have descended on the site.
         
      • It was actually built twice. Evidence suggests the soft ground led it to collapse after being nearly completed the first time. However, after almost a millennium, it shouldn’t fall again!
      Khoja-Gaukushon
      • Next, we’ll make our way to Khoja-Gaukushon. A great ensemble at the heart of the city, home to a mosque, madrassah, and minaret.
         
      • The area once served as a kind of plaza for local people to meet, trade, set up market stalls, and (rather oddly) slaughter animals. Hence the name ‘Gaukushon’ which means ‘Slaughter of Bulls’.
         
      • Later, a large minaret, mosque, and madrassah were built on the site, adding to the great patchwork of beautiful buildings littered across the skyline of Bukhara.
      Mausoleum of Naqshbandi
      • Finally, we’ll wrap up with the Mausoleum of Naqshbandi and the summer residence of the last Emir of Bukhara which sits a few kilometres outside the city itself.
         
      • The mausoleum is a place of pilgrimage for many Sufis and a place of incredible beauty. And the summer palace is known as ‘the place where the moon meets the stars.
         
      • Free Time | Finally, we’ll return to the city for a free evening to explore, discover and marvel at this ancient city.

      Accommodation | 3* Hotel or similar

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    16. November 09 | Sunday

      Uzbekistan - Turkmenistan

      • This morning, we’ll depart Bukhara and make our way south towards the river that marks the border between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
         
      • Turkmenistan Border Crossing | We’ll make our crossing into our fifth and final country, Turkmenistan. However, our adventure is far from over.
      Turkmenabat
      • We’ll head down to Turkmenabat, the border city on the Turkmen side of the river. Then, we continue our adventure south to Ancient Merv.
      Ancient Merv
      • Merv was once one of the most important cities in the world at certain times of its history.
         
      • This ancient site is now a place where you will learn a great deal about the history of Central Asia. The rise and fall of dynasties and cities, the Silk Road, and human civilisation in this part of the world. Animals, travellers and archaeologists now roam the existing buildings, ruins, etc. All contribute to a sense of the dynamism of the ancient Silk Road.
      Mary
      • Finally, we’ll make our way to the nearby city of Mary. Here, we’ll bed down for the night and prepare for the Turkmen adventure which lies ahead!

      Accommodation | Mary Hotel

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    17. November 10 | Monday

      Ashgabat

      • Domestic Flight to Ashgabat | Departing Mary, we’ll board a flight from this relatively small city to the nation’s capital. A city coated entirely in white marble.
      Ashgabat City Tour
      • Independence Park and Independence Monument | Arriving in Ashgabat, our first stop is Independence Park and Independence Monument. These were constructed to celebrate the independence of Turkmenistan on the 27th of October 1991.
         
      • As well as the memorial, the park is home to an impressive array of statues of characters from Turkmen history.
         
      • Monument of Neutrality | From Independence to Neutrality, we go! Our next visit is the Monument of Neutrality built in 1998; a gold statue of Turkmenbashi tops this impressive structure.
         
      • Bake Turkmen Pies | For today's lunch, we’ll visit a local restaurant, which will give us a tutorial and the opportunity to bake some local Turkmen pies. If it's not for you, don't worry. You'll be able to relax while your meal is cooked for you.
         
      • Earthquake Monument and Museum | We hope you’re not too tired of statues just yet as we have a few more to go! Next up, is the Earthquake Monument and Museum.
         
      • A grim reminder of the terrible earthquake that struck Ashgabat in 1948, killing 110,00 people and levelling the city. Both are tastefully presented and very educational.
      Ashgabat Architecture
      • On our way back to the hotel, we will pass a few of Ashgabat’s more unusual buildings, The Ministry of Gas is shaped like a giant cigarette lighter, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is shaped like a globe, and our personal favourite, The Ashgabat Dental Hospital is shaped like a massive tooth!
         
      • Free Time | Once we have returned to the hotel, you are free to continue exploring Ashgabat or enjoy some well-deserved rest.

      Accommodation | Sport Hotel

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    18. November 11 | Tuesday

      Turkmen Desert & Darvaza Gas Crater

      • This morning there is a bit of free time for relaxing or shopping for supplies, which may be useful as later today we’re off into the desert.
      Bokhurdag
      • Our first stop is the small desert village of Bokhurdag. It is here that we stop to sample the local cuisine and learn a little more about living outside the bright lights of Turkmenistan’s flamboyant capital.
      Desert Trip (Mining History)
      • Once our journey resumes, we’ll continue stopping as we travel to see other examples of the desert’s mining history, visiting two other craters (one filled with water, the other with mud). A perfect pretext for the great Darvaza Gas Crater.
      The Darvaza Gas Crater
      • The incredible Darvaza Gas Crater, continuously burning since 1971, was created when Soviet engineers were drilling what they thought were vast oil fields. No oil was found, and the fields turned out to be rich in gas, evident when the drilling rig at Darvaza hit a void and collapsed in on itself.
         
      • Sometime later it’s believed that the escaping gas was set alight to prevent methane from polluting a nearby village.
         
      • Here we are all these years later, and the gas crater has now become one of the world’s most unusual tourist attractions.
         
      • We’ll arrive during daylight hours to observe the transition from light to dark as the night sky becomes illuminated by the flickering blaze of the crater.
      Darvaza Gas Crater Camping
      • Turkmen BBQ | Camping next to this burning void, we will enjoy a delicious Turkmen BBQ prepared by our local crew

      Accommodation | Camping

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    19. November 12 | Wednesday

      Ashgabat & Erbent

      • Today we’ll pack up and head back to Ashgabat.
         
      • After lunch, before heading back towards the capital, we will make a stop at the village of Erbent.
      Village of Erbent
      • Erbent is similar to most of the surrounding desert settlements. However, it is here that the Monument to the Basmachi Revolution is located.
         
      • The Basmachi Revolutionary Monument | The Basmachi Revolutionary Monument was built here as this area was a Basmachi stronghold during the 1920s. The Basmachi were an Islamic group fighting the occupying Soviet forces.
         
      • Upon arrival back in the capital city, the rest of the day is yours to enjoy. You’re welcome to spend this free day however you please – exploring, shopping, or even just resting before the adventure continues tomorrow!

      Accommodation | Sport Hotel

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch

    20. November 13 | Thursday

      Ashgabat

      • Our final day on tour begins with a relaxed walking tour of the city, a chance to unwind and catch a few of the things we didn’t get to during our last day in this odd marble city.
      Ashgabat City Tour
      • Tekke Bazaar | We’ll start with a walk through the Tekke Bazaar. A real, local slice of life, a true local market very popular amongst local people for shopping. On weekends, there are also local booksellers in the park opposite the market selling a selection of second-hand books.
         
      • If you're lucky, you may pick up a copy of the Ruhnama the book written by Saparmurat Niyazov, the Turkmenistan president. Niyazov famously said, "A person that reads Ruhnama three times becomes smart, and after it, he will go straight to heaven".
         
      • Inspiration Park | Next up, we’ll visit Inspiration Park. A public park at the centre of Ashgabat this narrow parkland is lined with sculptures of Persian poets, scholars and great thinkers. All surrounding an artificial river and impressive water fountains.
         
      • The Russian Bazaar | Following this, another market! The Russian Bazaar is located in the very centre of town. This covered bazaar is where you can buy almost everything you may need in daily life; fruit & nuts, cables & chargers, sweets, kimchi, baked goods, souvenirs, and so on.
         
      • Nearby is also the Alty Asyr Shopping Centre which is a good place to buy cotton goods (tracksuits, towels, bedsheets, etc. all made from local cotton, and all very cheap).
         
      • Lenin Statue | We’ll stop by the local Lenin statue, best described as a small Lenin on a giant plinth decorated in central Asian tile work, followed by a visit to the Pushkin Monument.
         
      • Pushkin Monument | This small bust erected for Russia's most famous poet Pushkin is easily visited only 5 minutes from Lenin. And, nearby our next stop - Pervyy Park.
         
      • Pevvy Park | This park is one of Ashgabat's oldest parks founded in 1890 named Officer Park, Lenin Park, First Park and Independence Park.
         
      • Ashgabat Train Station | Finally, we’ll visit Ashgabat Train Station. Originally built in 1888, the first railway station was destroyed in the earthquake of 1948 along with much of the city.
         
      • A new station was built shortly after in 1950. Although, this was remodelled in 2009 taking on its now grand form crowned by the eight-pointed star (Rub El Hizb).
      Free Time
      • As our walking tour draws to a close, you’ll have the rest of the day free to enjoy. This is our last day on our epic 3-week adventure, so perhaps explore the city some more, pick up souvenirs, try new foods, or just relax for the afternoon.
         
      • We’ll end the day with a group meal, a chance to say farewell and to reminisce about our adventures together.

      Accommodation | Sport Hotel

      Included Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    21. November 14 | Friday

      End of Tour

      Airport transfers are available to all travellers from our group hotel to Ashgabat International Airport, no matter your time of departure.

      For independent extensions, contact your tour leader.

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED
    • Guides & Drivers
    • All Meals Where Listed
    • Regional Flights
    • Turkmenistan Visa (LOI)
    • All Vehicles & Transport
    • Entrance Fees
    NOT INCLUDED
    • Visas (other than Turkmenistan)
    • Pre/Post Tour International Flights
    • Snacks/Alcoholic Drinks
    • Tips
    • Travel Insurance

Please apply by 30th August, 2025.

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

中国北京市东城区草园胡同76号聚才大厦A 座409 室,
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