Kazakhstan

Incredible Journey from Towers & Parks to Nukes & Gulags

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Central Asia's Giant. See parts of Kazakhstan usually missed by visitors - many formerly off-limits to outsiders. A new, unique, and remarkable odyssey to Kazakhstan.

We will take you on an unbelievable trip across eastern Kazakhstan.

From the new capital (Astana) to the old capital (Almaty) and everywhere between. This tour is an epic adventure through industrial cities, endless steppe, abandoned gulags and memorials to their victims. We will also see lakes formed by atomic weapons, the sinister and evocative Semipalatinsk Nuclear Polygon (where the nuclear arms race began), mesmerising scenery, and quirky architecture from various eras.

Plus, you'll have the great chance to mix with local people, find out about their lives, enjoy nights out... And even visit a chocolate factory to round it all off!

Book your Kazakhstan Tour now!

For more on Kazakhstan, visit our Kazakhstan Travel Guide page.

Astana, Kazakhstan
Chagan Abandoned Air Base
Nuclear Test Site - The Polygon
Semey/Semipalatinsk
Alzhir Memorial

Note: We require all travellers on international and North Korea tours to have valid travel insurance.

September 2024 — 2 tours

September 23 - October 12 2024

Kazakhstan And Turkmenistan Adventure

Kazakhstan & Turkmenistan
Tour; The Heart of Central
Asia.

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

From 4900 USD per person

Please apply by 1st September, 2024.

Kazakhstan And Turkmenistan Adventure

Kazakhstan & Turkmenistan
Tour; The Heart of Central
Asia.

Visit vibrant multi-cultural Kazakhstan
and eclectic Turkmenistan. Ticking off all
the higlights 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. We will be heading to the industrial base of Karaganda, the infamous Semipalatinsk (in two words; Gulags and Nukes), and Kurchatov - the Los Alamos of the USSR, where the Red Bomb was developed and tested. Plus, we will even visit The Polygon; the vast nuclear testing range full of abandoned measuring platforms, bunkers, craters, buried machinery, and the scenic yet chilling ‘Atomic Lake’.

    Please Note: the situation vis-a-vis access to the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Polygon is very much changeable with no notice. So 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 though and have redundancies and backup plans in place, so we can still assure all visitors that they will experience as much access to the site as possible when they visit with Koryo Tours.

    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.

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

    Highlights

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

    Day 1 of 21
    1. Monday 23rd September

      Arrival Day

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

      Overnight: Astana - Kazakhstan's shiny new Capital City!

    2. Tuesday 24th September

      Astana

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

      Overnight: Astana

    3. Wednesday 25th September

      Akmol & Karaganda

      • We take a drive out of the city to the nearby village of Akmol; home of the chilling Museum of the Camp for Wives of Traitors to the Motherland – A sensitively-done spot telling the story of the loyal (going to such a place could often be avoided with a divorce and public denunciation) women sent here when their husbands were persecuted.
         
      • We see a little more of this settlement on a walk around; church, mosque, and apartment buildings now occupy this former gulag-site before leaving for a 3 hour drive to the major city of Karaganda (lunch along the way)
         
      • An introductory walking tour of the city centre - focusing on the architecture, history, and local culture of this city (all of which is varied and fascinating), we’ll visit the central park as well and see and mix with locals spending leisure time here.
         
      • Karaganda is a large city but with a very walkable centre – the Russian/Soviet influence here is strong and our guide (a local to this place) will tell us all about the city, you’ll find it fascinating for sure! He can also recommend good spots for dinner/evening socialising/etc
         
      • We will also visit a local painter - 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

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

    4. Thursday 26th September

      Karaganda

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

      Overnight: Chaika Hotel

    5. Friday 27th September

      Astana/Train Ride

      • We return to Astana by road in the morning. A special lunch with a local family awaits us when we arrive back in the Kazakh capital and then time to shop for some supplies for the overnight train ride ahead of us.
         
      • All aboard! We jump onto a sleeper train making its way through the night and across the country to the city of Kurchatov - home of the Soviet atomic weapons program. Comfy beds and a clean restaurant await us and rolling steppe outside the windows for this 800km journey. We will have dinner delivered to us on the platform at Ekibastusz Station that evening.

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

    6. Saturday 28th September

      Semey/Nuclear Polygon/Kurchatov

      • We arrive in the morning in the eastern city of Semey and 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
         
      • We go deep into the Polygon - heading for a wide range of sites associated with the Soviet nuclear weapons program - 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.
         
      • We’ll make a few stops on the way through but most significantly Atomic Lake – caused by a deep underground nuclear blast – this was in fact made deliberately and is known as the world’s first and only use of industrial nuclear weapons. Find out what on earth they were thinking and meet some fishermen looking for three-eyed fish in the 180m deep lake.
         
      • We’ll have a Roadside Picnic (note to non-literature lovers, this is a joke – read this book and you will find some eerie similarities to this part of the trip) and continue to see some relics of the testing program. A local expert will also be with us to explain in detail, answer questions, etc.
         
      • We arrive in Kurchatov and check in at our hotel, used mainly by scientists still studying the effects of all the nuclear tests in this region.  Kurchatov 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.

      Overnight: Mayak Hotel – another time-warp hotel with period furnishings and decor.

    7. Sunday 29th September

      Kurchatov/Chagan

      • Museum of the Semipalatinsk Test Site – a detailed and deep explanation of what this place is, what happened here, and what effect their inventions can have. Some machines from that time are displayed here too. (note: this museum opens and closes at the whim of higher powers, so its opening cannot be 100% confirmed - if not open we will have a lecture on the history of the area at a different location
         
      • We board our vehicle and take a drive, deep into a formerly off-limits (very off limits!) area; the Semipalatinsk Polygon – nuclear testing ground chosen due to its remoteness, lack of population, and because it seemed like a good spot to blow a few things up. we provide protective gear of course
         
      • Next stop is Chagan – once a deeply secret long-range bomber base. Now a deeply abandoned former long-range bomber base. See the massive runways, the remaining ammunition hangars, and the collapsing main buildings of the base. Plus the garrison town nearby which housed the base staff from 1954 to 1994 and now stands completely stripped like a spooky post-apocalyptic warning. A bit of UrbEx here
         
      • We will visit a local family who used to live in Chagan - 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.

      Overnight | Mayak Hotel

    8. Monday 30th September

      Semey

      • We leave Kurchaov and the Polygon/Test Field behind us today as we return to Semey. Semipalatinsk is actually the former name of this city; correctly it is now referred to as Semey, we explore with a city tour of this little-visited settlement.
         
      • We will spend some time with a very special group of people - a local school who specialise in teaching disadvantaged children from more modest backgrounds. They teach English to a very high level here and we will meet with some teachers and children from the school who will give us some information about their hometown, give us a performance, and give us a chance to learn from these kids as well as helping them with a chance for conversation time with visitors - this is another Koryo Tours exclusive and something you will never forget
         
      • After lunch we liberate you for free time – a couple of recommendations include;​​​​​​ Fine Arts Museum – not just the best collection in Kazakhstan but also a display of abnormal anatomy, something quirky and troubling (especially with our trip to the nuclear test site coming up)
        Stronger Than Death Monument – in the Tatar section of town (itself an attraction we will explore some more) – shows the resilience of those who live and have lived in this remote part of the world.
         
      • Free time from the later afternoon to explore the city, have an evening out away from the shadow of nuclear tests and enjoy a very unique place indeed on a very special day.

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

    9. Tuesday 1st October

      Semey/Almaty

      • Once upon a time Semipalatinsk was a wealthy trading city, situated between China and Russia, and acted as a gateway to the Central Asian territories added to the Russian Empire in the 19th Century. We will explore mainly on foot and see buildings from various eras, statues and monuments, mosaics and a little-known part of history. All explained to us as we make our way on a short walking tour around this unexpectedly-charming place. Sites we visit include...
         
      • Lenin Alley – a common sight in Kazakhstan’s smaller cities; a collection of Lenin's in a nice park setting. The central piece is awe-inspiring.
         
      • Victory Park – with statues, tank monument, and a hang-out place for locals.
         
      • Dostoyevsky Museum – the titan of Russian Literature, was exiled out here in Semipalatinsk and this museum explains the importance of his works. Pro-tip: read Crime and Punishment before your visit.
         
      • After an early lunch we head to Semey Airport for a flight to Almaty - the former capital and the most charming city in the country
         
      • We transfer to our hotel and you can head out for exploring, enjoying the very lively coffee shop scene, hot up some amazing restaurants and bars, 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!

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

    10. Wednesday 2nd October

      Almaty

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

      Overnight: Hotel Kazakhstan

    11. Thursday 3rd October

      Goodbye Almaty welcome Ashgabat

      Today you travel between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan - two fascinating and very different states in the same region. In terms of logistics, there are only occasional flights directly on this route - if one is available we will help you with that, but otherwise, the safer and most reliable route would be to fly via Istanbul or Dubai - two places well-connected several times daily to both Almaty and Ashgabat. Get in touch with us for help with planning this route.

      You can make this journey all in one day, or arrive the following day, this will still get you there in time for the Turkmenistan tour to begin, so explore options and let us know what you think.

      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.

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

      Meals: Breakfast

      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

    12. Friday 4th October

      Ashgabat

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

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

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

      Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

    13. Saturday 5th October

      Ashgabat

      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.

      The tour starts properly this evening with a group dinner and orientation. Meet those arriving just for the Turkmenistan part of the tour and get ready for a further group adventure!

      Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

    14. Sunday 6th 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

    15. Monday 7th 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 beside the crater; it is best seen at night, and dinner is 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.

    16. Tuesday 8th October

      Ashgabat

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

      Meals: Breakfast

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

    17. Wednesday 9th October

      Nisa Fortress and Kow Ata Underground Lake

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

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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

    18. Thursday 10th October

      Yangykala Canyon & Turkmenbashi

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

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner 

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

    19. Friday 11th October

      Awaza to Ashgabat

      • A free morning to relax at the coastal resort, try swimming (although the Caspian is a cold sea) or some watersports, wandering around, or even sleeping in!
      • Late morning we will take a boat ride down a canal stretching the length of the Awaza area, see the different architectural styles of the buildings here, all of which have sprung up in the last few years.
      • We will drive to Turkmenbashi city for lunch, the oldest city in the country and one settled by Russians during their invasion from across the sea during the late Great Game.
      • A city tour of Turkmenbashi – the local bazaar, railway station, Oil Workers’ Square, various monuments, and even a cemetery for Japanese 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, time for goodbyes and the last night out, if you’ve got the energy!

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner 

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

    20. Saturday 12th October

      Departure

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

      End of tour, OR;

      OPTIONAL EXTENSION (+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 ancient architectural features.
      • Back to Mary City and explore this modern town, mix with the locals, go to parks, bars, etc. as you like, a sleepy area with welcoming and friendly locals.

      Meals: Breakfast 

    21. Sunday 13th October

      Extension day 2: Ancient Merv

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

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

    • Upgrade to your own room in Kazakhstan

      All hotel rooms on our all-inclusive group tours to Kazakhstan feature twin beds, and will be shared. If you'd like a room to yourself then you can upgrade for an extra $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 guides
    • Western tour leader
    • Meals where indicated
    • Accommodation
    • Internal flights
    • Internal trains
    • All included sightseeing
    • All taxes & entrance fees to areas where special permits are required
    • Airport transfers
    • An amazing time in two very different yet amazing countries!

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Tips for local guides and drivers
    • Incidentals, extra drinks, etc
    • Optional single supplement: USD 50 per night (Kazakhstan) and USD 55 Per night (Turkmenistan)
    • Kazakhstan: Visa fee - depending on nationality – most Western nationalities do not need visas to Kazakhstan. Please do check first to be sure
    • Turkmenistan: All visitors will need a visa USD 80 to USD 150, depending on nationality; we will do the work required for this
    • International flights to Kazakhstan and from Ashgabat
    • Flight between Almaty and Ashgabat - we can assist with recommendations for this route
  • Notes

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

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

Please apply by 1st September, 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 — 1 tour

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.

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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,
邮编:100027
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