Tour duration: 10 days
Travel season: April - November
Day 1. Ashgabat
Arrival in Ashgabat International airport. You will be met by our representatives and transfer to hotel.
BF at Hotel. Morning drive to visit Nissa fortress - the Sanctuary of Parthian Kings. UNESCO declared fortress a World Heritage Site in 2007. Nissa is described as one of the first capitals of the Parthians. It was founded by Arsaces I (reigned c. 250 BC – 211BC), and reputedly the royal necropolis of the Parthian Kings, although it has neither been established that the fortress at Nissa was a royal residence or a mausoleum.
Drive to visit Turkmenbashy Ruhy Mosque in Kipchak (the largest mosque in Central Asia).
Afternoon city tour of Ashgabat. In 2013 the Guinness Book of Records named Ashgabat “white marbled city” – here you can see the biggest number of structures in the world made out of the white marble. You will see Presidential Palace, Ruhyyet Palace, Wedding Palace, modern “Yildyz” Hotel, Ferries Wheel, Constitution Monument, Arch of Neutrality, Monument and park of Independence, Ertogrul Gazy Mosque, Ashgabat Sports and Housing facilities, the Earthquake and victims of WWII Monuments.
Day 2. Ashgabat – Turkmenbashi - Yangikala and Yangisuv canyons - Gozli ata Mausoleum, 250 km
Transfer to airport for flight to Turkmenbashi. Arrival and drive to Yangikala Canyons (2.5h), one of the scenic natural objects and outstanding sight of Turkmenistan. The word expression “yangy kala” translates from Turkmen as “fire fortress”. Indeed, the sheer cliffs of white, yellow, ocher, purple and red colors, fancily carved by winds and rains, are very similar to the stone castles from a fantasy. Explore the Canyons. Lunch on the spot.
Then drive further to explore Yangisuv Canyon (1h), which is close to Garabogaz gulf. It has striking color variations; you can walk to gain fantastic views. A narrow corridor used to get there. The Yangisuv Canyon becomes progressively narrower, until visitors may touch both the walls of the canyon at the same time.
When the sun sets we drive to the pilgrimage site of Gozli Ata - one of the holiest pilgrim sites in Turkmenistan. The mausoleum of Gozliata, located on a low platform against the backdrop of stunning pink and red limestone rock formations.
Overnight at a local pilgrim house (multi-share accommodation) or camping.
Day 3. Gozli ata - Kemal ata Mausoleum - Balkanabat – Nohur, 490 km
Morning drive to Kemal ata Mausoleum (1/2 h) where a freshwater source carves out a small valley through various ancient volcanic rock formations.
Then drive to Nohur (6 h). On the way we will have a lunch in Balkanabat city. Nohur village itself fills a small valley in the mountains of the Kopet Dag Range, apart from the main street through the middle of the town, the streets are so narrow that they only just fit a car between the high stone retaining walls on each side. The Nohkuri people who populate this remote mountain village are quite different to other Turkmen tribes. According to legends, this was the place where Noah’s Ark moored and all animals were let out and various seeds were planted. Indeed, the nature of Nohur differs from the surrounding places. Visit the great tree and one of the unique cemetery, which is isolated. Nearly every grave is marked by a wooden post decorated with the horns of a mountain goat. Make your sacred wishes visiting wish tree named after Kyz Bibi.
Traditional Dinner with a local family.
Day 4. Nohur – Kowata Underground Lake - Gokdepe horse farm – Ashgabat, 170 km
Morning drive to Kowata underground lake which is located 107 km from Ashgabat. The Turkmen name Kow-Ata means "father of caves". This underground area looks like a magnificent auditorium: the overall length of the cave is 230 m, its height reaches 20 m, and its width is at some points 57 m. The bottom of the cave is covered with lumps of dissolved limestone (stalagmites), and its warm and gushing water is clear and emerald colored. The water has a constant temperature of 33-37°C (swimming is possible).
Continue to Gokdepe fortress that was attacked in December 1880 by Russian Empire Army. The siege of Gokdepe lasted 23 days, after which the city was taken by storm. Visit Geokdepe Mosque (Saparmyrat Hajy) that was built in 1995 to commemorate the defeat and is noted for its mint-turquoise blue colored roof and white marble structure.
Then visit Gokdepe museum about the battle between Russians and local tribe “Akhalteke” in 1881.
Later drive to visit Horse Farm to see a national proud of Turkmen people - Akhalteke horses, the nicest horses in the world. 5000 years ago, Turkmens begin breed Akhalteke horses. The World’s unique breed was never mixed with other breeds. Such illustrious Emperors like Alexander the Great, Darius I desired to own Ahalteke horses. There are over 35 beautiful horses in the farm. Per superstition, every sick person who touches an Ahalteke horse will get well soon.
Drive to visit Turkmenbashy Ruhy Mosque in Kipchak (the largest mosque in Central Asia).
Day 5. Ashgabat – Mary – Merv – Mary, 440 km
Morning drive to Mary (4 h). You also see ruins of Seyitjemalledin mosque in Anau. The mosque was built in 1456, when Abu-ibn-Kasim Baber Bahadurkhan ruled in Khorasan (1446-1457). Construction of the mosque was financed by Bahadurkhan’s vizier, Muhammed Hudaidot, who also selected a site of construction–near the grave of his father, sheikh Jemaleddin, a native of Anau. The square central hall (with the sides of 10.5 meters) was crowned with a dome. In later periods, the Seyit-Jemaleddin mosque was partially reconstructed. By the nineteenth century, the subsidence of land had already damaged the building heavily, and during the 1948 Ashgabat earthquake it was destroyed completely. Now, only lower parts of the portal and some fragments of the walls are extant.
On the way visit Abiwerd that was once an important trading town of North Khorasan. It was a key link on the Great Silk Road between Nisa and Merv, and also enjoyed ties in Nishapur, across Kopetdag Mountains to the south.
Transfer to Merv to explore ancient Merv – “Queen of the world”, was one of the most important capitals of Islam along with Baghdad, Cairo and Damascus. Sightseeing of ancient Merv includes Greater Kyz Gala & Lesser Kyz Gala (VI-VII), Complex of Askhabs (VIII-XIV), Erk Gala (VI BC), Gyaur Gala (IV BC), Hoja Yusup Hamadani complex, Sultan Sanjar mausoleum, Muhamed Ibn Zeid mausoleum. After sightseeing, drive to Mary city.
Day 6. Mary – Gonurdepe – Mary, 100 km
Morning you will visit Mary History Museum, located in the center of the city. The exposition of the museum reflects the history and culture of Mary from ancient times to the present day, is unique in size and content of the exhibits.
Then drive to Gonurdepe. Gonurdepe was a capital of Margush (Margiana) State that occupied an area of over 3000 sq. km and consisted of 78 oases and more than 150 compact settlements. The American newspaper "Boston Globe" wrote that before we had known four oldest centers of the world's civilization: Egypt, India, China and Mesopotamia, and now due to the fantastic results of the Margiana expedition it is quite possible to think that there was another, the fifth center. After sightseeing, return to Mary city.
Day 7. Mary - Koneurgench – Dashoguz, 220 km
Morning transfer to domestic airport of Mary for flight to Dashoguz. Arrival in Dashoguz. Then drive to Kunya Urgench (3.5 h). Sightseeing tour in Kunya Urgench: visit Portal of Caravansaray, Mamun Minaret, II Arslan Mausoleum, Sultan Tekesh Mausoleum, Academy of Horezm, Kutlug Timur Minaret, Turabek Hanum Mausoleum. Drive back to Dashoguz.
Day 8. Dashoguz – Darvaza, 250 km
Excursion to the famous bazaar.
Afternoon drive to Darwaza burning Gas Crater (3.5 h) dubbed by locals as "The Door to Hell". The Darwaza area is rich with natural gas. While drilling in 1971, Soviet geologists tapped into a cavern filled with natural gas. The ground beneath the drilling rig collapsed, leaving a large hole with a diameter of 70 meters. To avoid poisonous gas discharge, it was decided the best solution was to burn it off. Geologists had hoped the fire would use all the fuel in a matter of days, but the gas is still burning today. In the evening watch the spectacular and fascinating view of the gas crater. BBQ dinner by Gas Crater.
Day 9. Darvaza – Ashgabat, 300 km
Morning drive to visit "Altyn Asyr" Oriental Bazar (opens on Wen, Thurs., Sat, Sun) - Jygyldyk located in 20km to the north of Ashgabat. It is one of the largest open bazaars in the world filled with colourful rugs, jewellery, carpets, silk and national Turkmen costumes and animals in other part.
Then visit National Museum of History & Ethnography. The museum has s rich collection of ancient artifacts from Turkmenistan. More than 500,000 exhibits are displayed here. It has 9 halls, each dedicated to a certain period or theme. The museum reveals the variety of Turkmenistan's landscape its flora and fauna, fossils and rare geological finds. The Hall of Independence, illustrating the modern development of the country. The Hall of Ancient History presents a collection of flint tools from the Mesolithic era (50 000 years B.C.), used by primitive people in Western Turkmenistan, along with Neolithic ceramics and ornaments from the first human settlements along the northern slopes of Kopet-Dag.
Drive to visit Carpet Museum, one of the best in Central Asia featuring designs from the Tekke, Yamud, Sarik and Chodor tribes. The Turkmen carpet museum is one of the cultural centers of Turkmenistan, where about 2000 carpet exhibits, including rare ones, are exhibited. For example, the museum has the smallest carpet to wear keys, as well as the world's largest hand carpet with a total area of 301 m², which was woven in 2001, and in 2003 it was added to the Guinness Book of Records.
Day 9. Departure