Thursday 10th June – (Ashgabat Optional Extension)
Meet your local and YPT guides at Ashgabat International Airport.
Driving tour of Ashgabat’s main sites including Independence Park and Independence Monument, the Monument to the Constitution, the Arch of Neutrality, Lenin Park, Ertogrul Ghazi Mosque and the Alem Centre which is the complex that is home to the Wheel of Enlightenment, the largest indoor ferris wheel. And YES, for just $1 you can even take a ride!
Stop for lunch at Berkarar Shopping Centre, where you can go ice-skating, play in the games centre, ride a miniature double-decker bus, and even have a cappuccino in a hipster face (don’t get your hopes up too much about the cappuccino, it is still from a machine which has a “cappuccino” button).
Visit the university bookshop where you can find books written by and about the president, Ashgabat and Turkmenistan in English. They also have postcards and posters, and if you’re lucky they might even have a copy of the Ruhnama, the book written by Turkmenbashy.
Visit Anau on the eastern outskirts of Ashgabat and see the remains of Anau Fortress and Sheikh Jemaladdin Mosque which was destroyed in the 1948 earthquake.
Return to Ashgabat.
Night tour of Ashgabat. With the white marble buildings lit up by brightly coloured neon lights, Ashgabat is a truly spectacular place after dark.
We’ll make a stop at the Palace of Happiness in the foothills of the Kopetdag Mountains, from where you can get a fantastic panorama of the whole city.
Finish the day with dinner on the 18th floor of the Yyldiz Hotel, unequivocally the best restaurant in Turkmenistan, with amazing panoramic views over the city.
Spend the night at the Ak Altyn Hotel.
Friday 11th June – Ashgabat/Gates of Hell (START OF GROUP A)
For those who didn’t join us in yesterday’s city tour, arrival and airport pickup in Ashgabat airport early or during the night. (YPT can arrange pre-tour accommodation for $120 twin, $90 single)
Drive to Kipchak to see the resplendent Turkmenbashy Mosque, where Turkmenbashy is buried beside his mother, father and two brothers in their white marble mausoleum.
Continue on to Kow Ata, in the outskirts of Ashgabat. This natural underground thermal spring is said to have many medical attributes, but is also used by locals as a swimming hole and makes for a very fun and relaxing swim. Admission included.
After a revitalising swim in the lake, we’ll enjoy lunch at one of the shashlik restaurants just outside the entrance to the cave. Approximately $3-6 pp.
In the afternoon, drive 250km to Darvaza (The Gates of Hell) in 4WDs.
Our first stop will be at the Tolkuchka Bazaar on the outskirts of Ashgabat where you can buy supplies to take with you to the Gates of Hell.
Erbent will be our next stop, one of the few nomadic villages still left in Central Asia.
Visit two other craters – one full of mud, one full of water.
Traverse the sand dunes of the Karakum Desert to get to Darvaza.
Watch the sunset over the fiery crater and experience dusk turn to dark at this breathtaking site.
Set up tents near the Gates of Hell and camp near the fiery crater.
Saturday 12th June – Gates of Hell/Ashgabat
Drive back towards Ashgabat, stopping at Tolkuchka Bazaar on the way, where you’ll be able to buy lunch, with some time to explore the largest bazaar in Central Asia (by floor size).
Arrive in Ashgabat.
Free time in the afternoon to explore more of Ashgabat.
Overnight in Ashgabat.
Sunday 13th June – Ashgabat/Turkmenabat/Bukhara (START OF GROUP B)
Today will be the last day for those in Group A, whilst Group B will arrive either first thing in the morning or the night before. Everyone will be taken to and from the airport according to your flight times.
Fly to Turkmenabat in the morning.
Visit the Lebap Regional Museum. This museum is home to a fascinating array of taxidermy, dioramas, and huge models and murals of the surrounding area. Not to mention some very informative displays about the wheat production and oil production of Turkmenistan.
Cross the border into Uzbekistan and transfer to Bukhara.
We’ll have dinner next to the lake in Lyabi Hauz square, at the crossway between old and new Bukhara.
Overnight in Bukhara.
Monday 14th June – Bukhara/Samarqand
Sight-seeing tour of Bukhara in the morning, including the Samanid Dynasty Mausoleum, Lyabi Hauz Square, Bolo-Hauz Mosque, the Poi Kalon Complex, the Minarte Kalyan, the elegant blue-tiled Ulughbek Madrassa (Islamic school), the summer palace of Bukhara’s last Emir and much more.
On your way in and out of town you won’t be able to miss a huge structure that looks like a giant ark. Known as the Ancient Ark Fortress, this was the Palace of Bukhara’s Emirs, and parts of it are still open for us to visit.
Drive to Samarqand in the late afternoon.
Overnight in Samarqand.
Tuesday 15th June – Samarqand
Once known as the “Pearl of the Muslim World”, Samarqand is a city synonymous with the Silk Road, full of towering minarets, shimmering domes and home to a splendid technicolour bazaar, which you will have time to wander around and discover for yourself.
And so as not to keep you waiting any longer, what everybody’s waiting for when they go to Samarqand – the famous and spectacular Registan Square which is flanked by three beautifully decorated, sparkling blue mosaic madrassas. Once the city’s commercial centre, Registan Square is modern Samarkand’s centre piece and a pride of the Silk Road.
As well as the Registan, you’ll see Ulughbek’s Observatory, the enormous Biki Khanum Mosque, the Shah-i-Zinda ensemble, a remarkable collection of tombs and mausoleums from the 14th and 15th Centuries, and the eclectic central bazaar.
Dinner in a local restaurant.
Overnight in Samarqand.
Wednesday 16th June – Samarqand/Dushanbe
Drive to Dushanbe, crossing the border at Jarteppa.
Stop on the way at Penjikent and Iskanderkul lake, roughly 270km in total.
In Penjikent you’ll visit the Museum of Rudaki, the local bazaar, and the ruins of Sogdian and Sarazm.
Arrival in Dushanbe in the evening.
Overnight in Dushanbe.
Thursday 17th June – Dushanbe/Iskanderkul Lake/Khujand (START OF GROUP C)
Today will be the last day for those in Group B, whilst Group C will start arriving. Everyone will be taken to and from the airport according to your flight times, and can join in with the sight-seeing in Dushanbe around that.
Sight-seeing tour of Dushanbe, visit the Museum of National Antiquities with the reclining Buddha in Nirvana.
Continue on to the Botanical Gardens, the Somoni Monument, the Building of National Spirit (unfortunately it’s not possible to go inside, but it’s still impressive from the outside).
Take a stroll down Rudaki Prospect, visiting along the way the Madrassah Kuhna and Museum of Tajik Way of Life, and the Madrassah Mausoleum of Sufi Saint Mahdumi Azam.
Full day drive to Khujand via Istiklol Tunnel, sometimes known as the “Death Tunnel”, 2,630m above sea level. Roughly 6 hours of driving in total.
Stop on the way at Iskanderkul Lake (2,255m above the sea level), which is situated in the famous Fann Mountains.
Here there will be an opportunity to go for a 40 minute hike to the local waterfall after arriving at the lake, or if you’d prefer, you can just relax by the lake or go on a shorter walk around it.
Overnight in Khujand.
Friday 18th June – Khujand/Tashkent
Start the morning with a sightseeing tour in Khujand including the Orient bazaar Panjshanbe – the famous Panjshanbe city market and one of the most interesting sights of Khujand, Sheikh Muslihiddin Mosque and the Mausoleum of Khujand.
A highlight of Khujand will be the massive Lenin statue, standing majestically on the side of a hill overlooking the city, this is now the largest statue of Lenin still standing.
In the afternoon, cross the border into Uzbekistan.
Drive to Tashkent. Despite certain likenesses between Tashkent and Ashgabat, with their wide boulevards, artificially manicured lawns and pristine facades in front of crumbling buildings, Tashkent is a vibrant capital city with lots to do.
Overnight in Tashkent.
Saturday 19th June– Tashkent (START OF GROUP D)
Today will be the last day for those in Group C, whilst Group D will start arriving. Everyone will be taken to and from the airport according to your flight times, and can join in with the day’s activities around that.
Visit Tashkent Land, Central Asia’s answer to Disneyland. With its faded welcome sign, crumbling gift shop and creaky rides, this is definitely a step back in time. Most tourists don’t make it to this gem of Soviet infrastructure, but we just can’t resist it. If you’re really game you can try out the “Boomerang” rollercoaster, or if you’d like something a bit more relaxing you can take a ride on the “African tour”, a boat trip through the jungle land.
You’ll most likely have tried plov by now, but nothing will prepare you for the Plov Centre. This gigantic hall, decorated as if for a wedding in the 1980’s, is set up for large numbers of people to eat plov in. Mixed and cooked just outside by an army of Uzbek women, it is some pretty good plov, but more than that, it is an exceptionally unique experience.
Visit the Tashkent TV Tower for fabulous views of the city, and if it’s open, a coffee or a beer in a Soviet-buit revolving restaurant.
We’ll take several rides on the Tashkent Metro while we’re there, one of only two metro systems in Central Asia (the other one being in Almaty). As with most Soviet built metros, the stations are unnecessarily lavish, but Tashkent’s are particularly ornately decorated. Until June 2018 it was illegal to take photos inside them, but fortunately now pictures of these incredibly photogenic stations are allowed.
And if there’s still time, we’ll visit the Museum of Railway Techniques’. This outdoor museum is full of all sorts of old locomotives, and they don’t mind us climbing all over them. We can even take a little train ride around the train museum. You don’t have to be a train lover to enjoy this charming museum.
Overnight in Tashkent.
Sunday 20th June– Tashkent/Parkent/Yangiabad
Leaving Tashkent we’ll drive to the Parkent district where we’ve been granted permission to visit the second largest solar furnace in the world. This spectacular example of Soviet construction will take your breath away.
Continue on into the mountains to visit the town of Yangiabad. A closed town during the Soviet Union, not even appearing on maps, it was built as a mining town where exiles were sent. Once home to about 10,000 people, the population is now a little over 300, and noone pays them much attention. We’ll spend the afternoon wandering the streets, peeking into abandoned buildings and listening to stories from locals.
We’ll spend the night at a nearby Soviet “resort”. If it’s hot you can go for a swim in the river, or if you just want to relax, we might be able to find the massage lady.
Overnight in Yangiabad.
Monday 21st June– Yangiabad/Osh
Drive through the picturesque Fergana Valley with photo stops along the way.
Arrive at the border at Dustuk and cross into Kyrgyzstan.
Drive to Osh and do a short city tour of Osh, a town which is 3,000 years old. Visit the sacred Sulaiman-Too (Prophet Solomon’s mountain) and Osh bazaar, one of Central Asia’s largest open-air markets.
Dinner and overnight in Osh.
Tuesday 22nd June– Osh/Kyzyl-Oi (START OF GROUP E)
Today will be the last day for those in Group D, whilst Group E will arrive either first thing in the morning or the night before.
Leave Osh in the morning and start the 9 hour drive to Kyzyl-Oi town, an old village located in the Suusamyr Valley in a narrow gorge of the powerful Kokomeren River. At 1800 meters ASL, and characterized by scattered reddish clay houses, it gets its name which means “Red Bowl” from the formation caused by the high red mountains surrounding it.
Dinner (included) and overnight in a homestay in Kyzyl-Oi.
Wednesday 23rd June – Kyzyl-Oi/Son Kol
Leaving Kyzyl-Oi, drive to Son-Kol Lake through the Jumgal Valley, crossing the Kara-Keche Pass.
Stop for a picnic lunch on the way.
Arrive in Son Kol in the late afternoon, a spectacular example of Kyrgyzstan’s natural beauty. Set high in the mountains, the lake itself is in the middle of a fertile plateau, dotted with horses, sheep and yurts.
Depending on how early we arrive, you’ll have the opportunity to go horse riding, or just take a walk around the area (not included in tour price), or just relax by the picturesque alpine lake.
Dinner (included) and overnight in yurts near Son Kol.
Thursday 24th June– Son Kol/Bishkek
Start the drive to Bishkek in the morning, stopping en route for lunch at a home stay in Kochkor, where we’ll visit the market, take a short walk through the streets, and have lunch in a homestay.
Arrive in Bishkek and check-in to the hotel.
Free time for the rest of the afternoon, but in the evening you can experience some of Bishkek’s rapidly gentrifying nightlife, maybe at Save the Ales or Burger House.
Overnight in Bishkek.
Friday 25th June– Bishkek/Almaty
Start the day with a short a walking tour of Bishkek, beginning with the Frunze Museum, dedicated to Mikhail Frunze, whom the city of Bishkek used to be named after (and why the airport code is still FRU!).
Marking our way to past Victory Square, the circus and Tsum, we’ll visit the Lenin Statue – not quite in its original position, but still in the centre of the city.
Our next stop will be Ala-Too Square, home to the National Museum of Kyrgyzstan and a large Kyrgyz flag. Although this flag isn’t quite as famous as neighbouring Tajikistan and Turkmenistan who have the world’s second and fifth tallest flagpoles, it is still impressive and every hour, on the hour, there’s a changing of the guards. The National Museum itself, which is especially unique because of the spectacular Soviet murals that cover the ceilings of the three storey museum, is unfortunately currently closed for reconstruction, but hopefully it will open again at some point soon.
If there’s time, we’ll continue on to Osh Bazaar, passing on the way the White House.
Drive to Almaty after lunch, arriving in the late afternoon or early evening.
Overnight in Almaty.
Saturday 26th June– Almaty (OPTIONAL DAY TOUR OF ALMATY)
End of tour, airport transfers according to your flight times.
Optional day tour of Almaty, including Panfilov Park and the Panfilov Monument – one of the most impressive Soviet war memorials, Zenkov Cathedral – the largest wooden building built without nails, the Green Bazaar, Republic Square and Old Square – the former homes to Parliament, Medeo and Shymbulak, and some less known YPT favourites.
• Letter of Invitation for Turkmenistan
• Registration in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan
• A/C bus, A/C cars, 4×4’s, train tickets and domestic flights according to itinerary
• Local English speaking guides throughout the tour
• Western YPT guides throughout the tour
• Accommodation according to itinerary in twin/double share
• Breakfast at the accommodation every day
• Dinner at the homestay Days 12 & 13
• Photo/video fees at sites ($2-10 depending on the site or free)
• Tips for guides (not obligatory, and up to your personal discretion)
• Personal expenses, souvenirs and drinks
• Wine tasting at the Khovrenko Winery ($15)
• Activities not on the itinerary
• Transport to beginning and from the end of your tour
• Visas for all countries (we will provide you with information on this)
• Travel insurance
• Pre-tour accommodation ($120 twin, $90 single)
• Letter of Invitation other than Turkmenistan (not necessary for most passport holders, we can assist if needed)
• Turkmenistan immigration tax ($14)
• Meals other than those stipulated ($10 per meal)
• Single supplement (see chart)
• Entrance fees
We have expert guides ready to help answer any questions you may have.