You asked for it and now you have it! For road-trip aficionados and country collectors alike, here’s YPT’s super light-speed version of our 5 ‘Stans tour, taking you around five of the countries in Central Asia: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
As with all YPT group tours, this tour will be led by a Western YPT guide to make sure it goes absolutely smoothly, is run from our office in Almaty by guides with over 6 years experience in Central Asia.
On this tour, we’ll be visiting the main highlights of these countries, giving you the opportunity to sample the flavour (and we do not only mean shashliks) of each of them as well as see the interactions between them.
The tour starts in Ashgabat, where you can opt for an optional city tour of the capital, before heading to Darvaza or the Gates of Hell, the burning crater of Turkmenistan. Then, we cross into Uzbekistan to visit the mythical cities of Bukhara and Samarqand. We’ll cross the border into Tajikistan and visit Dushanbe, the famous Iskanderkul Lake situated in the Fann Mountains, and spend a night at a Soviet sanatorium. We’ll then visit Almaty in Kazakhstan, the most hip city of Central Asia which is in complete contrast with the rest of the region, and from there take a day trip to Charyn Canyon, before ending the tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
This tour has been conceived so that you can get a light-speed overview of the region and get massive Central Asian cred! If you’d like to spend slightly longer, a 16-day version is available earlier in the year. And if that wasn’t good enough, YPT returners’ discounts apply!
Sunday, November 15th – (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.
Monday November 16th – Ashgabat/Gates of Hell
For those who didn’t join us for yesterday’s city tour, arrival and airport pickup in Ashgabat airport early or during the night.
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.
Tuesday November 17th – 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.
Wednesday November 18th – Ashgabat/Turkmenabat/Bukhara
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.
Thursday November 19th – 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.
Friday November 20th – 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 14thand 15th Centuries, and the eclectic central bazaar.
Dinner in a local restaurant.
Overnight in Samarqand.
Saturday November 21st – 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.
Drive to Khoja Obigarm, an epic example of a Soviet sanitorium.
Sunday November 22nd – Dushanbe
Spend the morning experiencing some of the exciting Soviet treatments available at the sanitorium.
Drive to Dushanbe and sight-seeing tour in the afternoon, 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.
Overnight in Dushanbe.
Monday November 23rd – Dushanbe/Almaty
Free time in the morning to continue exploring Dushanbe.
Fly to Almaty in the afternoon (flight will need to be booked by you, not included in tour price Almaty, roughly $100-$150 depending on when you book it).
Arriving in Almaty you’ll have some free time to explore the city, 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.
Overnight in Almaty.
Tuesday November 24th – Almaty
Day trip to Charyn Canyon.
Overnight in Almaty.
Wednesday November 25th – Almaty/Bishkek
Drive to Bishkek.
Arrive in Bishkek and have a short a walking tour of the city, 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!).
Making 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.
And if there’s time, we’ll continue on to Osh Bazaar, passing on the way the White House.
End of tour, airport transfers according to your flight times.
If you’d like to see more of Kyrgyzstan, we can organize extensions throughout the country or can advise on options for your onward travel.
• Letter of Invitation for Turkmenistan
• Registration in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan
• A/C bus, A/C cars, 4×4’s and train tickets, domestic flight Ashgabat-Turkmenabat
• 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
• Flight Dushanbe to Almaty (roughly $100-$150 depending on when you book it)
• Visas for all countries (we will provide you with information on this)
• Letter of Invitation other than Turkmenistan (not necessary for most passport holders, but if you do need one we can advise you on this and organise it for you)
• Turkmenistan immigration tax ($14 paid in cash on arrival at the airport)
• Meals other than those stipulated (allow up to around $10 per meal)
• Single supplement for accommodation ($795)
• Entrance fees (many places don’t have entrance fees, those that do are usually no more than $5)
• Photo/video fees at sites (not at all sites, but usually $2-10 depending on the site)
• Tips for guides (not obligatory, and up to your personal discretion)
• Any other personal expenses such as souvenirs and drinks
• Any other activities that are not on the itinerary
• Transport to Ashgabat and from Bishkek at the beginning and end of the tour
We have expert guides ready to help answer any questions you may have.