Join us on our Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan Summer tour and explore one of the most surreal cities on earth – Ashgabat, where we’ll take in the sites of what can only be called a real life Sim City. From here we head to Avaza, the completely unused and almost deserted five star beach resort, which also happens to be near one of the most amazing canyons in the world – Yangykala. We then journey to the mesmerising ‘Gates of Hell’ where we camp for the night next to the fiery crater.
Crossing the land border into Uzbekistan we’ll find ourselves in the centre of the Silk Road. After exploring the beautiful old cities of Khiva and Bukhara, we’ll go to Samarqand and see the famous Registan, before venturing to Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s vibrant capital city, the highlight of which will surely be Tashkentland, Central Asia’s answer to Disneyland.
If you’d like to see some more of Central Asia while you’re here, why not join us for the Central Asia Summer Combo Tour, which visits Kyrgyzstan as well.
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.
Continue on to Nisa, a UNESCO site which was once the capital of the Parthian Empire.
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 at the Altyn Asyr Sowda Merkezi, a new shopping centre in Independence Park which is in the shape of a pyramid, and the outside of which is covered in fountains and colourful lights. We’ll enjoy dinner at the Minara Restaurant on the fifth floor, from which you’ll get 360 degree views of the city lights, whilst enjoying a nice cold draught beer.
Overnight in Ashgabat.
Sunday 21st August – Ashgabat – Gates of Hell
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.
Monday 22nd August – Ashgabat – Turkmenbashy
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.
Arrive in the early morning at Turkmenbashy train station.
Picked up by 4X4 and head straight into the desert to Yangykala Canyon. Most Turkmens don’t even know that this place exists, but once you’ve visited you’ll may begin calling the Grand Canyon in the US the “Pretty Good Canyon” in comparison. Continue driving in our 4x4s over the canyon walls, through the canyon itself, and up the other side, to an excellent vantage point from where you will be able to see all the shapes and colours of this spectacular natural phenomenon.
Enjoy a picnic lunch with spectacular views of the canyons below. You can either buy yourself something at the bazaar on the way, or we can organise a lunch box for approximately $7 per person.
Return to Turkmenbashy and complete a driving tour of the beach resort of Avaza. Although the facilities are extravagant and the buildings futuristic, the town is somehow best described as a ghost town.
Board an afternoon flight back to Ashgabat.
Dinner and overnight in Ashgabat.
Wednesday 24th August – Turkmenabat – Cross the border to Uzbekistan, Bukhara
Board an early flight to Turkmenabat
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.
Lunch in town and make our way to cross the border into Uzbekistan and continue the drive to Bukhara.
Dinner and overnight in Bukhara.
Thursday 25th August – Bukhara
Explore the main sites of Bukhara.
We’ll visit the Samanid Dynasty Mausoleum, Lyabi Hauz Square, Bolo-Hauz Mosque, the elegant blue-tiled Ulughbek Madrassa (Islamic school), the summer palace of Bukhara’s last Emir and much more.
Lunch in town and as you’re making 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.
Folklore Show in Nodir Devon Begi Madrassah in the evening.
Dinner and overnight at Bukhara.
Friday 26th August – Bukhara – Samarqand
Enjoy some free time in Bukhara to look around anything you’d like to re-visit, or just relax.
Lunch in town and begin drive to Samarqand
Arrive in Samarqand in the early evening and we’ll make our first stop for some wine tasting at the Khovrenko Winery, a small local wine factory with adjoining museum (admission not included).
Dinner at a local restaurant and overnight in Samarqand
Saturday 27th August – Samarqand
Explore the main sites of 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.
The highlight of your tour around Samarqand is likely to be 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 centrepiece and a pride of the Silk Road.
Lunch in town and then we’ll also pay visits to Biki Khanum Mosque, Siyab Bazaar, the grave of St. Daniel which is said to grow a foot in length every ten years, and the Afrasiyab Museum – a museum dedicated to the history of Samarqand, especially since the time of Alexander the Great’s Conquest.
Visit Romanenko Fashion Show House, a place that is difficult to describe. This small suburban house has been transformed into a completely unique textile workshop where thirty men and women redesign ancient Central Asian clothing into colourful, modern designs.
Free time in the evening.
Dinner and overnight in Samarqand
Sunday 28th August – Samarqand, Tashkent
Drive to Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital city.
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.
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. Unfortunately, the stations are considered as military installations and it is illegal to take photos inside them.
Having whetted our appetite by riding the metro, 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.
After dinner, we can explore the central park of Tashkent and might even stumble across a winter amusement park.
Monday 29th August – Tashkent
Away from the grand avenues, we’ll explore the narrow lanes and mud-brick houses and madrassahs of the old town, before visiting the huge Chorsu Bazaar, an incredible open-air complex.
Visit the Tashkent TV Tower for fabulous views of the city.
Not only does it have great views of the city, but if you’ve ever wondered about all the tv towers of the world, this is the place to find out about them. Several metre high models of the tallest tv towers flank the entrance to the building, and when you reach the top, smaller models of the rest of them line the walls.
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 Tashkent Land, Central Asia’s answer to Disneyland.
With it’s 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.
Board a flight to Bishkek in the evening and spend the night in Bishkek.
Tuesday 30th August – Bishkek
End of tour, airport transfers according to your flight times.
• 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 and lunch
• Dinner on day 6
• Visas for Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan (YPT provides full support)
• Pre-tour accommodation ($120 twin, $90 single)
• Turkmenistan immigration tax ($14)
• Single supplement ($165)
• Entrance fees
• 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
• Travel insurance
We have expert guides ready to help answer any questions you may have.