Turkmenistan Easter Tour

Dates: April 11th-19th 2020

This tour kicks off in Ashgabat — Turkmenistan’s capital city, described by some as the “Dictator’s Playground”, with its white marble facades, gold monuments, and buildings with titles such as the “Wheel of Enlightenment” and the “Arch of Neutrality”.  From there, we head to UNESCO world heritage Nisa and onto our homestay in the village of Nokhur.  Next, we’ll take the long drive into the Karakum desert towards futuristic Avaza and Turkmenbashi via Yangykala Canyon.  We round off the first part of this tour with a visit the must-see Darvaza gas crater – eternally burning fire crater known as the “Gates of Hell”,  where we set up camp for the night.

Trip highlights:

  • The Gates of Hell, the 70m crater which as a result of a failed Soviet gas exploration, has been on fire since 1971.
  • The dazzling white and gold city centre of Ashgabat. Everywhere you look imposing marble buildings are being put up, covering the desert in a sea of sparkling gold and white.
  • Avaza, the glamorous beach side resort town, equipped with a golf course, two yacht clubs, dozens of 5 star hotels, canal boats, but totally void of people.

 

Itinerary

Saturday 11th April (Easter Saturday)

  • Meet your local and western 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, in 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 of 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.
  • Dinner and drinks at a pub in the city centre, which serves shashlicks, kebabs, and local draught beer.  Approximately $8 pp + drinks.

 

Sunday 12th April (Easter Sunday)

  • Drive to Nisa, a UNESCO site which was once the capital of the Parthian Empire.
  • 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.
  • Lunch at a local restaurant in Chuli Gorge, with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.  Approximately $8 pp.
  • Continue on to Kipchak to see the resplendent Turkmenbashy Mosque, where Turkmenbashy is buried beside his mother, father, and two brothers in their white marble mausoleum.
  • Return to Ashgabat.
  • Dinner and drinks at a pub in the city centre, which serves shashlicks, kebabs, and local draught beer.  Approximately $8 pp + drinks.

 

Monday 13th April (Easter Monday)

  • Drive to the outskirts of Ashgabat to Kow Ata.  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.
  • Drive 175km north west into the Kopetdag mountains to Nokhur, a traditional tribal village.
  • Visit Nokhur Cemetery, where each grave is adorned with the horns of a mountain goat.
  • Relax in the mountains and learn about the culture of the Nokhuris.
  • Dinner (included) and overnight in a homestay.

 

Tuesday 14th April

  • Drive 450 km west to Avaza.
  • We'll stop for lunch along the way at a local chaykhana.  Approximately $2 - 5 pp.
  • Arrive in Turkmenbashy.
  • Visit the bazaar to buy snacks and lunch for the following day's trip to Yangykala Canyon.

 

Wednesday 15th April

  • Yangykala Canyon. Many Turkmens don't even know that this place exists, but once you've been there, you'll start calling the Grand Canyon the “Pretty Good Canyon”.  In 4x4's, we'll drive 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.
  • We will take a packed lunch with us so we can enjoy it at the canyons.  You can either buy yourself something at the bazaar on the way, or we can organise a cooked lunch for $10 pp.
  • Return to Turkmenbashy.
  • Dinner at the hotel.  Approximately $8 - 10 pp.

 

Thursday 16th April

  • Take a small drive around Turkmenbashy before paying a visit to Avaza, a ten-minute drive from Turkmenbashy, and have a driving tour of the beach resort.  Although the facilities are extravagant and the buildings futuristic, the town is somehow best described as a ghost town.
  • Lunch in one of the glamorous hotels of Avaza.  Approximately $10 - 12 pp.
  • After lunch, enjoy some free time to explore the amusement parks, beaches, and hotels of Avaza.
  • Return to Ashgabat on Turkmenistan Airlines.
  • Dinner and drinks at the British Pub.  Approximately $10 - 15 pp + drinks.

 

Friday 17th April

  • In the morning, drive to the outskirts of Ashgabat to Serdar Yoly, the “health path”. Stretching 28km along the Kopetdag mountain range, this fitness project was instigated by Turkmenbashy, but being a keen health fanatic himself, Gurbanguly has continued to encourage people to make the trek. You'll have time to either walk some of the path if you like, or you can just soak in the atmosphere in the park at the bottom.
  • Take a ride on the cable car which reaches almost all the way to the Iranian border. At the top you'll get spectacular views over the city, the health path and the tv tower.
  • Lunch at the Russian bazaar, where you can also buy some snacks, drinks, and dinner for camping.
  • Drive 250km to Darvaza (The Gates of Hell) in 4WD's.

 

  • 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.
  • Return to our tents, which have been set up for us near the Gates of Hell and camp near the fiery crater.

 

Saturday 18th April

  • 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).
  • Free time in the afternoon.
  • Dinner at the Yyldiz Hotel. Based on the Burj Al Arab and by far the most luxurious hotel in Ashgabat, the restaurant on the 18th floor is the perfect place to look over the city as the sun sets.
  • After dinner we'll take a 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.
  • Spend the night at the Paytagt Guesthouse.

 

Sunday 19th April

  • Transfers to the airport according to your flight times.

 

Price Inclusive of:

  • Letter of Invitation
  • Registration
  • Transport according to the itinerary
  • Local English speaking guide
  • Western guide
  • Entrance fees to Kow Ata and Nisa
  • Accommodation according to itinerary in twin/double share (except in the homestay where one or two rooms are shared by the group)
  • Breakfast every day
  • Dinner at the homestay in Nokhur

 

Price Exclusive of:

  • Visa for Turkmenistan (currently $85 at the airport for most nationalities)
  • Immigration tax at the airport ($14)
  • Transport to and from Ashgabat at the beginning and end of the tour
  • Meals other than those stipulated (allow up to $10 per meal)
  • Single supplement for accommodation ($255, not available in the homestay)
  • 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
Number of days: 9
Start Date: Apr 11, 2020
End Date: Apr 19, 2020
Included services:
Guide
Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner
Accommodation (Hotel/Guesthouse)
Accommodation (Homestay)
Entrance tickets (e.g. museums, parks etc.)
Beverages (non-alcoholic)
Car (with driver)
Fuel, Petrol
Bus/Train tickets
Domestic flight tickets
Transport: Minivan
Start in (City): Ashgabat
End in (City): Ashgabat
Languages:
English
German
French
Spanish
Italian
Japanese
Korean
Russian
Other
Payment Method

For a confirmed booking, a deposit of (10%) is required. Deposit is paid by credit card (secure payment via Stripe, no credit card fees). The remaining balance can be paid in cash upon start of the trip - unless Host & Traveler agree on different payment methods.

Cancellation Policy

Cancellations can be made free of charge up to 30 days prior to the beginning of the booked service. The deposit (10%) is only refundable if the booking is canceled at least 30 days in advance.