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Bishkek to Ashgabat

Bishkek to Ashgabat

From $ 8,720 AUD

Description

Be entranced by the beauty and the wonder of Central Asia on this overland journey from the capital of Kyrgyzstan through the heartland of Uzbekistan to the forgotten yet futuristic Ashgabat. Take in the tranquil landscape of Son-Kol Lake, watch for wild boar and deer around Chychkan Gorge, hike up the sacred Sulumain-too Mountain in historic Osh, and get your fill of mosques and museums in Samarkand. Venture into the mysterious Turkmenistan, camp out by the ‘gate of hell’, and explore Ashgabat with architectures from a scifi movie. Abounding with ancient culture, divine natural beauty, intriguing relics, and welcoming people, this is a journey that will leave you eager to discover more of Central Asia.

Trip Name
Bishkek to Ashgabat
Last Updated
2024-06-17
Days
26
Capacity
12
Highlights
  • Central Asia is a fascinating and unique mix of ancient Silk Road culture, post-soviet culture and striving to redefine nations post independence. Geographically and for a time historically, it is the real centre of Asia
  • The much-photographed Registan in Samarkand is one of the true pinnacles of Islamic architecture. You'll be wowed by the scale, grandeur and beauty of the monuments to iconic figures such as Tamerlane and the Persian influenced madressas, mosques and mausoleums
  • Experience for yourself the legend that is Central Asian hospitality - there's really nothing like being welcomed into a local home or yurt for a meal, chatting with stall holders at bazaars or simply marvelling at the sights alongside locals
  • Kyrgyzstans mountains are its monuments and its majesty. The landscapes here will stay with you long after the journey is over
  • Marvel at the beautiful Son-Kol Lake, where in mid-summer you may see flocks of sheep, goats and herds of horses watched over by nomadic herdsmen and their families
  • Stay overnight in a yurt lakeside and live like the locals have for centuries in these portable, felt lined traditional tents
  • Reflect on the important role horses have played in the traditional Kyrgyz nomadic life style while witnessing horseback sports like odarysh (wrestling on horseback), tiyin-enish (where riders try to pick up coins at full gallop) or kok-baru (goat polo)
  • Explore sprawling ruins of Mary, Merv and others with a local guide and contemplate these remnants of empires that once ruled this vast land
  • Witness the eternal flames of the Darvaza Crater, aka the 'Door to Hell' as you camp nearby – one of the strangest, most mesmerising geological oddities on earth
  • Ashgabat rose from the devastation of an earthquake in 1948 and has enjoyed a surreal and futuristic makeover

Itinerary

ITINERARY CHANGES Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It's important that you review this information prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays, political unrest or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in-country. Your group leader or local representative will keep you up to date with any such changes once your trip is underway. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance fees only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and maybe on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your group leader or local representative know you are interested at the Welcome Meeting and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high-risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and group leader or local representative are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Day 1 - Bishkek
Welcome to Bishkek! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight. Tomorrow you’ll take a tour of the city, so don’t stress too much if you don’t have time to see much today. Bishkek is tree-lined town of parks and gardens, handsome houses and wide streets perfect for strolling. If you arrive with time to spare, maybe head out in search of some samsa (pastry pockets filled with meat and vegetables).
Day 2 - Bishkek
Embark on city tour that showcases the various stages of Bishkek’s history. Visit the severe Ala-Too Square, once known as Lenin Square, and learn about the towering statue depicting folkloric hero Manas. Continue to Dubovy Park, and wander among the open-air cafes before strolling between the century-old oaks along Freedom Avenue. In the afternoon, you'll have some free time to further explore Bishkek. Quite the contrast to the relaxed quiet streets, square and parks in the city centre, Osh Market is noisy, crowded, and a perfect peek into local life. You'll find all kinds of things on sale here, from spices and fruits to clothes and carpets.
Day 3 - Issyk-Kul Lake
This morning, up and on the road through the beautiful landscaps of Kyrgyzstan. You'll be travelling with our vehicle for the next few days so get ready for a road trip through some pretty stunning mountains and lakes. Firstly stop at Burana Tower, a minaret that is the most visible remnant of the ancient city Balasagun. Then continue to Tokmak and meet a local Kyrgyz family and enjoy a home-cooked lunch. Then onto the destination of today - Issyk-Kul Lake, the second-largest alpine lake in the world. At 170 - kilometres-long and 70-kilometres-wide, her beauty is a real sight to behold. Your yurt camp for tonight is set up along the south shore of the lake where you'll get a fantastic view of the snow-capped mountains setting behind the lake. Made of felt and tarpaulins on a round frame, yurts are the traditional dwellings of the Kyrgyz people and this will be your 'settlement' for today and tomorrow.
Day 4 - Issyk-Kul Lake
With relaxed plans for today, we’ll wander the beautiful alpine area and head out to meet a local eagle trainer (or Berkutchi) and discover the ancient principles of training these beautiful creatures to follow commands, catch prey and return back to their masters and then visit a few local families who’ll teach you more about their traditional yurts. With a special workshop, you’ll learn the basics of how these nomadic dwellings have been manufactured and how they play an important role in the community here. Enjoy a free afternoon and evening, relax in your authentic yurt camp, jump into the lake, ride a bike or sit back with a cold homemade vodka – created by your yurt camp owners, just for you.
Day 5 - Song-Kol Lake (3016 metres)
Back on the road and travel to Song-Kol Lake, another alpine stunner that is considered a sacred place to many Kyrgyz people, as well as one of the best summer pastures for nomadic herders. The landscape will change depending on the season but is sure to be beautiful no matter when you travel. In the summer you might see nomadic herdsmen and their families watching over goats, sheep, and horses. Enjoy exploring your surroundings for the rest of the day, maybe hiking one of the many trails. Tonight, fall asleep in yurts set up along the shore. Tomorrow, those daring enough for an invigorating morning splash can use the lake to wash off the sleep.
Day 6 - Kyzyl-Oi
Travel along gravel roads to the tiny village of Kyzyl-Oi, which is squeezed between mountains. On the way, pass large coal deposits and travel along the Kokomeren River, which feeds into the Syr Darya. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the banks of the river in the shade of the trees and use your free time to explore the village on arrival.
Day 7 - Suusamyr Valley/Chychkan River/Karakul
Get ready for a full-day of driving though big, beautiful landscapes. As the roads in Kyrgyzstan see little regular maintenance, even short distances on a map can take hours. The road crosses the Suusamyr Valley – a high steppe plateau situated at around 2200 metres above sea level. The mountainous surroundings are often dotted with yurts. Continue along the Chychkan River that cuts through the Tien Shan mountain range. Stop here for a while and soak up the amazing scenery. Arrive at tonight's accommodation in Karakul sometime in the early evening.
Day 8 - Osh
After breakfast, get ready for another all-day journey to Osh, the second-largest city in Kyrgystan. Stop en route at Uzgen, an ancient trading town and handicrafts centre along the Silk Road. Although much of the ancient city has been destroyed, a minaret and three mosques that have survived remain important examples of medieval Central Asian architecture. Continue to Osh. Located in the Fergana Valley in the south of the country, Osh is often referred to as the 'Capital of the South' and is the oldest city in the country.
Day 9 - Osh
Rise and shine for a visit to the only World Heritage site in Kyrgystan, the Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain, also known as Solomon's Throne. For centuries Silk Road travellers have sought out the mountain's caves and their petroglyphs in the belief that they would be blessed with longevity or healthy children. Visit the National Historical and Archaeological Museum Complex. In the afternoon, enjoy some free time in Osh. Perhaps visit the Jayma Bazaar, where you might pick up an interesting souvenir or two. Or maybe take a self-guided tour of the remnants of Osh's soviet past with a walk to the giant Lenin statue in the city square.
Day 10 - Border Crossing/Andijan/Tashkent
This morning, drive to Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, which is just outside of the city. Transfer to Andijan and board a local train to Tashkent (approximately 5.5 hours). The train is a great place to meet locals, so don’t be surprised if people want to chat to the chet ellik (foreigner). Arrive in the evening and check into the hotel.
Day 11 - Tashkent
Begin your introduction to Uzbekistan by exploring the capital today. Follow your leader on a city walking tour - explore Amir Timur square at the city center, then hop on the metro and lose yourself in the exciting Chorsu Bazaar, browsing traditional wooden cradles, handmade musical instruments, and the extensive vegetable and spice markets. Enjoy a free afternoon and maybe go and visit the Khast Imom complex, a restored series of religious buildings (including a mosque) and a library containing an ancient Qur’an, parts of which have been dated to the ninth century, or simply relax and enjoy some well deserved downtime after a busy journey in Kyrgyzstan.
Day 12 - Bukhara
Travel to Bukhara by train this morning. Located on the ancient Silk Road, Bukhara was an important regional and world hub for many, many years and has a long, fascinating history featuring invasions by both Genghis Khan and the Soviet Red Army. Explore this fascinating city with your tour leader on an orientation walk after arrival and head to the Lyabi-Haus area, a busy 17th-century plaza with hundreds-years-old trees and there is time to wander the small craft studios tucked into the nearby madrasas and trading domes.
Day 13 - Bukhara
Enjoy a day of sightseeing in beautiful Bukhara. First visit the Sitorai Mohi Khosa, once the summer residence of the last Emir. Designed by Russian architects, it has interiors decorated with traditional filigree plaster, mirrored surfaces and delicate floral wall paintings by local artisans. In the afternoon, visit the Ark Fortress and Kalon Mosque, the symbol of Bukhara. Continue to one of Central Asia's oldest and most exquisite structures, the tenth-century Ismail Samani Mausoleum, the superb decorative brickwork of which has survived 1000 years of rugged history.
Day 14 - Samarkand
Have a free morning to yourself for some further exploration of Bukhara. In the late afternoon,transfer to the station for the high-speed train to fabled Samarkand (approximately 2 hours). This city is located at the very centre of the ancient Silk Road. Arrival early evening and follow your leader on a short city orientation walk and maybe an optional dinner together.
Day 15 - Samarkand
Enjoy a tour of Samarkand. First up is the central square called the Registan, which features mosques and mausoleums that are true pinnacles of Islamic architecture. Continue to Guri-Amir, where Tamerlane is buried, and then the enormous Bibi-Khanum Mosque. Visit Shak-i-Zinda, a necropolis that features a series of gleaming blue-tiled mausoleums. This sacred site has monuments from the 14th–19th century, reflecting the development of the monumental art and architecture of the Timurid dynasty onwards. It is photo worthy at every turn, just remember to be respectful as pilgrims visit the complex. In the evening, you’ll visit a local family to learn the secrets of plov cuisine during a cooking demonstration in the evening.
Day 16 - Tashkent
This morning, take the train back to Tashkent. Enjoy a free afternoon and why not celebrate this great adventure with an optional farewell dinner tonight?
Day 17 - Tashkent
Today is a free day for you to explore Tashkent until 6pm group meeting to meet your new travel buddies.
Day 18 - Tashkent/Overnight Train
This morning, embark on a city tour to explore the city of Tashkent. Visit the Amir Timur Square in the center of the city, spend time wandering Chorsu Bazaar. The main building is topped by an impressive dome, and the market sells pretty much everything you could imagine, and plenty of things you couldn't. Explore the fantastically decorated metro stations which were only allowed to be photographed from 2018 and visit Khast Imom Complex which houses one of the oldest copy of Qur'an, a UNESCO heritage itself. Have some free time in the afternoon and maybe stock some snacks for your overnight train, departing around 6 pm. Pick up a good book, put on some music, and watch the world goes by and the scenery changes.
Day 19 - Khiva
Arrive at Urgench around 10:30am and transfer to colourful Khiva (45 minutes). Many global powers have laid claim to this city over the centuries, from khans to Silk Road traders and the Soviet Union. Enjoy an early lunch and then get acquainted with Khiva on a tour of this walled-city after breakfast. See the incredible blue-tiled Kalta Minor Minaret and the Mohammed Amin Khan Madressa. Explore the Kuhna Ark, the 'citadel within a citadel' which once housed the Khan and his family in the 17th century, then get a good look at this attractive city from the Ak-sheikh Baba Observatory. Finally, visit the Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum, a complex constructed in honour of the famous 13th-century poet, craftsman and fighter. A popular pilgrimage site, the mint-coloured dome that tops the main mausoleum is stunning. Visit the towering Islom Hoja Minaret, the tallest building in Khiva. Explore Juma Mosque, the roof of which is propped up by 212 wooden columns and designed to let in sunlight. If you want a peek at Uzbek luxury, look no further than the Tosh-Hovli Palace, which was built in the first half of the 19th century. Wander through elaborately decorated courtyards connected by labyrinthian corridors. Don't miss out on the magic hour when the sun's setting and find a good spot for the sunset over this ancient city. The evening is yours to spend.
Day 20 - Darvaza
Say goodbye to Uzbekistan and cross the border into Turkmenistan at Khodjeyli (Xo‘jayli). Meet the new leader who will be your key to local secrets, food and highlights for the rest of your journey. Continue your journey to Darvaza Crater with a change to 4WD for the rough road conditions. This astounding 70-metre-wide hole in the Karakum Desert is permanently aflame. Soviet oil prospectors started drilling in 1971 expecting to find oil, and the ground collapsed to form the crater. Worried about the gas released into the air, they deliberately set the crater on fire to burn off the excess, expecting it to last a few weeks. As you’ll see today, they were wrong, and the crater has been burning ever since. Watch the sunset over the 'Door to Hell' from your nearby camp, and enjoy a Turkmenistan-style barbecue for dinner. 
Day 21 - Yerbent – Ashgabat
Hit the sand again in the 4WD, making the 4-hour drive to Ashgabat with a stop along the way at the tiny settlement of Yerbent. The community here live primarily in yurts that are tucked between the sand dunes. Check out the local monument that pays tribute to the group of socialists that died in the Basmachi Revolt in 1931, then continue to Ashgabat. Little is left of the original Russian Imperial city as most of it was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1948, and today the city centre is a bizarre mix of futuristic and outrageous public buildings. Get a sense of Ashgabat old and new with a tour that takes in both the ancient settlement of Nisa and the National Museum of Turkmenistan. Enjoy a free afternoon in this mind-bending city. Look out for the ornate, golden telephone booths, screens broadcasting official ceremonies on a loop and imposing statues of the president.
Day 22 - Ashgabat
Take a full day to wrap your head around this desert city on an immersive guided tour taking in the four pointed minarets atop the Ertugrul Gazi Mosque and the the extravagant Independence Monument. This sculpted park is filled with statues of Turkmen heroes (and controversial politicians) that line paths that lead to a golden dome and a (surprise!) massive minaret. From this lavish ode to Turkmen identity, continue to the Neutrality Arch, which despite its name has a provocative history. Then travel outside of the city to the Turkmenbashy Ruhi Mosque, the mausoleum of former Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov. Next stops is to the the Horse Breeding Complex and Hippodrome of Ashgabat for the world famous Akhal-Teke horses. You'll visit the horse concur here where you'll see this precious species of horse and learn fro a local staff member of the work they do to breed and train the horses here. Then heading further out of town to the ruins of Anau. The crumbling remains of the medieval mosque still attract the devout, who come to pray and make offerings. After a day full of sightseeing, maybe spend the evening relaxing at your hotel.
Day 23 - Mary
Rise and shine for the 5-hour drive to Mary (pronounced ‘Mah-rih’). The somewhat ostentatious displays of wealth in the city can be traced to the long-running gas and cotton industries. Stop en route for lunch and to roam through the ruins of Abiverd. This fascinating archaeological site was an important trading town from 652 AD until the 12th century, and you can still see ancient shards of pottery scattered on the ground. Arrive in Mary in the afternoon and settle into your hotel.
Day 24 - Merv – Mary
Take a 40-minute drive to Merv, also known as Margiana or Margush, and enjoy some time to explore Turkmenistan's most recognised site. This sprawling World Heritage site is home to numerous walled structures from various periods spread across a 1200-hectare area. See impressive columns smoothed by wind and time at the Greater Kizkala and walk hills that were once the fortress walls of Erk Kala. While not the most impressive visually, Gyaur Kala dates to 400 BC and has a fascinating history. Spend some time exploring these relics of grand empires and then return to Mary for a free afternoon. Maybe visit the Mary Regional Museum. Housed in a palace of white marble, the museum features archaeological displays and exhibitions on traditional Turkmen life and culture.
Day 25 - Ashgabat
Glittering Ashgabat awaits your return today, so make the 5-hour return drive to the City of White Marble. Enjoy a free afternoon to spend as you wish before an optional dinner with your travel group.
Day 26 - Ashgabat
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the hotel at any time.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
30-07-202424-08-2024AUD $ 8,720-
13-08-202407-09-2024AUD $ 9,130-
23-08-202417-09-2024AUD $ 9,130-
30-08-202424-09-2024AUD $ 9,495-
10-09-202405-10-2024AUD $ 9,860-
17-09-202412-10-2024AUD $ 9,860-
24-09-202419-10-2024AUD $ 9,235-
11-10-202405-11-2024AUD $ 9,410-
04-04-202529-04-2025AUD $ 9,300-
18-04-202513-05-2025AUD $ 9,300-
25-04-202520-05-2025AUD $ 9,670-
02-05-202527-05-2025AUD $ 9,670-
09-05-202503-06-2025AUD $ 10,040-
16-05-202510-06-2025AUD $ 10,040-
23-05-202517-06-2025AUD $ 10,040-
30-05-202524-06-2025AUD $ 9,670-
10-06-202505-07-2025AUD $ 9,670-
27-06-202522-07-2025AUD $ 9,300-
25-07-202519-08-2025AUD $ 9,300-
08-08-202502-09-2025AUD $ 9,300-
12-08-202506-09-2025AUD $ 9,300-
15-08-202509-09-2025AUD $ 9,670-
22-08-202516-09-2025AUD $ 9,670-
12-09-202507-10-2025AUD $ 10,040-
19-09-202514-10-2025AUD $ 10,040-
23-09-202518-10-2025AUD $ 10,040-
26-09-202521-10-2025AUD $ 10,040-
30-09-202525-10-2025AUD $ 9,670-
03-10-202528-10-2025AUD $ 9,300-
10-10-202504-11-2025AUD $ 9,300-
03-04-202628-04-2026AUD $ 8,760-
17-04-202612-05-2026AUD $ 8,760-
24-04-202619-05-2026AUD $ 8,760-
01-05-202626-05-2026AUD $ 8,760-
08-05-202602-06-2026AUD $ 8,760-
15-05-202609-06-2026AUD $ 8,760-
22-05-202616-06-2026AUD $ 8,760-
29-05-202623-06-2026AUD $ 8,760-
09-06-202604-07-2026AUD $ 8,760-
26-06-202621-07-2026AUD $ 8,760-
24-07-202618-08-2026AUD $ 8,760-
07-08-202601-09-2026AUD $ 8,760-
11-08-202605-09-2026AUD $ 8,760-
14-08-202608-09-2026AUD $ 8,760-
21-08-202615-09-2026AUD $ 8,760-
11-09-202606-10-2026AUD $ 8,760-
18-09-202613-10-2026AUD $ 8,760-
22-09-202617-10-2026AUD $ 8,760-
25-09-202620-10-2026AUD $ 8,760-
29-09-202624-10-2026AUD $ 8,760-
02-10-202627-10-2026AUD $ 8,760-
09-10-202603-11-2026AUD $ 8,760-

Accommodation

Guesthouse/Homestay (2 night),Hotel (18 nights),Yurt/Camp (4 nights),Overnight train (1 night)

Transport

Private Bus,Metro,High Speed Train,Overnight Train

Map