Classic Turkmenistan 6 days/5 nights
- Explore UNESCO historic sites
- Experience the warm hospitality
- Modern architecture of Ashgabat
- Flaming crater at Darvaza
Duration: 6 days/ 5 nights
Route: Ashgabat - Mary - Ashgabat - Darvaza - Ashgabat
Day 1: Arrival (Turkmenistan)
Late arrival at Ashgabat International Airport with TK or others. Complete arrival formalities. Meet our guide and driver, and transfer to the hotel for overnight.
Day 2: Ashgabat
We begin the day heading for the fabled Bazaar of Tolkuchka (open on Saturdays and Sundays), attracting colorfully dressed people from all over the country to buy or sell camels, cattle and poultry, amulets, carpets, jewelry, and myriads of other things. From the market, we continue sightseeing in Ashgabat. We will visit the Park of Independence with its Independence Monument surrounded by a collection of statues of great Turkmen rulers of different times, and Neutrality Square, famous for its Monument of Neutrality topped by a gold-plated statue of the first President of Turkmenistan. In the afternoon we visit the National Museum of History and Ethnography (more than 327.000 objects on display) and see the exclusive ancient artifacts from different historical parks; archeological sites of Turkmenistan, like Old Nisa, Ancient Merv, etc. Overnight at a hotel in Ashgabat.
Day 3: Ashgabat – Mary
In the morning, we head east along one of the major directions of the former Silk Road in Turkmenistan. 12 kilometers from Ashgabat we will make a stop near modern Anau, at a former medieval city of Bagabad, featuring the citadel of an important Timurid-period center and the ruins of the Seyit Jemaleddin mosque, which is referred to in many historical sources as “house of beauty”. Many centuries ago (around the 5 th mill. BC) this area accommodated the population of early Central Asian farmers who developed the world-famous Anau culture, shreds of evidence of which were discovered and extracted during archaeological research throughout the XX century. 120 km from Ashgabat, we make a short stop to stretch our legs roaming through the ruins of Abiverd, once an important trading town of northern Khorasan and a key link on the Silk Route among Nisa, Merv, and Nishapur. Then we continue to Mary, observing a succession of desert, settlements, and fields and encountering numerous “depe”, mounds marking and hiding remnants of former fortified strongholds, caravanserais, watch-towers, or country-side estates of wealthy landlords. In the afternoon, we arrive in Mary, the capital of the present-day Mary region and the center of the Murghab Oasis. Overnight at a hotel in Mary.
Day 4: Mary (Merv) – Ashgabat
After breakfast, we head 25 km to the east of Mary, towards Bayram-Ali, the contemporary reincarnation of and humble suburb of the glorious Ancient Merv (UNESCO World Heritage Site). One of the major archaeological sites of Central Asia, Merv played an important part in the development of the Silk Road for more than 2 000 years. Within the limits of the archaeological park, which is 1200 ha, we will have a chance to observe all constituent parts of the “wandering city”. A series of adjacent cities, which can be roughly divided into the ancient (Erk Kala and Gyaur Kala), the medieval (Sultan Kala with its suburbs), and post-medieval (Abdulla-Khan Kala and Bayram-Ali-Khan Kala), appeared with time as a token of the natural progress of the city from initial stages of its existence to a more advanced level. Besides remnants of the cities of Merv, we will visit the VI-IX cc. AD forts of Big and Little Kyz-Kalas, excellent examples of the so-called corrugated Koshks; the splendid XII c. mausoleums of Sultan Sanjar and Muhammed ibn-Zeyd, demonstrating exquisite Seljuk period brickwork and architectural décor.
If time and enthusiasm permit, it is possible to visit several more interesting spots within the site. After sightseeing, we head back to Mary. On arrival in Mary, we visit the local History Museum, presenting a wide array of archaeological finds (dating back to the III mill. BC through the late XIX century) from both the Ancient Merv and Bronze Age sites of the Margush country. In the evening we fly back to Ashgabat. On arrival in Ashgabat, transfer to hotel for overnight.
Day 5: Ashgabat – Flaming Crater – Ashgabat
AM we will drive (50 km, 50 min drive) to Gokdepe village to visit Arkadash stud farm where you will have a chance to see, feed and ride the unique breed of Turkmen Ahal-Teke horses. Akhal-Teke horses are a cultural treasure and historic symbol of the tribal, desert nomads of Turkmenistan. Among the oldest and rarest breeds in the world today, they are highly prized internationally for their intelligence, endurance, and speed. Gokdepe village was the site of the biggest battle for Russian domination in Central Asia in the late 19th century.
After lunch we catch our 4×4 AC vehicles and head north towards the central Karakum, to see the Darvaza flaming crater (260 km). En route make short sightseeing stops at the large desert villages of Bokurdak or Yerbent to see the life of the semi-nomadic population in the desert. On the way to the main crater make a stop by the “bubbing water” and “sulfur-mud” craters. When we reach the Darvaza crater, a short exploration of the area while a nomad-style kebab is being prepared. The crater was formed in the early 1970s when the ground collapsed during a Soviet gas drilling expedition. Scientists reportedly lit the massive hole on fire to prevent the spread of natural gas, and it’s been burning ever since and became a “must-see” site for those who travel to Turkmenistan. The National Geographic expedition revealed that some unusual lifeforms were thriving in the inhospitable conditions of the Darvaza crater. Dinner at sunset in Turkmen yurts or under the open sky. Return to Ashgabat (260 km), for overnight at a hotel.
Day 6: Ashgabat departure
Early morning, transfer to airport for departure home. End of services.