This tour package leads to some of the remotest and most impressive parts of Turkmenistan. The two-week trip, covering tracks of over 2,500 km by safari-truck and camel, gives the opportunity to witness unique wildlife and to experience an active expedition camp and traditional ways of life in the desert and its magnificent customs. Under professional guidance of our staff you will visit secrets of nature of a country hardly known to its local inhabitants. The severe climatic conditions in the summer and everyday camp-life will help to enhance the team spirit of each traveller. This adventure tour is suitable for everybody who loves nature and active relaxation.
Day 1 - Arrival to Ashgabat
Assistance with Customs formalities. Airport transfer to the hotel.
Day 2 - Ashgabat
Free morning with optional hotel breakfast. Meeting for buffet lunch for a first glimpse of the curious monuments of Modern Turkmenistan. Continue to city centre - Arch of Neutrality with 12 m gold statue of Turkmenistan's president. Also visit of the colourful Russian Bazaar & option for carpet shopping. There is a perfect pool at the Azatlyk hotel. Dinner at good Turkish restaurant.
Day 3 - Adaptation
AM tour near Ashgabat with visits to Firuza valley and Nissa Fortress by minivan.
Firuza valley is a popular relaxation spot 30 km west of Ashgabat with spectacular narrow gorges along cool streams. European style picnic in the nearby Chuli valley on the riverside and visit of Nissa fortress on the way back into town. Visit of Vannovski Horse Stables with optional horse ride. The ruins of the Nissa fortress-city date back 2,300 years and once formed a Parthian Royal Residence and also allow beautiful views of the surrounding hills and scenery. Dinner at Iranian restaurant in city centre.
Day 4 - Tolkuchka, Road drive Ashgabat - Nokhur - 250 km
Hotel breakfast, morning visit to Tolkyuchka Bazaar, departure via Geokdepe to Nokhur area, Konegummez village, lunch, pm trekking in Owadere canyon area, overnight & dinner at private house
After breakfast and early morning loading of the expedition truck in order to visit the Tolkuchka Bazaar. The bazaar is a tourist must of Ashgabat, where it is said that everything on earth is on sale and where the whole country seems pilgrimage to on Sundays and it is definitely the city's most colourful face. Woollen rugs are most certainly the favourite buy, but rows and rows of colourfully dressed women offer traditional jewellery, beautiful traditional footwear, hand-woven silk and embroidery. The trucks are heavy specially modified 4WD vehicles (Kamaz / GAZ 53/66) and seat about 12 persons with baggage comfortably. They have excellent off-road capabilities and allow us to venture where no tourists have ever been before. For the first 150 km we will be following along the edge of the Kopetdag mountain, which divides Turkmenistan and Iran before turning for a 40 km track along rough mountain roads into the mountainous Nokhur region. With almost Indian indo-european features and very entrepreneurial life-style the Nokhur tribe has preserved a unique tradition of handicrafts and architecture in their villages. Outstanding carpentry and unusual stone-houses are characteristic for their hillside villages amidst picturesque pomegranate and almond orchards. We will experience extraordinary hospitality and see extraordinary handicraft and landscapes. After a cup of tea at our Host family we continue into the fascinating gorges nearby the village where we go on a short hike along the Owadere river. We spend the night in Konegummez village at a traditional private house with a guest room and feast on local specialities such as motal cheese (sheep cheese) and apricot jam prepared by our hosts.
Day 5 - Nokhur - Yangykala - 400 km
We continue to Yangykala canyon, lunch picnic, continue to Yangykala canyon - 200 km. Camp in tents. Dinner in camp.
After breakfast we continue back to the main road via Serdar (Gyzyl Arvat) and Balkanabat (Nebitdag) to then enter desert and steppe terrain on the way to the magnificent Yangykala canyon. After picnic lunch we continue on the main road via Balkanabat and Jebel where we leave the main road to continue northeastwards towards Yangykala canyon. We arrive in the canyon before sunset - setting up the tents under some of the clearest skies in the world at the edge of the canyon and relax by a bonfire. Dinner will be prepared by your guides. On this occasion the group will also receive the first desert safety precautions.
Day 6 - Trekking in the Canyon area
Breakfast in camp. Trekking tour in the canyon area. PM drive to Akkuy pool (starting point for camel rides) - 110 km. Watch camel milking. Camp in tents near camels. Dinner in camp.
The day starts with a light breakfast and a trekking tour descending into the valleys of the canyon in the surrounding area. We then will set off on a several hours drive via the remote settlements of Kyzyl Kaya and Chagyl (110 km) where we will also meet our local guide. The asphalt road terminates in Kyzylkaya and after passing Chagyl, the ground track enters the rich camel grazing grounds of the Eastern Karabogaz basin. On a small pool in one of the steppe valleys we will meet the camel caravan. Everybody will have a chance to watch the milking of the females and get to know the strong riding camels. We will camp next to the herd in tents and have dinner by the fire.
Day 7 - Full-day camel caravan - 20 km
Breakfast in camp. Full day camel trek to next campsite - 20 km .Picnic lunch. Camp in tents. Dinner in camp.
In the morning after breakfast we saddle the camels in preparation for our first day on camelback. With horses being less adapted to the harsh climate, the dromedaries selected are trained animals used by local shepherds. Camel riding on flat land is far less exhausting than horseback and our guides will provide initial training for rising, turns and stops and some simple camel command. We then start with the caravan along the beautiful hillside on a leisure pace covering some 20 km. The countryside is wide and bordered by impressive cliffs and canyons. We will stop for a picnic lunch & siesta and throughout the trip our guides will lead the group on horseback to ensure the safety of everybody. By the evening we will arrive at a new camp-site, already set up by our staff, with dinner waiting.
Day 8 - Full Day camel ride to Karayman village - 20 km
Breakfast in camp. Full day camel trek to Karayman village - 20 km. Picnic lunch. Accommodation in yurts & private houses. Dinner in camp.
The second day on camelback is another spectacular 20 km off-road trek along ancient caravan routes following breathtaking cliffsides and crossing seemingly endless steppe. We will encounter large grazing camel herds and make various stops in the shadow of hills. This day should give a full impression of what the Silk Road meant to the caravan traveller, crossing these parts until just 10-15 years ago, when the last salt-bags where transported in this way. A light lunch with an opportunity to taste the local fermented camel-milk will help overcome the climate. The track ends at the edge of one of the many dry salt-lakes with the village of Karayman at the top of a hill that will be reached by evening. The group will stay in traditional yurts and private houses, which will serve as our base for the following 2 days of exploration of the surroundings. Karayman is the last settlement on the track before the Kaplankyr National Park and a strictly traditional village.
Day 9 - Half-day camel trek across sand desert - 10 km, Day trip to Karashor - 80 km
Breakfast in camp. Camel trek through sand desert - 10 km. Drive to Karashor salt-lake. Picnic lunch at Karashor and return to village - 80 km. Accommodation in yurts & private houses. Dinner in camp.
After breakfast the sand desert of Utchtagan nearby will be explored on camelback on a 10 km tour lasting about 2-3 hours. Saksaul bushes, and dunes form the background for a magnificent array of some 1,000+ indigenous species, the stars of which certainly are the speedy sand jerboas, huge monitor lizards, rare spiders, various kinds of scorpions and of course the occasional cobra. With some patience and special care - these creatures can be observed safely. We hire local guides who will be able to share their own life experience and give some practical background on the wildlife. After crossing the dunes the group will be picked up by the trucks for an 80 km excursion to the Salt-lake of Karashor - the border of the Kaplankyr Reserve and the largest of the salt marshes in the areas with some impressive 250 m high cliffs on the east-coast. In the evening the group returns to Karayman village on the trucks and again relaxes in the yurts and houses.
Day 10 - Day-trip to Kazakhlyshor Salt Marsh / Cheshme Canyons - 100 km
Breakfast in camp. Drive along lake Kazakhlyshor. Hike through Cheshme canyons. Picnic lunch. Camp. Dinner in camp.
In the morning we continue our adventure north by truck across the Kumsepishen desert to the shores of the salt-marsh of Kazakhlyshor just south of the Uzbek / Kazakh border. The landscape and soil in the area leave no doubt that not so long ago this was a seabed rather than steppe as fossils in the sediments indicate. Some mountainous areas are covered with semiprecious stones, salt, metal and coal sediments and sparkling glimmer stones, giving the countryside a futuristic look. Leaving the truck we follow animal trails into Cheshme Gorge to try our luck to see some of the Urial Mountain Sheep, which were roaming the area before the enforcement of the border above the Turkmen cutting deep into the Ustyurt plateau above us. Continuing the former riverbeds feeding the Salt-Marsh we set up camp nearby the Depme wells.
Day 11 - Karabogaz salt-water basin & Yangysu Canyon - 150 km
Breakfast in camp. Drive via Tuar to Karabogaz basin, crossing Yangysu penninsula. Camp at Yangysu Canyon. Picnic lunch. Camp in tents. Dinner in camp.
After breaking camp in the morning, the group continues by truck on off-road tracks westwards towards the Kara Bogaz Gulf. Contrary to most maps, the water in the basin has returned to its original levels water levels filling an area the size of Belgium, after it had been dried out by some Soviet planners, in an attempt to exploit its mineral resources. The natural salt concentration is now at maximum and swimming unfortunately is not recommended, although floating could be better than on the Dead Sea. The group sets up camp near the Yangusu with source amazing views of the impeccable surface of the Gulf and cliffs stretching towards the horizon. For those of us fit enough we trek towards the water trying to reach the salty shore.
Day 12 - Yangysu Canyon, Yomud Horse ranch, Gozel Ata Shrine - 60 km
Breakfast in camp. Hike up Yangysu Canyon - 5 km. Yangysu cemetary, continue to asphalt road 20 km, 30 km asphalt & off-road to Yomud horse ranch, optional ride (no saddles!), continue to Gozel Ata shrine, camp, evening hike to red rock, optional exploration to Gyrdzhe village!
In the morning we climb up the steep ascent of the fascinating Yangysu canyon with its orange and white walls by foot followed by the truck. There is an ancient cemetery at the top of the canyon. From here we return to the asphalt road nearby Yangykala canyon travelling westwards towards the outstanding shrine of Gozel Ata some 10 km off the road. On the way to the shrine we stop at a water fountain to wash off the dust. The only building nearby the fountain is a horse farm with a stud of magnificent Yomud horses, a breed very similar to the famous Akhalteke horses. This shrine is mainly popular with the holy Ata tribe who are spread all over Turkmenistan. Nearby the newly-built mosque there is an ancient cemetery scattered with the typical so-called "fert-shape" tomb stones, which very much remind of American Indian totems. The shrine is located in a magnificent setting of red mountains. We up camp under the roofs of the shrine guesthouse and enjoy the surroundings. Those of us energetic enough can come along to refresh our supplies in Gyrdzhe village across the nearby desert before dawn.
Day 13 - Road drive to the Caspian shore - 200 km, Flight to Ashgabat
Road drive to Turkmenbashi (Krasnovodsk). Lunch at Turkish restaurant. PM flight to Ashgbat.
In the morning we continue 200 km along the asphalt road to the city of Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk) where we enjoy an excellent lunch at a Turkish restaurant with a view of the harbour with the mellow colonial setting of this city of 100,000. In the late aftrernoon we stroll through the narrow streets of Turkmenbashi before returning to Ashgabat on the evening flight to enjoy the comfort of hotel and an excellent dinner in one of the city's best reastaurants.
Day 14 - Ashgabat
AM free. PM visit Mosque & Anau. Farewell dinner at Ensi Gallery with fashion show. Dinner in camp.
We enjoy the hotel facilities with a free morning. After lunch we visit Ashgabat's new, Turkish built mosque and the site of Anau some 5 km west of the city: another important place of worship for pilgrims on the grounds of the ruins of Ashgabat's formerly most splendid mosque. The pre-islamic history of the site has recently been recognised in the world news for a unique find of a bronze age seal. The inscriptions on this tiny seal found in 2,000 possibly display hieroglyphs of an unknown antique language. This spectacular find may indeed be another confirmation for the existence of a sophisticated fire worshipping culture in the foothills of the Kopetdag some 3,500 to 4,000 years ago challenging the writing of early history of human cultures.Before our departure late in the evening the most important part of the day is the folklore presentation & good-bye dinner at the Ensi Art Gallery. The gallery displays an excellent private collection of ancient Turkmen dress and jeweller from all over the country. Throughout the evening we will see an extraordinary fashion presentation of the combined modern and traditional collection of our host as well as a folklore presentation of some of the most traditional Turkmen dances and songs. Also once again our dinner will be accompanied by Dutar music from some of the best interpreters in the country before we leave late at night for the airport. We will keep two service rooms for our convenience during the waiting time.
Day 15 - Departure
Airport transfer. Baggage transfer. Assistance with customs formalities.