You will never get a better chance to touch the uniqueness of desert living, avoid of any civilization then make a trip to Central Karakum desert. Our 9-days diversity itinerary is the only chance of yours to combine your strict and severe tests on desert standing with its pure endless mountains of sands and inimitable enjoy of beautiful scenery and picturesque views of wild nature and to get acquainted with astonishing history of Turkmenistan.
Day 1 - 235 km drive from Ashgabat to Kyzyltakyr
Our first point of destination is Erbent village that is 150 km away from the capital to the north. We launch out after the lunch and it will take us 3 hours by the asphalt road. This is the first and the last village where the traces of civilization are still visible. The village only supplied with water pipe line and electricity. You will feel on yourself the hospitality of the local people being treated with Turkmen bread baked by Yazmukhamed Aga (old man) on the coal and with chal (naturally fermented camel's milk). One of the attractions of the village is Tazy dogs (Turkmen hunting dog) the roots of which go into deep antiquity. One can participate in fascinating process of felt making in rolling it to and fro. Being exhausted with the heat one can relax in a cool shade of typical nomadic yurts (tents). After little rest we continue our trip to Kyzyltakyr (85 km from Erbent). On the 2.5 hours road one can see all the wildness of Karakum desert. One can occasionally come across some desert animals and see the rich collection of Karakum flora. Being on route the most important thing not to miss the desert sunset-the most beautiful phenomenon of the nature that can be seen. You will taste the local cuisine in Kyzyltakyr house where we will have overnight in the yurt.
Day 2 - 107 km drive from Kyzyltakyr - Bekuri - Damla - Darvaza
Next day we keep our way to Bekuri. It is 7 km away from Kyzyltakyr. Bekuri is one of the largest villages on our trip. It is a unique place by the point of view of producing Turkmen carpets by the technology of medieval period. You will see how originally and unusually the local girls are cut their hair. You may join into the hot discussion with old men who gather together to discuss the personal and the problems of the universe. One can see deep dwells that were left by long ago ancestors. One can ride on the "desert ship" - dromedaries camels (one humped camel). The road to Damla will take us 1 hour by the endless and high dunes. We will have lunch in Damla and have a rest in a yurt listening to the national instrument music playing. Then we depart to Darvaza. The road will take us about 3 hours.
Day 3 - 260km drive from Darvaza to Ashgabat
Not reaching Darvaza (city like village) one can see the red spot in the sky. It is the reflection of the natural gas fire that burns for many years on the place where the derrick exploded and formed a big hole of 25m in diameter. Next day after breakfast we will explore Darvaza. One can see a great number of sulfur plants that provided with sulfur Soviet soldiers during the Second World War. You will be focus of attention of all the children after attending the local school. On the way back to Ashgabat one will remember thousand times the hospitality of desert people and beautiful smiles of cute children that accompanied you during all days in Karakum.
Day 4 - Ashgabat
Being really exhausted from the trip it is advisable to use all the modern facilities (massage, hot sauna) that city hotels represent to brace yourself. We start our new day visiting Oriental Market (local name "Tolkuchka" - to push from Russian). Tolkuchka is the biggest oriental market in Central Asia and the best place to shop for beautiful Turkmen carpets, handmade embroidery and other unique souvenirs. You can also visit the animal bazaar if your in the market for a camel?! Afterwards, we continue our day's activity by visiting the Nisa Fortress (18 km from Ashgabat) and the National Museum of History and Ethnography (containing more than 327.000 objects). This is followed by a sightseeing tour of Ashgabat including the Tower of Neutrality, Mosque, and Independence Monument. Hotel overnight.
Day 5 - 360km drive Ashgabat - Abiverd - Mary
Early in the morning on the way to Mary we visit Anau Mosque (15km from Ashgabat). The site includes the remains of the ancient settlement Anau-Depe and ancient Anau fortress that already existed during the Parthian period (III c BC - III c AD). The Mosque named after Sheikh Djemalledin (the ruler of the settlement of 15th century) was collapsed by the terrible earthquake that took place in 1948. As the legend tells the mosque was erected on the gold found in dragon cave that were depicted on the entrance portal of the mosque. The place was hallowed with the grave of Sheikh Djemalledin and it is one of the famous places of pilgrimage. Childless couples bring children clothes as an offering, and baby dolls are left in a tiny cradle slung between two sticks. Not reaching Kaka settlement (120km from the capital) you will see the ruins of old city Abiverd (Apavartekena in past) that lied along the Great Silk road and that had great value in the history of Turkmenistan (as it was more prosperous than Nisa with its beautiful bazaars, innumerable libraries, well developed irrigational canals in which the life existed till 18th century).
Day 6 - Full day in Mary
After the breakfast at the local restaurant in Mary we pay a visit to Ancient Merv (25km from Mary). Due to its size and historical value the Ancient Merv is one of the most important sites. The historians of the past rewarded Merv with magnificent epithets like "Princess of the world", "The Dome of Islam", "The Sprits of the Kings". People of different nationality and different belief settled a series of towns that succeeded one another throughout the course of history. One will express his sympathy listening to the sad legend about beautiful maidens that dwelled in Small KyzKala feudal castle( 6th -7th c AD), will be greatly impressed seeing a magnificent architectural structure of Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar(12th c AD), wish you most sacred wishes "On the top of the Paradise"-on the citadel of 6th c BC where Zoroastrians worshiped the fire.Paying a visit the Mary Historical and Ethnographical Museum that has a rich collection of ancient artifacts from sites, excavated in Merv one will leave unforgettable impressions from your stay in Mary.
Day 7 - 120km (one way) drive to Margush
The remains of Margush settlement is located deep in the desert which once upon a time was a huge settlement under a modern title Gonur Depe . At Togolok period (16th-13th c BC) the biggest ProZoroastrian temples have been arisen there. This place is considered to be the 5th civilization in the world. It was the center of a great 4,000 years old fire-worshipping civilization famous for it's seals and unusual burial practices. The capital city-site is the only entirely excavated site of this size in the country and the visitor can stroll the ancient alleyways and shrines. Returning back to Mary we visit the private museum that contains findings from Merv and Margush and paintings of local painters.
Day 8 - Flight to Ashgabat, Half day free, Farewell dinner
After breakfast we catch a flight tp Ashgabat. Rest at the hotel. Farewell dinner and fashion show at "Ensi" gallery. Those who seek to discover the secrets of Turkmen cultural traditions, handicrafts and national silk (ketene) you are welcome to visit "Ensi" gallery. Throughout the evening you will see an extraordinary fashion presentation of the combined modern and traditional collection of dresses skillfully made by local designer as well as a folklore show of some of the most traditional Turkmen dances and songs accompanied with delicious Turkmen national cuisine.