Explore Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as you travel from Beijing to Istanbul

Get ready for a massive Overland adventure from the metropolitan mammoth of Beijing to Istanbul’s bustling bazaars. Travel through some of Asia’s most remote, wild and unique wildernesses along the legendary Silk Road from China. See Istanbul’s famous blue mosque; pass through Uzbekistan’s soaring mountain vistas; tour Xi’an’s famous Terracotta Warriors; and discover secluded sections of the snaking Great Wall of China. From Beijing to Baku and beyond, this adventure encompasses the very best of Central Asia and the Middle East. If you're longing for an epic overland odyssey, away from the tourist crowds, Beijing to Istanbul is just for you.

Beijing, China
Istanbul, Turkey
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Min 18
Group size
Min 4, Max 21
Carbon offset
3 936kg pp per trip


  • Wander through Beijing’s Forbidden City
  • Explore the temple and pagoda studded Kongtong Mountain
  • Climb deserted sections of the Great Wall of China
  • Marvel at the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an
  • Admire the Buddhist art at the Mogao Caves
  • Cross the infamous Torugart Pass from Kyrgyzstan to China
  • See the dramatic glaciers adorning the Ala Archa Canyon
  • Admire quaint Karakol
  • Meet local shepherds on a yurt stay
  • Explore the historic town of Bukhara
  • Walk the ancient walls of Khiva
  • Discover the romance of the Silk Road in Samarkand
  • Explore the hub of East and West in Istanbul


Ni hao and welcome to China where a grand adventure awaits! Begin by joining the buzzing hive that is Beijing - a place where discovery and intrigue lie around every corner. Visit the Forbidden City to admire imperial architecture or the sprawling Summer Palace on the banks of Kunming Lake.
Stroll through the lush Shanzhuang gardens in the footsteps of past Emperors who holidayed here. Take in the rich heritage of Chengde by bicycle or admire the Mongolian and Tibetan influences in local temples and monasteries.
Take a walk along the monumental Great Wall as it snakes its way through rolling hills as far as the eye can see. Imagine the exhaustive effort of farmers and labourers who toiled for many generations to construct the Wall.
Marvel at the Hanging Monastery, delicately perched on a steep cliff face in Golden Dragon Gorge, and explore the World Heritage listed Yungang Grottoes, home to a staggering collection of over 50,000 statues and fascinating ancient rock art.
A famous pilgrimage site, Wutai Shan is believed to be the earthly abode of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Manjushri. Visit sacred temples, go hiking or simply soak up the serene atmosphere in a local cafe.
Stroll the ancient, and well preserved streets on Pingyao. This Han Chinese walled city is designed in the traditional bagua (octagonal) layout with architecture dating back centuries.
Visit the incredible cave houses of Lijiashan - built over 500 years ago - and spend the night in a cave room.
Get an insight into China's communist beginnings with a visit to Yan'an, once the Chinese Communist Party's headquarters during the 1930s and 40s
Admire the 2,000-year-old army of Terracotta Warriors and explore significant cultural sites and museums both in and around Xi'an. Enjoy a plate of hand-pulled noodles as you watch the locals dance, eat and practice martial arts in South Park.
Overland through the province of Gansu to Pingliang, which sits at the edge of the beautiful Kongtong Mountain. Peruse the wonderful shops or climb the mountain for rewarding views.
Travel down the fertile Gansu Corridor, a rugged stretch of the famed Silk Route.
Travel to the Tibetan monastery town of Xiahe, often described as one of the most enchanting places to visit in China.
At the crossroads of Qinghai and Gangsu, arrive at Liujiaxia. Visit the Bingling Si Buddhist Grottoes to see intricate cliff-side carvings.
Continue the journey west towards Jiayuguan, where we set up camp en route.
Arrive in Jiayuguan after a full day of driving, and discover deserted sections of the Great Wall.
Arrive in Dunhuang and relax in this Gansu oasis trading town. Visit the nearby Mogao Caves and discover their breathtaking Buddhist art.
Continue the overland adventure towards the ancient oasis town of Turpan. Spend the night wild camping beneath the desert stars.
Escape the desert sands in the laidback town of Turpan.
Travel towards the Tian Shan mountain range, and arrive at the pristine Heavenly Lake. Located at the top of a mountain and in the middle of a desert, this is a remote spot, perfect for relaxation.
Head to the outskirts of the enormous Taklamakan Desert. Travel into seemingly unchartered terrain and begin two days on an overland adventure.
Arrive in Kashgar, an exotic fusion of Chinese, Uzbek and Kyrgyz cultures. Wander the streets that weave through the old town and discover the markets and bazaars of this diverse city before saying goodbye to this incredible part of the world.
Set off early to get to stunning Lake Karakol. Spend the day wallowing in the surrounds of this magnificent setting.
Hike the lakeside mountains to wear yourself out before the drive back to Kashgar. Take time out in comfort this evening to relax and recuperate.
Take a good book as today's lengthy border crossing meanders through the Torugart pass and into Kyrgyzstan.
Spend some time getting to know the locals of Kochkor with a traditional Kyrgyz homestay and experience a glimpse of daily life.
Driving into the capital city, explore the crowded bazaars and vast bustling squares of this modern city.
Set off on a leisurely hike along Chong Kemin River. Or if feeling adventurous, perhaps tackle one of the tough 4000 m passes.
Enjoy the remote, picturesque town of Karakol, complete with quaint tree-lined streets and colonial houses.
Hike through dramatic canyons and sandstone cliffs in Jeti-Oghuz Valley
Enjoy more traditional Kyrgyz hospitality on a homestay in Kochkor village.
Stay in traditional yurt accommodation and experience nomad life in the lush pastures surrounding the beautiful Song-Kol Lake.
Spend a leisurely three days journeying through the stunning mountains and lakes of Kyrgyzstan's Fergana Valley.
Make tracks across the Ferghana Valley to Arslanbob.
Enter Uzbekistan and see the palace of the former Khan of Kokand.
Arrive in Tashkent, the final stop on this tour. Shop for fresh produce at the Chorsu Bazaar and perhaps grab some Soviet paraphernalia from a market.
Start the journey in the most modern of Uzbekistan’s cities, Tashkent. Visit the Chorsu Bazaar to pick up Soviet-style souvenirs and admire the ornately decorated Kukeldash Medressa.
Travel to one of Central Asia's most magical cities, Uzbekistan’s Samarkand. Discover the romance of the Silk Road in this perfectly preserved city full of exotic architecture and majestic buildings.
Spend a night in a yurt camp with the local nomads, sleeping among the dunes of the Red Desert.
Get to know Central Asia's holiest city, where the combination of buildings spanning a thousand years and a thoroughly lived-in Old Town combine to create an awe-inspiring atmosphere.
Gaze up at the ancient walls surrounding Khiva and imagine how they once provided sanctuary for weary Silk Road travellers. Explore the historic and perfectly preserved Old Town, beautifully decorated in classic turquoise tiles.
Follow a local trading route through harsh desert sands, and meet the nomadic people who call this inhospitable region home.
Drive across the Karakum Desert. If time allows, see the amazing Darvaza Gas Crater.
End your adventure among the futuristic architecture of Ashgabat's skyline. Spy the world's largest hand-woven rug or learn about the city's traumatic history at the Earthquake Museum.
Travel to the spectacular Kow Ata underground lake. Take a walk around - and perhaps dip a foot into - the incongruously warm waters before continuing on and making camp for the night.
Head to the shores of the Caspian sea and relax and unwind In Turkmenbashi while waiting for the ferry to arrive.
Continue the adventure by boarding an overnight freight ferry and travelling across the Caspian sea toward Azerbaijan. Rusty, rugged but full of memorable moments, this intrepid experience is grassroots adventuring at it's finest
Explore Azerbaijan's rapidly evolving capital. Stroll the Old Town for a hint of the regions medieval past, check out the cosmopolitan cafe culture and be romanced by the leafy parks on the seaside promenade.
Drop by the geologically themed town of Gobustan, known for it's rock art and mud volcanoes.
Continue to the cobblestone streets and forested hills of Sheki. Explore the exquisite Khan's Palace and the Museum of History for a solid dose of Silk Road heritage.
Cross the border into Georgia and get acquainted by the lush surrounds of the Alazani valley.
Enter into Georgia's famed wine country and spend two days exploring the vineyard clad town of Talavi. Sample unique local drops, and keep an eye out for local traditions such as grape harvests and the keipi (banquet). Then, work off all that wine-tasting by taking a walk to the sixth century Shaumta Monastery, which is beautifully located on an isolated forest hilltop.
End the adventure in Tbilisi, one of Europe's most regal, yet largely under appreciated cities. Spend free time perusing the fine architecture, and perhaps climb to the top of Narikala Fortress for a view over the surrounding hills.
Get a dose of Georgian history in Kutasi - one of the oldest cities in the world. Enjoy a guided walk around the ruins of Bragrati Cathedral before getting an unique insight into Georgian life by spending the night at the home of a local family.
Swap the hills for the Black Sea coast and explore the picturesque port town of Batumi. Perhaps settle in at a riverside cafe and sip a Turkish Coffee while watching the ships go by.
Cross the border to Turkey and climb into the incredible Sumela Monastry. Nestled high in the cliffs above the evergreen forests and rushing streams of Altindere National Park, this peaceful sanctuary is the perfect place to take some time out and breathe the fresh air of the Turkish countryside.
Continue to Zara and watch the changing landscapes of rural Turkey pass by.
Admire the otherworldly cone formations of Goreme, a truly unique location in the heart of Cappadocia. Perhaps enjoy a guided tour of the network of honeycombed caves that have formed an underground city, complete with churches and dwellings, or take to the skies on a hot air balloon to see this dramatic landscape from above.
Arrive in Istanbul, a city that has for centuries been the crossroads of the East and West. Take in the aromatic smells of the thousands of bazaars that line the streets, browse stunning islamic architecture and see why Istanbul is one of the world's most exotic, invigorating cities.
View trip notes to read full itinerary


Overland vehicle, Overnight ferry
Bush camp (no facilities) (20 nights), Camping (with facilities) (1 night), Cave house (1 night), Guesthouse (3 nights), Homestay (6 nights), Hostel (3 nights), Hotel (51 nights), Overnight ferry (1 night), Yurt (5 nights)


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Important notes

1. This trip visits multiple countries for which visas can be difficult and time consuming to obtain. Please ensure that you have enough time to apply for all visas you require before booking this trip.
2. Some destinations visited on this trip do not have consulates in Australia and New Zealand. We recommend that travellers from these countries book the WESTBOUND itinerary of this trip where some visas can be obtained en route.
3. Please note that this trip requires minimum numbers to depart, and may be cancelled up until 56 days prior to departure. The places showing on the dates and availability page are an indication only so please contact Intrepid to check if your preferred date will depart before making any final arrangements, such as booking non-changeable flights.
4. Combination trip. Please see Trip Notes (Important Notes) for more details.
5. Local Partner: Please note this Intrepid trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Your departure will be run in a Dragoman vehicle with a Dragoman crew.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes


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Beijing to Istanbul , July 2015