See Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as you travel from Istanbul to Beijing

Unravel the complex, curious and cultured kingdoms of the Middle East and Central Asia on a gigantic overland expedition through some of the most remote regions on the planet. Shuffle down the cobblestone streets of Istanbul before embarking on a voyage through windswept deserts and across jagged mountain ranges - stopping to visit thriving cities and tiny towns along the way. Follow the legendary Silk Road across Georgia’s remote landscapes to culture-rich Azerbaijan, pass through narrow valleys into Uzbekistan, eyeball the intriguing Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an and explore secluded sections of the colossal Great Wall. From Turkey to China, this overland odyssey leaves the tourist crowds behind and forges a path through some of the world’s most captivating destinations.

Start
Istanbul, Turkey
Finish
Beijing, China
Countries
Azerbaijan,
China,
Georgia,
Kyrgyzstan,
Turkey,
Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan
Themes
Overland
Code
KDOZC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 4, Max 19
Carbon offset
3 936kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Visit Istanbul and tour the Blue Mosque
  • Wander through Beijing’s’ Forbidden City
  • Discover the romance of the Silk Road in Samarkand
  • Walk through Uzbekistan’s historic city of Bukhara
  • Visit Kyrgyzstan’s epic Song Kol Lake
  • Cross the infamous Torugart Pass from Kyrgyzstan to China
  • Climb deserted sections of the Great Wall of China
  • See the army of Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an

Itinerary

Be intrigued by eastern and western influences while exploring the cultures and traditions of the only city in the world that straddles two continents - Istanbul. Perhaps arrive early to delve into history of 2000-year-old this Turkish metropolis, and visit the cobbled Hippodrome, once the site of ancient chariot races, and the exquisite Blue Mosque, Istanbul's most recognisable landmark.
Enjoy a morning to explore more of Istanbul, before heading east in the early afternoon bound for Toz Golu. Set up camp and spend a glorious evening sleeping under the stars.
Make tracks to Goreme, located in the heart of Cappadocia. Marvel at the profusion of fairy chimneys, castles, columns and cones - soft volcanic rock that has eroded over time to form fantastical shapes. Visit cave churches and rock dwellings, and be enchanted on a guided tour of the magical valleys of Cappadocia.
After a morning on the road, stretch the legs in Sumela. Visit stunning Sumela Monastery, which clings spectacularly to a sheer cliff-face and is surrounded by evergreen forests, and admire the colourful 18th-century frescoes that adorn the walls and ceilings.
Cross the border into Georgia and continue to the port town of Batumi. Wedged between the sea and green mist-enshrouded hills, Batumi's location on the Black Sea Coast gives it a resort-town atmosphere. Relax in this idyllic semitropical setting - grab an outdoor table at one of the many cafes and sip Turkish coffee while watching the ships come into port.
Travel to the historic town of Kutaisi, one of the cradles of Georgian civilisation. Explore medieval Bagrati Cathedral, situated on a high hill overlooking the town, before visiting the Gelati Monastery. Decorated with mosaics, wall paintings and intricate metal work, the monastery was once the academic, scientific and educational centre of ancient Georgia.
Wander through the famous birthplace of Joseph Stalin - Gori. Learn about Stalinism on a guided tour of the Stalin Museum. View photographs, documents, furniture and gifts that together tell the story of the dictator's past.
Visit Kazbegi and relax amongst the hospitality of Georgian hosts at a traditional homestay. Rise early for a jaunt on foot through the countryside to visit the Tsminda Sameba Church.
Be dazzled by the mixture of European, Byzantine and Middle Eastern architecture that lines the streets of Tbilisi. On a guided tour of the Old Town, explore the National Museum, Metekhi Temple and the Sioni Cathedral.
Admire the picturesque Alazani Valley en route to Telavi, the centre of Georgia’s wine-growing region Kakheti. With each village producing a different variety of grape, there are wines to suit all tastes. Visit local wineries and witness time-old traditions such as grape harvest, wine-making and the keipi – a banquet feast held in the spring.
Camp overnight in Lagodekhi, huddled at the base of the breathtaking Greater Caucasus Mountains.
Cross the border into Azerbaijan and travel to Sheki. Behold the richly decorated Khan's Palace and wander through the Museum of History, located in an architectural masterpiece. Spend the night in a converted caravanserai.
After a long drive to Gobustan, check out the incredible rock art and mud volcanoes scattered throughout this ancient region.
Sail by ferry across the Caspian Sea and enjoy two days to explore the rapidly changing Azeri capital Baku. Both chaotic and cosmospolitan, the city brims with elegant tree-fringed streets, leafy parks, lovely teahouses, buzzing pubs and World Heritage-listed medieval architecture – all of which make it ideal for exploration on foot.
Board an overnight ferry and travel across the Caspian Sea again to reach Turkmenistan.
Disembark in Turkmenbashi, named after the infamous dictator Turkmenbashi who renamed the international airport and several streets, schools and hotels in his honour.
Explore Turkmenbashi before driving to the remarkable Kow Ata – a crystal-clear underground lake with a natural water temperature of 36°C.
Discover Turkmenistan’s bizarre modern capital – a strange mix of futuristic and outlandish buildings. Experience an explosion of colour and noise at the famous Ashgabat Sunday markets where merchants sell everything from camels and pigs to cars and ex-Soviet military paraphernalia.
Sleep under the stars in the Karakum Desert. See the spectacular fires of the Darvaza Gas Crater.
Continue the Overland journey through the Karakum Desert, and take in the parched landscape of Asia's hottest desert.
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.
Get to know Central Asia's holiest city, where the combination of buildings spanning a thousand years and a thoroughly lived-in Old Town help create the awe-inspiring atmosphere.
Spend a night in a yurt camp with the local nomads, sleeping among the dunes of the Kyzylkhum Desert.
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.
Visit Tashkent’s thriving Chorsu Bazaar to pick up Soviet-style souvenirs and admire the ornately decorated Kukeldash Medressa.
Enter the Fergana Valley and see the palace of the former Khan of Kokand.
Make tracks across the Ferghana Valley into Kyrgyzstan.
Take a leisurely three day journey through the stunning mountains and national parks of Kyrgyzstan's Fergana Valley.
Spend the night in a yurt near Song-Kol Lake and join in a game of ulak-tartysh.
Mingle with friendly locals and relish Kyrgyz hospitality while enjoying a homestay in Kochkor.
Admire the lofty sandstone cliffs in Djety Oguz Valley.
Discover the remote, picturesque town of Karakol, complete with quaint tree-lined streets and colonial houses.
Set off on a leisurely hike along Chong Kemin River - or if feeling adventurous, perhaps tackle one of the tough 4000 m passes.
Stroll through Bishkek's markets and haggle for bargains or relax in an Oak Park cafe and reflect on the adventure.
Make Kyrgyz friends on an authentic homestay experience in Kochkor.
Take a good book as today's lengthy border crossing meanders through the Torugart pass and into Kyrgyzstan, past rugged mountains and wild terrain.
The striking atmosphere of Kashgar provides a refreshing contrast to the past two days' travel. Soak up the exotic sights, sounds and smells of this unique destination.
Set off early to get to stunning Lake Karakol. Spend the day wallowing in the surrounds of this magnificent setting before spending the night in traditional yurts.
Travel to the westernmost end of China and visit Kashgar, an exotic fusion of Chinese, Uzbek and Kyrgyz. Wander the streets that weave through the old town and discover the markets and bazaars of this diverse city.
Leave Kashgar and head to the outskirts of the enormous Taklamakan Desert. Travelling into seemingly unchartered terrain, spend two days on an overland adventure.
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.
Escape the desert sands in the laidback town of Turpan. Explore the famous Jiahe ruins, visit the night market or perhaps soak up the lively energy among locals in the town square.
Continue the Overland adventure towards the ancient Silk Road town of Dunhuang. Spend the night wild camping beneath the desert stars.
Arrive in Dunhuang and relax in this Gansu oasis trading town. Visit the nearby Mogao Caves and discover their breathtaking Buddhist art.
Drive to Jiayuguan and discover deserted sections of the Great Wall.
At the crossroads of Qinghai and Gangsu, arrive at Liujiaxia. Visit the Bingling Si Buddhist grottoes to see intricate cliff-side carvings.
Travel to the Tibetan monastery town of Xiahe, often described as one of the most enchanting places to visit in China.
Make tracks to Lanzhou and relax beside the rushing waters of the Yellow River.
Overland to lovely Pingliang, located at the base of the verdant Kongtong Mountain. If feeling energetic, climb through five lush terraces to the scared site of Mount Kongtong, passing temples and shrines along the way.
Admire the 2,000-year-old army of Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an.
Admire the view from atop the temple-studded Kongtong Mountain and enjoy the spoils of Gansu Province, which has a rich and colourful history as one of the important links on the ancient Silk Road.
The reward for a morning of travel is letting off steam in Shapotou, where daredevils will delight in the dune-sliding madness of this sandy wonderland.
After a pit stop at the grand temples of Zhongwei Gao Miao, enjoy fraternising with locals amid the ebb and flow of daily life in provincial China in the friendly city of Yinchuan.
Head to the Five Terrace Mountains, a focus for transnational pilgramage for Chinese, Tibetans, Mongols and Manchus alike. Many magnificent artworks are on show and powerful temples are scattered throughout the wilderness.
Marvel at the Hanging Monastery and explore the World Heritage-listed Yungang Grottoes.
Take a walk along the monumental Great Wall as it snakes its way through rolling hills as far as the eye can see.
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 Mongolian and Tibetan influences in local temples and monasteries.
End the tour by joining the buzzing hive that is Beijing. Visit the Forbidden City to admire imperial architecture or the sprawling Summer Palace on the banks of Kunming Lake.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
n/a
Transport
Overland vehicle
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (16 nights), Camping (with facilities) (5 nights), Cave house (1 night), Guesthouse (2 nights), Homestay (4 nights), Hostel (1 night), Hotel (42 nights), Yurt (5 nights)
Included activities
  • Animal market
  • Ashgabat - Sunday Market
  • Beijing - Forbidden City
  • Bukhara - Guided walking tour
  • Chengde - Bisu Shanzhuang
  • Chengde - Puning Temple
  • Datong - Hanging Monastery
  • Datong - Yungang Grottoes
  • Entrance Jiayuguan fort
  • Goreme - Guided Goreme Valley tour
  • Gori - Stalin Museum
  • Great Wall, Entrance, Jinshanling section, Beijing
  • Jeti-Oghuz - Hiking
  • Kazbegi - Tsminda Sameba Church
  • Khiva - Guided city tour
  • Kochkor - Regional Museum
  • Kochkor - Women's Felt Co-op
  • Kokand - Khan's Palace & Mosque
  • Konye-Urgench - Ancient City ruins
  • Lijiashan - Black Dragon Temple
  • Samarkand - Guided city tour
  • Sumela - Monastery
  • Wutai Shan - Taihui Temple Cluster
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors guided tour
  • Yan'an - Revolution Museum & CCP Headquarters site

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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.

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