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Istanbul to Beijing
- 2013-01-01 - 2013-12-31
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.
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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.
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