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Ashgabat to Istanbul Overview
Get up close and personal with some of Europe and Asia's most off the beaten track adventures on this overland odyssey through Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia. With 1.77 million years of human history under their belts, landscapes that stretch from snowcapped hills to the honeycombed domes of Cappadocia and cities that are chock full of Roman, Ottoman, Islamic and Soviet influences, this region holds more than a few surprises for even the most seasoned traveller. With barely any tourists in site, cross the Capsian Sea in a ferry and head toward the cosmopolitan city of Baku, the quaint villages of Georgia, the regal architecture of Tbilisi, visit the birthplace of Stalin and sip tea on the Black Sea coast. Then it's off to Turkey, where ancient underground cities, remote monasteries and soulful cities are the order of the day. When it comes to one-of-a-kind adventures, they don't come much more wonderful than this mind-challengeing, eye opening adventure.
What's included in this trip
Ashgabat to Istanbul SummaryAdd to Shortlist
Begin the adventure in the fantastic, futuristic, and slightly outrageous city of Ashgabat. Learn about how a giant earthquake forever altered both the the psyche of the city's inhabitants and the landscape itself, before browsing the Sunday Market for carpets, jewellery or ex-soviet artefacts.
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.
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 Rd 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.
Tsbilisi is 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.
Another day, another glorious set of hillside scenery.With a name meaning 'hill', Gori was the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. History buffs will revel in a chance to visit to the Stalin museum, which houses artefacts that provide an insight into his early life.
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.
Head west toward Istanbul, stopping to make camp for the night in the Turkish countryside.
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.
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