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Istanbul to Ashgabat Overview
- 2013-01-01 - 2013-12-31
Get up close and personal with some of Europe and Asia's most off the beaten track adventures on this overland odyssey through Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. 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 travel from the ancient underground cities of Turkey toward the quaint villages of Georgia, the regal architecture of Tbilisi, the birthplace of Stalin and the cosmopolitan city of Baku, before crossing the Caspian Sea by ferry to Turkmenistan. When it comes to one-of-a-kind adventures, they don't come much more wonderful than this mind-challenging, eye opening adventure.
Istanbul to Ashgabat SummaryAdd to Shortlist
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 Georgia’s largest city, 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. Perhaps visit the Earthquake Monument and Museum during free time, before farewelling this Tbilisi to Ashgabat adventure.
What's included in this trip