Explore Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as you travel from Xi'an to Istanbul

Get ready for a massive Overland adventure from the metropolitan mammoth of Xi'an 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;This adventure encompasses the very best of Central Asia. If you're longing for an epic overland odyssey Xi'an to Istanbul is just for you.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Xi'an, China
Finish
Istanbul, Turkey
Countries
Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Style
Basix
Theme
Overland
Code
KDOBC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 4, Max 21

Why we love this trip

  • 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

Is this trip right for you?

  • Central Asia is a very remote destination, perfect for intrepid travellers in the true sense of the word! You will venture well away from cities, right off the beaten track.

  • Accommodation may be more basic than what you are used to, and shower and toilet facilities will be limited in some places. But the rewards of living in true local style in this far-out part of the world are immeasurable.

  • There will be some long days of driving, often over rough terrain, which can be tiring and will require patience. Take the chance to sit back, marvel at the scenery and embrace the slower pace of life here.

Itinerary

Border Information: if joining in Xi'an, you will most likely enter China at Xi'an Xianyang International Airport (IATA code: XIY). Welcome to the amazing city of Xi'an, the ancient capital of Shaanxi province
and the end of the 'Silk Road'! We will have a free day to explore the city, it's famous walls, bell and drum towers, pagodas and Muslim Quarter. There will be a group meeting today at 6:00pm - please look out for a note from your tour leader at the hotel reception with more information about this important meeting.
Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Xi'an before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Xi'an. In Xi'an we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities. Hotel for the night: Skytel Hotel
Skytel Hotel Xi'an
No. 32 South Avenue (Nan Dajie)
Beilin District
Xi'an
Shaanxi Province
China
Tel - +86 29 8763 2222

Activity Approximate Cost
Visit the ornate 14th-century Bell and Drum towers, which originally marked the sunrise and sunset CNY 40
Wander through the atmospheric Muslim Quarter and visit the Xi'an Great Mosque, the first mosque constructed in China CNY 30
Learn about the fascinating history of the ancient Chinese capital of Chang'an at the Shaanxi History Museum, without doubt one of the finest museums in China CNY 30
Visit the mind-blowing Tomb of Emporer Jingdi of the Han Dynasty, containing 50,000 doll-sized terracotta figures CNY 90
Visit the Forest of Stelae Museum, a collection of 3000 stone tablets of Chinese calligraphy that has been collected here since 1057 CNY 50
Walk or cycle around the Ming Dynasty Xi'an City Wall, the largest city wall in the world CNY 80
Visit the impressive Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi'an's most famous landmark dating from the Tang and Ming Dynasties CNY 80
Visit the huge former Tang Dynasty royal palace of Daming, and explore its vast parks and gardens Free

About Xi'an:
The imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many interesting historical sites. Xi'an was the start of the famous ancient trading route of the Silk Road and the city is still surrounded by its original city walls which you can climb and walk or cycle along, a unique way to experience the city. For a different view, haul yourself to the top of the Bell or Drum Towers in the centre of the city. Home to many Hui people, an ethnic Muslim minority, the city also has a unique Islamic flavour, particularly in the streets and markets surrounding the Great Mosque, best explored by foot. Thanks to Xi'an's long and colourful history, the city is full of beautiful temples, museums and interesting cultural and historic sites, the most famous of which are probably the ancient Terracotta Warriors. The collection of over
8,000 life-sized model warriors and 700 horses was discovered by farmers digging a well in 1974. Dating from the late 3rd Century BCE, they were built by Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, to protect his tomb in the afterlife.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning we head out of Xi'an on the truck to the site of the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, where we have an included visit and a guided tour. We will return to Xi'an for the afternoon, where we'll have a free afternoon to further explore this incredible city.

Activity Approximate Cost
Explore the world-famous site of the Terracotta Warriors, an army of 8000 life-size figures built to protect the Emporer Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife Included in Kitty
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will drive to the small town of Pingliang at the base of the Mount Kongtong, one of the holiest mountains in Chinese Taoism. Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (please note that all drive times given here
are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!). On the following day we will have an included visit to Mount Kongtong, and will have the full day to explore the temples and walk and explore the pilgrimage routes on the mountain. In Pingliang we will stay in a decent local hotel. Please note that if the group and leader prefer to split the drive between Turpan and Dunhuang over 2 days, there will only be 1 night in Pingliang and a half-day exploration of Mount Kongtong.

Activity Approximate Cost
Explore the stunningly beautiful Mt. Kongtong and its temples Included in Kitty

About Pingliang:
The town of Pingliang is the gateway to the Kongtong Mountain, an absolutely spectacular set of steep hills covered in temples. Kongtong is one of the most sacred sites in Taoism, and features the famous steep 'Stairway to Heaven' - the area is a wonderful place to explore on foot.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will head to the chaotic capital city of Gansu province, Lanzhou. We will have some free time this evening to explore the city. In Lanzhou we will stay in a comfortable hotel. Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we set off to the enchanting Tibetan town of Xiahe where we spend the next 2 nights. We will have an included visit to the incredble Bingling Si Buddha Caves en route. Estimated Drive Time - 4-6 hours.
The next few days are free to explore this beautiful town and surrounding grasslands. We can take a guided visit to the Labrang Monastery where Tibetan monks can be seen doing their daily rituals and chants. There may also be a chance to go trekking, horse riding or exploring the surrounding grasslands,
visiting Tibetan families and perhaps trying the local Yak butter tea. In Xiahe we will stay in a local Tibetan-owned hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost
2 night detour to the Tibetan town of Xiahe, one of the main pilgrimage sites for Tibetan Buddhists CNY 40
Climb up onto the lower slopes of the remote Tibetan Plateau Free
Take a day trip up into the Sangke or Ganjia grasslands of the lower Tibetan Plateau surrounding Xiahe CNY 400

About Xiahe:
The town of Xiahe, on the lower Tibetan Plateau, is frequently described as one of the most enchanting places to visit in China - and it certainly has a wonderful tranquil atmosphere and a beautiful setting. Many Tibetans come here on pilgrimage to the stunning Labrang Monastery - and the combination of the many monasteries, saffron-robed monks, fluttering prayer flags and spectacular scenery make this small town feel like a slice of
the real Tibet as well. Xiahe is right up on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, and the population here is over 45% Tibetan.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will leave Xiahe behind us to reach the small city of Liujiaxia. We will have an included visit to the incredible Bingling Si Buddha Caves en route. In Liujiaxia we will stay in a basic local hotel. Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
See the vast Buddha statue and the outstanding Buddhist cave sculptures at the fabulous Bingling Si gorge Included in Kitty

About Bingling Si:
Bingling Si is a fabulous Buddhist grotto site along the Yellow River - the site is full of carvings and Buddhist artwork, including the centrepiece Maitreya Buddha statue, a 27m-tall statue dug into the cliff. The grottoes began construction in 420 CE and were added to continuously until the 15th Century. There are over 180 small caves and nearly 700 statues on the site (not all of which are open to the public), that are well preserved despite centuries of damage from erosion and earthquakes.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will drive to the incredible Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains - we'll spend some time exploring the region before heading off to wild camp nearby. Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Explore the incredible and colourful natural phenomenon of the Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains Included in Kitty

About Zhangye:
Zhangye is famous for the phenomenal Zhangye Danxia rock formations - created by the same tectonic movement that created the Himalayas, the landscape is a rainbow of different coloured rocks, the result of deposits of sandstone and minerals over the last 24 million years. The layer cake of coloured rocks has been sculpted by erosion, producing hills and ravines in the most remarkable patterns!
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
oday we continue our journey with a drive to Jiayuguan, where we will have an included visit to the Jiayuguan Fort - the most western point of the Great Wall of China. Please note that the Great Wall here is abode, unlike the more famous stone sections further east. We will wild camp near an adobe section of the Great Wall near Jiayuguan. Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Journey down the Gansu Corridor to Jiayuguan Fort, our first stop at the Great Wall Included in Kitty

About Jiayuguan:
The fort at Jiayuguan marks the far western end of the Great Wall of China - this was one of the first parts of the Great Wall to be built by the Ming Dynasty in 1372 CE, located at a vital pass on the ancient Silk Road. The fort was at a strategically vital position for defence against potential attacks from the northwest, and became an important melting pot of cultures between China and the Silk Road. This older section of the Great Wall is adobe, unlike the stone sections in the east of the country. The fort here is very impressive and remarkably well preserved.

Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will continue our journey westwards to reach the city of Dunhuang. Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours. On the following day we will have an included visit to the awe-inspiring Mogao Buddha Caves in the morning. We will then have a free afternoon to explore this amazing town and it’s surroundings - there are possibilities for camel rides along the sand dunes and bicycle rides out to the nearby White Goose Pagoda! In Dunhuang we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost
Stopover and time to explore historic Dunhuang CNY 20
Guided tour of the Mogao caves, Dunhuang Included in Kitty
Take a camel ride to Crescent Moon Lake, Dunhuang CNY 120

About Dunhuang:
Dunhuang is one of the largest and historically most important oasis trading towns in Gansu province. Dunhuang is an oasis in an otherwise barren desert, surrounded by sand dunes and mountains - the setting is spectacular and a good enough reason to travel here alone. However most visitors make the long journey to Dunhuang to see the fantastic ancient Buddhist art in the nearby Mogao Caves - an extraordinary site even by
Chinese standards, the caves contain some of the finest examples of Buddhist art spanning a period of 1,000 years between the 4th and 14th Centuries CE. Re-discovered in the early 20th Century, the site is one of the most celebrated Buddhist sites in China, and full of thousands of ancient Buddha images!
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will have an early start and a big drive to the oasis town of Turpan. Estimated Drive Time - 10-12 hours. Please note that sometimes it may be preferred by the group and the leader to split this drive over 2 days, wild camping in between - in this case we will have 1 less night in Pingliang towards the beginning of the trip. On the following day we will have a free day to exploring the surrounding sites including the famous Jiaohe ruins. In Turpan we will stay in a local hotel.

Activity Approximate Cost
Exploration of the oasis and the Jiaohe ruins at Turpan Included in Kitty
Learn about the Karez water system, the ingenious method of irrigating the area that was developed by the Han Dynasty and allowed Turpan to flourish as an oasis town Included in Kitty
See the Emin Minaret, a beautiful Uighur mosque built in the 18th century which is the tallest minaret in China CNY 30
See the striking red sandstone landscape of the Flaming Mountains near Turpan Included in Kitty
Explore the ancient oasis city of Gaochang, once a bustling trading trading centre along the Silk Road CNY 40

About Turpan:
East of Ürümqi lies one of the hottest places on Earth, the Turpan Basin. Nestling between the Northern and the Southern Tian Shan Mountains, this dry dust-bowl is the lowest basin in China. The oasis town of Turpan was crucial to the traders on the Silk Road, providing a staging post and a market place for the traders to exchange goods and to reequip their caravans. Although Turpan is the hottest place in China, the lack of humidity makes the atmosphere pretty bearable. The town is a very relaxed, tranquil place, and has some fascinating irrigation channels which show how this dry area has been collecting water for hundreds of years, as well as the nearby 2000-year old fortress of Jioahe.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will continue on to Heavenly Lake, a beautiful lake set in the Tian Shan mountains. Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours. We will stay here for 2 nights, and will have many opportunities to relax in the incredible scenery and walk around the lake. In Heavenly Lake we will stay in local yurts with very basic facilities.

Activity Approximate Cost
Enjoy a tranquil yurt stay at the beautiful Heavenly Lake Included in Kitty

About Heavenly Lake:
Ürümqi is the capital of the western province of Xinjiang, and just south of one of the region's most beautiful spots - the aptly-named Heavenly Lake. This is a dazzling deep blue lake set in the dry mountains, providing some excellent walking and boating opportunities.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today our journey continues westwards through the Taklamakan Desert. Our crossing of the desert usually takes 3 days/2 nights, and we plan to wild camp near Korla or Bayanbulak on our first night and near Aksu on our second. Please note that occasionally the police insist that we do not camp in times of political tension - in this case we will stay in local hotels in the small towns en route. Estimated Drive Time - 8-10 hours each day.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we complete our journey to the far west of China, arriving in Kashgar, once one of the ancient trading posts on the Silk Route! Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours. We will spend 3 nights in Kashgar, during which time there will be lots of opportunity to explore the city and its central Id Kah Mosque. We will also have an included visit to the animal market just outside of town, and then the famous Kashgar Sunday Bazaar. In Kashgar we will stay in a hotel with good facilities.

Activity Approximate Cost
Explore Kashgar's Sunday market and Animal market. Included in Kitty
Visit the Id Kah Mosque, the finest example of Islamic architecture in Kashgar and the centre of religious life in the city CNY 20
Discover the history of the ancient Silk Road at Kashgar's Silk Road Museum CNY 15
Visit the mausoleum of the 17th-century religious leader Afaq Khoja, considered the holiest site in Xinjiang Province CNY 15

About Kashgar:
Kashgar is a remote western outpost in the Uighur province of Xinjiang - and it has managed to keep an exotic atmosphere under the ubiquitous march of Chinese modernity. This is mainly due to the ethnic mix of Uighurs, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Kyrgy, and is amply portrayed throughout the old town, with blacksmiths, silversmiths, cobblers and others working in ways that have not changed for hundreds of years. The highlight of the week for the local populous and for the visitor is the massive Sunday market. 50,000 people migrate for the day into the town. This is a must for the visitor, as it exemplifies the daily life of the indigenous people - the noise, smells, the animals, the traders, the junk, toot, cloths, rugs, jewellery, tapes and ghetto blasters. Horses, cows, donkeys, sheep and goats all awaiting the inevitable sale.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we complete our journey to the far west of China, arriving in Kashgar, once one of the ancient trading posts on the Silk Route! Estimated Drive Time - 7-9 hours. We will spend 3 nights in Kashgar, during which time there will be lots of opportunity to explore the city and its central Id Kah Mosque. We will also have an included visit to the animal market just outside of town, and then the famous Kashgar Sunday Bazaar. In Kashgar we will stay in a hotel with good facilities.

Activity Approximate Cost
Explore Kashgar's Sunday market and Animal market. Included in Kitty
Visit the Id Kah Mosque, the finest example of Islamic architecture in Kashgar and the centre of religious life in the city CNY 20
Discover the history of the ancient Silk Road at Kashgar's Silk Road Museum CNY 15
Visit the mausoleum of the 17th-century religious leader Afaq Khoja, considered the holiest site in Xinjiang Province CNY 15

About Kashgar:
Kashgar is a remote western outpost in the Uighur province of Xinjiang - and it has managed to keep an exotic atmosphere under the ubiquitous march of Chinese modernity. This is mainly due to the ethnic mix of Uighurs, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Kyrgy, and is amply portrayed throughout the old town, with blacksmiths, silversmiths, cobblers and others working in ways that have not changed for hundreds of years. The highlight of the week for the local populous and for the visitor is the massive Sunday market. 50,000 people migrate for the day into the town. This is a must for the visitor, as it exemplifies the daily life of the indigenous people - the noise, smells, the animals, the traders, the junk, toot, cloths, rugs, jewellery, tapes and ghetto blasters. Horses, cows, donkeys, sheep and goats all awaiting the inevitable sale
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning we have a chance to spend a little time at Lake Karakol before starting our journey back along the beautiful mountain road to Kashgar. The evening will be free to explore the old town. In Kashgar we will stay in a comfortable hotel. Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Visit the mausoleum of the 17th-century religious leader Afaq Khoja, considered the holiest site in Xinjiang Province CNY 15
Discover the history of the ancient Silk Road at Kashgar's Silk Road Museum CNY 15
Explore Kashgar's Sunday market and Animal market. Free
Visit the Id Kah Mosque, the finest example of Islamic architecture in Kashgar and the centre of religious life in the city CNY 20
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Border Information: Exit China at Torugart, enter Kyrgyzstan at Torugart. Today we will have a full day drive over the 3752m Torugart Pass into the magical mountain kingdom of Kyrgyzstan! We will head just over the border to Tash Rabat, once a key staging post on the Silk Road close to the KyrgyzstanChina border. During our time here we will visit an ancient caravanserai and have some time to explore the surrounding area. In Tash Rabat we will wild camp. In cold weather (or if simply the group prefers and there is availability), we may choose to stay in local nomadic yurts that are set up for guests near the caravanserai, sleeping 8-10 people per yurt. Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Visit the ancient Silk Road caravanserai at Tash Rabat, close to the Kyrgyzstan-China border Included in Kitty
Cross into Kyrgyzstan via the stunning and remote Torugart Pass in the Tian Shan Mountains Included in Kitty

About Tash Rabat:
Tash Rabat is well-preserved stone caravanserai dating from the 15th Century CE - an inn that accommodated travellers and merchants along the Silk Road. Although today the structure lies in ruins, its location near the Torugart Pass into China is absolutely spectacular, and it makes for an excellent and
atmospheric stop 
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, where we stay in local familyrun guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality! Whilst here we will visit a small museum and women's felt making cooperative that produces 'shyrdaks', the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned. We may also have the opportunity here to see some excellent local musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz folk music and to see how a yurt is put up! In Kochkor we will stay in family-run guesthouses, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home. Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours. Please note that if nobody from this group is leaving in Bishkek, we may choose to stay instead in a guesthouse in the small town of Naryn (a 2-3 hour drive from Tash Rabat). This is so that we don't repeat Kochkor unnecessarily on the next section and can have more time to explore the area of Tash Rabat thismorning.

Activity Approximate Cost
Overnight homestay at a traditional rural Kyrgyz village Included in Kitty
See the traditional felt workshops or Kochkor and learn about how Kyrgyz carpets and hats are typically made here Included in Kitty
Visit a folklore demonstration near Kockhor where you can learn all about the handicrafts of the area, see a fantastic outdoor concert of traditional music and help to erect a yurt! KGS 1000

About Kochkor:
Kochkor is a sleepy little Kyrgyz village and looks very much like the paintings of traditional Kyrgyz life seen in various museums and art galleries throughout the country. Here we will stay with a traditional Kyrgyz family, living with them and finding out about their daily life, food and family patterns. The Kyrgyz have embraced Responsible Tourism and actively encourage travellers to stay in the homes of local people. There is an excellent local animal market and a traditional felt making enterprise which we usually visit. Here they make a variety of the different felts used for making yurts, rugs, carpets and souvenirs.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we have a short drive to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. The remainder of the day is free to explore the relaxed and atmospheric city. In Bishkek we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities. Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours (from Kochkor).

About Bishkek:
Bishkek is the relaxed capital of Kyrgyzstan, and it has a pleasant laid-back atmosphere. The city centres around Ala-too Square, previously known as Lenin's Square under the previous Soviet regime. Lenin used to stand in his concrete overcoat in the middle of the square, proudly gesturing towards the mountains. A pleasant place to watch the world go by is Dubovy (Oak) Park, where you'lll find a few open air cafes, a perfect spot to sit and have a drink and soak up the atmosphere. The century-old oaks here and all along Freedom Avenue make Bishkek one of the greenest cities in Central Asia.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Border Information: if joining in Bishkek, you will most likely enter Kyrgyzstan at Bishkek Manas International Airport (IATA code: FRU). There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting. The rest of the day is free for you to explore this relaxed and atmospheric city. Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Bishkek before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Bishkek. In Bishkek we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

*Important note - do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for
more details.* *Another important note - please be aware that all itineraries in Kyrgyzstan are highly weather-dependent. The itinerary described in these notes are a statement of best intention, but we must approach each trip in Kyrgyzstan with a large degree of flexibility, as our leaders and local guides will have to 'play things by ear' according to the local conditions and weather. In low season certain routes become impossible and it may become far too cold to camp - in all cases there are fantastic and well-tried alternatives in place which means we can always run an excellent and comprehensive trip here, but please do not treat the exact details of the itinerary listed here as gospel - thanks for your understanding!*
Hotel for the night: Hotel Asia Mountains
Hotel Asia Mountains (Отель Горы Азии)
1a Lineinaja St (Улица Линейная 1А, (на пересечении с улицой Гоголя))
Bishkek 720021
Kyrgyzstan
Tel - +996 312 690 235 or +996 312 690 234

Activity Approximate Cost
Begin our journey in picturesque Bishkek Free
Freely explore the vast Osh Bazaar, Bishkek's largest market Free
Explore Bishkek's past at the State Historical Museum on Ala-Too Square KGS 150
Civilisation again, in the picturesque city of Bishkek KGS 60

About Bishkek:
Bishkek is the relaxed capital of Kyrgyzstan, and it has a pleasant laid-back atmosphere. The city centres around Ala-too Square, previously known as Lenin's Square under the previous Soviet regime. Lenin used to stand in his concrete overcoat in the middle of the square, proudly gesturing towards the mountains.
A pleasant place to watch the world go by is Dubovy (Oak) Park, where you'lll find a few open air cafes, a perfect spot to sit and have a drink and soak up the atmosphere. The century-old oaks here and all along Freedom Avenue make Bishkek one of the greenest cities in Central Asia.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
The next 2 days will need to be fairly flexible. Many of the group will apply for Uzbekistan visas in Bishkek. However, the Uzbek Embassy opening times will often vary and therefore our itinerary will need to remain flexible over the next 2 days to accommodate this. As a general guide, we will most likely spend our first night camping in stunning mountainous Ala Archa National Park near to Bishkek. We will then return to
Bishkek on the following day in order to submit our visa applications. Once this is process is complete we will continue to Chong Kemin National Park, where we will have free time to explore and hike in this beautiful area, or to get involved in an optional white water rafting excursion if time allows. In Chong Kemin and Ala Archa we will wild camp. If it is too cold or simply preferred by the group, we may choose to camp in the grounds of a guesthouse in Ashu, a village in the Chong Kemin valley, where there could be the possibility to upgrade to rooms. Estimated Drive Times - 3-5 hours each day (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

Activity Approximate Cost
Get off the beaten track with 3 nights wild camping and a leisurely overland journey Included in Kitty
through the stunning mountains and National Parks of Kyrgyzstan Explore the beautiful Chong Kemin valley on horseback KGS 300
Head out on a white-water rafting adventure through the stunning Chong Kemin valley KGS 1800
Walk around the incredible scenery of the Chong Kemin valley Free
Wild camping and hiking in the beauty of Ala Archa Gorge Free

About Ala Archa:
Ala Archa means "bright juniper", and indeed there are juniper bushes growing all through this beautiful gorge. The alpine area is stunning, and is abundant with wild flowers, bubbling mountain streams, glaciers and vast mountain panoramas. The gorge itself is 35kms long, and the surrounding mountains are massive and home to some of the largest glaciers in all of Kyrgyzstan. The park is also an important habitat for all kinds of wildlife, including marmots, badgers, hares, foxes, wolves, lynx, and wild goats.
About Chong Kemin Valley: The Chong Kemin Valley lies within the Tian Shan mountain range separating
Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The towering peaks of the Tian Shan range reach above 7,000m along their rugged run towards China. This spectacular valley is famed for its natural beauty, abundant wildlife and rich, varied flora. The valley offers several trekking possibilities along the Chong Kemin River, and recently white water rafting has become a popular activity for visitors in the area - exploring this stunning valley on horseback is also a great option. 
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will drive to the northern shore of Lake Issyk Köl and visit the ancient petroglyphs at Cholpon Ata. We will then continue to the Russian-style town of Karakol, where we will have a free evening to explore and relax! In Karakol we will stay in a decent local hotel. Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Tourist time: pedalos, sand, sun. On Lake IssykKul, it?s a time warp Included in Kitty

About Karakol:
Originally a Russian military outpost built in 1869, Karakol quickly grew in the 19th Century as explorers arrived to map the mountains and valleys of the area, and Chinese Muslims fled warfare in China. For many years the town was names Przhevalsk, in honour of a Russian explorer who died there in the 1880s, but has been known as Karakol since independence. Karakol is a picturesque town surrounded by orchards and mountains, with a delightful Russian church and gracious colonial houses on tree-lined streets sloping up towards glaciers and pine forests.

About Cholpon Ata:
Issyk Köl Lake is one of the biggest natural water reservoirs in the world, at 170kms long and 70kms wide. Issyk Köl means "warm lake" in the local language, and a combination of extreme depth, thermal activity and mild salinity means the lake never freezes. On the shores of the lake is the small town of Cholpon Ata, a favourite holiday spot with the locals. The area has a number of health resorts and spas and there are also some interesting rock inscriptions and petroglyphs dating back to 500 BCE close nearby.

Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we drive up into the mountains to the alpine trekking region of Jeti Oguz. The next day we will have a free day to hike in the incredible scenery here, or take an optional horse ride with some of the local nomads! In Jeti Oguz we will camp close to a local family yurt. Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.

Please note that on trips in the low season we may not be able to camp in Jeti Oguz due to low temperatures. If this is the case, we will take a stunning and incredible drive up a mountain in a Russian 4x4 truck to Altyn Arashan, a hot spring development in a stunning alpine setting, staying in dormitory accommodation. We will then stay for 1 night in a local hotel at the base of Jeti Oguz Valley (allowing time for some day walks).

Activity Approximate Cost
Trek into the wilds of the Jeti-Oghuz Gorge on the edge of the Tian Shan mountains Included in Kitty
Explore the incredible mountain landscapes of the Jeti Oguz Valley by horseback KGS 800

About Jeti Oguz Valley:
Seven spectacular red sandstone cliffs stand guard over the entrance to the Jeti Oguz Valley. Local tradition says that the cliffs were once wild bulls, immobilised by the gods to stop them terrorising local yurt dwellers. The base of this stunning canyon lies on the northern slopes of the Terskei Ala-Too range, surrounded by a broad valley and majestic snow-capped mountains. The valley is a fantastic place for camping and hiking - by exploring the valleys and canyon by foot you'll be able to admire the unusual rock formations and alpine peaks.

Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, where we stay in local familyrun guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality! En route we will have an included demonstation from a local 'eagle hunter'.
Whilst here we will visit a small museum and women's felt making cooperative that produces 'shyrdaks', the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned. We may also have the opportunity here to see some excellent local musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz folk music and to see how a yurt is put up! In Kochkor we will stay in family-run guesthouses, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home. Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Overnight homestay at a traditional rural Kyrgyz village Included in Kitty
See the traditional felt workshops or Kochkor and learn about how Kyrgyz carpets and hats are typically made here Included in Kitty
Visit a folklore demonstration near Kockhor where you can learn all about the handicrafts of the area, see a fantastic outdoor concert of traditional music and help to erect a yurt! KGS 1000
See an incredible demonstration from a traditional eagle hunter near Kochkor Included in Kitty

About Kochkor:
Kochkor is a sleepy little Kyrgyz village and looks very much like the paintings of traditional Kyrgyz life seen in various museums and art galleries throughout the country. Here we will stay with a traditional Kyrgyz family, living with them and finding out about their daily life, food and family patterns. The Kyrgyz have embraced Responsible Tourism and actively encourage travellers to stay in the homes of local people. There is an excellent local animal market and a traditional felt making enterprise which we usually visit. Here they make a variety of the different felts used for making yurts, rugs, carpets and souvenirs.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will drive to the incredible Song Köl Lake, where we will spend the next two nights. We will have free time here to explore the area, and to enjoy some optional activities including hiking or horse-riding! At Song Köl we will stay in traditional felt yurts. Estimated Drive Time - 4-7 hours.

Please note that trips during the low season will not be able to visit Song Köl Lake, as temperatures will be below freezing, the road will be snowed over, and there will be no yurts to stay in! Instead we will likely stay in yurts on the southern shore of Lake Issyk Köl.

Activity Approximate Cost
Experience the daily life of the Kyrgyz mountain shepherds. Included in Kitty

About Song Köl Lake:
Song Köl lake is one of the most spectacular spots in central Kyrgyzstan. All around the lake are lush pastures favoured by local nomadic herders, who come here in the summer with their animals. On our overland trips we spend a couple of days staying in traditional felt yurts, learning about the local culture and traditions. We might get to see the local men play a game of "Ulak-Tartys" (goat polo) or have a chance to ride out with the shepherds on their small hardy ponies, or you might prefer to explore the surrounding area on foot and trek in the nearby hills. Song Köl really is a sublime and unique spot, it is a truly magical place where you are guaranteed to have travel experiences that you will never forget.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
We will spend the next 3 days overlanding through the stunning and remote Kyrgyz Fergana Valley, stopping often to admire the views and perhaps take some impromptu hikes in the hills and countryside. During these days we plan to wild camp en route. Please note that trips running in low season (May to mid-June and October to November), we may not be able to camp if temperatures are too low, in which case we will stay in local guesthouses along the route instead. Estimated Drive Times - 4-8 hours each day.

Activity Approximate Cost
Get off the beaten track with 3 nights wild camping and a leisurely overland journey through the stunning mountains and National Parks of Kyrgyzstan Included in Kitty
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will complete our drive to Arslanbob in Kyrgyzstan's Fergana Valley - if we have had a slow journey in the previous days with lots of stops, we may choose to stay in the closer town of Jalalabad instead. In Arslanbob we will stay overnight in a local family-run guesthouse. Estimated Drive Time - 6-7 hours.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Border information: Exit Kyrgyzstan at Dustlik, enter Uzbekistan at Andijon. Today we will have a full day's drive across the Uzbek border to the eastern city of Fergana. In Fergana we will stay in a basic local hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Overland through Uzbekistan's Fergana Valley including historic Kokand and Fergana City UZS 3000
Explore the impressive 19th-century Juma Mosque in Kokand in the stunning Fergana Valley UZS 1000
See the silk-weavers of the Fergana Valley at the Yodgorlik Silk Factory Free

About Fergana Valley:
A stunning corner of Uzbekistan dominated by the rolling mountains near the Kamchik Pass, the Fergana Valley is one of the most scenic drives on our route though Central Asia. The Palace of Khudayar Khan is an ornate palace from the 1870s built bu the last leader of the Kokand Khanate.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning we travel in local transport to Kokand, where we will have the oppurtunity to visit the Khudayar Khan's Palace and the nearby Margilan Silk Factory before completing the journey over the Kamchik Pass to Tashkent, the Uzbek capital. The truck must pass over the Kamchik Pass without passengers and will rejoin
us this evening in Tashkent. In Tashkent we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities. Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

About Tashkent:
Whilst the historic cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva still retain much of the atmosphere of the ancient Khanates, Tashkent is very definitely a Soviet city, because old Tashkent was largely destroyed by a series of earthquakes and Soviet planners. Having said that, it is still a great place to visit - the city has a clean, modern feel and there is some unusal contemporary architecture here, which makes it an interesting contrast to many other places along the Silk Road.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Border Information: if joining in Tashkent, you will most likely enter Uzbekistan at Tashkent International Airport (IATA code: TAS).

There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting.

We will then have a free afternoon to explore the Uzbek capital of Tashkent.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Tashkent before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Tashkent.

In Tashkent we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

*Important note - any tobacco products are practically illegal in Turkmenistan, so please do not bring them or use them in Turkmenistan. Also please do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.* 

Hotel for the night: Grand Orzu Hotel
Grand Orzu Hotel
27 Makhmud Tarobi Street
Tashkent
Uzbekistan
Tel - +998 71 120 88 77 

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES 

Visit the delightful traditional farmer's market at the Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent's Old Town : Free

See the grand 16th-century Kukeldash Madrassa and the city's principal Juma Mosque in the Old Town : Free

Visit the religious centre of Tashkent at Hast Imam Square and see the Uthman Koran, believed to be the world's oldest extant copy of the Koran : USD 5 

About Tashkent:
Whilst the historic cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva still retain much of the atmosphere of the ancient Khanates, Tashkent is very definitely a Soviet city, because old Tashkent was largely destroyed by a series of earthquakes and Soviet planners. Having said that, it is still a great place to visit - the city has a clean, modern feel and there is some unusal contemporary architecture here, which makes it an interesting contrast to many other places along the Silk Road.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today our journey begins with a drive to the fascinating ancient city of Samarkand, where we will stay for the next 3 nights.

In Samarkand we will stay in a good hotel on the outskirts of town.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

About Samarkand:
A city brimming with history, Samarkand became famous in the 14th Century CE as the birthplace of the warlord Timur and the capital of his Sultanate. Thanks to its cemtral location along the Silk Road, the town originally grew propserous as a crossroads between East and West, creating a melting pot of different cultures and traditions whose influences are still very much apparent today. Samarkand is perhaps the most romantic and evocative of the Silk Road cities, and is crowned by the decorative domes and minarets of the many beautiful buildings here. The must-sees include the iconic Registan Square (the central focus of the city and home to a group of impressively decorated madrassas), Guri Amir and the Shah-i-Zinda mausoleum. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
" Day 3 to 4"

Today we will have a guided tour of the incredible historic city of Samarkand and the surrounding area, including the Registan, Ulug Beg Observatory, BibiKhanym Mosque and Shah-I-Zinda.

On our second day, we will have a free day to further explore the beautiful city and its surroundings. 

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES 

Explore the stunning green city of Shahrisabz, the centre of folk art in Uzbekistan and the birthplace of the medieval warlord Timur : USD 20 

Wander through the markets and carpet vendors of Samarkand, and marvel at the intricate craftsmanship of the local carpet weavers : Free 

INCLUDED ACTIVITIES 

Learn about the area's scientific heritage with a visit to the 15th-century Ulug Beg Observatory, once the finest observatory in the Islamic world : Included in Kitty

Visit the Guri-Amir Mausoleum, the final resting place of the Turko-Mongol conqueror Timur : Included in Kitty

Explore the stunning plaza of The Registan, a world-famous and iconic symbol of Central Asia : Included in Kitty

Discover the ruins of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, once one of the largest mosques in the world and the jewel in Timur's empire : Included in Kitty

See the beautiful and moving ancient mausoleum of Shah-I-Zinda : Included in Kitty



Accommodation
  • Hotel (2 nights)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will drive into the Kyzylkhum Desert near the town of Nurata. In the afternoon we will have the opportunity to take a swim in Lake Ajdar Kul and head out on an optional camel ride into the desert!

In the Kyzylkhum Desert we will stay in a desert yurt camp.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours. 

INCLUDED ACTIVITIES 

Spend the night in nomadic yurts out in the the Kyzylkum Desert : Included in Kitty

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES 

Take a short camel ride around the sand dunes of the Kyzylkhum Desert : UZS 5000 

Accommodation
  • Yurt (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today we will drive to the beautiful city of Bukhara, where will spend the next 3 nights. Our drive will take us via the desert town of Nurata, which we will have a brief stop.

In Bukhara we will stay in a comfortable local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-6 hours.

About Bukhara:
Bukhara is an atmospheric city with an incredible history and a wonderful heritage - exploring the streets, you really get the feeling that this is how Central Asia was before Soviet domination. Bukhara was once a very powerful Khanate, controlling most of Turkmenistan and the surrounding area. Many of the buildings here are spectacular and very well-preserved, particularly the Ark Fortress, Ismail Samanid Mausoleum and the famous Kalyan Minaret (also known as the Death Tower). The government has invested a considerable amount of money into the city in order to preserve the architecture here. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
" Day 7 to 8 "

Today we will have a guided tour of Bukhara and the surrounding area, including the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Kalon Mosque, Zindon Prison and the Ark Fortress. 

On our second day here, we will have a free day to further explore this incredible historic city and its surroundings. 

INCLUDED ACTIVITIES 

Explore the city's oldest Islamic monument, the 10th-century mausoleum of Ismail Samanid, the founder of the Samanid Dynasty : Included in Kitty

Discover the ruins of the ancient 5th-century fortress of the Bukhara Ark : Included in Kitty

Explore the colossal Kalon Mosque and Minaret, which has survived without restoration for 850 years and impressed Genghis Khan so much that he ordered the building to be spared : Included in Kitty

Visit the magnificent 16th-century architectural ensemble surrounding the Lyab-i Hauz ponds, once the city's principal source of water : Included in Kitty

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES 

See the Indian-style Char Minar Minarets, four towers nestled in a maze of alleyways in downtown Bukhara : Free

Visit the gruesome museum at the old prison of Zindon : UZS 4500 

Watch an entertaining evening puppet show, featuring many local Uzbek and Tajik poems and songs : USD 5 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (2 nights)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
" Day 9 to 10 "

Today we have a full day drive to the incredible historic town of Khiva.

Estimated Drive Time - 8-10 hours.

On the next day, we have a guided tour of the ancient city of Khiva during the morning. In the afternoon we will have plenty of free time to further explore this wonderfully preserved Khanate town.

In Khiva we will stay in a comfortable hotel. 

INCLUDED ACTIVITIES 

See the beautiful turquoise Kalta Minor Minaret, one of the iconic symbols of Khiva : Included in Kitty

Visit the Mohammed Rakhim Khan Madrassa, a museum dedicated to the Khan that surrendered to the Russians in 1873 : Included in Kitty 

Explore the incredibly photogenic blue palace of Tash Khovli in Khiva : Included in Kitty

Learn all about the Khoezm culture and handicrafts at the Islam Hodja Madrassa, Khiva's newest monument : Included in Kitty

Explore the incredible Juma Mosque and the 12th century fortress of the Kukhna Ark : Included in Kitty

Visit the mausoleum of Pahlavon Mohammed, the legendary 14th-century poet, philosopher, wrestler, and patron saint of Khiva : Included in Kitty

About Khiva:
The small historic town of Khiva in Uzbekistan was once the capital of the Khwarezmid Empire, one of Central Asia's most powerful states in the 12th Century CE until they were invaded by Genghis Khan in 1220 CE. Khiva once again rose to prominence as the centre of the Khanate of Khia between 1500 CE and 1924, when the area was fully incorporated into the Soviet Union. The city's long history is fascinating, and fortunately much of the magnificent architecture has been incredibly well preserved. The ancient walls that used to provide sanctuary for the travellers on the Silk Road are intact, as is the old town that the walls were built to protect. Many of the buildings are beautifully decorated in classic turquoise tiles. As well as exploring the streets of the old city, you should make sure you visit the Kukhna Ark and Juma Mosque, Pakhlovan Mahmus Mausoleum and Islam Hodja Madrassa. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (2 nights)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Border Information: Exit Uzbekistan at Nijazov, enter Turkmenistan at Shovot.

This morning we will drive across the border into Turkmenistan, visit the markets in the border town of Dashoguz, and explore the Kunye Urgench ruins to wards the end of the day.

We will wild camp in the deserts near Kunye Urgench tonight.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours. 

INCLUDED ACTIVITIES 

Explore the ancient ruined city of Kunye Urgench, once one of the most splendid cities in Central Asia until it was ransacked by Timur and abandoned : Included in Kitty

About Kunye Urgench:
Kunye Urgench is one of Turkmenistan's most important historic sites, and was once a major city along the Silk Road. Situated on the shores of the Amu Daria River, the area has been settled since the 5th-Century BCE and came to prominence under the rule of the Persian Khwarezem Empire in the 11th Century CE. The city managed to flourish even after Genghis Khan's invasion of 1221, only being finally destroyed and abandoned after an attack by the warlord Timur in 1373. Timur did a very thorough job in demolishing the city, there are still plenty of old ruined buildings from the 11th-14th centuries dotted around, including a mosque, mausoleum and the towering 60-metre-high Kutlug-Timur minaret, the highest in Central Asia.  
Accommodation
  • Bush camp (no facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today we continue south through the Karakum Desert. We will have an included side trip to the amazing flaming Darvaza Gas Crater (also known as the 'Door to Hell'!).

We will wild camp in the deserts near Darvaza Crater tonight.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-7 hours.

INCLUDED ACTIVITIES 

See the bizarre and incredible burning gas crater at Darvasa, popularly known as the 'Door to Hell' : Included in Kitty 

About Darvaza:
Darvaza is a tiny settlement in the Karakum Desert of Turkmenistan, which is the location of one of the world's more unusual highlights - the flaming Darvasa Gas Crater, sometimes dramatically called 'The Door to Hell'. The crater formed as a result of an industrial accident - Soviet oil prospectors started drilling in 1971 expecting to find oil, and when only gas was found underneath the ground collapsed to form the crater. Worried about the gas released into the air, they deliberately set the crater on fire to burn off the excess, expecting this to only last a few weeks - however the natural gas supply turned out to be much more plentiful, and it's been burning away ever since!

The crater is truly a breathtaking sight, especially at night - it's about the size of a football pitch and ablaze with fire, truly looking like the entrance to the underworld! 
Accommodation
  • Bush camp (no facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today we will complete our drive to the interesting capital of Ashgabat, usually arriving mid-afternoon.

In Ashgabat we will stay in a decent quality local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours

About Ashgabat:
Ashgabat is a unique modern city that has been extensively rebuilt since the country gained independence in 1991. Little is left of the original Russian Imperial city as most of it was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1948, and today the city centre is a bizarre mix of futuristic and outrageous public buildings that are an extraordinary sight - these include many ornate marble buildings and extravagant golden statues of the president. Ashgabat's Sunday Market is famous along the whole Silk Road - this wonderful market stretches for hundreds of acres into the desert. Carpets, camels, clothes, pigs, jewellery, goats, cars, chickens, hats and ex-Soviet military paraphernalia are readily available. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Border Information: if joining in Ashgabat, you will most likely enter Turkmenistan at Ashgabat International Airport (IATA code: ASB). There will be an important group meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a welcome note from your tour leader when you arrive at the joining hotel in Ashgabat. In the afternoon we have the option of visiting the famous Ashgabat Sunday Market.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Ashgabat before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Ashgabat. If arriving at Ashgabat airport you will also need to have a confirmed arrival transfer and representative from our local supplier to meet you at the airport. Please contact your sales agent for prices and to book. In Ashgabat we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

*Important note - any tobacco products are practically illegal in Turkmenistan, so please do not bring them or use them in Turkmenistan. Also please do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*
Hotel for the night: Ak-Altyn Hotel
Ak Altyn Hotel
141/1 Magtymguly Avenue
Ashgabat
744000
Turkmenistan
Tel - +9931236 3700

Activity Approximate Cost
Explore, shop and haggle at the vast Tolkuchka Sunday Market Included in Kitty
Explore the unique and bizarre Turkmen capital of Ashgabat on a guided tour of the city Included in Kitty

About Ashgabat:
Ashgabat is a unique modern city that has been extensively rebuilt since the country gained independence in 1991. Little is left of the original Russian Imperial city as most of it was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1948, and today the city centre is a bizarre mix of futuristic and outrageous public buildings that are an extraordinary sight - these include many ornate marble buildings and extravagant golden statues of the president. Ashgabat's Sunday Market is famous along the whole Silk Road - this wonderful
market stretches for hundreds of acres into the desert. Carpets, camels, clothes, pigs, jewellery, goats, cars, chickens, hats and ex-Soviet military paraphernalia are readily available. 
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will have an included tour of the city of Ashgabat using local minibuses. The afternoon will be free to freely explore Ashgabat and its museums.
Activity Approximate Cost
Learn about the history and culture of Turkmenistan at the huge National Museum in Ashgabat USD 10
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning we have some time to further explore Ashgabat. This afternoon we will drive to the spectacular Kow Ata Underground Lake. We will have some time this afternoon to explore this superb lake of naturally-heated clear water. Tonight we will wild camp in this area of Kow Ata or Geok Tepe. Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

Activity Approximate Cost
Explore Turkmenistan's unique underground lake at Kow Ata and swim in waters naturally heated to around 36°C Included in Kitty
Visit the huge Turkmenbashi Ruhy mosque on the outskirts of Ashgabat, built in 2004 as the mausoleum of Saparmurat Niyazov, the first president of Turkmenistan after the fall of the Soviet Union Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will complete our drive to the city of Turkmenbashi, on the shore of the Caspian Sea. Estimated Drive Time - 6-8 hours. Our itinerary in Turkmenbashi and over the Caspian Sea must remain very flexible and is very much determined by sailing times of the local ferries. Please note that there is no regular schedule for the ferries, they are notoriously unpredictable, and information from the ferry operators regarding the sailing times constantly changes (or is non-existant) up until the point of departure. Maximum flexibility, open- indedness and co-operation with your tour leaders are absolutely essential here! In Turkmenbashi we will stay in a local hotel for as many nights as is needed until we finally depart on the ferry over the Caspian Sea. Most trips tend to be able to set off on the ferry 1 or 2 days after arriving in Turkmenbashi.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
From Turkmenbashi, we will take the ferry across the Caspian Sea to Baku in Azerbaijan. The ferry is a fantastic local experience, but please do not expect any luxury whatsoever! These ferries are budget vessels for the locals and cargo hauliers, and are not designed with tourists in mind. We must be prepared for very basic conditions and limited provisions on board. Please also note that the time that the ferry takes to cross is also highly unpredictable, as it is often forced to wait outside of the port in Baku while they arrange the unloading of the cargo on the boat. There will be basic cabins on the ferry overnight.

Activity Approximate Cost
Cross the Caspian Sea on a local transporter ferry between Turkmenbashi and Baku Included in Kitty
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Border information: Exit Turkmenistan at Turkmenbashi, enter Azerbaijan at Baku. Today we plan to disembark the Caspian ferry and enter Azerbaijan. We will have free time on these days to explore all the sights of Baku and the surroundings. In Baku we will stay in a local hotel. Please note that we have built in significant time in the above itinerary to allow for delays with the Caspian ferry. If the ferry comes in earlier than this, we may choose to move on from Baku earlier than listed to allow more time exploring the rest of Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Activity Approximate Cost
Guided trip around old town Baku including the Maiden Tower & Shirvan Shakh Palace Included in Kitty
Explore the mysterious and iconic Maiden's Tower in Baku's Old Town Included in Kitty
Learn all about the Shirvan Muslim history of Baku at the Palace of the Shirvanshahs Included in Kitty

About Baku:
Azerbaijan's capital of Baku is a bustling city on the coast of the Caspian Sea, an area that has been inhabited for centuries by many different civilisations, from the Romans to the Shirvanshahs to the Russians. Undergoing huge growth in the 20th Century due to the discovery of oil, Baku today is a large metropolis which has a wide variety of architecture ranging from the ancient to the very modern.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will continue our journey to Gobustan, near the coast of the Caspian Sea. Whilst here we will visit the ancient petroglyphs and the mud volcanoes that this area is famous for. In Gobustan we will wild camp near the mud volcanoes, or continue further and wild camp en route. Estimated Drive Time - 2-3 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Day trip to Gobustan to see the mud volcanoes and the petroglyphs Included in Kitty
Zoroastrian Fire Temple Included in Kitty

About Gobustan:
Gobustan is a small area on the Azeri coast of the Caspian Sea, which is famous for its petroglyphs and mud volcanoes. The region's ancient petroglyphs date back to the 12th-Century BCE and depict people, animals and constellations. There are over 300 volcanic mud pools in the area, nearly half the total number in the world!
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will continue to the old town of Sheki, where we can visit the exquisite Khan's Palace. In Sheki we will stay in a comfortable hotel built inside an old caravanserai. Estimated Drive Time - 5-7 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Overnight in an atmospheric converted Caravanserai at Sheiki Included in Kitty
Explore the exquisite Palace of the Sheki Khans, built in 1797 Included in Kitty

About Sheki:
Sheki is a beautiful old town in northern Azerbaijan that has been settled since around 700 BCE. Having been occupied by many different civilisations throughout its history, it has a fascinating array of architecture and culture, and contains one of the best preserved caravanserais on the Silk Road.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Border information: Exit Azerbaijan at Balakan, enter Georgia at Ladodekhi. Today we will continue our journey east and cross the border into Georgia. We will wild camp tonight, most likely in the Lagodehki National Park shortly after crossing the border. Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Discover the ancient capital of the 16th-century Kingdom of Kakheti at the Gremi Architectural Complex GEL 2
Take some short exploratory walks around our wild camp in the beautiful forested Lagodekhi National Park
GEL 5
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will drive to the Alazani valley and on to Telavi, where we will base ourselves for 2 days to explore this fascinating region. We will visit the Gremi citadel en route, and have a free afternoon on arrival in Telavi to explore the area. In Telavi we will stay in a local family-run guesthouse. Estimated Drive Time - 2-3 hours.

About Telavi:
Telavi is the capital of the wine-growing region of Kakheti and is situated in the valley of Alazani, near the Gombori Mountains. Telavi is a charming place and has fine views of the Caucasus Mountains. Nearby we visit the 6th Century Shaumta Monastery, which is beautifully located on an isolated forested hilltop. There are hundreds of different grapes grown here, and every village has its own particular variety - we will hopefully see some of the local traditions, including grape harvesting, wine making, the keipi (banquet), and also visit some of the local vineyards.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
The area of Telavi is well known for its vineyards and wineries - there are hundreds of different grapes grown here, and every village has its own particular variety. We will visit some of the local vineyards today, where wecan hopefully see some of the local traditions including grape harvesting and wine making, and enjoy some famous Georgian hospitality.

Activity Approximate Cost
Head out on Telavi's 'Big Day Out' - a tour of the town's monasteries, bee-keepers and textileweavers, followed by lunch and wine tasting at a local family-run winery - Included in Kitty
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will complete our journey to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, where we will have an afternoon to freely explore the city. In Tbilisi we will stay in a comfortable hotel. Estimated Drive Time - 2-4 hours.

About Tbilisi:
The Georgian capital of Tbilisi is very historic - it was founded in the 5thCentury CE, and by the 12th-Century it had become a very important cultural and economic centre. Its geographical position gave it a lot of control over the Silk Road, and hence it became a regional superpower. The Old City is full of churches and ancient wooden houses, and it's easy to spend a day wandering around this charming city. It is also worth visiting the oriental markets and making a visit to the Narikala Fortress, which dominates the city's skyline.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Border information: if you are joining in Tbilisi, you will most likely enter Georgia at Tbilisi International Airport (IATA code: TBS). There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - on arrival please look out for a note from your leader with more information about this important meeting. This afternoon we will visit the old town of Tbilisi and visit sites including the National Museum, Sioni Cathedral and the Metekhi Temple.
Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Tbilisi before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Tbilisi. In Tbilisi we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

*Important note - do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*
Hotel for the night: GTM Kapan Hotel
GTM Kapan Hotel
4 Metekhi Ascent
Avlabari
Tbilisi
Georgia
Tel - +995 322 273 349 or +995 322 273 348

Activity Approximate Cost
Learn all about the history of Georgia during Soviet times, and the struggle for independence, at the Museum of Soviet Occupation GEL 3
Enjoy an evening of local dancing and music at a Georgian restaurant in Tbilisi GEL 25
Explore the ancient Narikala Fortress and take in the fantastic views of Tbilisi below Free
Visit the beautiful Orthodox Sioni Cathdral in Tbilisi's Old Town Free
Discover the folk architecture, craftwork and culture of the various regions of Georgia at the Giorgi Chitaia Open Air Museum of Ethnography GEL 1.5
See the incredible collection of historical artefacts at the Simon Janashia Museum of Georgia GEL 3
See the grandiose modern Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi, the seat of the Georgian Orthodox Church Free

About Tbilisi:
The Georgian capital of Tbilisi is very historic - it was founded in the 5thCentury CE, and by the 12th-Century it had become a very important cultural and economic centre. Its geographical position gave it a lot of control over the Silk Road, and hence it became a regional superpower. The Old City is full of churches and ancient wooden houses, and it's easy to spend a day wandering around this charming city. It is also worth visiting the oriental markets and making a visit to the Narikala Fortress, which dominates the city's skyline.

Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today our journey begins with a beautiful drive to the spectacularly located town of Stepantsminda (formerly known as Kazbegi). Either this afternoon or tomorrow morning, we will take a trek up to the Tsminda Sameba Church (the Church of the Holy Trinity), a beautiful small church nestled in the mountains. In Stepantsminda we will stay in a local hotel or family-run guesthouse. Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

Activity Approximate Cost
Hike to beautiful 14th-century Gergeti Trinity Church, set in the stunning mountains above Stepantsminda Included in Kitty

About Stepantsminda:
Stepantsminda, formerly known as Kazbegi, is a small town in the MtskhetaMtianeti region of north-eastern Georgia, an area famed for it's natural beauty. Looming over the town is the 14th-Century Georgian Orthodox church of Tsminda Sameba, which can be trekked to from the town - it's one of the most stunningly-located churches in the world, with the spectacular towering Caucasus Mountains in the background.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
We spend this morning in and around Stepantsminda, where we can trek to the Tsminda Sameba Church if we haven't done so already. This afternoon we have a beautiful drive to the UNESCO world heritage site of
Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia. Whilst here we will explore the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.
In Mtskheta we will stay overnight in a local guesthouse. Estimated Drive Time - 3-5 hours.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning we drive to Gori, the birthplace of Stalin - here we will have a guided tour of the city and the Stalin Museum. We then make our way to the ancient town of Kutaisi. This afternoon we will visit the medieval Bragrati cathedral and the Gelati monastery. In Kutaisi we will stay in a local hotel or a family-run guesthouse. Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Visit the beautiful 11th-century Bagrati Cathedral, a symbol of the city of Kutaisi Free
Explore the colossal and awe-inspiring Prometheus Caves near Kutaisi Included in Kitty

About Kutaisi:
Kutaisi is one of the cradles of Georgian civilisation and the people here are renowned for their hospitality. Kutaisi is home to the Bagrati Cathedral which sits high on a hill overlooking the town. This immense building was started by Bagrat III in 1003 CE - it is in a state of ruin, but is still an impressive Christian monument.

About Gori:
The small town of Gori is famous as being the birthplace of the brutal 20th Century dictator Josef Stalin - there is a small museum on the site of his childhood home, which houses many photographs, some documents, some furniture and gifts presented to the dictator. It also houses Stalin's death mask, and outside the museum is the railway carriage which Stalin used for 12 years. About 10kms outside the town is the cave town of Uplistsikhe, one of the oldest places of settlement in the Caucasus. Here we will find another ancient monastery and city with a 2nd Century Roman theatre and a more recent 9th Century church. The site was started as a trading centre on the famed Silk Route in the 5th Century.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning we will continue to the port town of Batumi, where we will have a free afternoon to explore. In Batumi we will stay in a comfortable hotel. Estimated Drive Time - 3-5 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Visit the Batumi Archaeological Museum, home to many historical exhibits found in excavations in the area
GEL 2

About Batumi:
Situated on the Black Sea coast, Batumi has the feel of a resort town, nicely situated between the sea and the green hills. It is a great place to relax, and there are plenty of cafes where you can enjoy a Turkish coffee and watch the world go by.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Border Information: Exit Georgia at Sarpi, enter Turkey at Sarp. This morning we will continue to the border and cross into Turkey. We will reach the awe-inpsiring Sumela Monastery near the town of Macka, which we
will either visit in the afternoon or the next morning. We will camp overnight in a campsite near Sumela if conditions allow. In cold weather we may opt to stay in a local hotel in Macka or Trabzon. Estimated Drive Time - 5-7 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Exploration of the Black Sea mountain monastery at Sumela Included in Kitty

About Sumela:
Set in the cliffs is the beautiful monastery of Sumela, which was founded in 386 CE during the reign of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. The monastery clings to a sheer rock wall high above evergreen forests and a rushing mountain stream.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning we will visit the beautiful Sumela Monastery if we didn't have time yesterday, and then start our drive through central Turkey towards Göreme. We will break the journey with a wild camp near Zara or the village of Alucra. Estimated Drive Time - 8-10 hours.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will complete our drive to Göreme, a small enchanting town in the heart of the Cappadocia mountains. In Göreme we will stay in a well-equipped hostel - please note that dorm beds are sometimes used here. Estimated Drive Time - 6-8 hours.

About Göreme:
Göreme is a small town in the heart of Cappadocia in Turkey. Known as the Enchanted Valley, the cones, needles and columns fashioned by nature here form a unique and surreal landscape. The area is riddled with caves, scooped out of the rock to house churches and dwellings that are known as fairy chimneys and castles. Perhaps the most interesting are the rock chapels and frescoes of Göreme, the monastic complex of Zelve and the fairy chimneys of Avcilar.

Nearby you can also see the remains of a number of underground cities, the most extensive of which housed up to 50,000 people at any one time. These cities were used by the early Christians, and could be closed in the event of an invasion and the population kept safe below ground until the invaders departed.

More modern attractions include a local winery and the workshops of local craftsmen who produce skilled onyx carving and pottery. In Ürgüp, near Göreme, you can also enjoy a traditional Turkish bath, sip tea while playing backgammon with the local men, or enjoy a walk through the unique scenery. We can also arrange a group evening out perhaps to one of the underground nightclubs hollowed out of the soft rock. Entertained by local Cappadocian folk dancers, you can sample traditional foods washed down with some of Turkey's
excellent wines, beers and of course raki.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
We now have a 2 full days to explore Göreme, including a guided tour of the enchanted valley of Cappadocia. There will be an opportunity for a magical optional balloon ride over the valley during our time here.

Activity Approximate Cost
2-3 nights to discover Cappadocia's Goreme Valley and underground troglodyte cities and caves TRY 15
Take a hot air balloon flight over Cappadocia EUR 135
Explore the ancient pre-iconoclastic Byzantine rock monastery of Zelve TRY 15
Guided tour of Cappadocia and underground troglodyte cities and caves TRY 5
Explore the Early Christian underground cities of Derinkuyu or Kaymaklı, used as a hiding place from persecutions for centuries Included in Kitty
Walk through the beautiful ancient valley of Ihlara, containing the beautiful rock-hewn churches built by the Cappadocian Greeks during the Byzantine era Included in Kitty
Discover the ancient techniques of Cappadocian pottery at the village of Avanos Free
Head out for a fun evening of dinner and various Turkish dancing displays TRY 90
Witness the hypnotic Sufi Whirling Dervishes ceremony at an ancient caravanserai near Göreme EUR 35
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will have a full day's drive west to arrive in Istanbul, the only city in the world that straddles two continents, Europe and Asia. In Istanbul we will stay in dorm accommodation in a fantastic hostel with good
facilities, which is a 5 minute walk from the Blue Mosque. Estimated Drive Time - 10-11 hours.

About Istanbul:
Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, so it will come as no surpise that this vast metropolis is home to a beguiling mix of different cultures and traditions, blending the influences of both east and west. The city has a rich and intriguing history; originally founded by Greek settlers over 2000 years ago, Istanbul originally went by the name of Byzantium, later renamed Constantinople by the Romans who made it the captial of their eastern empire. The Ottomans took control in 1453CE and renamed the city Istanbul, making it their capital.

Today the city is the largest in Turkey, a bustling mega-city with a population of over 12 million people in total. The old town is a good place to start your explorations. The Grand Bazaar is a paradise for souvenir hunters and you may well find yourself drinking tea with the shopkeepers whilst haggling over prices - it is often thought to be the most-visited tourist attraction in the world! Then there's the Topkapı Palace and Harem, Istanbul's iconic Blue Mosque and the incredible ancient church of Hagia Sophia. The Archaeological Museum which contains the tomb of Alexander the Great is also worth a look. After all that sightseeing, take a stroll down to the waterfront and maybe take a boat ride up the Bosphorus - this is a great relaxing way to experience the city from a different angle, with excellent views of the minarets and towers that give the city its distinctive skyline. You might also like to visit an authentic Turkish bath, where attendants will pummel your body as though it was a lump of meat and walk over your back as a form of massage!
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Border information: if leaving the trip in Istanbul, you will most likely exit Turkey from Istanbul Atatürk International Airport (IATA code: IST). Today will be free to explore the many sights of the incredible exotic city of Istanbul, including the Grand Bazaar, the Bosphorus River and the phenomenal Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia!

Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Istanbul. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact the Dragoman Sales team if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities listed below.

Activity Approximate Cost
Explore the colossal markets of the Grand Bazaar - once the centre of all trading between Europe and Asia, and the most visited tourist attraction in the world Free
See the splendour of Istanbul from a boat trip on Bosphorus Strait, which marks the boundary of Europe and Asia USD 17
Explore the phenomenal Blue Mosque, built by the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I - a stunning icon of Istanbul Free
Visit the Çemberlitas Baths, a traditional Turkish Hamam, for a bath and massage! USD 20
Visit the incredible Byzantine cathedral of Hagia Sophia, built in the 6th century TRY 25
Explore the atmospheric underground Basilica Cisterns, built by the Byzantines in the 6th century TRY 20
Explore the majestic Topkapı Palace, the huge palace of the Ottoman Sultans for over 400 years TRY 35
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners

Transport

Overland expedition vehicle, Jeep, Private bus, Public bus, Russian bus, Boat, Overnight boat

Accommodation

Hotels, Hostels, Guesthouses, Campsites, Wild Camps, Yurts, Homestays

Dates & availability

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There are currently no scheduled departures on our Xi'an to Istanbul Overland trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

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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. This is a combination trip and your leader and group composition may change along the way
5. Please note this trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Your departure will be run in a Dragoman vehicle with a Dragoman crew.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides 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.