Last Modified: 30 Oct 2012
Tashkent to Istanbul
Trip code: KDONC
Validity: 01 Jan 2011 to 31 Dec 2012
Watch the vibrant cultures of Iran and the Silk Road unfurl on this astonishing adventure through Turkey and Central Asia. Roam across vast rugged landscapes that have been claimed by Commagene kings, Kurdish chieftains, Islamic sultans and more recently Soviet Russia, leaving behind a wealth of cityscapes and remote fortresses. Meet desert nomads and mountain villagers and share a traditional way of life, that's remained largely unchanged over the centuries. From the grand buildings and bustling backstreets of Istanbul to the Soviet stylings of Tashkent, this overland trip will exhilarate and inspire.
This trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Dragoman shares Intrepid's ethos for adventure travel and has many years' expertise in overlanding.
Table of Contents
To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures so your leader and the composition of your group may change.
- The best value journeys on the planet! On a Basix trip you can expect amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions that you may not want. Which means budget (1-2 star) accommodation, plenty of free time, activities that are optional and the freedom to choose meals to suit your budget. On some trips you may be camping and required to set up your own tent. You'll also have access to a group leader to offer advice and help you uncover the region's hidden gems. On a Basix journey, the way you travel is all a part of the adventure. Depending on the destination and the itinerary, you could find yourself travelling on anything from a donkey to a bus or a private safari vehicle. These trips are ideal for first-time travellers seeking fun and independence with the support of a group leader. They're also ideal for independent travellers looking to make the most of their travel time with minimum hassle and maximum experiences.
Day 1 Tashkent
The trip starts with a group meeting at 10am.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If your flight arrives too late, we recommend that you consider arriving a day early and book a night's accommodation prior to the trip so you are able to attend. If you are going to be late please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your kitty, insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all details on hand to provide to your leader.
The afternoon is free to explore the city.
Tashkent was once the fourth largest city in the Soviet Union. 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 unusual contemporary architecture here, which makes it an interesting contrast to many other places along the Silk Road. The city markets (especially the Chorsu Bazaar) are well worth strolling around, you can get some excellent souvenirs here as there is a huge amount of Soviet ephemera on sale, ranging from entire Soviet stamp collections, old paintings of Lenin, through to military uniforms. You should also try to plan a journey that involves a trip on the metro, so you can take in the impressive architecture and decoration of the Tashkent underground. Then after a busy day sightseeing, you might like to head out for a meal at one of the old Imperial Russian style nightclub/restaurants which often put on some unbelievably risqué cabaret.
Days 2-4 Samarkand
This morning we drive to Samarkand where we will be staying for the next three nights. Whilst in Samarkand we stay in a small friendly hotel.
In the 14th century the city of Samarkand was the capital of the great sultanate of Timur. Thanks to its central location along the Silk Route, the town originally grew prosperous as a crossroads between East and West, creating a melting pot of different cultures and traditions whose influences are still very much apparent event today. Samarkand is perhaps the most romantic and evocative of the Silk Road cities, and crowned by the decorative domes and minarets of the many beautiful buildings here it certainly looks the part. The must-sees include Registan Square, which feels like the centre-point of the city, home to a group of impressively decorated Madressas, Guri Amir and the Shah-i-Zinda mausoleum.
The next day we will explore Samarkand in the truck, exploring the majestic buildings, monuments and bazaars of this romantic silk route city.
Our second full day in Samarkand is free for you to explore the great sultanate of Timur as you please.
- Guided visits to Bibi Hanum Mosque & Shakh-I-Zinda, Registan Square & Tamerlane's Tomb
- Visit to Shakhrisabz city, Samarkand - USD60.00
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 5 Yurt Stay
Morning drive to Nurata in the Kyzylkhum Desert. After lunch there is the option of taking a swim in Lake Ajdar Kul or going for a local camel ride. Overnight homestay with local Uzbek families in their desert yurt camp amongst the dunes.
Nurata is home to the Nurata mountains and is famous for its old circle patterned Suzani which sell for thousands at auctions. Dating back to the Bronze Age, you can see how amazingly historical this place is with so much knowledge to be gained here. The history doesn't stop there, as there are tenth century mosques and the place where the Chashma Springs formed.
- Camel Ride, Nurata, Nurata - Free
Yurt (1 nt)
Days 6-8 Bukhara
Morning free to explore more of Nurata. In the afternoon we drive on to the fascinating city of Bukhara. We spend the next 3 nights here, staying in a comfortable local hotel.
Bukhara is an atmospheric city alive with its history. Exploring the streets, you 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 in years gone by. This has left the city with a rich and interesting history and many of the buildings here are spectacular, particularly the Ark Fortress, Ismail Samanid Mausoleum and the famous Kalyan Minaret (also known as the Death Tower). Today the government has invested a considerable amount of money into the city, in order to preserve the architecture here, as some of the buildings are considered to be the finest in all of Uzbekistan.
On the following day we will explore Bukhara and the surrounding area, including the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Kalon Mosque, Zindon Prison and Ark Fortress.
The third day here is free for you to explore more of Bukhara and the surrounding area, or to just kick-back and take it easy for the day.
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 9-10 Khiva
Most of today will be spent travelling as we drive from Bukhara to Khiva. We stay in Khiva for 2 nights in a friendly, rustic hotel.
The small historic town of Khiva in Uzbekistan was once the capital of Khwarezmia and the Khanate of Khiva, a central Asian state that existed from the 1500s right through until 1924, when it 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 Route 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, make sure you visit the Kukhna Ark & Juma Mosque, Pakhlovan Mahmus Mausoleum and Islam Hodja Madrassa.
The next day is free to explore this wonderfully preserved Khanate town.
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 11 Kunye Urgench
Morning drive from Khiva to the border, crossing into Turkmenistan around lunchtime. Afternoon visit to Kunye Urgench ruins. Bushcamping overnight.
Kunye Urgench is situated on the shores of the Amu Daria River and was once the capital of the Khorezm region, which was part of the Achaemenid Empire. The old town is brimming with historic buildings dating back as far as the 11th century, including a mosque, mausoleum and towering 60 m high minaret.
- Visit to ancient ruined city
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 12 Darwasa
Most of today will be spent travelling as we drive across the Karakum Desert. If time allows we will make a side trip to see the amazing Darwasa Gas Crater in local 4x4s.
From Darwasa, it's possible to hire local vehicles to visit the incredible open gas crater that's located nearby. It's a truly
breathtaking sight; imagine a huge crater approximately the size of a football pitch, ablaze with a fire fed by natural gas vents, or failing that try to envisage what the entrance to the Underworld would look like, and chances are you'll be pretty close!
We spend the night bushcamping near Darwasa.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Days 13-15 Ashgabat
Morning drive to Ashgabat, normally arriving mid-afternoon. Whilst in Ashgabat we stay in a comfortable local hotel.
Ashgabat is a unique modern city that has been extensively rebuilt over the last ten years since the country gained independence. Little is left of the original Russian Imperial city as most of it was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1948, today the centre is a unique mix of futuristic and outrageous public buildings that are an extraordinary sight. The earthquake affected every family in Ashgabat and is ingrained in the psyche of the local people. The Earthquake Monument and Museum are well worth a visit, as are the Carpet and the National Museums. If you are into carpets, Turkmenistan is the country to visit, and if you are in Turkmenistan, Ashgabat's Sunday Market is the place to buy them. 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.
The next morning we visit Ashgabat's famous Sunday market. The afternoon is free to explore.
The third day is free to explore Ashgabat, wander the streets, visit the earthquake monument or visit one of the city's museums.
- Carpet Museum, Ashgabat - USD5.00
- National Museum, Ashgabat - USD10.00
- Sunday Market, Ashgabat - Free
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 16 Shirvan
We set off early in the morning towards the Iranian border. Once all formalities are over we make our way to out first stop, Shirvan. Accommodation tonight is in a basic hotel.
Shirvan is famed for its natural beauty due, in no small part, to the presence of a Atrak river. This gives life to the tranquil gardens, small waterfalls and natural springs. Shirvan has a long history, Zoroastrian graves show that it was habitable before Islam, However, the city has been reconstructed according to new architectural styles in recent years. Due to its proximity to Iran's northern borders the town has Turkic influences of both local dialect and customs.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 17 Damghan
We drive 291 km towards Damghan. Optional visit to the Jamrh mosque, one of the oldest in the world. Accomodation is in a comfortable hotel.
Damghan was an important city in the Middle Ages, capital of the province of Qumis. Today it is a sleepy, historic town. It's main attraction is the claim to have what may be Iran's oldest surviving mosque - the Tarikhaneh Mosque that was constructed in the 1st century after arrival of Islam. There are also several ancient minarets and tomb-towers in Damghan, similar to those built in Mazandaran province, across the Alborz Mountains to the north.
- Jamrh Mosque, Damghan - Free
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 18 Khoor/Dasht-e Kavir Desert
Drive 384 km into the heart of the desert. We may have the chance to visit Mesr or Aroosan villages and the surrounding sand dunes along the way. Accommodation is in a hotel in Khoor.
Khoor is a small village located in the central desert of Iran, (known as Dashte-Kavir in Persian). Close by are the central mountain ranges of Iran which create for a stunning and isolated landscape. The town’s only water supply and therefore lifeline comes from a spring that flows out of the foothills of the mountains quite close to the heart of the village. This is the only source of life for the beautiful gardens and date palm orchards that make this oasis such a special place. The oasis has an old world feeling to it - as if live has been the same here for several hundreds of years.
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 19-20 Yazd
Leaving Tehran, we drive on to Yadz, this beautiful tranquil old town is the home of Iran's oldest religion, Zoroastrianism. We will be in Yadz for 2 nights, staying in a friendly local hotel.
The ancient desert city of Yazd was a major stop on the caravan routes to Central Asia and India during the Silk Road period - Marco Polo visited the city on his way to China - and it retains a rustic feel. It's also the heart of the Zoroastrian religion. This religion, which dates back over 4000 years, is one the world's oldest and was Iran's state religion before the arrival of Islam.
Yadz is unique for its intriguing architecture, which has been perfectly adapted to the harsh weather conditions of the surrounding desert. Wind towers, or badgirs, are a feature of most of the buildings in the old city - they trap even the gentlest of draughts and direct them into the houses below for cooling.
The next day is free in Yadz to explore the town and surrounding area.
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 21 Zein-o-din Caravanserai
Today is a 80 km drive to Zeinoddin Caravanserai. We will visit the Zoroastrian tower of silence en route. Overnight is spent in separate rooms in this traditional fort like building.
A night's stay in a caravanserai is a wonderful chance to relive the age when merchants travelled the remarkable Silk Road. Most of the rooms remain unchanged from days gone by, with carpets covering raised brick floors, and heavy curtains rather than doors separate rooms from the hallway. Like Silk Road travellers before us, we'll experience a rich red sunset while the night sky fills with stars.
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Days 22-23 Shiraz
This morning we have a tour of the ruins at Persepolis.
Darius I built the city of Persepolis around 500 BC as the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid empire; and its wealth and opulence became legendary. It was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BC, but even today its past splendour is easily appreciated from the ruins that remain. In ancient Persia, Persepolis was called Parsa which means "The City of the Persians".
Afternoon drive from Persepolis to Shiraz. We will be staying in Shiraz for two nights at a friendly local hotel.
The very name Shiraz evokes images of ancient Persia: exotic, tranquil gardens, lavish mansions, colourful woollen rugs, art, philosophy, poetry and of course, the famous Shiraz red wine (although it's no longer found here).
Shiraz is also a renowned centre of learning and boasts many of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country. Known as Iran's cultural capital, this city was home to two of Persia's most famous poets in the 13th and 14th centuries, Hafez and Saadi, whose mausoleums are found here.
If you're interested in seeing the work of some young Iranian artists, stop off at Khan-e Zinat ol-Molk, near the Orange Garden, as many of the beautifully decorated rooms here are used as galleries. Wandering the streets here can be an enjoyable way to discover the city, getting lost in the bazaar and admiring the impressive architecture, particularly some of the incredible mosques and shady gardens.
The next day is free for you to explore Shiraz, with the possibility of visiting the King of the Lamp Tomb and the Vakil Bazaar. Wandering the many markets and bazaars here will also give you a wonderful insight into the Iranian way of life. Second night in friendly local hotel in Shiraz.
- Guided tour of ancient ruins of Persepolis
- Hafez Tomb, Shiraz - Free
- Vakil Bazaar, Shiraz - Free
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 24-26 Esfahan
Most of today will be spent travelling as we drive from Shiraz to the friendly and awe-inspiringly beautiful city of Esfahan. We will be staying here for 3 nights allowing us plenty of time to explore, basing ourselves at a friendly local hotel.
Esfahan, the pearl in the Persian crown, is quite simply one of the finest places in the Islamic world and a visit here will leave you breathless. A 16th-century rhyme called it 'half the world' and after spending a few days here, you might agree. There's an abundance of fine Islamic buildings, most of which are covered with the blue mosaic tiles Iran is famous for. There's also an enormous bazaar, which is perfect for shopping for exquisite Persian carpets, tranquil gardens, picturesque bridges and superb palaces.
The following day we will tour the main sites in the city with our local guide. We will visit the Blue Immam Mosque, Ali Qapu Place,and the Jameh Mosque and Bazaar.
The third day here is free to explore Esfahan.
- Jameh Mosque, Esfahan - IRR5000.00
- Ali Qapu Palace, Esfahan - Free
- Iman Mosque entrance and guided tour, Esfahan - Free
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 27-28 Tehran
We have a 439 km drive to Tehran. This afternoon there will be an optional walking tour of Tehran's old town, visiting the historic square and National Museum. While in Tehran we stay in a comfortable hotel.
Iran's capital is exciting, noisy and chaotic. Home to 15 million people, Tehran is where the country's true national identity is found. Expect to see women wearing full-length chador competing for space with young and hip girls in figure-hugging manteau and headscarves. Also expect to be stopped by friendly locals who love nothing more than to chat with you about anything and everything.
The next day here is free to relax and explore the city.
In your free time you shouldn't miss the Golestan Palace, this extravagant fairytale of a building was historically the royal Qajar complex, the seat of the Shahs of Persia. The many museums here are also well worth a visit if you're interested in learning more about the history and culture of Iran, in particular the National Museum, Carpet Museum of Iran and Niavaran Palace Complex. Tehran is also home to the Iranian Imperial Crown Jewels, also called the Imperial Crown Jewels of Persia, claimed to be the largest, most dazzling and valuable jewel collection in the world. The collection includes crowns and thrones, 30 tiaras, jewel-studded swords and shields and a vast number of loose precious gems, including the emeralds, rubies and diamonds. The Jewels are on display in the Iranian Central Bank. For a completely different perspective on Iran today, The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art features the works of great artists such as Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.
- Iran National Museum, Tehran - Free
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 29-30 Bush Camp
Today we will drive roughly 280 km to Zanjan, We will wild camp overnight.
Zanjan is located in the north-west of Iran in a region known locally as the 'Iranian Azerbaijan'. Zanjan city is the provinces capital and lies roughly 330Km of Tehran. This thriving town is know throughout Iran for its beautiful handicrafts such as knives, traditional sandals called charoogh and malileh. Zanjan is also known for its stainless and sharp knives and can be found today in the lively bazaar and its many shops along the main streets. However perhaps its most famous exports are the stunning carpets that come from this region. Many villagers are traditional carpet weavers so this certainly would be a great place to bargain for that Persian rug you have always dreamed of.
The following day we drive 360 km to Kandovan, an ancient volcanic village. We will camp the night here.
Kandovan is one of Iran's hidden gems. The landscape around Kandovan has been shaped by volcanic eruptions and is similar to the more famous Cappadocia in Central Turkey. In this unusual spot, locals live within the caves and it is certainly one of Iran's more off the beaten track destinations.
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nts)
Day 31 Dogubayazit
Today we leave Iran behind and cross the border into Turkey. Our destination is the pleasant small town of Dogubeyazit. Depending on how long it takes us to cross the border, we will probably arrive in the early afternoon, allowing you some time to relax and explore the town. If time permits, we will be able to visit the Ishak Pasha palace and Turkish baths. Tonight we will stay in a small local hotel.
Dogubayazit is a small town in eastern Turkey situated at the foot of Mount Ararat, where Noah’s Ark reputedly came to rest after The Flood. On a hill behind Dogubayazit, is the Ishak Pasha palace. This fortress was built from 1685 and was home to a Kurdish chieftain. In its heyday, it stood complete with huge golden gates, which remained in place until a Russian raid in 1917. They are now housed in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.
- Hot Springs, Dogubayazit, Dogubayazit - USD9.00
- Ishak Pasha Palace, Dogubayazit - Free
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 32-33 Bush Camp
Heading west, we overland through rural Turkey, heading towards Goreme. We spend these two nights bushcamping.
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nts)
Days 34-35 Goreme
Leaving our bush camp we continue our drive towards Goreme, arriving in the afternoon. We will stay here for 3 nights giving us two full days to explore the area. Whilst in Goreme we will camp at a well-equipped campsite.
In the heart of Cappadocia, the town of Goreme lies in a fantastic region of cones, needles and columns, fashioned by nature from the soft volcanic tuff rock. It's honeycombed with caves scooped out to make churches and dwellings that are known as fairy chimneys and castles. In times of peace, the people in this region lived on the land but in times of war or persecution they took to living underground.
We now have a full day to explore Goreme, including a guided tour of the enchanted valley of Cappadocia. Second night staying at campsite with good facilities.
- Guided Tour of Cappadocia
- Hot Air Ballooning, Goreme, Goreme - EUR120.00
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Day 36 Tuz Golu
Drive from Goreme towards Istanbul, stopping off at Toz Golu en route. Tonight we will be bushcamping.
Lake Tuz is the third largest lake in Turkey, and the phrase "Tuz Golu" means "Salt Lake". In the summer there is up to 30 cm of a salt layer on the dried lake, but as the winter months come in, it is dissolved by the waters of the lake that are fed from channels and streams around the area. The salt is important to the Central Anatolia Region, because it can be extracted and sold in local markets.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Days 37-39 Istanbul
Today we will arrive in Istanbul, the only city in the world that straddles two continents. Whilst we are here we stay in a friendly local hostel with good facilities.
Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, so it will come as no surprise that this vast metropolis is home to a beguiling mix of different cultures and traditions, blending the influences of both east and west. Originally founded by Greek settlers over 2000 years ago, Istanbul originally went by the name of Byzantium, then Constantinople when the Romans made it the capital of their eastern empire. Today, intriguing Istanbul is a bustling mega-city with a population of over 12 million people and a rich history and food scene waiting to be explored.
The following day is a full day free to explore Istanbul and an optional walking tour is available.
The third day in Istanbul is departure day. There are no activities planned and you may depart at any time.
- Istanbul - Archaeology Museum, Istanbul - TRY10.00
- Istanbul - Aya Sofya, Istanbul - TRY25.00
- Ancient Cistern, Istanbul - TRY10.00
- Istanbul - Blue Mosque, Istanbul - Free
- Istanbul - Topkapi Palace (incl. harem), Istanbul - TRY35.00
- Istanbul - Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul - TRY10.00
Hotel (2 nts)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
- Silk Road Journey (CBSK)
- Silk Road Journey (CBSK)
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
We must emphasise that the routes, activities and places visited described in these trip notes are intentions and are meant as a rough guide only. We intend following the route detailed but exact night stops cannot be guaranteed. It sometimes happens that we decide to make a change to our basic planned itinerary. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, road or bureaucratic conditions may demand it. Or it may be because we find a better, more interesting route. While actually en route, unexpected hospitality, a local festival or a great place to chill out can determine our exact route and itinerary on any given trip.
Overnight stops and driving distances each day may vary to best suit the needs of the group.
Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
In these parts of the world you'll need to be healthy enough to cope with extremes of climate; from hot deserts through to the cold of high mountain areas.
Overland travelling can be demanding - long, rough travel days and dusty conditions can be challenging to some. You'll need to be fit enough to help every day with the camp chores (cooking, washing up, general camp set up) as well as putting up, and taking down your own tent. There are some long driving days and some early morning starts. The step-up into the overland vehicle, while not overly high can become tiring. You need to judge if you are physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down the step at least 8-10 times a day.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
On this trip it's compulsory to contribute to a kitty. The kitty is an on-ground payment put into a central fund and overseen by travellers and the crew. It helps fund accommodation, camp meals and some included activities. Kitty amounts are subject to change to reflect local price increases. Please check our website for the up-to-date amount 48 hours prior to your trip commencement.
Your kitty will be collected when you arrive for your trip, either on day 1 or, if on a combination trip, in stages throughout your trip.
You may pay your kitty in a mixture of US Dollars cash and the rest in local currency (amount and type of currency to be agreed by the leader at the start of the trip). Most of our travellers chose to bring a cash passport with them for withdrawing local currency (you can visit www.cashpassport.com for further information on these). This is a very secure way of carrying your money whilst travelling. You treat them exactly like an ATM card and draw out local currency from an ATM to give to your leader within each country.
If you do choose to pay part in local currency your trip leader will confirm the current exchange rates with you so you will know exactly how much to hand over.
Travellers cheques have become increasingly difficult to change around the world with passengers and our leaders experiencing huge frustration and numerous hours spent trying to find a bank which will change travellers cheques. For this reason we no longer accept them on our trips.
For our Central Asia trips, it needs to be noted that travellers cheques may not be widely accepted in some of the places you're travelling to. Please review the Money Exchange section for more detail.
As our kitty is flexible the indicated amount is indicative only. Follow the link below to view the kitty amount for your departure date.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
The official currency in Uzbekistan is the Uzbekistan Som (UZS).
This can only be obtained in Uzbekistan. Conversion of UZS back into other foreign currencies may prove difficult.
Banks are rarely able to exchange foreign currency so you should ask the advice of your hotel or leader for where to change money. There are also many private money changers in Uzbekistan but if you choose to use them you must be sure to check the rate and your change carefully.
Major credit cards are rarely accepted in shops and restaurants even in bigger cities. Some banks in Tashkent will allow cash advances against a credit card but cash withdrawals are subject to a 5% or more service charge.
In Tashkent you may be able to find ATMs that accept international cards and use them to withdraw local currency; however these should not be relied on as your sole financial source. Some souvenir sellers and tourist restaurants may accept USD or EUR as payment but all other purchases in Uzbekistan must be made in local currency.
Please note that you must declare ALL currency (including travellers cheques) on entry to and exit Uzbekistan. Failure to do so accurately, or exiting the country with more currency than when you entered may result in delays, fines or the additional sums being confiscated.
The official currency of Turkmenistan is the manat (M). It’s set at a fixed government exchange rate, but traded for far less on the black market. As ATM's are virtually non-existent, you're best to exchange foreign currency once inside the country. Don't bother with travellers cheques - they're not accepted anywhere. The black market is easy and accessible to foreigners, and the only place you’ll get a realistic exchange rate.
The official unit of currency is the Iranian rial (IRR), but locals almost always talk in terms of tomans, a unit equal to 10 rials.
Iran is very much a cash economy. This means travellers can rarely use debit or credit cards or travellers cheques while in Iran. There may be rare occasions in tourist-orientated shops that credit cards are accepted, otherwise cash is the main method of trade in Iran.
US dollars and euro notes are the only hard currencies accepted by Iranian banks and money changers (please don't bring British pounds as it's very difficult to find banks that will change them). Having those notes changed into Iranian rials is a fairly simple exercise. Please make sure that all the bills are unmarked and undamaged in any way and were printed since 1996. New and fresh notes are preferred in most banks. You'll get a slightly higher rate for larger notes (50 and 100 notes) but also bring plenty of smaller denominations (5, 10, 20 etc).
Upon arrival at the Tehran airport there are a few places where you can change money. However we do not recommend that you change your money in the Airport because the rate you will get is dramatically different to what you will get at a money exchange downtown. If you need to, change just a small amount at the airport on arrival and the rest at a money changer in the city. There are quite a few located along the main street near the hotel. Ask your leader to take you to one.
Please note that if you run out of money while in Iran it can be difficult, expensive and time consuming to find banks that can transfer money over to you. Before leaving for Iran, calculate how much money you think you'll need in either US dollars or euros and take that with you, plus a bit extra. This should cover all optional activities, meals, special clothing requirements, some souvenirs and other items. If you're a big shopper (and there are so many great things to buy in Iran, especially carpets) we recommend you bring more. Please take into consideration the safety issues of carrying so much cash with you - bringing a money belt with you is absolutely essential. Thankfully Iran is one of the safest countries that you'll probably ever visit and crime against foreigners is virtually unheard of.
Banks and money changers can be found in most of the places that we visit throughout the country. The largest Iranian rial note is the IRR20,000 note (approx US$2) but the IRR10,000 notes (approx US$1) are far more widely used. Thankfully new 'Iranian travellers cheques' make dealing with such large numbers of rials much easier. It's a lot safer and easier than carrying around huge wads of notes. It's especially useful for people who may need to spend up big on that special gift (carpets!). These cheques are available in 1 million and 500,000 rial denominations and can be organised easily in most Iranian banks. Changing them back into Iranian rial notes is trouble free. Note: you can't change Iranian rials into hard currency outside of Iran.
The official currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY, although prior to 2005 the currency code was TL).
ATMs are common throughout the main cities and these are a safe and convenient way to withdraw money. Credit cards are also widely accepted. Cash in any of the major currencies (EUR, GBP and USD) is easily changed. Travellers cheques in major currencies (EUR, GBP and USD) can be changed at selected local banks but it can be time consuming and subject to high fees.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you're happy with the service you receive, providing a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
Due to a British government travel warning, from September 2012 this itinerary will no longer be able to visit Iran. It will instead travel from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan and then through Georgia to Turkey. Passengers already booked to travel in 2012 have been notified. The new itinerary for 2013 will be published by November.
Please note this Intrepid trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Your departure will be run in a Dragoman vehicle with a Dragoman crew.
The minimum age for this trip is 18 years old and bookings for minors, even if accompanied by a parent, cannot be accepted.
EXPORTS / IMPORTS:
An export certificate is required to take carpets and anything else considered antique out of Turkmenistan. Export certificates are available from the Carpet Museum or this can be arranged through the seller. It is also important to catalogue and declare to Customs any carpets or anything antique looking - even if clearly from a different part of the world - that you bring into Iran and Turkmenistan with you.
You should carry an identity document at all times while in Tashkent and in Ashgabat. Requests to produce proof of identity, for example by the police, are frequent.
RAMADAN & THE EID UL-FITR FESTIVAL (BAYRAM) 2012:
In 2012 the important month of Ramadan will be in progress from the 20th July through till the 18th August, and the Eid ul-Fitr festival will be held directly at its conclusion for 3-4 days. Ramadan is a festival of sacrifice where the devout refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours. During Ramadan business hours are shortened, including opening hours at some tourist attractions. Alcohol is not permitted during daylight hours and many restaurants will be closed. While you should expect some delays and inconveniences during this period, the month is a fantastic opportunity to travel in a Muslim country and witness this unique period, particularly the nightly celebrations when the sun sets and the fast is broken. Please note that although the Eid ul-Fitr festival can also be a fascinating time to travel it is a period of National holiday. Most government offices and businesses will be closed and some tourist site opening hours may be impacted.
Maximum of 21 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit:
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own room (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Hotel (26 nts), Bush camp (no facilities) (7 nts), Camping (with facilities) (2 nts), Guesthouse (1 nt), Yurt (1 nt)
The type and variety of accommodation is determined by conditions on each of our routes. Each route is different - on some we use a mixture of campsites and wild camps; on others we also use hotels.
Where it's not practical to camp (ie: in towns and cities), we use hotel accommodation and eat out in local restaurants. The frequency and regularity of hotel stops depends on the route and area.
Campsites will range from rather basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and bars. In some cases it may also be possible to upgrade locally to bungalows, lodges or even tree-houses. One of the highlights of overlanding is that in more remote areas we will wild-camp. This allows us to get far away from the tourist crowds to some beautiful, secluded spots. We will also arrange as many village or local homestays as possible, allowing us to get close to indigenous populations and ensures our money stays within local communities.
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
All meals when camping
Your kitty covers the cost of any meals while staying at camp sites.
Roads can be very rough which makes for long, slow travel days. It's all worth it however for the spectacular scenery and novelty of truck travel.
On all of our Dragoman-operated Overlanding trips you will be accompanied by two Western crew members who are responsible for the group and the overall organisation of the trip.
While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad knowledge of the places visited and to offer suggestions of things to do and see. In East and Southern Africa we will also have an African camp master/cook who is in charge of running the camp and organising all of the meals. Their knowledge of the local produce makes shopping at the markets great fun and you will learn how to prepare and cook some unusual dishes. In the rest of Africa, South America and the majority of Central Asia and China we use local guides who may stay with us for just a few hours or will actually travel with us for some or all of the journey. In these cases they become a third crew member and are able to offer their local knowledge as well as a real insight into the lives of the local people. Our crew are chosen for their leadership skills, and most importantly have a passion for the region and its people.
We endeavour to provide the services of an experienced leader and crew; however, situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders
On any Overland trip, there are a number of tasks that need to be done. Our overland trip leaders will organise the group into smaller groups of two or three who will take turns in the daily shopping and cooking, vehicle cleaning, disposing of rubbish, etc. There are also a number of other jobs that need doing e.g. collecting water and firewood, luggage loading, supervising the kitty and food stores, which may be assigned to particular people or on a rota system according to group size, make-up, and so on. You must come prepared to 'pull your weight' and share in these duties; you will become very unpopular with other group members if they have to do your share. The more you put into a trip, the more you'll benefit.
Grand Orzu Hotel
27 Makhmud Tarobi Street
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, following the Joining Instructions in these Trip Notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
Akbiyik Caddesi no:13
Finish point description
The Orient Hostel Istanbul is ideally located close by to the Topkapi Palace, Saint Sophia, The Blue Mosque, Yerebatan Cistern, Hippodrome, numerous museums are only 200m away, the Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, Cemberlitas, and Beyazit are an easy walk. It is also in a easily accessible location to transport and public services. Please note the rooms are small at this hostel.
Finish point instructions
If you have pre booked a departure transfer, please inform your leader and they will notify you of your departure transfer time.
If you are making your own way to the airport the hotel will be able to help book you an airport shuttle or taxi. Please ask at reception.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
CENTRAL ASIA VISAS:
Visas for this trip can take many weeks to be issued so book early. The process can be quite complicated and you are urged to read the information provided carefully, as well as do your own research. The process of getting a visa can be further complicated if you are doing further travel before this trip, so we suggest booking this trip on its own, or doing it at the beginning of your broader travel plans.
Central Asia visa support letters are included in the trip price, however these are not the actual visas. Visa costs are a separate to the trip price.
Dragoman sends out a Central Asia Visa information form. Please read the information carefully and ensure that you send the Central Asia Visa Form, with a scanned copy of the details page of your passport, to us at least 8 weeks before the trip departure date. Even if you are on a trip where many visas will be obtained en-route, it is still vitally important that we receive the form and the copy of your passport as we need to apply for travel permits.
For Turkey, an entry visa is required for citizens of the following countries (not limited to this list):
- USA (US$20),
- Canada (US$60 on arrival; CAD$75 for advance application)
- U.K. (US$20; GBP45 for advance application)
- Australia (US$20 on arrival)
- Austria, Belgium, Canada, Holland, Ireland, Israel, Portugal & Spain (varies from US$10-100)
The visa costs can change at any time and with little notice depending on the political climate of the region.
A valid passport is sufficient for citizens of most other countries including New Zealand, Argentina, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland for stays up to 3 months. All other nationalities please check with your nearest Turkish embassy.
Generally visas can easily be attained on arrival. Visas obtained on entry must be paid in cash in US$ so ensure you have some on hand. Depending on your nationality, visas are either valid for 3 months or 1 year.
The visa process for Iran and countries in Central Asia can be quite complicated and time consuming. We highly recommend that you use the services of a qualified visa agent for the process. Your booking agent can advise of a reputable service.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
The climate in this region is extremely varied. As you will be experiencing a range of altitudes and landscapes we recommend that you bring clothes suitable for weather above 30 C as well as some warm clothes for when in the mountains and countryside areas as temperatures can be close to or even below freezing.
Please bring a sleeping bag (4-season is recommended - check what the weather will be like over the dates you are travelling), sleeping mat and a pillow as these items are not provided.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Where we use a local partner to fully operate one of our itineraries, we use the travel advisory of the country where that operator is based rather than the Australian DFAT advisory. This itinerary is operated by our local partners Dragoman, and as such will follow the British Government (FCO) Travel Advice. To view these travel advisories please log on to:
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
We recommend that you dress respectfully at all stages of the trip especially when in and around religious sites. In Central Asia both men and women generally dress very conservatively by covering their legs and shoulders. Women are advised to cover their heads when entering functioning Orthodox churches and mosques, while men should remove their hats.
Iran is a traditional Islamic nation and a strict dress code is enforced throughout the country. The code of dress must be adhered to at all times. Men must wear long trousers at all times and generally keep themselves neat and tidy. Loose fitting cotton pants are preferable for the Iranian heat. Short sleeve shirts that cover your shoulders and open-toed sandals are now acceptable for men - but ankles must be covered and full-length shirts must be worn at religious sites.
Women must wear the hejab at all times, apart from in their hotel bedrooms of course. A hejab consists of the manteau, a loose-fitting trench coat that comes down to just above your knees, plus a headscarf. A headscarf can be of any colour but you'll be better received if you're wearing a darker colour. It's now perfectly OK for women to wear a headscarf that shows some of their fringe and you'll see many ladies doing so. A manteau can be purchased in some of the shops along Ferdosi St in Tehran, a short walk away from the Atlas Hotel, for about US$15 and different styles of headscarves are available for about US$4. Your group leader will advise you of what attire is appropriate during the welcome meeting.
Upon arrival in Iran, women not wearing a headscarf, long sleeves, sealed shoes and a loose fitting skirt or pants may be refused entry into the country (to avoid this problem bring a thin full-length raincoat, long sleeved shirt or tunic from home if you choose to buy a manteau after you arrive). Men must be wearing long trousers upon arrival and shirts that cover their shoulder, or they to may be refused entry.
Ladies, please don't bring any tight-fitting clothing with you to Iran as it's forbidden to show any hint of the shape of your body. Many Iranian women wear western-style clothing and you'll be shocked at how trendy these girls can be. Make up, lipstick and nail-polish, however are all the rage and don't be surprised if these ladies outdo even yourself when it comes to looking the part. The most comfortable clothing to wear underneath your manteau are full-length, lightweight cotton garments like trousers or even skirts. Women must also wear covered shoes or sandals that cover their ankles and skin.
Alcohol is strictly forbidden in Iran and will be confiscated at customs by anyone attempting to bring it into the country.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
After your travels, we want to hear from you! This is so important to us that we'll give you 5% off the price of your next trip if your feedback is completed online within 4 weeks of finishing your trip.