Relive the dynasty of Tamerlane on this Silk Road adventure

Strategically positioned along the Silk Route, the cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva were famed trading centres for the caravans that passed this way in ancient times. On this Overland trip we follow in their footsteps, discovering magnificent architecture and bustling bazaars that have changed little since the rule of Tamerlane. We'll stay with nomads in the Kyzylkum Desert, explore the imposing Oxus Valley, tour the wonders of Samarkand and head into the markets of Ashgabat to practise our bargaining skills.

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Physical rating
Min 18
Group size
Min 4, Max 22

Why you'll love this trip

  • Gaze up at the ancient walls surrounding Khiva

  • Discover the futuristic architecture of Ashgabat

  • Learn about Tamerlane's dynasty

  • Walk through Bukhara's historic Old Town

  • Pick up souvenirs in the bazaars of Tashkent

  • Discover the romance of the Silk Road in Samarkand

  • Spend a memorable night in a yurt stay


Border Information: if joining in Ashgabat, you will most likely enter Turkmenistan at Ashgabat International Airport (IATA code: ASB). 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. After the meeting we will visit the famous Ashgabat Sunday Market. In the afternoon we will then have an included tour of the city of Ashgabat using local minibuses.

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 decent quality local hotel. 

*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
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 set off north from Ashgabat and head into 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 - 5-6 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!).

Activity Approximate Cost
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!
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will continue our overland journey north across the Karakum. We will visit the Kunye Urgench ruins towards the end of the day. We will wild camp in the deserts near Kunye Urgench tonight. Estimated Drive Time - 6-7 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Overland into the green Oxus Valley to the ancient ruined city of Kunye Urgench 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 11thCentury 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.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Border Information: Exit Turkmenistan at Shovot, enter Uzbekistan at Nijazov. This morning we will visit the markets in the border town of Dashoguz, before driving across the border into Uzbekistan and continue to the beautiful historic town of Khiva. Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours. The following 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.

Activity Approximate Cost
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.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will have a full day's drive to the fascinating city of Bukhara, where will spend the next 3 nights. In Bukhara we will stay in a comfortable local hotel. Estimated Drive Time - 8-10 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 he 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.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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.

Activity Approximate Cost
Watch an entertaining evening puppet show, featuring many local Uzbek and Tajik poems and songs USD 5
Visit the magnificent 16th-centrury architectural ensemble surrounding the Lyab-i Hauz ponds, once the city's principal source of water Included in Kitty
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
Explore the city's oldest Islamic monument, the 10th-century mausoleum of Ismail Samanid, the founder of the Samanid Dynasty 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
Discover the ruins of the ancient 5th-century fortress of the Bukhara Ark Included in Kitty
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 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 - 4-6 hours.

Activity Approximate Cost
Overnight in the Kyzylkum Desert staying in yurts. Included in Kitty
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning we will spend some time exploring the Nurata Hills with the option of taking a dip in Lake Ajdar Kul. After lunch we will drive to 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 - 4-5 hours.

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.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
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 here, we will have a free day to further explore the beautiful city and its surroundings.

Activity Approximate Cost
Visit to Shakhrisabz city USD 20
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
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
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
Wander through the markets and carpet vendors of Samarkand, and marvel at the intricate craftsmanship of the local carpet weavers Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning we will have a little more free time to explore more of Samarkand. After lunch we will drive to the Uzbek capital of 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.
Today we will have a free day to explore Tashkent.

Activity Approximate Cost
Explore urbane Tashkent and experience a surreal cabaret dinner Free
Visit the nightclubs and Imperial Russian-style cabaret restaurants of Tashkent 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
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Border Information: if finishing in Tashkent, you will most likely exit Uzbekistan at Tashkent International Airport (IATA code: TAS). Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Tashkent. 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.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.


No meals are included on this tour


Overland expedition vehicle


Hotels, Wild Camps, Yurts

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Important notes

1. 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.
2. 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. 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.
5. Due to the change of Turkmenistan entry regulation, 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.

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.