Travel the central Silk Road from Turkmenistan to Kyrgyzstan

Follow the central Silk Road through Turkmenistan’s harshly beautiful deserts, Uzbekistan’s soaring mountain ranges and Kyrgyzstan’s sublime lakes. Travel to a land once home to brutal yet sophisticated khans and sultans, as well as the furthest reaches of the USSR. Offering the bold traveller a startling vision of Central Asian culture, from the futuristic Ashgabat to the relaxed charm of Bishkek, this central Silk Road journey is an enlightening experience full of memories to last a lifetime.

Start
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Finish
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Countries
Kyrgyzstan,
Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan
Themes
Overland
Code
KDOXC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 4 Max 19
Carbon offset
1 230kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Visit the wilds of Chong Kemin National Park
  • Be amazed by the ferocity of the Darvaza Gas Crate
  • Walk the lively streets of Ashgabat
  • Uncover Soviet memorabilia in Chorsu Bazaar
  • Practise your echoes in the canyons of Djety Oguz

Itinerary

Border Information: Welcome to the amazing city of Ashgabat: If joining in Ashgabat, enter Turkmensitan at Ashgabat Airport.

Today there will be a group meeting at 10:00 Hrs.

In the afternoon we make a visit to Ashgabat's famous Sunday market. Tonight we stay in a good quality hotel in Ashgabat.

Hotel for the night: Ak Altyn

Ak Altyn Hotel
141/1 Magtymguly ave.
Ashgabat
744000
Turkmenistan
Tel: +99312-363700
Fax: +99312-363494
After breakfast we drive out into the Karakum Desert. If time allows we will make a side trip to see the amazing Darwasa Gas Crater. Overnight near Darwasa where we will wildcamp.
Activity

Explore, shop, and haggle at the vast Altyn Asyr Sunday Bazaar 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 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. 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.
Drive time - 6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions - however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, borders and many other factors -
flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

Activity

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

About Darvaza: From Darvaza, 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!
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.
Drive time - 7-8 hours.

Activity

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 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.
Border Information: Exit Turkmeistan at Shovot, enter Uzbekistan at Nijazov.

This morning we drive to the border with Uzbekistan. Crossing the border around lunchtime we then continue on to Khiva. We stay in Khiva for 2 nights in a comfortable hotel.

This morning we have a guided tour of this ancient city. The afternoon is free to explore this wonderfully preserved Khanate town. Second night in a comfortable hotel.

Activity

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 onument 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 Khwarezmia and the Khanate of Khiva, a central asian state that existed from the 1500's 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, you should make sure you visit the Kukhna Ark & Juma Mosque, Pakhlovan Mahmus Mausoleum and Islam Hodja Madrassa.
Leaving Khiva, most of today will be spent travelling. Our destination is the fascinating city of Bukhara where will spend the next 3 nights. Overnight in comfortable local hotel.

Today we will have a tour of Bukhara and the surrounding area, including the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Kalon Mosque, Zindon Prison and Ark Fortress. Second night in a comfortable local hotel.

Today 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. Third night in comfortable local hotel.
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

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
Visit the gruesome museum at the old prison of Zindon UZS 4500
Explore the city's oldest Islamic monument, the 10thcentury
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
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!
Tonight we will stay in a desert yurt camp.
Drive time - 7-8 hours.

Activity

Spend the night in nomadic yurts out in the the
Kyzylkhum Desert Included in Kitty
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.
Drive time - 4-5 hours.
Today we will have a guided tour of the incredible historic city of Samarkand
and the surrounding area, including the Registan, Ulug Beg Observatory, Bibi-
Khanym 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.
This morning we will have a little more free time to explore more of
Samarkand. After lunch we will drive to the Soviet city of Tashkent.
In Tashkent we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
Drive time - 5-6 hours.

Activity

Explore the stunning green city of Shahrisabz, the centre
of folk art in Uzbekistan and the birthplace of the
medieval warlord Timur
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 worldfamous
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
Today we will have a free day to explore Tashkent.
Border Information: if joining in Tashkent, you will most likely enter
Uzbekistan at Tashkent International Airport.
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

Activity

Take in an opera performance at the neoclassical Alisher
Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre UZS 1500
Explore the delightful traditional farmer's market at the
Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent's Old Town
See the grand 16th-century Kukeldash Madrassa and the
city's principal Juma Mosque in the Old Town
See the grand 16th-century Kukeldash Madrassa and the
city's principal Juma Mosque in the Old Town
This morning we travel in local transport over the Kamchik Pass 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 to Ferghana. The truck must pass over the Kamchik Pass without passengers and will rejoin
us this evening in Ferghana.

Activity
Take in an opera performance at the neoclassical Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre UZS1500
Explore the delightful traditional farmer's market at the Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent's Old Town
See the grand 16th-century Kukeldash Madrassa and the city's principal Juma Mosque in the Old Town
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 USD5

In Ferghana we will stay in a basic local hotel.

Drive time - 6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions - however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, borders and many other factors -
flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

Activity
Visit the beautiful and ornate Palace of Khudayar Khan in Kokand UZS3000
Explore the impressive 19th-century Juma Mosque in Kokand in the stunning Ferghana Valley UZS1000
See the silk-weavers of the Ferghana Valley at the Yodgorlik Silk Factory

About Ferghana City:
Similar to the Uzbek capital Tashkent, Ferghana is a modern city, far-removed from the ancient Silk Road cities of Bukhara and Samarkand. The town is located in the Fergahana Valley, a broad bowl thousands of kilometres wide surrounded by far off mountain peaks. Nearly 90% of people who live here are indigenous Uzbek's and the communities here are typically very welcoming and hosptiable. A very fertile area, the land is highly cultivated and used to produce fruit and vegetables and cotton. The textile industry thrives here and there are some exceptional craftspeople weaving beautiful fabrics. It may be possible for you to visit a local factory or workshop where you will be able to
see how silkand other fabrics are still hand-woven and dyed here. About Fergana Mountains: We spend three days driving slowly through this stunning mountain range, stopping at beautiful lakes and streams and meeting the local Takik and Kyrgz people. We camp out in this area, sometimes staying
with a local family. This has to be one of the most relaxed and beautiful journeys that Dragoman makes.
Border information: Exit Uzbekistan at Andijon, Enter Kyrgyzstan at Dustlik.

This morning we leave Uzbekistan behind as we make our way to the magical kingdom of Kyrgyzstan.

Once we have crossed the border we continue our journey to Arslanbob in Kyrgyzstan's Ferghana valley. There are many opportunities for hiking in this area.

We stay overnight in a local guesthouse.
You'll spend the next 3 days overlanding through the stunning Kyrgyz Fergana Valley Camping en route.

Please note that trips running in May to mid-June, October and November Will not camp if temperatures are too low. Instead we will stay in local guesthouses along the route. We will need to remain flexible with these itineraries as temperatures can vary.
Morning drive to Song-Kul Lake where you spend the next two nights. The afternoon and tomorrow is free to explore the area; Options include hiking, riding on horses or watching a game of goat polo! Tonight we stay in felt yurts.

Please note that trips running in May to mid-June, October and November will not visit Song-Kul Lake as temperatures will be below freezing. Instead we will stay in yurts on the Southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul. We will need to remain flexible with these itineraries as temperatures can vary.
Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor where we stay in local homes 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.

Accommodation is in home stays, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.
Today we drive to the alpine trekking region of Jeti-Oghuz. We spend 2 nights here to give you time for valley and canyon hikes.

Overnight Camp.

Please note that trips running in May to mid-June, October and November will not camp if temperatures are too low. Instead we will stay for 1 night in Jeti-Oghuz in a local hotel and then spend the second night in Altyn Arashan, a hot spring development enroute to Karakol again in a local hotel. We will need to remain flexible with these itineraries as temperatures can vary.
Today you drive to the Russian-style town of Karakol.

Overnight in a local hotel.
Today is free to explore this stunning area including opportunities for short hikes and possibly the chance to meet nomadic Kyrgyz families in the surrounding area.

We will camp overnight.

Please note that trips running in May to mid-June, October and November will not camp in the Chong Kemin Valley if temperatures are too low. Instead we will stay in a small village called Semyenovka and overnight in yurts. We will need to remain flexible with these itineraries as temperatures can vary.
Free morning for hiking and exploring the area. Late afternoon short drive to Bishkek. Staying in Bishkek in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

Border Information: If finishing in Bishkek, exit Kyrgyzstan at Bishkek Airport.

Free time in Bishkek.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
n/a
Transport
Overland vehicle
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (9 nights), Guesthouse (1 night), Homestay (1 night), Hotel (14 nights), Yurt (3 nights)

Dates

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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. Combination trip. Please see Trip Notes (Important Notes) for more details.
5. Local Partner: 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.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide 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.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Ashgabat to Bishkek trips score an average of 4.5 out of 5 based on 2 reviews in the last year.

Ashgabat to Bishkek , May 2016

Ashgabat to Bishkek , June 2014

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