Best of Turkmenistan

Ashgabat, Mary, Merv, Darvaza Gas Crater, Kunya-Urgench

Desert dunes, expansive ancient cities, bizarre natural wonders and a quirky capital - those familiar with Turkmenistan can attest to its signature trademarks that stamp it as a truly one-of-a-kind nation. Visitors with limited time in their schedule need not worry, as you can still get an excellent feel for the country by visiting its most popular cultural and historical destinations.
The Best of Turkmenistan Tour delivers precisely what it promises, an adventure-packed trek into Turkmenistan’s most acclaimed and must-see locales. Perfect for travelers passing through on a transit visa or tourists who wish to combine Turkmenistan with onward travels into wider Central Asia, it combines trips to Mary, Merv, Ashgabat, Darvaza and Kunya-Urgench with personalized tours of each destination and well-organized transport for an unforgettable, 5-day experience of this unique land.

Arrive in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. A driver will meet you at the airport to bring you to your hotel, where check-in begins at noon. Free time to relax at the hotel and enjoy its amenities.
Overnight in Ashgabat hotel.
Take an early morning flight from Ashgabat to Mary (370km, 40min).
Upon arrival your guide and driver will meet you for your drive to Merv (40 km, 40 min), an ancient trade center on the Great Silk Road and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your guided sightseeing tour of Merv will include:
  • Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum (12th century) – considered by many to be the most majestic architectural monument of Merv, this mausoleum amazes with its thick walls, symmetrical proportions and domed top that displays amazing architectural craftsmanship for its day;
  • Greater Kyz Kala and Lesser Kyz Kala (8th-9th centuries) - These unique fortified homes are built of mud brick, with no known archeological equivalents;
  • Askhab Mausoleums (9th-12th centuries) - Built for two of the prophet Muhammad’s earliest disciples, the Askhab Mausoleums are one of Turkmenistan’s most important pilgrimage sites today;
  • Erk Kala (6th century BC), the seat of ancient Merv and its oldest settlement, whose remaining walls are nearly 30 meters high. Climb the walls for a great view of the surrounding area;
  • Gyaur Kala (3rd century BC) - Merv’s second oldest settlement, famous for its thick, 2-km long walls;
  • Beni Makhan Mosque and cistern (7th- 9th centuries) - Also called the Juma Mosque, it’s located in the center of ancient Gyaur Kala, along with an intact cistern that still functions today;
  • Muhammad Ibn Zeid Mausoleum (12th century) - A popular Sufi shrine and one of the city’s finest structures due to its symmetrical architecture and Arabic inscriptions chiseled into its walls.
After completing the sightseeing tour of Old Merv, return to Mary to visit the Mary History Museum. Housed in a marble hall, the museum has six main exhibition rooms holding artifacts from ancient and modern history.
Tour duration: approximately 5 hours

Transfer to the airport upon completion of the tour. Return to Ashgabat on the evening flight.
Overnight in Ashgabat.
Tour Ashgabat with your private local guide and driver. Meet at the hotel for a half-day of sightseeing in the capital:
  • Old Nisa, a spectacular archaeological site just 15km from the city. Nisa was the capital of the Parthian Empire, founded in the 3rd century BC and remaining in power for nearly 500 years. Today it’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site;
  • Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque, the largest mosque in Central Asia. Also referred to as the Spiritual Mosque and the Gypjak Mosque, it includes a mausoleum with the tombs of former president Turkmenbashy and his immediate family members;
  • Arch of Neutrality, a 95-meter-high tower topped with a gold statue of former president Saparmurat Niyazov (Turkmenbashy) that rotates to face the sun. Ride to the top in a funicular to tour a small museum and enjoy a panoramic view of the city;
  • Independence Park, including the yurt-shaped Independence Monument housing the Museum of National Values. The museum is surrounded by lavish fountains, 27 statues of Turkmenistan’s key historical figures and a golden sculpture of Niyazov himself;
  • Statue of Lenin, unique in that it stands on a large base ornately decorated in traditional Turkmen ornamentation.
Tour duration: approximately 4 hours

After sightseeing, drive to the Darvaza Gas Crater (275 km.,4hrs), also known as the Door to Hell. Enjoy the drive through the Karakum Desert, stopping to take photos of sand dunes and camels along the way.

Arrive at the crater in the evening to enjoy a spectacular sunset view before admiring the crater’s flames accentuated by a pitch-black sky. The fire crater is about 80m in diameter and 30m deep, and staring into this ‘Door to Hell’ with your own eyes is an experience like no other. Set up camp and enjoy a meal cooked over the fire as you lounge near the burning crater.

Overnight in tents or a yurt.
Wake up early to see the sunrise and enjoy a camp- style breakfast before continuing your journey. Before leaving the desert, you’ll stop to visit a nearby mud crater with a bubbling liquid at the bottom and a water crater filled with glossy turquoise water.
Depart for Kunya-Urgench, the capital of the Khorezmshah Dynasty (270 km, 4hrs).
Your tour will include:
  • Visit to the Tyurabek-Khanym Mausoleum (14th century), burial site of a Mongolian princess, and the Sayid Ahmed Mausoleum (14th century), burial place of a leader of the Golden Horde. 
  • Discovery of the Kutlug Timur Minaret (11th-13th centuries), which at 62m is the tallest minaret in Central Asia. 
  • Travel to the 12th-century Sultan Tekesh Mausoleum of Khorezmshakh. 
  • Exploration of Kyrk Molla Hill (Forty Mullahs Hill), a fortress covering three hectares of land that includes the famous Mamun Library (8th-9th centuries) and an ancient cemetery believed to hold present-day healing powers. 
  • Walk through the Fakhreddin Razi Mausoleum (a.k.a. mausoleum of Arslan II, 13th century), a rare survivor of the Mongol invasion and one of the oldest, most unique structures in all of Central Asia. 
  • Drive to the Mausoleum of Najmaddin Kubra (12th century), the founder of the Sufi order Kubrawiya, and a favorite pilgrimage site for visiting Muslims.
Tour duration: approximately 2 hours
After the tour, transfer to the airport in Dashoguz (110 km, 1hr,30 min). Catch an evening flight to Ashgabat (449km,50 min). Upon arrival transfer to the hotel.
Overnight in Ashgabat.
Check out by noon and transfer to the airport to depart for your next destination. End of the Best of Turkmenistan Tour.
  • Accommodation based on double/twin room in a hotel, with breakfast (3 nights);
  • Accommodation in a yurt or a tent at Darvaza, shared room, with dinner and breakfast (1 night);
  • Utensils and necessary equipment for camping at Darvaza (sleeping bags, sleeping mats, pillows, dining table, chairs);
  • Transportation – all transfers, pick and drop airports (1-2 people in sedan, 3-8 in minivan, 4WD on day 3 and 4);
  • Private, local English-speaking escort guide;
  • Entrance fees to the sights as per itinerary;
  • Economy class flight tickets from Ashgabat-Mary, Mary-Ashgabat and Dashoguz-Ashgabat (flight times subject to change based upon availability);
  • Visa support letter for Turkmenistan tourist visa;
  • 1L bottle of water per person per day.
  • Consular fees for Turkmenistan tourist visa and migration tax;
  • International flight tickets before and after the tour;
  • Tips are not included (driver, guide, porter);
  • Hotel charges for additional services;
  • Full board (lunches and dinners);
  • Travel insurance;
  • All other charges and services not mentioned under “Inclusions”.

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