Discover Turkmenistan

Ashgabat, Merv, Mary

For anyone wishing to travel off the beaten path, Turkmenistan will not disappoint. Counted among the least-visited countries on earth, this secluded desert enclave offers audacious travelers experiences unmatched in Central Asia or the world. Consider Ashgabat, the modern marble capital rebuilt in recent years in all its gaudy opulence around the persona of Turkmenbashy, which sits in sharp contrast to the remains of the formerly great civilizations at Old Nisa and Merv. Similarly, visiting the bustling Gulistan Bazaar and the long-deserted homes of ancient Parthian dignitaries on the same day will leave an impression not adequately conveyed through words.
Our Discover Turkmenistan Tour will acquaint you with some of Turkmenistan’s key historical sites at Old Nisa, Merv and Mary without compromising on adequate time spent in Ashgabat to see its eccentric landmarks firsthand. You’ll have accommodation in hotels each night and be accompanied on your tours of Ashgabat and Merv by local guides eager to share stories behind each landmark and answer your questions along the way.

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.
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.
  • National Museum of History, displaying over half a million items from every region of the country, including rare and priceless artifacts from ancient times through the Middle Ages.
  • Gulistan Bazaar (also known as the Russian Bazaar), one of the oldest markets in the city, a clean yet lively place to buy snacks and mingle with local shoppers.
Tour duration: approximately 5 hours
After your tour, transfer to the domestic airport to catch a flight from Ashgabat to Mary (370 km, 40 min). Upon arrival in Mary, transfer to the hotel.
Overnight in the Mary hotel.
After breakfast your guide and driver will meet you at the hotel reception. Travel to Merv (40 km., 40min), 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 the 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.
Check out by noon and transfer to the airport for departure to your next destination. End of the Discover Turkmenistan Tour.
  • Accommodation based on double/twin room in a hotel, with breakfast (3 nights);
  • Transportation – all transfers, pick and drop from airports (1-2 people in sedan, 3-8 in minivan);
  • Private, local English-speaking escort guide;
  • Entrance fees to the sights as per itinerary;
  • Economy class flight tickets from Ashgabat-Mary and Mary-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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