Ancient Merv is one of Turkmenistan’s finest prizes, a dusty, forgotten treasure that stands in stark contrast to the immaculate and futuristic aura of nearby capital Ashgabat. The city of Merv once held a place of prominence along the Great Silk Road and was one of the largest cities in the world during its zenith in the 12th-13th centuries. Today it’s marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sits replete with buried stories of its past grandeur among the fortresses, mausoleums and city walls.
The Merv City Tour will unearth these stories as you travel to this hard-to-access site with a private driver and professional local guide, who will relate detailed historical information, popular legends and ongoing discoveries with you as you tour the area together. This package also includes pick-up and drop-off in nearby Mary and transportation in a comfortable vehicle.
Your guide and driver will meet you at your hotel in Mary to begin your city tour of Merv. After driving to ancient Merv (40km, 40min), you’ll explore the following:
- Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum (12th century), although no longer the burial place of the Seljuk ruler Sultan Sanjar, 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 built of mud brick, with no known archeological equivalents today.
- 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 simple 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
- Private, local guide;
- Entrance fees to the sights as per itinerary;
- Transport throughout the tour.