The sovereign state of Turkmenistan has been at the crossroads of civilizations for centuries and was an important stop along the great Silk Road. Surprisingly, the country contains the world’s sixth largest reserves of natural gas resources and is mainly covered by the Karakum (Black Sand) Desert. You’ll explore a country like no other with a unique architectural style and buildings made of white marble. You’ll see dazzling mosques, nomadic villages, and ancient city ruins. You’ll also visit the “Gates of Hell,” a natural gas field that was set on fire by geologists in 1971 to prevent the spread of methane gas and continues to burn today.
Day 1 Arrive in Ashgabat
On arrival in Ashgabat around 2:00 am, you will be met and transferred to your centrally located hotel. You will have the entire following day free to rest up, or you can spend some time strolling around town. Ashgabat has been designed to show the world the accomplishments of the Turkmen and the city is like no other. Here you’ll feel as though you are in the midst of a science-fiction movie as you explore its collection of white marble buildings.
Mizan Hotel or similar
Day 2 Ashgabat City Tour
After breakfast, begin an introductory tour of Ashgabat, the largest city and capital of Turkmenistan. Visit the National Museum of Turkmenistan (closed on Tuesdays & during National Holidays), which contains about 500,000 artifacts dedicated to the Bronze Age, Antiquity and Middle age history of Turkmenistan. Other sections of the museum focus on Nature, Ethnography, Military, and Jewelery. The entire second floor of the museum is a platform from where the giant “Turkmenbashi” carpet can be seen.
Next, visit Nisa (also known as Parthaunisa), once an ancient city located near modern-day Bagir village. It is thought to have been founded by Arsaces I (reigned 250–211 BCE) and was supposedly the royal necropolis of the Parthian kings, although it has not been established that the fortress at Nisa was either a royal residence or a mausoleum. The town was a major trading hub during the Parthian Empire, but destroyed by an earthquake around 10 BCE. Archaeological digs have revealed a grandiose archtectural complex consisting of a ceremonial hall, treasure house, and residences.
Also visit Ertugrul Gazi Mosque, built as a gift to the Turkmen nation from Turkey. It contains four minarets and a central dome and has a lavish interior decoration with fine stained-glass windows. The white marbled building is reminiscent of the Blue Mosque of Istanbul. Overnight in Ashgabat.
Mizan Hotel or similar
Day 3 Drive to Derweze
You’ll have some free time this morning before heading out on the drive to Darwaza, about 171 miles north of Ashgabat. Along the way, you can stop to see the Darwaza Gas Crater, locally known as the “Door to Hell” or “Gates of Hell”. This natural gas field collapsed into an underground cavern, but geologists set it on fire to prevent the spread of methane gas. It has been burning continuously since 1971. You’ll also visit Yerbent village, a nomadic style village where people continue their half-nomadic traditions by setting up yurts in front of their simple houses. Enjoy a traditional lunch at Kekirdek on the way to Derweze where you will learn about local customs and traditions.
Day 4 Return to Ashgabat
Early this morning, you’ll make the drive back to Ashgabat where you have some time to freshen up at the hotel. Afterwards, visit the Horse Hippodrome to see the Ahal-teke Horses, the revered breed of Turkmenistan. Next, visit Anau, the medieval city, known for its mosque, Seitjemal-ad-din. This town was a stopping point along the ancient Silk Road. Before returning to the hotel, visit the Alem Center, a cultural center that contains a giant ferris wheel recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s tallest ferris wheel in an enclosed space at the time of the opening ceremony.
Mizan Hotel or similar
Day 5 Flight to Almaty, Kazakhstan
Very early this morning, you’ll be transferred to the airport for your onward flight.
What to Expect
Duration 5 days
Match the trip’s intensity to your ability and motivation.
Easy walking, with opportunities for low-key physical activity.
Energetic exploration with optional day hikes, leisurely cycling, or light canoeing.
Day-long active excursions and options for demanding activity in varied environments.
Strenuous hiking or other intense activity that may be at high altitude or over rough terrain.
Multi-day trekking and other activities requiring endurance or strength. Steep trails. No technical expertise necessary.