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Ashgabat to Istanbul

Asia is the continent where overlanding all started, and Dragoman has been the leading operator there since our first trucks went through in the 1980s - take advantage of our years of experience and come with us as we include all the must-see attractions as well as heading into the wilds, well away from the usual tourist trail. Starting in the magnificent historic city of Istanbul, we overland to the magical land of Cappadocia and to the breathtaking ancient monastery of Sumela. We then head to the wonderful country of Georgia and discover the ancient city of Kutaisi and Stalin's birthplace of Gori before arriving in the delightful capital, Tbilisi. From Tbilisi we journey to the Georgian wine regions of Telavi, before crossing into Azerbaijan and discovering its charming towns and ancient petroglyphs. After an adventurous ferry crossing over the Caspian Sea, we arrive in the reclusive desert land of Turkmenistan, visiting the Kow-Ata underground lake en route to the bizarre capital city of Ashgabat. Join us on this unforgettable epic overlanding experience on the Silk Road!


Duration: 26 Days Guaranteed Departure: Yes
For lovers of: Physical rating: Average
Accommodation standard:   Budget% Traveller Tour Rating: 0%  
Your Guide: English speaking Tour code: 158010
Starts: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan Finishes: Istanbul, Turkey
You will Visit
  • Ashgabat
  • Geok Tepe
  • Turkmenbashi
  • Caspian Sea
  • Baku
  • Gobustan
  • Sheki
  • Lagodekhi
  • Telavi
  • Tbilisi
  • Stepantsminda
  • Mtskheta
  • Gori
  • Kutaisi
  • Batumi
  • Sumela
  • Göreme
  • Istanbul

Itinerary

01

Day 1: Ashgabat

Border Information: if joining in Ashgabat, you will most likely enter Turkmenistan at Ashgabat International Airport (IATA code: ASB).

There will be an important group meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a welcome note from your tour leader when you arrive at the joining hotel in Ashgabat.  In the afternoon we have the option of visiting the famous Ashgabat Sunday Market.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Ashgabat before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Ashgabat. If arriving at Ashgabat airport you will also need to have a confirmed arrival transfer and representative from our local supplier to meet you at the airport. Please contact your sales agent for prices and to book. 

In Ashgabat we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

*Important note - any tobacco products are practically illegal in Turkmenistan, so please do not bring them or use them in Turkmenistan. Also please do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*

02

Day 2: Ashgabat

Today we will have an included tour of the city of Ashgabat using local minibuses. The afternoon will be free to freely explore Ashgabat and its museums.

03

Day 3: Ashgabat

This morning we have some time to further explore Ashgabat. This afternoon we will drive to the spectacular Kow Ata Underground Lake. We will have some time this afternoon to explore this superb lake of naturally-heated clear water.

Tonight we will wild camp in this area of Kow Ata or Geok Tepe.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

04

Day 4-5: Turkmenbashi

Today we will complete our drive to the city of Turkmenbashi, on the shore of the Caspian Sea.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-8 hours.

Our itinerary in Turkmenbashi and over the Caspian Sea must remain very flexible and is very much determined by sailing times of the local ferries. Please note that there is no regular schedule for the ferries, they are notoriously unpredictable, and information from the ferry operators regarding the sailing times constantly changes (or is non-existant) up until the point of departure. Maximum flexibility, open-mindedness and co-operation with your tour leaders are absolutely essential here! 

In Turkmenbashi we will stay in a local hotel for as many nights as is needed until we finally depart on the ferry over the Caspian Sea. Most trips tend to be able to set off on the ferry 1 or 2 days after arriving in Turkmenbashi.

05

Day 6: Caspian Sea

From Turkmenbashi, we will take the ferry across the Caspian Sea to Baku in Azerbaijan.

The ferry is a fantastic local experience, but please do not expect any luxury whatsoever! These ferries are budget vessels for the locals and cargo hauliers, and are not designed with tourists in mind. We must be prepared for very basic conditions and limited provisions on board.

Please also note that the time that the ferry takes to cross is also highly unpredictable, as it is often forced to wait outside of the port in Baku while they arrange the unloading of the cargo on the boat.

There will be basic cabins on the ferry overnight.

06

Day 7-8: Baku

Border information: Exit Turkmenistan at Turkmenbashi, enter Azerbaijan at Baku.

Today we plan to disembark the Caspian ferry and enter Azerbaijan.

We will have free time on these days to explore all the sights of Baku and the surroundings.

In Baku we will stay in a local hotel.

Please note that we have built in significant time in the above itinerary to allow for delays with the Caspian ferry. If the ferry comes in earlier than this, we may choose to move on from Baku earlier than listed to allow more time exploring the rest of Azerbaijan and Georgia.

07

Day 9: Gobustan

Today we will continue our journey to Gobustan, near the coast of the Caspian Sea. Whilst here we will visit the ancient petroglyphs and the mud volcanoes that this area is famous for.

In Gobustan we will wild camp near the mud volcanoes, or continue further and wild camp en route.

Estimated Drive Time - 2-3 hours.

08

Day 10: Sheki

Today we will continue to the old town of Sheki, where we can visit the exquisite Khan's Palace.

In Sheki we will stay in a comfortable hotel built inside an old caravanserai.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-7 hours.

09

Day 11: Lagodekhi

Border information: Exit Azerbaijan at Balakan, enter Georgia at Ladodekhi. 

Today we will continue our journey east and cross the border into Georgia. 

We will wild camp tonight, most likely in the Lagodehki National Park shortly after crossing the border.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.

10

Day 12: Telavi

Today we will drive to the Alazani valley and on to Telavi, where we will base ourselves for 2 days to explore this fascinating region. We will visit the Gremi citadel en route, and have a free afternoon on arrival in Telavi to explore the area.

In Telavi we will stay in a local family-run guesthouse.

Estimated Drive Time - 2-3 hours.

11

Day 13: Telavi

The area of Telavi is well known for its vineyards and wineries - there are hundreds of different grapes grown here, and every village has its own particular variety. We will visit some of the local vineyards today, where we can hopefully see some of the local traditions including grape harvesting and wine making, and enjoy some famous Georgian hospitality.

12

Day 14: Tbilisi

Today we will complete our journey to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, where we will have an afternoon to freely explore the city.

In Tbilisi we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 2-4 hours.

13

Day 15: Tbilisi

Today we will visit the old town of Tbilisi and visit sites including the National Museum, Sioni Cathedral and the Metekhi Temple.

We will have a second night in our comfortable local hotel in Tbilisi.

14

Day 16: Tbilisi

Border Information: if you are leaving in Tbilisi, you will most likely exit Georgia at Tbilisi International Airport (IATA code: TBS).

Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Tbilisi. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact the Dragoman Sales team if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities listed below.

15

Day 17: Tbilisi

Border information: if you are joining in Tbilisi, you will most likely enter Georgia at Tbilisi International Airport.

There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - on arrival please look out for a note from your leader with more information about this important meeting.

This afternoon we will visit the old town of Tbilisi and visit sites including the National Museum, Sioni Cathedral and the Metekhi Temple.

In Tbilisi we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

*Important note - do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*

16

Day 18: Stepantsminda

Today our journey begins with a beautiful drive to the spectacularly located town of Kazbegi.

Either this afternoon or tomorrow morning, we will take a trek up to the Tsminda Sameba Church (the Church of the Holy Trinity), a beautiful small church nestled in the mountains.

In Kazbegi we will stay in a local hotel or family-run guesthouse.

Estimated Drive Time - 4 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

17

Day 19: Stepantsminda

We spend this morning in and around Kazbegi, where we can trek to the Tsminda Sameba Church if we haven't done so already.

This afternoon we have a beautiful drive to the UNESCO world heritage site of Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia. Whilst here we will explore the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.

We will stay overnight in a local guesthouse.

Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

18

Day 20: Gori

This morning we drive to Gori, the birthplace of Stalin - here we will have a guided tour of the city and the Stalin Museum.

We then make our way to the ancient town of Kutaisi. This afternoon we will visit the medieval Bragrati cathedral and the Gelati monastery.

In Kutaisi we will stay in a local hotel or a family-run guesthouse.

Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

19

Day 21: Batumi

This morning we will continue to the port town of Batumi, where we will have a free afternoon to explore.

In Batumi we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 6 hours.

20

Day 22: Sumela

Border Information: Exit Georgia at Sarpi, enter Turkey at Sarp.

 

This morning we will continue to the border and cross into Turkey. We will reach the awe-inpsiring Sumela Monastery near the town of Macka, which we will either visit in the afternoon or the next morning.

We will camp overnight in a campsite near Sumela if conditions allow. In cold weather we may opt to stay in a local hotel in Macka or Trabzon.

Estimated Drive Time - 7 hours.

 

 

21

Day 23:

This morning we will visit the beautiful Sumela Monastery if we didn't have time yesterday, and then start our drive through central Turkey towards Göreme.

We will break the journey with a wild camp near Zara or the village of Alucra.

Estimated Drive Time - 9 hours.

22

Day 24: Göreme

Today we will complete our drive to Göreme, a small enchanting town in the heart of the Cappadocia mountains.

In Göreme, we will stay in a well-equipped hostel - please note that dorm beds are sometimes used here.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

 

23

Day 25-26: Göreme

We now have a 2 full days to explore Göreme, including a guided tour of the enchanted valley of Cappadocia. There will be an opportunity for a magical optional balloon ride over the valley during our time here.

24

Day 27: Istanbul

Today we will have a full day's drive west to arrive in Istanbul, the only city in the world that straddles two continents, Europe and Asia.

In Istanbul we will stay in dorm accommodation in a fantastic hostel with good facilities, which is a 5 minute walk from the Blue Mosque.

Estimated Drive Time - 11-12 hours.

Inclusions:
    Activities
    • Explore, shop, and haggle at the vast Altyn Asyr Sunday Bazaar
    • Explore the unique and bizarre Turkmen capital of Ashgabat on a guided tour of the city
    • Explore Turkmenistan's unique underground lake at Kow Ata and swim in waters naturally heated to around 36°C
    • Cross the Caspian Sea on a local transporter ferry between Turkmenbashi and Baku
    • Take an audio-guided walking tour of Baku's Old Town
    • Explore the mysterious and iconic Maiden's Tower in Baku's Old Town
    • Learn all about the Shirvan Muslim history of Baku at the Palace of the Shirvanshahs
    • See the fascinating 40,000-year-old rock petroglyphs of Gobustan, showing depictions of life during the Late Stone Age
    • Visit the small mud volcanos in the hills above Gobustan, once a central part of the Zoroastrian religion that flourished here
    • Spend the night in an atmospheric converted 17th-century Caravanserai in Sheki
    • Explore the exquisite Palace of the Sheki Khans, built in 1797
    • Head out on Telavi's 'Big Day Out' - a tour of the town's monasteries, bee-keepers and textile-weavers, followed by lunch and wine tasting at a local family-run winery
    Tour Staff
    • 2 Dragoman crew plus 1 local crew in Iran and Turkmenistan
    Accomodation
    • 20% Camping - 80% Hotels
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