Istanbul To Ashgabat (44 Days)

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Istanbul To Ashgabat (44 Days) The Caucasus Region & Beyond Uncovered (Caia44)
Ashgabat, Sheki, Istanbul
From: £2845

Join this overland adventure starting in the isolated desert country of Turkmenistan, travelling across the Caspian Sea to the Caucasus states of Georgia and Armenia before continuing to Turkey. From Ashgabat to Istanbul, this trip is full of fascinating and varied history, demonstrating the contested and often turbulent past of this relatively unknown region. Those who do travel here are rewarded with breathtaking scenery from stunning snowy mountains to seemingly endless desert, ancient and medieval sites that rival and often outdo any found in Europe, and a wide array of eclectic cultures, with consistently friendly and welcoming locals.

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Itinerary

DAY 1: ASHGABAT

Welcome to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan’s capital. Founded in the 1880's by the Russian Tsarist government, sits between the foothills of the Koptedag mountains to the south, and the vast Karakum Desert to the north. The city was almost entirely destroyed following an earthquake in 1948 and rebuilt in the Soviet style. Following independence in 1991 the city has been transformed into a futuristic, and in many ways bizarre collection of unique structures and wide streets lined with marble. For many travellers, Ashgabat is one of the most mystifying and unusual cities they will ever experience.

We have some free time and enjoy a city tour of Ashgabat. On the city tour we visit Independence Park, the Ertogrul Gazi Mozque, the Arch of Neutrality, the Turkmenbashi Mosque Mauasoleum and many other sites throughout the city. There are plenty of fantastic photo opportunities, and we will have the chance to explore some of the markets and meet the locals.

DAY 2-4: ASHGABAT TO TURKMENBASHI

As we leave Ashgabat, we will be collected by off road jeeps and head off for our desert adventure. This will be a truly unique experience as we get to visit the Yangikala Canyons via the Balkan Mountains, then on past the white cliffs of Koymat, and along the banks of the dried up Uzboy River before reaching the desert settlement of Melegoch. We will pass several traditional villages on the way before setting up camp near the dunes of Melegoch. Much of this trip will be off road, and totally remote and will truly be a new experience on our way to the port of Turkmenbashi.

DAY 5-7: TURKMENBASHI TO BAKU

Whilst we are in Turkmenbashi we will need to complete all of our border formalities before we take the ferry across the Caspian Sea to our next country, Azerbaijan.

DAY 8-12: BAKU TO SHEKI

Our ferry will arrive into the port of Baku. Baku has an amazing blend of the old city and the ultra-modern and I am sure it will be fascinating and enjoyable addition to the itinerary and a destination that is not yet on the tourist route.

Heading north we visit the mud volcanoes of Qobustan and then onto visit the picturesque ancient village of Lahichwith its copper beaters and ancient crafts and the 18th Century UNESCO town of Sheki.

DAY 13-14: SHEKI TO TATEV

We cross the border into Georgia and then Armenia as we head south to Tatev, and at 5.7km long, the longest cable tramway in the world the "Wings of Tatev" that whisks you up into the mountains where there are lots of additional activities to take part in.

DAY 15-18: TATEV TO DILIJAN

From Tatev we head north to Yerevan where we are able to spend a couple of days to enjoy its many things to do. On departure we visit the Geghard Monastery and Garni Temple before making our way to high altitude Lake Sevan with the possibility to visit the Hayravank Monastery that overlooks the lake and then on to the ancient town of Dilijan,famous for its hiking, food and arts.

DAY 19-23: DILIJAN TO TBILISI

We cross the border to ever popular Telavi, the principal town of the Kakheti region, famous for its vineyards and wineries. Wine has been produced in Georgia since 4000BC and the industry has played a small but significant role in the country’s history ever since, as winemaking (and its consumption) has enjoyed an important role in Georgian culture and society. Here we have the option of taking a wine tour to find out more about the history of the area, why wine production has been so important, and of course to try some ourselves!

Telavi itself is a fascinating and relaxing place to spend a couple of nights with many good restaurants and cafes, and not far from the town there are other sites well worth a visit, such as the monastery of Akhali Shuamta, and the small village of Ikalta and its Church of the Transfiguration which dates from the 8th Century BC.

After our time in Telavi we continue to Tbilisi with its cobblestoned old town, delicious food and welcoming atmosphere.

DAY 24-25: TBILISI

The Old Town of Tbilisi has much to offer. Here you can take a stroll along narrow cobbled streets, past traditional old houses with carved wooden balconies, relax in the warm waters of the historic sulphur baths and visit some of the city’s key historical sites; Metekhi Church, Narikala Fortress, Sioni Cathedral and Anchiskhati Church.

DAY 26-31: TBILISI TO BATUMI

Leaving Tbilisi we visit Gori the birthplace of Georgia’s most infamous son, Josef Stalin and we have time to visit the museum dedicated to him which is built alongside the house in which he was born, which still stands today. Here you will find many items from Stalin’s reign, and also his bullet-proof train carriage, in which he travelled across the Soviet Union.

There may also be the chance to stop at Uplistsikhe, an ancient cave city built into the mountains not far from Tbilisi. Dating from the early Iron Age, this historic site says much about Georgia’s long and often turbulent past at the crossroads of a number of might empires throughout the centuries.

Our next stop is Kutaisi¸ the country’s second largest city and home to a buzzing fruit and vegetable market where you can barter for goods with the local traders. Kutaisi offers a glimpse of what modern day life in urban Georgia is like, and the real joy of the city is found in simply wandering the streets and observing the locals go about their routine. This is also an opportunity to top up on some food and drink supplies before we head into the foothills of Caucasus and some more remote areas in the next few days.

We spend the next two days exploring the Svaneti region. This mountainous area is beautiful and untamed, and offer fantastic hiking options with the mighty Caucasus mountain range as a stunning backdrop. Using our overland truck as our base we will bush camp and spend some time travelling around, including a visit to Mestia, a pretty small town that forms the centre of the region. Weather and climate can be unpredictable so this part of the trip is kept quite loose to allow for itinerary changes, depending on what is our best option at the time, but with the truck carrying all of our camping and cooking gear we are free to travel almost anywhere!

Returning to civilisation we reach the port city of Batumi. Here we spend a couple of nights to check out the city with its modern and often bizarre architecture and enjoy our first taste of Georgia’s famous warm hospitality. A walk along the waterfront promenade is always popular, especially at night when the buildings are lit up in bright neon colours.

DAY 32-43: BATUMI TO ISTANBUL

Leaving Georgia, we have some long drives to reach our next destination as we crossing rural Turkey. We head towards the Black Sea before following the coast west. This captures the essence of an overland adventure expedition, as we stop for bush camps in the evening and are able to watch as the stunning and varied scenery of this rarely-vested part of the country rolls past, stopping off to meet locals and buy food and drinks as we go.

We arrive in Cappadoccia, where we stay for a few nights. Here, over the centuries, houses, churches, fortresses and even underground cities have been carved into this eerily eroded volcanic rock. The Goreme Valley provides us with an astonishing setting in which to spend a few days investigating the region. Why not take in the scenery from the skies in a Hot Air Balloon flight (optional). We will take you to one of the underground cities where you can explore alone or with a guide this ancient and mysterious area!

After a few days in Goreme we continue west towards Pamukkale where we will spend a night and there is the opportunity to swim in warm, mineral-rich waters. We then travel further west and finally reach the Aegean Sea in Selcuk where we will spend a couple of nights. Here we find Ephesus. Built by the Greeks a thousand years before Christ and then rebuilt by the Romans, this immense ancient city boasts an amphitheatre that can seat 24000 and a harbour with no water - still in good condition after all these years.

Turning north drive through olive groves and rural settlements to Gallipoli and the Straits of the Dardanelles. In World War I, on this blustery and exposed peninsula, ANZAC and British Forces struggled unsuccessfully for nine horrendous months to dislodge Turkish troops from the hills above the beaches. It is a moving experience to visit the war graves and battlegrounds where so much suffering and unnecessary loss of life took place. We camp overnight here before arriving in the city where East meets West, the huge metropolis of Istanbul.

We arrive in Istanbul, where we have a free day to explore, but with so much to see and do you will almost definitely want to stay a bit longer! An urban area of nearly 15 million, and one of the world’s liveliest cities, it is a place full of history and rich in culture. You can choose to spend visiting one of the many famous sights such as the iconic Hagia Sophia and stunning Blue Mosque, or strolling around the Grand Bazaar on the lookout for some bargains. During the evening be sure to try some of the wonderful local cuisine, such as authentic kebabs, baklava or any of the many other treats on offer.

DAY 44: ISTANBUL

Your trip ends after breakfast.

Experience

A guided tour though the marble city of Ashgabat
Experience the desert proper on a 4X4 safari in Turkmenistan
Visit the bubbling and sometimes explosive mud volcanoes found in Azerbaijan
Head to Savanavank monastery on the shores of Lake Sevan
Appreciate the ancient wine-growing region of Telavi
Enjoy the bizarre architecture in Batumi on the Black Sea Coast
Explore dwellings carved from the eerily eroded landscape in Cappadoccia
Take a dip in the white travertine terraces of Pamukkale
Roam around Ephesus - built by the Greeks 1000 years BC
Visit the battlegrounds and war graves of the forces

Included

  • Accommodation - approx. 65% camping & 35% simple hostels & hotels
  • Arrival airport transfer into Ashgabat
  • Turkmenistan Letter of Invitation support and fees
  • Ashgabat city tour
  • 4X4 Desert Safari in Turkmenistan
  • Caspian Ferry
  • Meals - approx. 50%
  • Gallipoli Tour
  • All Transport on Oasis Expedition Truck
  • Camping and Cooking equipment
  • Services of Oasis Crew

Not included

  • Visas
  • Local Payment (see tour notes & options)
  • Optional Excursions as listed in the Pre-Departure Information
  • Flights
  • Airport Taxes & Transfers
  • Travel Insurance
  • Meals - approx. 50%
  • Drinks
  • Tips
Istanbul To Ashgabat (44 Days) The Caucasus Region & Beyond Uncovered (Caia44)
Next Booking: April 17, 2024
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