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Istanbul to Bishkek

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 city of Bishkek, we head into the mountainous country of Kyrgyzstan. We will fully explore the breathtaking scenery, stay in local homestays and yurt camps, and take advantage of the phenomenal trekking opportunities in this incredible country on a flexible itinerary, before crossing the lush Fergana valley to the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, we visit the astonishing ancient cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, and enjoy a yurt stay in the incredible Kyzylkhum Desert. Then we cross the deserts of Turkmenistan via the Darvaza gas crater to the bizarre capital of Ashgabat, before heading into Iran, a country close to our hearts. You'll journey through the stunning highlands and deserts to the ancient city of Yazd, then down to the cultural and historical highlights fo Shiraz, Persepolis and Esfahan on the way to the capital of Tehran. Then you will overland west through Tabriz and the Kurdish region of Turkey en route to the magical land of Cappadocia. We then head to the magnificent historic city of Istanbul. Join us on this unforgettable epic overlanding experience on the Silk Road!


Duration: 54 Days Guaranteed Departure: Yes
For lovers of: Local Culture & Cuisine, Historical Sites, Active/Adrenaline Physical rating: Demanding
Accommodation standard:   Budget% Traveller Tour Rating: 0%  
Your Guide: English speaking Tour code: 167563
Starts: Istanbul, Turkey Finishes: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
You will visit
  • Istanbul
  • Göreme
  • Sivas
  • Erzurum
  • DoÄŸubayazıt
  • Tabriz
  • Zanjan
  • Ashgabat
  • Darvaza
  • Kunye Urgench
  • Khiva
  • Bukhara
  • Nurata
  • Samarkand
  • Tashkent
  • Fergana Mountains
  • Fergana City
  • Fergana Valley
  • Arslanbob
  • Kyrgyz Fergana Valley
  • Song Köl Lake
  • Kochkor
  • Jeti Oguz Valley
  • Karakol
  • Chong Kemin Valley
  • Cholpon Ata
  • Bishkek

Itinerary

01

Day 1: Istanbul

Border Information: if joining in Istanbul, you will most likely enter Turkey at Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IATA code: IST).

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.

If you are travelling beyond Tehran, your tour leader will need to carefully check your visa situation for your entire trip - if anybody that has arranged to apply for an Iranian visa in Istanbul, we will visit the Iranian embassy immediately after our meeting. the rest of the day will be free to explore the incredible city of Istanbul.

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.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Istanbul 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 Istanbul.

*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.*

02

Day 2: Istanbul

Today we will have a free day to explore the myriad of highlights in the old Byzantine and Ottoman capital. There are many places to visit, such as the spectacular Blue Mosque, the colossal Hagia Sophia, the bewildering Grand Bazaar, the phenomenal Topkap  Palace, and a ferry cruise on the Bosphorus river.

03

Day 3: Göreme

Today we start our journey with a full day's drive east 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 - 10-11 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: Göreme

We will 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.

05

Day 6-7: Sivas

Over the next two days we will travel through the stunning landscapes in eastern Turkey towards the Kurdish town of Do ubayaz t.

We will aim to wild camp or stay at a basic local campsite near Sivas on the first night, and near Erzurum on the second.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-7 hours each day.

06

Day 8: Doğubayazıt

Today we will complete our drive to the Kurdish town of Do ubayaz t. On arrival we will have an included visit to the Ishak Pasha Palace and enjoy the spectacular views of the surrounding landscapes and the nearby Mount Ararat.

In Do ubayaz t we will stay in a basic local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

07

Day 9: Tabriz

Border Information: Exit Turkey at Gurbulak, enter Iran at Bazargan.

Today we will drive across the Iranian border to the city of Tabriz, where we will have free time to explore some of the sights of the old town.

In Tabriz we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-7 hours.

08

Day 10: Zanjan

Today we will continue our journey east to the small town of Zanjan, where we have free time to explore and possibly visit the fascinating historical laundry hall of Rakhatshor-Khaneh.

In Zanjan we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

09

Day 11: Ashgabat

Today we will have an included tour of the city of Ashgabat using local minibuses. In the afternoon we will visit the famous Ashgabat Sunday Market.

10

Day 12: Ashgabat

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

Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Ashgabat. 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.

11

Day 13: Ashgabat

Border Information: if joining in Ashgabat, you will most likely enter Turkmenistan at Ashgabat International Airport.

There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting.

After the meeting we will have an included tour of the city of Ashgabat using local minibuses. In the afternoon we have the option of visiting the famous Ashgabat Sunday Market.

In Ashgabat we will stay in a decent quality local hotel.

*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.*

12

Day 14: Darvaza

Today we set off north from Ashgabat and head into the Karakum Desert. We will have an included side trip to the amazing flaming Darvaza Gas Crater (also known as the 'Door to Hell'!).

We will wild camp in the deserts near Darvaza Crater tonight.

Estimated Drive Time - 6 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!).

13

Day 15: Kunye Urgench

Today we will continue our overland journey north across the Karakum. We will visit the Kunye Urgench ruins towards the end of the day.

We will wild camp in the deserts near Kunye Urgench tonight.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

14

Day 16-17: Khiva

Border Information: Exit Turkmenistan at Shovot, enter Uzbekistan at Nijazov.

This morning we will visit the markets in the border town of Dashoguz, before driving across the border into Uzbekistan and continue to the beautiful historic town of Khiva.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (heavily dependent on the time taken to cross the border).

The following day we have a guided tour of the ancient city of Khiva during the morning. In the afternoon we will have plenty of free time to further explore this wonderfully preserved Khanate town.

In Khiva we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

15

Day 18: Bukhara

Today we will have a full day's drive to the fascinating city of Bukhara, where will spend the next 3 nights.

In Bukhara we will stay in a comfortable local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 10-11 hours.

16

Day 19-20: Bukhara

Today we will have a guided tour of Bukhara and the surrounding area, including the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Kalon Mosque, Zindon Prison and the Ark Fortress.

On our second day here, we will have a free day to further explore this incredible historic city and its surroundings.

17

Day 21: Nurata

Today we will drive into the Kyzylkhum Desert near the town of Nurata. In the afternoon we will have the opportunity to head out on an optional camel ride into the desert!

Tonight we will stay in a desert yurt camp.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

18

Day 22: Samarkand

This morning we will spend some time exploring the Nurata Hills with the option of taking a dip in Lake Ajdar Kul. After lunch we will drive to Samarkand where we will stay for the next 3 nights.

In Samarkand we will stay in a good hotel on the outskirts of town.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

19

Day 23-24: Samarkand

Today we will have a guided tour of the incredible historic city of Samarkand and the surrounding area, including the Registan, Ulug Beg Observatory, Bibi-Khanym Mosque and Shah-I-Zinda.

On our second day here, we will have a free day to further explore the beautiful city and its surroundings.

20

Day 25: Tashkent

Border Information: if finishing in Tashkent, you will most likely exit Uzbekistan at Tashkent International Airport.

Today we will have more free time to explore Tashkent. Please note that if you are leaving in Tashkent, today is the last day of the trip and there is no accommodation included tonight.

21

Day 26: Tashkent

Border Information: if joining in Tashkent, you will most likely enter Uzbekistan at Tashkent International Airport.

There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting.

The rest of the day is free to explore this old Soviet city.

In Tashkent 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.*

*Another important note - please be aware that all itineraries in Kyrgyzstan are highly weather-dependent. The itinerary described in these notes are a statement of best intention, but we must approach each trip in Kyrgyzstan with a large degree of flexibility, as our leaders and local guides will have to 'play things by ear' according to the local conditions and weather. In low season certain routes become impossible and it may become far too cold to camp - in all cases there are fantastic and well-tried alternatives in place which means we can always run an excellent and comprehensive trip here, but please do not treat the exact details of the itinerary listed here as gospel - thanks for your understanding!*

22

Day 27: Fergana Mountains

This morning we travel in local transport over the Kamchik Pass to Kokand, where we will have the oppurtunity to visit the Khudayar Khan's Palace and the nearby Margilan Silk Factory before completing the journey to Ferghana. 

The truck must pass over the Kamchik Pass without passengers and will rejoin us this evening in Ferghana.

In Ferghana we will stay in a basic local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 6 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!).

23

Day 28: Arslanbob

Border information: Exit Uzbekistan at Andijon, enter Kyrgyzstan at Dustlik.

This morning we leave Uzbekistan behind and make our way into the magical mountain kingdom of Kyrgyzstan! 

Once we have crossed the border we continue our journey to Arslanbob in Kyrgyzstan's Ferghana Valley - if we are delayed at the border we may choose to stay in the closer town of Jalalabad instead.

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

Estimated Drive Time - 8 hours.

24

Day 29-31: Kyrgyz Fergana Valley

We will spend the next 3 days overlanding through the stunning and remote Kyrgyz Ferghana Valley, stopping often to admire the views and perhaps take some impromptu hikes in the hills and countryside.

During these days we plan to wild camp en route. Please note that trips running in low season (May to mid-June and October to November), we may not be able to camp if temperatures are too low, in which case we will stay in local guesthouses along the route instead.

Drive times - 4-8 hours per day.

25

Day 32-33: Song Köl Lake

Today we complete the drive to the incredible Song-Kul Lake, where we will spend the next two nights.

We will have free time here to explore the area, and to enjoy some optional activities including hiking, horse-riding or watching a game of goat polo!

At Song-Kul we will stay in traditional felt yurts.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-8 hours.

Please note that trips during the low season will not be able to visit Song-Kul Lake, as temperatures will be below freezing, the road will be snowed over, and there will be no yurts to stay in! Instead we will likely stay in yurts on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.

26

Day 34: Kochkor

Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, where we stay in local family-run guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality!

Whilst here we will visit a small museum and women's felt making cooperative that produces 'shyrdaks', the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned. We may also have the opportunity here to see some excellent local musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz folk music and to see how a yurt is put up!

In Kochkor we will stay in family-run guesthouses, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.

Estimated Drive Time - 6 hours.

27

Day 35-36: Jeti Oguz Valley

Today we drive along the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul and up into the mountains to the alpine trekking region of Jeti-Oghuz. En route we will have an included demonstation from a local 'eagle hunter'.

The next day we will have a free day to hike in the incredible scenery here, or take an optional horse ride with some of the local nomads!

In Jeti-Oghuz we will camp close to a local family yurt.

Estimated Drive Time - 7 hours.

Please note that on trips in the low season we may not be able to camp in Jeti-Oghuz due to low temperatures. If this is the case, we will stay for 1 night in a local hotel at the base of Jeti-Oghuz Valley (allowing time for some day walks) and then move via a stunning and incredible drive up a mountain in a Russian 4x4 truck to Altyn Arashan, a hot spring development in a stunning alpine setting, staying in dormitory accommodation.

28

Day 37: Karakol

Today we will move on from Jeti-Oghuz or Altyn Arashan to the Russian-style town of Karakol, where we will have a free afternoon to explore and relax!

In Karakol we will stay in a decent local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

29

Day 38: Chong Kemin Valley

Today we will drive to the northern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul and visit the ancient petroglyphs at Cholpon-Ata. We will then continue to the beautiful area of Chong Kemin where we will spend 2 nights.

The next day we will have a free day to explore and hike in this stunning area, or to get involved in an optional white water rafting excursion!

In Chong Kemin we will wild camp. If it is too cold or simply preferred by the group, we may choose to camp in the grounds of a guesthouse in Ashu, a village in the Chong Kemin valley, where there could be the possibility to upgrade to rooms.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

30

Day 39: Bishkek

Today we have a short drive to the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, with the opportunity to visit the Burana Tower en route. We will have free time to relax and explore the city upon arrival.

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

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

31

Day 40: Bishkek

Border Information: if finishing in Bishkek, you will most likely exit Kyrgyzstan at Bishkek Manas International Airport.

Today we will have free time to explore Bishkek. Please note that if you are leaving in Bishkek, today is the last day of the trip and there is no accommodation included tonight.

Inclusions:
    Activities
    • Explore the Early Christian underground cities of Derinkuyu or Kaymaklı, used as a hiding place from persecutions for centuries
    • Walk through the beautiful ancient valley of Ihlara, containing the beautiful rock-hewn churches built by the Cappadocian Greeks during the Byzantine era
    • Visit the Ottoman-era Ishak Pasha Palace in the hills overlooking DoÄŸubayazıt and take in the impressive views of the surroundings, including the famous Mount Ararat
    • See the spectacular Dome of Soltaniyeh, the huge mausolem of the Ilkhanate (Mongolian) emperor Öljeitü built in the 14th Century and the 3rd largest dome in the world behind the Cathedral of Florence and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
    • Explore the unique and bizarre Turkmen capital of Ashgabat on a guided tour of the city
    • Explore, shop, and haggle at the vast Altyn Asyr Sunday Bazaar
    Accomodation
    • 20% Camping - 80% Hotels
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Tour Highlights:
  • Adventure Activities
  • History & Culture