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Mountains, Kingdoms & Deserts of Asia

This 35 day overland tour journeys from Istanbul to Ashgabat through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Turkmenistan

  • Duration: 35 Days
  • Guaranteed Departure:
  • Physical rating: Light
  • Supplier Tour ID: TCTN2/249540
  • Your Guide: English speaking
  • Starts: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
  • Finishes: Istanbul, Turkey
  • Age requirement: 18 +
You will Visit
  • Ashgabat
  • Turkmenbashi
  • Caspian Sea
  • Baku
  • Lahij Village
  • Gobustan
  • Sheki
  • Lagodekhi
  • Telavi
  • Stepantsminda
  • Mtskheta
  • Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
  • Vardzia
  • Armenian Highlands
  • Yerevan
  • Lake Sevan
  • Tbilisi
  • Kutaisi
  • Batumi
  • Sumela
  • Zara
  • Göreme
  • Egirdir
  • Olympos
  • Pamukkale
  • Selcuk
  • Gallipoli Peninsula
  • Istanbul

Itinerary

01

Day 1: 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.

02

Day 2: Turkmenbashi

This morning we have a full days drive to Turkmenbashi, on the shore of the Caspian Sea. If time permits we will stop at the spectacular Kow Ata Underground Lake on the way.

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!).

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! When applying for your Azerbaijan E Visa please ensure when submitting your application that you state your entry date as arriving a few days prior to the actual date on your trip notes incase your ferry departs earlier than expected.

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.

03

Day 3: 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.

04

Day 4-5: 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.

05

Day 6: Baku

Border Information: If joining in Baku, you will most likely enter Azerbaijan at Baku Heydar Aliyev International Airport (IATA code: GYD).

There will be an important group meeting at 6.00pm - please look out for a welcome note from your tour leader when you arrive at the joining hotel in Baku.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Baku before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales Team or your Sales Agent if you would like to book pre - tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Baku.

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

* Important note - 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. *

06

Day 7: Baku

Today we will have free time to explore all the sites of Baku and the surroundings.

In Baku we will stay in a local hotel.

07

Day 8: Lahij Village

This morning we will make our way to Lahic Village. An old coppersmiths village, nestled in the mountains. On the way we will stop in Gobustan, near the coast of the Caspian Sea where we will have a visit to the ancient petroglyphs and the mud volcanoes that this area is famous for.

Tonight we will camp with facilities.

Estimated Drive Time 3 - 4 hours

08

Day 9: Sheki

Leaving the village behind we make our way to the old town of Sheki this morning. Here 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 3 -4 hours

09

Day 10: Lagodekhi

Border Information: Exit Azerbaijan at Balakan, enter Georgia at Lagodekhi.

Today we will continue our journey west 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 11: Telavi

Today we will drive to the Alazani valley and on to Telavi, where we will base ourseves 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 12: 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.

We will spend a 2nd night in a family-run guesthouse

12

Day 13: Stepantsminda

Today our journey begins with a beautiful drive to the spectacularly located town of Stepantsminda (formerly known as 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 Stepantsminda we will stay in a family-run guesthouse.

Estimated Drive Time 4 - 5 hours

13

Day 14: Mtskheta

We spend the morning in and around Stepantsminda, 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.

In Mskheta we will stay overnight in a local guesthouse.

Estimated Drive Time 3 -5 hours

14

Day 15: Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park

After breakfast we will make our way to Borjome National Park where we will have time to do a small hike through the ancient forest and an optional cable ride up the mountain.

In the afternoon we will continue on to Vardzia where we will find a place to wild camp for the night in the stunning valley. If time permits we will have an included visit to the Vardzia Caves this afternoon if not we will have the chance to explore them tomorrow morning also.

Tonight we will wild camp

Estimated Drive Time 4 - 5 hours

15

Day 16: Armenian Highlands

We continue south towards the Armenian border this morning. Once we have crossed we will drive through the beautiful Armenian Highlands before finding a place to bush camp for the night.

Tonight we will wild camp

Estimated Drive Time 5- 6 hours

16

Day 17-18: Yerevan

Today we will make our way to the city of Yerevan. On the way we will have an included visit to Khor Virap Monastery.

We will have 2 nights in Yerevan on the 2nd day we will have free time for optional activities or simply relaxing and soaking up the city atmosphere.

Estimated Drive Time 4 - 5 hours

For the next 2 nights we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

17

Day 19: Lake Sevan

We will leave the city of Yerevan behind this morning and make our way to the World Heritage - listed Geghard Monastery which has been carved out of the rock face of the Azat River Gorge. We will also spend some time exploring the Garni Temple before we continue onto the beautiful Lake Sevan.

Tonight we will camp by the sparkling waters of Lake Sevan

Estimated Drive Time 4 -5 hours

18

Day 20: Tbilisi

Border information: If you are joining in Tbilisi, you will most likely enter Georgia at Tbilisi International Airport (IATA code: TBS).

There will be a pre-departure meeting at 6.00pm - on arrival please look out for a note from your leader with more information about this important meeting.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Tbilisi before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales Team or your Sales Agent if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Tbilisi.

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.*

19

Day 21: Kutaisi

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 Bagrati cathedral and the Gelati monastery.

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

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

20

Day 22: Batumi

Today 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 - 3-5 hours.

21

Day 23: 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 - 5-7 hours.

22

Day 24: Zara

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 G reme.

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

Estimated Drive Time - 8-10 hours.

23

Day 25-26: Göreme

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

In G reme we will stay 2 nights here in a well-equipped hostel - please note that dorm beds are sometimes used here.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-8 hours.

One the second day we will explore Goreme, including a guided tour of the enchanted valley of Cappadocia. There will also be an opportunity for a magical optional balloon ride over the valley during your time here.

24

Day 27: Egirdir

After breakfast we will continue south towards the town of Egirdir, today will mostly be a travel day.

Estimated Drive Time 7 - 8 hours

Tonight we will wild camp near the small town of Egirdir

25

Day 28-29: Olympos

This morning we will continue onto the ancient beach town of Olympos on the Southern Turkish coast.

On the way we will make a small detour to visit the ancient city of Termessos in Gulluk Dagi National Park.

Estimated Drive Time - 6 -7 hours

We will have 2 nights in Olympos staying in a local guesthouse.

On the second day there will be plenty of time to explore and participate in optional activities, in the evening we will walk up to the Chimera Fire Mountain and toast some marshmallows.

26

Day 30: Pamukkale

Today we will head back inland to the small village of Pamukkale. Either this afternoon or tomorrow morning we will have time to visit the thermal hot springs and traverse the travertine pools and terraces.

Estimated Drive Time 5 - 6 hours

Tonight we will either camp near the village or stay in a local hotel.

27

Day 31-32: Selcuk

We only have a short drive this morning to make it to our next destination Selcuk where we will have two nights. On arrival we will have free time to explore the local area or simply relax in one of the many cafes or tea bars which are great for people watching.

On the second day we will spend the day exploring the Ephesus Ruins and Terraced Houses.

Estimated Drive Time 2 - 3 hours

For the next two nights we will stay in a local hostel.

28

Day 33: Gallipoli Peninsula

After breakfast we will leave Selcuk and drive to Helsik following the coast. Here we will have an included tour of the Troy Ruins.

In the afternoon we will cross the Dardenelles by ferry to arrive into Ecebat where we will stay the night in a local hostel.

Estimated Drive time 6 -7 hours

Tonight we will stay in a local hostel.

29

Day 34: Istanbul

Rising early we will have an included tour of Gallipoli with our local guide.

After lunch we will then jump on the truck one last time to make our way to the bustling 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.

Estimated Drive Time - 5- 6 hours

30

Day 35: Istanbul

Border information: if leaving the trip in Istanbul, you will most likely exit Turkey from Istanbul Atat rk International Airport (IATA code: IST).

Today will be free to explore the many sights of the incredible exotic city of Istanbul, including the Grand Bazaar, the Bosphorus River and the phenomenal Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia!

Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Istanbul. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact the 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.

Inclusions:
    Activities
    • Explore the unique and bizarre Turkmen capital of Ashgabat on a guided tour of the city
    • Audio Guided trip around old town Baku including the Maiden Tower & Shirvan Shakh Palace
    • Learn all about the Shirvan Muslim history of Baku at the Palace of the Shirvanshahs
    • Audio Guided trip around old town Baku including the Maiden Tower & Shirvan Shakh Palace
    • 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
    • Day trip to Gobustan to see the mud volcanoes and the petroglyphs
    • Overnight in an atmospheric converted Caravanserai at 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
    • Hike to beautiful 14th-century Gergeti Trinity Church, set in the stunning mountains above Stepantsminda
    • Visit the impressive Vardzia Cave Monastery
    • Visit the Garni Temple and learn about its fascinating pre-Christian history
    • Visit the Medieval Geghard Monastery
    • Explore the beautiful Khor Virap Monastery near the Turkish border. On a clear day you will have stunning views of Mt Ararat in the background
    • Camp on the shores of Lake Sevan 
    • Explore the colossal and awe-inspiring Prometheus Caves near Kutaisi
    • 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
    • Guided Tour of Ephesus Ruins and the Terraced Houses
    • Walk the marbled streets of Ephesus, one of the best preserved ancient cities
    • Pay your respects to the fallen at Gallipoli on a guided tour through the battlefields
    Tour Staff
    • 2 Dragoman crew, Local guides where necessary, 1 local crew
    Accomodation
    • 20% Camping - 80% Hotels
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