If you’ve ever heard of Ashgabat or know exactly where Almaty is, then this epic 23-day overland expedition might well be for you. And if you’ve never heard of either but are seeking a cultural adventure of a lifetime, well, read on!
Ashgabat is the capital and largest city of Turkmenistan—and if you’re still scratching your head, Turkmenistan is a former Soviet Republic located in the heart of Central Asia. While Almaty is the largest city in oil-rich Kazakhstan. They are also the start and ending points of this Silk Road odyssey which takes in “The Five Stans” (as they’re known) of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Travelling by minibus and staying in hotels, private homes, guesthouses and even a yurt, this small group adventure travels along one of the most ancient and compelling trade routes in the world. Everyone who has travelled the Silk Road has left their mark—from beautifully decorated mosques to stark Soviet-era edifices, Buddhist temples to Russian Orthodox churches, and vast blue tile-lined squares to magnificent palaces.
These are the stomping grounds of Genghis Khan, Tamerlane and Alexander the Great, and the infamous site of “The Great Game” between the British and Russian empires in the 19th century. You will travel through a rugged landscape of towering mountains, lush valleys, alpine lakes, walnut forests, waterfalls, vast steppes and endless deserts. From small villages to Soviet-era projects, Bronze-age sites to gleaming petro-dollar futuristic cities.
Watch for wandering camels, nomadic shepherds, colourful markets, silk factories, and even an eerie massive burning gas crater. Although not a physically exerting trip, it is a demanding journey with some long and dusty driving days, basic accommodation with minimal facilities, and plenty of off-the-beaten path remoteness. Yet it (almost) goes without saying that the endless rewards that accompany such an unforgettable trip of discovery far outweigh a few minor discomforts.
- Phone: 800.267.3347
- Length/Departs: 23 days/June, July, Aug.
- Accommodation: Hotels, homestays, yurts, guesthouses
- Starting Price: $5,225
- Difficulty: Easy
- By Simon Vaughan, Senior Editor/Special Travel Advisor for Outpost Travel Media