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Western Silk Route Istanbul - Ashgabat

Trip Overview

This 26 day overland tour journeys from Istanbul to Ashgabat through Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Turkmenistan
We are running a new route for this trip in 2020! See here for more details.
26 DAYS THROUGH Azerbaijan, Georgia (+ 2 more countries)
RATING:
of 4 reviews
PRICE FROM:
Was: $2,720 USD + 1,030 KITTY USD
Now: $2,312 (USD) + 1,030 KITTY (USD)
DURATION:
26 days
TRANSPORT:
Overland expedition vehicle, Private bus, Overnight boat
CREW:
2 Dragoman crew, Local guides where necessary, 1 local crew in certain areas
ACCOM:
20%
80%
PHYSICAL CHALLENGE:
LIFESTYLE CHALLENGE:
TRIP CODE:
TCT
DEPOSIT:
$350 USD

Highlights

  Visit the incredible Blue Mosque

  Guided tour of the valley of Cappadocia

  Visit the Black Sea at Batumi

  Visit the Stunning Bagratu Cathedral & Gelati monastery

  Trek up to the Tsminda Sameba Church at Stepantsminda

  Stop at Gori, the birthplace of Stalin and tour the museum

  Visit Georgian vineyards in Telavi for wine tasting

  Overnight in an atmospheric converted Caravanserai at Sheiki

  Explore the mud Volcanoes and wilds of Gobustan

  Unique experience of crossing the Caspian sea by ferry

  SHOW MORE HIGHLIGHTS  

Itinerary

We are running a new route for this trip in 2020! See here for more details.
Day 1 - Istanbul ( 2nd May 2019 )

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 Tbilisi, your tour leader will need to carefully check your visa situation for your entire trip.

The afternoon 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!

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.*

Daily Activities

Optional Activities

These activities are not included in the itinerary, however they are available to book and/or payable locally.

Visit the incredible Byzantine cathedral of Hagia Sophia, built in the 6th century

TRY 25

Explore the atmospheric underground Basilica Cisterns, built by the Byzantines in the 6th century

TRY 20

Explore the majestic Topkapı Palace, the huge palace of the Ottoman Sultans for over 400 years

TRY 35

Visit the Çemberlitas Baths, a traditional Turkish Hammam, for a bath and massage!

USD 20

Explore the phenomenal Blue Mosque, built by the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I - a stunning icon of Istanbul

Free

See the splendour of Istanbul from a boat trip on Bosphorus Strait, which marks the boundary of Europe and Asia

USD 17
Explore the colossal markets of the Grand Bazaar - once the centre of all trading between Europe and Asia, and the most visited tourist attraction in the world
Free
Day 2 - Göreme ( 3rd May 2019 )

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!).

Day 3-4 - Göreme ( 4th May 2019 to 5th May 2019 )

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.

Daily Activities

Included Activities

Explore the Early Christian underground cities of Derinkuyu or Kaymaklı, used as a hiding place from persecutions for centuries

Included in Kitty

Walk through the beautiful ancient valley of Ihlara, containing the beautiful rock-hewn churches built by the Cappadocian Greeks during the Byzantine era

Included in Kitty
Optional Activities

These activities are not included in the itinerary, however they are available to book and/or payable locally.

Explore the ancient pre-iconoclastic Byzantine rock monastery of Zelve

TRY 15

Take a hot air balloon flight over Cappadocia

EUR 190

Guided tour of Cappadocia and underground troglodyte cities and caves

TRY 5

Discover the ancient techniques of Cappadocian pottery at the village of Avanos

Free

Head out for a fun evening of dinner and various Turkish dancing displays

EUR 30

Witness the hypnotic Sufi Whirling Dervishes ceremony at an ancient caravanserai near Göreme

EUR 35
Day 5 - Zara ( 6th May 2019 )

Today we continue our journey east with a full day's drive towards the Sumela monastery.

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

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

Day 6 - Sumela ( 7th May 2019 )

Today we will reach the awe-inpsiring Sumela Monastery near the town of Macka, which we will visit in the afternoon.

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 - 5-6 hours.

Daily Activities

Included Activities

Exploration of the Black Sea mountain monastery at Sumela

Included in Kitty
Day 7 - Batumi ( 8th May 2019 )

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

This morning we will continue to the border and cross into Georgia, reaching the port town of Batumi.

In Batumi we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

Daily Activities

Optional Activities

These activities are not included in the itinerary, however they are available to book and/or payable locally.

Visit the Batumi Archaeological Museum, home to many historical exhibits found in excavations in the area
GEL 2
Day 8 - Kutaisi ( 9th May 2019 )

After a relaxing morning, we leave the port town of Batumi behind us and 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 - 3-5 hours.

Daily Activities

Included Activities
Explore the colossal and awe-inspiring Prometheus Caves near Kutaisi
Included in Kitty
Optional Activities

These activities are not included in the itinerary, however they are available to book and/or payable locally.

Explore the incredible 11th-century monastery complex of Gelati, near Kutaisi (if time allows)
Free
Visit the beautiful 11th-century Bagrati Cathedral, a symbol of the city of Kutaisi
Free
Day 9 - Gori, Mtskheta ( 10th May 2019 )

This morning is free to explore the charming town of Kutaisi. This afternoon we make our way to Gori, the birthplace of Stalin - here we will have an included guided tour of the city and the Stalin Museum. 

We will then continue on to the ancient UNESCO world heritage site of Mtskheta where we will stay overnight in a local guesthouse. 

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

Daily Activities

Included Activities
Learn about the early life of Joseph Stalin, one of the 20th century's most infamous world leaders, at his birthplace in Gori
Included in Kitty
Day 10 - Stepantsminda ( 11th May 2019 )

This morning we will explore the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.

This afternoon we have 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 local hotel or family-run guesthouse.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-5 hours.

Daily Activities

Included Activities

Hike to beautiful 14th-century Gergeti Trinity Church, set in the stunning mountains above Stepantsminda

Included in Kitty
Day 11 - Tbilisi ( 12th May 2019 )

Border Information: if 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 - please meet at the joining hotel reception at this time. Please do not be alarmed if there is no note from you leader on arrival, as this is often a travelling day for the crew and they will not arrive until about 4:00pm. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial 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 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 - 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.*

Daily Activities

Optional Activities

These activities are not included in the itinerary, however they are available to book and/or payable locally.

Enjoy an evening of local dancing and music at a Georgian restaurant in Tbilisi
GEL 25
Day 12 - Tbilisi ( 13th May 2019 )

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.

Daily Activities

Optional Activities

These activities are not included in the itinerary, however they are available to book and/or payable locally.

Learn all about the history of Georgia during Soviet times, and the struggle for independence, at the Museum of Soviet Occupation
GEL 3
Explore the ancient Narikala Fortress and take in the fantastic views of Tbilisi below
Free
Discover the folk architecture, craftwork and culture of the various regions of Georgia at the Giorgi Chitaia Open Air Museum of Ethnography
GEL 1.5

Visit the beautiful Orthodox Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi's Old Town

Free
See the incredible collection of historical artefacts at the Simon Janashia Museum of Georgia
GEL 3
See the grandiose modern Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi, the seat of the Georgian Orthodox Church
Free
Day 13 - Telavi ( 14th May 2019 )

This morning 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 have a free afternoon to explore the area on arrival.

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

Estimated Drive Time - 2-4 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!).

Day 14 - Telavi ( 15th May 2019 )

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.

Daily Activities

Included Activities

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

Included in Kitty
Day 15 - Lagodekhi ( 16th May 2019 )

Today we leave the wine region behind us as we make our way towards the Azerbaijan border. We will visit the Gremi citadel en route.

We will wild camp tonight, most likely in the Lagodehki National Park close to the Azeri border.

Estimated Drive Time - 2-3 hours.

Daily Activities

Optional Activities

These activities are not included in the itinerary, however they are available to book and/or payable locally.

Discover the ancient capital of the 16th-century Kingdom of Kakheti at the Gremi Architectural Complex

GEL 10

Take some short exploratory walks around our wild camp in the beautiful forested Lagodekhi National Park

GEL 5
Day 16 - Sheki ( 17th May 2019 )

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

Today we cross the border to Azerbaijan and 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 - 3-4 hours.

Daily Activities

Included Activities

Overnight in an atmospheric converted Caravanserai at Sheki

Included in Kitty

Explore the exquisite Palace of the Sheki Khans, built in 1797

Included in Kitty
Day 17 - Gobustan ( 18th May 2019 )

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.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

Daily Activities

Included Activities

Day trip to Gobustan to see the mud volcanoes and the petroglyphs

Included in Kitty
Day 18-20 - Baku ( 19th May 2019 to 21st May 2019 )

This morning we have a short drive to the Azeri capital, Baku. During our time in Baku we will have free time to explore all the sights of the city and the surroundings.

Estimated Drive Time - 2-3 hours.

Our itinerary in Baku 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 Baku 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.

Daily Activities

Included Activities

Explore the mysterious and iconic Maiden's Tower in Baku's Old Town

Included in Kitty

Audio Guided trip around old town Baku including the Maiden Tower & Shirvan Shakh Palace

Included in Kitty
Learn all about the Shirvan Muslim history of Baku at the Palace of the Shirvanshahs
Included in Kitty
Day 21 - Caspian Sea ( 22nd May 2019 )

From Baku, we will take the ferry across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan. The boat docks at the city of Turkmenbashi.

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 very unpredictable, as it is often forced to wait outside of the port in Turkmenbashi while they arrange the unloading of the cargo on the boat.

There will be basic cabins on the ferry overnight.

Daily Activities

Included Activities
Cross the Caspian Sea on a local transporter ferry between Baku and Turkmenbashi
Included in Kitty
Day 22 - Turkmenbashi ( 23rd May 2019 )

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

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

We will be either staying at a local hotel in Turkmenbashi or we will start our journey towards Ashgabat and wild camp en route.

Turkemenistan Visa Note - as the timing of the Caspian ferry crossing can be very unpredictable, please get your Turkmenistan visa issued with at least 2 'flexible' days before the entry date listed on these notes. If you arrange the visa through The Visa Machine they will be aware of all the correct dates for your visa according to the date of your trip. Please see the detailed visa notes below.

Day 23 - Geok Tepe ( 24th May 2019 )

Today, if we are off the ferry in good time by this stage, we will continue our drive to the spectacular Kow Ata Underground Lake. We will have some time either this afternoon or tomorrow morning to explore this superb lake of naturally-heated clear water.

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

Estimated Drive Time - 6-7 hours.

Daily Activities

Included Activities

Explore Turkmenistan's unique underground lake at Kow Ata and swim in waters naturally heated to around 36°C

Included in Kitty
Day 24 - Ashgabat ( 25th May 2019 )

This morning we have a short drive to Turkmenistan's bizarre modern capital, Ashgabat. This afternoon we will have some free time to explore.

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

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours.

Daily Activities

Optional Activities

These activities are not included in the itinerary, however they are available to book and/or payable locally.

Visit the huge Turkmenbashi Ruhy mosque on the outskirts of Ashgabat, built in 2004 as the mausoleum of Saparmurat Niyazov, the first president of Turkmenistan after the fall of the Soviet Union
Free
Day 25 - Ashgabat ( 26th May 2019 )

Today we will have an included tour of the city of Ashgabat using local minibuses. 

Daily Activities

Included Activities

Explore, shop and haggle at the vast Tolkuchka Sunday Market

Included in Kitty
Explore the unique and bizarre Turkmen capital of Ashgabat on a guided tour of the city
Included in Kitty
Optional Activities

These activities are not included in the itinerary, however they are available to book and/or payable locally.

Learn about the history and culture of Turkmenistan at the huge National Museum in Ashgabat

USD 10
Day 26 - Ashgabat ( 27th May 2019 )

Border Information: If finishing 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 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.

DATES & PRICES

This group overland journey has multiple departures.
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Trip Notes
Departing: 2 May 2019
Returning: 27 May 2019
Duration: 26 days
Route: Istanbul - Ashgabat
$2,312 USD + $1,030 Kitty (USD)
Was $2720.00 - Save $408
DEPARTURE GUARANTEED
Deposit: Full Payment
limited
Departing: 27 Jun 2019
Returning: 22 Jul 2019
Duration: 26 days
Route: Istanbul - Ashgabat
$2,312 USD + $1,030 Kitty (USD)
Was $2720.00 - Save $408
DEPARTURE GUARANTEED
Deposit: $350 USD
available
Departing: 29 Jul 2019
Returning: 23 Aug 2019
Duration: 26 days
Route: Ashgabat - Istanbul
$2,312 USD + $1,030 Kitty (USD)
Was $2720.00 - Save $408
DEPARTURE GUARANTEED
Deposit: $350 USD
available
Departing: 16 Sep 2019
Returning: 11 Oct 2019
Duration: 26 days
Route: Ashgabat - Istanbul
$2,312 USD + $1,030 Kitty (USD)
Was $2720.00 - Save $408
DEPARTURE GUARANTEED
Deposit: $350 USD
limited
Departing: 28 Oct 2019
Returning: 22 Nov 2019
Duration: 26 days
Route: Ashgabat - Istanbul
$2,312 USD + $1,030 Kitty (USD)
DEPARTURE GUARANTEED
Deposit: $350 USD
closed
FULLY BOOKED
We are running a new route for this trip in 2020! See here for more details.
* Sale price is for a limited time only and is subject to change at any time.

REVIEWS FROM OUR PASSENGERS

I can afford a more expensive tour but I love the way Dragoman tours operate. They take care of the travelling and accommodations and leave one to do what they like at a destination. You are not herded along in a line like sheep, and if you wander off it's your responsibility to get back.
Edward B
Goreme accommodation was great. The long drive there was hard BUT worth it for the extra time in Goreme. Loved the Zil Kalesi and the camp location that night on the river. Georgia winery day (I enjoyed it too much). Tblisi and Baku and the ferry across the Caspian. I liked the uncertainty of it.
Kelly A
Appreciated being able to plug in our phones for music!
Joshua C
Enjoyed the whole lot as there were so many highlights spread over the whole trip
Lenin S