This 12-day hiking adventure is a true joy for those who want to explore the multitude of Turkmen landscapes and life in the Turkmen Karakum Desert, not only from the window of a jeep but by passing them on foot. Not unlike other tours, it includes a comprehensive visit of Ashgabat and its post-independence architecture and offers a good insight into the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Turkmens. The main feature of this tour is however, the variety in day hikes through the most spectacular landscapes that Turkmenistan has to offer: mountains, sand dunes, coastlines, prehistorical canyons, and ancient river banks.
Accommodation in Ashgabat is in 3* hotel, one night is in the sleeper train to Turkmenbashi, and the remaining 8 nights are in a tent. Meals are included on the entire tour, in order to facilitate timely product supplies. Transport is by 4-wheel drive vehicles, while minibus transport is used only in Ashgabat. The hikes are doable for anyone in good physical condition and none requires technical climbing skills or rope experience. The two most strenuous hikes are across the Balkan Mountains; we can replace these with a lighter 2-day hike with less altitude difference on request. During all hikes, you carry only your personal daypack.
If you are willing to sacrifice the comfort of a bed, and keen to actively experience unique landscapes, this tour is our recommendation for you.
Arrival in Ashgabat by air (evening D1 or early morning D2, depending on airline used) or overland from Iran at Bajgiran-Gaudan land border. Transfer to hotel. Overnight.
0900h Departure from hotel lobby for city tour, including visits of Independence Park, Neutrality Arch, Ferris Wheel, Wedding Palace Viewpoint. In the afternoon we make a first hike across the stairs of Health, before we make our way to the train station for the overnight train to Turkmenbashi.
Our jeeps are waiting for us at the train station and take us out in several hours across the highlands to the coastline of the Garabogaz. We hike for several kilometers along the coastline cliffs and observe the Garabogaz below us. Picnic lunch on the way. Camp dinner and overnight in tents in the Garabogaz cliff area.
Today we drive short distances and make two hikes of 5 kilometers, in order to appreciate the beauty of the Yangisuw and Yangikala canyons. Picnic lunch on the way. Camp dinner and overnight in tents in the Yangikala cliff area.
From Yangikala we make our way to the north edges of the Chilmametkum desert area, and pass several locations with unique rock concretions on the way, where we can stretch our legs. We make the last 10 kms to today’s camp site on foot through the dunes of this clean, peaceful and uninhabited desert area. Picnic lunch on the way. Camp dinner and overnight in tents in the Chilmametkum area.
Another good hiking stretch of 14 kms through the desert brings us to a strip of villages at the southern edges of Chilmametkum. From here we drive the short distance to the foot of the Balkan Mountains. Picnic lunch on the way. Camp dinner and overnight in tents at the start of the northern slope that leads us tomorrow up the Balkan Mountains.
The Balkan Mountains stretches from north to south over just 15 kms (as the crow flies) and allows us to ascent today and decent tomorrow. Today we climb 1200 meters up over 8 kilometers, which rewards us with spectacular views down to the desert lands all around us. Picnic lunch on the way. Camp dinner and overnight in tents on top of the mountains.
Today we cross the high plateau until we find the gorge that will lead us down the southern slopes of the mountains. Picnic lunch on the way. Camp dinner and overnight in tents at the bottom end of the gorge.
We drive several hours along the banks of the dried-up Uzboy River, pass several villages and aim for Melegoch. We can stretch our legs several times, but today we don’t hike over a significant distance. Picnic lunch on the way. Camp dinner and overnight in tents in the dunes near Melegoch.
We drive through the desert eastwards, passing several villages, until we
suddenly cross the main road Ashgabat-Dashoguz. Of course we hike the
last 12 kms through the desert to Darwaza. Picnic lunch on the way.
Camp dinner and overnight in tents near Darwaza crater.
Today we travel over tarmac in 4 hours back to Ashgabat. Lunch free. This
afternoon is free to do some souvenir shopping or visit any further city
sights. After our traditionally Turkmen farewell dinner we make a city-by-
night tour through the post-independence district and the main avenues
of downtown Ashgabat, with stops at the Neutrality Arch, Ferris Wheel
and the Wedding Palace Viewpoint.
Transfer to airport or overland border with Iran at Gaudan-Bajgiran land