Istanbul To Bishkek
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Get off the beaten track and explore the ancient cultures and modern cities of the Central Asia and the Middle East. Beginning with the bustling bazaars of Istanbul, this Overland quest follows the ancient silk road across desert landscapes, mountain kingdoms and remote valleys. Sail across the Caspian Sea, navigate Uzbekistan’s mountain passes and explore futuristic Ashgabat - this remote part of the world is brimming with surprises. From Turkey to Turkmenistan and beyond, this adventure will challenge perceptions and broaden horizons.
- Visit Istanbul and tour the Blue Mosque.
- Discover the romance of the Silk Road in Samarkand.
- Gaze up at the ancient walls surrounding Khiva.
- Walk through Uzbekistan’s historic city of Bukhara.
- Visit Kyrgyzstan’s epic Song-Kol Lake.
Day 1 Istanbul
Be intrigued by eastern and western influences while exploring the cultures and traditions of the only city in the world that straddles two continents - Istanbul. Perhaps arrive early to delve into history of 2000-year-old this Turkish metropolis, and visit the cobbled Hippodrome, once the site of ancient chariot races, and the exquisite Blue Mosque, Istanbul's most recognisable landmark.
Day 2 Bush Camp
Enjoy a morning to explore more of Istanbul, before heading east in the early afternoon bound for Toz Golu. Set up camp and spend a glorious evening sleeping under the stars.
Days 3-4 Goreme
Make tracks to Goreme, located in the heart of Cappadocia. Marvel at the profusion of fairy chimneys, castles, columns and cones - soft volcanic rock that has eroded over time to form fantastical shapes. Visit cave churches and rock dwellings, and be enchanted on a guided tour of the magical valleys of Cappadocia.
Day 6 Sumela
After a morning on the road, stretch the legs in Sumela. Visit stunning Sumela Monastery, which clings spectacularly to a sheer cliff-face and is surrounded by evergreen forests, and admire the colourful 18th-century frescoes that adorn the walls and ceilings.
Day 7 Batumi
Cross the border into Georgia and continue to the port town of Batumi. Wedged between the sea and green mist-enshrouded hills, Batumi's location on the Black Sea Coast gives it a resort-town atmosphere. Relax in this idyllic semitropical setting - grab an outdoor table at one of the many cafes and sip Turkish coffee while watching the ships come into port.
Day 8 Kutaisi
Travel to the historic town of Kutaisi, one of the cradles of Georgian civilisation. Explore medieval Bagrati Cathedral, situated on a high hill overlooking the town, before visiting the Gelati Monastery. Decorated with mosaics, wall paintings and intricate metal work, the monastery was once the academic, scientific and educational centre of ancient Georgia.
Day 9 Gori
Wander through the famous birthplace of Joseph Stalin - Gori. Learn about Stalinism on a guided tour of the Stalin Museum. View photographs, documents, furniture and gifts that together tell the story of the dictator's past.
Day 10 Kazbegi
Visit Kazbegi and relax amongst the hospitality of Georgian hosts at a traditional homestay. Rise early for a jaunt on foot through the countryside to visit the Tsminda Sameba Church.
Days 11-12 Tbilisi
Be dazzled by the mixture of European, Byzantine and Middle Eastern architecture that lines the streets of Georgia’s largest city, Tbilisi. On a guided tour of the Old Town, explore the National Museum, Metekhi Temple and the Sioni Cathedral.
Days 13-14 Telavi
Admire the picturesque Alazani Valley en route to Telavi, the centre of Georgia’s wine-growing region Kakheti. With each village producing a different variety of grape, there are wines to suit all tastes. Visit local wineries and witness time-old traditions such as grape harvest, wine-making and the keipi – a banquet feast held in the spring.
Day 15 Lagodekhi
Camp overnight in Lagodekhi, huddled at the base of the breathtaking Greater Caucasus Mountains.
Day 16 Sheki
Cross the border into Azerbaijan and travel to Sheki. Behold the richly decorated Khan's Palace and wander through the Museum of History, located in an architectural masterpiece. Spend the night in a converted caravanserai.
Day 17 Gobustan
After a long drive to Gobustan, check out the incredible rock art and mud volcanoes scattered throughout this ancient region.
Days 18-20 Baku
Sail by ferry across the Caspian Sea and enjoy two days to explore the rapidly changing Azeri capital Baku. Both chaotic and cosmospolitan, the city brims with elegant tree-fringed streets, leafy parks, lovely teahouses, buzzing pubs and World Heritage-listed medieval architecture – all of which make it ideal for exploration on foot.
Day 21 Overnight Ferry
Board an overnight ferry and travel across the Caspian Sea again to reach Turkmenistan.
Day 22 Turkmenbashi
Disembark in Turkmenbashi, named after the infamous dictator Turkmenbashi who renamed the international airport and several streets, schools and hotels in his honour.
Day 23 Geok Tepe
Explore Turkmenbashi before driving to the remarkable Kow Ata – a crystal-clear underground lake with a natural water temperature of 36°C.
Days 24-25 Ashgabat
Discover Turkmenistan’s bizarre modern capital – a strange mix of futuristic and outlandish buildings. Experience an explosion of colour and noise at the famous Ashgabat Sunday markets where merchants sell everything from camels and pigs to cars and ex-Soviet military paraphernalia.
Day 26 Darvaza
Sleep under the stars in the Karakum Desert. See the spectacular fires of the Darvaza Gas Crater.
Day 27 Bush Camp
Continue the Overland journey through the Karakum Desert, and take in the parched landscape of Asia's hottest desert.
Days 28-29 Khiva
Gaze up at the ancient walls surrounding Khiva and imagine how they once provided sanctuary for weary Silk Road travellers. Explore the historic and perfectly preserved Old Town, beautifully decorated in classic turquoise tiles.
Days 30-32 Bukhara
Get to know Central Asia's holiest city, where the combination of buildings spanning a thousand years and a thoroughly lived-in Old Town help create the awe-inspiring atmosphere.
Day 33 Nurata
Spend a night in a yurt camp with the local nomads, sleeping among the dunes of the Kyzylkhum Desert.
Days 34-36 Samarkand
Travel to one of Central Asia's most magical cities, Uzbekistan’s Samarkand. Discover the romance of the Silk Road in this perfectly preserved city full of exotic architecture and majestic buildings.
Days 37-39 Tashkent
Visit Tashkent’s thriving Chorsu Bazaar to pick up Soviet-style souvenirs and admire the ornately decorated Kukeldash Medressa.
Day 40 Kokand/Fergana City
Enter the Ferghana Valley and see the palace of the former Khan of Kokand.
Day 41 Arslanbob
Make tracks across the Ferghana Valley into Kyrgyzstan.
Days 42-44 Kyrgyz Ferghana Valley
Take a leisurely three day journey through the stunning mountains and national parks of Kyrgyzstan's Ferghana Valley.
Days 45-46 Song-Kol Lake
Spend the night in a yurt near Song-Kol Lake and join in a game of ulak-tartysh.
Day 47 Kochkor
Mingle with friendly locals and relish Kyrgyz hospitality while enjoying a homestay in Kochkor.
Days 48-49 Djety Oguz Valley
Admire the lofty sandstone cliffs in Djety Oguz Valley.
Day 50 Karakol
Discover the remote, picturesque town of Karakol, complete with quaint tree-lined streets and colonial houses.
Days 51-52 Chong Kemin National Park
Set off on a leisurely hike along Chong Kemin River - or if feeling adventurous, perhaps tackle one of the tough 4000 m passes.
Days 53-54 Bishkek
Relax on the final days in Bishek. Why not stroll through the city's markets and haggle for bargains. Alternatively, relaxing in an Oak Park cafe and reflecting on the adventure is another good option!
Maximum of 19 travellers per group
Bush camp (no facilities), Camping (with facilities), Homestay, Hostel, Hotel, Yurt
1. Please note that this trip requires minimum numbers to depart, and may be cancelled up until 56 days prior to departure. The places showing on the dates and availability page are an indication only so please contact Intrepid to check if your preferred date will depart before making any final arrangements, such as booking non-changeable flights. 2. Due to a British government travel warning, from September 2012 this itinerary will no longer be able to visit Iran. It will instead travel from Turkey to Georgia and then through Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan. Passengers already booked to travel in 2012 have been notified. The new itinerary for 2013 will be published by November.