Follow the ancient Silk Road trading route from Istanbul to Tashkent on this 48-day overland group tour encompassing Turkey, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Visit enchanting Cappadocia and the Sumela Monastery in Turkey, the Vardzia caves in Georgia and Lake Sevan in Armenia. Explore Baku in Azerbaijan, discover bonkers Ashgabat and the flaming Darvaza Gas Crater in Turkmenistan and take in the captivating Uzbek cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand.
Welcome to Istanbul
Welcome to Istanbul! On arrival, transfer to our joining hotel for a 10:00am Welcome Meeting before the rest of today is free to explore the city at leisure. Perhaps take a cruise on the Bosphorus, which marks the boundary between Europe and Asia. Or go for a wander to see highlights of the city including the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia.
Battlefields of Gallipoli
Istanbul - Gallipoli. Leaving Istanbul, we board our overland truck for the first time and drive to the Gallipoli peninsula. Here we’ll take a guided tour of the region and can pay our respects at some of the WW1 battlefields and memorials. We’ll also visit ANZAC Cove, the site of some of the fiercest fighting during the war. After our tour, we drive to our hostel in nearby Eceabat.
Troy, Selcuk & Ephesus
Gallipoli - Selcuk. On day 3 we cross the Dardenelles by ferry and drive to the ruins of the fabled city of Troy. See the replica Trojan Horse before we arrive at our hostel in Selcuk. The evening is free to relax in one of the many tea bars in the area.
The next day sees us exploring the legendary marble ruins of Ephesus, including the Terraced Houses. Ephesus is considered one of the world’s best-preserved classical cities and highlights include the Library of Celsus and the Temple of Serapis.
Selcuk - Pamukkale. Driving inland, we reach the small village of Pamukkale, which is famous for its mineral rich hot springs and white terraced travertines. Take a walk along these beautiful terraces and opt for a dip in the thermal springs. Tonight, we will either camp near Pamukkale or stay in a local hotel.
Overnight: Pamukkale | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Olympos & Chimera Fire Mountain
Pamukkale - Olympos. On day 6 we drive to the popular Turkish beach town of Olympos. The rest of today and day 7 is free to relax or explore at leisure. There’s an optional sea kayaking adventure that you may wish to join.
At dusk on day 7 we hike up the Chimera Fire Mountain and you’ll have the opportunity to toast some marshmallows on the natural fires. A place of myth and legend, the spectacular fires are caused by gas rising up from below the ground and bursting into flame on contact with the outside air.
Ruins of Termessos & Egirdir
Olympos - Egirdir. We leave Olympos behind and drive to the impressive Pisidian ruins of Termessos, which sit at an altitude of more than 1,000m. After exploring the site, we continue towards Egirdir, finding a suitable spot for our first night of wild camping en route.
Overnight: Egirdir | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Egirdir - Goreme. On day 9 we drive to the small town of Goreme, nestled in the heart of the magical Cappadocia Mountains. During our two days here we’ll enjoy guided sightseeing in this enchanting subterranean landscape. Explore the underground city of Kaymakli and the ancient valley of Ihlara, strewn with rock-hewn churches. There’s also the opportunity to take an optional hot air balloon ride over the valley if you wish.
Goreme - Zara. Today we have a long drive towards the incredible Sumela Monastery, stopping en route to wild camp near the villages of Zara or Alucra.
Overnight: Zara / Alucra | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
The breathtaking Sumela Monastery
Zara - Sumela. Today we reach the incredible Sumela Monastery, which clings to rugged cliffs 1,200m up. The monastery was founded in the year 368CE during the reign of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. We get to explore this amazing site and gaze out at the green forests and mystical swirling mists in the valley below. We spend the night at a campsite near the monastery (weather permitting).
Overnight: Sumela | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Sumela - Batumi (Georgia). Today we say goobye to Turkey as we cross into Georgia and drive to the hospitable port city of Batumi. Sitting on the Black Sea coast, Batumi is a popular summer getaway destination for Georgians and travellers alike. There’s free time to explore the city and an optional visit to the Batumi Archaeological Museum. Batumi has earned the nickname of the "Las Vegas of the Black Sea" and there's plenty to be done in the evening, with numerous bars and casinos to be found in the city.
Overnight: Batumi | Breakfast
Batumi - Kutaisi. Leaving Batumi, we make our way to the ancient city of Kutaisi. On arrival, we’ll visit the pretty Bagrati Cathedral, resplendent in all its glory following recent renovation works. There’s also time to visit the 11th century Gelati Monastery and the nearby Prometheus Cave - the largest cave in Georgia.
Overnight: Kutaisi | Breakfast, Dinner
Kutaisi - Tbilisi. On day 15 we drive to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi where we may be joined by other travellers for the next leg of our journey. The geographical position of Tbilisi gave it a lot of control over the Silk Road and made the city a historic regional superpower.
On day 16 we explore highlights of the city and visit sites including the National Museum, impressive Sioni Cathedral and Metekhi Temple. Optional activities in Tbilisi include visits to the Museum of Soviet Occupation and the hilltop Narikala Fortress, which offers fantastic views of the city.
Overnight: Tbilisi | Breakfast x 2
Dilijan National Park & Lake Sevan
Tbilisi - Lake Sevan (Armenia).Today we leave Tbilisi behind and drive to the border with Armenia. Pass through the picturesque scenery of Dilijan National Park to shimmering Lake Sevan. Landlocked Armenia’s only beaches are found at the lake, making it a popular summer retreat for Armenians. We’ll spend the night camping on the shore of the lake.
Overnight: Lake Sevan | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Geghard Monastery, Garni Temple & Yerevan
Lake Sevan - Yerevan. Setting off from Lake Sevan on day 18, our first stop is the UNESCO-listed Geghard Monastery, which has been carved out of the rock face of the Azat River Gorge. We continue to the impressive Graeco-Roman Garni Temple before arriving in ancient Yerevan, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
There’s free time to relax or explore Yerevan at leisure during our two night stay here. Perhaps join an optional excursion to the Ararat Brandy Museum.
Khor Virap Monastery & Armenian Highlands
Yerevan - Armenian Highlands. Today we drive into the pristine Armenian Highlands. A stop is made at the Khor Virap Monastery, close to the Turkish border. This important pilgrimage site sits in the shadow of imposing Mt Ararat and on a clear day there are magnificent views of the snow-capped peak. We wild camp in the highlands tonight.
Overnight: Armenian Highlands | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Armenian Highlands - Vardzia (Georgia). Today we cross back into Georgia and journey to Vardzia, home to the sprawling Vardzia Caves. This ancient cave city is carved into the side of a mountain and was once a sprawling underground community. Abandoned mostly in the 16th century, the Vardzia Monastery continues to be inhabited by a handful of monks who ring the bells at 07:00 every morning. We’ll either visit the incredible site today or tomorrow morning and will wild camp tonight in the surrounding area.
Overnight: Vardzia | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Borjomi National Park & Mtskheta
Vardzia - Mtskheta. We explore Vardzia this morning if there wasn't time yesterday, before beginning our drive to Borjomi National Park. Here we can enjoy a short hike through the ancient forest. Perhaps opt to ride the cable car up the mountain before we board our truck once again for the drive to Mtskheta. Here we can visit the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and we’ll spend tonight in a local guesthouse.
Overnight: Mtskheta | Breakfast, Dinner
Mtskheta - Stepantsminda. Today we drive to the town of Stepantsminda, nestled in beautiful scenery. During our stay here we’ll enjoy a trek up to the tiny Tsminda Sameba Church, which is hidden away in the rolling hills and mountains of the Georgian Caucasus. There’s an optional cooking class where you can learn how to make delicious Georgian kinkhalis (meatballs).
Overnight: Stepantsminda | Breakfast, Dinner
Telavi & wine tasting
Stepantsminda - Telavi. On day 24 we head into the Alazani Valley and arrive in the wine-making region of Telavi. Hundreds of varieties of grape are grown here and we’ll visit some local vineyards on day 25. Watch local traditions in action including grape harvesting and enjoy some famous Georgian hospitality with lunch and wine tasting at a family-run winery.
Overnight: Telavi | Breakfast x 2, Dinner x 2
Lagodekhi National Park
Telavi - Lagodekhi National Park. Leaving Telavi, we head towards the border with Azerbaijan. Stop at the impressive Gremi Citadel before we spend our final night in Georgia wild camping in Lagodekhi National Park.
Overnight: Lagodekhi NP | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Sheki & caravanserai stay
Lagodekhi National Park - Sheki (Azerbaijan). Today we enter the resource-rich Republic of Azerbaijan. Our first stop is the ancient town of Sheki, where we visit the exquisite 18th century Khan’s Palace. A special treat awaits us tonight. Our accommodation is a comfortable hotel that has been built in a converted caravanserai, once an important resting place for weary travellers on the Silk Road.
Sheki - Lahij. Today we drive to Lahij, an ancient mountain settlement which is famous for its copper and arms production. Explore the site at leisure and camp with facilities tonight.
Overnight: Lahij | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Gobustan & Baku
Lahij - Baku. On day 29 we pay a visit to Gobustan, the region famous for its ancient petroglyphs and bubbling mud volcanoes. After exploring the area we continue to Baku, the sprawling capital of Azerbaijan.
The city is an enchanting contrast of old and new, with ancient architecture such as the Maiden Tower in the Old City set against modern skyscrapers. The discovery of oil in Azerbaijan has led to the rapid development of the city and it is now an important metropolis on the global scene. The city plays host to an annual Formula One Grand Prix and hosted the 2019 Europa League final. You’ll have plenty of time to explore bustling Baku at leisure.
At some point in the next couple of days we’ll take the ferry across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan. However, the ferry timetable is notoriously unpredictable so our itinerary will have to be extremely flexible over the next few days. Please see the trip notes for more details. In the meantime, relax in vibrant Baku and explore as you please. We may be joined by new travellers for the next leg of our journey.
Caspian Sea ferry
Baku - Turkmenbashi (Turkmenistan). Today we will hopefully board the ferry bound for Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan. Our ferry will be extremely basic, but the crossing is a fantastic authentic experience. Spend the night onboard but please note there will generally only be seats available for the overnight crossing.
Overnight: Caspian Sea ferry
Today we disembark the ferry at Turkmenbashi. We either stay in a local hotel or, if the ferry has docked early and we have time, we’ll begin our drive towards Ashgabat and wild camp en route.
Turkmenbashi - Ashgabat. On day 33 we arrive in Turkmenistan's strange capital city of Ashgabat. The city holds the world record for the highest concentration of marble clad buildings anywhere in the world.
On day 34 we embark on a minibus tour of this off the beaten track and bonkers capital city. Look out for the bizarre marble architecture and some of the golden statues of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. The president has a fascination with collecting world records and some of the more unusual architecture you may spot includes the worlds largest indoor Ferris wheel.
Overnight: Ashgabat | Breakfast x 2
The Darvaza Gas Crater
Ashgabat - Darvaza Gas Crater. We leave Ashgabat behind today and head north into the Karakum Desert. We stop at the incredible Darvaza Gas Crater, which is known locally as the “Door to Hell”.
The crater was formed in 1971 when Soviet oil drillers accidentally caused the ground to collapse and gas to begin escaping from the newly-formed crater. The Soviets tried to burn the gas off and the crater has been continuously burning away ever since. After we’ve visited this unusual site, we find somewhere suitable to wild camp for the night.
Overnight: Darvaza | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Darvaza Gas Crater - Kunye Urgench. We continue our overland journey across the Karakum Desert today. There's an included stop at the ruins of Kunye Urgench, once a major city on the Silk Road. The site was first settled in the 5th century due to its location on the shores of the Amu Daria River and even survived the 1221 invasion of Genghis Khan - it was finally abandoned in 1378. Surviving ruins include the towering 60m high Kutlug-Timur Minaret, the highest in Central Asia. We’ll wild camp in the desert near to the city tonight.
Overnight: Kunye Urgench | Breakfast, Lunch
Kunye Urgench - Khiva (Uzbekistan). On day 37 we browse the market in the border town of Dashoguz before crossing into Uzbekistan. Later, we arrive in the welcoming Silk Road city of Khiva.
On day 38 there’s a guided tour of the city, taking in highlights including the incredible city walls, the turquoise Kalta Minor Minaret and the blue palace of Tash Khovli. There are also included visits to the Mohammed Rakhim Khan Madrassa museum, the 12th century Kukhna Ark fortress and Juma Mosque. The ceiling of the mosque is held up by 213 columns of ancient elm, some dating back to the 10th century.
Overnight: Khiva | Breakfast x 2
Khiva - Bukhara. Day 39 is a travel day as we journey to Bukhara. There’s a guided tour of the city on day 40, taking in highlights including the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Ark Fortress and Kalon Mosque. You’ll also get to see the giant Kalyan Minaret, which earned its nickname of “Death Tower” due to its historic use as a place of execution, where prisoners were thrown from the top.
There’s free time on day 41 and you may wish to join an optional visit to the gruesome Zindon Prison. A barbaric method of internment used here historically was the Bug Pit. Prisoners would be thrown into the pit and all manner of creatures including rats, lice and scorpions would be emptied onto their heads.
Nurata & the Kyzylkhum Desert
Bukhara - Nurata. Today we drive into the Kyzylkhum Desert, arriving near the town of Nurata. There’s an optional camel ride over the rolling sand dunes and we spend the night staying in yurts in the desert. Yurts are comfortable felt tents and are the traditional form of accommodation for Central Asian nomads.
Overnight: Kyzylkhum Desert | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Nurata - Samarkand. On day 43 we spend some time exploring the Nurata Hills and you can opt for a dip in the refreshing waters of Lake Ajdar Kul. In the afternoon we drive to our hotel in Samarkand, our home for the next three nights. Samarkand was the birthplace of the legendary warlord Timur and is perhaps the most romantic of the Silk Road cities, with beautiful domes and minarets dotting the skyline.
On day 44 there’s a guided tour of Samarkand, the jewel in Uzbekistan's crown. Discover highlights of the city including the stunning Registan Plaza - once the heart of the ancient city. The Registan is dominated by three towering madrasahs which rise up against the skyline - madrasah is Arabic for 'school'. We also see the Ulug Beg Observatory, Shah-I-Zinda necropolis and the ruins of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, the former jewel in Timur’s empire. Day 45 is free to relax in the city or join some of the optional activities on offer including an excursion to the ancient city of Shakhrisabz.
Overnight: Samarkand | Breakfast x 3
Samarkand - Tashkent. On day 46 we drive to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent. The city is a fascinating contrast to many other Silk Road cities. Whilst Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and others have retained much of their ancient architecture and atmosphere, Tashkent is very much a Soviet city. Clean and modern, it’s a very interesting place to visit. The rest of day 46 and the following day is free to explore the city independently. Perhaps head to Hast Imam Square where you can see the world's oldest surviving copy of the Koran.
Overnight: Tashkent | Breakfast x 2
Today our adventure comes to an end. Enjoy breakfast in the hotel before you depart and please speak to our Sales team if you wish to book any extra accommodation in Tashkent in order to further explore the city.
Is Overlanding Right For Me?
Overlanding is not a style of travel that will suit everyone so please carefully read the Trip Notes before selecting this tour and be realistic about your ability and desire to join such a trip. If you’re the adventurous type who’d rather spend nights wild camping in the wilderness than luxuriating in a boutique hotel, then overlanding is for you. You just need the right attitude, an open mind, and a desire to participate fully in the trip.
Overland travelling can be demanding and physically challenging. On your trip you’ll travel in a purpose-built expedition vehicle on an off-the-beaten-track adventure along rugged roads, sometimes across vast distances and at high altitude. You will find the drive times noted on the Trip Notes.
On an overland journey you are more than just a passenger, these are full participation trips and everyone gets involved and pitches in! You will also be expected to erect your own tent and help with camp chores including cooking meals for the group on a rota basis. Like all great adventures, the more you put in the more you'll get out!
The type, variety and standard of accommodation can vary greatly from very basic rooms without electricity or running water to comfortable hotels with good facilities. Generally in hotels most rooms will be twin-share, but some may be triple/quad-share. Hostels and yurts are nearly always multi-share and may be mixed sex.
The campsites we use range from basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and a bar. On occasions we wild camp with no facilities, which means there are no toilets - just the vast expanse of the great outdoors and a shovel!
Our overland journeys are designed to offer freedom, and many of our routes have a large degree of flexibility rather than a strict hour-by-hour or even day-by-day itinerary. We intend to follow the planned route but exact night stops and inclusions cannot be guaranteed and it sometimes happens that we decide to make a change to our planned itinerary.
Prices & Dates
Departure dates noted with a 'G' are guaranteed to operate. All other departure dates are guaranteed with a minimum of 4 persons. Prices shown are per person travelling.Read More
Local payment - $1880pp, paid in USD
Please note that this is payable locally on day 1 of your trip in the currency specified.