Jeti Oguz landscape | Kyrgyzstan
FROM: AUD $14,395

Starting in the fascinating Chinese city of Xi’an, this 89-day group tour journey through eight countries along the legendary Silk Road to Istanbul. Explore bustling cities from Tashkent to Baku and Dunhuang to Samarkand. Sleep in traditional yurts in Uzbekistan, take a guided tour of Turkmenistan’s bizarre capital of Ashgabat and watch an eagle hunter demonstration in Kyrgyzstan. See the most westerly point of the Great Wall of China, discover Song Kol Lake and marvel at magical Cappadocia in Turkey.

Inclusions
Itinerary
Prices & Dates

Trip Highlights

The Silk Road - follow in the path of ancient merchants on the legendary Silk Road which weaves its way from Xi'an to Istanbul
Kyrgyzstan - hike in the Kyrgyz Fergana Valley, explore the relaxed capital of Bishkek, stay with a local family in Kochkor and camp in traditional Yurts on the shore of Song Kol Lake
Turkmenistan - see the highlights of the country's bizarre and futuristic capital Ashgabat, marvel at the Darvaza Gas Crater and cross the remote Karakum Desert
Armenia - relax on the shore of Lake Sevan, discover the ancient city of Yerevan and camp in the wild Armenian Highlands
Turkey - discover the magically surreal landscape of Cappadocia, explore cultural Istanbul, pay your respects at the war memorials of Gallipoli and admire the stunning Sumela Monastery
China - marvel at the westerly most point of the legendary Great Wall, cross the sprawling Taklamakan Desert, see the incredible Zhangye Rainbow Mountains and end your tour in Xi'an
Uzbekistan - learn about the gruesome history of Bukhara, explore the heart of Timur's empire in Samarkand and wander around the Soviet city of Tashkent
Azerbaijan - stay in an ancient Silk Road caravanserai, explore the traditional village of Lahij and discover the modern capital of Baku
Georgia - explore highlights of delightful Tbilisi, admire the medieval cathedral in Kutaisi, visit the Vardzia Caves and relax in the port city of Batumi

Included

52 breakfasts, 21 lunches and 29 dinners
18 nights camping (including 2 nights at campsites, 5 nights wild camping and 11 nights camping without facilities)
1 overnight ferry from Turkmenbashi - Baku
Services of two crew (drivers/tour leaders) and local guides along the way
Sightseeing as per itinerary
Visit to the Great Wall and fortress at Jiayuguan
Hike to Shipton’s Arch in Kashgar
Guided tour of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand in Uzbekistan
Visit to Gobustan to see the petroglyphs and mud volcanoes
Visits to the Garni Temple, Geghard Monastery & Khor Virap Monastery in Armenia
61 nights in hotels, hostels and guesthouses
4 nights camping in traditional yurts, 4 nights in a homestay
All necessary camping equipment (excluding sleeping bags)
Transportation in an overland expedition vehicle
Excursion to see the Terracotta Warriors near Xi’an
Guided tour of the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang
Eagle hunter demonstration and visit to Tash Rabat caravanserai in Kyrgyzstan
Guided tour of Ashgabat and visit to the Darvaza Gas Crater in Turkmenistan
A stay in the ancient Sheki caravanserai in Azerbaijan
Guided tour of Gallipoli, Troy, Ephesus and Cappadocia in Turkey

Not Included

International flights and visas
Tipping - an entirely personal gesture
Local Payment: $3200pp, paid in USD
Items of a personal nature, additional meals and drinks
Sleeping bag and roll mat - please bring your own for camping

Itinerary

Day 1

Welcome to Xi'an!

Welcome to China! On arrival in Xi'an, make your way to our joining hotel. There will be a group Welcome Meeting at 18:00 during which you will meet your group and tour leader. The rest of the day is free to explore the city.
Overnight: Xi'an

Day 2

Xi'an

Today we climb aboard our overland truck for the first time and enjoy an excursion out of Xi'an to see the incredible Terracotta Warriors. This sculpted army, 7-000 strong, was built to protect Emperor Qin Shihuang in the afterlife in around 210BC. There's a guided tour of the army before we return to Xi'an for a free afternoon
Overnight: Xi'an   |  Breakfast

Days 3-4

Pingliang

Xian - Pingliang. On day 3 we drive to Pingliang, at the base of Mt Kongtong. The mountain is one of the holiest in Chinese Taoism and we have plenty of time to explore the temples and pilgrimage routes with a full day included excursion on day 4. The rest of our stay in Pingliang is free to relax or explore.

Please note: If the group wishes to split the long drive between Turpan and Dunhuang later in the trip over two days, there will only be one night in Pingliang and a half-day exploration of Mount Kongtong.
Overnight: Pingliang

Days 5-7

Xiahe

Pingliang - Xiahe. We continue to the town of Xiahe on day 5, our base for the next three days. Xiahe is a very rural town and is populated largely by native Tibetans. There’s plenty of time to explore the town - take a guided visit to the Labrang Monastery, a popular pilgrimage destination for many Tibetans. You can also opt for a day trip into the Sangke or Ganjia grasslands on the lower Tibetan plateau.
Overnight: Xiahe

Day 8

Liujiaxia & Bingling Si Caves

Xiahe - Liujiaxia. This morning we visit the famous Bingling Si Caves, located along the Yellow River. The main attraction of the site is the centrepiece Maitreya Buddha statue. This 27m-tall statue is dug into the cliff. However, there are over 180 caves and more than 700 statues at the site in total.

After our visit we drive to the small city of Liujiaxia, and the evening is free to head out onto the bustling city streets and explore.
Overnight: Liujiaxia

Day 9

Overland to Zhangye

Liujiaxia - Zhangye. Today is a travel day as we head towards the beautiful Zhangye Rainbow Mountains. We find a suitable spot to camp along the route.
Overnight: Zhangye Rainbow Mountains   |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10

Zhangye Rainbow Mountains

Zhangye - Jiayuguan. Today we drive to the breathtaking Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains. This incredible mountain range has earned its name because of the colours of the rocks in the area. Tectonic movement has led to the deposits of sandstone and minerals over the last 24 million years and the layer cake of rocks has been sculpted beautifully by erosion. Marvel at hills and ravines of red, yellow, blue and green.

After spending some time admiring the scenery of the mountains, we continue to Jiayuguan, where we camp near an adobe (mudbrick) section of the legendary Great Wall of China.
Overnight: Jiayuguan  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Days 11-12

Jiayuguan Fort, Dunhuang & the Mogao Buddha Caves

Jiayuguan - Dunhuang. On day 11 we visit Jiayuguan Fort. This impressive fortress marks the western starting point for the legendary Great Wall of China. Construction on this mudbrick section of the wall began in 1372 CE and took around 170 years to complete. The fort is well preserved with watchtowers and imposing defensive walls.

After our visit we drive to the city of Dunhuang and there’s an included visit to the incredible Mogao Buddha Caves on day 12. This gigantic complex of caves contains thousands of examples of Buddhist art, spanning a 1,000-year period from the 4th to the 14th centuries AD. During our stay in Dunhuang you can opt for a camel ride to the nearby Crescent Moon Lake.
Overnight: Dunhuang

Days 13-14

Turpan & Jiaohe ruins

Dunhuang - Turpan. On day 13 we have a long drive to the Turpan Basin, the hottest place in China. Average temperatures in summer can easily reach over 30° Celsius but the lack of humidity makes the heat bearable. The oasis town of Turpan was a crucial stop for traders on the Silk Road to rest and resupply their caravans.

During our stay in Turpan we visit the ruins of Jiaohe - a 2nd century fortress and city. We also discover the ingenious irrigation system that allowed Turpan to flourish as a trading town despite the hostile climate. Optional activities in the area include an excursion to see the Emin Minaret, which is the tallest minaret in China. You can also opt to visit the ancient Silk Road trading city of Gaochang.

Please note: If preferred by the group, we may split the long drive (10 - 13 hours) on day 13 into two, wild camping or staying in a local hotel in-between. This will mean reducing the number of days we spend in Pingliang towards the beginning of our trip.
Overnight: Turpan

Days 15-16

Heavenly Lake & Urumqi

Turpan - Urumqi. On day 15 we leave Turpan and drive to Urumqi, the capital of the province of Xinjiang. We’ll spend two nights here and on day 16 we visit nearby Heavenly Lake. This dazzling lake is surrounded by mountains and is one of the most beautiful spots in the region. There will be opportunities for walking in the area and possibly boating on the lake.
Overnight: Urumqi

Days 17-18

The Taklamakan Desert

Urumqi - Korle - Aksu. On day 17 we say goodbye to Urumqi and begin our drive through the 250,000 square kilometre Taklamakan Desert. Some Uyghur sources claim that the name “Taklamakan” translates to “once you get in, you'll never get out” due to the size and remoteness of this vast wilderness. It is roughly the size of the entire country of Germany and was once a major obstacle for ancient travellers on the Silk Road.

However, thanks to a modern Chinese highway through the desert, the route will be less hazardous for us. During our crossing of the desert, we’ll stay in local hotels en route, most likely in the towns of Korle and Aksu.
Overnight: Korle (1), Aksu (1)  |  Breakfast x 2

Days 19-21

Kashgar

Aksu - Kashgar. On day 19 we journey to Kashgar, once an important stop on the ancient Silk Road. During our three days in the city there's an included visit to the animal market and the sprawling Sunday Bazaar. Optional activities in Kashgar include a visit to the Id Kah Mosque and the Silk Road Museum, where you can learn more about the diverse history of this part of the world.

You may also use your free time in the city to explore this remote western outpost. Wander through the ethnically diverse old town to see blacksmiths, cobblers and other ancient crafts still being practiced using traditional methods.
Overnight: Kashgar

Day 22

Shipton's Arch

Today we have a short meeting to explain the next few days in Kyrgyzstan. We then enjoy an included hike to the impressive Shipton's Arch, the largest natural archway in the world. We then return to Kashgar for the evening.
Overnight: Kashgar

Days 23-24

Tash Rabat

Kashgar - Tash Rabat (Kyrgyzstan). On day 23 we have a full day's drive over the scenic Torugart Pass into Kyrgyzstan. We'll camp near the famous Tash Rabat caravanserai, which is one of the most well preserved caravanserais on the Silk Road. There's plenty of time to explore the surrounding area and we may possibly be able to stay in yurts. Yurts are comfortable felt tents that are the traditional form of accommodation for Central Asian nomads.

Please note: If we are unable to stay in yurts at Tash Rabat then don't worry, we will definitely be experiencing a few nights in yurts later in the trip.
Overnight: Tash Rabat  |  Breakfast x 2

Day 25

Kochkor or Naryn

Tash Rabat - Kochkor or Naryn. Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor. We check in to our small, family-run guesthouses - this is a great experience and you'll get to meet the local people. We also visit the village museum and a women’s felt making cooperative which produces shyrdaks - the felt carpets that Kyrgyzstan is known for. There’s also an optional outdoor folk concert and you can learn how to erect a yurt.

Please note: If no one is leaving the trip in Bishkek, we may stay in the small town of Naryn instead, as we are revisiting Kochkor on day 33 and do not want to unnecessarily repeat the itinerary. If this is the case, then we'll spend the morning further exploring Tash Rabat before taking a short drive to Naryn.
Overnight: Kochkor   |  Breakfast, Dinner

Days 26-27

Bishkek

Kochkor or Naryn - Bishkek. On day 26 we arrive in the friendly Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. The rest of today and tomorrow is free to explore the city. Perhaps browse the vibrant Osh bazaar or head to the central Ala-Too Square. We may be joined by new travellers for the next leg of our journey.

Please note: The following itinerary in Kyrgyzstan is subject to change due to the unpredictable conditions in the country. We have tried and tested alternatives in place to ensure your trip runs smoothly, please see the trip notes for details.
Overnight: Bishkek  |  Breakfast x 2

Days 28-29

Chong Kemin Valley

Bishkek - Chong Kemin. We head out of Bishkek on day 28 - we may need to return to organise Uzbekistan visas for some of the group, so the next couple of days need to be fairly flexible.

We will most likely spend the next two nights camping in the Ala Archa National Park and Chong Kemin Valley. There will be plenty of time for hiking in the stunning scenery and an optional white water rafting excursion will be offered.
Overnight: Chong Kemin Valley  |  Breakfast x 2, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 2

Day 30

Cholpon Ata & Russian-style Karakol

Chong Kemin - Karakol. We drive to the northern shore of Lake Issyk Kol this morning, where we can admire the ancient petroglyphs at Cholpon Ata. After our visit here, we continue to the Russian-style town of Karakol, where the afternoon is free to explore. Perhaps pay a visit to the beautiful Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Overnight: Karakol  |  Breakfast

Days 31-32

Jeti Oguz Valley

Karakol - Jeti Oguz. On day 31 we have a scenic drive up into the mountains of the Jeti Oguz region, dominated by towering red sandstone cliffs. The next day is free to explore this picturesque corner of Kyrgyzstan. Hike in the hills and mountains or opt for a horse-riding excursion with some local nomads. We’ll camp in the area for these two nights (weather permitting).
Overnight: Jeti Oguz  |  Breakfast x 2, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 2

Day 33

Kochkor village

Jeti Oguz - Kochkor. Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, stopping en route to watch a demonstration from a local eagle hunter, whose well-trained birds are used to catch wild animals for their skins and meat.

On arrival in Kochkor, we check in to our small, family-run guesthouses - this is a great experience and you'll get to know the local people. We also visit the village museum and a women’s felt making cooperative which produces shyrdaks - the felt carpets that Kyrgyzstan is known for. There’s also an optional outdoor folk concert and you can learn how to erect a yurt.
Overnight: Kochkor   |  Breakfast, Dinner

Days 34-35

Song Kol Lake

Kochkor - Song Kol Lake. On day 34 we drive to shimmering Song Kol Lake, where we base ourselves for the next two nights. Song Kol is a remote and peaceful lake set in stunning scenery - Kyrgyzstan in all of its glory. We’ll stay in traditional felt yurts and experience the life of rural Kyrgyz people. There’s optional hiking and horse-riding in the area surrounding the lake.

Please note: In the low season we will be unable to stay at Song Kol Lake due to the adverse weather. Instead we will likely stay in yurts on the southern shore of Lake Issyk Kol.
Overnight: Song Kol Lake  |  Breakfast x 2, Dinner x 2

Days 36-38

Kyrgyz Fergana Valley

Song Kol Lake - Kyrgyz Fergana Valley. We spend the next three days overlanding through the Kyrgyz Fergana Valley towards Arslanbob. We’ll make frequent stops to hike in the stunning mountain region and will camp in suitable spots on the route.

Please note: If the group prefers, we will spend an extra day in Arslanbob and depart for two days of overlanding in the valley on day 36. In cold weather we will be unable to camp and will stay in guesthouses along the route.
Overnight: Kyrgyz Fergana Valley  |  Breakfast x 3, Lunch x 3, Dinner x 3

Day 39

Arslanbob

Kyrgyz Fergana Valley - Arslanbob. Today we finally arrive in the picturesque village of Arslanbob. There's free time to relax after a long few days of overlanding. Perhaps take a stroll in the famous walnut forest, the largest walnut grove in the world - the walnut was Kyrgyzstan's first known export to Europe.
Overnight: Arslanbob   |  Breakfast

Day 40

Fergana

Arslanbob - Fergana (Uzbekistan). We say goodbye to the mountainous country of Kyrgyzstan today, crossing the border into neighbouring Uzbekistan. Our drive takes us to the city of Fergana, where the evening is at leisure.
Overnight: Fergana  |  Breakfast

Days 41-42

Kokand & Tashkent

Fergana - Kokand - Tashkent. Day 41 sees us journey to Kokand, where we’ll visit the Khudayar Khan’s Palace and the Margilan Silk Factory. Traditional methods are still used here in the production of this famous textile.

After exploring Kokand, we cross over the mountainous Kamchik Pass to Tashkent, the Soviet-style capital of Uzbekistan. We must pass over the Kamchik Pass in local transport, as our truck must cross without passengers. We'll be reunited later, in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent. The evening is free to explore the clean and modern city independently.

Day 42 is free to explore Tashkent as you please. You may wish to head to the religious centre of the city at Hast Imam Square, where you'll find the world's oldest surviving copy of the Koran. We may be joined by new travellers today for the next leg of our journey.
Overnight: Tashkent   |  Breakfast x 2

Days 43-45

Samarkand

Tashkent - Samarkand. On day 43 we head towards the jewel in Uzbekistan's crown - the incredible Silk Road city of Samarkand. On arrival, the evening is free to head out and explore.

We enjoy a guided tour of Samarkand on day 44, taking in highlights including the central Registan Square. The Registan is dominated by three towering madrasahs which rise up against the skyline - madrasah is Arabic for 'school'. We also take in the Ulug Beg Observatory, Shah-I-Zinda necropolis and the ruins of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque. The mosque was once the jewel in the empire of the warlord Timur, who was born here.

The following day is free to explore Samarkand further or join optional activities including an excursion to the ancient city of Shakhrisabz.
Overnight: Samarkand   |  Breakfast x 3

Day 46

Nurata & the Kyzylkhum Desert

Samarkand - Nurata. Today we say goodbye to Samarkand and head into the striking Nurata Hills. Opt for a refreshing dip in Lake Ajdar Kul before we drive into the Kyzylkhum Desert. There’s an optional camel ride over the rolling dunes of the desert and we spend the night in yurts near the town of Nurata.
Overnight: Nurata  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Days 47-49

Beautiful Bukhara

Nurata - Bukhara. We head out of the desert on day 47, reaching the beautiful and historic Silk Road city of Bukhara, where we'll be staying for the next three nights. We make a quick stop in Nurata en route.

On day 48 we enjoy a guided tour of Bukhara, taking in highlights including the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Kalon Mosque and Ark Fortress. You’ll also get to see the Kalyan Minaret. This beautiful tower hides a sinister past - it’s nickname of “Death Tower” has been earned due to its former use as a place of execution.

Day 49 is free to explore or join some of the optional excursions available. Perhaps visit the gruesome Zindon Prison, home to the infamous Bug Pit. Prisoners would be thrown into the pit and rats, lice, scorpions and other creatures would be dropped on their heads.
Overnight: Bukhara

Days 50-51

Khiva

Bukhara - Khiva. On day 50 we say goodbye to Bukhara and embark on a long drive to the welcoming city of Khiva. The next day 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

Day 52

Kunye Urgench

Khiva - Kunye Urgench (Turkmenistan). Today we leave Uzbekistan behind and cross the border into the closed off country of Turkmenistan. Browse the markets in the border town of Dashoguz before we explore the Kunye Urgench ruins towards the end of the day.

Once an important Silk Road city due to its location in the remote Karakum Desert, Kunye Urgench was spared by Genghis Khan during his invasion and the ruins remain well-preserved today. Admire highlights including the Kutlug-Timur Minaret, which is the highest minaret in Central Asia. Tonight, we camp in the desert close to the city.
Overnight: Kunye Urgench  |  Breakfast, Lunch

Day 53

Darvaza Gas Crater

Kunye Urgench - Darvaza Gas Crater. We continue our journey through the desert today, reaching the incredible Darvaza Gas Crater, known locally as the 'Door to Hell'.

The crater was created by accident in 1971 when Soviet oil drillers released gas into the atmosphere, causing the ground to collapse. The Soviets then set fire to the gas to try and burn it all off. However, there was much more gas present than they realised and the crater has been burning away ever since. After we’ve admired the site, we find a suitable spot to camp for the night.
Overnight: Darvaza  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Days 54-55

Ashgabat

Darvaza Gas Crater - Ashgabat. On day 54 we complete our drive to Turkmenistan's bizarre capital city of Ashgabat. The city holds the world record for the highest concentration of marble clad buildings anywhere in the world.

On day 55 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

Day 56

Turkmenbashi

Ashgabat - Turkmenbashi. Today we have a long drive across Turkmenistan to Turkmenbashi, on the Caspian Sea Coast. If we have time, we'll visit the spectacular Kow Ata Underground Lake on the way.

Please note: Our itinerary in Turkmenbashi 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. Please see the Trip Notes for more details.
Overnight: Turkmenbashi

Day 57

Ferry to Baku

Turkmenbashi - Baku (Azerbaijan). Today we will hopefully be able to board the ferry across the Caspian Sea to Baku, Azerbaijan. 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 travellers in mind. There will generally only be seats available for the crossing.
Overnight: Caspian Sea ferry

Days 58-61

Bustling Baku

After we've disembarked in Baku, we'll arrive at our hotel. The next few days are free to explore Baku as you please. The oil-rich city is an amazing contrast of the old and new, with glistening skyscrapers contrasting against the old architecture such as the famous Maiden Tower. The city is emerging as a global player on the world scene and recently hosted the 2019 Europa League football final. It also hosts a Formula One Grand Prix race every year.

Please note: If we catch the Caspian Sea ferry in good time and arrive in Baku early then we may move on earlier, in order to spend more time exploring the rest of the Caucasus. Please see the Trip Notes for details.
Overnight: Baku

Day 62

Gobustan & Lahij Village

Baku - Lahij. This morning we drive to Gobustan, the region known for its bubbling mud volcanoes and ancient petroglyphs. After exploring this site, we continue 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

Day 63

Sheki caravanserai stay

Lahij - Sheki. Leaving Lahij, we travel to the old city of Sheki. There's an included visit to the exquisite Khan's Palace before we arrive at our hotel for the night. The hotel has been constructed in an old Silk Road caravanserai and you'll feel like a weary merchant as you settle down to sleep tonight.
Overnight: Sheki (Caravanserai)

Day 64

Lagodekhi National Park

Sheki - Lagodekhi National Park (Georgia). Today we say goodbye to Azerbaijan and cross into Georgia. We'll spend the night camping in the lush scenery of Lagodekhi National Park, which is located fairly close to the border.
Overnight: Lagodekhi NP  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Days 65-66

Telavi & wine tasting

Lagodekhi National Park - Telavi. We head into the Alazani Valley on day 65 and visit the impressive Gremi Citadel en route to the famous wine producing town of Telavi. We'll be basing ourselves in this wine region for the next couple of days.

Day 66 sees us exploring Telavi and visiting some of its local vineyards. Watch traditions such as grape harvesting in action and enjoy some famous Georgian hospitality with an included lunch and wine tasting at a local family-run winery.
Overnight: Telavi   |  Breakfast x 2, Dinner x 2

Day 67

Stepantsminda

Telavi - Stepantsminda. Leaving Telavi behind, we drive to the town of Stepantsminda, which is 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 also an optional cooking class where you can learn how to make delicious Georgian kinkhalis (meatballs).
Overnight: Stepantsminda   |  Breakfast, Dinner

Day 68

Mtskheta

Stepantsminda - Mtskheta. This morning is free to unwind in Stepantsminda or hike up to the Tsminda Sameba Church if there wasn't time yesterday. Later, we drive to the charming town of Mtskheta. Here we can visit the beautiful 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.
Overnight: Mtskheta   |  Breakfast, Dinner

Day 69

Borjomi National Park & Vardzia Caves

Mtskheta - Vardzia. We head out of Mtskheta and make our way to Borjomi National Park. Enjoy a short hike in the ancient forest and opt to ride a cable car up the mountain before we continue to the incredible Vardzia cave city.

First inhabited during the Bronze Age, the network of caves is one of the highlights of the Caucasus. Though the site was mostly abandoned in the 16th century, a handful of monks still reside in the Vardzia Cave Monastery and they ring the bells at 07:00 every morning. We’ll either explore the site today or tomorrow, depending on how long it takes to reach Vardzia. Tonight, we wild camp nearby.
Overnight: Vardzia  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 70

The Armenian Highlands

Vardzia - Armenian Highlands (Armenia). This morning we explore Vardzia if there wasn't time yesterday. We then set off for the Armenian border, finding a suitable spot to camp in the incredible scenery of the Armenian Highlands once we have crossed.
Overnight: Armenian Highlands  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Days 71-72

Ancient Yerevan

Armenian Highlands - Yerevan. On day 71 we visit the Khor Virap Monastery, near the Turkish border. This important pilgrimage site is set in the shadow of Mt Ararat and on a clear day there will be incredible views of the snow-capped peak. After our visit we continue to ancient Yerevan, capital of Armenia and 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.
Overnight: Yerevan

Day 73

Geghard Monastery, Garni Temple & Lake Sevan

Yerevan - Lake Sevan. Setting off from Yerevan, 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, a beautiful temple which wouldn't look out of place in Athens' legendary Acropolis.

Our journey continues through picturesque scenery to shimmering Lake Sevan. Landlocked Armenia’s only beaches are found at the lake, making it a popular summer retreat for Armenians and travellers alike. We’ll spend the night camping on the shore of the lake.
Overnight: Lake Sevan  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 74

Tbilisi

Lake Sevan - Tbilisi (Georgia). Today we cross back into Georgia and pass through the amazing scenery of Dilijan National Park to reach Tbilisi, Georgia's endearing capital city. The rest of today is free to explore the quaint Old City as you please. Consider heading up to Narikala Fortress for amazing views over Tbilisi.
Overnight: Tbilisi   |  Breakfast

Day 75

Gori & Kutaisi

Tbilisi - Gori - Kutaisi. This morning we set off from Tbilisi and head to Gori, the Georgian city that is famous as the birthplace of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin. There's a guided tour of the city and an included visit to the Stalin Museum, where you'll learn more about the complicated and ruthless dictator.

After exploring Gori, we continue to ancient Kutaisi. Here we can visit the beautiful Bagrati Cathedral, which has recently been restored to its full glory, with its turquoise roof intact. There's also a stop at the Gelati Monastery and the evening is at leisure.
Overnight: Kutaisi   |  Breakfast, Dinner

Day 76

Batumi

Kutaisi - Batumi. Today we 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

Day 77

The incredible Sumela Monastery

Batumi - Sumela (Turkey). Today we say goodbye to Georgia and the Caucasus, as we cross into Turkey, the last of the eight amazing countries on our Silk Road adventure. We make our way to the incredible Sumela Monastery, which clings to rugged cliffs 1,200m up.

The Sumela 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

Day 78

Zara village

Sumela - Zara. Today we have a full day's drive through central Turkey towards the magical landscape of Cappadocia. We break the journey at the village of Zara, where we camp.
Overnight: Zara / Alucra  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Days 79-80

Magical Cappadocia

Zara - Goreme. On day 79 we arrive at 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.
Overnight: Goreme

Day 81

Egirdir

Goreme - Egirdir. Today we leave Cappadocia behind and continue south towards Egirdir, finding a suitable camping spot en route.
Overnight: Egirdir  |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Days 82-83

Termessos & Olympos

Egirdir - Termessos - Olympos. On day 82 we 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 Olympos, where we'll be spending the next two nights.

Olympos is a popular Turkish beach town and we have free time over the next two days to relax on the beach or explore the local area. On day 83 you may wish to join an optional sea kayaking adventure and at nightfall we take a short hike up to the mystical Chimera Fire Mountain. Here natural gas rises from underground and bursts into flame when reaching the outside air. We can toast some marshmallows on the never-ending fires.
Overnight: Olympos

Day 84

Pamukkale

Olympos - 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

Days 85-86

Selcuk & legendary Ephesus

Pamukkale - Selcuk. On day 85 we drive to our next destination, Selcuk. We'll be spending the next two nights here. 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.
Overnight: Selcuk

Day 87

Fabled Troy & Eceabat

Selcuk - Troy - Eceabat. Today we drive along the coast to the ruins of the fabled city of Troy. See the replica Trojan Horse here before we board the ferry to cross the Dardenelles, arriving in Eceabat this afternoon.
Overnight: Eceabat

Day 88

Gallipoli & Istanbul

Eceabat - Gallipoli - Istanbul. This morning we 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 paying our respects at Gallipoli, we board our overland truck for the final time and complete our journey to Istanbul, the only city in the world which sits in two continents - Europe and Asia. Your final evening in Turkey is free to explore Istanbul.
Overnight: Istanbul   |  Breakfast

Day 89

Istanbul

Today your incredible Silk Road adventure comes to an end. We've spent three months exploring China, Central Asia, the Caucasus and Turkey, getting off the beaten track in this incredible part of the world. Speak to a member of the Sales team if you wish to book extra accommodation in Istanbul.

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 a night 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.

Silk Road Encompassed Westbound is an amazing journey for those who love getting off the beaten track, discovering history and remarkable ways of life. This is a journey for the curious. You will stay in good hotels, hostels and homestays with some wild camping. It's an easy lifestyle but be prepared for the extremes of climate and the trip can be physically challenging.

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.

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Local payment - $3200pp, paid in USD

Please note that this is payable locally on day 1 of your trip in the currency specified.

Guaranteed Departure
Available
Contact us to book
Sold out
2020
Price /
Person
Single
Supp.
AUD $14,395
-
AUD $14,395
-
AUD $14,395
-
2021
Price /
Person
Single
Supp.
AUD $14,770
-
AUD $14,770
-
AUD $14,770
-

In Brief

Range
Trip Type
Starts
Xi'an
Ends
Istanbul
Departs
June to August
Group Size
Min 4 / Max 22
Hotel Rating
Simple hotels, guesthouses & camping
Local Payment
$3200pp, paid in USD
Tour Guide
Escorted by a tour leader
Meals
Breakfast: 52, Lunch: 21, Dinner: 29
Visiting
Countries
Click to play videoCyclists on the old city walls in Xian
Hot air balloons floating over the stunning landscape of Cappadocia
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