Journey from east to west through Central Asia and the Caucasus on this 34-day overland group tour from Tashkent to Tbilisi. Take in the amazing Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva in Uzbekistan, spend a night in a traditional yurt in the Kyzylkhum Desert and stay in a converted caravanserai in Azerbaijan. Explore the bizarre city of Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, marvel at the flaming Darvaza Gas Crater and take in the highlights of Georgia and Armenia.
Welcome to Uzbekistan! On arrival in Tashkent you can make your way to our start hotel and there’s a pre-departure Welcome Meeting at 10:00. The rest of your first day is then free to explore Uzbekistan’s clean and modern Soviet-style capital at leisure.
Journey to Samarkand
Tashkent - Samarkand. Climb aboard our overland expedition truck for the first time today as we drive to the jewel in Uzbekistan's crown - the beautiful Silk Road city of Samarkand. On arrival in the city, the rest of the day is at leisure before we begin exploring the city tomorrow.
Overnight: Samarkand | Breakfast
On day 3 we enjoy a tour of the characterful Silk Road city of Samarkand. The most famous site in Samarkand is the incredibly beautiful Registan Square. The Registan is dominated by three towering madrasahs which rise up against the skyline - madrasah is Arabic for 'school'.
Our tour also takes in the Ulug Beg Observatory and the ruins of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque. The mosque was once the jewel in the empire of Timur, the famous warlord who was born in Samarkand. Optional activities on day 4 include a visit to the nearby city of Shakhrisabz.
Overnight: Samarkand | Breakfast x 2
Kyzylkhum Desert & Nurata
Samarkand - Nurata. This morning we leave Samarkand and venture into the wild Kyzylkhum Desert. Later on we can hike in the Nurata Hills and you may wish to take a dip in Lake Ajdar Kul. There’s an optional camel ride over the rolling sand dunes of the desert and we spend the night in a traditional yurt near the town of Nurata. Yurts are felt tents which also happen to be the traditional form of accommodation for Central Asian nomads.
Overnight: Nurata | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Nurata - Bukhara. Today we head out of the desert to the historic Silk Road city of Bukhara, where we'll be staying for the next three nights. We'll make a quick stop in Nurata en route.
On day 7 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 8 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.
Bukhara - Khiva. On day 9 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.
Overnight: Khiva | Breakfast x 2
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
The flaming 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
Travel to Ashgabat
Darvaza Gas Crater - Ashgabat. Today we make our way to the mind-boggling, bonkers capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat. The city holds the world record for the highest concentration of marble clad buildings anywhere in the world as well as a number of other unusual world records, much to the delight of the country's eccentric President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.
Overnight: Ashgabat | Breakfast
Today we embark on a minibus tour of this off the beaten track capital city. Look out for the bizarre marble architecture and some of the golden statues which dot the city. The President of Turkmenistan 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
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.
Caspian Sea Ferry
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
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.
Gobustan and 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
Sheki & caravanserai stay
Lahij - Sheki. Today we journey across Azerbaijan to Sheki and visit the beautiful Khan’s Palace. After our visit here, we arrive at our accommodation for the night. There’s a real treat in store as we stay in a hotel built inside an old Silk Road caravanserai, where weary merchants used to stop for a rest and to resupply their caravans.
Overnight: Sheki (caravanserai)
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
Lagodekhi National Park - Telavi. We head into the Alazani Valley this morning and visit the impressive Gremi Citadel en route to Telavi. We'll be basing ourselves in this famous wine region for the next couple of days.
Overnight: Telavi | Breakfast, Dinner
Telavi & wine tasting
Today we have plenty of time to explore Telavi and its surrounding villages, many of which grow their own grape varieties. We visit some of the local vineyards where we can watch traditions such as grape harvesting in action. For lunch we enjoy some Georgian hospitality with a meal and of course, wine tasting at a local family-run winery.
Overnight: Telavi | Breakfast, Dinner
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
Stepantsminda - Mtskheta. This morning is free to relax in Stepantsminda, or we'll hike up to the Tsminda Sameba Church if there wasn't time yesterday. Later in the day we'll head to the town of Mtskheta, where we visit the beautiful 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.
Overnight: Mtskheta | Breakfast, Dinner
Borjomi National Park & Vardzia
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
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 wild camp once we have crossed.
Overnight: Armenian Highlands | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Khor Virap Monastery & ancient Yerevan
Armenian Highlands - Yerevan. On day 30 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.
Yerevan - Lake Sevan. Say goodbye to Yerevan as we make our way towards Lake Sevan. There are included stops en route at the UNESCO-listed Geghard Monastery and Garni Temple. The Geghard Monastery was carved into the rock face of the Azat River Gorge, whilst Garni Temple is an impressive Graeco-Roman structure that wouldn't look out of place in the Athens Acropolis.
We arrive at Lake Sevan, home to the only beaches in landlocked Armenia. The evening is spent camping on the shore of the lake.
Overnight: Lake Sevan | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Free time in Tbilisi
Lake Sevan - Tbilisi (Georgia). Today we board our overland truck for the final time. 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
Today our amazing overland tour comes to an end. If you wish to extend your stay in Tbilisi, then speak to our sales team.
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 - $1450pp, paid in USD
Please note that this is payable locally on day 1 of your trip in the currency specified.