Immerse yourself in the heart of Central Asia on this 63 day overland journey from Istanbul to Bishkek. Discover the Silk Road cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand in Uzbekistan and visit magical Cappadocia in Turkey. Stay in a caravanserai in Azerbaijan, explore Turkmenistan's bizarre capital of Ashgabat and watch an eagle hunter demonstration in Kyrgyzstan. Discover bustling Baku, camp in traditional felt yurts and discover the highlights of Georgia and Armenia.
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.
Istanbul - Eceabat. Today we board our overland truck for the first time and drive to the Gallipoli Peninsula. Here we’ll take a sobering guided tour of the site to see numerous WW1 memorials and battlefields including ANZAC Cove - the site of one of the bloodiest battles of WW1.
Troy, Selcuk & Ephesus
Eceabat - Selcuk. On day 3 we cross the Dardenelles by ferry and head to the fabled city of a Troy for a guided tour of the ruined city. See a replica of the Trojan Horse before we arrive at our hotel in Selcuk. The next day we’ll tour the legendary marble ruins of Ephesus, one of the best-preserved classical cities in the world. There’s also plenty of free time during our stay to venture into town.
Selcuk - Pamukkale. We drive inland this morning, to Pamukkale. There’s free time here to walk along the famous calcium white travertines and you can opt for a relaxing dip in the thermal hot spring if you wish.
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.
Termessos & Egirdir
Olympos - Egirdir. Leaving Olympos, we drive to the ruined Pisidian city of Termessos for a quick visit, before continuing towards Egirdir. Tonight, we’ll find a suitable spot for our first night of wild camping.
Overnight: Egirdir | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Egirdir - Goreme. On day 9 we drive to the small town of Goreme in the heart of enchanting Cappadocia. Enjoy a guided tour of the surreal landscape on day 10 including the underground city of Kaymakli and see the ancient rock-hewn churches of Ihlara. There’s an optional hot air balloon ride over the region which you may wish to book.
Goreme - Zara. We have a full day drive today as we head towards the Sumela Monastery. We wild camp near Zara or the village of Alucra.
Overnight: Zara OR Alucra | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
The incredible Sumela Monastery
Zara - Sumela. Today we explore the jaw dropping Sumela Monastery, which was founded by two Athenian monks in 368CE. The site is perched at the top of a rugged cliff, 1,200m above the ground. The lush green forests and swirling mists of the valley give the monastery a mystical feel and we have plenty of time to explore. Tonight, we camp in the area or stay at a hotel in nearby Macka or Trabzon (weather dependent).
Overnight: Sumela | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Sumela - Batumi (Georgia). Today we cross the border from Turkey into Georgia and drive to the welcoming Black Sea city of Batumi. There’s an optional visit to the Archaeological Museum and plenty of time to discover the city your way. Nicknamed the “Las Vegas of the Black Sea”, Batumi is a popular summer getaway location for Georgians and travellers alike.
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, Tbilisi. We may be joined here by some new travellers for the next leg of our Central Asian journey into Armenia and Azerbaijan. There’s free time to relax and you can visit the Old Town to see highlights including the Sioni Cathedral and the hilltop Narikala Fortress. There’s also an optional visit to the fascinating Museum of Soviet Occupation.
Overnight: Tbilisi | Breakfast x 2
Dilijan National Park & Lake Sevan
Tbilisi - Lake Sevan (Armenia). Say goodbye to Georgia for now as we cross the border into Armenia. Today’s short drive takes us through the stunning scenery of Dilijan National Park. We’ll either camp in the park or continue to the shores of Lake Sevan where we’ll set up camp for the night. The lake’s pebble beaches are the only beaches in landlocked Armenia and are a popular summer getaway for Armenians.
Overnight: Dilijan NP OR Lake Sevan | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Lake Sevan - Yerevan. Leaving shimmering Lake Sevan behind, we make our way towards the ancient city of Yerevan. There’s a stop en route at the UNESCO-listed rock carved Geghard Monastery and the beautiful Graeco-Roman Garni Temple before we finally arrive in Yerevan. We have two nights here to explore at leisure and there’s an optional visit to the Ararat Brandy Museum.
Khor Virap Monastery & Armenian Highlands
Yerevan - Armenian Highlands. We leave Yerevan this morning and begin our drive across the pristine Armenian Highlands. We’ll stop for an included visit at the Khor Virap Monastery. On a clear day you’ll have magnificent views of the snow-capped peak of Mt Ararat. Tonight, we wild camp in the Armenian Highlands.
Overnight: Armenian Highlands | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Armenian Highlands - Vardzia (Georgia). Crossing back into Georgia. we head towards the famous Vardzia Caves. This ancient cave city was mostly abandoned in the 16th century but the monastery is still inhabited by a handful monks who ring the bell at 07:00 every morning. We’ll either visit this breathtaking site today or tomorrow, depending on the time we arrive. Tonight, we’ll wild camp in the area.
Overnight: Vardzia | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Vardzia - Mtskheta. We drive to Borjomi National Park today and 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 journey to the spectacularly located town of Stepantsminda. During our stay here we’ll trek up to the tiny Tsminda Sameba Church, nestled in striking mountain scenery. There’s also an optional cooking lesson to learn how to create delicious Georgian kinkhalis (meatballs).
Overnight: Stepantsminda | Breakfast, Dinner
Telavi & wine tasting
Stepantsminda - Telavi. On day 24 we drive to the wine-making town of Telavi. This entire region is famous for its vineyards and wineries and we’ll have an included visit to a family run winery during our stay. Enjoy lunch and some delicious local wines, and watch aspects of the production process including grape harvesting.
Overnight: Telavi | Breakfast x 2, Dinner x 2
Lagodekhi National Park
Telavi - Lagodekhi National Park. Our final full day in Georgia is spent heading towards the border with Azerbaijan. We’ll visit the beautiful Gremi Citadel en route and will wild camp tonight in Lagodekhi National Park, close to the border.
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.
Overnight: Sheki (Caravanserai)
Sheki - Lahij. Today we drive to Lahij, an ancient mountain settlement which is famous for its copper production and arms. Tonights campsite has facilities available.
Overnight: Lahij | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
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 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 drive to Ashgabat, the bizarre capital of Turkmenistan. The next day there’s an included minibus tour of this off the beaten track destination.
Ashgabat is home to extravagant architecture including the world’s largest indoor Ferris wheel. It is also dotted with golden statues of the country’s unconventional President, former dentist Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who also stars as a rap artist and author in the country.
Overnight: Ashgabat | Breakfast x 2
Darvaza Crater - The Door to Hell
Ashgabat - Darvaza Gas Crater. Today we leave Ashgabat and travel into the Karakum Desert. There’s an included visit to the amazing Darvaza Gas Crater, known by many as the “Door to Hell”.
The crater was created accidentally in 1971 when Soviet oil drillers released gas into the atmosphere, causing the ground to collapse. The Soviets then set fire to the gas in order to burn it all off. There turned out to be much more than they thought, and it’s been burning away ever since. After our visit, we find a suitable spot to camp near the crater.
Overnight: Darvaza | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
The ruins of Kunye Urgench
Darvaza Gas Crater - Kunye Urgench. Our journey across the Karakum continues today as we drive to the ruins of Kunye Urgench. The city was once a major settlement along the Silk Road and many of the ruins are very well-preserved. Genghis Khan opted not to destroy the city when he invaded the region and we can see structures including the giant 60m high Kutlug-Timur Minaret, the highest in Central Asia. Tonight, we camp without facilities close to the ruins.
Overnight: Kunye Urgench | Breakfast, Lunch
Kunye Urgench - Dashoguz - Khiva (Uzbekistan). On day 37 we visit the bustling market in the border town of Dashoguz before crossing into Uzbekistan. We arrive in the beautiful ancient city of Khiva, our home for the next two nights. There’s an included guided tour on day 38 to see the dazzling city walls and highlights including the Kalta Minor Minaret, the blue palace of Tash Khovli and the Juma Mosque. There are also included visits to the Mohammed Rakhim Khan Madrassa museum and the Islam Hodja Madrassa.
Overnight: Khiva | Breakfast x 2
Khiva - Bukhara. Day 39 sees us driving to the beautiful city of Bukhara and we’ll tour the city the next day. Visit the 10th century mausoleum of Ismail Samanid, the Bukhara Ark fortress and the Kalon Mosque. Bukhara hides a gruesome history and you’ll also get to see the towering Kalyan Minaret - known as Death Tower. The minaret earned this nickname because prisoners were historically thrown from the tower to their deaths.
There’s free time on day 41 and you may wish to visit the harrowing Zindon Prison, home to the famous Bug Pit. Prisoners would be thrown into the pit and scorpions, lice, rats and other creatures 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 in traditional yurts in the desert.
Overnight: Nurata | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Nurata - Samarkand. On day 43 there’s time to explore the Nurata Hills and to take a dip in Lake Ajdar Kul. Later, we drive to the famous Silk Road city of Samarkand - the jewel in Uzbekistan's crown and the former capital of the Timurid empire. There’s a tour of the city on day 44, taking in highlights including the incredible Registan Plaza, the Ulug Beg Observatory and the ruins of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque. The next day is free and there’s an optional visit to the ancient city of Shakhrisabz, the birthplace of Timur.
Overnight: Samarkand | Breakfast x 3
Samarkand - Tashkent. On day 46 we drive to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent. The city is a stark contrast to many Silk Road cities in Central Asia. Whilst places such as Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara have retained much of their original architecture and ancient culture, Tashkent is very much a Soviet-style city. Clean and modern, it’s a very interesting place to visit. We have two full free days to explore the city and may be joined by new travellers to explore Kyrgyzstan on the next part of our trip.
Please note: The next leg of our journey is subject to change dependent on the weather conditions in Kyrgyzstan. Refer to the trip notes for more details.
Overnight: Tashkent | Breakfast x 3
Tashkent - Kokand - Fergana. This morning we travel in local transport over the Kamchik Mountain Pass to Kokand. Here we visit the impressive Khudayar Khan’s Palace and the nearby Margilan Silk Factory. We continue through incredible mountain scenery to Fergana where we’ll be re-joined by our overland truck, which must pass over the pass without passengers.
Overnight: Fergana | Breakfast
Fergana - Arslanbob (Kyrgyzstan). Say goodbye to Uzbekistan on day 50 as we cross into Kyrgyzstan and travel to Arslanbob, a small village in the breathtaking Kyrgyz Fergana Valley. If delayed at the border, we’ll stay at the closer town of Jalalabad instead. There’s free time to explore the stunning surroundings and we stay at a family-run guesthouse where you can get to know our Kyrgyz hosts.
Day 51 is free to explore, or if we prefer, we may begin our journey into the Kyrgyz Fergana Valley in which case we wild camp on day 51.
Overnight: Arslanbob | Breakfast x 2
Kyrgyz Fergana Valley
Arslanbob - Kyrgyz Fergana Valley. We spend the next two days overlanding through the amazing scenery of the Kyrgyz Fergana Valley. We’ll stop for several short hikes and wild camp in the area en route (weather permitting). Soak up the scenery and admire the mountainous views as we travel.
Overnight: Kyrgyz Fergana Valley | Breakfast x 2, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 2
Song Kol Lake
Kyrgyz Fergana Valley - Song Kol Lake. On day 54 we arrive at the pristine Song Kol Lake, in the Song Kol Valley. The next two days are spent lakeside, staying in traditional yurts and meeting nomadic farmers to experience traditional Kyrgyz life. If travelling in low season, then Song Kol Lake is inaccessible and we’ll stay in yurts on the southern shore of Lake Issyk Kol instead.
Overnight: Song Kol Lake | Breakfast x 2, Dinner x 2
Song Kol Lake - Kochkor. Today we drive to the village of Kochkor, where we’ll stay in small family-run guesthouses. Whilst here we visit the local museum and a women’s felt making cooperative. The women here produce ‘shyrdaks’, the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned.
Overnight: Kochkor | Breakfast, Dinner
Stunning Jeti Oguz
Kochkor - Jeti Oguz. On day 57 we head up into the alpine trekking region of Jeti Oguz. Watch an included demonstration from an eagle hunter, who uses his well-trained birds to catch animals for their meat and skins. We then spend the next two days hiking in the region and admiring the towering red sandstone landscape. You may also opt for a horse-riding experience with the local nomads.
Overnight: Jeti Oguz | Breakfast x 2, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 2
Jeti Oguz - Karakol. Today we have a relatively short drive to the Russian-style town of Karakol. The rest of the day is free - perhaps head out to admire the striking Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Overnight: Karakol | Breakfast
Chong Kemin Valley
Karakol - Chong Kemin Valley. On day 60 we drive to the shore of Lake Issyk Kol and see the ancient petroglyphs at Cholpon Ata. Our journey continues to the Chong Kemin valley, our home for the next two nights. There’s free time to explore and an optional white-water rafting excursion. You can also choose to explore the region on horseback.
Overnight: Chong Kemin | Breakfast x 2, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 2
Chong Kemin - Bishkek. Today we board our overland truck for the last time as we head towards Bishkek, the colourful capital of Kyrgyzstan. We stop to visit the Burana Tower en route and there’s free time to relax and explore the city when we arrive.
Overnight: Bishkek | Breakfast
Today our Central Asian adventure comes to an end. If you wish to extend your stay in this off the beaten track part of the world then speak to our sales team.
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.
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 - $2300pp, paid in USD
Please note that this is payable locally on day 1 of your trip in the currency specified.