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Journey Around the Caspian Sea TOP007_1

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  • Itinerary
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Caspian Sea and Silk Road Adventure

Follow in the footsteps of ancient traders and pilgrims on this journey around the Caspian Sea. Span centuries, continents, and cultures as you travel through Turkmenistan, Iran, and Azerbaijan along the infamous and magical Silk Road. A remarkable 16 day, 4,000 mile adventure crossing mountains and deserts, ancient cities and remote villages. 

Highlights

  • Explore ancient Merv and its extensive archaeological sites
  • Explore Golestan Palance in Tehran
  • Spend a magical night on the shores of the Caspian Sea
  • Visit the Assassins’ castles in northern Iran
  • Camp at the Darvaza Gas crater, listed as one of the ‘100 Places to Visit Before You Die’
  • Discover the mud volcanoes and fire mountains that are the natural wonders of Azerbaijan
  • Interact with a wide variety of local people and get a glimpse of what life is like for them

Your Caspian Sea and Silk Road adventure starts in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, where you can explore the Parthian site of Nissa and the Arch of Neutrality. A night will be spent at the fascinating spectacle of the Darvaza Gas, a gaping, fiery crater opened up in the desert of northern Turkmenistan near Dashoguz.

During this first week there will be plenty of opportunities to connect with local people in the many small villages, such as Damla, that you’ll visit. The town of Mary is your gateway to one of the greatest cities of the ancient Silk Road: Merv.  Spend a day exploring the site of what was once a major oasis-city.

After Merv, you’ll cross into Iran.  Discover Robat-e Sharaf, perhaps the oldest and definitely most ornate caravanserai’s along the road.  There’s also the impressive Imam Reza shrine, one of the most striking monuments Muslim world. In Teharan you’ll have an up close look at the crown jewels and Peacock Throne of the Royal Family.

During the second week you’ll visit Lambesar and Roodkhan Castles, the lovely village of Masule, enjoy a boat ride as you enter Azerbaijan, spend a magical night on the shores of the Caspian Sea, wander through the caves and petroglyphs’ of Qobustan (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and visit Yanar Dag – one of the few remaining ‘fire mountains’.

This is an incredible adventure that takes you across the Karakum Desert and into the Alborz Mountains of Iran.  Immerse yourself in a land where the ancient traditions still linger on the modern landscape.  You’ll be exploring some of the oldest civilisations in the world as you carry on a tradition that pilgrims and traders of all kinds have taken part in for over three millennia.  Enquire today and book your place.

Itinerary

Day 1: Tour starts in Ashgabat (Turkmenistan)
Accommodation for this night is included due to the arrival times of our suggested flights. Those on the group flight will arrive in the early hours of Day 2.

Day 2: In Ashgabat
Today we will take a tour of the city, with visits including the Arch of Neutrality and the National Museum. We will also travel out to the west of the city to visit the Parthian site of Nissa.

Day 3: Ashgabat – Dashoguz – Darvaza
Today we’ll take a short flight to Dashoguz and visit Konya Urgench before heading south into the desert to spend the night at the bizarre Darvaza Gas Crater.

Day 4: Darvaza – Ashgabat – Mary
This morning we will visit the remote settlement of Damla and see something of village life here. We then drive back to Ashgabat to take an early evening flight to Mary.

Day 5: In Mary
Mary is the gateway to the fabulous ruins of ancient Merv, the site of one of the greatest cities to ever grace the trading routes of Central Asia. We will have plenty of time to explore the site today, along with the history museum in Mary.

Day 6: Mary to Mashhad (Iran)
We cross the border into Iran today. En route to Mashhad we will visit Robat-e-Sharaf, one of the oldest and most ornate caravanserais in the region.

Day 7: In Mashhad; overnight train to Tehran
Today we visit the impressive and holy Imam Reza shrine, whose golden domes and towering minarets present one of the most remarkable monuments anywhere in the Muslim world. Later we take an overnight train to Tehran.

Day 8: Arrive Tehran
Arriving in Tehran late morning, we will have time to visit the fascinating Carpet Museum this afternoon and see the breath-taking Crown Jewels and Peacock Throne.

Day 9: In Tehran
We’ll have a full day to see some more of the sights of this chaotic and impressive capital city, including the Golestan Palace.

Day 10: Drive to Alamut via Qazvin
To the north of Tehran the Alborz Mountains stretch from the Armenian border to the Caspian Sea. They are home to some impressive “Assassins’ Castles” and today we’ll visit the fabled Alamut Fortress.

Day 11: Drive to Masule via Lambesar Castle
There’ll be the opportunity to walk in the mountains today as we visit Lambesar Castle before heading to the incredibly picturesque mountain village of Masule.

Day 12: Visit Roodkhan Castle; drive to Bandar-e Anzali
A tour highlight today is the chance to walk up to Roodkhan Castle, one of the best preserved of all the castles in the area. We then drive to Bandar-e Anzali on the Caspian Sea.

Day 13: Bandar-e Anzali to Lankaran (Azerbaijan)
This morning we take a boat trip before crossing the border at Astara to enter Azerbaijan, spending a second night on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Day 14: Lankaran to Baku via Qobustan
En route to the capital city we will visit the UNESCO site of Qobustan where we will see caves and petroglyphs, and some mud volcanoes.

Day 15: Around Baku
Today we explore Baku’s old walled city and see some of its World Heritage Sites. This afternoon we drive to the Absheron Peninsula to visit Yanar Dag, one of the only remaining natural ‘fire mountains’ for which the region was once universally famed.

Day 16: Tour ends in Baku
The tour ends after breakfast this morning.

More Details

Accommodation:
As an overall ethos, wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night.

This can obviously vary dramatically from country to country and from trip to trip. On this particular trip we will be in hotels, guesthouses, homestays and also wild camping. At the homestays there will be communal sleeping and limited, shared bathroom facilities.

Please note that the accommodation mentioned in the itinerary is intended as a guide only and is always subject to availability.

Transport:
On this tour we will use coaster bus, minibus, 4WDs, domestic flight and sleeper train.

*Please note that Iran train bookings can be unreliable. If we are unable to secure train tickets, we will fly from Mashhad to Tehran.

Climate:
As this trip travels through varied terrain of both deserts and mountains, we are likely to encounter a wide variety of weather systems during this tour.

Spring and Autumn are generally considered the best times to visit, with daytime temperatures expected in the late 20s, although it can get up to the high 30s in the desert. Rain is always a possibility in the Alborz Mountains.

Additional Comments:
Please be advised that on this trip vegetarians can be catered for, but the selection and variety may be limited.

Anyone in a reasonable state of health, with an open mind and a sense of adventure should be perfectly able to cope with this tour, as many of the activities
are optional.

Please bear in mind that accommodation choices on this unusual routing can be quite limited.
While we generally use the best available, you should come prepared for some basic conditions.

   

Departure dates:

  • 7 May 2016 (16 days)
  • 24 September 2016 (16 days)
  • 29 April 2017 (16 days)
  • 23 September 2017 (16 days)

Start point: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Finish point: Baku, Azerbaijan

Prices: from 3,295 GBP (excluding international flights)

WHAT IS INCLUDED

  • Full services of a Tour Leader with local guides and drivers
  • Meal plan with drinking water as required with the majority of meals being taken in local restaurants where viable
  • All transport as outlined in the itinerary.
  • All accommodation
  • 2-man dome tents while camping
  • Foam mats & sleeping bags while camping
  • All entrance fees, as per itinerary

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED

  • Visas (if applicable)
  • Local airport taxes
  • Tips (always optional, but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information pack you’ll receive after booking)
  • Beverages other than drinking water & any costs of a personal nature
  • International flights to/from the start/finish of the trip
  • Airport transfers (unless booking suggested flights through the tour operator office)

Operator

This operator is a multi-award winning adventure travel company specialising in small group tours and tailor made holidays to some of the most extraordinary destinations across the Indian sub-continent, Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South East Asia, Latin America and Europe.

We love their unique, original itineraries – whether they are for small group travel or individually created for tailor made clients – allowing you to take journeys that venture beneath the surface of the region. Concentrating on the locations they know and love, they don’t source itineraries from other agents, nor do they run the same tour over and over (thus creating a ‘tourist circuit’, spoiling an untouched region). Instead, they rarely run any group tour more than a couple of times a year on routes they have discovered for themselves, to give a truly authentic, off-the-beaten-track experience.

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