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Tashkent to Istanbul

Asia is the continent where overlanding all started, and Dragoman has been the leading operator there since our first trucks went through in the 1980s - take advantage of our years of experience and come with us as we include all the must-see attractions as well as heading into the wilds, well away from the usual tourist trail. Starting in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, we visit the astonishing ancient cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, and enjoy a yurt stay in the incredible Kyzylkhum Desert. Then we cross the deserts of Turkmenistan via the Darvaza gas crater to the bizarre capital of Ashgabat, before heading into Iran, a country close to our hearts. You'll journey through the stunning highlands and deserts to the ancient city of Yazd, then down to the cultural and historical highlights fo Shiraz, Persepolis and Esfahan on the way to the capital of Tehran. Then you will overland west through Tabriz and the Kurdish region of Turkey en route to the magical land of Cappadocia. We then head to the magnificent historic city of Istanbul. Join us on this unforgettable epic overlanding experience on the Silk Road!

  • Duration: 39 Days
  • Guaranteed Departure: Yes
  • For lovers of: Local Culture & Cuisine, Historical Sites
  • Physical rating: Average
  • Accommodation standard:   Budget%
  • Traveller Tour Rating: 0%  
  • Your Guide: English speaking
  • Tour code: 157617
  • Starts: Tashkent, Uzbekistan
  • Finishes: Istanbul, Turkey
You will Visit
  • Tashkent
  • Samarkand
  • Nurata
  • Bukhara
  • Khiva
  • Kunye Urgench
  • Darvaza
  • Ashgabat
  • Shirvan
  • Damghan
  • Khoor
  • Yazd
  • Zein-o-din
  • Persepolis
  • Shiraz
  • Esfahan
  • Tehran
  • Zanjan
  • Tabriz
  • DoÄŸubayazıt
  • Erzurum
  • Sivas
  • Göreme
  • Istanbul

Itinerary

01

Day 1: Tashkent

Border Information: if joining in Tashkent, you will most likely enter Uzbekistan at Tashkent International Airport.

There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting.

We will then have a free afternoon to explore the Soviet city of Tashkent.

In Tashkent we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

*Important note - do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*

02

Day 2: Samarkand

Today our journey begins will a drive to the fascinating ancient city of Samarkand where we will stay for the next 3 nights.

In Samarkand we will stay in a good hotel on the outskirts of town.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

03

Day 3-4: Samarkand

Today we will have a guided tour of the incredible historic city of Samarkand and the surrounding area, including the Registan, Ulug Beg Observatory, Bibi-Khanym Mosque and Shah-I-Zinda.

On our second day, we will have a free day to further explore the beautiful city and its surroundings.

04

Day 5: Nurata

Today we will drive into the Kyzylkhum Desert near the town of Nurata. In the afternoon we will have the opportunity to take a swim in Lake Ajdar Kul and head out on an optional camel ride into the desert!

Tonight we will stay in a desert yurt camp.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

05

Day 6: Bukhara

Today we will drive to the beautiful city of Bukhara, where will spend the next 3 nights. Our drive will take us via the desert town of Nurata, which we will have a brief stop. 

In Bukhara we will stay in a comfortable local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

06

Day 7-8: Bukhara

Today we will have a guided tour of Bukhara and the surrounding area, including the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Kalon Mosque, Zindon Prison and the Ark Fortress.

On our second day here, we will have a free day to further explore this incredible historic city and its surroundings.

07

Day 9-10: Khiva

Today we have a full day drive to the incredible historic town of Khiva.

Estimated Drive Time - 10-11 hours.

On the next day, we have a guided tour of the ancient city of Khiva during the morning. In the afternoon we will have plenty of free time to further explore this wonderfully preserved Khanate town.

In Khiva we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

08

Day 11: Kunye Urgench

Border Information: Exit Uzbekistan at Nijazov, enter Turkmenistan at Shovot.

This morning we will drive across the border into Turkmenistan, visit the markets in the border town of Dashoguz, and explore the Kunye Urgench ruins towards the end of the day.

We will wild camp in the deserts near Kunye Urgench tonight.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (heavily dependent on the time taken to cross the border).

09

Day 12: Darvaza

Today we continue south through the Karakum Desert. We will have an included side trip to the amazing flaming Darvaza Gas Crater (also known as the 'Door to Hell'!).

We will wild camp in the deserts near Darvaza Crater tonight.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

10

Day 13: Ashgabat

Today we will complete our drive to the interesting capital of Ashgabat, usually arriving mid-afternoon. There will hopefully be time to explore one of the city's museums upon arrival.

In Ashgabat we will stay in a decent quality local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 6 hours.

11

Day 14: Ashgabat

Today we will have an included tour of the city of Ashgabat using local minibuses. In the afternoon we have the option of visiting the famous Ashgabat Sunday Market.

12

Day 15: Ashgabat

Border Information: if finishing in Ashgabat, you wil most likely exit Turkmenistan at Ashgabat International Airport.

Today will be a free day to further explore the city if Ashgabat. Please note that if you are finishing your trip here, there is no accommodation included tonight.

13

Day 16: Ashgabat

Border Information: if joining in Ashgabat, you will most likely enter Turkmenistan at Ashgabat International Airport (IATA code: ASB).

There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting.

After the meeting we will have an included tour of the city of Ashgabat using local minibuses. In the afternoon we will visit the famous Ashgabat Sunday Market.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Ashgabat before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Ashgabat. If arriving at Ashgabat airport you will also need to have a confirmed arrival transfer and representative from our local supplier to meet you at the airport. Please contact your sales agent for prices and to book. 

In Ashgabat we will stay in a decent quality local hotel.

*Important note - any tobacco products are practically illegal in Turkmenistan, so please do not bring them or use them in Turkmenistan. Also please do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*

14

Day 17: Ashgabat

Today we will arrange to obtain our Iran visas at the Iranian Consulate in Ashgabat for all members of the group - please note that citizens of the UK, USA and Canada will need to attend the Consulate in person along with your trip leader so that they can take fingerprints as part of the application.

The rest of the day is free to further explore Ashgabat.

15

Day 18: Shirvan

Border Information: Exit Turkmenistan at Gaudan, enter Iran at Bajgiran.

Today we will pick up our passports from the Iranian Consulate and head straight across the border to the small town of Shirvan.

In Shirvan we will stay in a basic local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

16

Day 19: Damghan

Today we will drive to the historical town of Bastam and visit the Sufi complex in the centre. After this we will continue to the town of Damghan.

In Damghan we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-8 hours.

17

Day 20: Khoor

This morning we will take a walking tour of the ancient town of Damghan, including the Tarikhuneh Mosque which features columns dating from the year 760CE.

Following our visit we will continue our journey to the desert city of Khoor, where we have the option to take an evening jeep trip into the nearby salt flats to have dinner.

In Khoor we will stay in a beautiful hotel in the style of a desert caravanserai.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

*Please note that with small groups and at certain times of the year we may be able to stay in a local homestay in the nearby village of Mesr*.

18

Day 21-22: Yazd

Today we will explore the town of Khoor before driving to the ancient desert town of Yazd, one of the oldest extant towns in Iran.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

On the following day we will have an included walking tour of some of the main highlights of Yazd, including the incredible Jameh Mosque, the Old Town and the Amir Chakhmaq complex.

In Yazd we will stay in a local hotel.

19

Day 23: Zein-o-din

Today we have an included visit to two important Zoroastrian sites in Iran - the Fire Temple and the Towers of Silence. After this we will take a short drive to the famous Caravanserai of Zein-o-Din, an atmospheric 16th-century guesthouse originally built to accommodate merchants travelling on the Silk Road.

In Zein-o-Din we will stay overnight at the old caravanserai.

Estimated Drive Time - 1-2 hours.

20

Day 24: Persepolis

Today we will drive south to the city of Shiraz. En route we will visit the phenomenal ancient ruins of Persepolis, once the capital of the mighty Achaemenid Persian Empire until it was conquered by Alexander the Great in 330BCE.

In Shiraz we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-8 hours.

21

Day 25: Shiraz

Today we will have an included walking tour of some of the highlights of the old city of Shiraz, including the beautifully-coloured Nasir ol Molk Mosque, the incredible mirrored interior of the Shah Cheragh Mosque, and the historical house of Narenjestan.

22

Day 26-28: Esfahan

Today we wil have a full day's drive to the stunning old Safavid-era capital of Esfahan.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-8 hours.

On the following day we will have an included walking tour of the central highlights of Esfahan, including the showpiece central square of Naqsh-e Jahan and its surrounding mosques and royal palaces, the old bazaar, and the beautiful Jameh Mosque, one of the oldest in Iran.

On our second full day here, we will have free time to explore more of Esfahan's incredible sites, such as its ancient bridges, the curious 'Shaking Minarets', the Armenian Vank Cathedral, or the evocative Martyrs' Cemetery.

In Esfahan we will stay in a comfortable local hotel.

23

Day 29: Tehran

Today we will have a full day drive to the chaotic Iranian capital of Tehran.

In Tehran we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-8 hours.

24

Day 30: Tehran

Today we will have an included tour of the stunning Golestan Palace and the fascinating National Museum of Iran.

25

Day 31: Tehran

Border Information: if finishing in Tehran, you will most likely exit Iran at Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport (IATA code: IKA).

Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Tehran. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight.

Please note that due to restrictions on citizens of the UK, USA and Canada being permitted to remain unaccompanied in Iran, passengers of the above nationalities will need to fly out on the same day the trip finishes. All passengers departing on the final day of the trip will have transfers to the airport automatically included. Please ensure the correct dates for your plans are clearly stated on all your visa applications.

26

Day 32: Tehran

Border Information: if joining in Tehran, you will most likely enter Iran at Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport (IATA code: IKA).

There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting.

After the meeting we will have an included tour of the stunning Golestan Palace and the fascinating National Museum of Iran.

In Tehran we will stay in a local hotel.

Please note that due to restrictions on citizens of the UK, USA and Canada being permitted to remain unaccompanied in Iran, we would only be able to book one extra night of accommodation in Tehran for these nationalities before the trip starts. You will also be required to book an airport transfer in advance via Dragoman. Please ensure the correct dates for your plans are clearly stated on all your visa applications.

27

Day 33: Zanjan

Today we will set off from Iran's chaotic capital and head west to the impressive Dome of Soltaniyeh, where we have an included visit. The 14th-century mausoleum is the 3rd largest dome in the world.

After our visit, we will continue our drive to the small town of Zanjan, where we have free time to explore and possibly visit the fascinating historical laundry hall of Rakhatshor-Khaneh.

In Zanjan we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

28

Day 34: Tabriz

Today we will drive to the western Iranian city of Tabriz, where we will have free time to explore some of the sights of the old town.

In Tabriz we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

29

Day 35: Doğubayazıt

Border Information: Exit Iran at Bazargan, enter Turkey at Gurbulak.

Today we will drive across the border to Turkey and the Kurdish town of Do ubayaz t. En route we will have an included visit to the Ishak Pasha Palace and enjoy the spectacular views of the surrounding landscapes and the nearby Mount Ararat.

In Do ubayaz t we will stay in a basic local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

30

Day 36-37: Erzurum

Over the next two days we will travel through the stunning landscapes in eastern Turkey towards the central Cappadocia region. 

We will aim to wild camp or stay at a basic local campsite near Erzurum on the first night, and near Sivas on the second.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-7 hours each day.

31

Day 38: Göreme

Today we will complete our drive to Göreme, a small enchanting town in the heart of the Cappadocia mountains.

In Göreme we will stay in a well-equipped hostel - please note that dorm beds are sometimes used here.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-7 hours.

32

Day 39-40: Göreme

We will have a 2 full days to explore Göreme, including a guided tour of the enchanted valley of Cappadocia. There will be an opportunity for a magical optional balloon ride over the valley during our time here.

Inclusions:
    Activities
    • Explore the unique and bizarre Turkmen capital of Ashgabat on a guided tour of the city
    • Explore, shop, and haggle at the vast Altyn Asyr Sunday Bazaar
    • Explore the ancient town of Bastam, containing monuments dating from the Ilkhanate Period when Iran was controlled by the Mongol Empire
    • Visit the splendid ancient brick building of Imamzadeh Jafar in Damghan, which has an appearance similar to a North African castle
    • See Damghan's Jameh Mosque and it's fine brick minaret dating from the mid-11th century
    • Visit the partially-ruined Tarikhuneh Mosque which features 18 rear columns dating from around 760CE, making this one of the oldest mosques in Iran
    • Explore the ancient desert town of Khoor and see its beautiful palm trees and ruined castle
    • See the stunning ancient Jameh Mosque of Yazd, built in the 12th century and a fantastic example of Azari architecture
    • Learn all about the intriguing and ingenious historical methods of getting water to the desert town of Yazd at the Yazd Water Museum
    • Freely explore the huge city square and mosque at the Amir Chakmaq complex, built in the 15th century
    • Discover the atmospheric winding streets and beautiful adobe architecure of Yazd's Old Town, one of the oldest towns in the world
    • Stay overnight in the incredible restored Safavid-era circular caravanserai in the remote deserts south of Yazd
    • See the Zoroastrian Towers of Silence outside Yazd, used until the 1960s to place bodies of the deceased so that they did not touch and pollute the sacred elements of fire or earth
    • Visit the Zoroastrian Fire Temple of Yazd, where they keep a sacred fire that has supposedly been continuously burning since 470CE, the only Zoroastrian eternal flame of its type outside of India
    • Head out on a guided tour of the incredible historic ruins of the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis, founded by Cyrus the Great in 550BCE and invaded by Alexander the Great in 330BCE
    • Visit the stunning Shah Cheragh Mosque, a major pilgrimage site for Shia Muslims
    • Explore the 19th century Nasir ol Molk Mosque, famous for its extensive coloured glass art
    • Visit the Narenjestan Palace in Shiraz, the former home of the wealthy Qavam family of merchants
    • Visit the magnificent and colossal city square of Naqsh-e Jahan, the centrepiece of the Safavid-era city of Esfahan
    • Explore the Shah Mosque, the public mosque of Esfahan built by Shah Abbas I and a masterpiece of Persian architecture
    • See the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, once a private mosque for the emperor and his harem and home to some of the world's most beautiful and masterful internal tilework
    • Explore the grand palace of Ali Qapu and discover the stunning wall paintings of the former residence of the Safavid emperors
    • Wander the streets of Esfahan's old bazaar, dating from the 17th century
    • Visit the stunning Jameh Mosque in Esfahan, one of the oldest mosques in Iran and an amalgamation of several different styles of Persian architecture
    • Explore the former royal complex of Golestan Palace, a huge site built in the 16th century and Tehran's oldest monument
    • Learn all about Iran's rich and fascinating history at Tehran's National Museum of Iran
    • Explore the former royal complex of Golestan Palace, a huge site built in the 16th century and Tehran's oldest monument
    • Learn all about Iran's rich and fascinating history at Tehran's National Museum of Iran
    • See the spectacular Dome of Soltaniyeh, the huge mausolem of the Ilkhanate (Mongolian) emperor Öljeitü built in the 14th Century and the 3rd largest dome in the world behind the Cathedral of Florence and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
    • Visit the Ottoman-era Ishak Pasha Palace in the hills overlooking Doğubayazıt and take in the impressive views of the surroundings, including the famous Mount Ararat
    • Explore the Early Christian underground cities of Derinkuyu or Kaymaklı, used as a hiding place from persecutions for centuries
    • Walk through the beautiful ancient valley of Ihlara, containing the beautiful rock-hewn churches built by the Cappadocian Greeks during the Byzantine era
    Accomodation
    • 10% Camping - 90% Hotels
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