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Xi'an to Ashgabat

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 bizarre Turkmen capital of Ashgabat, we cross the deserts of Turkmenistan via the Darvaza gas crater to reach the phenomenal land of Uzbekistan. We visit the astonishing ancient cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand, and enjoy a yurt stay in the incredible Kyzylkhum Desert before arriving at the pleasant capital city, Tashkent. From Tashkent we will venture into the truly breathtaking lands of the fertile Fergana Valley, and head into the mountainous country of Kyrgyzstan. We will fully explore the breathtaking scenery, stay in local homestays and yurt camps, and take advantage of the phenomenal trekking opportunities in this incredible country on a flexible itinerary, before heading for the beautiful city of Bishkek. We continue on to cross the remote and desolate mountains in the south of Kyrgyzstan and cross the Torugart Pass into the incredible country of China. We will visit the stunning Lake Karakol in the colossal Karakoram Mountains before heading to the fascinating city of Kashgar, then fly to the colossal historic city of Xi'an, home of the world-famous Terracotta Warriors. We will then journey by train to the enchanted land of Tibet, exploring the highlights of Lhasa, the monasteries of Gyantse and Shigatse, and the base camp of Mount Everest before our return to Xi'an. Join us on this unforgettable epic overlanding experience on the Silk Road!

  • Duration: 52 Days
  • Guaranteed Departure: Yes
  • For lovers of: Active/Adrenaline, Local Culture & Cuisine, Historical Sites
  • Physical rating: Demanding
  • Accommodation standard:   Budget%
  • Traveller Tour Rating: 0%  
  • Your Guide: English speaking
  • Tour code: 162958
  • Starts: Xi'an, China
  • Finishes: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
You will Visit
  • Xi'an
  • Qinghai Hu
  • Overnight Train
  • Lhasa
  • Gyantse
  • Shigatse
  • New Tingri
  • Rongbuk
  • Kashgar
  • Lake Karakol
  • Tash Rabat
  • Kochkor
  • Bishkek
  • Chong Kemin Valley
  • Karakol
  • Cholpon Ata
  • Jeti Oguz Valley
  • Song Köl Lake
  • Kyrgyz Fergana Valley
  • Arslanbob
  • Fergana City
  • Fergana Valley
  • Tashkent
  • Samarkand
  • Nurata
  • Bukhara
  • Khiva
  • Kunye Urgench
  • Darvaza
  • Ashgabat

Itinerary

01

Day 1: Xi'an

Border Information: if joining the trip in Xi'an, you will most likely enter China at Xi'an Xianyang International Airport (IATA code: XIY).

There will be a group meeting at 6:00pm in our hotel in Xi'an - please look for a note from your tour leader when you arrive at the hotel giving more details about this important meeting.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Xi'an 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 Xi'an.

In Xi'an we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.

02

Day 2: Xi'an

Today we will head out for an included visit to the awe-inspiring world-famous Terracotta Warriors. We will have free time to independently explore the Xi'an on our return to the city.

03

Day 3: Qinghai Hu

Today we will take a short local flight to the small city of Xining in China's mid-western Qinghai province. On arrival we will make a visit to the vast and starkly beautiful Qinghai Hu Lake. The population of this part of the Tibetan Plateau is thinly spread and mainly comprises of Kazakhs, Moguls and Hui.

We will stay in a local hotel in the city of Xining.

 

04

Day 4: Overnight Train to Lhasa

Today we will board our overnight train to Lhasa - the train takes the 2000km-long Qinghai-Tibet railway, a masterpiece of railway engineering opened in 2006. The train takes us over the 5,072m Tanggula Pass (a crossing that makes the railway the highest in the world) on its spectacular and scenic journey across the mountains and the Tibetan Plateau, arriving in Lhasa the following day. Please note that there are several trains a day, so our departure and arrival times for the train journey will be flexible. 

Tonight we will have sleeper tickets on the train and will sleep on basic bunk beds on the train.

05

Day 5: Lhasa

Today we will arrive in the famous and evocative city of Lhasa, the religious, cultural and economic centre of Tibet. We will have free time to independently explore the city and soak up its unique atmosphere on our arrival.

In Lhasa we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

06

Day 6: Lhasa

Today we will have an included visit to the Jokhang Palace, located in the central Barkhor square and considered the holiest temple in all of Tibet. In the afternoon we will have an included visit to the Sera Monastery, one of the most important schools for the Gelug school of Buddhism. 

07

Day 7: Lhasa

Today we will visit the world-famous Potala Palace, once the home of the Dalai Lama and an iconic symbol of Tibet. The rest of our time today will be free to independently explore the city and some of its other important Buddhist sites.

08

Day 8: Gyantse

Today we will start our land journey through southern Tibet with a stunning drive over the Kampa La Pass (4,794m) to the historic town of Gyantse.

In Gyantse we will stay in a friendly local hotel.

09

Day 9: Shigatse

This morning we will have an included visit to the Palcho Monastery in Gyantse before continuing our journey to Shigatse, Tibet's second largest city. On arrival in Shigatse we will have an included visit to the Tashilhunpo Monastery.

In Shigatse we will stay in a friendly local hotel.

10

Day 10: New Tingri

Today we continue our journey with a drive over some more high mountain passes to reach New Tingri (also known as Shegar), where we will meet the junction for the road to Everest Base Camp on the Tibetan side. This is usually a fairly long day's drive, but the stunning views and scenery make this one of the world's most visually fantastic journeys!

In New Tingri we will stay in a local guesthouse.

11

Day 11: Rongbuk

From New Tingri we make the journey to the Rongbuk Monastery and Everest Base Camp.

The drive is not an easy one, passing over another 5,200m pass, but the views are sensational and (weather permitting) we should have excellent views of Mount Everest.

Once we have reached the Rongbuk Monastery, it is about a 2 hour walk further to Everest Base Camp (please note that this is the Base Camp from the northern Tibetan side, not the famous southern equivalent on the Nepalese side that lends its name to the popular trek).

We will usually camp here in Tibetan tents which take six to eight people.

12

Day 12: New Tingri

Today we will spend some more time exploring the Everest Base Camp area before returning to New Tingri for the night.

13

Day 13: Shigatse

Today we will return to the city of Shigatse. If time allows we may be able to detour to visit the 11th-Century Sakti Monastery, the centre of the once-dominant Sakti school of Buddhism.

14

Day 14: Lhasa

Today we will return to Tibet's capital, Lhasa.

15

Day 15: Xi'an

Today we will board an internal flight back to our starting point of Xi'an, where we will have free time to explore on arrival.

16

Day 16: Xi'an

17

Day 17: Kashgar

For everyone that is continuing with us to Kyrgyzstan, there will be quick pre-departure meeting in the early morning in order to explain the next 6 days until Bishkek, and your leader will collect the kitty for this linking section.

Today we will set off on a stunning journey along the Karakoram highway to Lake Karakol. The drive takes us up past some truly incredible mountain scenery and underneath a few 7000m peaks, including Mustagh Ata.

Near Lake Karakol we will stay in local nomadic yurts, sleeping 6-8 people per yurt. Provisions here are very basic, but the scenery is incredible and it is an interesting glimpse into the way of life of the local Uighurs.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

18

Day 18: Lake Karakol

This morning we have a chance to spend a little time at Lake Karakol before starting our journey back along the beautiful mountain road to Kashgar.

The evening will be free to explore the old town.

In Kashgar we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

19

Day 19: Lake Karakol

Free time to explore but you are not on the tour and kitty does not cover accommodation.

20

Day 20: Lake Karakol

Free time to explore but you are not on the tour and kitty does not cover accommodation.

21

Day 21: Tash Rabat

Border Information: Exit China at Torugart, enter Kyrgyzstan at Torugart.

Today we will have a full day drive over the 3752m Torugart Pass into the magical mountain kingdom of Kyrgyzstan! We will head just over the border to Tash Rabat, once a key staging post on the Silk Road close to the Kyrgyzstan-China border. During our time here we will visit an ancient caravanserai and have some time to explore the surrounding area.

In Tash Rabat we will wild camp. In cold weather (or if simply the group prefers and there is availability), we may choose to stay in local nomadic yurts that are set up for guests near the caravanserai, sleeping 8-10 people per yurt.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.

22

Day 22: Kochkor

Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, where we stay in local family-run guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality!

Whilst here we will visit a small museum and women's felt making cooperative that produces 'shyrdaks', the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned. We may also have the opportunity here to see some excellent local musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz folk music and to see how a yurt is put up!

In Kochkor we will stay in family-run guesthouses, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.

Please note that if nobody from this group is leaving in Bishkek, we may choose to stay instead in a guesthouse in the small town of Naryn (a 2-3 hour drive from Tash Rabat). This is so that we don't repeat Kochkor unnecessarily on the next section and can have more time to explore the area of Tash Rabat this morning.

23

Day 23: Bishkek

Today we have a short drive to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. The remainder of the day is free to explore the relaxed and atmospheric city.

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

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours (from Kochkor).

24

Day 24: Bishkek

Today there will be a group meeting at 10:00am for the next section of the trip towards Tashkent. The rest of the day will be free to further explore the city.

25

Day 25: Bishkek

Border Information: if joining in Bishkek, you will most likely enter Kyrgyzstan at Bishkek Manas 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.

The rest of the day is free for you to explore this relaxed and atmospheric city.

In Bishkek 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.*

*Another important note - please be aware that all itineraries in Kyrgyzstan are highly weather-dependent. The itinerary described in these notes are a statement of best intention, but we must approach each trip in Kyrgyzstan with a large degree of flexibility, as our leaders and local guides will have to 'play things by ear' according to the local conditions and weather. In low season certain routes become impossible and it may become far too cold to camp - in all cases there are fantastic and well-tried alternatives in place which means we can always run an excellent and comprehensive trip here, but please do not treat the exact details of the itinerary listed here as gospel - thanks for your understanding!*

26

Day 26-27: Chong Kemin Valley

The next 2 days will need to be fairly flexible. Many of the group will apply for Uzbekistan visas in Bishkek. However, the Uzbek Embassy opening times will often vary and therefore our itinerary will need to remain flexible over the next 2 days to accommodate this.

As a general guide, we will most likely spend our first night camping in stunning mountainous Ala Archa National Park near to Bishkek. We will then return to Bishkek on Day 3 in order to submit our visa applications. Once this is process is complete we will continue to Chong Kemin National Park, where we will have free time to explore and hike in this beautiful area, or to get involved in an optional white water rafting excursion if time allows

In Chong Kemin and Ala Archa we will wild camp. If it is too cold or simply preferred by the group, we may choose to camp in the grounds of a guesthouse in Ashu, a village in the Chong Kemin valley, where there could be the possibility to upgrade to rooms.

Drive times - 4-5 hours each day (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!).

27

Day 28: Karakol

Today we will drive to the northern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul and visit the ancient petroglyphs at Cholpon-Ata. We will then continue to the Russian-style town of Karakol, where we will have a free evening to explore and relax!

In Karakol we will stay in a decent local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 7-8 hours.

28

Day 29-30: Jeti Oguz Valley

Today we drive up into the mountains to the alpine trekking region of Jeti-Oghuz.

The next day we will have a free day to hike in the incredible scenery here, or take an optional horse ride with some of the local nomads!

In Jeti-Oghuz we will camp close to a local family yurt.

Estimated Drive Time - 5 hours.

Please note that on trips in the low season we may not be able to camp in Jeti-Oghuz due to low temperatures. If this is the case, we will take a stunning and incredible drive up a mountain in a Russian 4x4 truck to Altyn Arashan, a hot spring development in a stunning alpine setting, staying in dormitory accommodation. We will then stay for 1 night in a local hotel at the base of Jeti-Oghuz Valley (allowing time for some day walks).

29

Day 31: Kochkor

 

Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, where we stay in local family-run guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality! En route we will have an included demonstation from a local 'eagle hunter'.

Whilst here we will visit a small museum and women's felt making cooperative that produces 'shyrdaks', the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned. We may also have the opportunity here to see some excellent local musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz folk music and to see how a yurt is put up!

In Kochkor we will stay in family-run guesthouses, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.

Estimated Drive Time - 7 hours.

30

Day 32-33: Song Köl Lake

Today we will drive to the incredible Song-Kul Lake, where we will spend the next two nights.

We will have free time here to explore the area, and to enjoy some optional activities including hiking, horse-riding or watching a game of goat polo!

At Song-Kul we will stay in traditional felt yurts.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-7 hours.

Please note that trips during the low season will not be able to visit Song-Kul Lake, as temperatures will be below freezing, the road will be snowed over, and there will be no yurts to stay in! Instead we will likely stay in yurts on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.

31

Day 34-36: Kyrgyz Fergana Valley

We will spend the next 3 days overlanding through the stunning and remote Kyrgyz Ferghana Valley, stopping often to admire the views and perhaps take some impromptu hikes in the hills and countryside.

During these days we plan to wild camp en route. Please note that trips running in low season (May to mid-June and October to November), we may not be able to camp if temperatures are too low, in which case we will stay in local guesthouses along the route instead.

Drive times - 4-8 hours per day.

32

Day 37: Arslanbob

Today we will complete our drive to Arslanbob in Kyrgyzstan's Ferghana Valley - if we have had a slow journey in the previous days with lots of stops, we may choose to stay in the closer town of Jalalabad instead.

In Arslanbob we will stay overnight in a local family-run guesthouse.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-7 hours.

33

Day 38: Fergana City

Border information: Exit Kyrgyzstan at Dustlik, enter Uzbekistan at Andijon.

Today we will have a full day's drive across the Uzbek border to the eastern city of Ferghana.

In Ferghana we will stay in a basic local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 8 hours.

34

Day 39: Tashkent

This morning we travel in local transport to Kokand, where we will have the oppurtunity to visit the Khudayar Khan's Palace and the nearby Margilan Silk Factory before completing the journey over the Kamchik Pass to Tashkent, the Uzbek capital.

The truck must pass over the Kamchik Pass without passengers and will rejoin us this evening in Tashkent.

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

Estimated Drive Time - 6 hours.

35

Day 40: Tashkent

 

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

Today we will have free time to explore Tashkent. Please note that if you are leaving in Tashkent, today is the last day of the trip and there is no accommodation included tonight.

 

36

Day 41: 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.*

37

Day 42: 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!).

38

Day 43-44: 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.

39

Day 45: 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.

40

Day 46: 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.

41

Day 47-48: 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.

42

Day 49-50: 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.

43

Day 51: 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).

44

Day 52: 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.

45

Day 53: 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.

Inclusions:
    Activities
    • Explore the world-famous site of the Terracotta Warriors, an army of 8000 life-size figures built to protect the Emporer Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife
    • Visit the stunning remote Qinghai Hu Lake in the lower realms of the Tibetan Plateau
    • Explore the Jokhang Temple, the centrepiece of Lhasa and the most sacred and important temple in Tibet
    • Visit the stunning Sera Monatery, and witness one of the fascinating debating sessions between the monks
    • Take a guided tour of the incredble Potala Palace, the former winter residence of the Dalai Lama and the most famous symbol of Tibet
    • Visit the beautiful Palcho (or Baiju) Monastery in Gyantse, home to the most impressive 'Kumbum'-style stupa in Tibet
    • Visit the Tashilhunpo Monastery, the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama, the second most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism
    • Stay overnight at Everest Base Camp, and experience the jaw-dropping view of the world's highest mountain
    • Take in the spectacular mountain scenery on our drive along the Karakorum Highway to Lake Karakol
    • Stay overnight in a traditional yurt owned by Kyrgyz and Tajik families near the beautiful Lake Karakol, set amongst the 7500m-high mountains of the Tian Shan range
    • Visit the ancient Silk Road caravanserai at Tash Rabat, close to the Kyrgyzstan-China border
    • Cross into Kyrgyzstan via the stunning and remote Torugart Pass in the Tian Shan Mountains
    • Stay at an overnight homestay at a traditional rural Kyrgyz village
    • See the traditional felt workshops or Kochkor and learn about how Kyrgyz carpets and hats are typically made here
    Accomodation
    • 20% Camping - 80% Hotels
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