Tribal Culture and Camels Amidst Ruins, Past and Present

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan, with its multiple personalities, should be high on your list of bizarro travel experiences. The country’s foothold on the oil-rich Caspian Sea is apparent in the marble and gold monuments to former President-for-Life Turkmenbashi in the capital, Ashgabat.  Countless archaeological sites lie half-buried under the sands, and strange sights, such as the flaming “Door to Hell” gas crater, are not uncommon.

Why Travel with MIR to Turkmenistan
  • 30 years of Turkmenistan travel experience
  • Travel programs such as World Affairs Council of Philadelphia and the Harvard Museum of Natural History have chosen MIR to guide them to Turkmenistan
  • Twice named one of National Geographic Adventure’s “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”
  • MIR affiliate office in nearby Uzbekistan
  • On-the-ground support and quality you can trust
  • Personalized travel planning from start to finish
  • Guides and tour managers that clients rave about
Signature Experiences

We regularly garner applause from our travelers for the inspired opportunities we provide to help them get to know the local people, distinctive art, architecture and accomplishments of Turkmenistan.  Below is just a sampling of the Turkmenistan experiences MIR has designed to take our clients far from the familiar.

  • Pay a visit to a family of weavers in Nohur Village
    Explore the mountain village of Nohur and pay a visit to the home of a family that has been weaving the special patterns of the Nohur people for generations...
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    Pay a visit to a family of weavers in Nohur Village

    Turkmenistan

    Nohur, Turkmenistan

    Explore the mountain village of Nohur and pay a visit to the home of a family that has been weaving the special patterns of the Nohur people for generations.

    Journeys with this Signature Experience

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  • Appreciate the heirloom Akhal-Tekke horse
    Venture outside Ashgabat to visit a horse-breeding farm devoted to the renowned Akhal-Tekke horse, arguably the oldest cultured breed of horse in the world....
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    Appreciate the heirloom Akhal-Tekke horse

    Turkmenistan

    Outside Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

    Venture outside Ashgabat to visit a horse-breeding farm devoted to the renowned Akhal-Tekke horse, arguably the oldest cultured breed of horse in the world.

    Journeys with this Signature Experience

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  • Take a guided tour of the extensive ruins of UNESCO-listed Merv
    Take a guided tour of the extensive ruins of UNESCO-listed Merv; the earliest of its five ancient cities is attributed to Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC....
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    Take a guided tour of the extensive ruins of UNESCO-listed Merv

    Turkmenistan

    Merv, Turkmenistan

    Take a guided tour of the extensive ruins of UNESCO-listed Merv; the earliest of its five ancient cities is attributed to Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC.

    Journeys with this Signature Experience

    X
  • Overnight at the burning Darvaza Gas Crater
    Overnight in tents on the glowing rim of the eerie Darvaza Gas Crater, with an al fresco barbecue-style dinner....
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    Overnight at the burning Darvaza Gas Crater

    Turkmenistan

    Darvaza, Turkmenistan

    Overnight in tents on the glowing rim of the eerie Darvaza Gas Crater, with an al fresco barbecue-style dinner.

    Journeys with this Signature Experience

    X
Ways to Travel to Turkmenistan with MIR

We are endlessly fascinated with Turkmenistan. We design every one of our trips here to enable you to get a sense of how the country has evolved from a loose collection of fierce desert tribes to a place where marble and gold monuments line the streets.

Take a look at your options, from small group escorted tours to independent trips, from luxury rail journeys to custom and private travel:

Small Group Tours
Journey Through Central Asia: The Five ‘Stans

Journey Through Central Asia: The Five ‘Stans

A Classic Silk Road Survey

Travels to: Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

21 Days / Departures in April, May, August, September, October 2017

Small Group land tour from $7,895, plus $330 internal air

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Once Forbidden Lands of Central Asia & Iran

Once Forbidden Lands of Central Asia & Iran

From Tashkent To Tehran via Turkmenistan

Travels to: Central Asia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

20 Days / Departures in April, October 2017

Small Group land tour from $7,895, plus $300 internal air

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Chinese Turkestan & Central Asia

Chinese Turkestan & Central Asia

The Silk Road Through Western China and the Five ‘Stans

Travels to: Central Asia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

24 Days / Departures in May, August 2017

Small Group land tour from $7,995, plus $800 internal air

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Rail Journeys by Private Train
Iran & The ‘Stans by Private Train: Westbound

Iran & The ‘Stans by Private Train: Westbound

From Tashkent to Tehran Aboard the Golden Eagle

Travels to: Central Asia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

15 Days / Departures in March 2017

Rail Journey by Private train land tour from $17,495

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Essence of the Silk Road by Private Train: Westbound

Essence of the Silk Road by Private Train: Westbound

From Almaty to Ashgabat Aboard the Orient Silk Road Express

Travels to: Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

14 Days / Departures in March 2017

Rail Journey by Private train land tour - call for pricing

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Essence of the Silk Road by Private Train: Eastbound

Essence of the Silk Road by Private Train: Eastbound

From Ashgabat to Almaty Aboard the Orient Silk Road Express

Travels to: Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

14 Days / Departures in April, October 2017

Rail Journey by Private train land tour - call for pricing

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The Silk Route by Private Train: Eastbound

The Silk Route by Private Train: Eastbound

Moscow to Beijing via Central Asia Aboard the Golden Eagle

Travels to: Central Asia, China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Western Russia

21 Days / Departures in September 2017

Rail Journey by Private train land tour from $24,595

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The Silk Route ‘Stans by Private Train: Eastbound

The Silk Route ‘Stans by Private Train: Eastbound

Moscow to Almaty Across Central Asia Aboard the Golden Eagle

Travels to: Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Western Russia

13 Days / Departures in September 2017

Rail Journey by Private train land tour from $16,995

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The Silk Route by Private Train: Westbound

The Silk Route by Private Train: Westbound

Beijing to Moscow via Central Asia Aboard the Golden Eagle

Travels to: Central Asia, China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Western Russia

21 Days / Departures in September 2017

Rail Journey by Private train land tour from $24,595

See Trip

The Silk Route ‘Stans by Private Train: Westbound

The Silk Route ‘Stans by Private Train: Westbound

Almaty to Moscow Across Central Asia Aboard the Golden Eagle

Travels to: Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Western Russia

13 Days / Departures in October 2017

Rail Journey by Private train land tour from $16,995

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Caspian Odyssey by Private Train: Eastbound

Caspian Odyssey by Private Train: Eastbound

South Caucasus to Central Asia Aboard the Golden Eagle

Travels to: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Central Asia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, South Caucasus, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

16 Days / Departures in October 2017

Rail Journey by Private train land tour from $21,495

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Jewels of Persia & The Silk Route by Private Train: Westbound

Jewels of Persia & The Silk Route by Private Train: Westbound

From Tehran to Moscow via Central Asia Aboard the Golden Eagle

Travels to: Central Asia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Western Russia

18 Days / Departures in November 2017

Rail Journey by Private train land tour from $20,995

See Trip

Iran & The ‘Stans by Private Train: Eastbound

Iran & The ‘Stans by Private Train: Eastbound

From Tehran to Tashkent Aboard the Golden Eagle

Travels to: Central Asia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

15 Days / Departures in November 2017

Rail Journey by Private train land tour from $17,495

See Trip

Custom and private travel is our specialty. We’ve been designing unforgettable custom itineraries through the mushrooming cities and the tribal villages of Turkmenistan for 30 years; a majority of our guests travel on custom itineraries.

For ideas, peruse one of our Regional Travel Planners, a roundup of the must-sees from our savvy staff.

Take a look at our Private Journeys, Essential Central Asia and Essential Turkmenistan or read more about how to design your own trip. Also, consider this: You can customize our Journey Through Central Asia: The Five ‘Stans small group tour or other MIR small group Central Asia tour to match your preferred dates of travel.

Design Your Own Custom Trip

Traveling privately on a custom program means flexibility:

  • You set the dates, the focus and the level of accommodations.
  • You are met on arrival and seen off at the end of your trip.
  • Your in-country transportation is pre-arranged hassle-free.
  • Your own expert local guides ensure that you get the most out of your visit.
  • And the best part? You travel at your own pace on an itinerary exclusive to you.

Check out just a handful of our Turkmenistan signature experiences below and then get in touch with a MIR Private Journey Specialist to craft an itinerary that suits your travel goals, budget and style. Or get started planning now.

Suggested Itineraries for Private Travel

Whether you’re looking for a compact trip with all the highlights or something a little roomier with some of the extras, MIR offers itineraries that are available on a private departure basis with your choice of dates. They can also serve as inspiration for your own custom itinerary.

Our itinerary, your dates – great for solo travelers, couples or small groups.

Essential Central Asia

Essential Central Asia

Markets and Minarets of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan

Travels to: Central Asia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

Departures in March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November 2017

This itinerary available as a private journey

See Trip
Essential Turkmenistan

Essential Turkmenistan

From the Capital to the Caspian

Travels to: Central Asia, Turkmenistan

Departures in March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November 2017

This itinerary available as a private journey

See Trip

Weather
Our Favorite Places in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan

Ashgabat

In spite of its location on a trade route, Ashgabat never achieved the status and influence of other Silk Road cities like Khiva or Bukhara. Originally known as Konjikala, the city was destroyed by Mongols in the 13th century. In 1881 the Russians built a fortress on the site as a buffer against English-dominated Persia, and by the early 20th century Ashgabat was a prosperous and flourishing city. In 1948 a massive earthquake leveled the city, killing over two-thirds of the population. In the last few decades, Ashgabat has seen a boom in new construction, with super-sized marble and gold monuments springing up all over town.

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Turkmenistan

Nisa

The beautiful Kopet-Dag Mountains rise up around Nisa, a UNESCO World Heritage site 15 miles outside of Ashgabat. Nisa was once a major center of the ancient Parthian Kingdom, which spread out from there and took its place among such kingdoms as the Achaemenid under Cyrus the Great and the Macedonian under Alexander the Great. Though Nisa was ruled by a succession of dynasties, it remained an important center in the ancient world until the 13th century, when the Mongols sacked it. Today archaeologi­cal work continues at Nisa.

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Turkmenistan

Merv

The fertile oasis of Merv has supported human life for over 4,000 years. Formed from the rich silt at the mouth of the Murghab River where it soaks into the Kara Kum Desert, the oasis was an early Bronze Age center. The earliest of the five ancient cities at UNESCO-listed Merv is attributed to Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC. Merv was the center of several succeeding civi­lizations, and became an important way station on the Great Silk Road between the 2nd and the 13th centuries, when it was sacked and burned by the Mongols.

 

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Turkmenistan

Kunya Urgench

Kunya Urgench is an agricultural center of about 30,000 near the Uzbek border. It is the site of the ancient capital of Khorezm, which was razed by both Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. About half a mile south of the town lie the remains of the UNESCO-listed old city, including the 11th-century Kutlug-Timur Minaret, ringed with 18 bands of decorative mud brick and blue majolica tiles. The minaret was for many years the tallest in Central Asia. About 1,000 feet from the minaret is the domed hall of the Turabek Khanym Mausoleum. Notable for the interlocking design of its remarkably-preserved ceiling, the mausoleum was built for the daughter of one of the leaders of the Golden Horde.

 

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Turkmenistan

Turkmenbashi

Turkmenistan’s only seaport, Turkmenbashi was originally named Krasnovodsk and came into being when Peter the Great’s emissary, Prince Alexander Bekovich, arrived at the Caspian harbor to bring Russian “protection” to the khan of Khiva. Bekovich and most of his men were promptly killed and the empire didn’t make real inroads into the area until 1819. After Sapuramat Niyazov became president in 1990, he renamed the port in honor of his title, Turkmenbashi, meaning “Father of all Turkmen.”  Turkmenistan’s largest oil refinery is located here.

 

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Journeys that travel to Turkmenbashi

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Turkmenistan

Darvaza

Darvaza is a tiny town of about 350 semi-nomadic Teke tribal people just outside the “Door to Hell.” Located about 160 miles north of Ashgabat in the Kara Kum Desert, Darvaza was a site of natural gas exploration in the 1970s. The story goes that the drilling equipment was swallowed up by a huge sinkhole, which was filled with gas. Engineers decided to burn off the gas to make the cavern safe for more drilling. It has been burning ever since. You can visit two of the craters, taking stunning pictures through the “Door to Hell” as the sun disappears.

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When to Travel to Turkmenistan

Turkmen Independence Day (October 27-28)

A Turkmen celebrationIn October Turkmenistan celebrates its 1991 independence from the Soviet Union. In Ashgabat, a full military parade with tanks, soldiers, dignitaries, horsemen and lots of balloons fills President Palace Square. Travel to the country is severely restricted during October because of the perceived sensitive nature of the festivities.

Oil and Gas Symposiums

Ashgabat plays host to a few major oil and gas symposiums during which time global delegations descend on the few upper-end hotels in the city. These are times to avoid, as hotel space is impossibly hard to get.

Navruz (dates vary by year)

The tradition of Navruz started as a Zoroastrian festival to celebrate the spring equinox. The ancient people closely followed the celestial cycle and noticed that when the hours of daylight started to equal the hours of darkness, the seasons changed and new life was born.

The Persians celebrated the start of the new year at this time, and spent the thirteen days following Navruz settling debts and mending relationships in order to set a positive tone for the upcoming year.

The people of Turkmenistan celebrate Navruz as their Central Asian neighbors do, visiting friends, ending quarrels, cleaning house and greeting the return of spring. The actual day of Navruz, March 31, is marked by official proclamations and feasting.

Ramadan (dates vary by year)

The Islamic holiday, Ramadan, is a time when practicing Muslims focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and strengthening their relationship to God. The holiday lasts a month, and during this period, Muslims fast during daylight hours, eating only before sunrise and after sunset. Islamic teachings explain that without the distraction of attending to physical needs and worldly matters, one is better able to focus on reforming one’s spiritual self. The religious pray more often than the rest of the year, and dedicate themselves to acts of charity. Some scholars believe the name is derived from the Arabic word for “scorching,” referring to the holiday’s power to “scorch” away past sins.