Deserts & Diversions in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan

The fascinating countries of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan encompass some of the most spectacular and absorbing hidden corners of Central Asia. Dive deep into the distinct cultural identities and multi-layered history of these extraordinary lands, discovering ancient desert citadels, dramatic Silk Road fortresses, and surprising Soviet-era remnants, and connect with artists, experts, and tribal villagers who still cling to traditional ways of life.

19 Day Trip

Overview Itinerary

MIR Signature Experiences on this Tour
  • Visit an 18th century fortress just outside the Tajik capital, Dushanbe
    Visit the 18th century Ibrahim Beg Fortress, dominating the town of Hissar in an area that has been inhabited since antiquity....
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  • Learn about the shrinking Aral Sea from a local expert
    Once the fourth-largest inland sea in the world, the Aral Sea barely exists today. Attend a lecture by an expert on the rise and fall of the Aral Sea and see it first hand, scattered with the hulks of rusted fishing boats and freighters. ...
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  • 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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  • 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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Why Travel with MIR on this Tour
  • Over 30 years of Central Asia travel experience
  • Travel programs such as Vassar, Dartmouth and the Harvard Museum of Natural History have chosen MIR to guide them to Central Asia
  • Twice named one of National Geographic Adventure’s “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”
  • MIR affiliate office in 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
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Itinerary & Highlights at a Glance

Days 1-3: Dushanbe (Tajikistan), Penjikent

In Tajikistan's capital, visit the Gurminj Museum of Musical Instruments, lively Shohmansur Bazaar, and nearby Hissar Fortress. Next, travel overland to explore the site of an archaeological dig at Old Penjikent.


  • Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan with shady traditional teahouses, chaikhana
  • Imposing 18th century Hissar Fortress
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Days 4-9: Samarkand (Uzbekistan), Bukhara, Khiva

Traverse a recently re-opened border crossing en route to the Silk Road oasis of Samarkand. Admire Registan Square, Ulug Bek's medieval observatory, and share dinner in a family home. In Bukhara, stroll Lyabi-Hauz Plaza and explore the Ark Citadel. Spend a day in Khiva, then stop at several ancient desert citadels.


  • Samarkand, a UNESCO World Heritage Site called the 'Crossroad of Cultures'
  • Registan Square, Samarkand's most famous landmark
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Days: 10-12: Nukus, Kunya-Urgench (Turkmenistan), Dashoguz, Darvaza

In Nukus, tour the wonderful Savitsky Art Museum, filled with Soviet-banned avant-garde Russian art. Observe the stranded boats in Muynak, on the former shore of the shrunken Aral Sea. Visit Turkmenistan's UNESCO-listed ruins of Kunya-Urgench, then camp in the desert near the burning gas crater at Darvaza.


  • Nukus, capital of the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan
  • Savitsky Art Museum, the world's second-largest collection of Russian avant-garde art
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Days 13-14: Ashgabat, Nohur, Serdar

Explore Ashgabat, the Turkmen capital, with its monumental marble buildings. In the desert, visit the isolated tribal Nohur people, who have held on to their culture and traditions.


  • Capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, with marble and gold monuments
  • Hand-loomed carpets at the Museum of Carpets and Textiles
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Days 15-19: Yangykala, Turkmenbashi, Ashgabat

Discover gorgeous Yangykala Canyon before stopping in Turkmenistan's only seaport, Turkmenbashi, and cruise along the Caspian Sea shore. Fly back to Ashgabat to spend time at the bustling Sunday market.


  • Rich Sumbar River Valley with pomegranate orchards and small farms
  • Drive through the bizarre and beautiful moonscape of Yangykala Canyon
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See Dates & Prices for more details or to see suggested extensions.

Download Detailed Itinerary
Tour Dates & Prices
Trip Length: 19 Days

Land Tour Price, Per Person
based on double occupancy

  • 6-16 Travelers $7,295
  • Plus Internal Air $125
  • Partial Single Supplement $995

2020 Dates

  • August 20-September 7
  • $7,295
  • Max 16 Travelers

Group Size

Small Groups – Never More than 16 Travelers. Guaranteed!

What’s Included

On Your Tour

  • Shared accommodations in well located tourist to superior-tourist class hotels and bed and breakfast-style small private hotels.
  • 19 breakfasts, 17 lunches, and 16 dinners.  A few meals are not included so that you may enjoy a chance to dine on your own.
  • Arrival/departure transfers. MIR will arrange for all travelers to be met on arrival and seen off on departure whether we make your flight arrangements or not, provided you arrive and depart on the tour start/end dates in the tour start/end city.
  • Ground transportation throughout itinerary by private vehicle.
  • Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees as outlined in itinerary.
  • Special events, excursions and cultural performances per the itinerary.
  • Services of MIR Tour Manager with local guides at specific sites.
  • Gratuities to local guides and drivers.
  • Bottled water at group meals.
  • Baggage handling, where available.

Before Your Tour

  • Personalized pre-departure support from one of our knowledgeable Tour Specialists.
  • Complete pre-departure information including detailed packing list, reading list and optional insurance information.
  • Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
  • Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements (on request; please note that international and internal airfares are not included in the land tour cost).
  • Customized visa application instruction kit (if applicable to your itinerary; please note, visa fees are not included in the tour price).
  • Final document packet including luggage tags, final updates, and more.
Download Detailed Itinerary
Prepare for Your Trip

International Airfare

MIR's in-house, full-service air department will gladly assist with your air travel needs.

More Info

Reading List

MIR recommends reading up before you leave home. So settle back in your armchair with some of our favorite books about our favorite places.

More Info


Most MIR programs require one or more visas, and each visa requires a completely blank page in your passport. Visa information for this particular tour is listed in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

More Info

Travel Insurance

Stay a Little Longer…

MIR can arrange for a customized extension to any of the ‘Stans or the South Caucasus before or after your tour. Contact MIR for more information.

Or, choose from one of these suggested private travel itineraries:

Is this Trip Right for You?

While the accommodations are as comfortable as possible for the region, they will vary from four and five star properties to relatively basic and simple hotels. It is important to keep in mind that the countries of Central Asia are, in general, not up to the standards North American travelers expect.

A full list of details about the rigors of this tour are explained in the Detailed Descriptive Itinerary.

Read our Travel Journals

MIR's Travel Journals offer first hand accounts of MIR's fascinating destinations.

  • Essential Uzbekistan Travel Journal

    Essential Uzbekistan Travel Journal

    A MIR traveler set out with her traveling companion on our Essential Uzbekistan program, where they enjoyed the sites and crafts of Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva as well as the many fabulous fabrics, carpets, tilework and adornments she found there. Take the journey along with her as you read her fascinating comments on this adventure.... Read More

  • Chinese Turkestan & Central Asia: Exploring the Silk Road

    Chinese Turkestan & Central Asia: Exploring the Silk Road

    Andrew Barron, MIR's Director of Scheduled Group Tours, visits the ancient Silk Road in Western China and the 'Stans with the Chinese Turkestan & Central Asia scheduled group tour. Read about his journey from Almaty to Urumqi, Kashgar and Bishkek.... Read More

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