Turkmenistan Melon Day Tour

Start
Aug 9, 2025
Ashgabat
End
Aug 16, 2025
Ashgabat
Duration
8 days
Price
US$1495.00

TOUR OVERVIEW



Ever heard of a national Melon Day before? Melon Day is one of Turkmenistan's many unique and oh so Turkmen national holidays, celebrating the abundance of melons that Central Asia is blessed with at this time of year. This tour is your chance to see the height of the melon season, but Turkmen style.

We'll start off this tour by exploring Ashgabat and experiencing everything that Melon Day has to offer, before heading out into the desert to see the Gates of Hell.

After returning to Ashgabat, we'll begin our journey west to visit the ancient ruins of Nisa, and the Turkmenbashy Mosque and Mausoleum, before swimming in Kow Ata, which is one of the few chances you'll have to see locals relaxing a bit. Venturing into the mountains we'll visit the village of Nokhur, famous for its unique cemetery, before going all the way to the west of the country to the Caspian Sea coast. Here you'll have the chance to explore the resort town of Avaza, built in the same over the top glamorous white marble and gold as Ashgabat. Next we'll drive out into the desert to see Yangykala Canyon, an old ocean, now a vast canyon with striped coloured walls. Finally we'll fly on Turkmenistan Airlines (an experience in itself!) back to Ashgabat and finish up our tour there.

View the full itinerary



Anau ruined mosque, Turkmenistan
Nowruz yurt, Turkmenistan



If you like the look of this tour but the dates don't work for you, or you'd like to do part of the tour, please get in touch and let us know. All our tours are able to be split into smaller sections, we're always scheduling new tours and your dates might work for one of them, or we can always organise an independent tour.

There is also a shorter budget version of this tour available, for anyone who would like to see Ashgabat, the Gates of Hell and Nowruz, but doesn't have time to explore the rest of the country.




INCLUSIONS:

Letter of Invitation

Accommodation in twin share at roughly 3 star hotels (breakfast included), camping at Gates of Hell

Transport as per itinerary, beginning and ending in Ashgabat

Entrance fees to all sites mentioned in the itinerary

SAIGA guide and local guides


SINGLE SUPPLEMENT: $350



EXCLUSIONS:

Visa fee (can be paid on arrival at the airport or land border, or at an embassy beforehand)

Meals other than breakfast at hotels

Transport to and from Ashgabat at the beginning and end of the tour

Accommodation and any other services before or after the tour

Personal expenses such as souvenirs or any optional activities

Any COVID related expenses


Selfies with locals, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenistan


TOUR HIGHLIGHTS


Eat, take photos of and oggle at the ginormous melons during Melon Day

Explore the white marble city of Ashgabat

Swim with locals in the underground cave lake of Kow Ata



Itinerary
Day 1Sat Aug 9
Ashgabat
  • Wheel of Enlightenment, Alem Merkezi, Ashgabat Our first day in Ashgabat, you’re going to be in awe of everything that the capital has to offer. We’ll spend the day taking in all the main sites of Ashgabat, including all those crazy monuments you’ve probably seen pictures of, as we begin explaining all the weird and wonderful aspects of Turkmenistan that make it such a special place.
  • We’ll start with a driving tour of Ashgabat's main sites, including Independence Park and Independence Monument, the Monument to the Constitution, the Arch of Neutrality, Lenin Park, and a drive-by of the Olympic Complex which was built for the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. The complex is home to the famous Horse Stadium ( the largest structure in the shape of a horse in the world – you’ll hear plenty more of these records! ), but unfortunately is closed to the public.
  • A highlight of the day will likely be the Alem Centre, which is the complex in which the Wheel of Enlightenment is, the largest indoor ferris wheel (yes, there’s another one). And YES, for just $1, you can even take a ride!
  • Stop for lunch at Berkarar Shopping Centre, where you can go ice-skating, play in the games centre, ride a miniature double-decker bus, and even have a cappuccino in a hipster café – bet you weren’t expecting that!
  • In the afternoon we’ll visit the university bookshop, a great chance to pick up some very cool, unique Turkmenistan swag, including where you can find amazing coffee table books written by and about the former president (and father of the current president, Serdar Berdimuhamedov), Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, as well as ones about Ashgabat and Turkmenistan. You can even get them in English! They also have postcards and posters, and if you're lucky they might even have a copy of the Ruhnama, the book written by Turkmenbashy.
  • Spend the night at the Ak Altyn Hotel.
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Day 2Sun Aug 10
Melon Day, Ashgabat
  • Today we will experience everything Melon Day has to offer, whilst continuing to explore Ashgabat.
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Day 3Mon Aug 11
Nisa, Turkmenbashy Mosque, Gates of Hell
  • Today we’ll start off by leaving the city, to visit Nisa, a UNESCO site which was once the capital of the Parthian Empire.
  • We’ll then continue on to Kipchak to see the resplendent Turkmenbashy Mosque and Mausoleum, where Turkmenbashy is buried beside his mother, father and two brothers in their white marble mausoleum. There aren’t too many Turkmenbashy related sites still around, but this one is truly spectacular.
  • Gates of Hell, Darvaza, Turkmenistan We'll stop at a supermarket to pick up supplies for the rest of the day and dinner that night.
  • After lunch we’ll drive 250km north to Darvaza, The Gates of Hell.
  • One the way we’ll make a few stops – including to see a salt lake, two other craters (one full of mud, one full of water), and of course maybe for a toilet (not a luxurious one!).
  • Crossing the sand dunes to get to Darvaza, we’ll arrive in time to watch the sunset over the fiery crater and experience dusk turn to dark at this breathtaking site.
  • Set up tents near the Gates of Hell and camp near the fiery crater.
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Day 4Tue Aug 12
Gates of Hell, Ashgabat
  • Gates of Hell, Darvaza, Turkmenistan We'll wake up this morning at the Gates of Hell. What a place to wake up!
  • Make sure you get your fill of fiery pits over breakfast, before we drive back to Ashgabat, arriving around lunchtime.
  • We'll check into the hotel and have free time for the rest of the afternoon.
  • Most people will probably want to head to one of our favourite bazaars in Central Asia – the Russian Bazaar. Here you'll have the opportunity to get some super cheap, local food for lunch, do some souvenir shopping, or if you’re in the market for a Turkmen carpet we can show you a good place to get them.
  • This is also where one of the main shops for buying the famous Turkmenistan tracksuits is, so if you've made it to this point in the tour without one, and you're a bit jealous of your tracksuit-adorned fellow travellers, this is your chance to get one.
  • Yyldiz Hotel, Ashgabat You also might like just to go exploring, whether it's a walk to the psychadelic Ashgabat Mall, or to Tashkent Park, or to the alabay (dog) statue, or you could simply walk through one of the areas of new white marble buildings. And of course we'll be there to help you figure out what to do with your time.
  • For dinner this evening we’ll go to the Yyldiz Hotel – the newest and most expensive hotel in Turkmenistan, where you can have a real 5 Star restaurant experience for 1 Star prices, complete with 360 degree views of the city.
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Day 5Wed Aug 13
Kow Ata, Nokhur, Serdar
  • Lunch at Kow Ata, Turkmenistan Checking out of our hotel in Ashgabat, we'll begin heading west, with our first stop at an underground thermal cave lake which is said to have many medical attributes, but is also used by locals as a swimming hole and makes for a very fun and relaxing swim.
  • After a refreshing swim in the cave lake, we'll sit down and chill for a while with some shashlik from one of the restaurants just outside the entrance to the cave.
  • We’ll continue driving west, away from Ashgabat, to the village of Nokhur, situated in the Kopet Dag mountains. Nokhur Cemetery, goat horn graves, Turkmenistan Unlike the rest of Turkmenistan, even during the Soviet Union and the era of Turkmenbashy, this village were largely left to their own devices and as such live a much more traditional lifestyle than most Turkmens.
  • Here we’ll visit Nokhur Cemetery, where each grave is adorned with the horns of a mountain goat and a small market next to a wishing tree where you can buy all sorts of natural teas and potions.
  • Keep driving to the town of Serdar where we’ll spend the night in a local hotel.
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Day 6Thu Aug 14
Balkanabat, Avaza, Turkmenbashy
  • Today we’ll complete the drive towards the Caspian Sea, arriving in Turkmenbashy in the late afternoon.
  • We’ll stop in Balkanabat on the way for some lunch and a quick look at a monument to the caravans of the Silk Road.
  • Arriving in Avaza in the afternoon, this is the epitome of bizarre modern day Turkmenistan. Although the facilities are extravagant and the buildings futuristic, the town is somehow best described as a ghost town.
  • We’ll have dinner at the one café that will be open, and from there you can explore the amusement parks, beaches, and hotels of Avaza, and if you’re game, take a swim in the notoriously cold Caspian Sea.
  • Overnight in Turkmenbashy.
  • Avaza is currently closed to foreigners, as of April 2023. We are working on the assumption that it will open before the time of this tour, however there is a chance that it won't. If it is unavailable we will change around the itinerary accordingly and as always we will work with the situation on the ground at the time to ensure that the tour is as well-rounded as possible.
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Day 7Fri Aug 15
Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenbashy, Ashgabat
  • Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenistan Today we’ll visit Yangykala Canyon. Until recently most Turkmens didn’t even know that this place existed, and still not many have been there. Wide and vast, the area was once a seabed, and scattered with all sorts of fossils, it stretches as far as the eye can see. In 4x4s, we’ll drive over the canyon walls, through the canyon itself, and up the other side, stopping at a couple of different viewpoints along the way.
  • We will take a packed lunch with us so we can enjoy it whilst taking in all the shapes and colours of this spectacular natural phenomenon.
  • Leaving the canyon behind we'll head to Turkmenbashy, where we'll stop for dinner, before jumping on a plane back to Ashgabat.
  • An experience in itself, we will of course be flying Turkmenistan Airlines, from the bizarrely ornate Turkmenbashy Airport.
  • We'll arrive back in Ashgabat in the late evening.
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Day 8Sat Aug 16
Ashgabat, End of Tour
  • Last day of the tour.
  • Transfers to the airport for your flights, or if you'd like to spend longer in Turkmenistan let us know and we can help you arrange something.
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