Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan Comprehensive Carpet Day Tour

May 20, 2024
Jun 5, 2024
17 days


This tour is designed to show you many different aspects of these two unique Central Asian countries. Starting in Turkmenistan, you'll be one of few people to bear witness to the unique Carpet Day events in Ashgabat.

Home to the largest carpet in the world, the largest handmade carpet in the world, the largest carpet in the shape of a star, the second largest carpet in the shape of a star, Turkmenistan certainly takes their carpets seriously.

The Turkmen flag is the only flag in the world with carpets on it - yep, not just one carpet, but five of them! And those same five carpets you'll see everywhere in Turkmenistan, representing the five main tribes and the five regions of the country.

And for one day only the Carpet Museum in Ashgabat is open and will be buzzing with events and exhibitions, on this special day that is dedicated to carpets.

Of course, as well as experiencing this unique festival, we'll show you all our favourite spots around Ashgabat and elsewhere in Turkmenistan, including of course the Gates of Hell, Yangykala Canyon, Nisa and Konye Urgench, just to name a few.

Crossing the border into Uzbekistan, you'll get to see how much this country also has to offer. In some ways similar, yet really it's in a different world from Turkmenistan.

You’ll have heard about some pretty amazing places like the Registan, maybe Bibi Khanum’s mosque, and the old cities of Samarkand and Bukhara. We do all of them.

Then there are some of the slightly weirder places like Nukus and the Aral Sea, and believe it or not, there’s more to do in the ancient cities than just the famous ancient sites too, like a quirky fashion show!

And then we’ve got a couple of really cool SAIGA specials – the second largest solar furnace in the world, where you’ll learn all about the world of solar furnaces, and an almost abandoned formerly closed Soviet mining town, where we’ll spend the afternoon exploring and speaking to the few locals that are left before staying the night in a nearby sanatorium.

View the full itinerary

Horse Festival, Ashgabat
Paper factory, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

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.

If you don't have long enough to visit both these countries at this point, you can join us for either the Turkmenistan Carpet Day Tour or the Uzbekistan Comprehensive Tour .


Accommodation in twin share at roughly 3 star hotels/guesthouses, breakfast included, yurt camp at the Aral Sea

Transport as per itinerary, beginning in Nukus and ending in Tashkent (transport between Tashkent and Nukus at the start of the tour is not included)

Meals at Aral Sea - 2 lunches, 1 dinner

Entrance fees to most sites (as per itinerary)

SAIGA guide and local guides



Visa fees if necessary

Visa support if necessary

Some activities, eg. treatments at sanatorium (as per itinerary)

Meals other than breakfast

Transport to Ashgabat and from Tashkent at the start and end of tour

Personal expenses such as souvenirs or any optional activities

Any COVID related expenses

Romanenko Fashion House, Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Gates of Hell, Turkmenistan


Experience the unique festivities of Carpet Day

Explore the glimmering white and gold monuments of Ashgabat

Spend the night mesmerised by the horrendous but exhilirating Gates of Hell

See the world's worst man-made distater at the Aral Sea

Climb to the top of the world's second largest solar furnace

Day 1Mon May 20
  • 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 president, 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.
  • In the evening, we’ll take a night tour of Ashgabat. With the white marble buildings lit up by brightly coloured neon lights, Ashgabat is a truly spectacular place after dark.
  • Spend the night at the Ak Altyn Hotel.
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Day 2Tue May 21
Nisa, Turkmenbashy Mosque, Kow Ata, Nokhur, Serdar
  • Old Nisa, UNESCO historical site, Turkmenistan Checking out of our hotel in Ashgabat, we'll begin heading west, with our first stop at 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.
  • Continuing west, our next stop is 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. Turkmenbashy Mosque and Mausoleum, Kipchak, Turkmenistan
  • 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.
  • Nokhur market bazaar, Turkmenistan We’ll continue driving west, away from Ashgabat, to the village of Nokhur, situated in the Kopet Dag mountains. 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 3Wed May 22
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 4Thu May 23
Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenbashy
  • 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.
  • Returning to Turkmenbashy in the afternoon you'll have some free time before we head out for dinner.
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Day 5Fri May 24
Turkmenbashy, Ashgabat, Gates of Hell
  • Gates of Hell, Darvaza, Turkmenbashy We'll fly on Turkmenistan Airlines (an experience in itself!) back to Ashgabat in the morning, where we'll have a chance to have a little rest or just get yourself organised for the night ahead!
  • 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 6Sat May 25
Gates of Hell, Ashgabat
  • Drive back to Ashgabat, where we’ll check into the hotel before going to one of our favourite bazaars in Central Asia – the Russian Bazaar. Here we’ll have some free time during which you can get 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.
  • 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 7Sun May 26
Carpet Day, Ashgabat
  • Happy Carpet Day!
  • Today is a very one off opportunity to see the Carpet Museum in Ashgabat in all its glory, with exhibitions, shows, and loads of Turkmens milling around taking part in the festivities. There will be a great atmosphere, and we'll spend most of the day just soaking it in.
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Day 8Mon May 27
Ashgabat, Dashoguz, Konye Urgench, Nukus
  • This morning we'll catch the early morning flight to Dashoguz - another chance to fly on Turkmenistan Airlines!
  • We'll drive to Konye Urgench, one of Turkmenistan's historical UNESCO sites, before heading to the Uzbek land border.
  • Cross the border into Uzbekistan – this in itself can be quite the experience. Hopefully there won’t be many locals crossing and it’ll be relatively quick, but you need to have your wits about you for this crossing.
  • Once we’ve made it to Uzbekistan we’ll drive to Nukus and meet up with those who are joining for the Uzbekistan Comprehensive Tour .
  • Not many people arrive in Nukus and feel like they've reached civilisation and freedom, but leaving Turkmenistan, you will. Enjoy the wifi!
  • Dinner and overnight in Nukus.
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Day 9Tue May 28
Nukus, Aral Sea
  • Departure from Nukus first thing in the morning to drive towards the Aral Sea. Stopping at some Silk Road ruins and a canyon on the way, we'll drive up on to the Usturt Plateau.
  • Picnic lunch at a ruined Soviet gulag, near the edge of one of the small parts of the remaining sea.
  • Arriving at the main part of the sea, if you're game, you can go for a swim. There used to be 10mg of salt per litre in the sea, but now with 160g (yes, grams, not miligrams, so 16,000 times more!) it's not far off the Dead Sea (180g/l), and now you can easily float on top of the water. That’s if you can bring yourself to get to the water, past all the oil and grime that’s collected at the side of the sea.
  • We’ll spend the night in a yurt camp near the shore, from where you can watch the sun set over the rapidly disappearing sea.
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Day 10Wed May 29
Aral Sea, Nukus
  • You can wake up early to see the sun rise over the water, otherwise it's breakfast then on to Moynak village, which used to be a thriving coastal town, but is now a disheveled and quiet desert town, most famous now for the ship cemetery.
  • Ships lay abandoned on the old seabed as the sea receded. A lot of them were removed and destroyed, supposedly so the metal could be recycled, but a dozen or so of them were saved and are now in Moynak.
  • Return to Nukus in the evening for dinner and overnight.
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Day 11Thu May 30
Nukus, Bukhara
  • In the morning we'll visit the Museum of Savitskiy. The Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art hosts the world's second largest collection of Russian avant garde art (after the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg). Savitskiy himself went to great lengths to save prohibited pieces of art during the Soviet Union, and amazingly you can see some of them now in this museum.
  • Leaving in the late morning, we'll drive to Bukhara in the afternoon, arriving in time for dinner.
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Day 12Fri May 31
Bukhara, Samarkand
  • Today we will have a walking tour to explore this astounding ancient city.
  • We'll explore the old town in the morningincluding Lyabi Hauz Square, Bolo-Hauz Mosque, and the elegant blue-tiled Ulughbek Madrassa.
  • On your way in and out of town you won't be able to miss a huge structure that looks like a giant ark. Known as the Ancient Ark Fortress, this was the Palace of Bukhara's Emirs, and parts of it are still open for us to visit.
  • In the afternoon we will take the high speed train to Samarkand. Registan sound and light show, Samarkand
  • Optional wine tasting at the Khovrenko Winery, a small local wine factory with adjoining museum, and a SAIGA favourite.
  • After dinner we'll stop at the front of the Registan for the epic sound and light show that is put on every evening after dark. Some say it's tacky, others find it spectacular - whichever camp you find yourself in, it is definitely something!
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Day 13Sat Jun 1
  • Today we will explore the main sites of Samarkand. Having already visited the Registan the day before, we’ll start today’s tour with a walk through the centre of town.
  • Having died in September 2016, Islam Karimov, the First President of Uzbekistan, now has his mausoleum on the newly renamed Islam Karimov Street.
  • Winding through the narrow streets of the old city, we'll stop at a particularly unique synagogue. Totally unrecognisable from the outside, it looks like any of the typical houses on either side, but inside is a bizarre and unique mixture of Uzbek and Jewish décor.
  • We'll also pay visits to Bibi Khanum Mosque, Siyab Bazaar, and the grave of St. Daniel which is said to grow a foot in length every ten years.
  • Visit Romanenko House, a place that is difficult to describe. This small suburban house has been transformed into a completely unique textile workshop where thirty men and women redesign ancient Central Asian clothing into colourful, modern designs.
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Day 14Sun Jun 2
Samarkand, Yangiabad
  • Leaving Samarkand we will drive past Tashkent and into the mountains to visit the town of Yangiabad. A closed town during the Soviet Union, not even appearing on maps, it was built as a mining town where exiles were s ent. Once home to about 10,000 people, the population got down to just over 300, and it felt like a crumbling little Russian enclave within Uzbekistan. However, in the past couple of years the mountain air and scenic views have grabbed the attention of Tashkentians, and the area has become a popular local tourism spot.
  • We'll spend the afternoon wandering the streets of the town, exploring the Soviet architecture, and soaking in the atmposphere - a difficult-to-describe mix of lively and summery, and decrepit and derelict.
  • We'll spend the night at a nearby Soviet “resort”. If it's hot you can go for a swim in the river, or if you just want to relax, we might be able to find the massage lady.
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Day 15Mon Jun 3
Parkent, Tashkent

  • Heading back towards Tashkent, we'll drive to Parkent, where we've been granted permission to visit a spectacular example of Soviet technology and architecture – the solar furnace. Still functioning, though never really having managed to fulfil its purpose, it's not open to the public.
  • Arriving in the afternoon we'll take a stroll down the Broadway - the centre of this city which is quickly becoming hip and modern. With myriads of food and drink stands, a small market, scooters for rent, and loads of cool Tashkentians, young and old, it's a great place to start getting a vibe for the city.
  • We'll have dinner in one of Tashkent's many up and coming restaurants, and if you're a bit sick of Central Asian food by now, this is a great chance to have something else. There's a great Korean restaurant that's one of our favourites for example.
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Day 16Tue Jun 4

  • Our first stop in Tashkent will be the famous Chorsu Bazaar, with its iconic blue dome that's now home to meat, dairy and dried fruits. Exploring the stalls you'll learn about traditional breadmaking methods, local remedies for everything including of course virility issues, and how Uzbek babies are taught to go to the toilet.
  • Take a walk from Independence Square, formerly Lenin Square, through the park and past the statue of Amir Timur. Stop and browse in a small market in the park, full of old Soviet trinkets and sit under a shady pagoda for a cold drink or ice cream.
  • You'll probably have tried plov by now, but there's no better place to have it than at the Plov Centre. This gigantic hall, decorated as if for a wedding in the 1980s, is set up for large numbers of people to eat plov in. Prepared just outside by an army of Uzbeks, it is some pretty good plov, but more than that, it is an exceptionally unique experience.
  • Go to Tashkent TV Tower for fabulous views of the city.
  • Visit Tashkent Land, Central Asia's answer to Disneyland. With it's faded welcome sign, crumbling gift shop and creaky rides, this is another step back in time. Most tourists don't make it to this gem of Soviet infrastructure, but we just can't resist it. If you're really game you can try out the “Boomerang” rollercoaster, or if you'd like something a bit more relaxing you can take a ride on the “African tour”, a boat trip through the jungleand.
  • Next we'll visit the Museum of Railway Techniques’. This outdoor museum is full of all sorts of old locomotives, and they don't mind us climbing all over them. We can even take a little train ride around the train museum. You don't have to be a train lover to enjoy this charming museum.
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Day 17Wed Jun 5
Tashkent, End of Tour
  • Today we finish our tour of Uzbekistan.
  • We'll organise a transfer to the airport for you.
  • Uzbekistan is really the heart of Central Asia and is a great spring board to the other 'Stans. Please let us know if you want to continue your Central Asian adventure.
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