Turkmenistan and the Gates of Hell - Atlas Obscura Trips
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Turkmenistan and the Gates of Hell

from $3,475 USD per person for 10 days, 9 nights
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  • 12 People Maximum
  • Moderate Activity Level
  • Overland Adventure
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Trip Overview
Overview

On this sweeping, eclectic adventure through Turkmenistan, marvel at the towering white-marble structures of Ashgabat, roam through barren deserts and a world-class canyon, and spend the night camped out beside the flaming Gates of Hell. For 10 action-packed days we’ll zig-zag around Central Asia’s most eccentric country. We’ll wander around Soviet relics, salty underground lakes, and Sufi shrines, and relax in the seaside city of Turkmenbashi, named in honor of the inscrutably erratic former president. The top highlight: a night in the desert spent sleeping alongside a crater that has been continuously burning for nearly 50 years—the most beautiful accident ever created by well-meaning Soviet geologists.

Highlights
  • Architectural marvels, past and present
  • Post-Soviet architectural and monumental pomp
  • Ancient mosques and remote hamlets
  • Spectacular deserts and canyons
  • Dinner on the edge of the Gates of Hell

Itinerary

Itineraries and daily schedules are subject to change. We expect to do everything listed in the itinerary, though the order may be rearranged based on weather or other local conditions.
Turkmenistan

Trip Leaders

Sona
Sona was born in Ashgabat just three months before the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the subsequent independence of Turkmenistan. The transition from the Soviet to the post-Soviet system wasn't an easy one everywhere across the former USSR, and Turkmenistan was no exception. Sona, the fifth of seven children, spent her childhood through the hardships of the dramatic 1990s, but her family managed nonetheless to provide her with the best education available in the country. In 2013 Sona graduated from the prestigious Turkish University of Ashgabat; since then she has been leading international tour groups around the many wonders of the country, and assiduously working to promote the image of Turkmenistan. Sona is fluent in English, Russian, and Turkish, and gets by in Kazakh and Uzbek. But she prefers to dream in Turkmen, her harmonious mother tongue. She is an avid chess player (having won several national and international tournaments) and loves cycling around Ashgabat and swimming in the shallow waters of the Caspian Sea.
Gianluca
Gianluca [dʒanˈluka] was born and raised in a sunny seaside town in Tuscany. After eternal years gone by in the sweet languor of seemingly endless summers he moved north to study Slavic Languages in Berlin and Photojournalism in London. He spent the best time of his university years traveling and photographing around four continents and more than 70 countries. During his journeys, Gianluca fell hopelessly in love with the complex geopolitical and cultural heritage of a vanished land that used to be called Soviet Union. After many a trip to the region, he is now loosely based between Berlin and the Caucasus, where he spends most of his time engaging in photographic, linguistic, and gastronomic discoveries.

Additional Info

Pricing & Single Accommodations

The total cost of this trip is $3,275. For those traveling by themselves, single accommodations can be provided, subject to availability, at an additional cost of $290. Please contact us to request a single room.

Arrival & Departure

You should plan to arrive by 3 p.m. on Day 1, and depart anytime on Day 10. Ashgabat International Airport (ASB) connects to a range of flight hubs in Asia and Europe. The best flight connections to Ashgabat are offered by Turkmenistan Airlines and Turkish Airlines. If you’d like help arranging flights, let us know and we'll connect you with our flight specialists. 

Activity Level

Travelers should be reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking three to five miles over the course of each day, and remaining on their feet for long periods of time. We’ll be spending a good amount of time outside and in rural areas, walking up and down stairs, and on dirt paths. We’ll also spend a night camping out in the desert.

Included
  • Nine nights of lodging in comfortable local hotels, and one campsite, throughout the trip.
  • Daily breakfast and lunch, as well as the first and final dinner.
  • A pair of experienced guides throughout the trip, in addition to special guests all along the way.
  • Admission to all proposed activities, sites, and events.
  • Private vehicle transportation.
  • Airport transfers.
Excluded
  • Flights or other transportation to Ashgabat.
  • Visa application and payment (our team will guide you through the process).
  • Travel insurance (required).
  • Food and drink outside of Atlas Obscura offerings, including dinners most evenings.
  • Personal expenses.
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Trip FAQ

Turkmenistan has a very strict visa process, but we’ll be arranging your visa through our local partner and a specialized visa agency. Note that journalists are screened out during the visa application process; your application will likely be rejected if you have a notable journalistic internet profile.

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Upcoming Departures

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