Get off the beaten track in Central Asia, the Caucasus and Turkey on this 63-day overland group tour from Bishkek to Istanbul. Take in the wonderful scenery of Kyrgyzstan, visit Silk Road cities in Uzbekistan and explore bonkers Ashgabat in Turkmenistan. Discover Baku in Azerbaijan, marvel at the Vardzia Caves in Georgia and camp beside Lake Sevan in Armenia. Visit enchanting Cappadocia in Turkey and end your adventure in captivating Istanbul.
Welcome to Bishkek
Welcome to Kyrgyzstan! On arrival there’s a pre-departure Welcome Meeting at 10:00 and the rest of today is free to explore Bishkek, the hospitable and fascinating capital of Kyrgyzstan. Perhaps wander down to the vibrant Osh bazaar or head to the central Ala-Too Square.
Please note: The following itinerary is subject to change due to the unpredictable conditions in Kyrgyzstan. We have tried and tested alternatives in place to ensure your trip runs smoothly, please see the Trip Notes for details.
Chong Kemin Valley
Bishkek - Chong Kemin. We climb aboard our overland truck for the first time today and head out of Bishkek. We may need to return to Bishkek to organise Uzbekistan visas for some of the group so the next couple of days need to be fairly flexible.
We will most likely spend the next two nights camping in the Ala Archa National Park and Chong Kemin Valley. There will be plenty of time for hiking in the stunning scenery and an optional white water rafting excursion will be offered.
Overnight: Chong Kemin | Breakfast x 2, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 2
Cholpon Ata & Karakol
Chong Kemin - Karakol. We drive to the northern shore of Lake Issyk Kol this morning, where we can admire the ancient rock-carved petroglyphs at Cholpon Ata. After our visit here, we continue to the Russian-style town of Karakol, where the afternoon is free to explore. Perhaps pay a visit to the beautiful Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Overnight: Karakol | Breakfast
Karakol - Jeti Oguz. On day 5 we have a scenic drive into the rolling hills of the Jeti Oguz region, dominated by towering red sandstone cliffs. The next day is free to explore this picturesque corner of Kyrgyzstan, on the edge of the Tian Shan Mountains. Hike in the hills and mountains or opt for a horse-riding excursion with local nomads. We’ll camp in the area for these two nights (weather permitting).
Overnight: Jeti Oguz | Breakfast x 2, Lunch x 2, Dinner x 2
Eagle hunter demonstration & Kochkor
Jeti Oguz - Kochkor. Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, stopping en route to watch a demonstration from a local eagle hunter, whose well-trained birds are used to catch wild animals for their skins and meat.
On arrival in Kochkor, we check in to our small, family-run guesthouses - this is a great experience and you'll get to meet the local people. We also visit the village museum and a women’s felt making cooperative which produces shyrdaks - the felt carpets that Kyrgyzstan is known for. There’s also an optional outdoor folk concert and you can learn how to erect a yurt.
Overnight: Kochkor | Breakfast, Dinner
Song Kol Lake & yurt camping
Kochkor - Song Kol Lake. On day 8 we drive to shimmering Song Kol Lake, where we base ourselves for the next two nights. Song Kol is a remote and peaceful lake set in stunning scenery - Kyrgyzstan in all of its glory. We’ll stay in traditional felt yurts and experience the life of rural Kyrgyz people. There’s optional hiking and horse-riding in the area.
Please note: In the low season we will be unable to stay at Song Kol Lake due to the adverse weather. Instead we will likely stay in yurts on the southern shore of Lake Issyk Kol.
Overnight: Song Kol Lake | Breakfast x 2, Dinner x 2
Kyrgyz Fergana Valley
Song Kol Lake - Kyrgyz Fergana Valley. The next three days will be spent overlanding through the Kyrgyz Fergana Valley, home to some of the finest scenery in the world. We’ll make frequent stops to hike amongst the rolling hills and to admire the incredible views. Along the route we plan to wild camp but we may stay in local guesthouses instead, if temperatures are too low.
Please note: If the group prefers, we will spend an extra day in Arslanbob and depart for two days of overlanding in the valley on day 10.
Overnight: Kyrgyz Fergana Valley | Breakfast x 3, Lunch x 3, Dinner x 3
Kyrgyz Fergana Valley - Arslanbob. Today we finally arrive in the picturesque village of Arslanbob. There's free time to relax after a long few days of overlanding. Perhaps take a stroll in the famous walnut forest, the largest walnut grove in the world - the walnut was Kyrgyzstan's first known export to Europe.
Overnight: Arslanbob | Breakfast
Arslanbob - Fergana (Uzbekistan). We say goodbye to the mountainous country of Kyrgyzstan today, crossing the border into neighbouring Uzbekistan. Our drive today takes us to the city of Fergana, where the evening is at leisure.
Overnight: Fergana | Breakfast
Kokand & Tashkent
Fergana - Kokand - Tashkent. On day 15 we journey to Kokand, where we’ll visit the Khudayar Khan’s Palace and the Margilan Silk Factory. Traditional methods are still used here in the production of this famous textile.
After exploring Kokand, we cross over the mountainous Kamchik Pass to Tashkent, the Soviet-style capital of Uzbekistan. We must pass over the Kamchik Pass in local transport, as our truck must cross without passengers. We'll be reunited later today in Tashkent. The evening is free to explore the clean and modern city independently.
Day 16 offers free time to explore Tashkent as you please. You may wish to head to the religious centre of the city at Hast Imam Square, where you'll find the world's oldest surviving copy of the Koran. We may be joined by new travellers today for the next leg of our journey.
Overnight: Tashkent | Breakfast x 2
Tashkent - Samarkand. On day 17 we head towards the jewel in Uzbekistan's crown - the incredible Silk Road city of Samarkand. On arrival, the evening is free to head out and explore.
We enjoy a guided tour of Samarkand on day 18, taking in highlights including the central Registan Square. The Registan is dominated by three towering madrasahs which rise up against the skyline - madrasah is Arabic for 'school'. We also take in the Ulug Beg Observatory, Shah-I-Zinda necropolis and the ruins of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque. The mosque was once the jewel in the empire of the warlord Timur, who was born here.
The following day is free to explore Samarkand further or join optional activities including an excursion to the ancient city of Shakhrisabz.
Overnight: Samarkand | Breakfast x 3
Nurata & the Kyzylkhum Desert
Samarkand - Nurata. Today we say goodbye to Samarkand and head into the striking Nurata Hills. Opt for a refreshing dip in Lake Ajdar Kul before we drive into the Kyzylkhum Desert. There’s an optional camel ride over the rolling dunes of the desert and we spend the night in yurts near the town of Nurata.
Overnight: Nurata | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Nurata - Bukhara. We head out of the desert on day 21, reaching the beautiful and historic Silk Road city of Bukhara, where we'll be staying for the next three nights. We make a quick stop in Nurata en route.
On day 22 we enjoy a guided tour of Bukhara, taking in highlights including the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Kalon Mosque and Ark Fortress. You’ll also get to see the Kalyan Minaret. This beautiful tower hides a sinister past - it’s nickname of “Death Tower” has been earned due to its former use as a place of execution.
Day 23 is free to explore or join some of the optional excursions available. Perhaps visit the gruesome Zindon Prison, home to the infamous Bug Pit. Prisoners would be thrown into the pit and rats, lice, scorpions and other creatures would be dropped on their heads.
Bukhara - Khiva. On day 24 we say goodbye to Bukhara and embark on a long drive to the welcoming city of Khiva. The next day there’s a guided tour of the city, taking in highlights including the incredible city walls, the turquoise Kalta Minor Minaret and the blue palace of Tash Khovli. There are also included visits to the Mohammed Rakhim Khan Madrassa museum, the 12th century Kukhna Ark fortress and Juma Mosque. The ceiling of the mosque is held up by 213 columns of ancient elm, some dating back to the 10th century.
Overnight: Khiva | Breakfast x 2
Khiva - Kunye Urgench (Turkmenistan). Today we leave Uzbekistan behind and cross the border into the closed off country of Turkmenistan. Browse the markets in the border town of Dashoguz before we explore the Kunye Urgench ruins towards the end of the day.
Once an important Silk Road city due to its location in the remote Karakum Desert, Kunye Urgench was spared by Genghis Khan during his invasion and the ruins remain well-preserved today. Admire highlights including the Kutlug-Timur Minaret, which is the highest minaret in Central Asia. Tonight, we camp in the desert close to the city.
Overnight: Kunye Urgench | Breakfast, Lunch
The flaming Darvaza Gas Crater
Kunye Urgench - Darvaza Gas Crater. We continue our journey through the desert today, reaching the incredible Darvaza Gas Crater, known locally as the 'Door to Hell'.
The crater was created by accident in 1971 when Soviet oil drillers released gas into the atmosphere, causing the ground to collapse. The Soviets then set fire to the gas to try and burn it all off. However, there was much more gas present than they realised and the crater has been burning away ever since. After we’ve admired the site, we find a suitable spot to camp for the night.
Overnight: Darvaza | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Darvaza Gas Crater - Ashgabat. On day 28 we complete our drive to Turkmenistan's bizarre capital city of Ashgabat. The city holds the world record for the highest concentration of marble clad buildings anywhere in the world.
On day 29 we embark on a minibus tour of this off the beaten track and bonkers capital city. Look out for the bizarre marble architecture and some of the golden statues of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. The president has a fascination with collecting world records and some of the more unusual architecture you may spot includes the worlds largest indoor Ferris wheel.
Overnight: Ashgabat | Breakfast x 2
Ashgabat - Turkmenbashi. Today we have a long drive across Turkmenistan to Turkmenbashi, on the Caspian Sea Coast. If we have time, we'll visit the spectacular Kow Ata Underground Lake on the way.
Please note: Our itinerary in Turkmenbashi and over the Caspian Sea must remain very flexible and is very much determined by sailing times of the local ferries. Please note that there is no regular schedule for the ferries, they are notoriously unpredictable, and information from the ferry operators regarding the sailing times constantly changes. Please see the Trip Notes for more details.
Crossing the Caspian Sea
Turkmenbashi - Baku (Azerbaijan). Today we will hopefully be able to board the ferry across the Caspian Sea to Baku, Azerbaijan. The ferry is a fantastic local experience but please do not expect any luxury whatsoever. These ferries are budget vessels for the locals and cargo hauliers, and are not designed with travellers in mind. There will generally only be seats available for the crossing.
Overnight: Caspian Sea Ferry
After we've disembarked in Baku, we'll arrive at our hotel. The next few days are free to explore Baku as you please. The oil-rich city is an amazing contrast of the old and new, with glistening skyscrapers contrasting against the old architecture such as the famous Maiden Tower. The city is emerging as a global player on the world scene and recently hosted the 2019 Europa League football final. It also hosts a Formula One Grand Prix race every year.
Please note: If we catch the Caspian Sea ferry in good time and arrive in Baku early then we may move on earlier, in order to spend more time exploring the rest of the Caucasus. Please see the Trip Notes for details.
Gobustan & Lahij
Baku - Lahij. This morning we drive to Gobustan, the region known for its bubbling mud volcanoes and ancient petroglyphs. After exploring this site, we continue to Lahij, an ancient mountain settlement which is famous for its copper and arms production. Explore the site at leisure and camp with facilities tonight.
Overnight: Lahij | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Sheki & caravanserai stay
Lahij - Sheki. Leaving Lahij, we travel to the old city of Sheki. There's an included visit to the exquisite Khan's Palace before we arrive at our hotel for the night. The hotel has been constructed in an old Silk Road caravanserai and you'll feel like a weary merchant as you settle down to sleep tonight.
Lagodekhi National Park
Sheki - Lagodekhi National Park (Georgia). Today we say goodbye to Azerbaijan and cross into Georgia. We'll spend the night camping in the lush scenery of Lagodekhi National Park, which is located fairly close to the border.
Overnight: Lagodekhi NP | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Telavi & wine tasting
Lagodekhi National Park - Telavi. We head into the Alazani Valley on day 39 and visit the impressive Gremi Citadel en route to the famous wine producing town of Telavi. We'll be basing ourselves in this wine region for the next couple of days.
Day 40 sees us exploring Telavi and visiting some of its local vineyards. Watch traditions such as grape harvesting in action and enjoy some famous Georgian hospitality with an included lunch and wine tasting at a local family-run winery.
Overnight: Telavi | Breakfast x 2, Dinner x 2
Telavi - Stepantsminda. Leaving Telavi behind, we drive to the town of Stepantsminda, which is nestled in beautiful scenery. During our stay here we’ll enjoy a trek up to the tiny Tsminda Sameba Church, which is hidden away in the rolling hills and mountains of the Georgian Caucasus. There’s also an optional cooking class where you can learn how to make delicious Georgian kinkhalis (meatballs).
Overnight: Stepantsminda | Breakfast, Dinner
Stepantsminda - Mtskheta. This morning is free to unwind in Stepantsminda or hike up to the Tsminda Sameba Church if there wasn't time yesterday. Later, we drive to the charming town of Mtskheta. Here we can visit the beautiful 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.
Overnight: Mtskheta | Breakfast, Dinner
Borjomi National Park & Vardzia
Mtskheta - Vardzia. We head out of Mtskheta and make our way to Borjomi National Park. Enjoy a short hike in the ancient forest and opt to ride a cable car up the mountain before we continue to the incredible Vardzia cave city.
First inhabited during the Bronze Age, the network of caves is one of the highlights of the Caucasus. Though the site was mostly abandoned in the 16th century, a handful of monks still reside in the Vardzia Cave Monastery and they ring the bells at 07:00 every morning. We’ll either explore the site today or tomorrow, depending on how long it takes to reach Vardzia. Tonight, we wild camp nearby.
Overnight: Vardzia | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Vardzia - Armenian Highlands (Armenia). This morning we explore Vardzia if there wasn't time yesterday. We then set off for the Armenian border, finding a suitable spot to camp in the incredible scenery of the Armenian Highlands once we have crossed.
Overnight: Armenian Highlands | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Khor Virap Monastery & Yerevan
Armenian Highlands - Yerevan. On day 45 we visit the Khor Virap Monastery, near the Turkish border. This important pilgrimage site is set in the shadow of Mt Ararat and on a clear day there will be incredible views of the snow-capped peak. After our visit we continue to ancient Yerevan, capital of Armenia and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
There’s free time to relax or explore Yerevan at leisure during our two night stay here. Perhaps join an optional excursion to the Ararat Brandy Museum.
Geghard Monastery, Garni Temple & Lake Sevan
Yerevan - Lake Sevan. Setting off from Yerevan, our first stop is the UNESCO-listed Geghard Monastery, which has been carved out of the rock face of the Azat River Gorge. We continue to the impressive Graeco-Roman Garni Temple, a beautiful temple which wouldn't look out of place in Athens' legendary Acropolis.
Our journey continues through picturesque scenery to shimmering Lake Sevan. Landlocked Armenia’s only beaches are found at the lake, making it a popular summer retreat for Armenians and travellers alike. We’ll spend the night camping on the shore of the lake.
Overnight: Lake Sevan | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Lake Sevan - Tbilisi (Georgia). Today we cross back into Georgia and pass through the amazing scenery of Dilijan National Park to reach Tbilisi, Georgia's endearing capital city. The rest of today is free to explore the quaint Old City as you please. Consider heading up to Narikala Fortress for amazing views over Tbilisi.
Overnight: Tbilisi | Breakfast
Gori & Kutaisi
Tbilisi - Gori - Kutaisi. This morning we set off from Tbilisi and head across Georgia to Gori, the Georgian city that is famous as the birthplace of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin. There's a guided tour of the city and an included visit to the Stalin Museum, where you'll learn more about the complicated and ruthless dictator.
After exploring Gori, we continue to ancient Kutaisi. Here we can visit the beautiful Bagrati Cathedral, which has recently been restored to its full glory, with its turquoise roof intact. There's also a stop at the Gelati Monastery and the evening is at leisure.
Overnight: Kutaisi | Breakfast, Dinner
Kutaisi - Batumi. Today we drive to the hospitable port city of Batumi. Sitting on the Black Sea coast, Batumi is a popular summer getaway destination for Georgians and travellers alike. There’s free time to explore the city and an optional visit to the Batumi Archaeological Museum. Batumi has earned the nickname of the "Las Vegas of the Black Sea" and there's plenty to be done in the evening, with numerous bars and casinos to be found in the city.
Overnight: Batumi | Breakfast
The Sumela Monastery
Batumi - Sumela (Turkey). Today we say goodbye to Georgia and the Caucasus, as we cross into Turkey, the last of the seven amazing countries on our Central Asian adventure. We make our way to the incredible Sumela Monastery, which clings to rugged cliffs 1,200m up.
The Sumela Monastery was founded in the year 368CE, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. We get to explore this amazing site and gaze out at the green forests and mystical swirling mists in the valley below. We spend the night at a campsite near the monastery (weather permitting).
Overnight: Sumela | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Overland to Zara
Sumela - Zara. Today we have a full day's drive through central Turkey towards the magical landscape of Cappadocia. We break the journey at the village of Zara, where we camp.
Overnight: Zara | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Zara - Goreme. On day 53 we arrive at the small town of Goreme, nestled in the heart of the magical Cappadocia Mountains. During our two days here we’ll enjoy guided sightseeing in this enchanting subterranean landscape. Explore the underground city of Kaymakli and the ancient valley of Ihlara, strewn with rock-hewn churches. There’s also the opportunity to take an optional hot air balloon ride over the valley if you wish.
Goreme - Egirdir. Today we leave Cappadocia behind and continue south towards Egirdir, finding a suitable wild camping spot en route.
Overnight: Egirdir | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Termessos & Olympos
Egirdir - Termessos - Olympos. On day 56 we drive to the impressive Pisidian ruins of Termessos, which sit at an altitude of more than 1,000m. After exploring the site, we continue towards Olympos, where we'll be spending the next two nights.
Olympos is a popular Turkish beach town and we have free time over the next two days to relax on the beach or explore the local area. On day 57 you may wish to join an optional sea kayaking adventure and at nightfall we take a short hike up to the mystical Chimera Fire Mountain. Here natural gas rises from underground and bursts into flame when reaching the outside air. We can toast some marshmallows on the never-ending fires.
Olympos - Pamukkale. Driving inland, we reach the small village of Pamukkale, which is famous for its mineral rich hot springs and white terraced travertines. Take a walk along these beautiful terraces and opt for a dip in the thermal springs. Tonight, we will either camp near Pamukkale or stay in a local hotel.
Overnight: Pamukkale | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Selcuk & Ephesus
Pamukkale - Selcuk. On day 59 we drive to our next destination, Selcuk. We'll be spending the next two nights here. The evening is free to relax in one of the many tea bars in the area.
The next day sees us exploring the legendary marble ruins of Ephesus, including the Terraced Houses. Ephesus is considered one of the world’s best-preserved classical cities and highlights include the Library of Celsus and the Temple of Serapis.
Troy & Eceabat
Selcuk - Troy - Eceabat. Today we drive along the coast to the ruins of the fabled city of Troy. See the replica Trojan Horse here before we board the ferry to cross the Dardenelles, arriving in Eceabat this afternoon.
Gallipoli & Istanbul
Eceabat - Gallipoli - Istanbul. This morning we drive to the Gallipoli peninsula. Here we’ll take a guided tour of the region and can pay our respects at some of the WW1 battlefields and memorials. We’ll also visit ANZAC Cove, the site of some of the fiercest fighting during the war.
After paying our respects at Gallipoli, we board our overland truck for the final time and complete our journey to Istanbul, the only city in the world which sits in two continents - Europe and Asia. Your final evening in Turkey is free to explore Istanbul.
Today your adventure comes to an end. We've spent two months exploring Central Asia, the Caucasus and Turkey and made everlasting memories along the way. Speak to our Sales team if you'd like to book any extra accommodation in Istanbul in order to further explore the city.
Is Overlanding Right For Me?
Overlanding is not a style of travel that will suit everyone so please carefully read the Trip Notes before selecting this tour and be realistic about your ability and desire to join such a trip. If you’re the adventurous type who’d rather spend a night wild camping in the wilderness than luxuriating in a boutique hotel, then overlanding is for you. You just need the right attitude, an open mind, and a desire to participate fully in the trip.
Overland travelling can be demanding and challenging. On your trip you’ll travel in a purpose-built expedition vehicle on an off-the-beaten-track adventure along rugged roads, sometimes across vast distances and at high altitude. You will find the drive times noted on the Trip Notes.
On an overland journey you are more than just a passenger, these are full participation trips and everyone gets involved and pitches in! You will also be expected to erect your own tent and help with camp chores including cooking meals for the group on a rota basis. Like all great adventures, the more you put in the more you'll get out!
The type, variety and standard of accommodation can vary greatly from very basic rooms without electricity or running water to comfortable hotels with good facilities. Generally in hotels most rooms will be twin-share, but some may be triple/quad-share. Hostels and yurts are nearly always multi-share and may be mixed sex.
The campsites we use range from basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and a bar. On occasions we wild camp with no facilities, which means there are no toilets - just the vast expanse of the great outdoors and a shovel!
Our overland journeys are designed to offer freedom, and many of our routes have a large degree of flexibility rather than a strict hour-by-hour or even day-by-day itinerary. We intend to follow the planned route but exact night stops and inclusions cannot be guaranteed and it sometimes happens that we decide to make a change to our planned itinerary.
Prices & Dates
Departure dates noted with a 'G' are guaranteed to operate. All other departure dates are guaranteed with a minimum of 4 persons. Prices shown are per person travelling.Read More
Local payment - $2310pp, paid in USD
Please note that this is payable locally on day 1 of your trip in the currency specified.