iran and turkmenistan

geographical society study tour october 2014


Meals are included as follows: B = Breakfast included; L = Lunch included; D - Dinner included.

Sun 28 Sep: Fly from Sydney to Dubai on Emirates Airlines flight EK413 (an Airbus A380), departing at 9:10 pm and arriving next day at 5:40 am. [D]

Mon 29 Sep: In Dubai, connect to Emirates Airlines flight EK121 to Istanbul, departing at 2:20 pm and arriving at 5:55 pm.  Connect to Turkish Airlines flight TK322 at 9:10 pm.  [B, L, D]

Tue 30 Sep: Arrive in Ashgabat, capital city of Turkmenistan, at 2:45 am.  After obtaining visas, clearing immigration and proceeding to our hotel, there will be time for a rest.  After a rest, the group will begin exploring Ashgabat and its surrounds.  Places visited are likely to include the city centre, and the enormous, lavish Ertogrul Gazi Mosque.  Overnight Grand Turkmen Hotel. 4* [B, D]

Wed 1 Oct: After a sleep-in to recover from the overnight flight, the group will leave at about noon and drive from Ashgabat to Darvaza Oasis, stopping en route to explore the oasis town of Erbent.  Darvaza is the site of the world’s only burning gas crater.  The group will camp overnight in tents beside the gas crater (tents will be erected for the group), providing the opportunity for several evening visits to this extraordinary place. [B, D]

Thur 2 Oct: After a voluntary early morning desert walk through the dunes to look at wildlife, and after the tents have been dismantled and packed for the group, the group will drive to Konye-Urgench, an ancient city that has never really recovered from its successive invasions by Ghengis Khan and Tamerlane.  Visits in Konye-Urgench will include ancient minarets, mosques and mausoleums including the Mausoleum of Turabeg Khanum, the Kutlug Minaret, the Mausoleum of Sultan Tekesh, the Mausoleum of Il Arslan, Kyrk Molla, the Nadjemeddin Al Kubra, the mausoleum of Sultan Ali, the Mausoleum of Pirarvali and the Caravanserai Gate.  The group will then continue to the Soviet city of Dashogus from which an afternoon flight to Ashgabat will depart.  Overnight Grand Turkmen Hotel 4*. [B, D]

Fri 3 Oct: Full day exploring Ashgabat and surrounds.  Visits will include the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the Arch of Neutrality, the Earthquake Memorial, the ferris wheel, the Berzengi monuments, the Tolkucha Bazaar and the avenues of old and modern Ashgabat.  Overnight Grand Turkmen Hotel. 4* [B, D]

Sat 4 Oct: Drive to Nokhur, a traditional mountain community in the rugged Kopet Dag Range.   Stops will be made at the Nissa Fortress, Archabil and Geok Dere Valleys, Geok Depe Mosque, optional Bakharden Underground Lake.  Overnight in private houses. [B, L, D]

Sun 5 Oct: Explore Nokhur (especially the Kiz Bibi Shrine and the cemetery of the Nokhuri people with its unusual carved steps with "X" marks that are said to derive from the Star of David, topped with goat's horns).  This will be followed by an exploration of Nokhur’s surrounding valleys, providing a rare opportunity to witness the very traditional culture and animal raising practices of the Nohkuri people.  Overnight in private houses.  [B, L, D]

Mon 6 Oct: Drive to Balkanabat, an oil city that is beautifully located at the foot of the mountains.  A stop will be made to explore the Paraw Bibi Shrine, a fascinating white mausoleum-like structure that is accused of contributing to harmful beliefs among the population.  Overnight at Nebitchi Hotel 4*. [B, D]

Tue 7 Oct: Drive to Yangykala Canyon via the Goezli Ata Shrine, a beautiful and remote structure that sits in a valley surrounded by red mountains with roaming horses and camels, steppe grasses and centuries-old tombstones.  Overnight in tents overlooking the canyon (tents will be erected for the group).  [B, D]

Wed 8 Oct: Said to be as far off the beaten track as anyone can get, the Yangykaka Canyon is a cross between the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon - it is huge, colourful, pristine and spectacular.  The group will have time to explore Yangykala Canyon before continuing to Turkmenbashi, a Russified city carved into the dramatic cliffsides that overlook the Caspian Sea.  While in Turkmenbashi, the group will visit the initial station on the Trans-Caspian railway, the memorial to Soviet soldiers killed in the Great Patriotic War, the memorial to Japanese soldiers, the Russian Orthodox Church and Avaza, a new tourist zone on the Caspian Sea coast.  Overnight Kervan Hotel 4*.  [B, D]

Thur 9 Oct: Morning flight to Ashgabat, then finish exploring Ashgabat and its surrounds, including the Arch of Independence, the Arch of Neutrality and various monuments and parks devoted to the personality cult of Saparmurat Niyazov.  Overnight Grand Turkmen Hotel 4*. [B, D]

Fri 10 Oct: Full day drive to Mary, Turkmenistan’s third largest city.  Stops will be made at the huge ruins of the medieval town of Abiverd and the bronze age site around Anau Mosque.  Overnight at Yrsgal Hotel 2*.  [B, D]

Sat 11 Oct: Full day excursion to Gonur, the largest archaeological excavation in the Near East; the alleged site of the recently discovered 5th great ancient civilization (the Margiana - the other four being Egypt, China, Mesopotamia and India).  The drive there and back will be through the controversial irrigated cotton fields, watered by the Karakum Canal.  Return to Mary.  Overnight at Yrsgal Hotel 2*. [B, D]

Sun 12 Oct: Morning visit to the Sunday market at Mary Bazaar, then continue to Merv, which is the site of the ancient city of Margush (actually five ancient cities dating from the 7th century BC to the 1500s, and now a single UNESCO World Heritage site) spread over 100   Several sites in Merv will be visited - the Mausoleum of Mohammed Ibn Zeid, the Big and Small Kala, the Mausoleum of Kiz Bibi, the Complex of Two Askhab, Beni Makhan Mosque, Gyaur Kala, Sultan Kala, the Shahriar Ark, the mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, Erk Kala, a cross-section through the south-western walls of Gyaur Kala, and the ice house - before an afternoon flight to Ashgabat.  Overnight Grand Turkmen Hotel 4*. [B, D]

Mon 13 Oct: Morning drive to border with Iran at Gaudan/Badjgiran.  Cross the border into Iran, and drive to Mashhad, known as Iran’s most holy city (the name ‘Mashhad’ means “Place of Martyrdom”). Overnight in Hotel Iran or similar 4*. [B, D]

Tue 14 Oct: City tour of Mashhad.  The day will begin by visiting the 75 hectare Holy Shrine of Imam Reza, one of the true marvels of the Islamic world.  After an inspection of the museum and the Tomb of Ferdosi, the group will take an afternoon flight to Iran’s capital city, Tehran.  Overnight at Enghelab Hotel 4*. [B, D]

Wed 15 Oct: The city tour of Tehran will include visits to the National Museum, the magnificent Golestan Palace, the Saad Abad Palace (which is the former summer residence of the Shah of Iran) and Tehran’s extensive and historic Bazaar.  Overnight at Enghelab Hotel 4*. [B, D]

Thur 16 Oct: Drive from Tehran to Masuleh, a beautiful 1,000 year old village in a mountain valley.  Inspect the village, and proceed to Rasht. Overnight at the Hotel Kadoos 4*.  [B, D]

Fri 17 Oct: Drive to the hilly market town of Takab, stopping for an extensive visit to Takht-e Soleiman.  This is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the ruins of the spiritual centre of Zoroastrianism in the 3rd century, set amid volcanic peaks and timeless mountain villages.  Overnight at Hotel Ranji 3*.  [B, D]

Sat 18 Oct: Drive to Kermanshah, the largest city in central western Iran, stopping for two detailed visits on the way; Bisotun and Tagh-e Bostan (huge cliffs of bas-relief carving from 480BC).  Overnight at Hotel Azadegan 4*.  [B, D]

Sun 19 Oct: Drive to city of Ahvaz, stopping en route to inspect Choqa Zanbil (a lonely 3000 year-old stepped pyramid) and the ancient city of Shush, which now houses the Tomb of Daniel.  Overnight at Hotel Pars 5*. [B, D]

Mon 20 Oct: Drive to Shiraz, a sophisticated city regarded as the heartland of Persian culture; its poetry, its roses, its wine and its nightingales.  En route, the group will inspect the old city of Bushehr, located on a peninsula on the Gulf and featuring twisting narrow mud-brick lanes.  Overnight at Hotel Park Saadi 4*. [B, D]

Tue 21 Oct: City tour of Shiraz visiting many sites including the Madraseh-e Khan (a centuries old Islamic theological college), the traditional covered Vakil Bazaar, the Eram Garden (perhaps the quintessential Persian oasis garden), the Tomb of Hafez (a favourite place for young Iranians to date), and the Shrine of Ali-ben Hamza, which is a mosque that foreigners may enter.  Overnight at Hotel Park Saadi 4*. [B, D]

Wed 22 Oct: Drive to Yazd via visiting the magnificent ancient city of Persepolis, the huge cliff tombs at Naqsh-e Rostam and Pasargadae, the birthplace of ancient Persia.  After arriving in Yazd,  we will make a sunset visit to Amir Chakhmaq Square and see the lights come on the takieh (see photo at the foot of this page).  Overnight at Hotel Moshir 4*.  [B, D]

Thur 23 Oct: City tour of Yazd, a beautiful old city with winding lanes, wind towers and mud brick buildings.  Visits will include the huge Jameh Mosque, the Zoroastrian Fire Temple (with its flame that has been burning since AD 470), and the stark the Towers of Silence.  After seeing Yazd, the group will drive drive to Esfahan via Na’in, a town with ancient mud brick buildings that is famous for its carpets.  Overnight at Hotel Aliqapu 4*. [B, D]

Fri 24 Oct: After a visit to Vank Cathedral, the historic focal point of the Armenian Church in Iran, visit the exquisite Jameh Mosque, the Chehel Sotun Palace (with its lavish gardens and intricate frescoes covering the walls of the Great Hall), and the Khaju Bridge.  Overnight at Hotel Aliqapu 4*. [B, D]

Sat 25 Oct:.  Morning city tour of Esfahan, the city that is known as Iran’s masterpiece.  Visits will include Imam Square (Naqsh-e Jahan Square), the second largest square in the world, together with several amazing nearby sites including the Imam Mosque, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Ali Qapu Palace, and the extensive covered Bazar-e Bozorg.  The afternoon will be free for exploring Esfahan.  Overnight at Hotel Aliqapu 4*. [B, D]

Sun 26 Oct: Drive to Tehran Airport via Kashan, where the group will visit the Fin Garden and Boruherdi House.  Then drive to Abyaneh, where there will be time to rest, change and clean up at the Hotel Abyaneh before proceeding to the airport and boarding Emirates flight EK978 from Tehran to Dubai departing at 9:45 pm. [B, D]

Mon 27 Oct:  The flight from Tehran will arrive in Dubai at 15 minutes after midnight.  The group will then transfer to Emirates Airlines flight EK414 (an Airbus A380) to Sydney, departing at 1:50 am and arriving at 10:30pm. [B, L, D]

Note: This itinerary is subject to change if local circumstances warrant.

Click the following links for more details of this not-to-be missed opportunity.

The Iran Turkmenistan  Study Tour home page

The itinerary

The Tour Leader

The cost and application form

The dress code

The legal odds and ends.

Links to other relevant websites.