The Heavenly Akhal-Teke Horses of Turkmenistan
April-May & September-October 2019
Divine horses, equine aristocrats, and fabled steeds, effulgent diamonds - such flowery epithets have been lavished upon that unique equine breed - the Akhal-Teke. Prized by Alexander the Great, Darius the Great, Genghis Khan, Roman emperors, Marco Polo, and many others, the Akhal-Tekes have served people for over 3,000 years. It is one of the most beautiful, elegant and proud horses in the world. Its endurance and resistance to heat are second to none. The Akhal-Tekes come from the Kara-Kum Desert in Turkmenistan. Among the all equine breeds known today in the world the Akhal-Teke horse is universally considered one of the most ancient ones. Of ancient noblesse, older than that of the Arabian or the English Thoroughbred, the Akhal-Teke is a full-blooded horse that is second to none. The Akhal-Teke is the only remaining pure strain of ancient Turkmen horse, a breed whose common ancestors bear a succession of different names over time: Massaget, Parthian, Nisean, Persian, Turkmen and finally, Akhal-Teke. Excavations in southern Turkmenistan have uncovered skeletal remains of tall, fine-boned horses dating back to 2400 BC. The breed name, however, dates back only to the end of the nineteenth century. It consists of two words: "Akhal," the long oasis nestled in the foothills of the Kopet Dag Mountains and "Teke," after the Turkmen tribe, the dominant nomadic people who inhabited the oasis and for centuries raised the Turkmen horse. It was to demonstrate to the Soviet authorities the stamina of the breed, and thereby help to guarantee its future, that in 1935, 30 Turkmen riders covered a 4,300km journey from Ashgabat to Moscow in 84 days, arriving in the Soviet capital, to rapturous applause, wearing traditional Turkmen telpeks.
1 person: $7,767.00 based on single room occupancy
Land prices per person based on sharing in double occupancy:
2 people: $5,127.00 per person
3 people: $4,307.00 per person
4 people: $3,896.00 per person
5 people: $3,650.00 per person
6 people: $3,490.00 per person
Single Supplement: $280.00
Optional extension to Mary (Day 12-13): Including 1 night in Mary and 1 night in Ashgabat with excursions and transfers as per an extension itinerary.
Land only $795.00 per person in double occupancy
Single room supplement: $80.00
Your tour does not include
International airfare (call for airfares)- The main option is Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul), currently approx. fare with taxes: $1100-$1400.
Visa fee for Turkmenistan (currently $100 obtainable on arrival – subject to change)
All gratuities to guide, drivers, porters, hotel and restaurant staff etc.
Photography and video making fees.
Dayrooms or extra hotel overnights if necessary.
Expenses of a personal nature such as: beverages with meals, telephone, email, laundry bills, camera fees, etc.
Travel Insurance (highly recommended).
Your tour includes
Airport transfers and travel by modern, air-conditioned transport throughout, 4WD A/C Jeep for Gonurdepe ( 3 people per vehicle)
Accommodation as mentioned in the itinerary. 5 nights at the hotel (4* or best available accommodations in Ashgabat and Mary city), 2 nights at the stud farm with bathroom facility, 6 nights camping.
Camping gear during the trek (tents and sleeping bags)
Meals on full board basis as mentioned in the itinerary.
English-speaking guide throughout.
Support vehicle for the horse riding days.
Horse riding equipment (Saddle and bridle)
All activities described in the tour and entrance fees to all sites mentioned unless listed as optional.
Letter of invitation for visa.
Bottled drinking water throughout.
Domestic flights: Ashgabat – Mary – Ashgabat
II Active – Some parts of the trip are physically challenging. Begin at moderate pace as you learn more about the horse. Depending on your riding skills make your way through the rolling sand dunes as you gaze out over the seemingly never-ending, empty expanses of the Karakum Desert.
The Fine Print: Being an equestrian tour and knowing the nature of horse riding adventures, all travelers will require a high level of flexibility and tolerance and willingness to go with the flow when things change. Anyone joining this tour must understand that in some places the tourist infrastructure is very primitive. Some riding days may be long and can be exhausting in nature but we will be making stops if required. Bathroom facilities along the way may be rather primitive and at times that will mean “in the wilderness”. We retain the full right to make any necessary changes to the itinerary, to the sequence of visits, to the choices of hotels or activities previously described in the itinerary due to weather conditions or other unforeseen circumstances. By joining us on this tour, participants are acknowledging their full understanding and acceptance of all terms and conditions and are admitting that they are in good physical and mental health and are equipped with open mind and sense of adventure.
Note on visas: The process of obtaining Turkmenistan visa is very simple. Turkmenistan requires letter of invitation or visa support letter to claim your visa. For all travelers we will assist with arrangements of letter of invitation. We need to start applying for the letter of invitation 2 months prior to the start date of the trip, WITHOUT need for actual passport, just a scanned copy of it. In very rare occasions letter of invitation may not be secured by issuing authorities with no given reason. On basis of approved letter of invitation you are eligible to claim the tourist visa at the Turkmenistan Embassy located in Washington, DC or upon entering Turkmenistan.
Horse Tack: The horse equipment and accessories available on the ground such us saddle, bridle, saddle pads and etc. may not match the western standards and might be limited in the variety of types so any traveler should be committed to use what will be provided by hosting party. Please note that each traveler should provide own riding helmet.
Ride & Horse details
Horse breeds: Akhalteke
Ability: Intermediate & Advanced riders
Trip pace: Walk, Trot & Canter
Weight limit: 220 lbs.
View Tour Itinerary
US to Ashgabat
Early morning arrival to Ashgabat. Turkmenistan. You will be met upon arrival and transferred to the hotel where you can rest, relax and refresh after your journey. Free day at leisure. Welcome dinner at the hotel. (B,D)
In the morning we visit the fortress of Old Nisa (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the earliest of Parthian Empire capitals. En-route visits the Spirituality Mosque, biggest in Turkmenistan, and the family mausoleum of the first President. Then we return to the main city to explore the “Pearl of Central Asia”, capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat. Within the city we visit the Park of independence with its independence monument, and Neutrality Square, famous for its Arch of Neutrality topped by a rotating gold-plated statue of the first President of Turkmenistan, and Wedding Palace-“Bagt Koshgi” and National Memorial Complex “Halk Hakydasy” with WWII memorial and the Earthquake Memorial dedicated to the victims of the 1948 earthquake. We will make an authentic stop at the ten Akhal-Teke Horses monument which symbolizes the tenth anniversary of independence of Turkmenistan. In the afternoon we visit the National Museum of History and Ethnography (displaying more than 327.000 exhibits) to see exclusive ancient artifacts from numerous historical & archeological sites of the country. Overnight at hotel. (B,L,D)
In the morning we continue west for a stud farm near Geok Depe, passing by Kipchak village with a complex of the biggest mosque in Turkmenistan and the family mausoleum of the first President of Turkmenistan, as well as a former Tekke stronghold, which was the site of the biggest battle for the Russian domination in Central Asia in the late 19 c. After arrival at the farm, you will be introduced to the owner of the farm, familiarized with the stud-farm and have showing and choosing horses to riders, check and adjust tack and to learn about Turkmen horses – Akhal-Tekke. Traditional Turkmen lunch at the farm. After the lunch we will have a small nature excursion around the village on our horses. Enjoy traditional Turkmen dinner and overnight at the farm. (B, L, D)
Gokdepe-Tummekli 34 km
Today is our first horse riding day. We will have early breakfast at the stud farm and saddle up. On the first day of our riding, we take a route to the east-north of Karakum desert. Our route takes us across the sand-dunes of Karakum desert from well to well. We will stop for a lunch on the way then continue riding to Tummekli – it is the name of one of the hills of desert where there is a possibility to stop for camping next to it. There we will have an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with flora and the wild life of Karakum desert. Enjoy our nomadic dinner and overnight in the tents. (B,L,D)
Tummekli – Chyrla 32 km
Our first morning in the Karakum desert, we will enjoy our nomadic breakfast and then continue our equestrian adventure through desert dunes to one of the nomadic villages of the Karakum desert known as Chyrla. Lunch is on the way at one of the takyrs. Takyr is a type of relief occurring in Central Asia. During our ride we should see the tribal herds of camel and huge flocks of sheep that range across the typical desert pastures. Enjoy our nomadic dinner and overnight in the tents. (B, L, D)
Chyrla- Gutlyayak-Gurrukly 35 km
It is a wonderful morning in the desert, after a good rest and breakfast we ride to one of the small nomadic villages of Karakum desert - Gurrukly. Make stop for lunch near Gutlyayak village which is one of the biggest villages in the area. After we can explore the village and familiarise ourselves with a daily life of nomadic people. After a small siesta we will continue our ride to our destination. Enjoy our nomadic dinner and overnight in the tents. (B,L,D)
Gurrukly- Hakkysh 17 km
Today we will spend on the horse half day only and after lunch will have a rest, and give our horses a time to recover. However, you may have a chance to observe the semi-nomad shepherds performing their daily life tasks, or wander around the village by observing the wildlife in the desert. Enjoy free afternoon at leisure for rest. (Half day relaxing is essential after each 3 days of riding). (B,L,D)
Hakkysh- Gongurajy 29 km
Enjoy our picnic breakfast. After having a good rest we will saddle our Akhal –Teke horses and catch the winds of the Karakum desert. Today our equestrian adventure will take us to Gongurajy nomadic village. On the way we will find scenery spot for the lunch. Continue our horse riding day and arrive in the late afternoon. Enjoy our nomadic dinner and overnight in the tents. (B,L,D)
Gongurajy- Orazsahet 28 km
Breakfast in the morning and we saddle up for our exiting desert adventure. Today we turn to the southwest, to the small nomadic village of Orazsahet. Stop for the lunch near Sardob village, which has a very unique nomadic way of life. Continue riding to the nomadic village of Orazsahet, upon arrival dinner and rest. (B,L,D)
Orazsahet- Gokdepe reservoir 38 km
Today is our final kilometers and we will head towards desert dunes and our destination is unique man made Geokdepe water reservoir, which is famous with its various types of fish, wild bird life and pure water. En route we may have a chance to come across with wildlife of the area. For lunch, we stop at the shepherd’s water well called as Arap Ghuy. After lunch we continue our way to reservoir, and upon arrival we will enjoy our swim in fresh water. We will also wash our horses in the lake. After, our winged horses will take us back to the stud farm where we began our journey. The distance from the reservoir to the stud farm is around 10 km. Upon arrival we will enjoy our farewell dinner with our friends and share our horse riding experience. Overnight at the stud farm. (B,L,D)
We will say goodbye to our friends and after we will drive to Ashgabat's fabled Sunday Bazaar of Tolkuchka (Open: Thu, Sat, and Sun). Attracting colorfully dressed people from all over the country to buy or sell camels, cattle and poultry, amulets, carpets, jewelry, and myriads other things. After the Bazaar, we will drive to the Old Hippodrome of Ashgabat to watch the Sunday Horse Race, a chance to see the best horses in Turkmenistan in motion, and people cheering for their favorite horses (without any betting). After the race, we will eat lunch and return to the hotel. Free evening at leisure. (B,L,D)
Ashgabat to USA or optional 2 days ext. (Mary-Gonurdepe- Mary-Ashgabat-USA)
Take morning flight from Ashgabat to USA or extension to Mary. Upon arrival we head to northeast from Mary to Margush/Gonur Depe (40 km Off Road). Here first agricultural settlements appeared in the delta of Murgab River as back as 3’rd millennium BC. Fertile silt coming from mountains, abundance of water and moderate climate had created favorable conditions for good crops and the progress of the ancient economy was continuing for several centuries. The American newspaper "Boston Globe" wrote that before we knew the four oldest centers of the world's civilizations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and China, and due to the fantastic results of the Margiana expedition it is quite possible to think that there was another, the fifth center. Truly sensational discoveries were made in 2000 by archaeologists on the site of ancient Margush. They found the skeleton of a stallion, but it is a fact that it was already domesticated animal that was born here and did not get to these places from the outside. In 2001 a unique bronze horse's head, and small musical trumpets (4 pieces) were found. These trumpets were used exclusively for training the horses which learned to move on command under the sounds. We will enjoy our picnic lunch at the archeological site. Drive back to Mary city. On the way to Mary city we will make stop at the Mary Hippodrome to familiarize ourselves with local horses. Overnight at the hotel. (B,L,D)
After breakfast in the morning we head 25 km to the east of Mary, towards Bayram-Ali, the contemporary re-incarnation of and humble suburb of the glorious Ancient Merv (UNESCO World Heritage Site). One of the major archaeological sites of Central Asia, Merv played an important part in the development of the Silk Road for more than 2 000 years. We will have a chance to observe all constituent parts of the “wandering city”. It is a series of adjacent cities which can be roughly divided into the ancient (Erk Kala and Gyaur Kala), the medieval (Sultan Kala with its suburbs), and post-medieval (Abdulla-Khan Kala. The splendid XII c. mausoleums of Sultan Sanjar and Muhammed ibn-Zeyd, demonstrate exquisite Seljuk period brickwork and architectural décor. After sightseeing, we head back to Mary. On arrival in Mary, we visit local History Museum, presenting a wide array of archaeological finds. Transfer to the Mary airport to take afternoon flight back to Ashgabat. Overnight at hotel. (B,L,D)
Ashgabat to the US
Transfer to the airport for your flight back to the US via Istanbul
We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants or the order of activities if/as needed