Stride climate

Trip Type : Group Tour
Lenin Park Sculpture View, Russia

Turkmenistan Photography Workshop Tour

Young Pioneer Tours
5.0 . Excellent
Travel Style: You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level: Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
10 days
From: $ 2,695 $ 270 / day
Checking price



  • Experience the awesome Photography Workshop Tour
  • Discover Ashgabat's main sites including Independence Park and Independence Monument, the Monument to the Constitution, the Arch of Neutrality
  • Explore Nisa, a UNESCO site which was once the capital of the Parthian Empire
  • Visit modern city of Mary and now a UNESCO world heritage listed site
  • Explore Ashgabat

Short Description

We are proud to introduce a brand new tour concept to Turkmenistan – A photo workshop tour run by photographers for photographers. If you’re a professional photographer, a keen Instagrammer, or an absolute beginner, this tour will present you with the most perfect and rare opportunities of daily life in Turkmenistan.

Have you ever wanted to take that perfect picture of a sunrise over a burning gas crater in the middle of one of the most mysterious countries on earth? Ever wanted to have your own personal professional photographer helping you use your SLR camera, the settings of which you never actually learned the meanings of? This is your perfect opportunity.

With even fewer tourists every year than North Korea, Turkmenistan is a truly unique place. Far from the beaten track, you will spend the entirety of your time in Turkmenistan being in awe of something, whether it be the “Dictator’s Playground” as Ashgabat has come to be known, the giant flaming crater called the “Gates of Hell”, the futuristic, unfinished, ghost town of a beach resort, Avaza, the incessant statues and pictures of the President and the former President, or the spectacular and completely untouched natural phenomenons of the Karakum Desert.

Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Trip Type Group Tour
Off the beaten track trips will stretch your comfort zone. They don't always feature tourist highlights, but dive deeper into local life and culture.
Itinerary Focus Off the Beaten Path
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value - 3 star
Flights & Transport Only ground transport
Start City Ashgabat
End City Turkmenabat

Trip Includes

  • Letter of Invitation
  • Registration
  • Transport according to the itinerary
  • Local English speaking guide
  • Western YPT guide
  • Entrance fees to Kow Ata and Nisa
  • Accommodation according to itinerary in twin/double share (except in the homestay where one or two rooms are shared by the group)
  • Breakfast every day
  • Dinner at the homestay in Nokhur

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Day 1:

Meet your local and YPT guides at Ashgabat International Airport.

Tour of Ashgabat's main sites including Independence Park and Independence Monument, the Monument to the Constitution, the Arch of Neutrality, Lenin Park, Ertogrul Ghazi Mosque and the Alem Centre which is the complex that is home to the Wheel of Enlightenment, the largest indoor ferris wheel. And yes, for just $1 you can even take a ride!

If the food court at the Alem Centre's open we'll have lunch there, however it is often closed in which case we'll go to the Russian Bazaar. Either way, lunch will cost around $1-3.

Visit the university bookshop where you can find books written by and about the president, Ashgabat and Turkmenistan 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.

Continue on to Nisa, a UNESCO site which was once the capital of the Parthian Empire.

Visit Anau on the eastern outskirts of Ashgabat and see the remains of Anau Fortress and Sheikh Jemaladdin Mosque which was destroyed in the 1948 earthquake.

Return to Ashgabat in the late afternoon.

Fly to Turkmenbashy in the evening.

Photo review session of the days shooting with Philip

Day 2:

Head off early in the morning to Yangykala Canyon. Most Turkmens don't even know that this place exists, but once you've been there you'll start calling the Grand Canyon the “Pretty Good Canyon”. In 4x4's, we'll drive over the canyon walls, through the canyon itself, and up the other side, to an excellent vantage point from where you will be able to see all the shapes and colours of this spectacular natural phenomenon. Amazing photo opportunities from here.

We will take a packed lunch with us so we can enjoy it at the canyons. You can either buy yourself something at the bazaar on the way, or we can organise a lunch box for approximately $7 pp.

Return to Turkmenbashy and take a tour of the beach resort of Avaza, stopping for photos along the way. Although the facilities are extravagant and the buildings futuristic, the town is somehow best described as a ghost town.

Fly back to Ashgabat.

Photo night tour of Ashgabat. With the white marble buildings lit up by brightly coloured neon lights, Ashgabat is a truly spectacular place after dark.

We'll make a stop at the Palace of Happiness in the foothills of the Kopetdag Mountains, from where you can get a fantastic panorama of the whole city.

And another stop at the Altyn Asyr Sowda Merkezi, a new shopping centre in Independence Park which is in the shape of a pyramid, and the outside of which is covered in fountains and colourful lights. We'll enjoy dinner at the Minara restaurant on the fifth floor, from which you'll get 360 degree views of the city lights, whilst enjoying a nice cold draught beer.

Spend the night at the Ak Altyn Hotel.

Photo review session of the days shooting

Day 3:

Drive to Kipchak to see the resplendent Turkmenbashy Mosque, where Turkmenbashy is buried beside his mother, father and two brothers in their white marble mausoleum.

Continue on to Kow Ata, in the outskirts of Ashgabat. This natural underground thermal spring 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. Admission included.

After a revitalising swim in the lake, we'll enjoy lunch at one of the shashlik restaurants just outside the entrance to the cave. Approximately $3-6 pp.

In the afternoon, drive 250km to Darvaza (The Gates of Hell) in 4WD's.

Our first stop will be at the Tolkuchka Bazaar on the outskirts of Ashgabat where you can buy supplies to take with you to the Gates of Hell.

Photo op stop at Erbent village along the way, one of the few nomadic villages still left in Central Asia.

Visit two other craters – one full of mud, one full of water.

Traverse the sand dunes of the Karakum Desert to get to Darvaza.

*Trip highlight* Set up our gear and tents for the evening next to the gates of hell.

Watch the sunset over the fiery crater and experience dusk turn to dark at this breathtaking site.

We'll have plenty of time to get all the shots you need with on the spot guidance at hand.

Day 4:

Wake up around 6:00am to catch the sunrise over the gas crater.

Drive back towards Ashgabat in the morning.

Stop at Tolkuchka Bazaar on the outskirts of Ashgabat for another great photo opportunity.

Lunch at Tolkuchka Bazaar. Approximately $5 pp.

Coming back to Ashgabat now also gives the opportunity to do another night tour of Ashgabat, in case anything was missed the first time.

Evening photo review session

Day 5:

Fly to Mary in the morning.

Drive to Merv, which is just half an hour's drive from the modern city of Mary and now a UNESCO world heritage listed site. Merv is the oldest and best preserved ancient oasis city along the Silk Road, and at one point during the 12th Century was possibly even the largest city in the world.

Spend the day exploring the shrines, temples, towers, city walls, fortresses, castles and mausoleums, the most notable of which is that of Sultan Sandzhar Dar-al-Akhir which reaches forty metres into the sky, topped by an almost completely intact brick dome.

We'll move at our own pace here scouting out the best locations for shooting

Evening photo review session

Overnight in Mary.

Day 6:

Explore some of the small villages around the city of Mary, seeing a way of life much different to what you will have already seen, and with opportunities to meet local people. Perfect for street/village photos

Drive towards Turkmenabat, stopping along the way to admire and take photos of the Karakum Desert.

Overnight in Turkmenabat.

Day 7:

Drive into the Koytendag mountains, crossing the Amudarya river.

Stop along the way at Astana Baba mausoleum, Alamberdar mausoleum and much more.

Stop in the small town of Atamyrat, where we'll have lunch at a local chaykhana.

You will now be in an area where you will meet people who have literally never seen a western person before. A completely different world from the rest of Turkmenistan, the scenery is really unique and the villages are so untouched. Great opportunity for portrait shots here

Photo review session

Spend the night at a lodge in Kugitang.

Day 8:

Walk up onto the Dinosaur Plateau, the largest repository of dinosaur footprints in the world. Discovered in 1980, the limestone slab that sits at an impressing 20 degree angle on the side of the mountain, is covered in pre-historic footprints ranging from 20-70cm in size. Although scientifically explained as this, one local legend tells us that the plateau was a place where white elephants gathered to perform sacred dances, and another tells us that the footprints are those of battle elephants brought by Alexander the Great.

Continue on to Kyrk Gyz Cave. This cave is covered in a peculiar layer of stalactites, which are in fact cloth rags dangling from the ceiling. Legend has it that anyone who can fling a mud pie with a cloth attached to it, and make it stick, will have a wish come true.

Cool down at Umbar Dere gorge where you can wade through the river-gorge until you get to a spectacular waterfall at the end. Although you won't find any other western tourists, or even foreigners here, if it's a nice day the place is likely to be full of locals enjoying the water and setting up for a day of shashliks and vodka just outside the gorge.

And finally stop by Kaynar Baba lake for more shots with the locals or where you can take another swim – this time you don't need to wade through a gorge to get there, but if you're game you can do as the locals do and take a natural mud-bath first.

After dinner photo review session

Day 9: Drive back to Turkmenabat.

Fly back to Ashgabat and spend the night at the Ak Altyn Hotel.

Finally Q&A and photo review session with your guides followed by final group goodbye drinks!

Day 10:

Airport transfers according to your flight times.



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Price From $ 2,695
Price Per Day: $ 270 per day
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Prices may vary due to local taxes and trip seasonality. Click "Request Info" to inquire directly with the tour operator for the final trip price.

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Flights & Transport

Only ground transport

Group Size:

Standard Group

Cancellation Policy:

All cancellation notices must be received in writing and will become effective as of the date of receipt by us. Tour refunds will be calculated based on the information contained in the following table:

Days will be Percentage Refunded (of full tour price)

42 days in advance is 100%

26-41 days will be 50%

11-25 days is 25%

2-10 days is 10%

0-1 days will be 0%

Trip ID#:


Trip Excludes

  • Visa for Turkmenistan (currently $85 at the airport for most nationalities)
  • Immigration tax at the airport ($12)
  • Transport to and from Ashgabat at the beginning and end of the tour
  • Meals other than those stipulated (allow up to $10 per meal)
  • Single supplement for accommodation ($155) (not available in the homestay)
  • Photo/video fees at sites (not at all sites, but usually $2-10 depending on the site)
  • Tips for guides (not obligatory, and up to your personal discretion)
  • Any other personal expenses such as souvenirs and drinks

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