Central & South East Asia
Central Asia has been traversed by travellers, traders, explorers and adventurers since time immemorial. From Alexander the Great to Tamarlane, Marco Polo and the great traders of the Silk Road, it’s the stuff travel legends are made of. On our tours to Central Asia explore capital cities dotted with blue domes, remote national parks with endemic wildlife, ex-Soviet ghost towns, ruined ancient cities of heroes long since passed and carve your own niche haggling it out in the marketplaces of the crossroads of humanity. All the while, greeted by some of the friendliest locals anywhere on Earth, both in the cities and in the untamed wildernesses of this remarkable area. Explore some of our most amazing tours to Central Asia and South East Asia here.
Tours to Central Asia
Legends of the Silk Road
On this 5 Stans tour in the veiled heart of Central Asia, a tapestry of secrets unravels across a timeless expanse. Each of the 5 stans of Central Asia is different to the last. Uzbekistan, a land of history, blue domes and conquering heroes. Kyrgyzstan, a land of untouched wilderness and natural beauty. Kazakhstan, the mother of ‘dark tourism’. Tajikistan, home to the open road of the Pamir Highway and Turkmenistan, a place closed off and at times utterly bizarre.
Each Stan, whispers tales of ancient Silk Road caravans that carried desires and dreams through hidden valleys and towering peaks. A mystical dance of cultures unfolds, where nomadic echoes intermingle with forgotten legends, and the winds themselves whisper cryptic verses of distant conquerors and celestial patterns etched in the stars.
In this magical region know where you are from the moment you wake up by staying in locally owned and operated hotels, yurt camps and even take an overnight train in Kazakhstan to give you a real chance to mingle with the locals which is an integral part of all our tours to Central Asia.
Backroads of the Caucuses
Amidst the rugged terrain and swirling mists of the Caucasus, where the winds whisper secrets and the rocks hold ancient memories, lies a land of both strife and beauty, where towering mountains guard hidden valleys and diverse cultures collide in a dance of enigmatic complexity.
Experience a land of mud-volcanoes, mountain vistas and cave villages. Wander the spectacular mountain village of Khinaliq in Azerbaijan, ride the ‘Wings of Tatev’ the world longest aerial tramway in Armenia and savour long lunches and taste traditional wines in Georgia.
Explore the enigmatic sight of Karahunge, a group of standing stones 3500 years older than England’s Stonehenge. Journey to Khor Virap, a monastery built on the site of the imprisonment of St Gregory the Illuminator in the shadow of Mt Ararat. Clamber around the cave village of Vardzia and explore the Black Sea Coast in the city of Batumi.
From the Caspian to the Black Sea know where you are from the moment you wake up by staying in locally run hotels, chalets and even a castle as well as unique and off-the-beaten path experiences in the backroads of this amazing region.
Backroads of the Caucasus is part of our Signature range, meaning it is one of our most unique tours to Central Asia.
The Toastmasters Table
Saturate yourself in oenology on this enophiles odyssey to explore the ancient wine culture of Georgia. Meander through Tbilisi’s wine scene with leisurely visits to cellar doors, wine bar crawls and a visit to a winery in the old capital of Mtskheta. Journey to Telavi, Georgia’s premiere wine destination for long lunches, wanders through the vines and of course tastings a plenty! Visit some of Georgia’s lesser known sites (and lesser known wineries) including the Chiatura Cable Cars and Mgvimevi Convent, as well as a tour and tasting at the fabulous Prince Alexander Chavchavadze House Museum.
What better way to immerse yourself in the viticulture of Georgia but to stay at Chateaus, complete with vineyard and wine themed hotels with fully stocked cellars, offering you the opportunity to taste.
In Search of the Mountain Ghost
Prepare yourself for the harsh environment in the remote Tsagaan Sair Valley of Mongolia, tracking the Snow Leopard, Mongolia’s “Mountain Ghost.” Experience one of the last true wildernesses and a place where few travellers venture. Go on safari in Hustai National Park in search of Przewalski’s horse, once extinct in the wild, and learn about eagle hunting from people still practicing this ancient way of life on this trip for the hardcore adventure and wildlife lover.
This year we have planned our trip to coincide with Mongolia’s Golden Eagle festival. Amidst the rugged terrain of Mongolia’s Altai Mountains, a fierce gathering of wings unfolds every autumn. The sound of galloping horses echoes through the valley as proud hunters unleash their golden companions to soar and strike.
Stay in locally owned and operated hotels, marvel at the hospitality of the eagle hunters and assist our family of eagle hunters in relocating to their winter residence. We think you’ll agree that this experience is one of the most unique tours to Central Asia you’re likely to find.
Vietnam Off Track
In the veiled embrace of time’s tapestry, where the emerald-ringed dreams of nature intertwine, lies a land veiled in mystery and whispered tales. Journey to the realm of Northern Vietnam, where mist-wreathed mountains cloak ancient secrets, and echoes of a thousand stories linger in the crisp air. Within Sapa’s ethereal realm, where terraced rice fields dance upon the undulating slopes, whispers of distant civilizations harmonize with the footsteps of intrepid wanderers. Venture forth to Hanoi, a labyrinth of hidden treasures, where the chaotic symphony of vibrant streets whispers of empires past, weaving a captivating symphony that resonates through time. Then, seek solace amidst the mystic realm of Halong Bay, where jade-hued waters embrace towering limestone sentinels, creating a poetic tableau that enthralls and enchants.
While this tour is more on the luxurious side, that doesn’t mean the local aspect of this tour is forgotten. Meet the H’mong people of the hill villages, try your hand at fruit and vegetable carving, take a short hike to the Cat Cat village and try out Tai Chi on the deck of our cruise boat surrounded by the epic formations of Halong Bay.
Transport on this tour is varied and includes a coach, the luxury overnight ‘dream train’ and an enchanting 2-night cruise on Halong Bay.
The Heart of Laos
In the heart of verdant serenity, where whispers of the mystique permeate the air, a land emerges from the embrace of time’s enigmatic currents. Veiled in emerald splendor, Laos, a tapestry of enigmatic tales, unveils its secrets to those who tread its hidden pathways. Enchanted by the languid flow of the Mekong River, ancient spirits dance amidst the ancient temples, their sacred whispers echoing through the its spiritual realm. Legends and rituals intertwine, mirroring the undulating mountains that guard untold wonders. Within the shadowy depths of lush jungles, where secrets whisper and flora pulses with enigmatic energy, Laos unveils itself as a riddle waiting to be deciphered, a mosaic of enigmatic beauty that captivates the soul of the curious wanderer.
On this Laos adventure tour from the capital of Vientiane in the south to Luang Prabang, the soul of Laos in the north get lost in the beauty of Laotian landscapes and culture. Embrace the ethereal charm of Vang Vieng, where limestone cliffs tower above turquoise waters, painting a picture of serenity and adventure intertwined. Wander the many serene temples, explore mysterious caves and learn about the local people and their lives.
Travelling mostly by local train on this adventure tour through Laos will give you a chance to meet and experience the warmth of the people and stay in locally owned and operated traditional hotels for complete immersion in Laos’ amazing culture.
The Heart of the Silk Road
Trace the footsteps of legends, heroes and ancient traders on this legendary journey through the heart of the Silk Road. Venture into the unknown in the far west autonomous republic of Karalkalpakstan, a place where few travellers have set foot, to camp on the shores of the Aral Sea, investigate the ship graveyard of Moynaq and view the enigmatic ‘Tower of Silence’ outside Chilpik – integral to the mysterious religion of Zoroastrianism. Visit the fertile Fergana region to learn about silk production, still a trade staple in this part of the world. Explore the legendary cities of Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva and visit the birthplace of the national hero Tamerlane in Shakhrisabz. Journey into the perilous red sands of the Kyzylkum, to explore desert fortresses, visit ancient caravanserais and taste delicious food cooked on a Saksaul tree and eaten around a campfire. We are sure you will agree that a trip to Uzbekistan is one of the quintessential tours to Central Asia.
As part of the adventure, stay in yurt camps both on the edge of the Aral Sea and among a population of ethnic Kazakh nomads in the Kyzylkum desert, as well as converted former mansions, and historic and unique hotels throughout.
Into the Wild. Kyrgyzstan.
In one of the least visited regions on Earth, take a walk in the wild in Kyrgyzstan, land of horse games and eagle hunters. Explore the ancient cities of the Karakhanids, with visits to the sites of Uzgen and Balasagun and gaze in wonder at the ramparts of the mysterious fortress of Koshoy Kurgan. Hike among some of the most impressive works of nature on the planet with stays in the majestic Jeti Oguz gorge and hikes around the southern lakes of Kol-Suu and Son-Kul. Take a journey along the silk road with a stay near the caravanserai lodge at Tash-Rabat and view a twinkling night sky full of millions of stars from the step of your yurt. Although Kyrgyzstan is already off the beaten track, go one step further with visits to the scenic village of Jyrgalan and the remote beautiful lake of Sary-Chelek.
Wake up among the stunning natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan with stays in nomadic yurts and enjoy the warm hospitality of the local people with stays in small guesthouses and homestays in small towns and villages. This is a tour to a part of Central Asia you will never forget.
Cossacks, Cold War & Cosmonauts
*** This tour is currently on pause ***
Three, two, one and blast off, on a trip that’s once in ten lifetimes! Get as close as a regular human can to space travel with a visit to Roscosmos, the largest working space port in the world, located deep in the desert of remote Kazakhstan. Explore the history of Russian space travel, from the launch of the first man into space and throughout recent history. A hat tip to ‘dark tourism’ this trip also delves into the use of gulags in both Russia and Kazakhstan, as well as the use of nuclear power and weapons by the former-Soviet Union at the Semey test site and the Semipalatinsk polygon. In Russia visit the town of Akedemgorodok, Russia’s ‘Scientific Vatican’, stand on the border between Europe and Asia in Yekaterinburg and tour and ex-Soviet submarine with a crew member. Visit ‘Star City’ in Moscow, check out the Museum of Rocket and Space Corporation and take a tour of a genuine soviet bunker.
Experience the long-distance rail network in both Kazakhstan and Russia, with the Russian section of this trip along the Trans-Siberian Railway and stay in traditional, locally owned hotels throughout. See why Cossacks, Cold War & Cosmonauts is one of our favorite tours to Central Asia.
Shamans & Spacemen
*** New departure coming soon ***
Step back into the past of the ancient Silk Road and blast off into the future of space travel on this in-depth adventure of magnificent Kazakhstan, a land of colourful characters, glittering tiled mausoleums and palaces, vast landscapes, scientific endeavours and diverse cities.
Celebrate a country whose legacy spans the days of ancient khans, nomadic pilgrimages and the cold war, and where a fierce spirit of independence and unique national identity is emerging 30 years after declaring independence. Explore remote national parks with limestone formations that rival Monument Valley and unique endemic bird life and sail the Caspian Sea. Spend a day with fishermen in remote villages in the Aral Sea, and spend a night on a honey farm with beekeepers in a fairy-tale forest, where you will be lulled to sleep with honey-steeped tea and bedtime stories.
Explore iconic Dark Tourism sites including an abandoned bomber plane hangar, visit the National Nuclear Research Facility and discover the country’s contribution to the Russian space program with a day at the spaceport of Baikonur.
This is Kazakhstan – a country of contrasts and anachronisms, of storied history, modern innovations and traditional lifestyles that simply defies being categorised. Travel where few have stepped before you and conquer one of Earth’s lost frontiers.
Tours to Central Asia – Recent Blog Posts
Where the mountains meet the sky and the wind whispers secrets, the golden eagles gather for a timeless ritual. A festival of ancient traditions, where man and bird unite in a dance of grace and power. Amidst the rugged beauty … Continued
Amidst the rugged terrain and vibrant cultures of Asia, there lies a land of ancient mysteries and modern marvels. Georgia, the crossroads of East and West, is a jewel nestled between the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea. From the … Continued
Beneath the Earth’s surface, a mysterious force churns and boils, creating a spectacle unlike any other. Mud volcanoes emerge from the ground, spewing forth mud and gas in an otherworldly display of raw power. Some say they hold the key … Continued
The Observatory of Ulugh Beg is located in the legendary city of Samarkand in present-day Uzbekistan. The observatory is the result of one Muslim prince’s devotion to science and was the site of the worlds most advanced astronomical studies before … Continued
The five stans of Central Asia are an area of the world almost forgotten about by modern travellers, yet they are the stuff of travel legend. Uzbekistan, the birthplace of legendary conqueror and explorer Tamerlane. Tajikistan, home to the Pamir … Continued
Most seasoned travellers have done it at least once, crossed a land border. Most people know it can be a dangerous, tense or downright nerve-racking experience and sometimes it’s a piece of cake. We’re sorry to say that the border … Continued
Frequently asked questions for tours to Central Asia
Do I need visas to visit Central Asia?
Many countries in Central Asia have opened up recently and no longer require visas for certain nationalities. For Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Armenia and Turkey you should check with your nearest consulate.
For Turkmenistan we are given a group visa which is payable locally. The cost of this is included in the trip price, however, we may need to reach out to you for additional details to assist in obtaining this on your behalf.
If you would like to check visa requirements for tours to Central Asia you can do so at the Visalink website.
Is tipping customary in Central Asia?
Yes. For services you undertake independently such as a meal in a restaurant you should budget roughly a 10% tip. Tipping is of course discretionary and should be in line with the quality of service received.
Your Inverted Atlas Trip leader will make a suggestion in regard to tipping for local guides, drivers and other providers whose services are listed on the itinerary for tours to Central Asia.
How should I manage my spending money on a tour to Central Asia?
In Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan cash is king. You should bring enough US Dollars with you to change into local currency once on the ground in your destination. Your trip leader will make stops at banks or money exchanges frequently for the group to exchange money. ATM’s in these countries do not work with foreign cards. Credit cards are accepted in large cities.
In Georgia, Armenia and Turkey ATM’s work with foreign cards and credit cards are widely accepted.
Can I use my mobile phone in Central Asia?
You should check with your local provider if coverage is provided in Central Asian countries prior to departure. Make sure you are also aware their of international roaming charges for tours to Central Asia.
Local SIM cards are not easily obtainable in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In many of these countries SIM cards are not obtainable by foreigners and locals need to show proof of residency in order to get a SIM card.
Local SIM cards are easily obtainable in major cities in Armenia, Georgia and Turkey. If you are arriving into any of these countries by air, we suggest you pick up a tourist SIM prior to leaving the airport.
If you wish to use a local SIM you will need to ensure your phone is unlocked prior to departure from your home country.
What is internet access like on tours to Central Asia?
We won’t lie. It’s not great and patience is required. Even in hotels in major cities the internet will be much slower or drop out a lot more than what you’re used to.
WiFi is much better and more readily available in Armenia, Georgia and Turkey.
What are the amenities like on tours to Central Asia?
Toilets – All hotels in Central Asia have clean, upright western toilets. Public toilets you encounter could be of the eastern squat variety.
Pharmacies – Pharmacies are readily available in major cities, although it is unlikely that the pharmacist will speak English. If you require medication from a pharmacy, please let your trip leader know as far in advance as possible. They will be able to arrange your local guide to go with you to collect what you need or the local guide may be able to pick up what you require on your behalf.
Hospitals – Hospitals are generally of a good standard, however, locations with hospitals can be somewhat spread out. We ask that if you are feeling unwell that you let your trip leader know as soon as possible and consider their advice when it comes to hospital admission. Trip Leaders have the discretion to remove someone from the trip if they feel that continuing would endanger their health.
Please ensure you purchase adequate travel insurance that includes repatriation to your home country in the event of a medical emergency.
Can I bring my medication on tours of Central Asia?
For all medication it is a good idea to carry a note from your GP detailing what medication you are on and why you are taking it.
You should be aware that if you take anti-depressants or prescription pain medication that these are illegal in some Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan and could be confiscated on arrival.
Unfortunately, it is also the case that legal medication could be confiscated through lack of education or because the official is simply being overzealous.
Can I drink the water in Central Asia?
Absolutely not. Drinking the water in Central Asia, with the exception of Turkey, will likely make you so sick you will end up in hospital. Please do not even brush your teeth with it. Many hotels provide bottled water for this purpose.
In Turkey the water is quite clean, however different minerals are used to purify the water and it could still upset your stomach. For this reason, we would still recommend bottled water while in Turkey.
What is the food like on tours to Central Asia?
Food in Central Asia consists mostly of grilled meats, fresh vegetables (the tomatoes are to die for!) and rice dishes.
Can my dietary requirements be accommodated on tours to Central Asia?
Absolutely. Please disclose these when you secure your place on the trip so that we can make our local providers aware. Your trip leader will not be able to accommodate any dietary requirements that have not been disclosed in advance.
If you have a gluten free, vegan or vegetarian diet consider bringing some snack food from home. There will be plenty of fresh fruit in local markets, however, beyond that you may find that variety in snack foods for these diets may be somewhat lacking.
Is there a dress code in Central Asia?
Women are required to cover their hair in religious institutions throughout Central Asia and may be required to wear a long skirt or cover their arms. Your trip leader will let you know in advance exactly where these places are, but please bring these items along on with you.
Please be aware that you are travelling through largely Islamic and/or conservative countries (with the exception of Georgia) while not illegal please consider whether items such as short shorts and mid-drift tops are culturally sensitive.
Men may be required to wear long pants in some mosques.