Wild Siberia: Western Tuva

  Dates: Summer & Autumn 2019

This eight-day trip will take you into the remote and rural western region of the Republic of Tuva. Being the epicentre of traditional Tuvan culture you’ll have a chance to meet with nomadic pastoralists, master craftsmen, throat singers and musicians. The area is also replete with archaeological remains which you can explore, ranging from Scythian era burial mounds to standing stones and petroglyphs. The second half of the trip will see us venture into the backcountry on horseback for three days near to the border of the Altai Republic. During this time you’ll also have the chance to trek in the rugged range and sub-alpine lakes which feed into Western Tuva’s most fabled river, the Alash.

Highlights:

  • Trek and horseback ride in the mountains of Western Tuva on the border of the Altai Republic.
  • Visit nationally renowned local artisans specialising in ancient soapstone carving, blacksmithing and leatherworking in the impressive Bai-Taiga region, as well as master throat-singers and byzaanchy musicians.
  • Visit the Ustuu-Khuree Temple – Russia’s earliest piece of Tibetan architecture.
  • Seeking out the Scythian-era Genghis Khan stone idol, ancient Turkic burial sites and the standing stones and petroglyphs near Bizhiktig Khaya village.
  • Return from Western Tuva through the southern mountains and plains of the Republic of Khakassia
  • Experience the nomadic culture of Tuva.

Start point – Kyzyl
End point – Abakan
Maximum number of people: 10
Number of days: 8


Day 1 – Kyzyl
We’ll begin the day visiting the Geographical Centre of Asia Monument in the morning, the Tsechenlig Buddhist temple and a tour around the comprehensive National Museum, which has well-preserved artefacts from Scythian-era burial sites. Afterwards, we’ll visit the Tuvan Cultural Centre for demonstrations in local music and khoomei – the throat singing art form which the republic is most internationally famous for. The Cultural Centre is also home to countless other artisans and masters of music and creativity which you may be able to meet. Depending on availability there may also be a chance for you to partake in a music workshop and purchase handmade local instruments.

In the afternoon we’ll head out to explore Kyzyl, the capital of Tuva, visiting the downtown black market and even the centre for the Republic’s shamans. Time permitting we can then head on foot or by vehicle to the north side of Kyzyl and watch the sun setting over the steppe from the summit of Doo-Ghey or another nearby peak where you’ll have miles long views of the Yenisei out to the west.

Overnight in Aldyn-Bulak ger.

Day 2 – Kyzyl to Sai-Khonash
The following morning we’ll drive out west to Ustuu Khuree Temple outside of Chadan – which is Russia’s earliest piece of Tibetan architecture and one of the most sacred places for Tuva’s Buddhists.

Afterward, we’ll stop for lunch in Kyzyl-Mazhalyk and drive toward Bizhiktig Khaya Mountain which is home to more than three hundred Bronze Age petroglyphs which depict ancient scenes of local life and even an image of Buddha which is estimated to date back to the 14th Century.

In the early evening, we’ll arrive into Sai-Khonash which is home to a number of nomad’s camps. We can spend the evening with a Russian banya, drinking tea, sampling Tuvan milk vodka [araga] and hang out with the numerous sheep, cows, horses, goats and yaks tended to by the nomads.

Overnight in Sai-Khonash ger.

Day 3 – Sai-Khonash
This day will be a chance to relax and learn more about rural life in Tuva. We’ll have the chance to make traditional fresh cheese known as byshtak, learn the art of Tuvan throat singing [khoomei] from locally renowned masters, as well as general demonstrations of local instruments such as the byzaanchy – a local variation of a four-stringed fiddle commonly found throughout numerous steppe cultures.

In the afternoon we’ll go on a short excursion on horseback down the Bayan-Khol River in preparation for our larger journey beginning the following morning. In the evening we’ll have a freshly slaughtered sheep and if you have a strong stomach you can learn how to skin, gut and prepare the meat ready for the pot.

Overnight in Sai-Khonash ger.

 Day 4 to 5 – Sai-Khonash to Khoolaash
Monday 16th – Tuesday 17th July 2018
Day 4 will see us ride for 6-7 hours on horseback into the mountains to a yak summer camp. We’ll camp for nights 4 and 5 beside the Khoolaash waterfall area from where you can freely hike, swim, horseback ride and fish. On Day 5 we can embark on a hike through the forests and into the higher mountains near the Altai Republic.

Day 6 – Khoolaash to Sai-Khonash
After an early breakfast, we’ll depart on horseback again downwards through the mountains and back toward Sai-Khonash camp.

Day 7 – Sai-Khonash to Bai-Taiga
After breakfast in our ger, we will drive towards Bai-Taiga, a region renowned by Tuvans for its natural beauty. Along the way we’ll stop at Shivilig, a natural spring considered to have healing properties. In Tuvan language, these are known as an arzhaan and for centuries they have been central to their culture.

Afterwards, we’ll drive 30km towards Kyzyl-Dag, a small village which is famous for the best craft makers in the whole of Tuva, many of whom are internationally recognised for their skills in crafts such as leather making, blacksmithing and soapstone carving. This is also a great chance to buy some of their one-of-a-kind work.

Overnight in a homestay.

Day 8 – Bai-Taiga to Abakan
Breakfast in Kyzyl-Dag and then departure back to Abakan.

The trip includes:
Local English speaking guide provided by Untamed Borders
All accommodation
All camping equipment
All meals
All Transport (including 4 x 4 vehicles)
Entrance fees
Workshop fees
Horses and guides
Traditional music concert in Tuvan Cultural Centre
One workshop and shamanic ritual

The trip does not include:
Visas
Visa Support
Insurance
Flights
Drinks
Tips
Overnight accommodation in Abakan on Friday 20th July (if required)

Cost: Contact us
To reserve a place on this trip we need a deposit of US$400 per person

Flights:
We do not directly arrange international flights or train travel in Russia. We can, however, suggest routes and operators.

Visas:
You will require a Russian visa for this trip. We will provide visa support and advice on how best to obtain this visa. If you are based in the UK or Australia then we can recommend using The Visa Machine as a visa agent.
Visit the Untamed Borders page at their website – untamedborders.thevisamachine.com.

Food:
We include all meals during the trip.

Accommodation:
We do not and cannot offer a uniform accommodation standard on our itineraries. We consider comfort, location, design, character, historical interest and whether the money we spend will go into the pockets of the local community when we make our choices of where to stay.
The accommodation will be based on 2 people sharing a room or a tent.

Transport:
When we choose our vehicles and drivers we take into consideration the road conditions, the length of journey and the competence of the man behind the wheel. Whilst this journey is mostly by river and off-road vehicle where necessary, we can assure you that your comfort and enjoyment of the journey is our first priority.

Guides:
On this trip, you will be accompanied by a local guide assigned by Untamed Borders.

Security and Alcohol:
Russia is a very safe country on the whole. Nevertheless, our client’s safety is our primary concern. We must state that the tour leader has the final word with regards to changes in the itinerary for safety reasons.

Please note that at times when you are in Russia – and especially in Siberia – you will sometimes be given warning by the people you meet to be wary of drinking socially and sometimes even told that people can be threatening when drunk or generally a risk. Please don’t be too alarmed if you hear this. As long as you avoid getting heavily intoxicated with strangers you’re not comfortable with, don’t walk through Kyzyl’s streets at night and keep your eye out to avoid anyone drunk, you’ll have no problems.

Marathon of Afghanistan

Marathon of Afghanistan 2019

This package offers travel and entrance to the fifth edition of the Marathon of Afghanistan – the only international marathon in the country.

The Marathon of Afghanistan will take place in the Bamian province, amidst the mighty mountains of the Hindu Kush in central Afghanistan. The astonishingly beautiful valley, a UNESCO world heritage site, is recognised as one of the safest provinces in the country and remains almost completely untouched by violence.

The fifth edition of the marathon of Afghanistan will take place in 2019. It was the first international marathon that was run in Afghanistan.

The trip will be led by Untamed Borders founder James Willcox. We will meet you at Kabul Airport and show you a few places of interest in Kabul before flying to the beautiful and peaceful Bamian valley. We will also have time to visit the remains of the world’s largest standing Buddha statues that overlook the town and the ancient cities of Shah e Zohak and Shah e Golghola.

Afghanistan is a country slowly recovering from years of violence and neglect but it has always been a magnet for the intrepid. The rugged landscape, the ancient history crossed with tough yet incredibly hospitable people is an intoxicating mix. The chance to truly blaze a tourist trail is a rare opportunity.

Difficulty – Well, you have to run a marathon.
Comfort – There is some level of comfort. The rooms have en-suite bathrooms and sometimes during the day there is hot water, but not for the entire day.

For further details about this trip and the chance to join us please contact us.

Erbil Marathon 2018

Erbil Marathon 2019

This package offers travel and entrance to the Erbil marathon.

We will meet you at Erbil airport and show you the places of interest in the Iraqi Kurdistan capital. We will also head out of Erbil to visit Lalish, the spiritual home of the Yazidi people and go training with female runners breaking taboos in Iraq, giving you a taste of life in Northern Iraq.
There are three distances (5km, 10km and full marathon) so even if you are not a strong runner you can take part and enjoy the event and the famous Kurdish hospitality.
Iraqi Kurdistan has largely escaped the violence that has plagued the rest of the country and is a great way to get a flavour of modern Iraq.

Date: 21st – 26th October 2019
Start Point: Erbil
End Point: Erbil
Cost: US$1850

Day 1 – Erbil
Monday 21st October 2019
Arrive in Erbil.
Briefing. Depending on time of arrival we will be able to arrange a city tour to some of Erbil’s sights including the ancient citadel that dominates the centre of the city.
Overnight in Erbil.

Day 2 – Outside Erbil – Activities day with Iraqi runners
Tuesday 22nd October 2019
A day in the Kurdish countryside with some local runners. The day should be fun and hopefully will be able to get an insight into life as a runner in Iraq.
Overnight in Erbil.

Day 3 – Day trip to Lalish
Wednesday 23rd October 2019
A drive into the hills of Kurdistan to visit Lalish, the spiritual home of the Yazidi people. If there is time and the security situation allows we will also visit the Alqosh monastery high in the hills overlooking the Ninevah plains.
Overnight in Erbil.

Day 4 – Rest Day
Thursday 24th October 2019
For serious runners, this will be a day of rest.
For others, our guides will discuss some options in or close to Erbil for some further sightseeing or meeting with organisations.
Overnight in Erbil.

Day 5 – Erbil Marathon
Friday 25th October 2019
Run the Erbil Marathon. Our team will be there to get photos and support the runners before and after the race.
Overnight in Erbil.

Day 6 – Erbil Marathon
Saturday 26th October 2019
We will drive back to Erbil to connect with afternoon or evening flights home.

You will be accompanied by an English-speaking Iraqi translator and an international guide for the length of the trip.

The trip includes:
All accommodation (5 nights in Erbil)
Breakfast
All ground transport
Guiding
Entry to the Erbil Marathon

The trip does not include:
Visas
Insurance
Flights to Iraqi Kurdistan
Entrance fees
Lunch & Dinner
Drinks
Tips

Flights:
We do not directly arrange international flights to Iraqi Kurdistan. We can suggest routes and operators.

If you do want to extend your trip in Iraqi Kurdistan either before or after this one please contact us for arranging something or simply for advice and suggestions.

Visas:
For most nationalities, a visa is available on arrival in Erbil airport. The visa is valid for Iraqi Kurdistan only and NOT for southern Iraq.

Food:
Breakfast is included on this trip. Other meals will be paid for by yourself.

Accommodation:
We do not and cannot offer a uniform accommodation standard on our itineraries. We consider comfort, location, design, character, security, historical interest and whether the money we spend will go into the pockets of the local community when we make our choices of where to stay.
In Erbil we will stay in a 3-star Hotel.
The accommodation will be based on 2 people sharing a room in Erbil.

Transport:
When we choose our vehicles and drivers we take into consideration the road conditions, the length of the journey and the competence of the man behind the wheel. Your comfort, enjoyment and safety of the journey is the first priority.

Guides:
You will be accompanied by an international guide for the length of the trip. There will also be a local Iraqi guide to translate.

Security:
Trips to Iraq do create dangers of their own and whilst we want you to have as much freedom as possible we must state that the tour leader has the final word with regards to changes in the itinerary for safety reasons. Whilst the route we have chosen passes through areas which we consider to be relatively stable things can change and we may have to alter the route or cancel sections of the trip at short notice.

For further details about this trip and the chance to join us please contact us. For more information about the race itself visit http://www.erbilmarathon.org/

Buzkashi Afghanistan

NEW – Afghan Winter Tour

Dates: 29th October – 12th November 2019

Each autumn we run a trip to Afghanistan and we think it is the perfect time to visit.
We start in Kabul before taking a short flight across the Hindu Kush to Herat, the most architecturally complete city in Afghanistan. Then we will move on to Bamian where we spend three days exploring the valleys, the Buddha niches and the lakes of Band e Amir. It is an area that allows us to experience what life is like in rural Afghanistan in safety. Finally we cross the spine of the Hindu Kush through to Mazar e Sharif to see the blue tiled shrine of Hazrat Ali and the remains of the once great Silk Road city of Balkh. Hopefully taking in a game of Afghanistan’s national winter sport – Buzkashi.

Highlights:

  • Experience the national sport of Buzkashi
  • Discover the remains of the Buddhas of Bamian
  • Explore Herat
  • Visit the Shrine of Ali in Mazar e Sharif
  • See the lakes at Band e Amir

Start Point: Kabul, Afghanistan
End Point: Kabul, Afghanistan
Maximum number of people: 8


Day 1 Kabul
Tuesday 29th October 2019
Arrival and briefing. For those who arrive early we will have time to take an afternoon tour of the city. This will include a visit to the British Cemetery, the hills of Bibi Mahru and Sakhi shrine.

Day 2 Kabul – Herat
Wednesday 30th October 2019
Fly from Kabul to Herat. The flight is early in the morning leaving us the afternoon to enjoy Herat.
Overnight in Herat

Day 3 Herat
Thursday 31st October 2019
Herat has the largest collection of ancient buildings in Afghanistan and we will take a full day to explore the city and its surroundings including the Friday Mosque, the Tomb of Gowar Shad, the Masullah Complex and the atmospheric shrine of Khoja Ansari at Gazar Gah.
Overnight in Herat.

Day 4 Herat – Kabul
Friday 1st Novermber 2019
A morning in Herat to visit any sights we may have missed on day 3. Fly to Kabul in the evening.
Overnight in Kabul.

Day 5 Kabul
Saturday 2nd November 2019
Day in Kabul to visit Kabul Museum, Shah-e Doh Shamshira mosque and Babur’s gardens – the final resting palce of the first Mughal emperor.
Overnight in Kabul

Day 6 Kabul – Bamian
Sunday 3rd November 2019
We will fly between Kabul and Bamian, the capital of the Hazarajat – home of the Hazaras and one of the most peaceful places in Afghanistan. When we arrive in Bamian we will have time to look at the hillsides containing many caves in which monasteries and Buddhist carvings were once situated.

Days 7-9 Bamian and around
Monday 4th – Wednesday 6th November 2019
We will spend 3 days in and around Bamian, an area of striking natural beauty. The mountains and valleys are dotted with ruins from Afghanistan’s past as well as friendly Hazara villages. It is one of the few places in Afghanistan where we can walk freely and safely in a rural environment.
The lapis lazuli blue waters of Band-e-Amir are often the highlight of any trip to Afghanistan. Legend has it that the dams that separate the 5 lakes were made by Ali, the prophet Mohamed’s cousin and son in law. However geologists insist they are natural dams made from mineral deposits. The lakes contrast to the stark landscape surrounding them only adds to the beauty of this area.
We will also visit the natural landscape of Dragon Valley, see the ruins of Shah e Zohak (Red Fort) and the remains of Shah e Golghola (The City of Screams).

Day 10 Bamian – Kabul – Mazar e Sharif
Thursday 7th November 2019
Early morning flight from Bamian to Kabul.
Lunch in Kabul then afternoon flight to Mazar e Sharif.
Overnight in Mazar.

Day 11 Mazar e Sharif – Balkh – Buzkashi
Friday 8th November 2019
Full day in Mazar & Balkh.
The aim of the day is to watch a game of Buzkashi. Afghanistan’s national sport, played on horse back with a dead goat in place of a ball.
You will also have time to visit the majestic blue tiled tomb of Hazrat Ali, Afghanistan’s most important religious site. You will spend part of the day visiting the ancient silk road city of Balkh, called Bactria to the Greeks. Bactria was the birthplace of Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism as well as Rumi the legendary Persian poet. Legacy of its Islamic and Buddhist past can be found in the stupas at the entrance to the town, at the blue tiled shrine of Khoja Parsa and at the oldest mosque in Afghanistan, the 9th century No Gombad mosque.
Overnight in Mazar e Sharif.

Day 12 Mazar e Sharif – Samangan
Saturday 9th November 2019
A day trip to the Buddhist monastery remains at Samangan, two hours drive south of Mazar e Sharif. The 1500 year old complex contains a huge stupa carved out of the bedrock as well as a number of caves used as places of worship.
En route you will also be able to visit Tashkurgan and the old king’s hunting lodge.
Overnight in Mazar e Sharif.

Day 13  Mazar – Kabul
Sunday 10th November 2019
We will fly back to Kabul, taking the opportunity to visit Chicken Street for any last minute souvenir shopping.
Overnight in Kabul.

Day 14 Kabul – Panjshir
Monday 11th November 2019
We will visit the Panjshir Valley, described as the most beautiful place in Afghanistan by locals. We will stop to view the tomb of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Lion of the Panjshir and Afghanistan’s most universally revered Mujahedin commander, as well as stopping off at a local fish restaurant on the banks of the Panjshir River.
Overnight in Kabul.

Day 15 Fly home
Tuesday 12th November 2019
We will ensure that you are taken to the airport to catch your flight.

You will be accompanied by 2 team leaders from Untamed Borders for the entire length of this trip.


The trip includes:
All accommodation
Breakfast
Transport/transfers
Guiding
6 internal flights within Afghanistan (Kabul-Mazar/Mazar-Kabul, Kabul-Herat/Herat-Kabul & Kabul-Bamian/Bamian-Kabul)

The trip does not include:
Any necessary visas
Insurance
Flights to Afghanistan
Entrance fees
Lunch
Dinner
Drinks
Tips
Any additional flights needed in Afghanistan that may be necessary due to security concerns.

Cost – US$4450
A deposit of US$400 is required to reserve your place on this trip.

Flights:
We do not directly arrange international flights to Afghanistan. We can suggest routes and operators.

Visas:
We do not arrange Afghanistan visas directly. We will provide visa support in the form of letters of invitation to assist in your Afghanistan visa application.

Food:
With the exception of breakfast, meals are not included as part of the trip. In our experience people sometimes want to eat different things in different places at different times. We know some great places and will also happily show you some of our favourite restaurants and tea houses. Some are luxurious, some are earthier, but all have character. However, we do not pretend to be the arbiters of good taste and are equally happy for you to go off and find your own favourites.

Accommodation:
We do not and cannot offer a uniform accommodation standard on our itineraries. We consider comfort, location, design, character, historical interest and whether the money we spend will go into the pockets of the local community when we make our choices of where to stay.
The accommodation will be based on 2 people sharing.

Transport:
In Afghanistan, we take at least 2 vehicles when driving between towns if there is a big group, for safety reasons. If there is a breakdown we will not be left stranded. When we choose our vehicles and drivers we take into consideration the road conditions, the length of journey and the competence of the man behind the wheel (not a laughing matter in a country that should be the setting for a live-action version of the Wacky Races). Your comfort and enjoyment of the journey is the first priority.

Guides:
On this trip, you will be accompanied by 2 team leaders from Untamed Borders. This allows for greater security and means that there will always be someone on hand to help or assist you even if the other team leader is busy arranging something.
Sometimes we also hire local guides. If we are a large group, we may wish to split into smaller groups for city tours to allow greater flexibility and keep a lower profile. An extra local guide allows us to do that.

Security:
Trips to Afghanistan do create dangers all of their own and whilst we want you to have as much freedom as possible we must state that the tour leader has the final word with regards to changes in the itinerary for safety reasons. Whilst the route we have chosen passes through areas that we consider to be stable things can change and we may have to alter the route or cancel sections of the trip at short notice.
If there is an extra expense incurred due to the change of itinerary then you may be asked to bear part of that cost. For example, if we have to fly between cities rather than drive.

Contact us for further information at info@untamedborders.com

Iraq - Cradle of Civilisation - 16-24 November 2019

Iraq – Cradle of Civilisation

Date: 16th – 24th November 2019

Iraq – Cradle of Civilisation

A 9-day trip into the heartland of Iraq. Travelling the region bounded by the Euphretes and Tigris rivers, from the capital Baghdad to Basra on the Gulf coast. Tracing back through history, we will travel to the home of some of the first civilisations, visiting the ancient Sumerian sites of Uruk, ancient Bablyon and the riches held at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad. Starting in Baghdad we will see the legacy of Iraq’s place as the centre of Islamic architecture through visits to Samarra a UNESCO world heritage site with an iconic spiral minaret and the arch of Ctesiphone. We will explore modern Iraq by mingling with the pilgrims in Karbala and Najaf, the two holy places of Shia Islam as well as visiting some of Saddam Hussein’s old palaces. Finally, we will explore Iraq’s marshlands on a boat trip to the point where the two great rivers of antiquity join to create the Shat Al Arab waterway.

Highlights:

  • Climb the Minaret at Samarra
  • Visit the Baghdad museum
  • Explore Babylon
  • See the arch of Ctesaphon
  • Join pilgrims at the two Holy places of Shia Islam; Najaf and Karbala

Start Point: Baghdad, Iraq
End Point: Basra, Iraq
Maximum number of people: 10


Day 1 Baghdad
Saturday 16th November 2019
Arrive in Baghdad.
Transfer to Hotel.
Briefing.
If there is time we will visit some places of interest in the capital.
Overnight in Baghdad.

Day 2 Baghdad – Samarra – Agar Gouf – Baghdad
Sunday 17th November 2019
Day trip to Samarra to visit the archeological site, a UNESCO world heritage site and former Abbasid capital. This includes the 8th century great mosque and the iconic spiral minaret.
Return to Baghdad via the Babylonian era Ziggurat at Agar Gouf.
Overnight in Baghdad.

Day 3 Baghdad
Monday 18th November 2019
Visit the Iraq Museum and the Al-Shaheed monument.
Overnight in Baghdad

Day 4 Baghdad – Ctesiphon – Babylon – Karbala
Tuesday 19th November 2019
Travel from Baghdad to Karbala.
En route visit the arch of Ctesiphon and remains of the city of Babylon, now heavily reconstructed. At Babylon we will also visit an old palace of Saddam’s.
Once in Karbala we can visit the shrine of Imam Hussein.
Overnight in Karbala.

Day 5 Karbala – Najaf
Wednesday 20th November 2019
An early start to visit At Tar Caves and Al Ukhaidir Fort. Then travel on to visit Al Khifal and it’s ancient souk then finishing in Kufa and Najaf. You will be able to witness some of the holiest places in Shia Islam including the house of Imam Ali in Kufa and his Shrine in Najaf.
Overnight in Najaf.

Day 6 Najaf – Nasiriyah
Thursday 21st November 2019
Drive from Najaf to Nasiriyah
Visit the remains of the ancient cities of Uruk and Ur.
Overnight in Nasiriyah.

Day 7 Nasiriyah – Basra
Friday 22nd November 2019
A day experiencing life in the marshes of Iraq. We will take small boats through the marshes seeing water buffalo and lunching on Masgouf (Iraqi carp – the national dish). We will also visit Qurna and again take to water to see the point where the Tigris and Euphrates meet to form the Shatt al Arab waterway.
Finally travel to Basra.
Overnight in Basra.

Day 8 Basra
Saturday 23rd November 2019
A full day in and around Basra including seeing the traditional merchant houses of the city, another boat ride to visit one of Saddam’s old palaces.
Overnight in Basra.

Day 9 Basra – End
Sunday 24th November 2019
Transfer to airport in Basra.
End of trip.


The trip includes:

  • All accommodation
  • All ground transport
  • Guiding
  • Breakfast
  • Visa support

The trip does not include:

  • Any visa fees
  • Insurance
  • International Flights
  • Entrance Fees
  • Lunch and Dinner
  • Drinks
  • Tips
  • Transfer at Baghdad airport ($10)

Cost:

US$3500 per person

A deposit of US$400 per person is required to reserve your place on this trip.
Single supplement is optional and is an additional US$750 per person.

If you have any questions regarding this itinerary or Iraq in general, please contact us at info@untamedborders.com

Flights:
We do not directly arrange international flights to Iraq. We can suggest routes and operators.

Visas:
Iraq visa is required. We will provide visa support for you to obtain this.

Food:
We provide breakfast. The guide will assist in finding good lunch and dinner options.

Accommodation:
We do not and cannot offer a uniform accommodation standard on our itineraries. We consider comfort, location, design, character, historical interest and whether the money we spend will go into the pockets of the local community when we make our choices of where to stay.
The accommodation will be based on 2 people sharing a twin room.

Transport:
When we choose our vehicles and drivers we take into consideration the road conditions, the length of journey and the competence of the man behind the wheel. Your comfort and enjoyment of the journey is the first priority.

Guides:
You will be accompanied by an international guide from Untamed Borders along with a local English speaking guide/fixer for the length of the trip.

Security:
Trips to Iraq do create dangers of their own and whilst we want you to have as much freedom as possible we must state that the guide has the final word with regards to changes in the itinerary for safety reasons. Whilst the route we have chosen passes through areas which we consider to be relatively stable things can change and we may have to alter the route or cancel sections of the trip at short notice.

Contact us for further information at info@untamedborders.com

Turkmenistan Trekking and Western Deserts

Turkmenistan Trekking and Western Deserts

Date: 1st – 15th March 2020

Often referred to as the ‘North Korea of Central Asia’ and being at the crossroads of various civilisations for centuries, Turkmenistan has a multitude of historical, cultural and natural sites to discover. Our 15 day trip in Turkmenistan takes you to some lesser-known spots, exploring the central, southern and western part of the country, including a 5 day trek through a remote mountain range.

Highlights: 

  • Trek 60km through the Kopet Dag Mountains bordering Iran.
  • Visit the iconic Darvaza gas crater.
  • Explorer the Mars-like landscape of Yangykala Canyon and the Garabogaz Gulf region near the Kazakhstan border. 

Start Point: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
End Point  : Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Maximum Number of People: 10
Number of Days: 15

Day 1 Ashgabat
Sunday 1st March 2020
You will be collected from Ashgabat’s airport early in the morning and transferred to the hotel. After breakfast you can head out with your guide to explore Ashgabat. You could visit the Independence Park and Monument, Arch of Neutrality, National Museum, Old Nissa fortress, Tolkuchka Bazaar, and some other quirky sites of modern Ashgabat. There are numerous museums to Turkmenbashi and the Turkmen people. It just depends on how much personality cult you can handle.
Overnight in hotel.

Day 2 Ashgabat – Nohur
Monday 2nd March 2020
After breakfast you will drive 188km west towards Nohur, which is located in the Kopet Dag Mountains and known for its sacred places connected to the Persian legend of the winged spirits of Peri. En-route you’ll stop at the Geokdepe stud farm which is home to the pure blooded Turkmen-Akhalteke horse (Turkmen’s national emblem), Saparmurat Haji mosque and a chance to swim in Koy Ata’s underground lake and hot springs. In the afternoon we’ll arrive in Nohur where you can relax in this small mountain village and visit Kyz Bibi, a local shrine.
Overnight in guesthouse.

Day 3-7 Nohur – Kunya-Kumbez – Koshdemir
Tuesday 3rd – Saturday 7th March 2020
From Nohur we’ll drive a short distance to the village of Kunya-Kumbez, the starting point of your trek. Over the next five days you will walk 60km through picturesque gorges, ravines and mountain ridges near the Iranian border to reach the village of Koshdemir on Day 7. Along the way you’ll pass by Allem and Temenji Mountain, Charybag gorge, Kurujdey and Aydere villages.
Overnight in tents.

Distance: 10-15km per day
Hours: 3-5 hours per day

Note: You can join us for the trekking trip only. Please refer to the costs section below.

Day 8 Koshdemir – Balkanabat
Sunday 8th March 2020
After breakfast we’ll leave our camp in Koshdemir a drive 370km to Balkanabat via the Sumbar river valley. You will stop off at Kara-Kala’s lunar-like landscape which is within a nature reserve and home to the protected Persian leopard. Before reaching Balkanabat you can also explore a couple of 13-14th Century mausoleums.
Overnight in hotel.

Day 9 Balkanabat – Yangysuw – Yangykala
Monday 9th March 2020
Balkanabat is at the foot of the Balkan Daglary mountain range and a well-placed starting point for exploring western Turkmenistan. After breakfast you’ll head to the canyons around Yangysuw and the Garabogaz gulf area near the Caspian Sea. Depending on water levels, you will be able to see the waters of the gulf in the distance which is the world’s largest salt lagoon, more briny than the Dead Sea. In the afternoon you’ll drive to Yangykala Canyons which offers up some of the most impressive desert views in Central Asia (270km drive).
Overnight in tents.

Day 10 Yangykala – Kemal Ata – Northern Bogdakshor
Tuesday 10th March 2020
A full day 250km drive to Northern Bogdakshor heading east into the Kara Kum Desert via Gozli Ata’s 12th Century Sufi graveyard and unique volcanic rock formations in Kemal Ata. Bogdakshor is nicknamed ‘Balls Canyon’ because of its unusual Mars-like landscape featuring wind-sculpted balls of rock.
Overnight in tents.

Day 11 Northern Bogdakshor – Geokdere – Melekoch – Igdy Kala
Wednesday 11th March 2020
From Bogdakshor another 250km of driving through the desert (via Geokdere and Melekoch Village) will see you reach the more than 2000 year old Parthian fortress of Igdy Kala perched above the Uzboy River.
Overnight in tents.

Day 12 Igdy Kala – Darvaza
Thursday 12th March 2020
After 300km of driving, passing by the villages of Davali, Charly, and Atakuvi, you will reach the iconic gas crater of Darvaza which has been burning continuously since 1971 after Soviet engineers set it alight due to concerns of poisonous gases infiltrating nearby towns.
Overnight in tents.

Day 13 Darvaza – Erbent – Damla
Friday 13th March 2020
After breakfast in your campsite you’ll drive to the desert village of Damla (via Erbent). Along the way you can stop and take photos of the expansive desert landscape and Uzboy – the ancient riverbed of the Oxus. If time and road conditions allow you may also have time to visit two more craters bubbling with natural gas. On arrival in Damla you’ll meet with a local family, have lunch and explore the local area.
Overnight in tents or guesthouse.

Day 14 Damla – Ashgabat
Saturday 14th March 2020
You’ll start the morning off venturing 130km off-road across the desert heading back to Erbent, the largest village in the central Kara Kum Desert. Once you reach the main road there is 280km of driving to reach Ashgabat (with opportunities to stop along the way and take photographs).
Overnight in hotel.

Day 15 Ashgabat – End
Sunday 15th March 2020
You will be transferred to Ashgabat airport for your departure flight.
End of trip.

The trip includes:
Letter of invitation and in-country visa registration
All accommodation
Local English speaking guide (Day 1-15)
International trekking guide (Day 1-7)
All transport
All meals (Day 2-7 and 9-13)
Breakfast (Day 1 and 15)
Entrance fees
Camping gear and tents

The trip does not include:
Single room supplement
Lunch on Day 1 and 15
Dinner on Day 1, 8, 14 and 15
Any necessary visas
Insurance
Flights
Migration Card ($10-15 per person)
Filming and camera entrance fees at sites/museums
Drinks
Tips to guides/drivers

Cost:
US$3675 (Day 1-15)
US$2675 (Trekking Only Day 1-7 + 2 Extra Days)

Note: If you join the trekking trip only (Day 1-7), the cost is based on you being driven back to Ashgabat on Day 8 and catching your departing flight on Day 9. One night’s accommodation is also included in Ashgabat (Day 8) if you choose this option. You will be accompanied back by a local English speaking guide.

To reserve a place on this trip we need a deposit of US$400. If you have any questions about this trip or about Turkmenistan in general please contact us.

Flights:
We do not directly arrange international flights.

Visas:
We will provide the letter of invitation for the Turkmenistan visa so you can obtain it on arrival at Ashgabat airport. In-country registration of your passport/visa is also included. Ensure you have up to USD$120 in cash to pay for your Turkmenistan visa when you arrive. The price can vary, however it will be USD$40-90 for the visa & arrival tax, plus USD$10-15 for the migration card.

Fitness Requirements:
Our trekking trips are designed to be physically engaging and provide a level of challenge for most people. As a general guideline for all of our trekking trips, we recommend that you have some prior experience walking with a 10-15kg day pack for up to 8 hours over 5 or more days through uneven & varied terrain (and weather); ranging from hard-packed earth, tussock grass, boulder fields, scree slopes, soft snow patches, and knee-deep rivers.

Food:
Breakfast is included each day, as well as lunch and dinner (unless stated otherwise in our exclusions above).

Accommodation:
We do not and cannot offer a uniform accommodation standard on our itineraries. We consider comfort, location, design, character, historical interest and whether the money we spend will go into the pockets of the local community when we make our choices of where to stay.

The accommodation will be based on you having your own room if you are traveling alone or a shared room if you are traveling in a group.

Transport:
When we choose our vehicles and drivers we take into consideration the road conditions, the length of journey and the competence of the man behind the wheel. Your comfort and enjoyment of the journey is the first priority.

Transport will be in an air-conditioned car wherever possible.

Guides:
You will be accompanied by local guides for the duration of the trip and an international trekking guide from Untamed Borders for Day 1-7.

Ski Iraq 2019

Ski Iraq 2020

Dates: 26th January – 3rd February 2020

In 2017 we arranged the first ever commercial ski trip to Iraq. 2020 will be our fourth year taking skiers to Iraq and third year of taking skiers to compete at the Iraq Ski Rally. For a country more associated with deserts, Iraq has some great mountainous terrain in the northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region which we will explore with a qualified international ski guide.

Using the experience the Untamed Borders team has from our previous skiing and climbing trips to Iraq, we have identified areas that offer some great ski touring terrain.

Guests should have some prior experience of ski touring and be able to make their turns in all conditions.

We will start in Erbil and head straight to the peaks around the town of Choman near the Iranian border. Here we will find the best and most reliable snow. In addition to the ski touring, we are timing the trip to coincide with the Choman Winter Festival and Iraq Ski Rally. The Winter Festival started in 1952 but was stopped under Saddam, however it has and now includes a fun ski touring race designed for people of mixed abilities.

Iraq has some major problems at the moment but in the far north of the country security is good and it is possible to experience some of the famous Kurdish hospitality amongst the peaks. The chance to truly blaze a tourist trail is a rare opportunity.

In addition, we are running an optional 10-day add-on crossing the border over into Iran to continue skiing. Please get in touch for the full itinerary: info@untamedborders.com

Start Point  : Erbil
End Point   : Erbil
Maximum number of people: 10

Day 1 – Erbil
Sunday 26th January 2020
Arrive in Erbil. Briefing. Depending on time of arrival we will be able to arrange a city tour to some of Erbil’s sights including the ancient citadel that dominates the centre of the city.
Overnight in Erbil.

Day 2 – Erbil – Choman
Monday 27th January 2020
Drive from Erbil to Choman along the Hamilton Road. Built by the British it winds its way through the mountains of Kurdistan towards the Iranian border. If the snow is good enough we will stop off at the Korek mountain resort. This resort has a chairlift. The lift is mainly used for sightseers but if the snow has been heavy then it will be possible to ski on the slopes too. We will then continue on to Choman.
Overnight in simple homestay in Choman.

Days 3 to 6 – Choman and around
Tuesday 28th – Friday 31st January 2020
Following paths and routes explored on our 2017 trip, the group will ski the slopes of Halgurd – Iraq’s highest peak and other areas. The group will be also exploring new routes and runs. Much of the area has never been skied before.
During this period we plan to spend one night in a very simple local home high in the mountains.
Overnight in simple homestay in Choman.

Day 7 – Choman – Iraq Ski Rally
Saturday 1st February 2020
The proposed date of the Iraq Ski Rally. The trip includes entry to this event.
Overnight in a simple homestay in Choman.

Day 8 – Choman
Sunday 2nd February 2020
A final day skiing in Choman.
Overnight in a simple homestay in Choman.

Day 9 – Choman – Erbil – Home
Monday 3rd February 2020
We will drive back to Erbil to connect with afternoon or evening flights home.


Please note that the above itinerary is an outline of what is to be achieved. The length of the time at the Korek ski resort, Choman could change due to snow conditions

You will be accompanied by an English-speaking Iraqi translator and a western qualified ski guide for the length of the trip.

The trip includes:
All accommodation
Breakfast
Lunch when skiing
All ground transport
Guiding
Entry to the Iraq Ski rally (worth US$100)

The trip does not include:
Visas
Insurance
Flights to Iraqi Kurdistan
Entrance fees
Lunch & Dinner
Drinks
Tips
Ski equipment

Cost – US$2400 per person
A deposit of US$400 is required to reserve your place on this trip.

If you have any questions regarding this itinerary or about Afghanistan in general, please contact us at info@untamedborders.com

Flights:
We do not directly arrange international flights to Iraqi Kurdistan. We can suggest routes and operators.
You can also contact the Untamed Borders dedicated team at Flight Centre for suggested routes.
Mail: untamedborders@rtwexperts.co.uk
Phone: +44(0) 844 560 9966
If you are bringing skis then please ensure that the carrier will take skis.
If you do want to extend your trip in Iraqi Kurdistan either before or after this one please contact us for arranging something or simply for advice and suggestions.

Visas:
For most nationalities, a visa is available on arrival in Erbil airport. The visa is valid for Iraqi Kurdistan only and NOT for southern Iraq.

Food:
We provide breakfast every day and lunch when skiing. We know plenty of places in Erbil. From traditional kebab houses to International Restaurants at International prices. When there is an option, we let you make the choice of how much you want to spend.

Accommodation:
We do not and cannot offer a uniform accommodation standard on our itineraries. Even if we wanted to, the reality is that standards and costs in Erbil cannot be compared to a homestay in Choman. We consider comfort, location, design, character, security, historical interest and whether the money we spend will go into the pockets of the local community when we make our choices of where to stay.
The accommodation will be based on 2 people sharing a room in Erbil.
In Choman guests will stay in a communal room.

Transport:
Unless the group is very small we take 2 vehicles when driving between towns and to the ski areas. If there is a breakdown we will not be left stranded. When we choose our vehicles and drivers we take into consideration the road conditions, the length of the journey and the competence of the man behind the wheel. Your comfort, enjoyment and safety of the journey is the first priority.

Equipment:
Guests should bring their own equipment.
A full list of recommended equipment will be given nearer the time.

Guides:
You will be accompanied by a European ski guide for the length of the trip. There will also be a local Iraqi guide to translate when not on the slopes.

Security:
Trips to Iraq do create dangers of their own and whilst we want you to have as much freedom as possible we must state that the tour leader has the final word with regards to changes in the itinerary for safety reasons. Whilst the route we have chosen passes through areas which we consider to be relatively stable things can change and we may have to alter the route or cancel sections of the trip at short notice.
In Iraq, areas away from the roads do have a risk of landmines. We have experience in the region and access to maps and information about where to ski and where to avoid.
As with off-piste skiing in the rest of the world, there is a small but serious avalanche risk.

Don’t forget to get in touch for further details of our Ski Iran trip which will run straight after the Iraq section. Email info@untamedborders.com

Iraq – Cradle of Civilisation Winter 2020

Date: 4th-12th February 2020

Iraq – Cradle of Civilisation

A 9-day trip into the heartland of Iraq. Travelling the region bounded by the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, from the capital Baghdad to Basra on the Gulf coast. Tracing back through history, we will travel to the home of some of the first civilisations, visiting the ancient Sumerian sites of Uruk, ancient Babylon and the riches held at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad. Starting in Baghdad we will see the legacy of Iraq’s place as the centre of Islamic architecture through visits to Samarra a UNESCO world heritage site with an iconic spiral minaret and the arch of Ctesiphon. We will explore modern Iraq by mingling with the pilgrims in Karbala and Najaf, the two holy places of Shia Islam as well as visiting some of Saddam Hussein’s old palaces. Finally, we will explore Iraq’s marshlands on a boat trip to the point where the two great rivers of antiquity join to create the Shat Al Arab waterway.

Highlights:

  • Climb the Minaret at Samarra
  • Visit the Baghdad museum
  • Explore Babylon
  • See the arch of Ctesaphon
  • Join pilgrims at the two Holy places of Shia Islam; Najaf and Karbala

Start Point: Baghdad, Iraq
End Point: Basra, Iraq
Maximum number of people: 10


Day 1 Baghdad
Tuesday 4th February 2020
Arrive in Baghdad.
Transfer to Hotel.
Briefing.
If there is time we will visit some places of interest in the capital.
Overnight in Baghdad.

Day 2 Baghdad – Samarra – Agar Gouf – Baghdad
Wednesday 5th February 2020
Day trip to Samarra to visit the archeological site, a UNESCO world heritage site and former Abbasid capital. This includes the 8th century great mosque and the iconic spiral minaret.
Return to Baghdad via the Babylonian era Ziggurat at Agar Gouf.
Overnight in Baghdad.

Day 3 Baghdad
Thursday 6th February 2020
Visit the Iraq Museum and the Al-Shaheed monument.
Overnight in Baghdad

Day 4 Baghdad – Ctesiphon – Babylon – Karbala
Friday 7th February 2020
Travel from Baghdad to Karbala.
En route visit the arch of Ctesiphon and remains of the city of Babylon, now heavily reconstructed. At Babylon we will also visit an old palace of Saddam’s.
Once in Karbala we can visit the shrine of Imam Hussein.
Overnight in Karbala.

Day 5 Karbala – Najaf
Saturday 8th February 2020
An early start to visit At Tar Caves and Al Ukhaidir Fort. Then travel on to visit Al Khifal and it’s ancient souk then finishing in Kufa and Najaf. You will be able to witness some of the holiest places in Shia Islam including the house of Imam Ali in Kufa and his Shrine in Najaf.
Overnight in Najaf.

Day 6 Najaf – Nasiriyah
Sunday 9th February 2020
Drive from Najaf to Nasiriyah
Visit the remains of the ancient cities of Uruk and Ur.
Overnight in Nasiriyah.

Day 7 Nasiriyah – Basra
Monday 10th February 2020
A day experiencing life in the marshes of Iraq. We will take small boats through the marshes seeing water buffalo and lunching on Masgouf (Iraqi carp – the national dish). We will also visit Qurna and again take to the water to see the point where the Tigris and Euphrates meet to form the Shatt al Arab waterway.
Finally, travel to Basra.
Overnight in Basra.

Day 8 Basra
Tuesday 11th February 2020
A full day in and around Basra including seeing the traditional merchant houses of the city, another boat ride to visit one of Saddam’s old palaces.
Overnight in Basra.

Day 9 Basra – End
Wednesday 12th February 2020
Transfer to airport in Basra.
End of trip.


The trip includes:

  • All accommodation
  • All ground transport
  • Guiding
  • Breakfast
  • Visa support

The trip does not include:

  • Any visa fees
  • Insurance
  • International Flights
  • Entrance Fees
  • Lunch and Dinner
  • Drinks
  • Tips
  • Transfer at Baghdad airport ($10)

Cost:

US$TBC

A deposit of US$400 per person is required to reserve your place on this trip.
Single supplement is optional and is an additional US$750 per person.

If you have any questions regarding this itinerary or Iraq in general, please contact us at info@untamedborders.com

Flights:
We do not directly arrange international flights to Iraq. We can suggest routes and operators.

Visas:
Iraq visa is required. We will provide visa support for you to obtain this.

Food:
We provide breakfast. The guide will assist in finding good lunch and dinner options.

Accommodation:
We do not and cannot offer a uniform accommodation standard on our itineraries. We consider comfort, location, design, character, historical interest and whether the money we spend will go into the pockets of the local community when we make our choices of where to stay.
The accommodation will be based on 2 people sharing a twin room.

Transport:
When we choose our vehicles and drivers we take into consideration the road conditions, the length of journey and the competence of the man behind the wheel. Your comfort and enjoyment of the journey is the first priority.

Guides:
You will be accompanied by an international guide from Untamed Borders along with a local English speaking guide/fixer for the length of the trip.

Security:
Trips to Iraq do create dangers of their own and whilst we want you to have as much freedom as possible we must state that the guide has the final word with regards to changes in the itinerary for safety reasons. Whilst the route we have chosen passes through areas which we consider to be relatively stable things can change and we may have to alter the route or cancel sections of the trip at short notice.

Contact us for further information at info@untamedborders.com

Somaliland Marathon

Somaliland Marathon 2020

This package offers travel and entrance to the Somaliland marathon.

The marathon will take place in Hargeisa, the capital city of Somaliland. Along with being a great opportunity to experience this self-declared Horn of Africa nation, participants will also be supporting the work of the Darlington Foundation, a British-based charity which promotes and supports the education of students in Somaliland; our aim is to encourage each entrant to raise US$1500, which enough to put one student through full-time university education.

Start Point: Hargeisa
End Point: Hargeisa
Cost: US$1450

Contact us for the full itinerary and dates.

Runners will be asked to try and raise US$1500 for the Darlington Foundation. Enough to allow someone to complete a three-year degree course.  If this is achieved, the entrance fee to the marathon will be waived.

Difficulty – Only as hard as a marathon.
Comfort – There is some level of comfort. The rooms have en-suite bathrooms and sometimes during the day there is hot water but not the entire day.

Day 1 – Hargeisa
Arrive in Hargeisa. Airport pickup and transfer to Hotel. If there is time then you will be taken on a short tour of the city. There are not many sights as such but the money changers with their mountains of notes and the shops with paintings of the products they sell on the walls make for good photos. Other places of interest include the War Memorial with its unusual monument of a crashed MiG fighter plane and the gold and khat markets.
Overnight in Hargeisa.

Day 2 – Hargeisa – Las Geel – Hargeisa
We will take you (along with your security escort) to the wonderful cave paintings at Las Geel, one of the most intriguing sights in the Horn of Africa. On the overhangs of a rock in the desert are some of the world’s best preserved ancient cave paintings. Dating from 5000-9000 years old they depict cows, people, dogs and even giraffes. A real highlight of Somaliland. After visiting the site we return to Hargeisa.
Overnight in Hargeisa.

Day 3 – Hargeisa
A final day in Hargeisa. This can be spent resting ahead of the race, visiting local organisations and meeting some of the Somali runners or helping the organisers arrange the first ever Marathon in Somalia.
Overnight in Hargeisa

Day 4 – Hargeisa – Race day
We will ensure that you get to the start on time, look after your bags and get photos of you during the race.
Overnight in Hargeisa

Day 5 – Hargeisa – Airport
Transfer to airport for the flight home.

You will be accompanied by an English speaking guide Somali guide and an International guide for the length of the trip

The trip includes:
Accommodation
Ground transport
Permission to visit Las Geel
Local Guide
International guide
Breakfast
Visa processing
Entry to the Somaliland Marathon (worth US$200)

The trip does not include:
Somaliland Visa ($60 on arrival)
Other Meals
Insurance
Entrance fees
Flights
Drinks

Flights:
We do not directly arrange international flights to Hargeisa. FlyDubai, Jubba, Dalloo and African Express Airways fly there from Dubai and Ethiopian Airways has a daily flight from Addis Ababa.

Visas:
There are very few countries in the world where you can obtain a Somaliland visa. However, the UK is one of them. Contact us for details. We can also arrange a visa on arrival.

Food:
Breakfast is included on this trip. Other meals will be paid for by yourself.

Accommodation:
We do not and cannot offer a uniform accommodation standard on our itineraries. We consider comfort, location, design, character, historical interest and whether the money we spend will go into the pockets of the local community when we make our choices of where to stay.
The accommodation will be based on you sharing a twin room.

Transport:
When we choose our vehicles and drivers we take into consideration the road conditions, the length of journey and the competence of the man behind the wheel.

Guides:
On this trip, you will be accompanied by an English speaking Somali guide plus an international guide for the length of the trip.

Security and Risks:
We do monitor the situation closely and we listen very carefully to advice from the foreign office and from our friends in the areas we visit. Our client’s safety is our primary concern. We must state that the guide has the final word with regards to changes in the itinerary for safety reasons. Whilst the route we have chosen passes through areas that we consider stable things can change and we may have to alter the route or cancel sections of the trip at short notice.

Somaliland is not an internationally recognised country. Currently, Somaliland is secure and has, by and large, escaped the trouble that has blighted Somalia to the south. However, the government takes security there seriously and you will have a soldier with you when outside of any town.

For further details about this trip and the chance to join us please contact us.