Only a few people know this, but when I was in Africa I considered to cancel my ticket to Turkey (and thus the entire Silk Road). I had such a good time and there were so many other interesting countries nearby: Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania… However, three good friends from the Netherlands would visit me in Turkey and I couldn’t let them down. So, I went to Turkey anyway. And after that, the rest of the Silk Road.
Of course, it turned out to be absolutely amazing!!
If you have been following Bunch of Backpackers through Instagram and Facebook, you already know that I’ve been enthusiast about every single country. In a certain way, the second leg of my trip was even more adventurous than Southern Africa. The Silk Road was more off-the-beaten track, a completely new culture and there were times I was pretty much the only tourist in a region. I loved it. Now after more than 6 months of traveling, I’m back home in Rotterdam, but hopefully you will re-live the Silk Road journey with this post :)
Overview Backpacking The Silk Road
Countries visited: Turkey, Greece (day trip), Iran, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and China.
Full Silk Road itinerary: Full itinerary (based on sleeping spots): TURKEY – Istanbul – Selchuk – Pamukkale – Fethiye – Faralya – Butterfly Valley – Kabak – Saklikent Gorge – Kas – Ocagiz – Olympos – Goreme – Ankara – Trabzon – Ankara – Kars/Ani – IRAN – Tabriz – Rasht – Qazvin – Gazor Khan/Alamut Valley – Tehran – Esfahan – Tak-Taku- Golshan – Yazd – Kashan – Qom – Tehran – KAZAKHSTAN – Aktau – Beket Ata – UZBEKISTAN – Nukus – Khiva – Bukhara – Samarkand – TAJIKISTAN – Dushanbe – Iskander Kul – Allaudin Lake – Kulikalon Bowl – Seven Lakes – Dushanbe – Khorog – Jizeu (Bartang Valley) – Khorog – Darshai – Hisor – Alichur – Murghab – KYRGYZSTAN – Sary Mogol – Turpol Lake – Osh – CHINA – Kashgar – KYRGYZSTAN – Osh – Arslanbob – Sary-Chelek – Bishkek – Kol-Tor/Kegeti – Kochkor – Kol-Ukok – Bishkek
Number of days: 130
Number of photos taken: 2386
Used modes of transportation: Dolmus (Turkish minibuses), hot air balloon, Iran VIP buses with carpet, shared taxi’s, paraglider, big trucks, old Sovjet cars (Lada Niva’s), 4×4’s, motorbikes, electric scooter, kayak, canoe, boat and a horse.
Favorite road trip: 6 days with a 4×4 through the Wakhan Valley and the Pamirs (inc. a 4600m pass) with 4 other girls!
Favorite hostels/guesthouses: 1. Orient Hotel, Yazd, Iran 2. Green House Hostel, Dushanbe, Tajikistan 3. Bayrams, Olympos, Turkey
Favorite camping spots: 1. Allaudin Lake in Tajikistan, where the water changed to a different color every hour. 2. Kol-Tor Lake in Kyrgyzstan, no one else and the most beautiful intense color I’ve ever seen 3. Butterfly Valley in Turkey, you can’t go wrong with camping on a secluded beach (only accessible by boat or very steep hike)
Number of different camping spots: 7
Amount of money spent: 6631 euro (inc. the 700 USD that got stolen)
Moments of loss: 700 USD got stolen from my bag in Iran. This sucked big time, but it was only money and I did have a very ‘interesting’ afternoon at the Tehran police station (read 6 hours with police car drives with blaring sirens, formal investigations, seeing prisoners etc.)
Number of times sick: 0 (haven’t been really sick, although there were a few times I wasn’t feeling 100%)
Number of times I felt unsafe: I had a few incidents of sexual harassment in Turkey, Iran and Kyrgyzstan. I never felt really unsafe, let’s call them just incredibly annoying and sad.
Most religious experiences: 1. Visiting and spending a night with a group of pelgrims in the underground mosque’s of Beket-Ata in Kazakhstan 2. Joining the evening prayer and iftar with thousands of muslims in the mosque of Qom during the holy month of ramazan in Iran
Coolest active days (exc. hikes): 1. Rock climbing in Olympos, Turkey 2. Horse riding for 2 days in Kol-Ukok, Kyrgyzstan 3. Kayaking over the Sunken City in Kekova, Turkey
Favorite meals: 1. Breakfast in the family-run Lykya Guesthouse in Ocagiz, Turkey 2. Food at the night market in Kashgar, China 3. ALL the (fresh) breads in Central Asia
Least favorite meal: The dry, white, gigantic baguettes in Iran.
Moments of frustration: Visa stuff! My Iran authorization code took twice as long as usual and my Turkmenistan visa got rejected all together. Some border crossings were also tiring (especially China-Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan-Tajikistan)
Favorite markets: 1. The Afghan cross-border market in Khorog 2. Animal markets in Osh (Kyrgyzstan) and Kashgar (China) 3. The bazar in Tabriz, Iran
Favorite historical places: 1. Ani in Turkey. 2. Samarkand in Uzbekistan 3. Ephesus in Turkey.
Craziest-looking landscapes: 1. Cappadocia, Turkey 2. Pamukkale, Turkey 3. The canyons around Beket-Ata in Kazakhstan
Moments of shock: Thinking someone offers you a chocolate toffee ball in the bus, but it turns out to be ‘Kurut’, a Kyrgyz salty yoghurt ball!!
Best hikes: 1. 3D/2N hike Allaudin Pass in Tajikistan 2. 3D/2N hike Kegeti-Kol-Tor Lake in Kyrgyzstan 3. Parts of the Lycian Way with Turkish (new) friends.
Favorite new hobbies: 1. Trekking. I did my first treks with full equipment (e.g. carrying all my camping gear, food etc.) and LOVED it. It’s physically challenging (and therefore fun) and you go where no cars can go! 2. Tavla! In Turkey I finally learned how to play (the Turkish version of) backgammon 3. Thriller books. I’m more into cult books, fantasy and classic literature, but during this trip I tried my very first ‘thriller books’ and quite liked them!
Classic adventure moments: Hitchhiking, rooftop sleeping, sunset viewing, visiting nomads in Iran and Kyrgyzstan, wild camping, dancing in cars, star gazing, joining pelgrims, kayaking over Sunken Cities, getting lost, trekking 3800+ meter passes & being alone in the wilderness.
Number of books read: 8
Random moments of kindness: Getting offered countless cups of tea’s, food (inc. ice cream!), rides and places to stay.
Moving experiences: 1. Visiting the MSF women clinic in Tehran (drug abuse, prostitution) 2. Meeting Syrian refugees in Turkey 3. Visiting the ‘fishermen town’ of Moynak and learn about the Aral Sea disaster in Uzbekistan.
Unusual accommodations: 1. Staying with Mohammed (receptionist hostel) and his beautiful family 2. Tree house in Saklikent Gorge, Turkey 3. Cave in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Best gifts: 1. A plastic flower pen from a fellow bus passenger 2. A wooden walking stick (made on the spot) from a family in Jizeu, Bartang Valley 3. A cup from a fellow couch surfing member.
Most interesting cultural experiences: 1. Hanging out with new friends in Iran 2. Visiting a horse festival in Kyrygzstan 3. Visiting nomads in the Zagros Mountains in Iran.
Typical for the entire Silk Road: (Sometimes overwhelming) hospitality.
Stuff that I didn’t miss during my travels: 1. A computer! I think I spent <10 hours behind a computer (in internet cafe’s) in the last 4 months. 2. Whatsapp. I deleted my Whatsapp App on the first day of my trip and it was lovely quiet. 3. Light pollution at night ;) The ‘Milky Way’ was even better visible in Central Asia!
Blog achievements: Even though I didn’t ‘blog’ during my travels and only gave updates through Instagram and Facebook, Bunch of Backpackers did quite well! I was mentioned on the famous Matador Network as Female Instagrammers Who Keep It Real and I reached more than 10k followers on Instagram.
New things on my ‘travel wish list’: walking the Lycian Way, cycling the Silk Road, glacier hiking, climbing peak Lenin, rafting in Nepal, visiting Georgia/Armenia/Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan
New things on my general ‘wish list’: A Lada Niva 4×4 car!
Best things of coming home: Seeing family and friends, city cycling, Sony head phones, re-discovering my house and clothes, doing sports again & chocolate sprinkles.
Like Southern Africa, the ‘Silk Road’ is one of those destinations that is less popular with backpackers, but so worth visiting. I hope that, after reading this overview, you consider one of the ‘Silk Road’ countries as your next destination? Or if you have a bit more time, maybe even all countries ;)?
I’m back in Rotterdam, busy with work, sports and seeing friends and family again! However, more posts are coming up soon (favorite photos, costs, tips, itineraries)!! I hope you enjoyed ‘BoBs Epic Adventure‘!