The original plan was to go to Mongolia for the Naadam festival, the big nomadic party. But not having done my homework or even looked at the map closely before the trip, I did not allocate enough time for all the places I wanted to visit. Three months were barely enough for getting to Mongolia and back, but not much more. So I decided to focus on what is there between Serbia and Mongolia - The Stans. Outline of the route. I had to skip Turkmenistan and Afganistan, the former because of visa and the later for obvious reasons. The rest of the Stan countries were welcoming for tourists and quite popular among overland travelers - backpackers, bicycle riders, motorcyclists and car/truck drivers. Pamir Highway is the main draw, but the area has much more to offer - scenery, culture, history, food and friendly locals, to mention just a few. Rila monastery in Bulgarian mountains. Plovdiv's old town. Canakkale - city between Gallipoli and Troy. Kebabs, the ubiquitous food all over Central Asia. Pristine and deserted beaches on Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Ballooning is just one of many activities to do in Cappadocia. After visiting some monasteries and mountain resorts in Bulgaria a short ride through Greece got me to the Turkish border. I crossed into Asia at Dardanelles, near Gallipoli. Crossing Dardanelles. Some of the carved rock outcrops used to be churches and many are hotels today. SW Turkey is littered with archeological sites - prehistoric, Greek, Roman and Christian. I visited a few - Ephesus, Troy, Pergamon and Mt. Nemrut, but there are many more to be explored on another trip. 2000 year old toilet with sewer system in Ephesus. Broken statues at Mt. Nemrut. $15 a night - Turkey offered the best bang for the buck in terms of accommodation. Konya - center of Mevlana order and pilgrimage site for Sufis. Ceiling of a mosque in Ankara. Crossing the Euphrates river. Preserved fruits and nuts in Armenia. Suspension bridge in Southern Armenia. Monument to the Armenian victims of the genocide in Yerevan. UNESCO heritage city of Tbilisi. In Caucasus mountains of Georgia, I rode one of the most scenic roads anywhere - Dartlo road. Nearing the top of a pass on the way to Dartlo. Caucasus mountains. Outdoor gallery in Caucasus mountains. After a few days in Armenia and Azerbaijan, it was time to cross the Caspian sea and start riding Central Asia. Caspian sea ferries have no fixed schedules. They depart when there are enough trucks to make shipping company money. All other vehicles are just tagging along. I met 6 other motorcycle riders and many bicycle riders at the port. Never knew this route was so popular with bicycle riders. I'm still baffled how they ride 300+ km of desert in blistering heat without any stores, restaurants, gas stations or even trees. Logistics tip: There are no longer any offices or even information booths at the old port in Baku for the RORO ferry to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan (contrary to what dated info can be found on the web). One has to go to Alat (about 70 km south of Baku) to buy the ticket and then wait. Alternatively, one can keep on calling daily about the next departure. Once the company is sure of the departure, it is important to arrive at the port at the time they specify. There is a small but fairly well stocked store right next to the ticket booth, with prices same as in the city. They are building a new port building, so things will probably change soon. Baku port - Are we gonna get on the ferry or not? Finally, boarding the ferry to Kazakhstan, after 8 hours of waiting. Getting sunburnt on the top deck of the ferry. The crew trying to keep cool in the middle of the Caspian sea. Caspian sea sunset. 24-hour ride on the ferry without AC is followed by a 6-8 hour immigration and customs ordeal (in our case, 7 hours). I decided to spend an extra day in Aktau. I used the time to relax, change oil and get canisters to carry extra fuel for long stretches of road without gas stations. Summers in Kazakhstan can be brutally hot, well over 40 degrees Celsius. Winters can be just as brutal (down to minus 40 degrees Celsius). Aktau beach promenade. Starting the long desert ride to Uzbekistan border. From Aktau, it was 500+ km of desert riding to Uzbek border. Uzbekistan is still opening up after years of not welcoming tourists. While still complicated, it is much easier to obtain Uzbek tourist visa than it used to be. I applied for it in Ankara, Turkey and picked it up two weeks later in Baku, Azerbaijan. Consuls in both cities were very friendly and went out of their way to help me (and other travelers). In Baku, the consul issued me visa on a day that the consulate was officially closed - a uniquely pleasant consular experience! Uzbek tourist visa tip: Nowadays, it is easier to obtain Uzbek visa, but the approval takes up to two weeks. To alleviate the problem, Uzbek government allows applicants to submit visa application in one consulate and pick visa up in another. Alternatively, one can pay a tourist agency to send a letter of invitation. With this letter a visa can be issued on the spot. Dried up Aral sea ship graveyard is one of the main attractions in NW Uzbekistan. Stickers from various overland travelers left on a restaurant in NW Uzbekistan. Tourist yurts in central Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan was at the cross-roads of various silk routes. Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand were among the largest and most important cities of the world at the height of the Silk Road. The old parts of these cities are beautifully restored and buzzing with tourists from all over the world. Khiva square. Khiva hotel. A unique mosque in Bukhara. Minaret basking in late afternoon sun. Samarkand. Central Asia's spices at a Tashkent market. Tashkent is the only city I've seen that loves YOU. Rustam - Tashkent mechanic. Maintenance tip: While planning the trip, I spent a lot of time searching internet for mechanics and spare parts in Central Asia. I couldn't find much. It seemed that the consensus was that outside Almaty, it is impossible to get tires and other spare parts. Google clearly does not give decent results for this part of the world. Every capital has got at least one motorcycle mechanic and all of them can get pretty much any part given an advanced notice (7-10 days). Here are mechanics I met: Tashkent: Rustam +998901683707 (map) Dushanbe: Azik +992934540003 (map) Bishkek: Ramis +996555433043 (map and map) Parts usually arrive from Russia. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia have trade agreements, so parts will be cheaper if picked up in these countries because there is no extra import duty to pay. I ordered new tires and a battery in Tashkent and had to wait 2 days for the shipment to arrive from Almaty. I rode deep into Uzbek's Tien Shan mountains towards Kyrgyzstan while waiting for the package to arrive. Rugged valley in NE corner of Uzbekistan. Azik mounted new tires on my bike in Dushanbe. Tajikistan is full of beautiful, deep gorges. Endless switchback leading to 4,000+ meter pass. The first of many beautiful passes on the way to Dushanbe. Abandoned, desolate Anzob pass. The rockfall that makes Anzob pass impassable for anything bigger than motorcycle. Camel or horse milk? Nuts and dried fruits at a local market. Minefield warning along a road in Tajikistan.