istanbul to Delhi overland – UK 0

Istanbul to New Delhi over land

This intinerary describes the overland route from Istanbul, Turkey, to New Delhi, India. This has been a legendary route since the sixties and was followed by thousands of travellers until the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the beginning of the civil war in Afghanistan, both in 1979.

Today it is a bigger challenge than it was before thesepolitical events and depending on the local political situation it maybe possible or not. Borders between countries (India-Pakistan,Turkey-Iran) are closed from time to time. Some places are no longeraccessible for ordinary travellers without great risks for theirsafety.

The route is also part of the Silk Road used throughout ancient times from Europe to Asia.

Contents1 Understand1.1 Turkey1.2 Iran1.3 Afghanistan1.4 Pakistan1.5 India2 Prepare2.1 Visas2.2 Timing2.3 Cost2.4 Climate2.5 Read3 The route3.1 Istanbul3.2 Erzurum3.3 Dogubeyazit3.4 Turkey-Iran border3.5 Tabriz3.6 Teheran3.7 Kerman3.8 Zahedan3.9 Iran-Pakistan border3.10 Quetta3.11 Lahore3.12 Pakistan-India border3.13 New Delhi4 Alternative route through Afghanistan4.1 Mashad4.2 Taybad4.3 Iran-Afghanistan border4.4 Herat4.5 Afghan Roads4.6 Kandahar4.7 Kabul4.8 Afghanistan-Pakistan border4.8.1 From Kabul to the border4.8.2 From the border to Peshawar4.8.3 Security4.9 Peshawar4.9.1 Places to stay4.9.2 Places to visit5 Other places to visit along the way5.1 Turkey5.2 Iran5.3 Pakistan5.4 India5.5 Armenia6 See Also if (window.showTocToggle) { var tocShowText = “show”; var tocHideText = “hide”; showTocToggle(); } Understand

This route involves crossing three countries from one extremity to the other, namely Turkey, Iran and Pakistan,and some parts of India. Going through Afghanistan may be possible ornot depending on the changing political situation there and yourevaluation of your personal safety and comfort.

Only information specific to this itinerary is available here.For details on places to visit along the way, see the specific pages.

Avoid going during Ramadan, unless you are prepared to fast yourself.

Police and officials in Eastern Turkey, Iran and Pakistan are quite touchy. Keep a low profile while dealing with them.

Avoid reaching a place in the middle of the night.

An alternate route to India is through Russia and/or Central Asia. This is described in the Wikitravel itinerary Europe to South Asia over land. The easiest way to link up with that route from Istanbul might be to get a boat to a Black Sea port.


Western Turkey is visited by tourists from all over the world, soyou will find all usual facilities here. But the further east you go,the fewer travellers you will meet, especially if you go away from themain transport facilities. So people there won’t be so accustomed totourists. However, this should not prevent you from visiting thoseplaces. See Turkey for all details.


Iranis not much visited by tourists, and that is one of the main reasons togo there. People are eager to meet foreigners and if you get used tothe local way of life you will enjoy your trip.


Due to the civil war and the Taliban regime, almost nobody goesthere unless they have a good reason to. However, since the end of theTaliban regime, NGO members and journalists can get a visa. See Afghanistan for details.


There have always been tourists in Pakistan, although many fewer attimes when the country is making news. The land borders have beenclosed at times during the Afghan war and when diplomatic relationswith India were suspended. See Pakistan for details.


India is a favourite with travellers, so in most cities you will get all the facilities you expect as a tourist. See India for details.

Prepare Visas

Iran, Pakistan and India require a visa for most travellers, so youhave to get that beforehand. The embassy of Iran in Ankara and theconsulate in Istanbul now refuse to deliver visas if you are notresident in the country. The situation is the same for Pakistani andIndian embassies and consulates almost everywhere although there are afew exceptions.

A quick pervue (as of Nov. 2004) of the pages of the embassiesof these countries in Washington puts the total cost of visas forAmericans for these four countries at over $400.


Plan from 15 days to several months for a trip, depending on thetime you spend at each place you pass through. Theoretically, jumpingfrom one bus to another, it can be done in 11 or 12 days, but it wouldmean never stopping on the way! The length of the whole journey is 7000to 8000 kilometers.

The actual timing is something like this:

Istanbul to Teheran: 2 or 3 days Teheran to Kerman: 1 day Kerman to Zahedan: 1 day Zahedan to Quetta: 2 days Quetta to Lahore: 2 days Lahore to New Delhi: 2 days

Take your time. Avoid rushing from one place to the other.


In the 90s it used to cost much less than the air trip, evenincluding all hotels and food on the way! It mainly depends on thecurrency rates of Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. In 1992 the whole tripcould be done in 5 weeks for about 350 US dollars.

As of Nov. 2004, total visa costs alone are over $400. In whatprobably is off-peak travel time (winter and early spring) round-tripflights from New York to Istanbul are under $400. It seems like themost cost-effective way to get to the US is to take a one-way flight(around that same time frame) from Delhi to Tehran on Mahan Airlinesfor under $400 and then catch a bus/train back to Istanbul.


The route can be done in almost all seasons. A big part of the routein Turkey, Iran and Pakistan is at an altitude of over 1000 meters, sotemperature there is comfortable even in the midst of summer and istemperate in winter. However, Eastern Turkey can be very cold in winterand the Indus Valley in Pakistan is very hot in summer (May to July).


The book to read before leaving or on the road is Danziger’s travels: Beyond Forbidden Frontiers. It is the story of a hair-raising 18-month overland trip from London to Beijing in 1984 by Nick Danziger (ISBN 0586087060).

The route Istanbul

Istanbul is the biggest city in Turkey.Starting from there you have the choice of at least 3 modes oftransport to Iran. First there are direct buses to Teheran run byIranian companies. Straight, cheap, no hassle, but where’s the fun” Andstaying two days in a bus is not the most comfortable way oftransportation. Then there are Turkish buses going to Erzurum which are probably more comfortable than the Iranian buses. Lastly, you can take the train to Erzurum.

There are also boats across the Black Sea to Trabzon. From there, it is a fairly short bus trip to Ezurum.


Erzurumis the hub for visiting eastern Turkey. If you didn’t get the directbus to Teheran, you will have to change means of transport here. Thereare buses going to Dogubayazit (5 hours).


Dogubeyazitis the last town before the border. It is mainly a garrison town, butit is also the point of departure for the climbing of Mount Ararat andvisiting Ishak Pacha palace (İshak Paşa Sarayı). There are taxis goingto the border.

Turkey-Iran border

The Turkey-Iran border is at an altitude of 2600 metres, at the foot of the legendary Mount Ararat [1] where, according to the Bible, Noah ended up with his Ark.


Tabriz is the first major Iranian city you reach on this route.


Teheran is the capital of Iran. It’s a huge city of about 10 million inhabitants.

Going to Kerman, you have choice of buses or a railway line.There are buses twice a day, which take a full day or a night (about 15hours). Trains are certainly more comfortable, but run only three timesa week. There are even direct buses to Zahedan (22 hours).

If you are not in a hurry, going to Esfahanis worth the trouble. It is probably the most beautiful city of Iran. Abit further in the same direction is another interesting city, Shiraz, and near it the ruins of Persepolis.


Kerman is the terminus of the railway line and a hub of southern Iran. Buses to Zahedan take seven hours.


Zahedan is the last town before the border with Pakistan. [2] Take a taxi to the border. You have to bring food and water with you for 2 days. There is no restaurant before Quetta, 700 km across the desert.

Iran-Pakistan border

The Iran-Pakistan border post, called Mirjave, is in the Kavir-eLoot desert, which means in the middle of nowhere. This is the realborder between the East and the West.

The border closes in the early afternoon, and you can’t stayhere, there is no accommodation available. You will have to go back toZahedan if you reach the border too late.

Once you cross the border, you have to wait for a bus. From here driving is on the left.

Don’t look for a currency change office, there are none.However, you can certainly change some cash (Iranian rials or USdollars) with some youths sitting outside the police border building.You will have to bargain. They don’t know any English, but theycertainly know arithmetic and how to use a pocket calculator.

Here again, there was a railway line and trains going to Quettaa long time ago. You can still see the platform in the middle of thedesert.


Quetta is the first place you reach when entering Pakistan coming from Iran.

From here, there are direct trains to Lahore.


Lahore is the second biggest city in Pakistan and the capital of the state of Punjab.

There are buses and taxis going to the border. In January 2004,the Lahore-New Delhi train was restored. It is probably morecomfortable than the bus, but slower, as it used to stop at the borderfor hours while the police checked people and luggage. Also trains aremuch less frequent.

Pakistan-India border

The Pakistan-India border has been closed and reopened several timesduring recent years, so check beforehand. In January 2004, theLahore-New Delhi train was restored. Firebombed week of 19th Feb 2007

New Delhi

New Delhi is the capital of India.

Alternative route through Afghanistan

From Teheran to Lahore, there are two main routes.

The usual route today is as shown above, swing Southeast fromTeheran to enter Pakistan at its extreme Western edge, bypassingAfghanistan. This is safer; travellers with any caution at all shouldavoid Afghanistan.

The main overland route of the 60s and 70s went East to the Iranian city of Mashad, then to Herat, Khandahar, Kabul in Afghanistan and down through the Khyber Pass to Pakistan. This is described below, but is generally considered too dangerous today.

Afghanistan was scary even in the 70s; most of the men carriedrifles and they all had knifes. However, nearly all the guns weresingle-shot, mostly muzzle loaders with quite a few 19th centuryBritish army Martini-Henry lever action. Then in 1979, the USSR invadedthem. Soon many Afghans had AK-47s. Today nearly every Afghan man has an automatic weapon.

By no means all Afghans are likely to take potshots at tourists,or to kidnap one. Most are friendly, helpful, hospitable, … However,as the only country to be invaded by both the USSR and the US, they dohave some reason to resent light-skinned foreigners. With everythingstill (as of mid-2006) chaotic, going there is still spectacularlyrisky, though details of the dangers change from time to time.


Mashad is the largest city of Eastern Iran and capital of its province.

There are daily trains to and from Teheran. Buses take 14 hours to Teheran. Buses to Taybad take about four hours.


There are minibuses and taxis to the border, called Eslam Ghale, 11 km away.

Iran-Afghanistan border

From the Afghan side, there are buses to Herat.


Heratis a big, rich Afghan city, influenced by Iranian culture. It is welldeveloped because of trade with Iran and in a good shape compared toother Afghan cities. The people are very friendly and hospitable toforeigners and are also more religious than people in Kabul.

No tourism exists in Herat, there is but a small community offoreign workers from Europe or other Western countries. They are easyto find by asking in the German or Indian consulate or hanging aroundin the Marco Polo Hotel.

Afghan Roads

Most Afghan roads are very poor. You need a four wheel drive vehicle with a winch to even consider driving on them.

One exception is the main highway from Herat in the West toKabul in the East. This swings widely South via Kandahar; the center ofthe country is impassable mountains.

There is also a good highway from Kabul North through the Hindu Kush to Mazar-e Sharif and the border of Tajikistan in Central Asia.This road contains the Salang tunnel, longest in the world. It wasbuilt with Russian aid and then used for the Russian invasion.


Kandahar is the main city of Southern Afghanistan.

It was a major stronghold of Taliban, and among the last places to surrender in the recent war.

You can go South from here to Quetta, Pakistan.


Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan-Pakistan border

The way from Kabul to Peshawar takes about ten hours.

From Kabul to the border

Buses start early and need about eight hours to reach the border.The road is not in a very good shape so don’t expect a very comfortabletravel. The price is between 200-250 Af. (below 4 Euro) if you pick upa mini van bus with ten to twenty other people together. Tall peopleare sitting more comfortable at the – sometimes little more expensive -front seats.

Taxis are faster and more expensive.

The border is closing at the noon time.

From the border to Peshawar

Buses and taxis end at the border. People need to cross the borderon foot and take a second bus or taxi. Foreigners (non-Pakistani ornon-Afghani) have to get a permission to cross the tribal areas arewhich are located between the border and Peshawar and are controlled bytribes and not by the Pakistan government. The permission is free but asoldier will take you with him in a taxi. The soldier will cost about100 Pakistani (1.4 Euro) and the taxi twice that.

The way goes through the legendary Khyber Pass.


The travel seems to be secure for travellers who know what they aredoing. The traffic is the biggest danger thus it could be recommendedto travel on a friday when the traffic is less than at the other days.If possible take a good driver you know already. I think busses drivemore save than taxis because they are slower.


Peshawar is a very huge city in Pakistan. The city has a lot of traffic and seems to have a good economic situation.

Places to stay There are many hotels and guest houses with western standards.Especially in the “University Town” district and in the city center. Places to visit The old city center with the bazaar and an old mosque is worth a visit In the summer time hiking tours to the mountains are offert. Ask at Green Tours in front of the Greens Hotel. The Khyber pass is one hour away and can be visited by takinga taxi. It is located in the trible area and easy to get permissionsare needed for foreigners to enter this area. Peshawar Museum and the University of Peshawar;s museums are worth visiting for ancient cultural artifacts. Other places to visit along the way

Some other places are worth a visit, but you don’t necessarily have to pass through them on this journey.

Turkey Ankara (capital of Turkey) Erzincan Ruins of Ani, ancient capital of Armenia and known as City of 1001 Churches The Armenian Monastery on Aktamar Island in Lake Van – one of the most impressive sites in Eastern Turkey. The Mediterranean coast of Southern Turkey is a resort area, reportedly much like the Greek islands but cheaper. Iran Esfahan (capital of Persia during the Safavih dynasty) Shiraz (Persepolis) Bam (2500-year old citadel from the Parthian Empire, almost destroyed in an earthquake December 2003) Pakistan Islamabad (capital of Pakistan; all embassies are there) Rawalpindi (hub of Northern Pakistan; stay here if you want / need to go to Islamabad) Taxila (Buddhist archeological site from emperor Ashoka) India Amritsaris a city in the Punjab near the India-Pakistan border. It has theGolden Temple, center of the Sikh religion, and some museums andmemorials. Simlais a hill town North of Delhi and was the summer capital of the BritishRaj. It has a pleasant climate and interesting old colonial buildings. Armenia Though this would involve a trip north from Iran, if theArmenian churches and monasteries you see all over Turkey and Iran whetyour appettite, you should certainly head into Armenia.Retrieved from “”ViewsArticleDiscussionEditHistoryPersonal toolsSearch ToolboxWhat links hereRelated changesUpload fileSpecial pagesPrintable versionPermanent link In other languages fr: Istanbul New Delhi par la route MediaWikiCreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0This page was last modified 19:45, 2 July 2006 by Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel. Based on work by Ryan Holliday, Geoff, Yann Forget and Evan Prodromou, Wikitravel user(s) Pashley, Bertilivdet, SHC, Janki, Guaka, BigHaz, Huttite, Nurg and Dhum Dhum and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.Content is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0.Privacy policyAbout WikitravelTerms of use if (window.runOnloadHook) runOnloadHook();
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21 Jan 2007

21 Jan 2007
18 Oct 2011 – start of travelblog

posted Wednesday February 2007



  • This has been a legendary route since the sixties and was followed by thousands of travellers until the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the beginning of the civil war in Afghanistan, both in 1979.
  • India is a favourite with travellers, so in most cities you will get all the facilities you expect as a tourist.