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Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are central links along the Silk Road and have extraordinary histories, from the great empires and conquerors of the ancient and medieval world, to the migrations and exchanges between vastly different cultures. Nevertheless, these two countries have retained their distinctive cultures, seen most clearly in their traditional arts and crafts. This 18-day tour uncovers the wealth of history and culture in the ‘Stans’, with visits to the Silk Road cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand, to Sasanian citadels, Achaemenid and Parthian ruins, the palaces of the emirs and the desert oasis of Merv.
History’s great personalities: Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Marco Polo and Tamerlane
Exceptional World Heritage-listed Central Asian and Islamic architecture
Ancient cultures and dynasties, and their archaeological legacy of citadels and oasis cities
The Silk Road, from antiquity to today: traditional arts and crafts, carpets and stunning mosaics
Repositories for millennia of culture and history, in impressive local museums and galleries
The vibrant folk culture of the Central Asian people
Admire archaeological sites at Shahrisabz and Tamerlane’s Samarkand, the heart of the Silk Road
Bukhara’s Samanid monuments, vestiges of the last Persian dynasty to rule Central Asia
Outstanding examples of Sasanian and Achaemenid cities at the oasis city of Merv
Ruins of ancient Parthian kings, dating from the 3rd century BC, at Nisa near Ashgabat
Fine Central Asian architecture and design at the World Heritage-listed site of Kunya Urgench
The extraordinary city walls of Khiva old town, and its mosques, minarets and madrassasReturn international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
Day 1 : Arrival in Tashkent
Tour leader Ben Churcher and your local tour manager will meet you on arrival at Tashkent Airport shortly after the arrival of the Korean Airlines flight from Seoul. After a coach transfer to the hotel and time to check in and freshen up, there is dinner in our hotel. Overnight Tashkent.
Day 2 : Tashkent - Samarkand
This morning we take the train (3½ hours) to Samarkand, a UNESCO World Heritage site and Uzbekistan’s second-largest city. After lunch and checking in to our hotel we visit the Registan, the heart of ancient Samarkand. Surrounding the main square are three imposing madrasahs, dating from the 15th to 17th century. Adorned with large central arches and mosaic panels, Registan for many people epitomises a Silk Road city. Lunch and dinner provided at our hotel. Overnight Samarkand.
Day 3 : Exploring Samarkand
Today we continue our exploration of Samarkand. The archaeological site and associated museum at Afrosiyob explore Samarkand’s ancient origin. We also stop in at the central bazaar of Samarkand and, after lunch, the 11-domed mausoleums of the Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis, dating from the 15th century. Dinner and overnight in our Samarkand hotel.
Day 4 : Shakhrisabz Day Trip
Today we travel from Samarkand to Shakhrisabz, a 90-minute trip. Shakhrisabz, meaning ‘green city’ was the birthplace of the great warrior Tamerlane in the 14th century, and most of the monuments we see date from the time of his rule. Our sightseeing includes the ruins of the White Palace, Tamerlane’s most ambitious project, the ‘House of Contemplation’ – two blue-domed 15th century mosques and the mausolea of Jakhongir and Omar-Shaykh. We return to Samarkand in the afternoon. Lunch in Shakhrisabz and dinner in Samarkand. Overnight Samarkand.
Day 5 : Samarkand to Bukhara
We spend most of the day travelling to Bukhara. En route we make an extended stop at the pottery village of Gijduvan, visiting a pottery master’s house to see how popular Uzbek Gijduvan pottery is made. We also share lunch at the house of the potter. We arrive at Bukhara in the late afternoon. There is dinner in our hotel. Overnight Bukhara.
Day 6 : Exploring Bukhara
The city of Bukhara has been inhabited for at least five millennia. It has long been a centre of trade, scholarship, culture and religion, and the historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our sightseeing today includes the 9th-10th century Ismail Samani mausoleum, one of the most highly-regarded expressions of Central Asian architecture (Samani was the founder of the Samanid dynasty, last Persian dynasty to rule Central Asia). We also visit the 14th century Chashma-Ayub, Kalon Mosque, the 12th century Kalon mosque complex and the Jewish quarter (Bukhara has a significant Jewish population). Lunch is in the old town today. This evening’s dinner is complemented by a folk dance performance. Overnight Bukhara.
Day 7 : The Emirs of Bukhara
The last Emirs of Bukhara ruled until the early 20th century, and today we travel a few kilometres outside Bukhara to view their summer palace, in an attractive lakeside setting, with a park, fountains, loggias and pergolas. The palace’s interiors are richly decorated with frescoes, mother-of-pearl screens and stucco carvings – an unusual mix of European and Asian styles. We then visit the village of Sumitan to view the Chor-Bakr Necropolis, a monumental cemetery that sprung up around the tomb of the much-revered Abu Bakr Sayed (a descendent of the prophet Mohammed). The later afternoon is free in Bukhara. Overnight Bukhara.
Day 8 : Free Day in Bukhara
Today is completely free to relax or undertake further independent sightseeing in Bukhara. Lunch and dinner are provided in our Bukhara hotel.
Day 9 : Into Turkmenistan
We depart Bukhara this morning and cross the border into Turkmenistan. (Lengthy border formalities need to be undertaken at both sides of the border and you should expect a delay of around three hours). We continue to the city of Turkmenabat, where we stop for lunch. We continue for another five hours by coach until we reach the town of Mary, our base for the next few nights. On arrival we visit the historical museum, providing an introduction to the ancient city of Merv. Dinner and overnight in Mary.
Day 10 : Excursion to Gonur
In the morning we depart Mary and drive through fields along an asphalt road corresponding partly to the Old Caravan Route from Merv to Kunya Urgench. We enter the desert and continue to the archaeological excavations of Gonur, the capital city of ancient Margush. Dating from the third millennium BC, the site has clear evidence of the practice of the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism. We inspect the Palace of the City, Fire and Water Temples and Royal Necropolis. We return to Mary in the afternoon. Today we enjoy a picnic lunch in the desert and dinner in our hotel in Mary.
Day 11 : Merv and On to Ashgabat
Half an hour from modern Mary is the ancient city of Merv. Strategically located at an oasis, the city’s origins go back to the third millennium BC and it is even claimed that in the 12th century AD, Merv was briefly the largest city on earth. It has been occupied by just about everyone – Persian, Arabs, Turks, Mongols and Uzbeks. Today the site has been designated a historical park and we spend the morning among its ancient remains and medieval fortresses. This afternoon we fly from Mary to Ashgabat, 400km to the west. Lunch is in Mary and dinner in our hotel in Ashgabat.
Day 12 : Ashgabat
Ashgabat, meaning literally the ‘city of love’ is the capital of Turkmenistan. Unlike many of the places we have travelled to it is a relatively modern city. Nevertheless, it contains many interesting sites. Today’s program takes us to the National Museum of Turkmenistan, a very large complex surveying the country’s long history and containing exceptional archaeological finds. We also tour the Turkmen Carpet Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the monumental marble buildings and fountains of the city and Tolkuchka market. Lunch is at a local restaurant and dinner is in our hotel. Overnight Ashgabat.
Day 13 : Ashgabat
Today we visit sites in the environs of Ashgabat. The highlight of the day is the ruins of the Parthian settlement of Nisa, the residence of the ancient Parthian kings dating from the third century BC. After lunch near Nisa we travel to Gypjak, visiting the spectacular modern Saparmurat Khaji Mosque and the mausoleum of the first President of Turkmenistan. We return to Ashgabat, with dinner in our hotel.
Day 14 : Kunya Urgench and Nukus
We rise early this morning to catch our early flight to Dashoguz in the north of the country. On arrival we travel to Kunya-Urgench, a city with ancient origins that was the capital of the thriving Khorezmshakh state in the 10th century. Kunya-Urgench has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site thanks to its fine Central Asian Islamic architecture, and we visit the domed mausolea of Fakhr At-Din, Turabek Khanum and Najmitdin Kubra, among other sites. The latter part of the afternoon sees us cross the border back into Uzbekistan, with the lengthy border-crossing procedures. We continue to Nukus, our stopping point. Lunch today is near Kunya-Urgench and dinner is in our hotel in Nukus.
Day 15 : Nukus to Khiva
This morning we undertake a short sightseeing tour in Nukus, visiting the Savitsky Museum, which has a collection of unique paintings and applied arts items. We then continue to Khiva, making an extended stop at the Ayaz Qala yurt camp. Here we have time to rest in the traditional yurt dwelling of nomadic central Asian, and we also have lunch. We then visit the ruins of the ancient fortresses Ayaz Qala and Tuproq Qala. We arrive in Khiva in the late afternoon. Dinner is in our hotel in Khiva.
Day 16 : Exploring Khiva
Capital of the Khanate of Khiva and known to Muslim travellers since the 10th century, the walled old city of Khiva will be the highlight of the trip for many travellers. Our tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site includes the houses, squares, mosques and minarets of the old town and the equally impressive outer town, also encircled by protective walls. Lunch in the old town is followed by an excursion to the 19th century summer palace and estate of the Emir Tozabog. Tonight we share dinner in our hotel in Khiva.
Day 17 : Khiva to Tashkent, Departure
This morning we travel to Urgench airport for the short flight to Tashkent. We transfer to our hotel and share a farewell lunch. The afternoon is free to relax, prepare for the flight home or perhaps do some last-minute shopping. We have arranged day-use of the four-star Tashkent Palace hotel until 7.00pm for those passengers departing this evening. If your flight arrangements require it, you may also stay the night in Tashkent and depart the next day.
Payment Terms & Methods :
* Some Advance Percentage of total booking amount
* Airfare/Transport fare to be paid full at one time in advance.
Cancellation & Refund Policy :
* Upon cancellation, refund will be made after deducting the Retention Amount.
* Retention Amount varies as per the number of days left before your package start date.
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