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Most often, this is the first question people think of after they’ve decided to visit Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and/or Turkmenistan. Each country, or taken collectively as a region, presents the traveler with a cornucopia of choices and decisions to make before they go. Once those decisions are made, then we come to the best time to travel.

At Five Stans Adventure, we take this question very seriously because the comforts of our clients are our top priority when they visit Central Asia. The geography of the region is highly diverse, possessing high mountain peaks and hot deserts. Equally, the temperatures – which are the most important gauge to a comfortable tour – can be torturously hot to ice age cold. Additionally, much will depend on what type of tour you are planning to do.

For most travelers, the best time to travel in Central Asia is in the spring (March – May) or fall (September – November) months. The chart below will help to explain things a little better:

Month

Avg. High

Avg. Low

Mean

Avg. Precip.

January

42°F/6°C

26°F/-3°C

33°F/1°C

2.20 in/55.9 mm

February

46°F/8°C

29°F/-2°C

36°F/2°C

1.90 in/48.3 mm

March

57°F/14°C

39°F/4°C

48°F/9°C

2.80 in/71.1 mm

April

71°F/22°C

49°F/9°C

60°F/16°C

2.50 in/63.5 mm

May

81°F/27°C

56°F/13°C

69°F/21°C

1.30 in/33.0 mm

June

91°F/33°C

63°F/17°C

78°F/26°C

0.30 in/7.6 mm

July

96°F/36°C

66°F/19°C

82°F/28°C

0.20 in/5.1 mm

August

93°F/34°C

63°F/17°C

78°F/26°C

0.10 in/2.5 mm

September

83°F/28°C

54°F/12°C

68°F/20°C

0.20 in/5.1 mm

October

69°F/21°C

45°F/7°C

56°F/13°C

1.30 in/33.0 mm

November

57°F/14°C

38°F/3°C

46°F/8°C

1.80 in/45.7 mm

December

47°F/8°C

31°F/-1°C

38°F/3°C

2.10 in/53.3 mm



A quick scan of the data confirms what I pointed out earlier as far as the best months to travel. Of course, it’s always helpful to know when the major holidays take place which could effect your plans, particularly Ramadan, which varies from year to year. In 2017, the tentative dates are May 27 – June 24, so this year it happens right at the tail end of the travel season.

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Next morning, rest day over, we decided to travel to Samarkand.  I was not due in Tashkent until the Sunday night and so we had all of Saturday free to reach our destination.  Another colleague had already recommended an inexpensive bed and breakfast in Samarkand and so we were set.  I asked again about a map at this point.  Umar told me that you couldn't buy a map of Uzbekistan in Tajikistan, which I suppose I had already guessed, but one often lives in hope.  But he felt sure he knew the way as he was there twenty years ago and most probably it hadn't moved.

The open border crossing with Uzbekistan, is not far from Khujand and was a surprisingly smooth crossing, all things being considered. I was impressed how all officials met us politely and appeared to make the necessary bureaucratic processes and checks as trouble free as possible.  I suppose it helped that we were the only car crossing and a diplomatic one at that and so the vehicle registration and other formalities were a little easier than for others.

Once on the open road in Uzbekistan we seemed to make good early progress towards Samarkand.  I still felt uneasy not having a map, but Umar reeled off the names of towns and villages we should pass through, which indeed we did and so all was well.  We had the latest 'Now That's What I Call Uzbek Music' on loudly in the car as we enjoyed the relatively empty roads and tucked into tasty fruits picked up from a roadside stall overflowing with autumnal mellow fruitfulness.  Thirty minutes later and things changed.  The road which runs from Tashkent to Samarkand disappeared. And then from the depths of my memory I recalled reading that part of Kazakhstan jutted into Uzbekistan and that the original main road, which we were looking for, had been diverted some years back after some dispute or other over the  border.  I made a note to research the story later, but in the mean time we needed to re-join the permanent diversion needed to avoid crossing the blocked Kazakh quasi-isthmus.  After 10 minutes of swearing at google maps on an iphone we sought the help of some men working by the roadside.  As is customary in most parts of the world, in my experience, the answer to the question 'which direction?' is usually 'straight ahead!', but fortunately in this instance it was to be right. Soon we were back on track and hurtling past cotton fields alive with weekend cotton pickers and dancing storks. 

After Tajikistan the Uzbek landscape at this easterly end of that country is quite uneventful and without dramatic feature, consisting mostly of either arid plain or cotton fields. But this doesn't matter and in fact makes the arrival in Samarkand all the more special.  Interesting old buildings, the buzz of city life and soviet style tree line boulevards almost appear from nowhere.  Travelling deeper into Samarkand in search of our budget guesthouse, we passed the Registan, Bibi Khanym Mosque and the Shrines of the Zakhi Zinda complex.  I was already drawing a mental note of my walking tour for later.

Guest house found, safely checked in and refreshed, we ventured out in the late afternoon heat.  Even the autumn can still be warm during the day in southern Central Asia.  I was keen to get an early feel for the size and grandeur of the Registan square and attendant mosque and madrassa buildings.  I was not disappointed.  There are those who are sniffy about the reconstruction and improvement which are often made to such ancient sites in order to satisfy tourists brought up on CGI and theme parks, but in this case, at least, I believe it works well.  I would rank this place among one of my favourite ancient sites. 

We spent an enjoyable 24 hours in Samarkand.  Umar and an old school chum, now living in Samarkand, showed me around the city and introduced me to the bazaars.  I am not ordinarily a keen shopper for souvenirs, but the atmosphere and earnest bargaining in the bazaars was exciting and persuaded me to part with my money.  Suzani embroidery, atlas and adras fabric and colourful ceramics are all tempting here.  And had I had more time I would like to have dug deeper for other markets offering antiques and collectibles – my nose for these things told me they were out there - somewhere.

After a tasty Samarkand plov lunch in the Stolovaya attached to the main Bazaar, Umar and I bade farewell to our Samarkand friends (several by now) and set out for Tashkent.  We made good time on the road and this time remembered the Kazakhstan detour!  We were in Tashkent by teatime and well in time for the beginning of the next part of my official programme.  As we sat eating Naryn (a bit like a horse meat spag bol as far as I could see) that evening in a Tashkent canteen we talked about the political issues holding back full intra-regional integration in Central Asia.  However, in an odd way, I had been glad that closed borders and a lack of direct flights had allowed us to see and experience so much more than an hour long flight would have delivered.  Strangely we were already looking forward to our return journey, wondering what new experiences it might afford us.  But for now we satisfied ourselves with the tasty naryn and looked forward to a very comfortable Tashkent hotel.

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Caravanserai: A roadside inn where travelers could rest and recover from the day’s journey.

By the looks of this definition you might think we were describing a motel! In a few ways there are some similarities, but for the most part the differences were significant. The role that the caravanserais played was a crucial necessity to the survival of the Great Silk Road and its travelers. While it wasn’t unusual for travelers to sleep on the side of the road, it certainly wasn’t a comfortable place being exposed to the elements and potential attacks from thieves. We’re fairly certain that many of them would have preferred to travel from one caravanserai to the next and avoid sleeping outside. To bridge this necessity enterprising entrepreneurs from countries throughout the vast Great Silk Road network built them, and a few have survived to this day.

For the most part the caravanserai had a simple, but practical, architectural design. They were square or rectangular in shape with a single entrance that was large enough to allow camels to enter. The central area, or courtyard, was an uncovered and open space that allowed travelers to maneuver their livestock and merchandise. Inside the walls of the caravanserai were stalls to accommodate the traveler and his goods. While they lacked an ice machine the caravanserai provided water for drinking, bathing, and cleaning, the most precious commodity on the Great Silk Road. Additionally, supplies were made available for purchase, like fodder for the animals or other useful tools that a caravan could use.

While there are a large number of caravanserais in the world, one of the most famous is in Navoi, Uzbekistan. The Rabati Malik was built between 1068 – 1080 A.D. and originally occupied 8,277 sq. m. Inspired by Iranian architectural design, the portal is arch-shaped and complete with Arabic inscriptions. Unfortunately, an earthquake in 1968 demolished what had remained of this beautiful caravanserai. However, many photographs were found which will allow future restoration projects to remain true to its original design.

On January 18, 2008 the Rabati Malik was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List (Tentative).

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