This is the tour that will set you separate you from the average traveler! An unforgettable journey awaits you as we cover all of the ‘stans in 22 days. While these countries share many similar traits, you will learn the subtle differences between them – and not from a book. You will visit most of the iconic images that the Great Silk Road in Central Asia has to offer. Among the many highlights of this tour you will see the wonders of Konyegench, Ashgabat, Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand, Marguzor Lake, Penjikent, Dushanbe, Bishkek, Shymkent, and Almaty – and everything between them! Once your tour is finished, you will have accomplished what few others have done! Your journey begins at your point of arrival, Tashkent. After your tour of the “Stone City”, you will fly to Khiva and explore the wonders one of the world’s most famous open-air museums. From Khiva, you will cross the border to Turkmenistan to see the ancient cities of Konyegench, Ashgabat, and Mary. From Mary, you will re-cross the border and continue your journey to Uzbekistan to gaze at the architectural wonders of Bukhara and Samarkand. From here, we will drive to Tashkent where you will rest and relax at your hotel. The next day, we will continue our trip to Tajikistan and the ancient city of Khojand, Marguzor Lake, and Penjikent. In the afternoon, we will fly to Dushanbe where we will rest and relax, but the next morning we will tour the city to view its ancient treasures. In the evening we will fly to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. After a good breakfast, we will explore this vibrant capital and its many sites. The next day, we will continue our trip and head for the Kazakh border and visit the ancient town of Shymkent. From this 800 year old city, we will take a memorable train ride to Almaty, where we will visit the financial capital of Kazakhstan. While in Almaty, we will visit the nearby, ancient cities of Turkestan, Arystan Bab, and Aksu Jabagli. Once we have concluded this portion of the trip, we will return to Tashkent via Shymkent, where you gather your souvenirs and memories for the trip home.
As soon as you arrive at the Tashkent International Airport, our outstanding support staff will meet you and whose duty is to help you with all border formalities, assistance in collecting your baggage, and filling out the proper declaration forms. They are very helpful, especially if you are traveling with your family or with a big group since airports and formalities can be a challenge.
Once you have cleared customs, you will be met by a representative of our company who will welcome you to Uzbekistan and escort you to your hotel. Of course, they are there to assist you with your hotel accommodations and answer any questions you have.
After you have rested from your long journey, we will start your tour in the capital of Uzbekistan – the biggest city in Central Asia. While many parts of the old city were destroyed by a terrible earthquake in 1966, it was rebuilt in a very short period through the help of people throughout the former Soviet Union.
However, some parts of the old city survived the earthquake and were able to flourish as before. This part of the city is called Chorsu and will include visiting such sites of historic importance as the BarakKhanMadrasa with its gorgeous turquoise domes and intricate tile work; JamiMosque (Friday Mosque); the KaffalShashiMausoleum ― the poet and scholar; the library of the InstituteAlBukhari, which houses a sacred Koran dating from the seventh century, the only 4th preserved Koran of Osman.
Afterwards, you will enjoy your time in the newer part of the city with its wide boulevards and green, spacious parks; Independence Square, AlisherNavoi Theater, Amir Temur Square, and the Monument of Courage, which is dedicated to the victims of the earthquake in 1966.
After breakfast, we will take you to the airport for your flight to Khiva. Total flight time is about 1.5 hours.
Your driver will meet you at the airport and take you to the hotel, which is located in the center of the ancient city.
After a short rest, you can start your Itchan Kala (internal city wall) tour with our local guide. Your visit to the oldest part of the city will include: Kunya-Ark Fortress and the KurinishKhana (17 c.); Mohammed-Amin-Khan Madrassah (19 c.), Islam Khodja Minaret; Palvan-Kari complex; Abd Al Bobo complex (18 c.); RafanekMadrassah; Mohammed Rakim Khan (19 c.); Amir-TurMadrassah; Sho-I-KalandarBobo Mausoleum.
Lunch time - We recommend having your lunch at the national house. Get acquainted with an Uzbek family, sample delicious Uzbek dishes, and experience their world-famous hospitality!
Continuing city tour:
Mazari Sharif Madrassah; Kheivak Well (10 c.); UchAvlioli (Three Saints) Mausoleum; Jami Mosque (18 c.); Kutluq-Murad InaqMadrassah (19 c.); Pakhlavan Mahmoud Mausoleum.
Free time at your leisure.
You have a free morning in Khiva before we depart to Turkmenistan. After lunch, we will drive to Turkmenistan border. After finishing with border formalities we will be driven to the hotel.
We have a full-day of sightseeing ahead of us in Konye-Urgench.Visitng Konye-Urgench- the capital of Khorezmshahs (3rd – 16th centuries). Our tour of this ancient city includes: Portal of Caravansaray (11th-14th centuries), Mamun Minaret (10th-11th centuries), Il Arslan Mausoleum (12th century), Sultan Tekesh Mausoleum (13th century), Academy of Khorezm (3rd-13th centuries), KutlugTimur Minaret (14th century) - one of the tallest minarets in Central Asia, TurabekHanum Mausoleum (14th century), Najm Ed Din Kubra (13th century), and the Soltan Ali (15th century) mausoleums which are located near Dash Metjit/Medrese (19th century). Later in the day we will continue our journey with our flight to Ashgabat.
In the morning, we will commence our tour of Ashgabat. Our first stop will be the Turkmenbashynyn Ruhy Metjidi, which is biggest in Central Asia. The Mausoleum Complex of the Tombs of Turkmenbashy includes his parents with his brothers. We will tour Old Nissawhich was once the sanctuary of Parhian Kings. Nissa is situated 15 km to the west of Ashgabat and was founded in the 3rd century B.C. Centuries ago, Nissa was the capital of Parthian Empire which lasted for about 600 years and was the Roman Empire’s biggest competitor. Located here there were the palace and temple buildings, and the depositories and treasury of the Parthian Kings. Recent archaeological excavations of Old Nissa revealed 2 temples - the round & tower. Taking into consideration the great scientific-cultural meaning, the site of the ancient town was declared a historical-cultural preserve by UNESCO. We will proceed to the Monuments of Archabil Shayoly (Berzengi) and observe the modern section of Ashgabat with its modern buildings, monuments, and parks. Health Path of Turkmenbashy built into the mountains is a very popular place among the locals, especially its park for picnicking and relaxation. The Monument of Constitution opened on 2011 and is the tallest building in Turkmenistan (185 meters). The newly opened Alem Culture Center is the home of the world’s biggest indoor Ferris wheel. The Museum of Turkmen Carpets is believed to be one of three indoor carpet museums in the world; here is kept the largest hand-made carpet in the world. After lunch, we will proceed with a visit to the National Museum of History & Ethnography. It is highly recommended to visit the Arch of Neutrality, where we will find the rotating statue of the first president of Turkmenistan. Our walking tour will proceed with a visit to Independence Park to see the hundreds of fountains and statues. In the early evening will another short walking tour in Inspiration Park (Ylham Seyilgahi). Here you will find statues of famous Turkmen scientists, poets, and other notable people. At night, we will depart for Mary by airplane.
Today we are going to tour the ancient city of Merv. Upon our arrival with will go to your hotel to get settled and relax for a bit. While here we will see the Gyz Gala & Oglan Gala (6th – 7th centuries), Complex of Askhabs (8th – 9th centuries), Gyaur Gala (4th century B.C.), Erk Gala (6th century B.C.), Soltan Gala (11th century), Soltan Sanjar Mausoleum (12th century), and Ibn Zeid Mausoleum(12th century). If time permits, we will tour Mary and the Regional Mosque of Mary Province, The Central Theater of Mary, the Ruhiyet Koshgi Convention & Conference Center, the Central Park and Mollanepes Monument.This monument commemorates the classical poet who lived in Mary in 18th -19th centuries. Upon completion of this part of the tour, we will begin our drive to the Uzbek border. However, during our trip we will stop in Turkmenabad to observe the 900 meter long Floating Bridge over the Amu Darya River. From this vantage point we can see the oldest railroad bridge in Central Asia (19th century) that was once the only connection between the north and south. Once we pass through the border checkpoint, we will proceed to Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
Your personal guide will come to pick you up at the hotel and you can start exploring the fabulous caravan city of Bukhara. UNESCO, in naming Bukhara a World Heritage site, states: “It is the most complete example of a medieval city in Central Asia, with an urban fabric that has remained largely intact.” You will have an active day by visiting: Lyab-i-Hauz – a cozy pond where local people get together for a cup of tea; Madrassahs – to learn about ancient Islamic schools: Nadir Divanbegi – Madrassah (17 c.); Magoki Attari (16 c.), Ulug Beg (15 c.), Abdul Aziz (17 c.).
Registan Ensemble, Ark Fortress (16 c.) and Bolo-Hauz complex (18 c.). There is plenty to see after lunch: Visit to Ismael Samani Mausoleum (9-10 c.) – the vault of the Bukhara rulers' dynasty; Chor-Minor, Chashma-Ayub Mausoleums (14 c.); Bukhara local bazaar.
Visit to Old Bukhara: Poli-Kalon ensemble including Minaret (12 c.); Mosque (15 c.); functioning Madrassah Miri-Arab (16 c.); Amir Alim-Khan Madrassah (14 c.); Taqi (trading domes); Kukeldash Madrassah (16 c.); short drive outside of the city to visit theSitorai Makhi Khosa, popularly known as the last Emir’s Summer Palace.
In the evening you can enjoy a national concert of Central Asian music, dancing, and a demonstration of our national clothes.
After the show you will visit a local family to experience Uzbek lifestyle and hospitality; and participate in a master class of making plov – our national dish from rice. (Should be re-confirmed by your local guide).
Enjoy your morning at leisure in Bukhara. This is an excellent opportunity to shop, photograph, or just take a relaxing stroll among the ancient monuments and the old narrow streets.
After lunch, we will drive to our next destination, the beautiful city of Samarkand. On the road, we will have several stops: Gijduvan, a village famous for traditional pottery crafts. You will see a demonstration of the making of traditional bowls, dishes, handicrafts, and handmade textiles (suzanes). This is the perfect place to find souvenirs. Rabat Mallik Caravan Sarai, a motel for traders along the Silk Road (10 c.).
*Another option is to drive to Samarkand through the small town of Shahrisabz. We always leave this decision to be made by the traveler, as it is a 3-hour road trip. Shahrisabz is the birth place of Tamerlane, and possesses 3 popular attractions: Ak – Saray; the ruins of Timur’s Palace; and Kuk Gumbaz – the Friday mosque and Mausoleum of Jahangir, the son of Amir Temur.
Arriving late Samarkand, you will be driven directly to your hotel for rest and relaxation.
We head out to explore this remarkable city, one of the most romantic in the world. This was the center of Tamerlane’s empire, immortalized in the words of Edgar Allen Poe: “Look ‘round thee now on Samarkand! Is not she queen of Earth?” Tamerlane (Timur, 1336-1405) was a descendent of Genghis Khan, but Turkic-speaking and steeped in Persian and Islamic culture. He is credited with dismantling the Mongolian Empire and establishing the great Mughal Empire that eventually stretched all the way to India, where it would last for centuries.Visiting: Guri Emir – Legendary mausoleum where Amir Temur and all his family buried.
Registan Square – World famous complex of 3 madrasahs and the golden domed mosque.
Mosque Bibi Khanum – The biggest mosque ever built in Central Asia as gift to Tamerlane from his wife.
Siyab local bazaar – unique place where you can get acquainted with the life of Samarkand’s people; Shahi - Zinda necropolises, a holy place and cemetery with graves of Temured’s dynasty, and the grave of the cousin of the Prophet Mohammed.
Observatory of Ulugbek – incredible, ancient construction from the 15th century for studying astronomy.
If you are interested in visiting the winery and carpet factory, please do not hesitate to ask your guide/driver.
Your dinner can be organized at Nigina’s family house, a national treasure recognized by UNESCO. (Re-confirm with your guide or driver).
You are free this morning to stroll the streets of Samarkand. Your driver is always at your disposal and can take you anywhere you wish during your spare time. We recommend going to the Registan Square or a local bazaar.
Transfer to Tashkent
Have your cameras handy! While on road, enjoy a small picnic to view the mountain pass near the legendary gate of Tamerlane’s ancient state. Other stops include the second largest river in Central Asia, the Sirdarya, a local fish market, and road side bazaars where the best melons in the region are sold. Depending on the season, there will be another stop at one of the many cotton fields.
Arrival in Tashkent.
Accommodation at hotel.
After breakfast, we will begin our journey to Tajikistan. The drive to the border will take approximately 1 hour, and after finishing with the border formalities, we will continue our trip to Khojand. After exploring this historic town, we will retire to the hotel for an evening of rest and relaxation.
In the morning, we will drive to Marguzor Lake. On the road to the lake we will make several stops to take advantage of the many photo opportunities – make sure your camera batteries are charged! There are many mosques, traditional streets, and several significant madrassa complexes to see. A visit the blue-domed Kok-Gumbaz Mosque; the mausoleum of BoboTago, a local aristocrat; the Chor-Gumbaz, and; the complexes of Sari Mazor and HazratiShoh. We will continue to the museum city of Istarafshan across the Shahriston Pass (3370 m). Istarafshan is one of the most ancient trading centers of Central Asia with some of the oldest and intact Islamic buildings in Tajikistan. At the close of the day you will be accommodated in clean and comfortable cottages for your overnight stay.
Today we will drive to Penjikent. Before reaching our next stop we will take short hikes around Marguzor Lake, such as the “Seven Beauties" (Nezhigon, Soya, Gushor, Nofin, Khurdak, Marguzor and Hazorchashma). They are situated in the Fann Mountains in the southwest branches of the Zarafshon Range. The difference in elevation between the upper and lower lakes is 692m. Some of the lakes’ waters are a green-grey and translucent color, and the setting is quite dramatic. All the lakes except for Hazorchashma were formed by the creation of dams. Arrival in Penjikent.
After breakfast we have a half-day to conclude our exploration of Penjikent. The ancient site of the Sogdians was re-discovered in the mid-twentieth century and is still an active archaeological site that dates from the 5th to 7th centuries. Sogdians were important traders during the heyday of the Silk Road trade routes and are thought to have been Iranian in origin. Penjikent is often referred to as the "Pompeii of Central Asia." We will visit the Penjikent Museum. Then we will continue to the ancient settlement of Sarazm, which is said to have existed 3400- 2000 B.C. Numerous homes, religious buildings, and palaces have been excavated in Sarazm. Many articles made of copper, bronze, lead, silver, and gold, as well as weaponry and ornaments of the 4th to 2nd millennium B.C. have been found at the site. After lunch at a local family’s house, we will drive through the picturesque Fann Mountains to Dushanbe. Arrival and accommodation in the hotel.
In the morning, we will commence our tour of Dushanbe. We will visit the Museum of National Antiquities with exhibits primarily from Tajikistan's pre-Islamic civilizations: the Greek, Bactrian, Buddhist, Hindu, and Zoroastrian periods. Here you will see a statue of Alexander the Great, and wall paintings from ancient Penjikent. The most notable piece in the museum is the enormous, fifteen-hundred-year-old reclining Buddha, which is the largest in existence. Considering that Tajikistan has been so disadvantaged by poverty and politics, the museum is a testament to the people's desire to maintain its cultural treasures. In the evening, we will fly to Bishkek.
Originally a caravan rest stop on one of the branches of the Silk Road through the Tian Shan range, this location was fortified in 1825 by the Uzbek khan of Kokhand with a mud fort. In 1862, the fort was conquered and razed when Tsarist Russia annexed the area. The Russians rebuilt the town over the destroyed fort. The site became a Russian garrison and was redeveloped and named "Pishpek" from 1877 onward by the Russian government, which encouraged the settlement of Russian peasants by giving them fertile black soil farms to develop. In 1926, the city became the capital of the newly established Kirghiz ASSR and was renamed "Frunze" after Mikhail Frunze, Lenin's close associate who was born in Bishkek and played key roles during the 1905 and 1917 revolutions. The city was renamed Bishkek on 5 February 1991 and Kyrgyzstan achieved independence later that year during the breakup of the Soviet Union. Today, Bishkek is a modern city with many restaurants, parks, and cafes.
After breakfast at 8 a.m., we will visit Ala Archa gorge. It is a Natural Park. In the Soviet Times only VIP people had permission to walk here! The Ala Archa Gorge is on a spur of the Tien Shan Mountain Range, just 45 km from Bishkek. We will have an opportunity for a short hiking tour to see a panoramic view of the gorge. Afterwards, we will return to Bishkek for lunch. The second part of the day is dedicated to the City Tour. It includes visiting the Pobeda Square (Victory Square), Duboviy Park (Oak Park), Ala-Too Square, the History Museum, National Philharmonic, and many others places of interest. Tonight we will have our “farewell to Kyrgyzstan” dinner in a national restaurant.
In the morning we will drive to the Kazakhstan border, around 120 km. After border formalities we will be met by our guide and transferred to the hotel for a short rest.
Today you will get acquainted with Almaty's history and begin with the Ascension Cathedral – the second highest wooden building in the world! It was built according to the plan of the famous Russian architect, A. Zenkov. The cathedral was one of the few buildings that survived after the 1911 earthquake. Next to the cathedral there is an alley of spruce trees that were planted by the presidents of different countries. Then you will visit the 28 Panfilov Heroes Memorial Park. This park is dedicated to General Panfilov, a hero of World War II and the members of his division. Nearby is the Glory Memorial which is dedicated to the victims of the Civil War and World War II.
Afterward, you will visit the Museum of Musical Instruments which has a large collection of Kazakh folk musical instruments and musical instruments of different nationalities of the world. After visiting the museum we will drive to the Public Market. It is named a Zelonniy (Green) Bazaar. It is an excellent example of an authentic oriental market. It is still possible to bargain there, so don’t accept the first bid!
Now we will move to the Republic Square. There you will see the Independence Monument and the symbol of the city, the Golden Man statue. Also, there are monuments that depict the prominent events of Kazakh history. After lunch you will have a short excursion to Medeu Valley. It is the home of a winter sports park that includes venues of figure skating, speed skating, and hockey. The speed skating rink has been the scene of over 150 world records. Also located here is the Medeu Dam. Built in the late 1960s, this dam is designed to protect Almaty from potentially devastating mud flows. From the dam you will see the beauty of Medeu Valley, including the surrounding mountains and a panoramic view of the skating complex.
Afterwards we will drive back to Almaty to have dinner. On the way, we will visit the Opera and Ballet Theater and the Parliament House. In the evening, you will take the night train to Shymkent. In the morning, you will arrive at your destination.
You will arrive in Shymkentin the morning. After breakfast, we will visit Shymkent’s Central Bazaar. This is the bazaar where one can truly feel the spirit of Asian life! It is a real paradise for people that are fond of making colorful photos!
After the bazaar, we will drive 160 km (2.5 hours) to Turkestan. This city attracts people with its historical monuments in the open air and a rich history hidden in its heritage. Today, you will have a full-day excursion in Turkestan. We will visit Azret-Sultan historical-architectural complex and KhodjaAkhmedYassayu Mausoleum. Azret–Sultan was first great Muslim holy man that brought Islam to the town. The mausoleum in honor of Kozha Akhmed Yasaui was built on a grand scale by Tamurlaine in the late 14th century. Today this remains one of the largest, outstanding, and best-preserved monuments of the Timurid period, considered to be Kazakhstan’s greatest building. Over the centuries, Muslims have made pilgrimages to this spiritually important site. Also, we will visit Turkistan’s necropolis, oriental baths, and underground mosque. It is a small but very interesting town! Overnight is in a hotel.
In the morning, we will drive to Shymkent. On the way we will visit the renowned Arystan Bab Mausoleum. The mausoleum was erected over the grave of the famous religious mystic Arystan Bab, who lived in 12th century. The first building of the mausoleum was constructed in the 14th-15th centuries, but has been reconstructed many times since then. Most of the structure that you’ll see today was constructed in the early 20th century. However, the carved wooden pillars are the only parts that remain from the original building. Evidence of this can be seen from the inscription on one of the cartridges frieze. In 1971, due to the high groundwater level the mosque was demolished and rebuilt. The building is built from baked bricks. In the afternoon we continue our trip to Shymkent to overnight in a guesthouse.
In the morning you will have a full-day excursion in AksuJabagly State Nature Reserve. This reserve, located on the western spur of the Tien-Shan mountains, covers over 74,000 hectares. Founded in 1926, it was the first natural reserve in Kazakhstan and Central Asia. Within the reserve you will find yourself in altitudinal belts from semi-desert to glacial zones. Several kinds of endemic species of plants grow on the territory of the reserve, and you will be awed with the towering mountain ridges, swift rivers, and natural beauty. There are several interesting destinations inside the park. The Aksu river canyon is one of the deepest canyons in Asia, and you will get acquainted with the fascinating wonders of Aksu Jabagly. We will go on an easy hike in the canyon and enjoy a nice picnic in the clean, mountain air. Dinner and overnight will be in a guesthouse.
In the morning we will drive to Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan border. While this border can be crowded and provide a challenge for the most seasoned traveler, our guide will steer us through the confusion and across the border with little delay. After crossing the border we will take the short drive to our hotel and the rest of the day is free.
Transfer to the airport to begin your journey home. If you would prefer to extend your stay, we can arrange an additional itinerary based upon your interests.
Services included in main tour price:
- Double / Single accommodation with breakfast
- English speaking guide in each city
- Transport service all over tour by luxury air conditioned car
- Portages charge at airports and hotels Tips at the airports and hotels
- Picnic and coffee stops
- Unlimited supply of mineral water
- Unlimited entrance fees to all sightseeing
- Folklore shows in Bukhara city
- Visa support documents
- Farewell dinner with all beverages (Only for groups starting from 6 people)
Services excluded in main tour price:
- Airfare due to the program (international and local)
- All optional deviations from the main itinerary
- Photo-and video charges
- All personal expenses (extra luggage fee, room service, Medical expenses/insurance, etc.)
Moreover, you can also choose one of our free-of-charge activities:
1) Tashkent: Tickets to see performances at the Alisher Navoi Theatre,
Visiting Christian churches,
Cup of tea at Tashkent TV tower restaurant
Subway – you will be amazed by the architecture and artwork in the stations
Tashkent zoo and botanical garden.
Any of the numerous museums in Tashkent
2) Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and Ferghana: Decussating of local wines of local factories, all museums, and theatres. Taking part in national holidays, parties, customs, and traditions. Visiting Uzbek families, schools, medical institutions, bazaars, archives of ancient books, and libraries.
3) Lunches/Dinners. We usually do not include meals on our tours as you might want to have flexibility on your evenings. Just tell your driver the time and your preferences and he will find you a great place. You can have a really good meal between $5 - $10 (USD).