Join our Silk Road Tour through Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan


Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan & Tajikistan - Heart of the Silk Road

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 15 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers

Dossier

The legendary ‘Silk Road’ occupies a mythical place in the imaginations of western travellers, a remote region in the centre of the Eurasian landmass through which countless traders journeyed on their voyages between Europe and the Far East. As well as commerce, the exchange of ideas and cultures flowed through the various arteries of the Silk Road, resulting in an incredible flowering of architecture, education and religion. Tucked away between the Indian subcontinent and Russia lay the legacies and monuments of numerous civilisations, and a warm and friendly people with intriguing cultural traditions. This tour takes you on a journey through the enigmatic sites and unique cultures of this mystical region. We visit the truly astounding sites of Khiva and central Asia’s holiest city, Bukhara and of course take in the spectacular architecture of Samarkand’s Registan – one of the most stunning collections of architecture to be found anywhere. Stepping further afield we travel to Turkmenistan and the ancient capital of Konye-Urgench as well as the splendid site of Merv, and cross the border to Tajikistan with its stunning mountain scenery. This breathtaking region has often been at the centre of world history, its strategic routes fought over by Mongols, Russians, British and many more and its treasures long coveted by others. Those who travel here will understand why.


Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●●● | Wildlife ●○○○○

Tour Pace

Busy

Tour Highlights   

  • The splendour of the cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand
  • The desert wonders of Merv.
  • The striking monuments of Ashgabat
  • The stunning scenery of Lake Iskander Kul

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Mix of simple but comfortable hotels and tourist cottages
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary.
Group Size: Maximum of 12
Start Point: Tashkent
End Point: Tashkent
Transport: Private cars or minibuses, flights as detailed in the itinerary
Countries: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan & Tajikistan 

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. On this tour you will have a different guide for each country and it is planned that your time in Uzbekistan will be with the same guide.

Day 1 – Tashkent

Arrive in Tashkent and transfer to the hotel accommodation. In the afternoon there will be a city tour of some of the sites of Tashkent including the Chorsu Bazaar, Hast Imam Square and Kukeldahs Madrassa, with a ride on the metro system. Overnight at Shodlik Palace or similar. No meals are included today.

Tashkent

Uzbekistan’s capital displays its Silk Road heritage even today. An ancient city dating back 2000 years it is the largest in Central Asia and probably it’s most cosmopolitan. Although much of it has been rebuilt following an earthquake in the 1960s, its old quarters still retain their charm with narrow streets and 500 year old mosques, medressas and other religious buildings. Tashkent has always been a centre of commerce and trading links established with Russia made it wealthy during the Middle Ages. In the middle of the 19th century it was a focus of rivalry between the Emir of Bukhara and the city of Khokand to which Tashkent paid tribute. Seizing the opportunity to take advantage of the regional turmoil, the Russian army was able to gain control of Tashkent, bringing it under the Tsar’s rule in a gradual process of imperial expansion throughout Central Asia. Tashkent became the capital of Russian Turkestan and attracted great numbers of immigrants – today there are sizeable Russian and Korean communities within the city.

Day 2 – Tashkent to Khiva (Approximate journey time: one hour)

This morning we return to the airport and fly to Urgench, driving from there to Khiva. The ancient khanate is a stunning city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, possessing a wealth of remarkable monuments. The afternoon is spent exploring its sights, including mosques and madrassas, and mausoleums of former khans. Overnight Malika Khiva Hotel or similar. (B)

Khiva

Khiva is one of the true highlights of this astounding region – its ancient monuments have been superbly preserved and its historic centre contains more than fifty of them, along with around 250 old houses dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The inner town, or Ichon Qala, is encircled by 18th century mud walls and holds the cream of Khiva’s sites, a collection of remarkable palaces, mosques and mausoleums capped with bright blue domes and bedecked with stunning decoration. Minarets poke into the sky while its graceful archways betray links with Moghul India, and it is easy to visualise what this city once looked like when it was one of the most important in the region. Khiva was once an independent khanate renowned as a centre of the slave trade – raiders from Khiva would set off to vulnerable communities bringing back slaves to live in tortuous conditions, or be sold to end up somewhere else along the Silk Road. Peter the Great first sought to bring Khiva under his control in 1717, but it was not to be – Russian forces were tricked and then massacred, humiliating the Tsar. In following years a number of attempts were made to free Russian slaves and take Khiva but it was not until 1873 that it fell.

Day 3 – Khiva

Today we continue to visit the city’s sights. After lunch there’ll be time to explore independently on foot. Overnight Malika Khiva Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 4 – Khiva - Konye-Urgench – Dashogus - Ashgabat (Approximate journey time: four hours)

Leaving Khiva, we cross the border into little-known Turkmenistan, heading for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Konye-Urgench, an ancient capital of the land of Khorezm known for its beautiful mausoleums. Afterwards we drive to the airport at Dashogus for a flight to Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat. Overnight Ak Altyn Hotel or similar. (B)

Please note that the procedure for crossing borders can be lengthy even at quieter times. The border guards (especially those on the Uzbekistan side) carry out thorough searches of luggage and will pay close attention to any medicines and reading materials.

Konye-Urgench

Konye-Urgench was the capital of the ancient land of Khorezm in the 10th century, but has not had the easiest time since then. Falling first to the Seljuks and then falling under the control of their successors the Khorezmshahs, it enjoyed a brief period as the centre of Islamic Central Asia, replete with numerous beautiful mosques and medressas. This was not to last long however. In 1221 it was attacked by the armies of Genghis Khan, who besieged the city for six months before destroying it, leaving little but ashes and bodies. ‘Konye-Urgench became the abode of the jackal and the haunt of the owl and the kite’, wrote one local historian. Having rebuilt itself it was then sacked by Timur (Tamerlane) adding to its woes. Fortunately, a few architectural monuments survived this tragedy, notably the impressive mausoleums of former sultans as well as arched gates and fortresses which stand as testament to the former glories of this remote corner of Asia.

Day 5 – Ashgabat - Mary

Today we discover the sights of Ashgabat, a modern city characterised by extensive and some would say eccentric building projects. Later we return to the airport and fly to Mary, an oasis town close to the ancient city of Merv. Overnight Mary Hotel or similar. (B)

Ashgabat

Ashgabat was a fairly insignificant town before the arrival of the Russians, who chose it as an administrative centre and began to develop it in the late 19th century. In 1948 it was hit by a powerful earthquake which all but destroyed the city, which had to be completely rebuilt. Although reconstruction occurred during the Soviet era, it is Ashgabat’s development since independence in 1991 which has given the city its very unusual character. A pet project of the then dictator Niyazov, Ashgabat was the focus of his ‘nation building’ efforts and as such is home to a bewildering array of monuments, most of them faced with white marble tiles that give the city an almost glittering effect. There are few cities in the world that are so linked to one man, and Ashgabat is a striking and unusual place, at odds with other Central Asian cities but fascinating in its own right.

Day 6 – Mary - Merv - Bukhara (Approximate driving time: five hours)

This morning we visit the array of mosques, citadels and Buddhist stupas found at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Merv, the most important ancient site in Turkmenistan, dating back 2,500 years. Afterwards we cross the border back into Uzbekistan and head to Bukhara, Central Asia’s holiest city. Overnight Caravan Hotel or similar. (B)

Merv

The site of Merv spreads over one hundred square kilometres and holds the remains of a number of ancient cities spread over centuries. At various times it has been home to Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Christians and Moslems and has been controlled by a number of dynasties including the Timurids. Merv’s attractions are wide and varied – mausoleums of former rulers and Sufi scholars, old Seleucid citadels, traditional ‘ice houses’ and the remains of ancient walls. Merv was comprehensively sacked by the Mongols in the 13th century but rose to prominence again under the Timurids two hundred years later. With so many influences, Merv is a microcosm of Central Asian history and a delight to explore.

Day 7 – Bukhara

We spend today exploring Bukhara, another UNESCO World Heritage Site and where a superbly preserved old quarter makes it one of the region’s most spectacular cities. Overnight Caravan Hotel or similar. (B)

Bukhara

Mighty Bukhara is renowned as the holiest of Central Asia’s cities and is said to have been in existence when Alexander the Great passed through the region, more than two thousand years ago. Its old centre is exceptionally well preserved and contains old medressas and mosques, ancient minarets and protected buildings dating back as far as the 10th century. The independent khanate of Bukhara was one of the focal points of the ‘Great Game’ – a period of imperial rivalry between Britain and Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries that saw each seek to expand their influence. The British sent Alexander Burnes to the city in 1832 in an attempt to bring the city into their sphere of influence, but this was inconclusive and although Burnes was treated well, later emissaries were to fare far worse – two English officers were kept captive there for some time before eventually being executed in Bukhara’s Registan square.

Day 8 – Bukhara - Gijduvan – Samarkand (Approximate driving time: five hours)

After breakfast we drive to the legendary city of Samarkand, stopping en route at Gijduvan, locally renowned as a centre for ceramics. Upon arrival in Samarkand we begin to explore. Overnight Malika Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 9 - Samarkand

Today is dedicated to discovering Samarkand’s remarkable ancient heritage. The city is most famous for its UNESCO World Heritage Site of Registan which contains perhaps the most breath-taking architecture in the whole region. It’s easy to spend hours among the square’s mosques and madrassas, all elaborately decorated in blue ceramic tiles and traditional Islamic art. Overnight at Malika Hotel or similar. (B)

Samarkand

Samarkand is perhaps the most atmospheric of all of Uzbekistan’s and the whole region’s cities, a glorious collection of immaculately preserved monuments that reach their climax in the superb Registan square, renowned as the finest architectural ensemble in Central Asia. Founded in the 8th century BC by the Persians, Samarkand has always been an important centre for the various forces passing through and has at times been controlled by Arabs, Sogdians and the armies of Alexander the Great. It was Timur who left the greatest mark on the city, designating it as his capital and embarking on a program of building that was continued after his death to produce one of the most startling sights in Asia. Vivid blue capped minarets jostle for space with tiled medressas, enormous arched gateways decorated with Islamic art and numerous mosques and mausoleums of the great and the good, as well as a marvellous observatory built by the ruler and astronomer Ulug Beg. Samarkand takes your breath away – there is no other place like it.

Day 10 – Smarkand - Penjikent (Approximate driving time: one to two hours)

After breakfast we cross the border into Tajikistan, driving towards Penjikent and stopping at the nearby UNESCO World Heritage site of Sarazm, dating from 3,500 BC. Penjikent itself has a remarkably well-preserved old town, a vestige of its past significance as a Silk Road trading city. On arrival there’s time to explore the city. Overnight Sughd Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 11 – Penjikent - Dushanbe (Approximate driving time: three-and-a-half-hours)

Leaving Penjikent, we drive to Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan, over the 2,900m Anzob Pass. On arrival there’s time to see some of the sights and soak up the atmosphere of a little-visited Central Asian city. Overnight Hotel Vatan or similar. (BLD)

Dushanbe

Dushanbe is a relatively modern town that rose to prominence during the Soviet era, when it was made the capital of the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and named Stalinabad. Its name means ‘Monday in the Tajik language, arising from the fact that this was the day that the market was held, when Dushanbe was still a small and fairly insignificant village. The ousted Emir of Bukhara, fleeing from the Bolsheviks, stayed in Dushanbe and cooperated with Enver Pasha’s Basmachis until he had to leave the region. From Dushanbe, he fled to Afghanistan in 1921, the year the town was freed from the Basmachis as well.

Day 12 - Dushanbe - Iskanderkul (Approximate driving time: four hours)

It’s a stunning drive today, for the most part on a surprisingly good roads, through the lofty Fann Mountains to Iskanderkul. On arrival there’s time to hike around the lake shore, exploring nearby waterfalls, springs and villages. Overnight Tourist Cottages. (BLD)

Day 13 – Istravshan- Khudjand (Approximate driving time: three-and-a-half-hours)

After breakfast we drive over Shahristan Pass, through the Azob Tunnel to Khujand, the capital of northern Tajikistan. En route we will stop in Istravshan and visit the Mugh Fortress, Kok-Gumbaz Madrassa, Chor-Gumbaz mosque, and a local bazaar. On arrival we have time for a city tour. Highlights include Pushkin Square, Kamoli Khujandi Square, the fortress of Timur Malik and the city’s central market, one of the oldest in Tajikistan. Overnight Khujand Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 14 – Tashkent (Approximate driving time: four hours)

Today we cross back into Uzbekistan and drive to Tashkent for our final night. Overnight Shodlik Palace or similar. (B)

Day 15 – Tashkent

The tour ends today after breakfast with airport transfers departing to meet onward flights. (B)

Optional Extension - Fergana Valley

Day 1- Tashkent - Fergana (Approximate driving time: five hours)

After a leisurely breakfast we drive to Fergana, stopping at Kamchik Pass for photos. If we arrive in good time there may be an opportunity to look around. Overnight Hotel Asia Fergana or similar. (B).

Day 2- Rishtan – Margilan

Today we visit Rishtan, famous for its traditional cobalt pottery techniques, Margilon to witness traditional silk production, and later call in at a local bazaar. Overnight Hotel Asia Fergana or similar. (B).

Day 3- Kokand – Tashkent

After breakfast drive back to Tashkent via Kokand visiting Khudoyar Khan’s Palace, the Norbuta Museum- Bia Madrassah, and the Modarikhon Mausoleum. Overnight at Shodlik Palace Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 4- Tour ends.

The tour ends today after breakfast with airport transfers departing to meet onward flights. (B)

Tour Inclusions:

Arrival and departure transfers

Flights as detailed in the itinerary

Transport throughout

All accommodation

Services of English speaking guide / tour leader. On this tour you will have a different guide for each country and it is planned that your time in Uzbekistan will be with the same guide.

Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)

Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Excluded:

International flights

Any airport taxes

Travel Insurance

Visas

Drinks

Tips (discretionary)

 


Other tours in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan Embraced »