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Silk Road Adventure
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan & Tajikistan
June 1 - 21, 2024

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Off The Beaten Path
 

This is a true adventure, for those unattached to traditionally western “luxury”, and prepared for long (sometimes bumpy) days of travel, on roads that relatively few travel.

 

It will be a private tour through the 5 “Stans”, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, and organised through a highly experienced and reputable company. Evelyn will be the primary liaison, both before and during the tour, but we will also have experienced local guides and drivers all along the way.

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Following in the footsteps of Genghis Khan, we will journey across deserts, rolling steppes, fertile valleys and majestic mountains that form the backdrop to the 5 former Soviet republics of Central Asia:Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. We will experience traditional villages, ancient towns and modern cities which tell stories of advancing Greek and Persian armies, marauding Mongolian hordes, traders selling their wares along the Silk Road, philosophers, astronomers, communist experiments and post-Soviet eccentrics.
 

This epic journey through the heart of Central Asia will take us to ancient mosques, alpine lakes bordered by yurt camps, grand monuments, rural villages, colourful markets and the famous Darvaza gas crater - the flaming “Gates to Hell”. We'll visit Ancient historical cities and beautifully tiled mosques and madrasas.

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The group size will be limited to 14 participants, plus Evelyn, drivers and guides

 

Included
English Speaking Guides
16 nights Hotel accommodation (ensuite)
1 night in a homestay (up to 6 in a room)
1 night in a guest house (with shared bathroom facilities)
1 night in a yurt (up to 4 people per yurt)
1 night in a tent (wild camping)
17 Breakfasts
2 Lunches
4 Dinners
All Entrance Fees
Train Tickets - Tashkent - Samarkand - Bukhara
Land Transportation
1 Flight - Almaty - Dushanbe
One day 7 Lakes Tour
Airport Transfers on days 1 & 21 (there is a charge if arriving/leaving on different days)

 

Not Included
International Flights 

(arrival is in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and departure from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan)

Meals not Listed
Visas (including $100 USD at the 
Tajikistan/Uzbekistan border)
Tips (for drivers and guides, recommended average 8 € a day)
Insurance (required)

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 Highlights

 

Chon-Kemin Valley - picturesque high-mountain natural complex in Kyrgyzstan

Isskyk Kul - "the pearl of Kyrgyzstan" and second largest mountain lake in the world


Charyn Canyon (Kazakhstan) - often compared to the Grand Canyon because of its impressive colourful rock formations

 

Iskanderkul Lake (Tajikistan) - one of the most exquisite lakes in all of the former Soviet Union nations


Khast Imam Complex (Uzbekistan) - containing the ancient holy Quran of Caliph Osman


Kyzylkum Desert - literally translated as "Red Sands Desert"


Darvaza gas crater - also knows as "The Doors to Hell", one of the most fascinating sights in Tukmenistan


Ancient historical cities and beautifully tiled mosques and madrasas

Itinerary

 

June 1, Saturday - Day 1: Arrival in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan)

After everyone checks in, we have a guided city tour of this charming capital city of Kyrgyzstan, the greenest in Central Asia.  This will include stops at the Oak Park, Central Square Ala – Too,  the Philharmonic Hall and Victory Square. 

June 2, Sunday - Day 2: Bishkek - Burana - Chon Kemin Valley

An early start from Bishkek, heading east, after 80 km we arrive  at Burana Tower. We continue driving further into the mountains to a guesthouse in the beautiful Chon-Kemin Valley, for lunch, an afternoon walk in the village, or optionally a short horseback tour   in the surrounding hills. Dinner and overnight at the guesthouse. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.

June 3, Monday - Day 3: Chon Kemin - Issyk Kul Lake (270 km, 6 hrs driving)

After breakfast we drive to Issyk Kul; the “Pearl of Kyrgyzstan”.  We  stop in Kochkor to see traditional felt carpets making. Shortly after this we arrive at Issyk Kul, for a drive along the southern shore to  “Skazka” or “Fairytale” canyon; a bizarre landscape with fabulous rock formations. Then a short drive to Lake Issyk Kul, the second-largest mountain lake in the world, (after Titicaca in Bolivia). At an altitude of 1600 metres, it is slightly saline with no outlet, surrounded completely by the Tien Shan Mountains. 200 metres from the lake is a yurt camp where we will spend the night, (up to 4 people per yurt, shared bathroom facilities). Breakfast and dinner included.

June 4, Tuesday - Day 4: Issyk Kul Lake - Jety Oguz - Karakol - Tepke (150 km, 4-5 hrs driving)

We drive east along the southern shore of Issyk Kul towards the town of Karakol, through the valley of Jety Oguz, famous for its red rock formations; “Seven Bulls” and “The Broken Heart”. In Karakol, we have a short sightseeing tour; Dungan Mosque, built in 1904, with no metal nails, the wooden Russian Orthodox Church (1869), and a small local historical Museum. Breakfast and dinner included.

June 5, Wednesday - Day 5: Karakol (Kyrgyzstan) - Charyn Canyon (Kazakhstan) - Almaty (400 km, 7-8 hrs driving)

Crossing the mountains into Kazakhstan, we will drive to Almaty,  the former capital and largest city in Kazakhstan. The road is long and rough, but about half-way, we will stop to see one of the most  magnificent natural sights of Kazakhstan; Charyn Canyon.  Frequently compared to the Grand Canyon, although much smaller in size, with a total length of 80-90 kilometres. We will visit the part known as “Valley of Castles”, for its unusual rock formations. We arrive in Almaty late afternoon. Breakfast included.

June 6, Thursday - Day 6: Almaty

Almaty is the largest city of Central Asia’s richest country; Kazakhstan. Until 1997 it was the capital, and remains the business and educational centre. Roads are wide and tree-lined with wonderful views of the Zailisky Ala-Too mountains. Almaty translates to “the place with apples”, and it is believed they originated here. In Panfilov Park we will visit Zenkov Cathedral. Built in 1904, without a single metal nail, it is one of the world’s tallest wooden buildings. There is also the impressive Soviet Glory Memorial. Adjacent to the park is the Museum of Musical Instruments, with many traditional instruments of the region.  In the afternoon we drive half an hour up to Medeo ice skating rink and take a cable car to see the lovely views of the Shymbulak ski area.  Breakfast is included.

June 7, Friday - Day 7: Almaty (Kazakhstan) - Dushanbe (Tajikistan) City Tour

After breakfast we catch an Air Astana flight to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. Originally, Dushanbe was a small village around a Monday market; “Dushanbe” translated from Persian means Monday. During Soviet Union times it became the industrial centre of Tajikistan. After meeting our new Tajik guide, we will check into our hotel, and then take a walk to the Botanical Garden. We will also visit the Ismail Samani Statue and Rudaki park, dedicated to the great Persian poet Rudaki, who lived during the 9th century Samanid time. Breakfast included.

June 8, Saturday - Day 8: Dushanbe - Iskander Kul - Penjikent (290 km, 7 hrs driving), Fann Mountains & Pamir Highway

Following an early breakfast we drive to Iskanderkul Lake, named for Alexander the Great. Triangular in shape, it is one of the most exquisite lakes in the former Soviet Union nations, nestled in the Fan Mountains at an altitude of 2,200 metres. On route we will enjoy spectacular rugged mountains scenery. We will take a short hike to a nearby waterfall, described as the “Niagara Falls of the Fan Mountains”. We then drive another four hours to the town of Penjikent. Breakfast included.

June 9, Sunday - Day 9: Seven Lakes Day Trip

A very bumpy ride into the Fan mountains, to the “Seven Lakes”. The mountain valley is not far from Penjikent, but due to the unpaved road this trip takes a full day. From the sixth lake there is a short and easy hike of about two hours to the seventh and highest lake; Hazorchashma. We drive back to Penjikent for our overnight stay. Breakfast and lunch are included.

June 10, Monday - Day 10: Penjikent - Istarafshan - Khujand (270 km, 6-7 hrs driving)

From Penjikent we travel north to Istarafshan, and then on to Khujand. The Istarafshan road is very beautiful, crossing Shahriston Pass. Istarafshan was founded by Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC, and just celebrated its 2500th anniversary. The Timurids of the 14th century called the city Ura-Tube. Today, Istarafshan is well known in Tajikistan for its blacksmiths and their hand-crafted knives, whose workshops we will visit. From Istarafshan we will drive to Khujand, the second largest city in Tajikistan. Breakfast included.

June 11, Tuesday - Day 11: Khujand
Khujand is in the Fergana Valley on the Syr Darya river. It is another ancient city dating back to Cyrus the Great of Persia and Alexander the Great. Now the second largest city in Tajikistan with Tajikistan’s  largest market; Panjshanbe Bazaar. Our city tour includes the bazaar, the adjacent Maslihaddin Mosque, the historical Museum of Khujand and Arbob palace. Breakfast included.

 

June 12, Wednesday - Day 12: Khujand (Tajikistan) - Tashkent (Uzbekistan) (180 km, 4 hrs travel)

We drive to Oybek, the border point between Khujand (Tajikistan) and Tashkent (Uzbekistan). Here we meet our Uzbek driver and take a 2 hour bus-ride to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan and largest city in Central Asia. Our city tour includes the Old City area, home of the Khast Imam Complex, which contains the ancient holy Quran of Caliph Osman. We’ll experience the bustling traders at Chor-Su Bazaar before a ride on the famous Soviet-era metro system which, like Moscow’s, features some of the most ornately decorated stations in the world. We will exit at Amir Temur Square Station to view the statue of the great conqueror and the grand Independence Square. We will then visit the Applied Arts Museum. Breakfast Included.

 

June 13, Thursday - Day 13: Tashkent - Samarkand (270 km, 2 hrs by train)

We will have an early breakfast before going to the railway station to take high-speed Afrosiyob train to Samarkand; about a two hour journey. That afternoon we begin our exploration of this fascinating city and former capital of the Timurid Empire. We start with the Siyob Bazaar and the impressive Bibi Khanum Mosque next to it. Then we see Samarkand’s and Uzbekistan’s most famous landmark, the spectacular Registan Square. The focal point of ancient Samarkand is framed by three beautiful madrassas ; Ulugbek, Sherdor and Tillya Kori. We finish the day with a visit to Gur-Emir mausoleum, where Timur is buried. Breakfast included.

June 14, Friday - Day 14: Samarkand - Bukhara (train -1.5 hrs)

Today we tour just outside the city, and in the village Koni Ghil we will observe traditional Samarkand mulberry paper-making. Back in the city, we’ll visit Ulugbek’s observatory; once the biggest research center of Central Asia. Ulugbek was decades ahead of the West with his observations of the solar system, and we will learn his history. Next stop is Shah-i-Zinda, the necropolis where family members of Timur are buried. That afternoon we visit Afrasiyab Museum. Then we catch a high-speed train to Bukhara, where we stay overnight. Breakfast included.

June 15, Saturday - Day 15: Bukhara

For centuries Bukhara was an important trading post and academic centre. The Old Town is well preserved and full of minarets, mosques, and madrassas. Its notorious canals and pools were once the source of many epidemics, and most have now been drained. The most famous, Lyabi-Hauz, remains; an oasis, shaded by mulberry trees, in the heart of the city. Highlights of the walking tour in the Old Town are Kalon Complex, Ark Fortress, Bolo Hauz Mosque, Chiobs Mausoleum (with its spring), the local market, the Museum of the Samanids, and in the evening the Synagogue and puppet workshop. Breakfast included.

 

June 16, Sunday - Day 16: Bukhara - Khiva (480 km, 8-9 hrs of driving)

A very long day driving through the Kyzylkum desert. The reward being Khiva, where we will arrive by evening. Breakfast included.

June 17, Monday - Day 17: Khiva

Breakfast and then a walking tour of this marvellous city full of historical sites. The walled inner-city section, Ichan Kala, preserves more than fifty historic monuments and hundreds of old houses dating back centuries, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking through the enormous city gates, we find the glistening Islamic beacon, the Kalta-minor Minaret. Our guided tour embraces all the city sites, and includes an ascent of the Islam Khodja Minaret, the highest minaret in Khiva. Breakfast included.

June 18, Tuesday - Day 18: Khiva (Uzbekistan) - Kunya Urgench (Turkmenistan) - Darvaza Gas Crater (400 km, 7-8 hrs of travel)

We head to the Turkmenistan border point Shavat-Dashoguz (60 km, 1 hr). We reach the border at 9:00 AM when it opens and go through formalities at both checkpoints. We cross the 1.5 km neutral zone (by minibus). With our invitation letter we each acquire a Turkmenistan visa for $100 USD, (banknotes must be in good condition to be accepted). On the Turkmenistan side we meet our Turkmen guide and driver and transfer to Kunya Urgench (100 km drive, 2 hrs). We visit mausoleums of Turebek Khanym, Sultan Tekesh, Sultan Il Arslan, Najmad-din-Kubra, Sultan Ali, plus the Kutlug Timur Minaret and Kyrk Molla hill. In the afternoon we drive to Darwaza gas crater located in the middle of Karakym desert (270 km, 4-5 hrs). We then set-up camp and enjoy a delicious fire-cooked dinner near the burning gas crater. We then sleep in tents (wild camping). Breakfast and dinner included.

June 19, Wednesday - Day 19: Darvaza - Ashgabat (280 km, 5 hrs travel)

On route to Ashgabat we visit the Erbent desert community. In Ashgabat, after our hotel check-in and a rest, we have a short sightseeing tour (3-4 hrs), of this capital of Turkmenistan, the centre of a “Marble Architecture” boom for the past 25 years. We visit the National Museum of History, the Arch of Neutrality, and the newly built Independence Park. Our tour concludes at the Terrace restaurant (7th floor) with dinner and a lovely view of the Independence Park and surroundings. Breakfast included.

June 20, Thursday - Day 20: Ashgabat - Goekdepe - Ashgabat (250 km, 5hr driving)

Another busy day! After breakfast, we drive to the beautiful Old Nisa fortress (UNESCO World Heritage site), the earliest of Parthian Empire capitals, located in an atmospheric area on an irregular pentagon hill, at the foot of the Kopet-Dag Mountains. 14 hectares in size, the fort accommodates two semi-excavated complexes of Parthian period (III c. BC – III c. AD), structures designated as a royal residence and temple complex. From Nisa fortress, we  continue to the Spiritual Mosque, one of the largest in Central Asia.  Driving back to Ashgabat, we stop en-route at National Memorial Complex “Halk Hakydasy” with WWII and 1948 earthquake victims' memorials. We also visit a farm in Geokdepe, (50 km west of Ashgabat), where famous Turkmen Akhal Teke horses are bred. Breakfast included

June 21, Friday - Day 21: Departures

Breakfast included.

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Prices 
We ask for some flexibility here as the prices could change, dependent on how many people sign up

 

5-7 participants

Shared Occupancy - €3,097
Single Occupancy (only available for 16 hotel stays) - €3,487

 

8-14 participants

Shared Occupancy - €2,760
Single Occupancy (only available for 16 hotel stays) - €3,150

 

For Travel and Visa info, please go to the Travel Plans page
 

Prior to booking, please CONTACT us, so we can decide together whether this trip would be a good fit for you
 

Payment

Payment for this Trip will be in €’s only, and made directly through a 3rd party travel company.

Suggested Reading

Genghis Khan and The Making of the Modern World

This book was one of Evelyn's motivations for spending a month in Mongolia in 2013, and since that time the Silk Road has been at the top of her bucket list of places to experience. She originally had plans to go in 2020, which were scuppered for obvious reasons! Then a fabulous tour of Ireland with like-minded others  inspired her to see if others might want to join her on this adventure also.

 

Lonely Planet Guide to Central Asia 

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