Central Asia's best treasures in culture and heritage are most evident in the two states of Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan. The nostalgia that one gets from just hearing names of civilization epochs like Merv, Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and Shakhri-sabz takes us back to the times of the Arabian Nights. Walking through the narrow lanes of these places gets us right to where it actually took place.
|UNESCO World Heritage Sites covered in this tour|
|1.||Kunya-Urgench, Turkmenistan||2.||Samarkand – Crossroad of Cultures, Uzbekistan|
|3.||Parthian Fortresses of Nisa, Turkmenistan||4.||Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz, Uzbekistan|
|5.||State Historical and Cultural Park “Ancient Merv”, Turkmenistan||6.||Itchan Kala – Khiva, Uzbekistan|
|7.||Historic Centre of Bukhara, Uzbekistan|
|Price (From)||:||US$ 3660|
|Includes international air|
Day 01: Arrive Ashgabat (TURKMENISTAN)
We are cordially welcomed upon arrival at Ashgabat Airport and transferred to our hotel. Hotel check in time is 1500 hrs. Balance of the day is free. The one-party, ex-Soviet state of Turkmenistan is as fascinating as it is mysterious. The lavish city of Ashgabat is a truly unique example of the country’s over-the-top architecture, with immense marble structures lining the streets. In fact, Ashgabat recently won the Guinness World Record for the highest number of white marble-clad buildings in the world—543 new buildings covering an area of 4.5 million square meters!
Overnight: Nusay Hotel, Ashgabat (3 nights)
Day 02: Ashgabat/Mary (Merv)/Ashgabat (Flight)
Embark on a unique exploration of the State Historical and Cultural Park of Ancient Merv* with a short, early morning flight to Mary. As the oldest and preserved of the oasis cities, along the Silk Route, Merv’s history spans to 4,000 years. It was an important city of Achaemenian Empire and was run over by the Macedonians commanded by Alexander the Great, asserting his claim over the lost cities of the great empire. During the Medieval Islamic era it was referred as ‘Uroos-ul-Bilad(mother of the cities) being one of the richest cities and diverse nature of its inhabitants. The invasion of Mongols in 13th century saw a great manslaughter of mankind, more than a million soul were put to sword. This wonderful site is spread in a large area with successive layers of mud habitations called ‘Kalas or fortified cities’ include the earliest sites of Erk Kala, Gaiyur Kala, with huge wall, constructed by Roman prisoners of war, Sultan Kala was the last of inhabited site, the famous pigeon house, ‘Sardoba or ice houses’ were common features of Merv city.
The mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, the Seljuk ruler stands prominent among the ruins. With many graves around. It once boasted majestic mausoleums, fortresses and temples, all of which we will have the chance to explore on our comprehensive tour. Late afternoon, we take our flight back to Ashgabat. (B, D)
Day 03: Ashgabat
Be swept back in time as we explore the epic Parthian Fortresses of Nisa*, one of the earliest and most important cities of the vast Parthian Empire. Nisa served as a strategic and commercial crossroads to the Parthians, as well as a barrier to Roman expansion. We continue our sightseeing tour of the Carpet Museum, where we see a massive collection of tribal carpets ranging from medieval to modern times. Next stop is the halls of the National Museum of Turkmenistan, an incredible collection of Parthian period ivory rhytons (intricately carved vessels used for religious rituals) dating to 2nd century B.C. (B, D)
Day 04: Ashgabat/Dashoguz (Flight) /Kunya Urgench/Nukus (Drive) (UZBEKISTAN)
After a short flight to Dashoguz, we head to Kunya Urgench*. We shall see pre and post Mongol period mausoleums, a 60-meter-high minaret and a mosque dating from the 11th to 16th centuries showcase this region’s legendary past as the centre of the Islamic world. The architecture and décor of these buildings influenced empires as far away as Byzantines and Persia, the unequaled creations of India’s Moghul Empire had its birth in Central Asia. After our explorations, we drive to the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan border point at Khojeli, where we go through border formalities at both checkpoints. While this border point offers a unique experience, one can see the aftermath of the breakup of Soviet Union. A short drive through the delta of Amudarya drive past villages brings us to Nukus – once the port town on the dying Aral Sea.
Overnight: Jipek Joli Hotel, Nukus (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 05: Nukus/Toprak Kala/Khiva (Drive)
Morning we visit Karakalpakstan Regional Art Museum more known for its Savitsky collection, hosts the world's second largest collection of Russian avant-garde art, as well as one of the largest collections of archaeological objects and folk, applied and contemporary art originating from nomadic Central Asia. Afterwards we make our way to Khiva, well-preserved living open air museum of the best of brick architecture. En route, enjoy short stops such as a visit to Shylpyk Kala, the only surviving Tower of Silence dating from 4th and 5th century A.D. Later, discover Toprak Kala, a mud fortress found in the Kizilkum desert, dating from 1st and 2nd century A.D. This impressive fortress served as a winter retreat of a local princely family. We arrive at Khiva, a must-see city for tours to Uzbekistan, we check in to our hotel.
Overnight: Malika Khevaek Hotel or Orient Star Madrassah Hotel, Khiva (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 06: Khiva
An exciting day starts with our walking tour of Khiva as we go back in time at the Ichan-Kala* - the fabled inner town of the old Khiva oasis. The old monuments remain, as coherent and well-preserved example of Muslim architecture of Central Asia. We discover the walled city and its remaining outstanding structures on foot, starting with Ichan Kala, Kalta minor – the half finished minaret, Kunya Arg for a grand view of Khivan monuments from the mud top view and madrassah Rakhimkhon. Later explore Hunarmand workshops, the mausoleum of Pakhalavan Makhmud with its wonderful and unique tile work, the imposing Islam Khodja minaret and museum, Friday mosque with its many wooden pillars and Tashauli harem quarters of the last Khan of Khiva. Following our tour, we have some free time to explore this legendary city. Later we have the unique opportunity to interact with the locals on an intimate visit with a Khivan family. We also experience the newly renovated, Nurullah Bey’s Palace was residence and reception palace of the last Khan of Khiva, constructed in semi Russian style as part of Czarist wooing policy for political influence among the local rulers. (B, D)
Day 07: Khiva/Bukhara (Train)
A new deluxe fast train has been introduced on the Khiva/Bukhara route. Subject to schedules we will take this scenic train ride through Kizilkum desert. Otherwise, enjoy an equally scenic journey by road. We arrive late afternoon at the historical Silk Road city of Bukhara, which dates back over 2,000 years and boasts a lavish collection of more than 140 historical monuments. Bukhara is the most complete example of a medieval city in Central Asia, with an urban fabric that has remained largely intact. We check in to our hotel with the rest of the day free. Evening an optional folk show at the Madrassah Gowkushan.
Overnight: Omar Khayyam Hotel or Hotel Zargaron Plaza Hotel, Bukhara (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 08: Bukhara
Today we explore the Historic Centre of Bukhara*, which offers winding streets and ancient structures reminiscent of Arabian Nights. On our full-day sightseeing tour, we will first walk through the old city. Here we visit Poi Kalon minaret and mosque, as well as Aziz Khan and Ulugbek madrassahs. Later make our way to Tim Abdullah, Tilpak Frushan covered market, Mohgaki Attari mosque, Lyabikhauz - the city pond, madrassah Nadirkhon Devanbegi and Chor minor. Afternoon we continue to explore some of the city’s most stand-out monuments, including Arg Fortress, Zindan (the prison), Balakhauz mosque, Ismail Samanid mausoleum and Chasma Ayub (Joob’s spring). In the evening, we enjoy an unforgettable dinner feast. Walking the narrow lanes of Bukhara through the old Jewish quarters, we visit the house of miniature master Davlat Toshev, a Sufi painter known for his excellent miniatures who has exhibited his work in many parts of Europe. Here we will see his workshop. (B, D)
Day 09: Bukhara/Shakhrisyabz/Samarkand (Drive)
A morning departure for Samarkand with a stop at the stunning Shakhrisyabz. The birthplace of Tamerlane and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town offers a unique ancient panorama. Our visit includes Tamerlane’s famous Ak-Saray Palace and the imposing ‘pishtak’, which supported a huge arched gateway. We can see part of the gateway still surviving partially with its tile and mosaic work. It was an incredible palace took over a quarter century to construct, Spanish ambassador Ruy Gozalez Clavijo was stunned by its intricate decorations during his visit in 1404. The successive internal wars after the death of Tamerlane and later by the Shybanids destroyed last of the structures to ruins. We also see a sycamore tree dating from the 1300s. Shakhrisyabz is known for its embroidery and textiles, and we will have the opportunity to meet and interact with locals before we drive to the historic city of Samarkand.
Overnight: Grand Samarkand Hotel, Samarkand (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 10: Samarkand
A full day dedicated to exploring the Historic town of Samarkand*, a highlight of Silk Road tours. A crossroad at the heart of Central Asia since 7th century B.C. as ancient Afrasiab, Samarkand offers a rich history reflected in its magical monuments and winding streets. We start our discovery with Registan Square, known as one of the noblest public squares in the world. Later we visit Bibi Khanum’s mosque and Siyob Bazaar a fascinating market reminiscent of Silk Road days that sits under the shadow of the mosque. Next experience Shahi Zinda royal necropolis. Afternoon see Afrosiab Museum – see the wall murals as wall scrapping from Palace and aristocracy residences from nearby site is a striking imagination of how the houses used to look like. Later we shall visit Ulugbek’s Observatory, built by Tamerlane’s grandson astronomer king – who finds his name among the renowned astronomers of the world. Built in 1400s survives with its huge sextant found buried on a hill top and only rediscovered 100 years ago. Later we shall visit Kunhil traditional paper mill making paper from mulberry bark. Afterwards drive to Gur Emir, the glorious mausoleum of Tamerlane and his grandson Ulugbek and some of his courtiers. (B, D)
Day 11: Samarkand/Tashkent (Train)
Morning transfer to the train station for a fast train to Tashkent. On arrival, explore the leafy streets of Uzbekistan’s capital. Our visit takes us to the Old City. Here we see Khast-Imom Complex, site of the world famous Quran of Caliph Uthman/Ottoman. We also explore the beautiful Madrasah of Barak-Khan, Tilla Sheikh Mosque, the Mausoleum of the Saint Abu Bakr Kaffal Shashi, and the Islamic Institute of Imam al-Bukhari, as well as vibrant Chor-Su Bazaar and Mustaqillik Square.
Overnight: Lotte Hotel, Tashkent (1 night) (B, D)
Day 12: Depart Tashkent
After a fascinating cultural adventure on the Silk Road tour, we are transferred to the airport for our departure flight. Check out time is by 1100 hrs. (B)
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
Departure Dates & Prices
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