Explore the heart of Central Asia—the fabled “Land of the Caravans”—on this exciting 18-day journey. As the world’s oldest and longest trade route, the Silk Road linked eastern and western cultures for more than a thousand years. In this Silk Road tour, we wind our way through the five “Stans”, a Persian suffix meaning “home of” or “place of”. Explore the historic cities and meet the locals of the historic cities Samarkand, Khiva, Bukhara and more. We follow the steps of Marco Polo and other famous adventures, visit 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites—and explore through all sorts of transportation means—airplane, vehicle, and a deluxe modern train. This popular tour, operating for over 10 years, has been revised this year to include new attractions with the addition of one extra day.
|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||8.||Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor – Site of Burana, Kyrgyzstan|
|Price (From)||:||US$ 6095|
|Includes international air|
Day 01: Arrive Ashgabat (TURKMENISTAN)
Welcome to Turkmenistan! We are warmly received at Ashgabat Airport and transferred to our hotel. Check-in to our hotel is at 1400hrs. We have the rest of the day free to explore Ashgabat. The one-party, ex-Soviet state of Turkmenistan is as fascinating as it is mysterious. The lavish city is a true example of the country’s impressive architecture, with extraordinary 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 buildings covering 4.5 million square meters!
Overnight: Nusay Hotel, Ashgabat (3 nights)
Day 02: Ashgabat/Mary (Merv)/Ashgabat (Flight)
We begin our journey along the Silk Road with a short early morning flight to the city of Mary—historically known as Merv. Our stop is the State Historical and Cultural Park of Ancient Merv*. As the oldest and most preserved of the oasis cities along the Silk Route, it has served as an urban centre for the last 4000 years. Merv has been home to a diverse group of people, with a culturally rich history of conquest, innovation, and invaders. Part of the great Achaemenid Empire, it like many other cities during the 4th century, was conquered by Alexander the Great. During the Medieval Islamic era, it was home to great scholarship and produced a number of leading academics of its time. Merv fell to the hands of invaders when Genghis Khan and the Mongols slaughtered an entire population. Within Merv’s borders were once discrete walled cities—Erk Hala, Guar Gala and the largest, Soltan Gala. Dating back to the 12th century, the mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar—the Seljuk ruler—stands tall in the Soltan Gala ruins. Surrounded by a number of graves, it is home to majestic mausoleums, fortresses and temples, all of which we will have the chance to explore on our comprehensive tour. We end our tour of the State Historical and Cultural Park of Ancient Merv and take an afternoon flight back to Ashgabat. (B, D)
Day 03: Ashgabat
We fly 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 (247 BC – 224 AD). Nisa was a strategic and commercial centre to the Parthians, and served as a barrier to the Roman expansion. We continue our sightseeing tour with a visit to the Carpet Museum, where we will see a massive collection of tribal carpets ranging from medieval to modern times. Our next stop is the National Museum of Turkmenistan, where we will see an incredible collection of Parthian period ivory rhytons (intricately carved vessels used for religious rituals) which date back to the 2nd century B.C. (B, D)
Day 04: Ashgabat/Dashoguz (Flight) /Kunya Urgench/Nukus (Drive) (UZBEKISTAN)
We begin our day with a short flight to Dashoguz. Our tour of Dashoguz begins with the UNESCO World Heritage site of Kunya Urgench*. Here we will explore the ancient grounds that include masuemlums and mosques from the 11th to the 16th centuries. Once a centre of the Islamic world, this region influenced the Byzantines and Persian empires along with India’s historic Moghul Empire. After our explorations, we drive along the Silk Route to the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan border at Khojeli. This particular border crossing offers a unique experience—including a glimpse into the aftermath of the breakup of the Soviet Union. After driving through the Amudarya delta, we pass by local villages to arrive at the port on the dying Aral Sea—the Uzbek city of Nukus.
Overnight: Jipek Joli Hotel, Nukus (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 05: Nukus/Toprak Kala/Khiva (Drive)
We begin our Uzbekistan tour with a visit to the Karakalpakstan Regional Art Museum. Home to the artist Igor Savitsky’s life work, the museum also houses over 80,000 artifacts, including archaeological objects, folk art, and the world's second largest collection of Russian avant-garde art. Afterwards, we make our way to Khiva, a well preserved open air museum enclosed by brick walls and monuments dating back to the 10th century. En route, we will make a short stop Chilpyk Kala known as the Zorastrian Tower of Silence, Topraq-Kala—a mud fortress found in the Kyzylkum Desert, dating from 1st and 2nd century A.D. This impressive fortress served as a winter retreat for the local princely family. We arrive at Khiva, a must-see city for tours to Uzbekistan.
Overnight: Malika Khevaek Hotel or Orient Star Madrassah Hotel, Khiva (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 06: Khiva
We have a full and exciting day at Khiva! We begin with a walking tour of the old town, Itchan-Kala* The fabled inner town of the old Khiva, was a popular rest stop for the caravans, before they adventured through the desert towards Persia. Khiva’s old monuments represent a great example of Central Asian Muslim architecture. We explore the walled city and its remaining outstanding structures by foot, starting with Ichan Kala, Kalta minor—the unfinished minaret, a grand view of the Khivan monuments at Kunya Ark, and the madrassah Rakhimkhon. We continue our day at local artisans workshops, visit the mausoleum of Pahlavan Mahmud for its exquisit tile work, the magificent Islam Khodja minaret and museum, the Friday mosque with its many wooden pillars, and Tash-Khovli Palace’s harem quarters—belonging to the last Khan of Khiva. Following our tour, we have some free time to explore this legendary city. Later, we are graciously invited to the home of a local Khivan family, where we will have the chance to converse and learn more about Khiva and it’s modern day life. We will also visit the newly renovated Nurullah Bey’s Palace, the residence and reception palace of the last Khan of Khiva. It’s architecture incorporates a Russian style—a strategic move by the Czarist—allowing him to politically influence the local rulers. (B, D)
Day 07: Khiva/Bukhara (Drive or Train)
While caravan travellers journeyed through the Silk Road by camel or foot, we may have the opportunity to enjoy the same route by rail, with a ride on a delux train from Khiva to Bukhara. Subject to availability, we will ride through the Kyzylkum Desert once travelled by merchants and great conquerors. Alternatively, we will drive alongside the same scenic route. We arrive late afternoon at the historical Silk Road city of Bukhara, which dates back over 2,000 years. It’s lavish collection of over 140 historical monuments make Bukhara a must see visit in any Uzbekistan tour. Bukhara is a true example of a medieval city in Central Asia, with an urban fabric that has remained largely intact. We check into our hotel and have the rest of the day free. In the evening, we the option to to enjoy a 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 includes winding streets and ancient structures reminiscent of Arabian Nights. On our full-day of sightseeing, we first walk through the old city. Here we visit Poi Kalon minaret and mosque, as well as the Aziz Khan and Ulugbek madrassah. Later, we make our way to Tim Abdullah Khan market—one of the best places to purchase carpets, Tilpak Frushan covered market, Mohgaki Attari mosque, Lyabikhauz the city pond, and the Nadirkhon Devanbegi and Chor minor madrassah. In the afternoon, we continue to explore some of the city’s most prominent monuments, including Arg Fortress, Zindan prison, Balakhauz mosque, Ismail Samanid’s mausoleum, and the Chashma-Ayub mausoleum. In the evening, we enjoy an unforgettable dinner feast. We walk through the narrow lanes of Bukhara, passing through the old Jewish quarters to view the works of the famous master miniaturist and Sufi painter, Davlat Toshev. Here we will see his workshop and enjoy an intimate dinner with his family. (B, D)
Day 09: Bukhara/Shakhrisyabz/Samarkand (Drive)
We say goodbye to Bukhara and make our way to Samarkand. En route, we stop at Shakhrisyabz—a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the birthplace of the conqueror Timur (Timerlan). Our visit includes a visit to Timur’s summer palace known as the Ak-Saray Palace. Amongst its ruins stands a gigantic and grande gateway with blue, gold and white mosaic tiles, along with an inscription that says “If you challenge our power – look at our buildings!".
Unfortunately, a series of wars after the death of Timur and later by the Shybanids destroyed the last of the structure to ruins. 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. This evening, you can take an optional visit to Samarkand’s legendary Registan Square for a riveting sound and light show (available at certain times of the year).
Overnight: Grand Samarkand Hotel, Samarkand (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 10: Samarkand
Samarkand* is a highlight of any Silk Road tour, and today we will learn all about this historic city with a full day exploration. Samarkand is at the heart of Central Asia and has been an urban crossing for many centuries. It’s history dates back to the 7th century B.C.—and reflected on its monuments are rich stories that draw out this city’s interesting background. We begin with a tour of the Registan Square, a public square where residents gathered to hear royal announcements. Later, we visited 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. In the afternoon, we visit the Afrasiab Museum, where we will see scrapings of wall murals from ancient residences and palaces. We continue our tour with a visit to the 15th century Ulugh Beg Observatory, built by Timur’s grandson, and was once considered one of the finest observatories of the Islamic world. We continue on to the Kunhil, a traditional paper mill making paper from mulberry bark. We end our day with a drive to Gur Emir, the glorious mausoleum of Timur, his grandson Ulugh Beg, and some of his courtiers. (B, D)
Day 11: Samarkand/Penjikent (Drive) (TAJIKISTAN)
Driving through orchards and cotton fields we embark on a journey to neighboring Tajikistan. After completing border formalities, we make our way to Penjikent. Before our tour of Penjikent, we have an opportunity to rest and freshen up at our hotel. We start our tour with a visit to the Rudaki Museum, named after the beloved poet. The museum houses a collection of objects and murals from various sites around Zarafshan valley. Later, we visit the lively Penjikent bazaar, and will share a meal with a local Tajik family in their home. Afterwards, we visit a local farmland and meet local residents before returning to our hotel.
Overnight: Sughd Hotel or similar, Penjikent (1 night) (B, L, D)
Day 12: Penjikent/Dushanbe (Drive)
We drive along the river through the Zarafshan Valley as we make our way to Dushanbe this morning. This region offers an awe-inspiring panoramic view and is popular for climbing and hiking. Once we arrive in Dushanbe, our afternoon tour of Dushanbe includes the Museum of Antiquities, with a rich collection of Greco-Bactrian, Sogdian and Persian art. Later, we visit the National Museum of Tajikistan, known for its archaeological treasures from across the country. Before we check into our hotel, we visit the monument of Ismail Sumanid, the father of modern day Tajikistan.
Overnight: Hyatt Regency Hotel or Serena Hotel, Dushanbe (1 night) (B, D)
Day 13: Dushanbe/Tashkent (Drive) (UZBEKISTAN – 2nd entry)
Today, we have an early morning departure to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Upon arrival, we will explore the green streets of this capital city. Our visit takes us to the old city where we will see Khast-Imom Complex, the site of the world famous Quran of Caliph Uthman/Ottoman. We also explore the beautiful Madrasah of Barak-Khan, the Tilla Sheikh Mosque, the Mausoleum of the Saint Abu Bakr Kaffal Shashi, and the Islamic Institute of Imam al-Bukhari, along with the vibrant Chor-Su Bazaar and Mustaqillik Square.
Overnight: Lotte Hotel, Tashkent (1 night) (B, D)
Day 14: Tashkent/Almaty (Flight) (KAZAKHSTAN)
In the morning, we have free time to explore the colourful sites of Tashkent before our flight to Almaty, Kazakhstan. An oil rich country in Central Asia, Kazakhstan is an intriguing combination of sophisticated cities and breathtaking outdoor adventure. Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, was once the capital, until 1997 when it moved to the city of Astana. Upon arrival in Almaty, we are transferred to our hotel, and have the rest of the day to enjoy this urban gem.
Overnight: Otrar Hotel or Voyage Grand Hotel, Almaty (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 15: Almaty
A unique day ahead as we explore the colonial and Soviet splendor of Almaty. We begin with a visit to the charming Panfilov Park. Following, we visit one of the earliest wooden cathedrals in the world, designed by Andrei Zenkov. The Zenkov’s Holy Ascension Cathedral was carefully constructed in the early 1900s, without a single nail and employed earthquake safe techniques. Our next stop is the Central Mosque, the largest in Kazakhstan. We end our visit in Almaty at the interesting Green Bazaar. The rest of the day is free at leisure. (B, D)
Day 16: Almaty/Bishkek (Drive) (KYRGYZSTAN)
Today we depart for Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan. Known for its natural beauty and traditional yurt-dwelling locals, Kyrgyzstan is a Central Asian horse country. On our journey, we drive past the scenic Zalisky Alatau Mountain range. After border formalities, we continue on to Bishkek and are transferred to our hotel. Today, we will experience the cultural highlights of Bishkek during our afternoon sightseeing tour. We drive past the White House (Presidential Palace), see the changing of the guards at the National Monument, Alatoo Square, and walk down the Oak Park, known for street painters. We will also visit the monument of Manas—a Kyrgyz national hero. The Epic of Manas, dating back to the 18 century, is the longest in the world and twenty times longer than Homer’s Iliad!
Overnight: Plaza Hotel or Grand Tulip Hotel, Bishkek (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 17: Bishkek
Today we will take a short excursion to a Silk Road caravan site, Balasagun. Located in the Chu Valley, the northernmost region in Kazakhstan, Balasagun has had rulers and settlements from diverse communities including Nestorian Christians, Buddhists populations, Tibetans, and the Chinese Tang Dynasty. Between the 9th-13th century, it was taken over by Kara-Khanid Khanate—a Turkic dynasty that ruled the Central Asian region. At Balasagun, and against the Kazakh mountain range, we visit the ruins of the once vibrant city. The Tower of Burana*, and ruins of a cathedral, mosque, and madrassah are all that remain of Balasagun. Originally the tower stood tall at 45 metres, however centuries of earthquakes have caused significant damage to the structure, and now it stands at slightly more than half of its original size. We will also have the opportunity to visit a small archeological museum that showcases Turkic tombstones between the 6th to the 10th century. We return to Bishkek and, in the afternoon, visit Alarcha Canyon. One of the most scenic regions of the Kyrgyz mountains, Alarcha is widely known for its stunning flowers. (B, D)
Day 18: Depart Bishkek
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. If you choose to opt in, you can enjoy a unique tour extension to Lake Issyk Kul, the jewel of Kyrgyzstan, or Astana, Kazakhstan’s elaborate capital. (B)
ISSYK KUL LAKE (KYRGYZSTAN)
Day 18: Bishkek/Issyk Kul Lake (Drive)
Journey eastward through the spectacular mountains of Cholpon-Ata, where we visit the local rock drawings of the Bronze periods, the local museum and a small but vibrant bazaar before arriving at our resort. As the second largest alpine lake in the world and a must-visit for tours to Kyrgyzstan, Issyk Kul Lake is popular for its breathtaking views. Enjoy the remainder of the day at your leisure or walk around the valley to enjoy some of the picturesque boat rides across the lake’s smooth surface. In the evening, we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant sitting by the lake.
Overnight: Karven Hotel, Issyk Kul Lake (1 night) (B, D)
Day 19: Issyk Kul Lake/Bishkek (Drive)
In the morning, we visit the Przhevalsky Museum and Monument on the eastern edge of the Lake. This landmark museum is dedicated to the memory of Nikolay Mikhaylovich Przhevalsky, who was an enthusiastic explorer accredited for his excellent work on the flora and fauna of the region. In the afternoon, we visit the Annanaeva village. We hike through the natural surroundings to visit a local family and get a behind-the-scenes look at their yurt houses before enjoying soup and tea. Afterwards, we make our way back to Bishkek.
Overnight: Plaza Hotel or Grand Tulip Hotel, Bishkek (B, D)
Day 20: Depart Bishkek
Check out by noon and transfer to the airport for our departure flight. (B)
Day 18: Arrive Astana (KAZAKHSTAN)
We arrive in Astana and are transferred to our hotel. Astana is a metropolitan hub, and offers a fantastic skyline with contemporary buildings. Enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure. The city is vibrant and safe, and walking through its streets offers a local experience. As the capital city, it is home to a number of government buildings, including the Parliament, Supreme Court and the majestic Ak Orda Presidential Palace.
Overnight: King Hotel, Astana (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 19: Astana
An exciting day as we explore Astana. Today we visit the Baiterek Tower, Nur Astana Mosque, the third largest in Central Asia, the towering pyramid of Palace of Peace, and the massive Khan Shatyr Entertainment tent. We also visit the National Museum, which recounts the history of the country from ancient to modern times, and the beautiful State Opera and Ballet Theatre. (B, D)
Day 20: Depart Astana
Check out by noon and transfer to the airport for our departure flight. (B)
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
Departure Dates & Prices
We accept payments in US$, CA$ as well as in other convertible currencies like EUR, AUD and GBP. Tour prices have been costed in US$. CA$ price shown below is an indicative amount reached at by using the conversion rate at the time of web posting and will be applicable if there is no change in the conversion rate. Should the currency conversion rate change, the US$ pricing will prevail. Bestway Tours & Safaris offers a conversion rate protection. Once full payment has been received and no modification has been made to the tour itinerary, we will honour that rate. For complete payment procedures, please click here
This tour operates on a minimum of 02 and a maximum of 12 participants
If you would like to have a tour on dates other than the above ones or with a customised itinerary, please contact us and we will be happy to work out an exclusive program for you.
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