The Silk Road was probably the most important development in human history, bringing close trade and subsequently cultural contacts between the east and the west. The journey from Hunza to Samarkand is a breathtaking route crossing both the Khunjerab and Torogart Pass, as well as driving alongside the conglomerate of mountain ranges - Himalayas, Karakorums, Tien Shan, etc. It is also Shangri-la in its different facets, with an interesting experience of cultures of the different small ethnic groups who take solace from the huge mountains that engulf them.
|UNESCO World Heritage Sites covered in this tour|
|1.||Taxila, Pakistan||5.||Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz at Kesh, Uzbekistan|
|2.||Western Tien Shan, Kyrgyzstan||6.||Historic Centre of Bukhara, Uzbekistan|
|3.||Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor||7.||Ichan Kala at Khiva, Uzbekistan|
|Tour Duration||:||23 days|
|Min. Tour Size||:||02 persons|
|Max. Tour Size||:||08 persons|
|Tour Price (From)||:||US$ 8280|
|Includes international air|
Day 01: Arrive Islamabad (PAKISTAN)
Khush Amded. Welcome. Upon arrival at Islamabad, we are warmly received and transferred to our hotel located in the city centre of the capital city. Check in time starts from 1400 hrs.
Overnight: Islamabad Hotel, Islamabad (2 nights)
Day 02: Islamabad
Explore the ruins of Gandhara civilization and the remains of ancient Buddhist sites in Taxila*. From the ancient Neolithic tumulus of Saraikala to the ramparts of Sirkap (2nd century B.C.) and the city of Sirsukh (1st century A.D.), Taxila illustrates the different stages in the development of a city on the Indus that was alternately influenced by Persia, Greece and Central Asia and which, from the 5th century B.C. to the 2nd century A.D., was an important Buddhist centre of learning. The history of Taxila spans over a thousand years - from 500 BC to 500 AD. The Taxila Museum reflects the original culture and tradition of the old Gandhara Civilization. From here we continue to Shakarparian (sweet hills) Gardens from where we get a panoramic view of Islamabad. We visit the Lok Virsa Museum housing a fascinating array of traditional handicrafts including embroidered costumes, old jewellery and intricate woodcarvings. It is a popular place for those wishing to buy traditional Pakistani crafts. We then drive past various modern streets and buildings – gracefully designed in Islamic architecture. The Islamabad portion of the tour culminates at one of the world’s largest mosque - Shah Faisal Mosque. The architecture has a blend of the Ottoman minarets. The mosque is considered to be amongst the largest in the world. From here we drive to Rawalpindi and visit this much older town including the historical Raja Bazaar. (B, D)
Day 03: Islamabad/Chilas (Drive)
An early morning drive first to the scenic town of Abbotabad. From there we join the incredible Karakorum Highway with spectacular mountain scenery alongside the mighty Indus. We make several photo stops including at Besham, Dassu and Shittal Rock Carvings before arriving at the small mountain town of Chilas located almost at the foot Nanga Parbat.
Overnight: Panorama Hotel, Chilas (1 night) (B, D)
Day 04: Chilas/Gilgit (Drive)
We continue our drive on the amazing Karakoram Highway to Gilgit, the administrative centre of Northern Pakistan. Along the way we visit the ancient Buddhist petroglyphs near Chilas. We continue our way up north to the ancient silk route-trading town of Gilgit.
Overnight: Serena Hotel, Gilgit (1 night) (B, D)
Day 05: Gilgit/Hunza (Drive)
In the morning we explore Gilgit, including a visit to a local school, a Gilgiton home, the polo grounds, the mountain bazaar and the Buddha rock carving near Kargah. In the afternoon we take a spectacular drive through the Karakoram Range and stop in villages on our way to Karimabad, capital of the Hunza Valley, the inspiration for Shangri-La!
Overnight: Hunza Baltit Inn, Hunza (1 night) (B, D)
Day 06: Hunza/Gulmit (Drive)
Hunza Valley - a mountainous valley with green terraced farming on the slopes of the Karakorums. Here one sees peaks like Ultar Sar, Rakaposhi, Bojahagur Duanasir II, Ghenta Peak, Hunza Peak, Diran Peak and Bublimating (Ladyfinger Peak) - all 6000 metres (19,685 ft) or higher. Our morning tour starts with a visit to Duiker (Eagle’s nest) to see the spectacular sunrise along with breakfast. We then visit the Nagar Valley, anotherincredible valley, and see the Hoppar glacier in its many different forms. Afternoon take a 1 hour boat ride across Attaabad Lake and continue the drive to Gulmit.
Overnight: Ambassador Hotel, Gulmit (1 night) (B, D)
Day 07: Gulmit/Khunjerab/Tashkurgaon (Drive) (CHINA)
This morning we visit the village of Gulmit, another spectacular town of Upper Hunza, before making the border crossing at Sust into China. Getting into our Chinese vehicles we cross the mighty Khunjerab which at 15800 feet is the highest border crossing in the world. We arrive at the sleepy town of Tashkurgaon in the early evening and after the entry formalities are transferred to our hotel.
Overnight: Hotel Crown Inn, Tashkurgaon (B, D)
Day 08: Tashkurgaon/Kashgar (Drive)
An interesting drive through the Taklamakan gets us to the Karukuli Lake where one can see the reflection of the enchanting Muztaghata Peak. We have free time at Karkuli to enjoy the serenity before continuing to Kashgar – a major Silk Road town in the Xinjiang province of modern day China.
Overnight: Hotel International, Kashgar (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 09: Kashgar
If one would like to see a place where time has stood still it is Kashghar (Kashi). Walking through the narrow lanes of this old town evokes a scene from the Arabian Nights. Kashgar has remained sheltered from outside influences with locals who are very friendly. Among the most popular professions are coppersmiths, carpenters, jewelers and cobblers, all using tools of bygone days. Our tour of Kashgar also includes the Abak Hoja Tomb, the Id Koh Mosque and the old town where we might even take a ride on the donkey cart taxi. (B, D)
Day 10: Kashgar/Torogart Pass/Naryn (Drive) (KYRGYZSTAN)
We cross the majestic Torogoart Pass (3752 meters) from China into Krgyzstan. Border formalities completed we enter the Central Asian country of Kyrghyzstan. The 197 Kms drive to Naryn is a panorama of wide open valley surrounded by the Tien Shan* ranges. The steppes are dotted with Kyrgyz nomadic huts (Yurts) with their cattle grazing in the nearby slopes and horses going wild during the season. We visit a yurt and meet the warm hearted Kyrgyz nomads with an offer of ‘koumis’ mare’s fermented milk. Late afternoon we arrive at the first settlement of Naryn!
Overnight: Khan Tengri, Naryn (1 night) (B, D)
Day 11: Naryn/Dolon Pass/Tamga (Drive)
After a visit of the one street town, we depart for Issikul region with various stops to enjoy the enchanting scenery. This is a long and interesting day. The Tienshan scenery becomes more verdant with small farmlands hamlets with immense poplar trees lining along the route near the villages. At Kochkorka village we see the felt makers house. Their collections of nomadic embroidery are a good insight into the nomadic culture. Continuing with lengthening shadows of the trees we arrive on the southern side of the great lake Issikul(warm waters). We shall transfer to a nice Guest House of Lyuda & Sasha’s private home with a nice garden awaiting us for a BBQ dinner
Overnight: Lyuda & Sasha’s Guesthouse, Tamga (1 night) (B, D)
Day 12: Tamga/Barskoon/Karakol (Drive)
Our destination today is Karakol. Interesting and breathtaking scenery with several stops gets us to the Barskoon Valley – the gold mine of Kyrgyzstan. It is a scenic spot which was a popular resort site of the Soviet Cosmonauts who used to come here for rest and recreation. Yuri Gagarin is known to have spent his leisure hours walking the alpine valley and the valley still maintains his monument at his favorite spot. We then continue on the track to Karakol with a visit of Djeti Oghuz, the Kyrgyz nomad’s meadows.
Overnight: Hotel Green Yard, Karakol (1 night) (B, D)
Day 13: Karakol/Cholpan Ata (Drive)
Morning we tour Karakol and visit the Russian Orthodox Church with its beautiful wooden structure and rare icons that survived the worst periods of communist purges. Visit Dungan mosque with chaste Chinese architecture – Dungans were a Han Muslim Chinese community who escaped the civil wars of the 50’s and are now an ethnically assimilated population. Next we visit the famous Preshevalsky Museum and monument before reaching Cholpan Ata. We explore the mountain town including seeing the local museum and the rock drawings dating back to 1st BC.
Overnight: Three Corony Hotel, Cholpan Ata (1 night) (B, D)
Day 14: Cholpan Ata/Bishkek (Drive)
This morning we visit the Silk Road Burana caravan town ruins dating 11th/12th AD including the tower, the ruins of the complex mosque, the Turkic tombstones and the small archaeological museum nearby. Later we continue to Bishkek with a city tour of the town. We visit the main square Ala Too and see guardians of honor, Manas and Kurmandjan Datka monuments, Oak park and a fine art gallery under clear sky.
Overnight: Hotel Green City, Bishkek (1 night) (B, D)
Day 15: Bishkek/Tashkent (Flight) (UZBEKISTAN)
Early morning we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Tashkent. Upon arrival at Tashkent we are met and commence our sightseeing with a visit of the Old City. There we see the new Hast Imam complex in neo-Islamic architecture reviving the old Central Asian styles that rises on the secular buildings from 16th to 20th AD. We visit Barak Khana seminary, the seat of the Grand Mufti of Tashkent, and Tilla Shaikh archives to see the famous 7th AD copy of Othman Quran. We continue to explore the traditional part of Tashkent including the famous Chosu Bazar where people are always dressed in colorful attire. We visit Kukeldesh which in true Central Asian style used to offer solace to the caravans.
Overnight: Hotel Dedeman Silk Road, Tashkent (1 night) (B, D)
Day 16: Tashkent/Samarkand (Train)
Today we will be taking a fast train to Samarkand*. Upon arrival at Samarkand we are transferred to our hotel. The rest of the day is free for leisure.
Overnight: Hotel Grand Samarkand, Samarkand (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 17: Samarkand
The Jewel city of the Silk Road – Samarkand has always been praised for its beautiful gardens and richness. Samarkand was admired and prized by the invaders who always wanted this city as part of their empire. The important town of a once prosperous Sogdiana served as the major halting station for caravans of the Great Silk Road whose impacts could be seen in great archaeological finds like murals, statues and other objects. Everyone who passed by the city talks of its greatness – Alexander the Great fought with the last of its ruler and the legend says that he got his beautiful wife ‘Roxane’ from Samarkand. Marco Polo talks of its booming trade and gardens, Tamerlane made Samarkand as his capital and called it the “capital of the world”. The changed life of Tamerlane found solace in his beautiful gardens in the company of his favorite granddaughter and poetess - Zebunnisa Begum. Our tour of Samarkand reveals its beautiful monuments, including the madrassah complex of Registan, a fascinating square with three madrassahs. We continue visiting other monuments of Timurid period and should never miss the old site of Afrosiab, which dates back to historic times. (B, D)
Day 18: Samarkand/Shakre Sabz/Bukhara (Drive)
An interesting drive gets us to Kesh (Shakre Sabz)* the birthplace of Tamerlane – a UNESCO World Heritage site. We visit Ak-Saray Palace, the ruins of Tamerlane’s lovely palace once described by Don Calvijo as the palace of grandest of architecture while in attendance at the court of Tamerlane. We shall then visit the secular buildings of Dorus Tilavat seminary, the Kok Gumbaz mosque, Dorus Saidat, the crypt of Tamerlane that was never used and The Friday mosque before continuing on for Bukhara* – another World Heritage Site.
Overnight: Hotel Zargaron, Bukhara (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 19: Bukhara
Today we shall be touring the powerful seat of Bukhara Khanate which swayed her control in all the neighboring states. Bukhara was the first oasis, which caught the eyes of invading Arab armies to explore and expand into the heartland of Central Asia. The ancient town of Bukhara goes back in history more than 2500 years and kept exchanging hands from one ruler to another. It was one of the important towns of the caravan countries and was the richest of the Transoxiana countries. It kept changing its seat from the early Persians down to the Turkic heathen tribes and remained as the master of the lands. The last of the powerful Turkic rulers, Bukhara Khudat, was killed by the Arab invaders, who replaced the city’s rulers and converted the locals to Islamic faith. Bukhara continued to flourish as an important trading center before the caravans continued to the Persian Empire’s mainland where the rich commodity was sold out. Bukhara remained in the hands of Sheybanid rulers and later in the hands of their splinter groups until the annexation of its territories by the expanding Russian rule. With changing of fortunes in Imperial Russia, Bukhara too was effected and the last ruler had to escape to Afghanistan, leaving the state in the hands of Bolsheviks. The last Emir of Bukhara suffered humility at the hands of the Great Game players who saw these enemies vying for power at his court until the Imperial Russians succeeded in reducing the emir to a mere pawn in their hands. Buildings, madrassahs, mosques and covered bazaars keep Bukhara as an oldest living city of the caravan days. (B, D)
Day 20: Bukhara/Khiva (Drive)
Today we shall leave for Khiva for a long drive through the heart of Kizilkum desert (the red sands). This wasteland was the route of the invaders coming from the north, nomadic hordes or armies of the Persians or Alexander the Great marching his troops through the heart of the desert to cities of his Persian enemy. Genghiz Khan’s devastating troops crossed these deserts to enter the mainland of his enemy. You will notice the expanse of Amudarya as it spreads its branches to a network of canals serving as a watering base for the huge cotton economy of the whole region. We will make a quiet late afternoon entry into Khiva.
Overnight: Hotel Asia, Khiva (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 21: Khiva
A walk into the past – the walled city (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) has not changed its character from the khanate days with its fortress walls still surviving. Khiva is described as the living museum of Central Asia with its still surviving living quarters. We visit the Ichan Kala* – the inner city, Kalta Minor, that was never finished, Kuya Arg – the ruling quarters, madrassah Rakhimkhon, and UNDP workshops for the development of local handicraft., The mausoleum of Pakhlavan Makhmud is a wonderful example of tile work which was very little used but exquisite. The minaret of Islam Khodja and the Friday Mosque with its old pillars still survive. Later we visit Tashauli harem and the Caravan Sarai. (B, D)
Day 22: Khiva/Urgench (Drive)/Tashkent (Flight)
Morning depart for Urgench airport for flight to Tashkent. Transfer to the hotel. Balance of the day is free for shopping. Evening an optional, subject to availability visit to the theatre for an opera. We visit the famous Tashkent underground station followed by a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
Overnight: Hotel Dedeman, Tashkent (1 night) (B, D)
Day 23: Depart Tashkent
After traveling on the Silk Road caravan route from China all the way to central Asia, we bid farewell as we are transferred to the airport for our departure flight. Check out time is 1100 hrs. (B)
B=Breakfast, S=Snack, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
Departure Dates & Prices
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