The growth of bazaars was a natural phenomenon as the silk road and caravans routes started growing. A weekly day for the bazaar made the caravan routes even move important and interesting. All across Central Asia weekly bazaar days have become a prominent event of the week – not only for the purchases but also as a meeting place of people – all in their different attire accompanied by the animals and goods – all for a barter! The most prominent of the weekly bazaars are the Sunday Bazaars in Kashgar and at Ashgabat – and this 18days journey will absorb you to the hey days of the Silk Road.
|Price (From)||:||US$ 6395|
|Includes international air|
Day 01: Arrive Urumqi (CHINA)
Our exciting tour starts off as we arrive at Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang – China’s most western province – a semi autonomous region. We are warmly received and transferred to our hotel. Check in starts from 1400 hrs. Subject to time permitting we visit the Xinjiang regional Museum to see archaeological treasures from the Silk Road and Xinjiang’s minority nations and a display of the well-preserved 3000 years old mummies excavated from the Taklamakan desert.
Overnight: Hotel Mirage B Tower, Urumqi (1 night) (D)
Day 02: Urumqi/Kashgar (Flight)
Short flight to Kashgar, where we are met and transferred to our hotel. Evening we visit the China Idkah Mosque – the largest in China followed by Apak Khoja’s tomb – Sufi who died in 1640 and then culminated the day with a visit to the handicraft street in old Kashgar.
Overnight: Hotel International, Kashgar (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 03: Kashgar (Sunday Bazaar)
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. Amongst 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. One of the most popular events in the town is the weekly Sunday Bazaar that draws a variety of ethnic groups like the Uyghur, Tajik, Kyrgyz and Kazakh to the streets of Kashgar. They come on foot, bikes, horsebacks, modern motorcycles and donkey carts, all with the hope of selling all sort of merchandises. (B, D)
Day 04: Kashgar/Urumqi/Almaty (Flight) (KAZAKHSTAN)Morning flight to Urumqi and we continue our sightseeing of Urumqi. We start with the picturesque Hong Shan Park from where you can enjoy panorama of Urumqi city, Red Hill Pagoda, Grand Bazaar or Erdao Qiao Market to get some traditional Uygur silk and Chinese cotton and see variety of different nuts and dry fruits, herbs, aroma oils. Later transfer to the airport for departure flight to Almaty where we are met and transferred to our hotel.
Overnight: Otrar Hotel, Almaty (1 night) (B, D)
Day 05: Almaty/Tashkent (Flight) (UZBEKISTAN)
Morning we shall fly to Tashkent the metropolis of Uzbekistan. On arrival sightseeing tour of Tashkent – visit old city, Hast Imam Complex, Barak Khana seminary, Tilla Shaikh archives, Chorsu market, later visit 16th century Kukeldesh madrassah, Akbar’s traditional pottery house and the museum of Applied Arts, Old City of Tashkent, which is one of the oldest cities of Uzbekistan. Its history goes back to the Silk Road days when it was a transit station. There used to exist several settlements in the outskirts with several fire temples as is significant from the excavations, which date back to 2nd to 7th AD. During the course of time it grew with changes and became an important Silk Road town called Chach. It saw the ravages of Mongol armies and later became the governorate of later Mongols by then changing its name to present as Tashkent – the town of stones. By 15th century it had grown as an important commercial stop into a huge walled city. After the great earthquake of 1966 Tashkent grew into a huge metropolis with new buildings, well laid out gardens and fountains. The background of low-lying TienShan ranges give Tashkent a pleasant climatic conditions.
Overnight: Dedeman Silk Road Hotel (1 night) (B, D)
Day 06: Tashkent/Ferghana (Flight)
Morning flight to Ferghana valley and take a full day sightseeing tour of the valley – our first visit will be to the traditional Yodgarlik Silk factory – this will be an interesting experience as we see cocoon to silk fabric making going through various processes turning one of the finest examples of Central Asia silk pattern. We will have chance of interacting with the weavers at the job. Later we shall visit Hoja Ihsan Madrassah where we will meet the masters in silk weaving, carpet makers and cloth stamping. Our next visit will be Rishton to see the local pottery works – Ferghana pottery is famous for its design and coloration. We shall visit master Rustam Usmanov’s workshop where he has a small pottery museum. Later proceed to Kokand to see the residence and fort of Khodoyar Khan the last Khan of Kokand once extending his rule over up to Yarkand in China. We shall see the museum and later visit Nurbatabey Mosque before returning to Ferghana for the night.
Overnight: Hotel Asia, Ferghana (1 night) (B, D)
Day 07: Ferghana/Khujend (Drive) (TAJIKISTAN)
This morning we depart for Tajikistan follow Syrdarya, the Jaxartes of the classical writers who wrote Alexander the Great history. After passing the border formalities we continue to Kandibadam – famous for almond groves and was a favorite resting place of Babur the Mughal King who hailed from Ferghana valley. We shall make a short visit of a local house en-route to see the Tajik way of life. Late afternoon we shall make a short sightseeing tour of Khujend – the Alexandria eschate, was one the extreme of many Alexandrias’, attributed to Alexander the Great who fought against the Sogdian armies, finally wining their submission with the killing of their general Spitamenes. We shall visit the local museum and Panjshanbe bazaar and the tomb of Shaikh Moslehuddin, a much respected Saint of the region. See the beautiful dome in lapis lazuli stone and the interior décor with gold.
Overnight: Hotel Sugd, Khujend (1 night) (B, Snack, D)
Day 08: Khujend/Samarkand (Drive) (UZBEKISTAN)
In the morning we shall re-enter Uzbekistan by continuing to Aibek border point and after the border crossing this will be a countryside drive through miles of cotton plantations on both sides of the road. Often on the roadside near the villages we see local folks selling their produce of different fruits and during the melon season (Sep/Oct) one can see wonderful varieties of melons grown in the region.
Overnight: Hotel Malika Prime, Samarkand (3 nights) (B, D)
Day 09: 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 the great archaeological finds – the murals, the 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 as 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 ravels the beautiful monuments – 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 goes back in our historic times. (B, D)
Day 10: Samarkand
Sunday is the market day in the whole of Central Asia but we choose Urgut as one of the few Central Asian Sunday markets still retaining its olden spirit of bazaars. We shall see a culmination of countryside folks thronging into the market with their produce, selling and bargaining the Central Asia way! You may have a best buy of famous suzzanne embroidery from the village folks, wooden carved pieces or local rugs are all here. Afternoon we head for Shakhrisyabz, the birthplace of Tamerlane. We shall be traveling over the beautiful pass – the route always taken by Tamerlane for his travel between Shakhrisyabz and Samarkand. Tamerlane started building his cities and Shakhrisyabz being his native town never was forgotten where he built a grand palace, as was recorded by ‘Don Clavijo’ the Spanish minister at the court of Tamerlane. Ak-Saray – the white palace surpassed in Persian architecture, which Tamerlane was keen in employing in his favorite buildings. After seeing some interesting Timurid period monuments we shall return to Samarkand. (B, Snack, D)
Day 11: Samarkand/Baimurat (Drive)
Morning depart for ‘off the beaten track’ journey to the Kizilkum desert camp of Baimurat. Today we shall have an exotic experience of traveling to a least visited part of Uzbekistan, see the villages all along the route for trip that gives us an insight of the rural communities of Uzbekistan. Our first stop will be a visit of Eski Forish a small shepherds village set in the foothills of Nuratau mountain range. We shall visit the house of Komil Shakirov who looks after the Nuratau Nature Reserve and welcomes us to his traditional hospitality. We shall
have snacks at his place and later walk through the village. First two weeks of April is flower season and we can see wild tulips around the fields. Later continue to our Baimurat as we bypass Aidorkol lake a large water reservoir fed by Syrdarya (Syr river).
Overnight: Yurt, Baimurat (1 night) (B, Snack, D)
Day 12: Baimurat/Bukhara (Drive)
Morning depart for Bukhara going through the desert (for wild tulip lovers first two weeks of April is a good month to see them in their natural habitat). We shall make our first stop at Nurata for a local visit see the legendary grave of a soldier of Alexander the Great and the wall of an ancient fortress. Later we continue our drive coming out of the desert to a super highway. While nearing Bukhara we shall make a visit to the summer residence of the last ruler of Bukhara – see the early Russian architecture – the palace was a gift from the Czar with imperial Russian interior décor. Sitora-i-Mokhikhosa was the summer palace of the emir of Bukhara but was converted into a hospital during the communist era but it has been converted into a museum of its own. There is an exclusive display of suzzanne embroidery spread out in several rooms. Later proceed to Bukhara.
Overnight: Hotel Zargaron, Bukhara (2 nights) (B, D)
Day 13: 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 the history to 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 ruler, Bukhara Khudat was killed by the Arab invaders thereby replacing its rulers and converting 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 into the hands of their splinter groups till the annexation of its territories by the expanding Russian rule. With changing of fortunes in the imperial Russia, Bukhara too was effected and the last ruler had to escape to Afghanistan leaving the state into the hands of Bolsheviks. The last Emir of Bukhara suffered humility at the hands of the Great Game players ho saw these enemies vying for power at his court till the imperial Russians succeeded in reducing the emir to a mere pawn in their hands. Buildings, madrassahs, the mosques and the covered bazaars keep Bukhara as an oldest living city of the caravan days. (B, D)
Day 14: Bukhara/Khiva (Drive)
Today we shall leave for Khiva and this will be a long drive through the heart of Kizilkum desert(the red sands). This wasteland was the route of the invaders coming form the north as nomadic hordes or armies of the Persians or Alexander the Great marching his troops through the heart of 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 our arrival will mark a quiet late afternoon entry into Khiva.
Overnight: Hotel Malika Khivaek, Khiva (1 night) (B, Snack, D)
Day 15: Khiva/Nukus (Drive)
The living museum of Central Asia, Khiva is an important World Heritage site – the walled city reminds us of ‘thousand and one night’ feeling while walking through its brick structures. Khiva was the seat of Khiva Khanate that was subdued with great efforts by the Russian army in 1873 after failing in the earlier attempt of 1839. The fortunes and importance of Khiva rose when Amudarya (Amu river) changed its course leaving the capital town of Kunya Urgench in almost oblivion when all the attention was drawn towards Khiva. A walking tour will reveal the mysteries of this legendary town going piece by piece from one corner to another. The time has still not changed the character and culture of this walled city, which still thrives on its past glory. In the late afternoon we shall depart for Nukus the remote corner of Uzbekistan. En-route we shall see the last stages of Amudarya before its final destination to the Aral Sea.
Overnight: Hotel Jipek Joly, Nukus (1 night) (B, D)
Day 16: Nukus/Tashauz/Ashgabat (Flight) (TURKMENISTAN)
Morning we shall visit Krakalpakstan Regional Museum more known as Savitsky Museum. Here we see rare Russian avant-garde period paintings of known and unknown masters. The collection was hiding in the cellar of the museum for a long time. The first Director of the museum Igor Savitsky hid them in this remote part of the former Soviet Union from the destructive eyes of Stalin era purges. After the political changes these paintings found a more respectable place at his museum. The museum also displays a valuable collection of nomadic gillims, carpets, dresses, horse bridles and Yorta decorations. A small section is dedicated to the display of archaeological finds from the desert sites. We then head to Turkmen border point at a close by distance from Nukus. At the border after the formalities we say goodbye to our Uzbek guide and depart for Turkmen side.
You are met and assisted at the immigrations and customs. The borders here are quite slow and procedures of crossings may consume sometimes. We shall then proceed on to Kunya Urgench for a visit - once capital city of powerful Khorezm State with large territories as far as ancient city of Otrar in Kazakhstan. It was the center of many scholars in mathematics, astronomy, chemistry and literature under the patronage of Khorezm Shah, the king. Chengiz Khan, destroyed the city in 1226/27 killing all male souls to avenging the killing of his emissary sent earlier by him to the court of Khirezm Shah. We shall visit the monuments of pre and post Mongolid periods. Head for Tashauz for the evening flight to Ashgabat.
Overnight: Hotel Grand Turkmen, Ashgabat (2 nights) (B, Snack, D)
Day 17: Ashgabat
We shall spend a wonderful morning visiting the famous Tolkuchka Bazaar, the Sunday market of Ashgabat. The most interesting sight is the carpet sellers – where one can see the Turkmen tribal faces of Saryks, Yomuds, Tekkes and others selling their carpets known for their designs world over. Later visit the famous State Museum of History – a house of wonderful displays from pre-historic periods to a wonder full collection carpets. The exhibits in the Parthian era hall is very interesting – see the wonderful collection of Parthian rhytons and many objects from site of Nissa was once the winter capital of Parhtian kings. Later we shall visit the archaeological site of Nisa dating back to 1st BC in the foothills of Kopetdag mountain range. Later we shall visit the sights of the capital of Turkmenistan and the grand mosque of the city. This evening we shall be having a farewell dinner at a local restaurant to exchange our views on the last day of a wonderful tour of the “Stan” countries. (B, D)
Day 18: Depart Ashgabat
Check out and transfer to the airport for your departure flight. OR extend your stay to visit Merv. (B)
B=Breakfast, S=Snack, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
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