Visit the great Silk Road oases of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan
On this extraordinary East-meets-West journey, you'll experience the best of both worlds in Central Asia's independent republics—Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan—and delight in the natural beauty of the region's immense deserts and the area's rich cultural heritage. Traveling through the heart of the northern Silk Road route, we'll visit cities once ruled by some of the history's legendary conquerors, including Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, and browse some of today's great trading posts, including the legendary Sunday bazaar in Ashgabat, where you can buy everything from carpets to camels. The places we visit live and breathe history, with centuries-old architecture that rivals even the Taj Mahal, and people who still live a traditional way of life as horsemen and herders. But we must warn you! After nearly two magical weeks journeying through one of the world's truly great cultural crossroads, you may find that you never want to leave.
12 days touring
- Visit the 14th-century mosques, domed bazaars, and caravansaries of Bukhara, illustrating 1,000 years of history
- Wander Turkmenistan's legendary Sunday bazaar—one of the largest and best known in the world (one can purchase anything from carpets to camels!)
- Visit the center of the great northern Silk Road trade route between the West and Asia—still fraught with competition for influence between the Islamic world, the West, and Russia.
Duration: 12 days Start Location: Tashkent End Location: TashkentDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Tashkent (This entire trip is below 6,000')
Upon arrival in Tashkent, you will be met by our local guide. Transfer to the hotel, check in and rest after the flight. Welcome dinner and briefing in the evening.
Day 2 : Tashkent - Samarkand
After breakfast, we’ll drive to Samarkand. On the way, we’ll have a small picnic and enjoy beautiful mountain views near the legendary gate of Tamerlane’s state. We'll take a photo stop near the second largest river in Central Asia, Sir Darya, and at a famous local market where the best melons in the region are sold. We'll briefly shop for melons, depending on the season. Dinner at a national house recognized by UNESCO.
Day 3 : Samarkand
We’ll begin our sightseeing tour of Samarkand with visits to Guri Emir, the legendary mausoleum where Amir Temur and his family were buried, and regal Registan Square, where we can marvel at the intricate designs and vibrant colors of the stunning blue-tiled mosques and madrassas (Islamic schools), which date back to the 13th and 15th centuries. We’ll also visit the regal mausoleums of Shah-i-Zinda, site of Central Asia's most sacred Islamic shrine, the massive mosque of Bibi Khanum, and the adjacent colorful market, where the original “spice girls” sell saffron at unbelievably low prices. You can purchase Samarkand’s famous bread, which Alexander the Great unsuccessfully tried to have duplicated back home in Greece, or try some of the region’s local produce, from grapes to the world’s tastiest melons. In the afternoon we'll have free time before dinner.
Day 4 : Samarkand - Shakhrisabz - Bukhara
Drive one hour this morning to Shakhrisabz, where we’ll visit the birthplace of Tamerlane, his palace Ak Sarai and Kok Gumbaz Mosque, and the Mausoleum of Jehangir (Tamerlane’s grandson), plus Tamerlane’s Mausoleum. After lunch we’ll transfer to Bukhara (3 hours) , former capital of the once powerful Emirate of Bukhara and today a World Heritage Site. As in Samarkand, there are plenty of opportunities to buy crafts, from musical instruments to saddlebags made of carpet and quilted materials.
Day 5 : Bukhara
On foot, we explore the old quarter, with its bustling trading domes and newly active mosques, including Kalyan Minaret—the “tower of death,” which is one of Central Asia’s tallest. We'll stroll around the streets and visit the old town center where old men with long white beards gossip for hours while drinking tea around a natural oasis spring. Bukhara, like Samarkand, is a World Heritage Site. The resulting restoration of some of its mosques—originally constructed in the 11th to 15th centuries—make them appear as if they were built yesterday. We'll visit its massive fortress, the Ark, with the Emir's open-air throne room, and the mausoleum of Ismail Samani, an intricate and beautiful 10th-century brick structure that is nicely preserved.
We are treated to a cooking demonstration and dinner of plov, a local rice dish, at a national house. Our evening concludes with a folklore and national dress show at Nodir Devonbegi madrassah.
Day 6 : Bukhara - Mary
We have an early breakfast at the hotel, then drive one hour to the Turkmenistan border. After passing through border formalities, drive about 5 hours to Mary via Turkmenabat. We’ll have lunch at a local restaurant in Turkmenabat.
En route, we’ll stop to visit Old Merv--known as Mary Shahu Jahan-King of the World. For about 300 years, Merv was the biggest city in Central Asia and the capital of the Khalifat for 8 years. We’ll take in other historical sites in Merv before checking into our hotel in Mary. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 7 : Ashgabat
This morning we transfer to the Mary Airport and fly to Ashgabat. Ashgabat is situated at the southern edge of the Kara-Kum desert, tucked against the austere hills less than 50 miles from the Iranian border. Today, we’ll visit the ruins of Nissa, the once-elaborate seat of the Parthian kings and an important Silk Road trading town followed by a tour of the city. A highlight today is a visit to the Sunday bazaar, a truly medieval experience rivaling that of Kashgar in China. Everything from camels to auto parts is sold, and world-famous Bukhara rugs—both new and old—are for sale or trade as well. Although the old Ashgabat Bazaar was moved inside to a new complex in 2011, it still offers the same plethora of goods and is an experience not to be missed! After dinner we drive along the main avenues of Ashgabat, to take in its brightly lit buildings and monuments, which makes it one of the most spectacular cities in Central Asia.
Day 8 : Ashgabat
Today we tour more of Ashgabat, including “Turkmenbashynyn Ruhy Metjidi” which is one of the biggest mausoleum complexes in Central Asia containing the tombs of Turkmenbashy (the former ruler of Turkmenistan) and his family. We also visit The Sanctuary of Parthian Kings, and the new, strangely modern buildings, monuments and parks of Ashgabat. Ashgabat is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having more white marble than any other city in the world. Dinner at local restaurant.
Day 9 : Ashgabat - Khiva
This morning we transfer to the Asghabat Airport for our flight to Dashoguz. Upon arrival drive 1.5 hours to Koneurgench, the ancient capital of Khorezmshahs (from the 3rd -16th century). We visit ancient mausoleums and one of the tallest minarets in Central Asia. Return to Dashoguz for lunch and then drive into Uzbekistan and onto Khiva. Check into our hotel. There will be time to rest before dinner at the hotel.
Day 10 : Khiva - Tashkent
After breakfast at the hotel, we set off on a walking tour of old Khiva, including Kunya-Ark fortress, several mosques, madrassahs and minarets. In the afternoon, there is free time. Tonight we experience dinner at a local family’s house. Then transfer to the Urgench Airport for the evening flight to Tashkent. Transfer to the hotel and check in.
Day 11 : Tashkent
Breakfast at the hotel. Today we explore Tashkent, from the Khastimam Complex, world-renownedd Uthman Qur’an Friday Mosque and the chorus bazaar. After lunch we visit the new part of the city from Independence Square to Amir Temur Museum to Alisher Navoi Theater. In the evening, we conclude the trip with a festive farewell dinner and cultural show.
Day 12 : Departure
After breakfast this morning, we transfer to the airport for your departure flight.
DATES: Best time to go: May, September Departures: May 2 - 13, 2015 Sep 27, 2015 - Oct 8, 2015
$5,095 (10-15 members)
$500 internal air
$5,095 (9-15 members)
$5,595 (7-8 members)
$500 internal air
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Gary has traveled to more than 220 countries in the last 40 years, researching, writing, photographing, and lecturing about distant lands and cultures. He has worked on humanitarian projects in Indochina, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, and has contributed his expertise to development projects in Ethiopia for UNICEF. In 1981-82, Gary taught at universities in both China and in Tibet and lectured for the Soviet Academy of Sciences in 1989. Gary has lectured on Central Asia, Inner Asia, Southeast Asia and Buddhist themes at many universities, including Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Columbia as well as lectured on cruise ships and private jet trips. He has led hundreds of trips to all continents. Gary is a longtime member of the Mongolia Society, the Association of Asian Studies, the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies, and the Central Eurasian Studies Society as well as a number of Southeast Asian study groups. He has been a long time leader of citizens diplomacy exchanges, including pioneering "peace trains" on the trans-Siberian during the cold war days of the former Soviet Union. Some of his current soft diplomacy "signatures" include utilizing creative techniques, such as Frisbees and dark chocolates. Gary wins rave reviews as a tour director.