Discover Central Asia for yourself and come in touch with the history of ancient civilizations by joining a modern day caravan on an epic journey to five exotic oriental countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
Tours to Central Asia starts from Almaty in Kazakhstan, driving into the majestic and topped with snow Tien Shan mountain range. Proceed on your journey to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, enjoying a demonstration of traditional nomadic horse games along the way. Fly to the fabled and charming Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan, and visit villages renowned for their silk and ceramics. Cross the border into Tajikistan for an overnight in historic Khujand where you may visit not only ancient muslim mosques and mausoleums but also, the oldest church in Tadjikistan, the Church of Maria Magdalena.
We are warmly welcomed as we arrive at Almaty International Airport and transferred to the hotel. Almaty is the former capital of Kazakhstan and the nation’s largest city. It is located in a mountainous area of southern Kazakhstan, near the border with Kyrgyzstan. Check in time starts from 14:00 hrs.
Overnight At The Hotel In Almaty (2 Nights)
The region around Almaty is home of large variety environments from snowy mountains to forests, lakes, and deserts that all offer sights and activities.
In the city center of Almaty, Panfilov Park has an impressive Orthodox Christian Cathedral as well as some interesting Soviet-era architecture. The K’k T’be Mountain that is connected to the city center by cable car line is a popular attraction with wonderful views over the city and its surroundings, and hosts the city’s TV tower and many restaurants.
Other attractions in Almaty include the National History Museum, the Presidential Palace, the Oriental Calendar Fountain and the Republic Square.
Overnight In Khiva.
Morning drive to Lake Issyk-Kul. Crossing Kazakh-Kyrgyz border and drive to Issyk-Kul region. Enclosed on all sides by the snowy peaks of the Tien-Shan Mountains, lake Issyk-Kul literally meaning “hot lake” is said to be the world’s second-largest alpine lake or second highest navigable lake in the world. The area around the lake is well known for its beautiful sandy shores among locals and people from Kazakhstan and Russia. Also there are many great valleys with number of trekking/climbing/walking possibilities on the southeast part of Issyk-Kul area.
We can do something of these activities.
Overnight At The Guest House (1 Night)
Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan and the gateway to the country.
Most attractions in the city are exSoviet monuments, places to see include the city’s main square called Ala Too with monument of Freedom (formerly Lenin Square), the State History Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Frunze House Museum – the famous general’s place of birth. Open-air sculpture museum, Russian Orthodox Church. A must visit place is Osh Bazaar – an amazing large market offering everything from fresh meat through cigarettes to local crafts and fake western clothes.
Many sites around that can be visited in one day.
Overnight At The Hotel In Bishkek (1 Night)
Today we depart Bishkek and fly to Osh – the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan, located in the Fergana Valley . In the center of the city is Suleyman Too (“Solomon’s mountain”), which dominates the city. It was given its name because the Muslim prophet Suleyman Sheikh was buried at the foot of it, and since that time it assumed a Holy significance and many believers make a pilgrimage here. A cave in the mountain is the site of a museum containing a collection of archaeological, geological and historical finds and information about local flora and fauna.
The city has several monuments, including one to the Kyrgyz queen Kurmanjan Datka, known for her initial resistance to the annexation of region by Russia, a mosque built in 1497 by the 14 year old Babur who had been recently crowned the King of the Fergana Valley ,the largest Mosque in Kyrgyzstan- The Shaid Tepa Mosque, and the 16th-century Rabat Abdul Khan Mosque. After visiting sights of Osh we shall head for Fergana Valley. Crossing Kyrgyz-Uzbek border and drive to Fergana, which is the capital of Fergana Province in Uzbekistan. Modern Fergana city was founded in 1876 as a garrison town and colonial appendage to Margilan (13.5 miles to the northwest) by the Russians. It was initially named New Margilan, then renamed Skobelev in 1910. Later the name was changed to Fergana.
Overnight At The Hotel In Fergana (2 Nights)
Full day tour around the Fergana Valley. Morning depart to Margilan. The city is located 12 kilometers from Fergana and is one of the oldest cities in the Fergana Valley. Since old days Margilan has been famous for its wonderful and fine silk. Via the Great Silk Road traders brought Margilanian silk to Baghdad, Cairo and Athens.”Yodgorlik” silk-weaving factory in Margilan is considered to be the best enterprise manufacturing handmade silk in Uzbekistan. At the factory you can see the whole silk-making process from cocoons processing to finished product. Here, 450 workers, with majority of them being women, weave silk and cotton fabric. The factory’s monthly output is up to 6000 meters of natural silk, semi-silk and cotton fabric. This seems to be a very little amount. But one should remember that they use the traditional technology of making the fabrics by hand – that is the same techniques Fergana weavers used in ancient times.
Next stop is Rishtan Village, which since ancient times has been famous for its ceramics. Rishtan pottery differs with richness of decor, which is dominated by blue. This unique blue glaze “ishkor” is produced by hand from natural mineral pigments and ash mountain plants. Today every third family in Rishtan produces pottery. After visiting some craftsmen we are transferred to Fergana.
In the morning we drive to Kokand, which is the main transportation junction in the Fergana Valley, leading northwest over the mountains to Tashkent, and the other west to Khujand. In Kokand we shall visit the 19th century Khudayar Khan’s Palace. After losing rule over his city state, Khudayar Khan spent all of his money and energies beautifying his city with many graceful mosques, madrassahs and his great palace with its 113 ornately decorated rooms – 19 of which are now open as a museum. Another beautiful monument is Modari-khan Mausoleum- the burial vault for all the women of the khan’s kin. Transfer to Tajik – Uzbek border .Crossing the border at check point Kanibadam.
Meet guide and drive to Khujand. In the afternoon we shall make a short sightseeing tour around Khujand – the Alexandria Eskhate, was one the extreme of many Alexandrias’, attributed to Alexander the Great who fought against the Sogdian armies, finally winning their submission with the killing of their general Spitamenes. We shall visit the local museum and the tomb of Sheikh Moslehuddin, a much respected Saint of the region.
Overnight At The Hotel In Khujand (1 Night)
Today we shall visit another marvelous city in Tajikistan- Istaravshan, which is one of the oldest and beautiful cities with a history dating back more than 2500 years.
It was famous in the past for its handicrafts, particularly carving, glazed pottery, embroidery, gold and silver ornaments, but now has an economy based on fruit processing and wine making, though some crafts survive.
Today, some of Istaravshan’s greatest features are museums, a trade and craft center, mosques, and ancient ruins. Some of these old buildings were decorated with paintings and wood carvings, such as in Bundjikat, where archaeologists discovered a painting depicting a she-wolf feeding two babies: a symbol of the West and the Orient converging. Other remains that survive today include a gate, dome, and columns from a governor’s residence, a citadel and a castle.
Our last stop in Tajikistan is Pendjikent. It layes on the road to Samarkand and is known as the “Pompeii of Central Asia”. A prosperous, fortified city which was grounded by the Arabs in the 8th century and then abandoned, its ruins are an archaeologist’s treasure. After visiting this unique site we continue for Samarkand. Crossing the Tajik – Uzbek border and drive to Samarkand.
Upon arrival at Samarkand we are met by our guide and transferred to the hotel.
Overnight At The Hotel In Samarkand (3 Nights)
The day starts from visiting the main sight of Samarkand-legendary Registan Square. It’s the huge plaza framed on three sides by three buildings: Ulugbek Madrassah, Tillya-Kari Madrassah, and Sher -Dor Madrassah – three of the most magnificent structures on the Earth.Than we shall see Guri-Emir mausoleum which contains the tombs of Tamerlane, his sons Shah-Rukh and Miran-Shah and grandsons Ulugh Beg and Muhammad Sultan.
And of course, the world-famous ruins of Bibi – Khanum Mosques, which makes an unforgettable impression on its visitors.
Not far from Bibi-Khanum Mosque there is one of the most mysterious Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis, where you will find a complex consisting of more than twenty buildings, unique in Central Asia.
Visit Ulugbek Observatory with big sundial – incredible construction of 15 century for studying astronomy and Afrosiab Museum.
The museum is located on the site of ancient settlement called Afrosiab. In 1220 the city was almost completely destroyed by the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan.
The revelations of Afrosiab narrate about the history and culture of Sogdiana, an ancient Persian province, 6-8 centuries. The wall-paintings from the palace of local governors come first among those revelations.
Evening At Leisure To Wander Through The Streets Of Samarkand.
Early In The Morning Depart Samarkand, Drive To Shakhrisabz ( 90 Kms,1.30 Hrs )
The city is also known as the birthplace of the great ruler Tamerlane. In Amir Timur’s time in the northwest part of Shakhrisabz there was built the huge Ak-Sarai palace surpassing in sizes even the governmental residence in Samarkad. But the palace was destroyed in the second half of the 16th century by the Sheibanids who tried to erase any signs of the Temurids.
Visit Dorut-Tilyavat memorial complex with Kok Gumbaz Mosque ( “the Blue dome” mosque) and ruins of Doru – Saodat Complex( “Place of Power”) which consists of mausoleum of Jahongir, elder son of Amir Timur, Omar’s tomb Timur’s second son, Hazrat Imam Mosque and Timur’s vault.
On the way back to Samarkand you will have a wonderful scenery of Kashkadarya landscape.
Morning drive to Bukhara( 270 kms, 4.5 hrs)
On the way to Samarkand stop at the 11th century Rabat Malik.
Bukhara is like fairy-tale city – the land of Eastern beauties. The Great Silk Road caravans never missed this town – the only oasis around. Nowadays Bukhara is famous not only for it’s superb historical monuments, but for it’s lively trade. Every traveler finds something unique here’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.
Overnight At The Hotel In Bukhara (3 Nights)
Our sightseeing program will start form visiting the magnificent Mausoleum of Ismail Samani -the burial place of powerful and influential Emir of the Samanid dynasty, is pearl of the Asia.
The construction and artistic details of the brickwork dated ninth century, are still enormously impressive, and display traditional features dating back to pre-Islamic culture.
Not far from Samanids’ Mausoleum another Holy Chashma Ayub (Job’s well) located. The water of this well is pure and considered healing.In the western part of Bukhara, close to Samanid Mausoleum and Chashma Ayub Mausoleum there is one of the most beautiful and graceful ensembles – the 16th century Kosh Madrassah.
We shall also visit Bolo Hauz Complex, Arc Fortress – the center of political events and residence of Bukharian rulers until 1920. Nowadays there is a museum inside. Poi-Kalon Ensemble which includes Kalon mosque, best-known Minaret Kalan and Madrassah Miri-Arab is the biggest mosque of Bukhara, Madrassah Ulugbek and Abdulazizkhan, the 12th century Zoroastrian Magoki-Attori Mosque,trading domes and Lyabi Hauz Complex consisting of three large monumental buildings: Kukeldash Madrassa, Nodir Divan-begi Madrassah and Khanaka.
And please do not forget to visit extraordinary monument of the past- Chor-Minor Madrassah! There is no more similar building in Central Asia.
Evening at leisure to wander through the streets of ancient Bukhara.
Today we travel outside the city: beautiful summer palace of Bukhara Emir’s Sitorai-Mokhi-Khosa the weather around this aria is always cooler than in city, Bakhoutdin Naqshbandi mausoleum – the place of pilgrimage for Muslims which was erected in 1544 in honor of Bakhouddin Naqshbandi the prominent saint and the founder of the Naqshbandiya Spiritual Order.It is considered that Naqshbandi was Sayid, the direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad.People from far countries come here to find the healing and wisdom.
Chor-Bakr Necropolis which was built over the burial place of Abu-Bakr-Said, who was one of the four of Abu-Bakrs (Chor-Bakr) – descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.
Depart Bukhara in the morning, drive to Khiva (470 kms,10hrs) Trip through the KyzylKum desert also called Qyzylqum, the 11th largest desert in the world. Mostly covered with sand dunes on which desert plants grow, the desert serves as pasture for Karakul sheep, horses, and camels, and there are several small oasis settlements.
During the trip you can admire the Amu Darya River, as one third of the road is parallel to the course of this great Central Asian river, and communicate with a family of local shepherds that have installed their yurt (nomads’ tent) close to the highway.
In the afternoon after some rest we shall have short tour of Ichan-Kala (12-19 centuries) the inner town of Khiva city which retains more than 50 historic monuments and old houses: Kunya Arc Fortress, Pahlavan Mahmud Complex ,Kalta-Minor Minaret- the real symbol of the city.
Overnight At The Hotel In Khiva (2 Nights)
Khiva is the museum in open air 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 Amu-Darya 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. Juma Mosque and Minaret, Tash-Khowli Palace-stone country-estate, Minaret and Mosque of Khodja-Islam, Tim of Ala-Kulikhan, Abdulla-Khan Madrassah, Seyyid Allauddin Mausoleum, Madrassah of Muhamad Amin-Khan , Madrassah of Muhamad Rakhim-Khan, Nurullbay Palace, Walls and gates of Ichan-Kala. The time has still not changed the character and culture of this walled city, which still thrives on its past glory.
In the morning we depart Khiva and drive to Nukus – the capital of the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan(170 kms, 2.5 hrs)
On the road we shall visit the ancient fortress of Khorezm:
Toprak Kala (“Clay castle”),the residence of Khwarazm Shahs dating back to the 1st- 5th centuries A.D. and amazing Ayaz Kala (“Ice Castle”), which consists of three fortresses built from the 4th cent.
Upon arrival at Nukus we are transferred to the hotel.
One of the most interesting sights of Karakalpakstan,which attracts visitors from all over the world, is the Art Museum of I. V. Savitskiy, world-known for its unique collection of paintings and sculptures of Russian Soviet avant-guard of 1920s to 1960s.,which contains more than 50 000 paintings and other works of art.
Overnight At The Hotel In Nukus (1 Night)
Early in the morning we depart Nukus and drive to Khodjeili to visit Mizdahkan site (15 kms) which consists of Gyaur-Kala fortress(4B.C.) and the necropolis with mausoleums of Shamun Nabi (12-13 century), Mazlumkhan Sulu (the first half of the 14th century) and the ruins of Erejep Calif Madrassah. Near to the ancient burial grounds until today one is capable to see the ruins of the Golden Horde City of Antakiya of 13-14 centuries.
The next stop is Kunya-Urgench (Old Urgench) which was a major trade center on the Silk Road and the capital of Khorezm region from the 10th-16th centuries.
The city was destroyed first by Genghiz Khan, and a few centuries later by Tamerlane.In our days the town is considered as sacred place and many people come here to pray for fertility. Most of Kunya-Urgench’s monuments have completely or partly collapsed. However, today we can admire the 11th century Kutlug-Timur minaret- the highest minaret of those time (60 meter high) and the Mausoleum of a Mongolian princess Turabeg Khanum (14 century) who was canonized and declared a saint after death.
After visiting this sacred site we head for Dashoguz to get flight to Ashgabat – the capital of Turkmenistan.
Overnight At The Hotel In Ashgabat (4 Nights)
The name Ashgabat, which is situated between the Kara Kum desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range is very unusual, it comes from the Arabic word “ashkhabat”, which means “City of Love”. The city – planning ensemble, created in the center of the capital includes Arch of Neutrality, with a golden statue of Turkmenbashi on the top, the Presidential Palace, the building of the Mejlis, the complex of the Academy of Sciences, the Academic Mollanepes Drama Theater, Bayram Khan monument, Lenin Square, Mekan Palace, the building of National Library, the Music College and Conservatory, the 19th century Orthodox Church of Alexander Nevsky, Ertogrul Gazy Mosque and Ashgabat Circus.
Later we shall visit the archaeological site of Nisa – UNESCO World Heritage (18 kms).Nisa was the capital of the Parthian Empire, which dominated this region of central Asia from the mid 3rd century BC to the early 3rd century AD. As such it formed a barrier to Roman expansion, whilst at the same time serving as an important communications and trading centre, at the crossroads of north-south and east-west routes. Nisa was later renamed Mithradatkert, and an indication of the date of its foundation are known from an inscription written on one of the 2,700 administrative ceramics (ostraka) found at Nisa. Mithradatkert means ‘the fortress of Mithidrat,’ referring to King Mithradat I (174-138 BC). The exhibits in the Parthian era hall is very interesting.We shall see the wonderful collection of Parthian rhytons. After visiting Nisa we shall come back to Ashgabat for short walk to the sights of the capital of Turkmenistan.
Today we take flights in/out of Mary town – the oldest and best-preserved of the oasis-cities along the Silk Route in Central Asia. The remains in this vast oasis span 4,000 years of human history. A number of monuments are still visible, particularly from the last two millennia. We shall have a detailed visit of Merv by visiting Gayur Kala, Erk Kala which is attested in written sources from the Achaemenian period (519-331 BC) and Sultan Kala. We shall also see the impressive mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar (1118-57), one of the powerful Khorezmian ruler. The archaeological site of Merv often mentioned as Margiana by classical writers is a rich city, which was part of the Achaemenian empire in 6th century BC, the city was invaded by the Macedonians under Alexander the Great and passed through successive rulers till it was invaded by the Arabs in 8th century AD serving as part of a springboard for their invasion of Central Asia. In the Islamic era it was known as the ‘Mother of the cities’, which flourished as an important town on the Great Silk Road running to Parthia. It was invaded by the Mongols in 13th century (1221- 22) who depopulated the city by mercilessly killing more than a million souls. The archaeological museum of Mary is situated in the town and was selected to house the finds from the archaeological sites. There is a fairly large collection of Bronze age sites of Gonur Tepe and the artifacts found are comparable with the Sialk and Baluch sites of the same age. There is also ethnic section dedicated to the local tribes.
Early in the morning we shall visit the famous Tolkuchka Bazaar (secondhand 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 all over the world.
After bazaar we shall visit the Carpet Museum. It is an excellent museum for anyone interested in the history of Turkmen carpet weaving.
For those who keen on horses there is great opportunity to visit farm and do ride Akhal-Teke horse – the real pride of Turkmenistan.
Check out and transfer to the airport for international flight