The Heart of Central Asia: All Stans within 22 days

 

Countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan

Tour duration: 22 days

This tour is developed to see all states of Central Asia in one 3 weeks long trip. During the tour you get in touch with all major remains of the Great Silk Road as well as modern life of these bright countries. Being so different in the modern history all Central Asian states have a common past, kindred customs and traditions.

Day 1. Arrival in Kazakhstan

Late evening (or early morning of the next day) arrival in Almaty. Pick-up by local guide and transfer to the hotel.

Accommodation: Hotel Otrar****

Day 2. Almaty, sightseeing tour

Almaty is a southern capital of Kazakhstan and at the same time the largest city of the country. Officially it is not the capital of the country for over 20 years, but still an important cultural and business center. The capital city of Verniy was founded in 1854 by the Russian tsarist government, replacing the old settlement of Alma-Tau ("apple-tree"). During the city tour you will see beautiful wooden Russian buildings – Zenkov-Cathedral, the ex-assembly house of Czar officers and an apparel shop (1903 - 1908). Our city sightseeing tours includes: 28 Panfilov’s guardsmen park, Zenkov-Cathedral, Museum of History, Green Bazaar and Republic Square (Overall duration of city tour - 4 hours). In the afternoon excursion to a picturesque Big Almaty Lake (2511 m), whose turquoise surface reflects the surrounding peaks like a mirror - Peak Sovetov (4317 m), Peak Ozorhiy (4110 m), Peak Tourist (3954 m)

Accommodation: Hotel Otrar****

Day 3. Transfer to Karakol, 400 km

Today we proceed to the next country of our tour – Kyrgyzstan but first we visit an amazing Charyn Canyon. The canyon is considered as the Grand Canyon’s younger brother. The dramatic erosion made by the river Charyn has created an impressive landscape. The site is also known as a Valley of Castles. It has a peculiar bright red color and rock formations resemble castles. It’s spectacular during the day and at night under a star-lit sky. After excursion to Charyn Canyon we proceed to the Kyrgyz-Kazakh border and then after all border procedures to Karakol.

Accommodation: Hotel Green Yard ***

Day 4. Transfer to Bishkek, 450 km

The atmosphere of Karakol town will bring you hundred years back and give you an impression of Tsarist Russia. Our 2 hours city tour includes: Old Russian Style houses (1870 – 1910), Russian Orthodox Church (1886) and Dungan mosque (1899) that was made out of wood with no nails. Further transfer to Jeti-Oguz gorge. Here you will have an opportunity to admire fantastic rock formations made of red sandstone, local pastures have long been used by shepherds to graze flocks of sheep and herds of horses. We proceed along the southern shore of Issyk-Kul Lake. The lake sits in a hollow surrounded by snowcapped peaks of Terskei and Kungei Ala-Tau Mountain ranges at the altitude of 1600m. Issyk-Kul Lake is 180 km long, 60 km wide and 700 m deep. 134 streams and rivers flow into the lake but none flows out what is explained by underwater tectonic activity.

On the way to Bishkek we make a stop at Karakhanid’s minaret of the 12 century - Burana tower. Nowadays it is a museum complex which includes the tower itself, reconstructions of mausoleums found on the site, remains of the citadel, a collection of balbals (grave stones used by nomadic Turkic peoples), petroglyphs (stone carvings) and a small museum.

Accommodation: Hotel Silk Road Lodge****

Day 5. Transfer to Taraz, 290 km

Bishkek is a capital and the largest city in Kyrgyzstan, located at the foothill of magnificent Kyrgyz Ala-Tau mountain range. Bishkek is a city of many green parks and marble-faced public buildings combined with numerous Soviet-style apartment blocks and thousands of smaller privately built houses. It is laid out on a grid pattern, with most streets flanked on both sides by narrow irrigation channels that water the innumerable trees which provide shade during hot summers. The city is believed to be the greenest in Central Asia with more trees per head of population than any other. Our sightseeing tour includes: Ala-Too square, the main square of the country. The square serves as a place for state events and celebrations and includes many monuments, open-air picture gallery, famous Oak Park, marble government buildings and theaters. After easy walk in downtown of Bishkek we continue our trip to Taraz in Kazakhstan, a place where a fateful battle between Chinese and Arabs took place in 761 AD. The spread of Islam in Central Asia began after the Arabs' victory.

Accommodation: Hotel Jambyl***

Day 6. Transfer to Turkestan, 350 km

Today we head towards an old caravan town of Turkestan, which was a large religious and trading center 1,500 years ago and was included in UNESCO's list of world cultural heritage few years ago due to its medieval architectural monuments.

On the way, we stop at mausoleums of Aisha-Bibi and Babaji-Hatun, which date back to Karakhanid’s period.

Upon arrival in Turkestan, we visit the mausoleum of well-known Sufi and poet Ahmed Jasawi (1094-1146) - the imposing mausoleum with bright blue domes, refined carvings and magnificent majolica mosaics was built in the end of the 14th century. The construction was erected by order of Timur. The complex includes a Juma Mosque (1878), Hilowat's underground mosque (12th-14th century), a medieval bathing house, a gallery of stone sculptures, the Esumhan Mausoleum (16th century) and Rabija Sultan Begim Mausoleum (15th century).

Accommodation: Hotel Yassy**

Day 7. Transfer to Tashkent, 310 km

Today we continue to Uzbekistan. Along the way, we will visit a mausoleum of the famous Islamic mediaeval mystic and teacher of Ahmed Jasawi in Arstanbab and ruins of ancient scientific and ghost town of Otrar, where the famous medieval thinker and scholar Al-Farabi was born. In 1220 the city was demolished by troops of Genghis Khan. The border crossing is at 4 pm.

Accommodation: Hotel City Palace ****

Day 8. Tashkent, sightseeing tour

This wonderful city is a real embodiment of the modern elegance that is inherent in many world capitals. At the same time it remains an oriental city.  Enjoy a discovery tour through the capital of Uzbekistan, which will take you to the ancient squares and buildings as well as modern part of the 2,000 year old city. First visit is Kukeldash Madrasah, which still serves as a Koran School. You will also see the Khasti-Imon Square with the beautiful Barak Khan Madrasah, the Tillya Sheikh Mosque and the Kaffal Shashi Mausoleum made of simple brickwork. Here you can also take a look at the Koran written by the third Caliph Osman (644 - 656). A stroll through the huge Chorsu bazaar will let you experience the everyday life with all your senses.

You should not miss an underground ride: Tashkent and Almaty are the only Central Asian cities to have a subway, which is also a small architectural and artistic masterpiece. Our city tour also includes a richly decorated Museum of Applied Art. Exhibits include national carpets, gold embroidery, ceramics, porcelain, jewelry, small furniture and musical instruments.

Accommodation: Hotel City Palace ****

Day 9. Transfer to Khojand, 200 km

Transfer to the Tajik-Uzbek border at Oybek. Continue to Khojand. Upon arrival in Khojand we visit: the Sheikh Muslihiddin Mosque and the largest bazaar in Tajikistan - Payshanba.

Accommodation: Hotel Firuz ****

Day 10. Transfer to Dushanbe, 350 km

Drive to Dushanbe through the Varzob Gorge and the Istiklol Tunnel.

Our first stop is in the ancient city of Istarafshan, founded by the Persian king of Cyrus the Great in the 7th century. You will visit the old town with the mosque of Shohi-Zinda and Mug Teppe, where once stood a gigantic fortress. On the way you will enjoy majestic views of Fan mountain ranges and emerald Iskandarkul Lake (2195 m) that reflects the surrounding mountains.

Accommodation: Hotel Lotus****

Day 11. Sightseeing tour of Dushanbe

From Tajik language name of the capital may be translated as “Monday”, it was named so because it grew from a village that originally had a popular market on Mondays. Areas around Dushanbe were known as a center of cotton and silk production during Soviet period of history. Although the name of the city is rather new, the historical past dates back as far as 3 thousand years. Archeologists have dug out the remains of Greek-Bactrian settlements, the site of ancient settlement from Kushan period, site of ancient Shishi Khon village and other medieval settlements. Our tour in Dushanbe will include the Museum of Antiquities, home to the UNESCO protected reclining Buddha – the largest statue of Buddha in Central Asia, main mosque, old synagogue, Russian Orthodox Church, Rudaki Park, and Shah-Mansur bazaar.

We also will take a trip to Hissar Fortress, ruins of an 18th century fort of Emirate of Bukhara.

Accommodation: Hotel Lotus ****

Day 12. Transfer to Samarkand, 500 km

Today we go back to Uzbekistan. Our long drive takes us through beautiful mountainous and steppe landscapes to Samarkand, the heart of the legendary Silk Road. On the way we visit Shakhrisabz - one of most ancient cities in Central Asia. It was founded over 2700 years ago. Shakhrisabz is the hometown of Tamerlane and everything in Shakhrisabz is linked with his name.

Accommodation: Hotel Grand Samarkand****

Day 13. Sightseeing tour of Samarkand

The historic town of Samarkand is a crossroad and a melting pot of world's cultures. Founded in the 7th century B.C. as ancient Afrosiab, Samarkand received its most significant development in the Timurid’s period from the 14th to the 15th centuries.

Today you will explore the fabled city of Samarkand, one of the most important sites of the Silk Road. Visit of Registan Square which was for many centuries the heart of Samarkand. We will see three beautiful madrasahs: the Ulug-Bek Madrasah built in the 15th century; the Tillya-Kori Madrasah built in the 17th century; the Sher-Dor Madrasah, also built in the 17th century. Visiting of Gur Emir - mausoleum of the Great Tamerlane.

Accommodation: Hotel Registan Plaza****

Day 14. Transfer to Bukhara, 270 km

Our route from Samarkand to Bukhara goes along the ancient Silk Road. Bukhara was one of the greatest trading centers at the Silk Road. The history of Bukhara stretches back millennia. Humans have inhabited the region around Bukhara for at least five millennia, and the city exists for half that time. Located at the Silk Road, the city has long served as a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion. The town is also known as an open-air museum of mosques, madrasahs and minarets. It was the first oasis that caught eyes of invading Arab armies. In its 2500 year history it constantly changed hands from one ruler to another. City tour includes: architectural complex Poi Kalon with the Kalon Minaret, Kalon Mosque and Mir-Arab Madrasah, Toki Zargaron trade-domes, Magoki  Attori Mosque.

Accommodation: Hotel Malika Bukhara ***

Day 15. Sightseeing tour of Bukhara

In the morning we visit an oriental bazaar full of traditional colors and oriental smells. We continue our walk through Bukhara with the most beautiful architectural ensembles of mosques and madrasahs, visiting the Ark Citadel, the Mausoleum of the Samanids, Chor Minor Madrasahs, Lyabi Khauz Square, the Mausoleum Chashma Ayub, Bolo Mosque. Folklore show in Nadir Divan Begi Madrasah.

Accommodation: Hotel Malika Bukhara ****

Day 16. Transfer to Khiva, 560 km

We proceed to Khiva via Kizilkum Desert (red sands) - the route of invaders, nomadic hordes and armies of Persians, Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. We enjoy a picnic-lunch at Amudarya (Oxus River) and continue to Khiva. Khiva - the city museum is unique in its beauty known as "The Pearl of Khorezm Oasis". Important spiritual and cultural values came from the large scientific centers of astronomy, mathematics and medicine that operated in this area centuries ago. A valuable heritage of knowledge was left here by internationally famous scholars such as Beruni, Agakhi and Nadjmiddin. One can stroll through the narrow streets of Khiva, peeking into the small courtyards through the wooden carved doors. The life inside the gardens assures the visitor that it is not just a museum, but also a living city.

Accommodation: Hotel Asia Khiva ****

Day 17. Sightseeing tour of Khiva

This winding old town is like a daylight museum from tales of 1001 nights. Since 1990 it has been a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. Behind every corner and gate there are new scenes, whether it be the mosques' inner squares, minarets sparkling in the sun, ornamented carved wooden doors or small workshops, where the inhabitants still follow traditional craftsmanship. Khiva has still preserved the fabulous atmosphere of an ancient, oriental city. Visit the old town of Khiva with the surrounding Kunya Ark fortress, Mohammed Amin Khan Madrasah, beautifully decorated Islamic Khodja Minaret, Palvan Kari Complex and Rafanek Madrasah. In the afternoon, continue your exploration and visit the Uch-Avliyo Mausoleum, Juma Mosque, the Tash-Hauli Palace, where a cobra is still guarding the gold treasures of the last Khan, Arab Mohammed Khan Madrasah and many more breathtaking sights that you will never forget. Everywhere within this old town you will find fine, ornate wood carvings - an art that has been cultivated in Khiva since ancient times. Keep your camera ready. Particularly beautiful is a panoramic view of sunset from the Akshi Bobo Tower over the city.

Accommodation: Hotel Asia Khiva ****

Day 18. Transfer to Dashoguz, 280 km

Today we enter the last Stan of our trip - Turkmenistan. First of all visit Konya Urgench – capital of the powerful Khorezmia which ruled here until Mongol’s invasion. This ancient town contains ruins of the capital of Khorezm, a part of the Achaemenid Empire. Its inhabitants deserted the town 350 years ago in order to develop a new settlement, and Kunya-Urgench has remained undisturbed. In 2005, the ruins of Old Urgench have been inscribed in the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in Turkmenistan, lying within a vast zone of protected landscapes and containing a large number of well-preserved monuments, dating from the 11th to the 16th centuries. It comprises mosques, gates of caravanserai, fortresses, mausoleums and minarets, and the influence of their architectural style and craftsmanship reached Iran, Afghanistan and the later architecture of the Mogul Empire of 16th-century in India. Our excursion plan includes Kutlug Temir minaret, Tubarek Khanum, Sultan Tekesh and the Fahriddin Mausoleums, burial mosque of 12th century and 15th century Gutluk Temir Minaret. Our journey continues to Dashogus.

Accommodation: Hotel Dashoguz****

Day 19. Transfer to Ashgabat, 600 km

Today our journey continues towards Darvaza crater. On the way we make a short sightseeing tour of Izmukshir Fort. The unique crater is also known as the "gateway to hell" among connoisseurs. The trip to Darvaza crater will turn out to be a fiery adventure. It is a spectacular sight of a 50 to 100 meter large cave in the midst of barren Karakum desert. Geologists discovered a cave filled with natural gas in 1971. To prevent toxic methane from escaping, the gas was ignited and burns to this day. If you could not see it from far away, the sulfur smell would show you the way. After visiting the crater we will proceed to Ashgabat.

Accommodation: Hotel Grand Turkmen****

Day 20. Sightseeing tour of Ashgabat

With its lavish marble palaces, gleaming gold domes and vast expanses of manicured parkland, Ashgabat (“the city of love” in Arabic) is a showcase city for the newly independent republic. The Turkmen capital of Ashgabat lies at the foot of Kopet Dag Mountains in a fertile oasis of Karakum desert.

We will visit the famous archeological site of Nisa - winter capital of Parthian rulers and National Museum of History with its rich collection of ancient artifacts and ethnic exhibits.

Accommodation: Hotel Grand Turkmen****

Day 21. Flight to Mary and back

This morning we take a flight to Mary (10:00 - 10:40 am) to see ruins of Oasis Town - Merv 20 km away. Here we will visit the Erk Kala Settlement, the Gyaur Kala Fortress, the 38-meter-high mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, small and large Gyz Kala Fortresses and many other monuments belonging to the UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. In the evening (7:00 - 7:40 pm) we take a back flight to Ashgabat.

Accommodation: Hotel Grand Turkmen****

Day 22. Departure

Transfer to the airport and departure. End of services.

 

Tour price and list of services - on request

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