Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan - A Silk Road Journey

Embark on an expedition into Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan on an adventure of fascinating culture & heritage, unearthly landscapes, historical legacies and scintillating UNESCO sites. This is a journey not for the faint-hearted. 

HIGHLIGHTS

Uncover the best of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan's most iconic sites

Stay in charming hotels, guesthouses and camps under the stars

Sample traditional Uzbek & Turkmen cuisine

ITINERARY

DAY 1: ARRIVE TASHKENT

Arrive Tashkent - capital of Uzbekistan a city that dates back more than 2,000 years ago and the largest city in Central Asia is a curious blend of Islamic and Soviet influences. After an early arrival, be met and transfer to the Hyatt Regency Tashkent for some much-needed rest. 

Awake this afternoon where we take you to a local restaurant for lunch to start your education of Uzbekistan beginning with its traditional cuisine. Thereafter, embark on a tour of the Old City area of Tashkent where you will find the Khast Imam Complex which contains the ancient holy Quran of Caliph Uthman, Tilla Sheikh Mosque and the Mausoleum of Saint Abu Bakr. We then take a ride on the city’s famous Soviet-era metro system which like Moscow’s features some of the most ornately decorated stations in the world. Exiting at Amir Temur Square Station, admire the Statue of Amir Temur, the Conqueror of Central Asia and next to it, the grand Independence Square

Overnight: Hyatt Regency, Tashkent (including guaranteed early check in)

Meals: Lunch & Dinner

DAY 2: TASHKENT / URGENCH / KHIVA

Enjoy a relaxing morning and later, we will make a visit to the atmospheric Chorsu Bazaar with its iconic giant green dome and one of the most busiest in Central Asia where you can find an assortment of spices, vegetables, fresh meat as well as jewelry and ceramics. This is a great place to understand the local life. Next to it is the Kukeldash Madrasah, one of the best-preserved monuments in Tashkent as well as the largest Islamic theological college in the Central Asian city and among the leaders of Muslim educational institution in the region. Later, a pleasant drive to the city limits take us to the Shedevr Garden Restaurant where we enjoy lunch in a relaxing atmosphere sampling homely Uzbek cuisine. Later, we continue to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the oldest orthodox church in Tashkent completed in 1905, with stunning architecture of white and blue before making our way to Tashkent Airport for our domestic flight to Urgench. 

Arriving at Urgench Airport, we then transfer to the ancient city of Khiva (1hr drive) where we arrive and check in at the stunning Orient Star Khiva Hotel, right inside the Mukhamed Aminkhan Madrasah that dates back to 1851 and recently reconstructed into a heritage hotel in 2000. 

Overnight: Orient Star Khiva Hotel, Khiva

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 3: KHIVA

After breakfast, we embark on a tour of the ancient city of Khiva, bursting with historical sites. We will visit the walled inner-city section of Khiva called Ichan-Kala. This old section of town preserves more than fifty historic monuments and hundreds of old houses dating back hundreds of years. The entire citadel is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you walk through the enormous city gates, you are confronted by the glistening Islamic beacon, the Kalta-minor Minaret. Delve deep into the town on a guided tour that embraces all of the city sites, and includes an ascent of the Islam Khodja Minaret, the highest minaret in Khiva. Enjoy broad views of Old Khiva atop the Kunya-Ark Citadel. During early dinner we will get the chance to watch exotic folklore show of local musicians and dancers from Khorezm region.

Overnight: Orient Star Khiva Hotel, Khiva

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 4: KHIVA (THE KHOREZM FORTRESSES) / NUKUS

Venture our of Khiva today as we explore the ancient fortresses of Khorezm, built more than 2,000 years ago. Travel to the Kyzylkum Desert where we discover the archaeological monuments of Ancient Khorezm: you will visit Kyzyl-Kala - a unique monument of Ancient Khorezm architecture relevant to Kushan - Afrigid period of antique history, Toprak-Kala - ancient settlement which was the capital of Khorezm in the 3rd Century AD. Not without reason Toprak-Kala is called "the museum of fine arts of Ancient Khorezm". It is the only completely dug out monument of architecture of Khorezm. Its sizes and genius of architectural design make Toprak-Kala one of the most unique monuments of Khorezm. There is a legend that the ancient subterranean passage connects Toprak-Kala and Kyzyl-Kala. It is quite possible that Kyzyl-Kala carried out the protective functions. Then we will visit one of the largest fortresses of Ancient Khorezm – Ayaz-Kala, 2nd Century AD, relevant to the period of Kushan Empire prosperity. Ayaz-Kala was neither a city nor a settlement, it was a fortress complex where nearly 19 centuries ago boundary groups of Kushan dynasty settled down. Thereafter, we continue north towards the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan where our eventual stop will be the city of Nukus where we will stay for the night. 

Overnight: Hotel Jipek Koli, Nukus

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 5: NUKUS / MIZDAKHAN NECROPOLIS / KUNYA URGENCH 

An exciting day beckons as we leave Nukus early this morning for a short drive to visit the Mizdakhan Necropolis and the ruins of the Gyaur-Kala fortress, dating back to the 4th Century BC and originally a place of worship for the Zoroastrians before the Arab conquest in the 8th Century resulting in the capture of the fortress by the Arabs which annexed the religion of Zoroastrianism. We will learn insights into the invasions where the dead were buried according to Muslim rites in this gigantic ancient cemetery. Later, we then cross the border into Turkmenistan where a short drive arrives us at the UNESCO-listed site of Kunya Urgench - once the capital of the Khorezmian Empire.  Kunya Urgench owes its UNESCO World Heritage status to the fact that it was an important Silk Road hub on the Oxus River, and capital of the Khorezm Empire (12th Century AD), until its destruction by the armies of Dzhengis Khan. Several mausoleums, town wall remains, the tallest minaret in Central Asia and the Kyrk Molla pilgrim mount reflect the various roles of this historical city, which was praised by historical figures such as Biruni and Avicenna, Al-Farabi and Al-Khorezmi. We will spend uncover some of the most fascinating sites such as the Kutlug Timur Minaret - the tallest minaret in Central Asia, the II Arslan Mausoleum, Turabek Khanym Mausoleum, Najmiddin Kubra and Sultan Ali Mausoleum Complex as well as the lonely "The Gate of the Caravanserai". Thereafter, we will check in into a local guest house in Kunya Urgench. 

Overnight: Guest house in Kunya Urgench

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 6: KUNYA URGENCH / DARVAZA GAS CRATER

Get set for an interesting day that will end up in fire and flames literally as we hop onto our 4WD vehicle pass surreal landscapes (4.5hrs drive) that eventually takes us deep into the Karakum Desert to the fiery Darvaza Gas Crater - aka "Door to Hell" where in 1971, Soviet geologists started to drill at the site where they tapped into a cavern filled with natural gas. During the drilling an accident happened, equipment and transport fell down in a big hole. No one was injured, but there was gas coming out of the hole. Fearing that the hole would lead to the release of poisonous gases, the team decided to burn it off. It was hoped that the fire would use all the fuel within few days, but weeks, months and years passed, and it is still burning today. Fast forward to present-day, it has become an iconic spot in Turkmenistan tourism, an unbelievable photography spot. We will set up camp close by the crater, enjoying a night sleeping under the stars, chattering with fellow travelers and BBQ the night away. 

Overnight: Camping Tent

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 7: DARVAZA GAS CRATER / GEOKDEPE / ASHGABAT

We leave Darvaza today for a drive into Ashgabat - the fascinating capital city of Turkmenistan where en route, stop at the fortress ruins of Geokdepe, site of the last battle in the late 19th Century between the Turkmen and the Russians. In honor of the people who perished during the fierce battle, the marvelous blue-domed Mosque was erected inside the fortress, making a little stop to see stylized Muslim inscriptions and astonishing decoration skillfully painted. Thereafter, a short drive away, we stop at the UNESCO-listed ruins of the Parthian Fortresses of Nisa, dating back to the 1st Century BC. Enjoy an informative guided walk through and learn about the archaeological complex that was once an opulent imperial residence. We then arrive into Ashgabat where there is time for an orientation and visit to the National Independence Park - the nation's pride and love of groomed paths, marble stairs and remarkable monuments which is dominated by the 118m high Independence Monument. Later, we will also visit the bizarre-shaped Neutrality Monument where many likened it to a rocket. The 95m structure that dominates over the Marble city of Ashgabat is the tallest monument in Turkmenistan. The structure rests on three pylons forming a trivet – a Turkmen hearth stand, symbolizing the strength of the state. Finally, we will arrive at another bizarrely-designed building, shaped like a giant beehive, the Hotel Yyldyz for check in. 

Overnight: Yyldyz Hotel, Ashgabat

Meals: Breakfast & Lunch

DAY 8: ASHGABAT / BALKANABAT / YANGYKALA CANYON

We start the day with a visit to another bizarre monument, the Wedding Palace, built as a complex hosting marriage registrations and banquets where we stop to admire its interesting architecture. Thereafter, we proceed to the outskirts of Ashgabat with a visit to the Altyn Asyr Bazaar, the largest in Turkmenistan to witness the fascinating colors of goods such as carpets, traditional clothes as well as fresh produce and the chatter of locals going about their daily lives. We then head over to Ashgabat Airport for a short flight to Balkanabat where on arrival, embark on a scenic and inspiring drive to the otherworldly realm of the Yangykala Canyon with its band of pink, red, yellow and white rock searing across the sides of steep canyon walls - a truly remarkable natural phenomenon where we spend the night in our tents again under the stars while admiring its changing hues as the sun goes down.

Overnight: Camping Tent

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 9: YANGYKALA CANYON / TURKMENBASHI / MARY

We have the bulk of the morning to appreciate the beauty and spectacle of the Yangykala Canyon and later, we continue a drive to Turkmenbashi, on the threshold of the Caspian Sea which shares it natural border with Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan. Taking a short domestic flight to the east, we arrive into Mary and then a visit to the archaeological ruins of Gonur Tepe where the first agricultural settlements appeared in the delta of Murgab River as back as the 3rd Millennium BC. Fertile silt coming from mountains, abundance of water and moderate climate had created favorable conditions for good crops and the progress of the ancient economy was continuing for several centuries. The American newspaper “Boston Globe” wrote that before we knew the four oldest centers of the world’s civilizations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and China, and due to the fantastic results of the Margiana expedition, it is quite possible to think that there was another, the fifth center. Return to Mary where we will stay the next 2 nights. 

Overnight: Hotel Margush, Mary

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 10: MARY (ANCIENT MERV)

We dedicate a full day today to explore the vast UNESCO-listed ancient site of Merv - one of the major archaeological sites of Central Asia, Merv played an important part in the development of the Silk Road for more than 2000 years. Within the limits of the archaeological park, which is 1200 hectares, we will have a chance to observe all constituent parts of the “wandering city”. A series of adjacent cities, which can be roughly divided into the ancient (Erk Kala and Gyaur Kala), the medieval (Sultan Kala with its suburbs), and post-medieval (Abdulla-Khan Kala and Bayram-Ali-Khan Kala), appeared in the course of time as a token of the natural progress of the city from initial stages of its existence to a more advanced level. Besides remnants of the cities of Merv, we will visit the VI-IX cc. AD forts of Big and Little Kyz-Kalas, excellent examples of the so-called corrugated Koshks; the splendid XII c. mausoleums of Sultan Sanjar and Muhammed ibn-Zeyd.

Overnight: Hotel Margush, Mary

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 11: MARY / TURKMENABAT / BUKHARA

Today, we continue our journey north on the road to Bukhara in Uzbekistan (5.5hrs drive) as we leave Turkmenistan behind and grateful for its astonishing landscapes, spectacular ancient sites and warm hospitality of locals. After border formalities, we enter into Uzbekistan again where we arrive at the charming Hotel Malika Bukhara for check in. 

Overnight: Hotel Malika, Bukhara

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 12: BUKHARA

Today, we will begin our tour of UNESCO-listed Bukhara, the quintessential representation of the exotic Orient. Begin our tour in the historical center, starting from the picturesque Lyabi-Khauz Ensemble will take you to the world of medieval East. You will see the most famous mosques and madrasahs of the Holy City; visit the unassailable Ark fortress and the 47-m Kalyan Minaret like a beacon pointing the way to trade caravans and pilgrims traveling to Bukhara. Amongst other sites we will visit include the stunning Chor-Minor Madrasah, the Miri-Arab Madrasah and the Bolo-Khauz Mosque. We will also enjoy traditional "Manti", a steamed dough filled with tender sliced or minced lamb and onions where we may witness the making process. 

Overnight: Hotel Malika, Bukhara

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 13: BUKHARA / TASHKENT

We have a leisure morning to discover more of Bukhara and sites of the ancient city - the undisputed gem of Uzbekistan before embarking on a comfortable high speed train journey to return to Tashkent (3hrs 45mins). On arrival, we will check in into the Hyatt Regency, Tashkent

Overnight: Hyatt Regency, Tashkent

Meals: Breakfast & Lunch

DAY 14: DEPARTURE TASHKENT

Be transferred to Tashkent Intl Airport for your journey home or continue your adventures in Central Asia. 

Meals: Breakfast

HOTELS

Adjacent to the prestigious National Library, with perfect access to local landmarks, tourist attractions, shops and restaurants, the Hyatt Regency Tashkent offers luxurious comfort for the business and leisure traveler discovering the gems Uzbekistan has to offer. 

Hyatt Regency, Tashkent

Orient Star Khiva Hotel is located in the Muhammad Aminkhan madrasah, which is next to the Kuk Minor Minaret. The rooms of the hotel are previously served as cells for students of the madrasah. However, each room is well designed in accordance with functionality and taste. Original and ergonomic design of the hotel distinguishes it from a number of other ones.

Orient Star Khiva Hotel, Khiva

Hotel Jipek Koli, Nukus

Hotel Jipek Koli offers standard, semi-luxe and luxe rooms, decorated in  style of old Karakalpak houses and furnished with modern handicrafted furniture for guests wishing to get acquainted with national art and lifestyle of Karakalpak people. At the same time rooms have all conveniences and equipments as Satellite-TV, air-conditioning. 

Guest house & Tent Camping

We will stay in a local guest house in Kunya Urgench, a UNESCO site but with limited accommodation facilities and experiential camping tents in Darvaza Gas Crater and the astonishing Yangykala Canyon which offers plush sleeping bags in a comfortable and warm tent. 

Yyldyz Hotel, Ashgabat

The Yyldyz Hotel is one of the city's top five-star luxury hotel, conveniently located at the foothills of the Kopetdag, which offers an excellent view of the city. This five star deluxe hotel is the gateway to explore Turkmen landscapes and the city at your convenience. This is a harmonious combination of stylish interior design and comfort, plexus of modern luxury and classic elegance. 

Hotel Margush, Mary

Hotel Margush is a comfortable and unassuming hotel offering basic and modern comforts for the discerning traveler in a clean and comfortable atmosphere. 

Malika Bukhara started operating in the spring of 2005. The hotel provides modern and comfortable rooms within walking distance from the Lyabi-Hauz historical complex. 
Rooms with large and comfortable beds are equipped with air conditioning and cable TV.

Hotel Malika, Bukhara

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