The quiet chill of the morning is broken by the call of the Mu’adhan calling the faithful to prayer and welcoming the new dawn. The majestic skyline of brightly colored minarets and sand-coloured towers all contribute to the ultimate atmospheric setting. We are in the company of some of history’s greats, Marco Polo and Tamerlane, of beautiful buildings and exotic peoples.
Our central Asian journey begins in Kazakhstan; little known by westerners, but a land of wild natural landscapes, of mighty canyons and ‘singing’ sand dunes. In contrast, the cities, such as Astana and Almaty, are home to the most unusual and futuristic architecture. Our time here will be spent exploring natural wonders such as Big Almaty Lake, Altyn Emel National Park and Charyn Canyon as well as visiting the city highlights in Astana and Almaty.
We follow the Silk Road further into neighbouring Uzbekistan, with some of the most precious opulent buildings in the Islamic world. We begin in Tashkent and briefly explore the city before continuing to Khiva, the best preserved of the Silk Road cities.
Travelling south to Bukhara, we experience how life might have been lived by the Silk Road traders. Adopting the Nomad life, we will sleep for two nights in a Yurt Camp in the desert. We stop at Nurata to explore Alexander the Great’s castle then onto our camp at Yangikazgan on the shores of Lake Aidarkul. Then on to Samarkand, a wonderful place and home of the impressive Registan Square (described by Curzon in 1899 as “the noblest public square in the world”). Finally we return to Tashkent where we will enjoy some free time before our return flight home, stopping in Astana overnight enroute.
We fly overnight from London Heathrow to Astana (Kazakhstan) with Air Astana.
On arrival we transfer to our hotel in Astana where we can relax before an afternoon tour of the city. Astana is the capital of Kazakhstan and one of the fastest changing cities in the world. Many of the buildings have been newly constructed and world renowned architects have contributed to their design; modern, but by no means characterless, many buildings have a unique and often futuristic design. Some traces of the distant past can still be found, such as the ruins of Bozok, a medieval settlement, which makes for a stark contrast. Other sights that we will see include; the Bayterek Complex, this unique construction is a symbol of Astana, and at a height of 97m there is observation deck from where a panoramic view of the city unfolds. Sights include, the House of Ministries, Pyramid of Peace, Akorda; the “White House of Kazakhstan”, Hazret Sultan Mosque, and KhanShatyr entertainment centre.
We take an early morning flight to Almaty (Kazakhstan). On arrival, we transfer directly to Altyn Emel National Park. The largest national park in Kazakhstan featuring spectacular landscapes of multi-coloured mountains. It is home to wildlife including the golden eagle, mountain partridge, Siberian mountain goats, wolfs, foxes and much more. Also located here is a miracle of nature; singing Barchan Sands, known as the “Singing Sand Dunes”. The sand creates a sound similar to a melody of an organ, audible for several miles. This evening we stay in a guest house in the national park.
We travel back to Almaty, but before we will spend much of the day at Charyn Canyon; an amazing creation of nature. Numerous ravines and gullies were carved through centuries of wind and rain erosion. All along the valley you are surrounded by towers of eroded sedimentary of fantastical forms, such as one that resembles a majestic castle. Overnight in Almaty.
Today we visit Big Almaty Lake, known locally as Zhasylkol, which means "Blue Lake". It is situated in the middle of a canyon of the same name, and lies at an altitude of 2511m. The lake is used as natural reservoir storage. We can admire its beauty, the surrounding mountains, get acquainted with the flora and fauna and the history of this region. This afternoon a sightseeing tour of Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan and still remains the commercial, financial, scientific and educational capital of the country. Its located at the bottom of Zailiysky Ala Tau at an altitude of 900m, and surrounded by a necklace of emerald-blue mountains with snow-covered tops. During our tour we will visit the historical center, the park of 28 guardsmen of Panfilov, the Memorial of Glory, Saint-Voznesensky cathedral, and the best-known squares of the city, Republic Square with the monument of Independence, and the old administrative centre.
Early afternoon we will travel to Almaty Airport for our flight to Tashkent. On arrival we transfer to our hotel, where we can leave our luggage and continue on for a city tour of Tashkent. Tashkent, is the capital of Uzbekistan, is a fascinating place. During our tour of the city we will discover the Old City, including the Khastimom complex, Tillya Sheikh mosque, Kaffal Shashiy Mausoleum; home of the Holy Koran, Kukaldosh Madrassah, Chorsu bazaar and the Applied Arts Museum. We will also visit ceramist Akbar Rahimov’s workshop and have a tea break with oriental sweets. You will have the opportunity to make your own ceramics at an additional cost. We return to our hotel for dinner and overnight.
We will fly from Tashkent to Urgench; from here we will transfer by road (40 minutes) to Khiva. Khiva has preserved its architectural heritage well from the days of the Silk Road, and now referred to as a ‘museum city’. Our sight seing will include such sights as Madrassah Allakuli Khan, Madrassah Muhammad Amin Khan, Kunya Ark, Kelte Minar, Pakhlavan Mahmud Mausoleum, Islam Khoja Minaret and Madrassah, Madrassah Muhammad Rahimkhan, Juma Masjid and Tash Hovli Palace. After we will visit a silk carpet workshop, which is under UNESCO sponsorship. A lunch will be included today and will be taken at a local restaurant. Later we return to our hotel for dinner and overnight.
Today we drive from Khiva to Bukhara, along the Kizilkum Desert (480km 7-8 hours). We will take regular stops to stretch our legs and will stop at the Amudaryo River Bank, for the perfect photo stop opportunity. On arrival we can enjoy some refreshments in the Spices Tea House, and in the evening we have dinner with a local family, where we can participate in plov cooking (a traditional Uzbek method of cooking).
A full day to discover Bukhara, a magnificent city, and also a major stop on the Silk Road and steeped in medieval Islamic architecture, theology and culture. It still contains Uzbekistan’s finest and best-preserved mosques, madrassas, and bazaars. We will visit sites such as Chor Minor, Ark fortress, Bolo Hauz Mosque, Ismail Samani mausoleum, Chashmai Ayub. Poi Kalyan complex with Kalyan mosque, Miri Arab madrassah, Ulugbeg and Abdulazizkhan madrassahs, Trade Domes, the ancient Silk Market, Magokki Attori mosque and Labi Hauz complex. We'll also visit Sitorai Mokhi Hosasummer residence. This evening we hope to enjoy a Folk Show and dinner at a local restaurant.
Today we depart by road (4 hours) to Yangikazgan, en route we visit Sitorai Mokhi Hosa-summer residence and the ruins of Rabbat Malik Caravansaray. We will then continue to Yangikazgan where our accommodation will be in Yurts. We will enjoy dinner round a fire with local Akin (musicians).
After breakfast we will visit idyllic Aydarkul Lake, here we have time to relax and enjoy our surroundings or just stroll along the lake shores watching the bird life at the lake. And after we drive to Samarkand (270km 5 hours). En route we will stop at Nurata, a small town near “Aydarkol Lake” and on the border of Kyzyl Kum desert. It is said that Alexander the great built a small fortress here to watch the enemy coming from the north. On arrival we will take a look around Samarkand before dinner at the hotel.
Today we will visit the most spectacular sights of Samarkand, and perhaps the pinnacle of the architecture we are likely to see on this trip, the Gur Emir Mausoleum, Registan Square, where we enjoy a mini concert and lecture about national music instruments at Sherdor Medrassah. Before dinner we will visit Khovrenko Wine Factory and enjoy some local wines and a short presentation on the process. This evening we will eat in a local restaurant.
We continue exploring Samarkand including Ulugbek Observatory, Afrosiab Museum, Shakhi Zinda necropolis, Siyab bazaar. Then we will visit Koni Ghil Silk Paper Center, to see the process of silk paper production and bread baking. We will enjoy freshly baked bread with tea and some traditional sweets. Later we take an early evening train to Tashkent (2 hours). Our final meal in Uzbekistan will be in a local restaurant.
Our morning is free at leisure before an early afternoon flight to Astana (Kazakhstan). We arrive in the evening and travel to our hotel for dinner and overnight.
After breakfast we have some free time, before an afternoon transfer to Astana airport for our flight to London Heathrow.
See where this holiday travels to.
The hotel is conveniently located in the centre of Ichan Qala, the historical fortress of Khiva, next to the Islam Khoja minaret. The hotel’s oriental decoration complemented with the traditional woodwork will make your stay in the hotel very comfortable. The filtering water supplies all water system of the hotel with the qualitative water and also it makes their delicious Uzbek and European cuisine enjoyable.
Rooms are equipped with air conditioning unit, hairdryer, telephone, cable TV, and free wifi internet.
Our accommodation is in Yurts, traditional tents; made out of multilayered felt stretched around a collapsible wooden frame. The floors are lined with thick felt and covered with carpets and often yak skin. They are very comfortable and cosy, and also very practical – warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Accommodation in Yurts is communal, and will sleep 5-8 persons. There are no toilets or showers inside the Yurts, but communal showers and an Uzbek style toilet outside.