The Heart of The Silk Road, May 2021
A Journey through the Heart of Central Asia
including Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan
23 Days, Almaty to Tashkent.
23rd May 2021 – 14th June 2021
Visits: Almaty, Charyn Canyon, Kolsai Lakes, Karakol, Altyn Arashan, Tamga, Jety Ogyz, Lake Issyk-kul, Bishkek, Tashkent, Samarkand, Shakhrisabz, Bukhara, Chardjou, Merv, Mary, Ashgabat, Kov-Ata, Tashauz, Dashoguz, Nukus, Moynaq, the Aral Sea, Urgench & Khiva
Day 1: Arrival Into Almaty:
Today is an arrival day into Almaty, starting with meet and greet on arrival at Almaty airport and transfer to the hotel based on a group arrival in OZ577 from Seoul which is due to arrive at 22:05. If you are arriving at a separate time please consult with us for individual transfer costs. On arrival at the hotel we will check in, get a briefing on what to expect for the next day and retire for the night.
Day 2: Almaty:
Today we spend the day discovering the Highlights of Almaty—the largest city in the south-east of Kazakhstan. Visits will include locations like Panilov Park (with the Zenkov Wooden-Constructed Cathedral), St Nicholas Cathedral, the National Instruments Museum, National Archeological Museum and Central State Museum. While the day does include a few museums and churches we also take in our first traditional soviet/central Asian bazaar with a visit to Almaty’s famed Green Bazaar. Overnight in Almaty.
Day 3: The Kolsai Lakes:
We leave Almaty today for what we like to call the “Natures Wonders” part of the tour, taking the drive through the Kolsai Lakes national park (this is about 310kms and should take 5 to 6 hours) to the small village of Saty where we will leave most of our belongings at our guest house, and where we will be transferred to 4wd vehicles (the Russian Vakhtovka) to take a drive through the wilderness to visit the famed Kaindy Lake, if time permits we may visit Kolsai Lake, otherwise pending driver approval and time we will head back to the guesthouse for overnight.
Day 4: Charyn Canyon:
We have an early start today travelling slightly north from the village of Saty to visit Charyn Canyon – Central Asia’s equivalent to Arizona’s Grand Canyon – where we will visit several of the scenic spots and enjoy the natural beauty of the area before we head south to the border and cross from Kazakhstan into Kyrgyzstan, clear customs and immigration and enjoy the sweeping panoramas and landscapes as we make our way to our guesthouse in Karakol.
Day 5: Altyn Arashyn “The Golden Spa”:
Travelling in converted 4WD Military Trucks we head out to visit Altyn Arashyn, one of the most scenic gorges and locations in Kyrgyzstan. Filled with fir trees and alpine meadows, once we arrive at the top of the gorge you will have a chance to wonder around the local area or indulge in a free bath at one of the hot springs, before we head back to Karakol to visit some local sights like the Dungan Mosuq, and the Russian Orthodox Church (Karakol Cathedral) which is a complex wooden construction that was built without using a single nail.
Day 6: Jety Ogyz:
Today we leave Karakol, and will eventually end up in the small village of Tamga after a day of travelling through the scenic hills and valleys of the area know collectively as Jety Ogyz. During the days journey we will see some of the regions most stunning and incredible sights amongst the myriad of streams, fir tree forests and alpine meadows we pass. Highlights will include the Gorge of the Broken Heart, the Gorge of the Seven Red Bulls and Barksoon Gorge with the scenic Barksoon Falls.
Day 7: Lake Issyk-Kul and Bishkek:
We depart the rural charms of Tamga this morning and take the last leg of our journey to Bishkek. Enroute we take A look at the scenic spots available along the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul. Nestled by the Tien-Shien Mountains this lake is the 2nd largest mountain lake in the world, second only to Lake Titicaca, and has plenty to take in, including the now lonely tower of Burana, once the Karakhnid Dynasty’s Capital little is left to see apart from the tower and the Balbals lying exposed under the open sky. The afternoon will see our arrival in Bishkek where we will have the chance to see the highlights of the largest city in Kyrgyz including the national museum, the bazaar and the Park Panilov.
Day 8: Bishkek to Tashkent:
This morning we can level in a bit of luxury and sleep in, or take a brief exploratory walk before we head off to Bishkek Airport and hop aboard a short flight to Tashkent. On arrival, following our journey through customs we will transfer to the hotel and get ourselves settled before taking a leisurely excursion in Tashkent. We will start with a journey of Tashkent’s Metro Stations taking a ride on the Tashkent Metro – the first launched in Central Asia back in 1977 – to see a number of the stations each of which is stunningly decorated in their own style, true postcard style images. Afterwards we will stop at the local workshops or local applied arts masters and find out more about traditional local woodcarving, miniature painting, embroidery, pottery and hand art.
Day 9: Tashkent:
Today is all about Tashkent, as we spend a full day exploring some of the cities uniquye highlights starting with a visit to the Museum of Applied arts and Amir Timur Square—which lies at the very Centre OF Tashkent City , and the location from which modern Tashkent was planned and started in 1882.Another symbol of Tashkent we will take time to visit is the Tashkent Chimes, the clock mechanisms of which were brought back as spoils of war from Germany after World War II by a soldier who had been a clockmaker before enlisting. The majority of the rest of the day will be taken up with visiting the cities monuments and fountains, before we head back to the hotel and prepare for our departure for Samarkand tomorrow.
Day 10: Tashkent To Samarkand:
We leave Tashkent this morning, and hit up the road to Samarkand for the Ancient Civilizations part of our programme, arriving just after noon, where after checking into the hotel we will head out to see one of the most pivotal locations along the old Silk Road – Registan Square. Bounded by three incredible Madrassas (Madrassa Ulugbek, Madrassa Sherador and Madrassa Tilla-Kori) the square complex represents the symbiosis of Oriental and Arabic Influenced artwork at its heights. A location whose boundless beauty inspired the tale of a thousand an one Arabian nights, Registan Square is a true symbol of central asia and the old silk road.
Day 11: Samarkand:
We spend today visiting the spectacular monuments in and around Samarkand including the Ulugbek Observatory – potentially the worlds first observatory, and he ruins of the ancient city of Afrosiyab. We also spend some considerable time visiting the sites that arose during the Timurid Epoch including the stunning Gur-Emir Mausoleum, the Shaki-Zinda Necropolis and the Bibi Khanum Mosque.
Day 12: Samarkand to Bukhara:
Samarkand is left behind this morning as we start our journey to Buhkara, stopping enroute to visit the wonders of Shakhrisabz, with the famed Ak-Saray Palce, the Kuk-Gumbaz, the Gumbazi Saidon and Khazrat-i-Imam Mosque. Shakhrisabz is also the resting place of Tamurlanes son – who was second in command to Ghengis Khan and led the mongols after he fell – so we will also take time to visit Jakhangir’s Mausoleum. After lunch we will continue the southward drive towards Bukhara, the fortified city, where we will make our last stop before temporarily leaving Uzbekistan for the deserts of Turkmenistan!
Day 13: Bukhara:
Discovering the highlights of Bukhara is todays aim, with an array of sights to visit it should be an incredible day of touring. We will start off with highglights such as the Kalyan Minaret and Poi Kalyan Mosque, visit the Miri Arab Madrassah, and Toki Zaragon Dome, Ulugbek and Abdullaz-ikhan Madrassah, Toki Telpak Furushon Dome, Magoki Attor Mosque, Toki Sarrafon Dome, and the Labi Huaz Complex. The following lunch if the mornings sightseeing wasn’t enough we will cover the Ark Fortress including Zindan Prison where prisoners once held by the local ruler almost sparked a war with the British Empire, as well as Bolo House Mosque, Ismail Samoni Mausoleum, Chashma Ayub Mausoleum and the Bazaar before we retire for the night.
Day 14: Bukhara to Mary:
Today is a day spent on travel as we leave Bukhara and head for the Farab border leading to Turkmenistan where we will endure the formalities of crossing the border before meeting up with our Turkmen guide and heading off to Turkmenabad (formerly Chardjou) for lunch at a local restaurant before we begin a long distance drive through the Karakum Desert where we will only stop occasionally at a few scenic spots as we make our way to the city of Mary.
Day 15: Mary to Ashgabat:
The Twin Cities of Mary and Merv are our days delights, originally both called Merv, the newer city was renamed Mary to avoid some confusion, we start by visiting the UNESCO world Heritage listed sights in Merv including Erk Kala, Gyaur Kala, Sultan Kala, the ruins of Beni-Makhan and possibly the ruins of a Buddhist temple as well as Grand and Little Kyz Kalas. Afterwards we will visit the Mary Historical Museum and City Centre, visit one of the oldest Russian Orthodox Churches in Turkmenistan and more before taking an evening flight to the capital of Turkmenistan—Ashgabat, where we will be based for the next few days.
Day 16: Ashgabat and Darvaza:
We have a long day ahead of us today so be sure to be rested! Our day will start with touring in Ashgabat and visiting the sights of this fascinating city where under Niyazov’s rule reconstruction flourished and now icons like Independence Park, Neutrality Square, Ertogul Gazi Mosque stand as huge icons Turkmenistan. We will also visit the Residence of the Parthain Kings—the UNESCO world heritage site called Old Nissa, and Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque, the largest in Turkmenistan. This afternoon we leave the confines of Ashgabat for a rather long road trip through an area which had been populated by mostly nomadic tribes, visiting craters caused by varying tectonic subsidence until we arrive at the Fire Crater – or Gate To Hell – a fire that has now been burning over 40 years! After taking in this unique wonder we will return to Ashgabat, which we should reach around midnight.
Day 17: Ashgabat to Dashoguz:
When the Russians started conquering the Central Asia Region, the Turkmens were amongst the strongest to resist and the largest battle of all happened at one of the locations visited this morning —Teke Stronghold. Located at Geokdepe we will visit not only the old stronghold and fortresses but the Mosque, and take time to visit the horse breeders who have been working on the Akhalteke Thoroughbred Horse for centuries. The afternoon is then given over to visiting more incredible sights in Ashgabat including the National Museum of Turkmenistan (please note sites and days may vary based on local conditions) before we take an afternoon flight to Dashoguz.
Day 18: Dashoguz to Nukus:
Dashoguz has provided us with a respite, and the flight up has saved us almost a days drive, and now refreshed we can head out for the incredible lost capital of Khorezm: Kunya-Urgench with sites like the Mausoleums of Turabek Khanym, Arslan II, Najmeddin Kunra and more, as well as the remains of the second minaret, Caravan Saray and the Kunya Urgench Museum (time permitting). Afterwards rather than heading back towards Dashoguz and crossing into Uzbekistan we will head north to Khodjeyli and re-enter Uzbekistan there heading straight to Nukus where the “Desert & Disaster” section of our tour begins.
Day 19: Nukus to the Aral Sea:
After a relaxing night at a family run property we will head out from Nukus to discover the worlds most incredible disaster area – the Aral Sea. Over our time in Nukus we will visit the incredible Igor Savitsky Gallery—a fascinating look at Karalpakstan’s history through Art—and a great overview of the areas we will be seeing on this leg, which covers some of the most impoverished areas of Uzbekistan. Our First stop after leaving Nukus is Moynak, once a huge fishing hub it now stands abandoned and the former sea shore is host to what is often called the “Graveyard of Ships”, and from here we head out into what was once the Aral sea driving through incredible scenic canyons, and collapsed land as we journey the Ustuart Plateau to our nights Yurt Camp.
Day 20: Aral Sea to Nukus:
Following our night in the desert we begin our journey this morning back to Nukus visiting the once seaside Silk Road stop of Kurgancgha Kala which saw its heyday back in the 13th Century. We will also pass by the abandoned settlement of Urga and a very lonley abandoned ligthouse (yes in the middle of a desert). We also take time to stop at Lake Sudochie – the last remanants of the Aral Sea in the area – for a picnic lunch. As we head through the last leg to Nukus we will stop and visit the Mizdakkhana Memorial Complex and Gaur-Kala Fortress. Overnight in Nukus
Day 21: Nukus to Khiva:
Having witnessed the devastation of the receded Aral Sea we leave Nukus for the famed walled city of Khiva where we will get our last taste of Desert and Ancient Civilizations for this trip, visiting the sites of ancient Kharezm including Ota Darvaza, Kalta Minor, Muhammad Amin Khan Madrassah, the Kunya Ark (fortress – which offers stunning panoramic views of Khiva), Mukhammad Rahim Khan Madrassah, Pahlavan Makhmud Mausoleum, Islam Khodja Minaret and Madrassah, the Juma Mosque and the old Harem. Overnighting in Khiva before we return to Tashkent.
Day 22: Taskhent:
We return to Tashkent this morning and check in once again to the hotel we staid at previously, and today, after 22 days on the road – we gave a day of rest, take time to prepare your bags for the trip home, lounge by the pool, or set off and do some exploring of Tashkent on your own, he day is yours!
Day 23: Taskhent Departure:
Following breakfast we have a late morning start, loading our luggage and checking out of the hotel before we head out on a last trip through Tashkent seeing some previously missed sights like the Tashkent TV Tower, the Khasti-Imam Complex and Kukeldash Madrasah, as well as another visit to the largest Bazaar in Tashkent—Chor Su Bazaar. We also take time to visit the Central Asia Palov Centre where we witness the tradition of cooking a dish that by now we should all be familiar – Palov, or Pilaf as some call it. Lastly we have ourselves dinner at a local restaurant before travelling to the Airport for our 19:30 departure flight to Seoul or homeward bound.
Estimated Price Based on 2019 Rates is from
AU$6214 Per Person Share Twin, Land Only
Single Supplement AU$1000
These Prices & Dates Are Subject To Confirmation On Release Of Final Programme
Included in Uzbekistan: # Twin/double share accommodation # A/C transportation as per the program # Meals: Breakfast in hotels # All transfers # Entrance tickets to sites and monuments # Escort tour guide English speaking # Mineral water 1l per person per day
Excludes in Uzbekistan: # International ticket # alcoholic and soft drinks # visa cost # camera/video fees at sites # personal expenses for souvenirs # tips and other voluntary gratuities # any other services and products not included above.
Included in Turkmenistan: # Letter of invitation, registration # Twin/double share accommodation # English speaking guide # A/C land transport as per program, incl. 4×4 transport for Darvaza tour # Meals: only breakfasts in hotels + dinner (boxes) on D-14 (Darvaza trip) # Entrance fees to the sites, museums mentioned in the itinerary # Mineral water 1l per person per day
Excluded in Turkmenistan: # Visa fees # Immigration duty-$14 p/p (must be paid at the border on arrival) # Photo/video camera fees at sites/museums # Meals & services not mentioned above # Expenses of personal nature # Tips to guide/drivers
Included in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan: # Twin/double share accommodation # A/C Transportation as per program # Due to the road conditions for Altyn-Arashan will be provided NON A/C transport as UAZ for 2-5 pax; GAZ-66 or “Vakhtovka” for 6-14 pax; ZIL-131 or KAMAZ for 15-26 pax # Entrance fees to sites listed # English speaking guide # Ecological fee # Mineral water 1l per person per day
Excluded in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan: # International ticket # alcoholic and soft drinks # visa cost # camera/video fees at sites # personal expenses for souvenirs # tips and other voluntary gratuities, any other services and products not included above.
Airfares: Airfare Costs to match tour available on Enquiry
Visas & Entry:
Uzbekistan: Entry to Uzbekistan for stays under 30 days is now visa free for Australian Citizens
Kyrgyzstan: Entry to Kyrgyzstan for stays under 30 days is now visa free for Australian Citizens
Kazakhstan: Entry to Kazakhstan for stays under 30 days is now visa free for Australian Citizens
Turkmenistan: Is the last remaining country of those that we are visiting that require visas, we will organize all the paperwork and introductory letters, and the visa fee (currently US$57) and the Migration Card Fee (currently US$12) will be collected and paid locally.
Local Costs: Meals, Gratuities and More: As previously mentioned, this isn’t a full board (all-meal) inclusive Itinerary, and we recommend a minimum of US$560 to cover lunches and dinners—though this is really an approximate cost. We also recommend bringing at least US$3 per day to cover driver tips and $5 for the Guide, other smaller tips will be needed for porters, toilet cleaners, shoe minders and others as we travel. Usually I recommend budgeting on between US$100 and US$150 per day for additional expenses – this is often more than most people need to cover meals, tips and shopping, but for some it is not enough, generally though it balances out and most will return with change to spare.
Please note that : Hotels mentioned are the foreseen properties but are subject to change at the Tour Operators Discretion Please note that : these hotels cover a wide range of categories from local 5 star to guest houses, properties have been chosen to give the best overall experience on the tour
Important Note From Your Tour Escort:
This is a small group journey that will run with no more than between 8 to 16 travellers, and will journey through some of the most incredible regions of Central Asia as it journeys through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
This will cover the natural, historical and cultural highlights of these zones including Lake Issyk-Kul, Altyn Ashran, the Gate of Hell, Buhkara, Khiva, Registan Square and more. We will also visit some of the most significant cities of the region including Almaty, Bishkek, Tashkent and Ashgabat.
This is not a 5 star luxury tour, whilst all the accommodation has been specifically chosen for flavor and experience – I have noted most as a lower category than official sites do, specifically so I do not raise expectations. We will be staying in a range of 3 star boutique hotels, a guest house, and what are officially listed as 5 star hotels but with their faded soviet glory would more appropriately be called a comfortable 4 star (on occasion).
The package price is based Almaty to Tashkent and covers most expenses barring visas, tipping and most of the meals outside of breakfast. With the best food available outside local hotels I elected not to include meals so that we can get the best culinary experience whilst travelling.
The package price does not include the main international airfares, I do recommend using the Asiana Options when they become available but have left it open in case people decide to extend or visit other regions while on the road.
This is a unique hand-crafted programme designed to take in the best of the region in relative comfort, and I would love to have you join us when we head there
If you would like more information or to book aboard please let us know!