Silk Road Through the Stans

Uzbekistan | Turkmenistan | Kyrgyzstan

Culture | Silk Road

Explore Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan

19 days £3,995 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

Intro

Follow in the footsteps of ancient Silk Road merchants through the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Behold its crystal-clear lakes, ancient caravanserais, ubiquitous Lenin statues and traditional felt and yurt-making. In Uzbekistan, explore the majestic Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. Wander through impressive mausoleums and fortresses, observe skillful craftsman and traverse the salt flats of the Kizil Kum Desert along the Oxus River.

Cross into Turkmenistan, one of the most mysterious countries in the world, to visit ancient Kunya-Urgench (Tamarlane's inspiration), the ancient settlements of Merv and the crumbling fortress of Old Nisa. Finally, spend some time in the surreal marble-and-gold capital of Ashgabat.

NOTE: This trip can follow on from the Silk Road through China and can continue to join the Silk Road through Persia for the ultimate Silk Road adventure.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Sublime beauty of Issy Kul Lake
  • Prehistoric art of Cholpan Ata
  • The sublime architecture of the UNESCO-listed city of Samarkand
  • The twin madrassas of Aziz Khan and Ulug Beg
  • Gur Emir, Timur (a.k.a. Tamerlane)'s beautiful tomb
  • The arid Kizil Kum Desert landscape
  • The UNESCO heritage city of Bukhara
  • Unique and sublime tilework of Shah i Zinda mausoleum
  • The twin madrassahs of Aziz Khan and Ulug Beg
  • UNESCO-listed Ichin Kala in Khiva
  • Historic monuments in Kunya-Urgench
  • The old fortress of Nisa
  • The historic oasis city of Mary

Places Visited

Bishkek - Naryn - Tash-Rabat - Karakol - Kochkor - Issy Kul Lake - Ashu - Cholpan Ata - Tashkent - Samarkand - Bukhara - Afrosiab - Gijduvan - Khiva - Kizil Kum Desert - Oxus River - Kunya-Urgench - Ashgabat - Nisa - Mary - Ancient Merv

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Train tickets
Domestic flights
Ground transport with driver
Accommodation
Some meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guide(s)
Entrance fees to sites on itinerary
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Arrival into Bishkek

Arrival into Bishkek airport where you will be met by a Travel the Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Bishkek.

NOTE: This tour is scheduled to continue from the Silk Road through China tour. The dates will coincide. If you plan to do this let us know and will let you know how these trips tie together.

Meal plan: Dinner

Bishkek lies in the shadow of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too range, an extension of the Tian Shan mountains. It is Kyrgyzstan’s capital and biggest city with a population just under one million. It was named “Frunze” by the Bolsheviks in 1926 after a military leader born there. Following its independence in 1991 it was renamed “Bishkek”, after the fortress of “Pishpek“ in the area.

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Day 2 : Bishkek - Naryn

Depart Bishkek and travel to Naryn. Overnight in Naryn.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Naryn, on the banks of the Naryn River, was established as a Russian garrison in the mid-1800s, although a vast majority of the town was built following World War II. Evidence of this history can be seen in the dominant Soviet-style housing known as Khrushchevki. The road running south from Naryn provides a main access point into China and passes through an area of outstanding natural beauty.

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Day 3 : Naryn - Tash-Rabat - Naryn

Make an excursion to Tash-Rabat. Return to Naryn for overnight. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Tash-Rabat is a caravanserai set in the hillside of the Karakoyun valley at an altitude of over 3,500 metres. Although its origins are not clear, the well-preserved limestone building was most likely constructed in the 15th century. It was once an important inn for merchants of the Silk Road who were travelling from the Chui and Fergana valleys to Kashgar. Some believe it was built as a Nestorian church.

Karakol, the administrative centre for Issyk-Kul province, was established as a Russian military post in the 19th century and was largely populated by Cossacks from western Siberia. Its population swelled in the 1880s, when many Dungans (Chinese Muslims) fled to Karakol to escape persecution in their home country. The town contains many fine examples of 19th-century Russian architecture. Today, Karakol is an important base for travellers who enjoy hiking, trekking and exploring the surrounding mountainous region.

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Day 4 : Naryn - Kochkor - Karakol

Travel to Karakol along the Issy Kul Lake, stopping en route in Kochkor village. Overnight in Karakol. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

The village of Kochkor lies at an altitude of 1,800 metres in the northern Naryn region of Kyrgyzstan. Kochkor is believed to have been the site of the first settlement in the picturesque Kochkor Valley. Today, although many residents have settled down, they still live a life based on agriculture and herding. Many still keep traditional yurts and roam between spring, summer and autumnal pastures.

Karakol, the administrative centre for Issyk-Kul province, was established as a Russian military post in the 19th century and was largely populated by Cossacks from western Siberia. Its population swelled in the 1880s, when many Dungans (Chinese Muslims) fled to Karakol to escape persecution in their home country. The town contains many fine examples of 19th-century Russian architecture. Today, Karakol is an important base for travellers who enjoy hiking, trekking and exploring the surrounding mountainous region.

The saline Issy Kul Lake, located in the northern Tian Shan mountains, is the second highest alpine lake in the world after Lake Titicaca. Its name means 'warm lake' in Kyrgyz and despite the surrounding snow-capped mountains, the lake itself never actually freezes. The circumference of the lake is around 440km and its depth reaches around 700m at its deepest point. Ancient Ussuni settlements, that are thought to date back 2,500 years, remain submerged beneath the water of this giant lake.

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Day 5 : Karakol

Take a tour of Karakol, highlights will include a visit to the Orthodox Cathedral, Dungan mosque and Jety-Oguz gorge. Overnight in Karakol.

Meal plan: Breakfast

The scenic Jety-Oguz gorge is located just outside of the city of Karakol. 'Jety-Oguz' translates to 'seven bulls'. It is named after the seven dramatic cliffs that span a length of 35km and are thought to resemble seven bulls. The surrounding hot springs, mountain lakes, forests and grasslands boast a rich biodiversity. It makes for a beautiful walking area.

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Karakol was built in 1872. The original stone cathedral was destroyed in an earthquake and later rebuilt in wood. During the turbulent history of the region, the church has been used as an educational centre, a theatre and even a dance hall after the revolution of 1917. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and independence of Kyrgyzstan in 1991, the building was restored as a church.

Dungan Mosque was built between 1904 and 1910. It and its outbuildings were constructed by Beijing architect Chou Seu with the help of local craftsmen, who used a unique design that meant no nails were required to hold the wooden structure together. The mosque is decorated with intricate paintings of grapes, pomegranates, pears and peaches. It functioned as a storehouse under Soviet rule, but today operates once more as a mosque.

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Day 6 : Karakol - Cholpan Ata - Ashu

Visit the Nikolai Przhevalskii museum before stopping to see the Petrogylphs and ethnographic museum in Cholpan Ata. It is possible to do a yacht ride on Issy Kul Lake. Overnight in Ashu.

Meal plan: Breakfast

The summer resort town of Cholpan Ata lies on the northern shore of the Issy Kul Lake. It boasts a scenic backdrop of the Tian Shan Mountains and is famed for its many preserved petroglyphs. This prehistoric form of art, where shapes and patterns are carved into rocks, dates back to between 800 BC and 1200 AD. Along with its ethnographic museum, the open-air petroglyph site provides a real insight into the rich heritage of Cholpan Ata. 

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Day 7 : Chon-Kemin - Bishkek

Travel to take a tour of Bishkek, stopping en route at the Burana Tower. Highlights in Bishkek will include Osh Bazaar and the Eternal Fire. Overnight in Bishkek. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Bishkek lies in the shadow of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too range, an extension of the Tian Shan mountains. It is Kyrgyzstan’s capital and biggest city with a population just under one million. It was named “Frunze” by the Bolsheviks in 1926 after a military leader born there. Following its independence in 1991 it was renamed “Bishkek”, after the fortress of “Pishpek“ in the area.

Burana Tower is a minaret in the Chuy Valley that marks the 9th-century Karakhanid town of Balasagun. The town was believed to have been once considered the centre of the world, but was lost in the mists of time until quite recently. The minaret was originally 45m tall, though only 25m remains due to earthquakes.
 


The Eternal Fire monument, also known as 'Victory Square' and 'Victory monument', was constructed in 1984. The statue depicts a woman who is standing over the eternal flame, waiting for the return of her son or husband to return home from the Great Patriotic War (as they call their participation in World War II, from 1941 to 1945). 

Osh Bazaar is one of the largest markets in Bishkek. It is popular with locals and visitors alike, who can barter and buy an array of regional food, musical instruments and Kyrgyz national clothes. 

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Day 8 : Bishkek - Tashkent (Uzbekistan)

Transfer to Bishkek Airport and fly to Tashkent. Spend the rest of the day exploring the city. Highlights will include visiting Chorsu Bazaar, Kukeldash Madrasah and the Applied Art Museum. Overnight stay in Tashkent.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, has had a long and turbulent history. It fell under Sogdian, Turkic and Islamic rule before being destroyed by Genghis Khan in 1219. Tashkent rose again as it profited from its position on the Silk Road, but was destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1966 after which it was largely rebuilt again by the Soviets.

The historic Kukeldash Madrasah in Tashkent was built in 1570 by rulers of the Shaybanid Dynasty. The historic madrasah was built in a traditional style around an inner courtyard and garden. Many earthquakes in the region left the building in ruins. It has since undergone significant restoration efforts and was converted into a caravanserai during the 18th century. It was used as a barracks in Soviet times and even once served as a venue for public executions of unfaithful women.

The traditional Chorsu bazaar can be found at the heart of Tashkent’s old town, near the famous Kukeldash Madrasah. Dating back over one hundred years, the bazaar sits beneath a large, blue-domed roof that is designed to keep out heat and dust. Here you can find fruits, nuts, meat, spices, fresh bread and various handicrafts.

The Applied Art Museum is housed in a beautiful building that acted as a base for Austrian officers during World War II. Today it displays the works of artists from all over Uzbekistan including embroidery, jewellery, miniatures, copper engravings and carpets.

The Harzat Imam Complex is the heart of old Tashkent. It includes several important buildings, including the lovely 16th-century Barak Khana seminary, the 19th-century Tila Shaikh mosque and Hazrat Imam mosque. The latter was built in 2007 with Indian sandalwood columns that were carved by masters from all 12 of Uzbekistan’s regions. The marble was brought in from Turkey and the blue-tiled domes decorated with real gold leaf. Finally, the Muyi Moborak library contains the oldest koran in the world, created only 19 years after Mohammed’s death.

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Day 9 : Tashkent - Samarkand

Travel to the train station to catch your train to Samarkand. On arrival you will spend the rest of the day exploring the city. Highlights will include a visit to Registan Square, Gur Emir and Bibi Khanum mosque. Overnight in Samarkand.

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Samarkand is one of the oldest inhabited cities in Central Asia, with evidence of human activity stretching back over 40,000 years to the late Paleolithic era. The city itself is 2,700 years old. Falling variously under Greek, Persian, Arab, Turkic and Mongol rule throughout its history, it prospered greatly as a key junction on the Silk Road and reached its golden age under the rule of Timur. The city's backdrop of madrassas, mosques and mausoleums highlights its rich medieval history. Today it is Uzbekistan's second largest city and was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2001.

Registan Square lies at the heart of the city of Samarkand. Three of the square’s four sides are framed by grand madrassa buildings that were built between the 14th and 16th centuries, each with a unique design that displays traditional oriental architecture. All were active until the 1920s, when the Soviets shut them down. Registan translates to “sandy place”, as the central square was covered by sand and functioned largely as a trading market before the three madrassas were built.

Gur Emir is the mausoleum of Timur (a.k.a. Tamarlane) and his male ancestors. The tomb was built in 1403 for Timur’s favorite grandson, Mohammad Sultan, but also became his own, after he died suddenly of pneumonia on his way to conquer China at the age of 69. The grand entrance to the mausoleum features ornately carved bricks and mosaics, whilst the interior displays a high-domed chamber decorated with hand-painted niches and archways. Stalin dug up Timur’s bones in 1941 to prove it was indeed him, despite Timur’s warnings to those who would disturb him. The next day Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union!

Built in 1399 by Timur to commemorate his conquest of India and named after his favourite wife, the Bibi Khanum mosque was the largest mosque in the world until the Blue Mosque in Constantinople eclipsed it in the early 15th century. Earthquakes and weathering caused it to fall to ruins, but it has undergone extensive reconstruction efforts, which are still ongoing. The restored main chamber and minarets feature beautifully ornate details and decorative mosaics, whilst just outside visitors can see the symbolic statue of a Koran stand.

Amir Timur, better known as "Tamerlane" in the West, was born in Shakhrisabz in the 14th century. He was the founder of the Timurid dynasty and. under his leadership, Samarkand became the capital of a vast empire. He longed to rebuild the empire of Genghis Khan and his armies are thought to have killed about 5% of the world's population. He referred to himself as the "Sword of Islam", though some scholars suggest his piety may have been political posturing.

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Day 10 : Samarkand - Bukhara

Visit the Ulug Beg Observatory, Afrosiab and the Shah i Zinda Necropolis before travelling to Bukhara. Stopping en route in Gijduvon. Overnight stay in Bukhara.

Meal plan: Breakfast

The Ulug Beg Observatory was built by Ulug Beg, Timur's grandson, in 1420. Often referred to as the "Astronomer king" Ulug Beg was often more interested in science than ruling. A progressive and advocate for education for all, he built this observatory to observe and measure time, distances and more, with astonishing accuracy. His measurement of the calendar year was out by less a minute. Assassinated by order of his son, religious fanatics destroyed much of the observatory which was only found again in 1908 by a determined Russian general and amateur archaeologist,  V. L. Vyatkin.

The Shah i Zinda mausoleum contains some of the most spectacular tilework in the world. Here you can find the tombs of several female relatives of Timur. It is also believed that Qusam ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Mohammed who  brought Islam to the area, was also buried here. For this reason the site draws many pilgrims. The site has been heavily, and controversially, restored. The Shodi Mulk Oko Mausoleum, a niece of Timur, is a sublime exception.

The ancient settlement of Afrosiab lies in northern Samarkand on the spurs of the Cupan-Ata hills. According to legend, the Turanian king Adrosiab founded the town here and it later became the capital of Sogdiana.

The town of Gijduvan can be found in the Bukhara region of Uzbekistan. It is home to one of the three madrasahs built by Ulug Beg, along with a memorial to the Central Asian philosopher, Abduholik Gijduvoni. It is also one of the most well-known pottery centres in Central Asia, home to the Narzullaryevs family. Famous both throughout Uzbekistan and the world, their unique pottery skills have been passed down through the generations from father to son (it is currently home to the sixth generation of potters). Gijduvan's ceramics are distinguished by their rich colours and geometric patterns in a variety of ornaments, typically depicting shades of brown, yellow, dark green and blue using natural dyes.

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Day 11 : Bukhara

Visit key sights in Bukhara, including the Lab-i-Khauz Ensemble, Mogaki Attari Mosque and Poi Kalon minaret and mosque. Also explore the Ulugbek and Aziz Khan Madrassahs. Visit Ark Fortress & Zindan, Balakhauz mosque, the Mausoleum of Ismail Samani and Chashma Ayub. Travel to the Hunarmand UNDP-assisted workshops. Overnight in Bukhara.

Meal plan: Breakfast

UNESCO-listed Bukhara was a key staging point on the Silk Road. According to myth the city was founded by a Persian prince who crossed the Oxus river in search of new fortunes and to escape an evil stepmother. The city today is home to over 140 largely intact architectural monuments.

The Ark Fortress is Bukhara’s oldest building, constructed on an artificial hill in the 5th century BC. The former military structure became the winter residence of Bukhara’s emirs, before it fell under rule of Russia in 1920. Today, the Ark is home to a museum that depicts its history and you can visit the former Russian Embassy, the former home of a progressive vizier named Kush Begi, and the throne room, where emirs were coronated and coins were minted.

Chashma Ayub, means “Job's well”. To combat drought in the region, Job (of Biblical fame) struck the ground with his staff and made a well. The water of this miraculous well is still believed to possess healing powers. A mausoleum was later constructed to protect the sacred site, and there is a small water museum here too.

The Mausoleum of Ismail Samani was built at the end of the 9th century, making it one of Bukhara’s oldest buildings. It was constructed by Ismail Samani as a family crypt following the death of his father. Ismail was the founder of the Samanid dynasty, and his reign was seen as Bukhara’s first golden age during which education and the arts flourished. The mausoleum’s simple architectural design is decorated with geometrically intricate patterns made from fired mud brick and shows influences of Buddhism as well as Islam, making the mausoleum unique.

Balakhauz mosque is the only preserved monument on the Registan square in Bukhara. The building was constructed in 1712 under the rule of Emir Shakhmurad. It was primarily built for public prayers, but was also a dormitory for Dervishes. Its beautiful wooden pillars are made from elm, walnut and poplar.

Poi Kalan is a religious site that encompasses Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque and the Mir-i-Arab Madrassah. Kalan Minaret, which stands at around 46.5m high, was built in 1127 and is often called the "Tower of Death", as many of those sentenced to death were thrown from the top, especially during the time of Emir Nasrullah, the “Butcher of Bukhara”. Kalan Mosque was built during the 1500s, on the site of a former mosque that had been destroyed by Genghis Khan. Modelled on Naqsh-e-Jahan square in Isfahan in Iran and built by Persian craftsmen, it served as a warehouse during Soviet rule. The ornate Mir-i Arab Madrassa was built by Ubaidullah-khan in honour of his spiritual mentor, Sheikh Abdullah Yamani of Yemen. A great blue dome stands above the intricate murals that adorn the great entrance.

The 11th-century Magoki Attori Mosque is the oldest mosque in Uzbekistan, but it probably used to be a  Buddhist temple first. Beneath the structure there is an even older Zoroastrian temple that has been partially excavated.

The Ulug Beg Madrasah is part of Kosh Madrasah, which also includes the Aziz Khan Madrasah. Each of these structures represent different ruling dynasties in the history of Bukhara. The influence of the Timurid and Ashtarkanid dynasties is reflected in the madrasah's differing architectural design and decor - where the Ulug beg Madrasah is more modest, Aziz Khan is more luxurious.

The Lab-i-Khauz Ensemble means "by the pond" in Persian. It is the name given to the architectural monuments that surround one of the few remaining ponds in the city of Bukhara. Many others were filled during the Soviet era due to fears of spreading disease. This one remains and is the centerpiece of a remarkable architectural ensemble including the Kujeldash Madrassa (built in 1568-1569), the Nadikhon Devanbegi Madrassa (1620) and Khana (1622). There has been a tea house beside the pond since the 16th century and Bukhara’s Jewish quarter abuts this area.

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Day 12 : Bukhara

Travel to the Sitora-i-Mokhikhosa before a visit to Bahuaddin Naqshbandi Mausoleum. Overnight stay in Bukhara. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Sitora-i-Mokhikhosa, translates to mean "star-and-moon-like palace". Construction began in the late 19th century under the rule of Akhad-Khan and was completed during the reign of Muzaffar-Khan. The palace features a mixture of Russian and oriental styles, where  each room has a unique ornate design. There are three small museums for applied arts, needlework and costume. A pool at the back is where the emir would lob an apple to choose which of his wives or concubines would spend the night with him.

The Bahuaddin Naqshbandi Mausoleum is Bukhara’s holiest site and attracts hordes of pilgrims. Naqshbandi was the founder of the Naqshbandi order, his teachings still being relevant and important to the philosophy of Islam today. The mausoleum is traditional in its design, with a magnificent stone dome and authentic decorative blue mosaics.

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Day 13 : Bukhara - Khiva

Depart Bukhara, driving through the Kizil Kum desert to Khiva. Stop en route at the scenic banks of the Oxus river. Overnight stay in Khiva.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Khiva is a city located in the Khorezm region of Uzbekistan. Its history stretches back to at least the 6th century BC, though possibly much longer. Khiva is made up of an outer town (Dishan Kala) and inner town (Ichin Kala), which are surrounded by fortified brick walls that date back to the 10th century. Ichin Kala was the first site in Uzbekistan to be inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Kizil Kum Desert is located in Central Asia, between the Amu Darya (Oxus) and Syr Darya rivers. “Kizil Kum” means “Red Sands” in Uzbek and the desert has many sand dunes and clay takirs, which are also known as salt flats. Animals found in the desert include the Russian tortoise and the large Transcaspian lizard.

The historic Oxus River (now called “Amu Darya”) is one of the longest rivers in Central Asia. It flows a total length of 2,400 kilometres from its source in Afghanistan through to Uzbekistan, and it once flowed into the Aral Sea. Intensive irrigation of the river began under Soviet Rule to enable extensive cotton farming in the lower basin of the river, which has had a devastating effect on those that relied on the river and the Aral Sea.

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Day 14 : Khiva

Spend the day exploring Khiva, including the sights of Ichin Kala, the Friday Mosque and Tashauli Palace. Enjoy a demonstration at a UNESCO silk workshop, where you will also have the opportunity to weave your own silk pieces. Overnight stay in Khiva. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Tashauili Palace was built within the walls of Ichin Kala during the 1830s to house the Khivan ruler, Allah Kuli Khan. Tashauili means 'stone house' and seems to accurately conjure up images of the labyrinth of stone passageways within and surrounding the palace complex. The outer walls of the palace are decorated with colourful murals, whilst inside there are ornate pendant ceilings, stone carvings and delicate inscriptions.

The Friday (or Juma) mosque of Khiva is typical of Arabian mosques built during the 18th century, consisting of moonlight holes in the ceiling and carved wooden columns. The mosque has over 200 such columns, many of which were carved from the trunks of trees. Some columns sport Arabian inscriptions, which are believed to date back to between the 10th and 12th centuries and reused when building this mosque.

Kalta Minar, meaning "short minaret", has become a symbol for the city of Khiva. Construction started  in 1853 by the Khiva ruler, Muhammad Amin Khan. It was intended to be over 70 metres tall, but in 1855  he was killed and the construction halted at a mere 26 metres. The wide foundation of the minaret indicates the intention to build an imposing tower, supposedly so he could see all the way to Bukhara. It is covered with original glazed tiles and majolica.

Islam Khodja Minaret is the tallest building in Khiva’s Ichin Kala. Built in 1908, it is almost 60 metres tall and was designed to be seen from a great distance so travellers could find their way to the city. There is an observation level within the minaret at a height of 45 metres, where visitors can enjoy a view out across the many monuments of Khiva.

Khiva’s workshops are amongst the best in the country and there are two in particular that are worth a look. The first is  the wood carving workshop in Khojash Mahram Madrasa and the second is the Khiva Silk Workshop. The latter was set up by Christopher Alexander and is written about in his book, “Carpet Ride to Khiva”.

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Day 15 : Khiva - Dashoguz - Ashgabat (Turkmenistan)

Depart Uzbekistan and enter Turkmenistan at the Dashoguz border. Travel to the UNESCO site and museum of Kunya-Urgench. Return to Dashoguz for a flight to Ashgabat. Overnight in Ashgabat.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Kunya-Urgench is a UNESCO-listed town in northern Turkmenistan, located on the banks of the Amu Darya (Oxus) river. Once the heart of the Islamic world under the Khorezmshah dynasty, it was extensively destroyed by Genghis Khan, who even diverted the Oxus to flood the city. It was later ruled by the Golden Horde and became the capital of Khorezm until Timur saw it as a rival to Samarkand and destroyed it again, though he may have taken some ideas first. Today there are buildings from 12th to 19th century, some very beautiful. Though banned, locals continue to bury their dead here.

Ashgabat translates to "the city of love" in Arabic. This city is relatively young, being founded and developed by the Russians at the end of the 19th century. A massive earthquake in 1948 completely destroyed the city and killed two thirds of its population. It was rebuilt by the Soviets in their inimitable style, but the grand white marble palaces, domes and manicured parks seen today have mostly been built in the last 15 years to showcase the country’s oil and gas wealth.

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Day 16 : Ashgabat - Nisa - Ashgabat

Visit the Old Nisa fortress near Ashgabat. Later return to Ashgabat to visit the National Museum of History and Ethnography (closed Tues), Independence Square, the Arch of Neutrality and the Earthquake Memorial. Overnight in Ashgabat. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

The National Museum of History and Ethnography is a great place to get a feel for Turkmenistan’s long and complex history. It houses over 500,000 artifacts and relics from the country's main archaeological sites, as well as examples of national dress, traditional household equipment, a couple of enormous carpets and some traditional musical instruments

The UNESCO-listed ruins of Nisa can be found near to Ashgabat. The settlement was originally founded under the rule of the Parthian king Arsaces I in the 3rd century BC. Excavations of the site have uncovered mausoleums, shrines, ornate ivory rhytons (drinking cups) and Hellenistic works of art, indicating that the site was one of the earliest and most important cities of the Parthian empire. It was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1st century BC.

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Day 17 : Ashgabat - Mary

Travel to Mary, stopping at the fortress of Nadir-Shah. Overnight in Mary. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

The city of Mary is located on the Murghab River in the Kara Kum Desert. Formerly known as "Merv", the oasis city was an important stop on the Silk Road. The modern settlement of Mary was founded in 1884, when it became a Russian military administrative centre. It remains a centre for the production and trading of cotton and gas. 

The Nadir-Shah Fortress lies at the foot of the Kopet Dag Mountains, near to Khivabad Village. The fortress, also known as 'Old Khivabad', was built under the rule of Nadir Shah. Shah was once held as a slave in Khiva. He later became a powerful leader and conquered the city, taking thousands of prisoners. He ordered these prisoners to take soil with them from Khiva, which they were to use to construct the fortress of Nadir-Shah. 

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Day 18 : Mary - Ancient Merv - Ashgabat

Travel to ancient Merv, before visiting the History Museum in Mary. Later, transfer to the airport for flight to Ashgabat. Overnight in Ashgabat.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Ancient Merv was once a major oasis city on the Silk Road, where evidence of civilisation dates back to the 3rd millennium BC. The ancient site held significant cultural and political importance and is believed to have been the largest city in the world in the 12th century. The walled ruins of Merv have since been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is believed that Genghis Khan slaughtered a million people here when conquering the city.

The History Museum in Mary was founded in 1968. It contains over 40,000 exhibits that document the culture, history and heritage of the region. These include traditional clothing, tapestries, manuscripts and historic weapons.

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Day 19 : Departure from Ashgabat

Transfer to the airport in Ashgabat, where you will catch your departure flight and make your onward journey. 

NOTE: This tour is scheduled to continue and join with the Silk Road through Persia tour. If you plan to do this we will let you know how these trips tie together.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation Title

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Hotel Plaza

Hotel Plaza acts as a haven for the bustling city life in Bishkek. The on-site spa, sauna and fitness centre are great places to unwind. The restaurant is celebrated for its European and Asian cuisine. The bar offers a range of beverages from French wine to classical cocktails. 

Visit hotel's site
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Khan-Tengri Hotel

The Khan-Tengri offers comfortable accommodation in the remote town of Naryn. The hotel is surrounded by rural gardens and grasslands, providing a tranquil spot to relax after a day of exploring the region. The bedrooms are simple, yet spacious and clean. The Khan-Tengri restaurant serves a variety of typically Kyrgz dishes for guests to sample. 

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Green Yard Hotel

The Green Yard Hotel can be found at the foot of the Tien-Shan Mountains in Karakol. The small hotel is decorated in a simple style and provides comfortable accommodation that lies just minutes from many nearby sights - such as the Issyk-Kul lake. Guests can enjoy a variety of local dishes during their stay at The Green Yard Hotel, which is also home to a Russian and Finnish style sauna.

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Kalmak-Ashu Guesthouse

The Kalmak-Ashu Guesthouse is a spectacular place to get a feel for the Kyrgyz way of life. One can ytaste Kyrgyz national cuisine, ride horses, visit a Kyrgyz bathhouse and enjoy the beautiful location. 

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Hotel Lotte City

Rooms are stylish and modern. The hotel is near the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. Amenities include a beautiful courtyard and outdoor swimming pool. The onsite sky restaurant offers spectacular views of Tashkent. 

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Hotel Platan

Hotel Platan is situated at the heart of Samarkand. It offers cosy rooms with an onsite restaurant, air conditioning, cable TV and a porter service. It is two minutes from sites such as  Al Navoi trade center and Shark Yuldizi.

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Zargaron Hotel

Zaragon Hotel is situated at the heart of Bukhara, within walking distance of the cities many historic sights. The bedrooms are simple, yet spacious and provide a comfortable stay guests who are exploring the city. The restaurant serves a breakfast buffet along with a menu that offers a variety of local and international dishes. The most impressive feature of the Zaragon Hotel is its rooftop bar, which overlooks the historic city and the striking Kalon Minaret.

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Malika Khiva Hotel

The Malika Khiva Hotel is located near to Old Khiva. The grand building has been designed in a traditional Uzbek style, whilst the interior has been designed in a similarly authentic style. The clean and comfortable bedrooms are spacious, providing guests with access to modern amenities including air-conditioning and satellite television. The restaurant provides both indoor and outdoor dining facilities to guests.

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Grand Turkmen Hotel

The Grand Turkmen Hotel in Ashgabat provides simple, yet comfortable accommodation to those exploring the region. The spacious bedrooms are fitted with modern furnishings and amenities. Guests can also enjoy the hotel swimming pool, tennis court and games room during their stay. 

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Hotel Mary

Opposite of the town's bazaar is Hotel Mary. The hotel is equipped with air conditioning, an onsite restaurant, fitness centre, sauna and swimming pool. It also has a chemist and hairdresser. 

Extensions

Uzbekistan Extensions (8 days)

Extend your trip in Uzbekistan

Silk Road Through the Stans (19 days)

Explore Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan

Five Stan Odyssey (30 days)

Get under the skin of all five 'Stans'

Uzbekistan Odyssey (14 days)

Ancient cities, spell-binding architecture & traditional craftsmanship