Silk Road Secrets of Uzbekistan with Sophie Ibbotson


Discover ancient sites and traditions in Uzbekistan

14 days £2,795 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.
Intro, Dates & Prices


Very few people know Uzbekistan as well as Sophie Ibbotson, author of Bradt Guides’ Uzbekistan, as well as Uzbekistan’s Tourism Ambassador to the UK. Sophie has handcrafted this unique tour of Uzbekistan, which not only showcases its Silk Road heritage in Samarkand and Bukhara, but also takes you to lesser-seen sites around the country. Roam around the archaeological treasures of Termez and see prehistoric cave paintings and petroglyphs in the Nurata Mountains. Get under the skin of Uzbek culture travelling to Baysun, where people still practise ancient folk traditions, and also visit authentic ceramic and textile workshops. Your trip will directly benefit these communities and help preserve their customs.


  • Archaeological treasures of remote Termez
  • UNESCO-listed folk traditions of Baysun
  • Central Asia's most impressive WWII memorial in Karshi
  • UNESCO Silk Road city of Bukhara
  • Remarkable petroglyphs in Nurata
  • Sublime monuments in Samarkand, World Tourism Capital 2023
  • Ancient fortress town of Nurata
  • Visit Parkent Solar Furnace, the largest in Asia

Places Visited

Tashkent - Termez - Baysun - Darband Gorge - Karshi - Bukhara - Aydarkul Lake - Nurata - Samarkand

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Domestic flights
Meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks

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Day 1 : Tashkent

You will be met by our representative at Tashkent International Airport and transferred to your hotel for early check-in. Take the morning to rest. In the afternoon you will depart for your afternoon tour of Tashkent, covering some of the most interesting parts of the capital, including Amir Timur Square, Tashkent Metro and the Museum of Applied Arts, followed by an early evening visit to the top of of Tashkent TV Tower for panoramic views of the city.

In the evening you will have a welcome dinner with Sophie, who will brief you on the itinerary. You will have the chance to start getting to know other members of the group.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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.

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Day 2 : Tashkent - Termez

Transfer to the airport for the flight to Termez, in the south of the country. Spend the rest of the day visiting some of the key historic sites in Termez, including the Termez Museum of Archaeology, Old Termez, the two Buddhist monasteries of Fayaz Tepe and Kara Tepe.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The city of Termez lies near the Hairatan border to Afghanistan in the south of Uzbekistan, the hottest part of the country. Termez is one of Central Asia's ancient cities that later became a significant Buddhist centre. The old city was destroyed in 1220 - by Genghis Khan - following the cities refusal to surrender peacefully. A new city was later built not far from these medieval ruins.

Termez Archaeological Museum was opened in 2002 in commemoration of the 2,500th anniversary of Termez. The museum exhibits archaeological remains that range from the Stone Age to the times of the Khanates. This consists of over 27,000 exhibits, including household pieces, paintings, sculptures and statues. 

The ancient ruins of Fayaz Tepe lie in the heart of old Termez. The Buddhist temple was constructed during the 1st century AD and destroyed during the Sassanid invasion of the 3rd century BC. The temple complex was rediscovered in 1963, when excavations revealed rich paintings and well-preserved sculptures. Today, Fayaz Tepe is also home to a museum, where further research and restoration efforts are ongoing. 

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Day 3 : Termez

Spend the full day sightseeing in and around Termez. Other sites we will visit include the Al Hakim At-Termizi Mausoleum, the Sultan Saodat memorial complex, Kampir Tepe, and Kyr Kyz.

Note: we may alter the order of sightseeing in Termez on Days 2 and 3 if required.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 4 : Termez - Baysun

In the morning drive to Baysun District, which is recognised by UNESCO with  Intangible Cultural Heritage status. Here you will visit the Baysun Museum of National Applied Art and Crafts Center, and then drive to Kyzyl Canyon ('kyzyl' means red), which is a beautiful natural  area  with  picturesque  landscapes.  Afterwards,  there will be time hike to the  ruins  of  the  Kurganzol Fortress (2km) - a Greek-Macedonian (Hellenistic) fortress, founded at the end of the 4th century BC.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Baysun District is located in south-eastern Uzbekistan on the route from Asia Minor to India, is one of the oldest inhabited areas of Central Asia. With the diminishing importance of the Silk Road and the political changes in Central Asia, the region became quite isolated, which favoured the preservation of ancient traditions that show traces of several religions, including shamanistic beliefs, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Islam. Ancient practices are still often used to conduct wedding ceremonies, funeral rites and shamanistic rituals to cure the sick. Among other popular traditions are ritual chants linked to annual festivals, epic legends and dances. UNESCO has classified Baysun District as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.  Source:

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Day 5 : Excursion to Darband Gorge

Set off for Darband Gorge where you will enjoy the day walking through the stunning gorge. The shrine of a saint is located within the gorge and revered by locals. You will also walk through the scenic Kaptarkhona Canyon. Return to Baysun.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Darband Gorge is situated 20km from Baysun. The Khozhimoy Ota spring within the gorge is a holy place for the people of Surkhandarya. It is the burial place of a revered saint, which is located on one of the platforms on the wall of the gorge. The shrine is surrounded on all sides by huge vertical rocks. Nearby is a cave with an underground lake in which fish live. Fish are also considered holy and no one tries to catch or eat them. The Kaptarkhona Canyon is within the gorge and once upon a time it was a wild canyon in which wild pigeons nested, which is how it got its name. It consists of bizarre turns, narrow gorges and boulders scattered in the middle of a narrow path. It is very picturesque, especially in spring.

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Day 6 : Baysun - Karshi

Set off for Karshi and on arrival visit the Nikolayev Bridge (which resembles the Si-o-se in Isfahan, Iran). You will also visit the magnificent WWII Memorial and have the opportunity to learn about traditional flat weave carpet weaving, a craft for which Karshi is well known.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Karshi (aka Qarshi) dates back 2,700 years and was a strategic position on the Great Silk Road, thus attracting invaders over the ages. Karshi has Sogdian roots and is known for its impressive medieval madrassas, mausoleums and mosques. It also has a reputation for producing some of the finest flat-weave carpets. The city is also home to the most impressive and elaborate WWII memorial in Central Asia.

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Day 7 : Karshi - Bukhara

Leave after breakfast for Bukhara. On arrival, we will have lunch and then have an afternoon tour of the Old Town on foot, including visiting the stunning Poi Kalon complex. Time- permitting you might enjoy an optional treatment at the medieval Hammam Bozori Kord. Dinner will be served at a rooftop restaurant with fantastic views over this remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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.

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Day 8 : Bukhara

Enjoy a full day of sightseeing in Bukhara, including the Ismail Samanid Mausoleum, Chashma Ayub, Ark Fortress, and Sitorai Mokhi Khosa.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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.

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Day 9 : Bukhara - Aydarkul

Drive to stunning Aydarkul, a manmade lake which is part of the Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biosphere Reserve. En-route we will stop at the ceramics and suzani (embroidered textile) workshop in Gijduvan. You can take an optional swim in the lake and will spend the night in a yurt camp.

Note: the yurts and bathrooms are on a shared basis.

Meal plan: n/a

Aydarkul Lake can be found in the Kizil Kum Desert. The lake is a byproduct of Soviet irrigation (1960s and 1970s), whereby irrigation and damming led water from the Chardarya Reservoir to flow into the Arnasay lowlands. Aydarkul Lake was subsequently formed, and has since become the second largest lake in the region after the Aral Sea.

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Day 10 : Aydarkul - Nurata Mountains

Drive to the village of Hayot in the Nurata Mountains. We  will take a gentle afternoon walk in the valley to the site of ancient petroglyphs and ruins. and then return to the guesthouse for dinner and to meet with local families.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The small town of Nurata can be found in the foothills of the Nurata Mountains. The origins of the town are unknown - some associate this with the construction of fortress Nur by Alexander the Great in 327 BC, whilst archeological excavations suggest that humans have inhabited the region for forty thousand years. Today, Nurata is the administrative and cultural centre of the mountainous Navoi region. 

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Day 11 : Nurata - Samarkand

After breakfast set off for Samarkand, Uzbekistan's most iconic city. Arrive in time to watch a plov cookery demo and enjoy a local lunch. We will spend the afternoon visiting the city's magnificent Registan complex and in the evening watch a performance at the El Merosi Theatre of Historical Costume.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & 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.

The small town of Nurata can be found in the foothills of the Nurata Mountains. The origins of the town are unknown - some associate this with the construction of fortress Nur by Alexander the Great in 327 BC, whilst archeological excavations suggest that humans have inhabited the region for forty thousand years. Today, Nurata is the administrative and cultural centre of the mountainous Navoi region. 

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Day 12 : Samarkand

Morning sightseeing in Samarkand, where we will visit the Shah-i-Zinda Mausoleum, Gur Emir and the Bibi Khanum Mosque. The afternoon and evening will be free at leisure.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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.

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.

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Day 13 : Samarkand - Parkent - Tashkent

Take the early morning high speed train to Tashkent (06:30-08:45). Stop at a local bistro for breakfast and then head to the Parkent Solar Furnace, one of only two such scientific installations in the world. Afterwards, visit a local vineyard for wine-tasting and a sumptuous home-cooked lunch. In the evening we will enjoy a farewell dinner.

Note: for those who would like to explore more of Tashkent on their own to see more of the sites or do some shopping at the Chorsu bazaar , you can forego the visit to the Solar Furnace and the vineyard.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Parkent Solar Furnace is about 45km from Tashkent and is home to the largest solar furnace (or heliocomplex) in Asia. The furnace was constructed in the 1980's and is a feat of complex engineering. Its unique assortment of curved mirrors means it can reach temperatures close to 3000 degrees celsius. It was primarily used for weapons construction during Soviet times but is now used for many applications, including the production of pollutant-free solar energy, hydrogen fuels and testing extreme heat on various materials.

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Day 14 : Departure

Transfer to airport for flight home or to other onward destination.

Note:  extensions elsewhere in Uzbekistan can be arranged - for example to Nukus and Khiva. Contact us for more information.

Meal plan: Breakfast


Uzbekistan Extension Ideas (8 days)

Extend your trip in Uzbekistan

Navoi Extension (5 days)

Discover petroglyphs and valleys on this extension.

Village Walks in Tajikistan (5 days)

Village walks around the Fann Mountains

Five Stan Odyssey (along the Silk Road) (30 days)

Get under the skin of all five 'Stans'

Silk Road Secrets of Uzbekistan with Sophie Ibbotson (14 days)

Discover ancient sites and traditions in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan Odyssey (11 days)

Ancient cities, spell-binding architecture and stunning landscapes


A well-planned trip, allowing us to see some of the amazing rich history of Uzbekistan, and giving us a chance to see some of the excellent craftspeople who still produce gorgeous handmade items.

Deborah Conway-Read , Uzbekistan Odyssey

The Uzbekistan Odyssey was a well constructed and executed tour of Uzbekistan. We saw so much of the country, including towns, cities, deserts and mountains, and experienced the wonderful architecture, the turbulent history and the beautiful arts and crafts of the country. And all that with the background of the romance of the Silk Roads!

Doreen Hutchings , Uzbekistan Odyssey

We spent a memorable month in Central Asia, travelling through four 'Stans. The long history of ethnic diversity and exchange of cultural ideas make it a fascinating place. The architecture and landscapes were breathtaking and the hospitality and warmth of the people unforgettable.

Dave Every , Tailormade 'Stans'

The Silk Road trip is the second tailored tour we have made with Travel the Unknown. The itinerary was well-planned and we found every guide knowledgeable and good company. Thank you.

Tony & Chris Cram , Tailormade Uzbekistan

Travel The Unknown proved to be knowledgeable, efficient and flexible. An extensive and packed itinerary ran like clockwork. The quality of accommodation, food, guides and the friendliness of all the people of Central Asia were all surprisingly good and better than anticipated. An excellent trip!

Peter & Janice Lacey , Tailormade Five Stans
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