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Exploring The Silk Road

Journey Through Kazakhstan

This in-depth trip will take you all over this interesting Central Asian republic, taking in modern urban areas, ancient sites and wild nature.  Beginning in Almaty, head up into the Tien Shan mountains that tower over the city before flying to Shymkent – an important staging post on the Great Silk Road.  Then it is off to beautiful Zhabagly Nature Reserve and the huge Charyn Canyon – often compared with America’s Grand Canyon – and the stunning Kolsai and Kaindy Lakes before exploring the country’s ultra-modern capital Nur Sultan.  A very exciting tour!

Your Itinerary

DAY 1 - WELCOME TO ALMATY

On arrival in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, which is situated at the foot of the northern of Tien Shan ridge, meet your guide and transfer to your city hotel. After you have checked in, enjoy a sightseeing tour of the city. Highlights include Panflilov Park, the Memorial of Glory and Eternal Flame, Zenkov Russian Cathedral which is constructed entirely from wood and the bustling Zelyony (Green) Bazzar, before ending a fascinating day by taking the mountain road to Kok Tibe Hill, where you can enjoy panoramic views of Almaty city.

DAY 2 - SIGHTSEEING AROUND ALMATY

Spend today exploring the spectacular mountains around Almaty. Visit the famous Medeo ice stadium and Big Almaty Lake, a pristine alpine lake surrounded on all sides by huge mountain peaks.  You will also visit the Sunkar Falcon Centre to learn about Kazakhstan’s falconry heritage and the nomadic way of life which was once prevalent throughout the region. Return to Almaty and in time for dinner and stay overnight.

DAY 3 - FLY SOUTH TO SHYMKENT

Transfer to the airport for the morning flight to Shymkent, located in the south of Kazakhstan near the Uzbek border and on the crossroad of the Great Silk Road – a route along which for centuries precious goods and enlightened ideas were transported by caravans. Go with your guide on a city tour of the main historical and cultural monuments: visit Memory Alley in Shanshi park, the History Museum which is full of interesting facts about the local history of southern Kazakhstan and the Ethnography Museum.

DAY 4 - DRIVE TO AKSU ZHABAGLY NATURE RESERVE

Today travel to Aksu Zhabagly Nature Reserve, stopping en route at Sairam, an ancient city famous for its countless mausoleums of Muslim saints and famous figures of Islam which was on the Great Silk Road. Once at Aksu Zhabagly Nature Reserve visit Aksu Canyon, one of the largest and deepest canyons in Central Asia, and look around a local village to see the traditional way of life. Stay overnight nearby in a small guesthouse and enjoy a traditional Kazakh dinner with a local family.

DAY 5 - VISIT ASKU ZHABAGLY NATURE RESERVE

Established in 1926, the Aksu Zhabagly Nature Reserve is the oldest in central Asia and protects part of the Talasky Alatau range of the western Tian Shan Mountains. This lovely area is famous for its wild tulips in spring and is popular with birdwatchers.  It is also possible to see bear, marmot or wild mountain sheep. Head deep into the reserve exploring the area on foot and visit Kishi Kayindy gorge.

DAY 6 - VISIT A SILK ROAD CITY & TRANSFER ALMATY

Depart early for Taraz, another Silk Road staging post which was a favourite resting place for ambassadorial caravans. Visit the history museum and Aisha-Bibi and Badaji-Khatun mausoleums. Continue driving through the Kazakh Steppe with great views of the Tien Shan mountains toAlmaty where you will stay overnight in your city hotel.

DAY 7 - DRIVE TO CHARYN CANYON & KOLSAI & KAINDY LAKES

After breakfast drive to Kolsai lake via Charyn Canyon. This imposing valley with its collection of towering rock structures that is known locally as the Valley of Castles is often compared to the Grand Canyon in the USA. 80km long and between 200 and 300 metres in depth, erosion and weathering have left bizarre shapes like fantastic sculptures and exposed the many colourful strata of the earth. Heading into the foothills of the Tien Shan range, drive to Kolsai lakes. Surrounded by fir trees and alpine meadows they are the perfect setting for a hike and you can either go with your guide on a moderate 3 hour walk or enjoy a leisurely boat ride along the Lower Kolsai Lake. This evening you will stay in a guesthouse in Saty village.

DAY 8 - WALKS IN KAINDY LAKES

Spend the day exploring Kaindy lake.  Lying at an altitude of 1667 metres, this beautiful lake appeared after an earthquake in 1911 and is famous for its forest of submerged spruce trees which rise out of the lake’s sapphire waters and still have foliage – an incredible sight!  Walk around the lake and through the forests with your guide eating a picnic lunch with stunning mountain views before returning to your guesthouse in Saty for the night.

DAY 9 - DRIVE TO ALMATY & FLY TO NUR SULTAN

Leaving  Saty village, make your way back to Almaty where you will transfer to the airport for your flight to Nur Sultan. Previously known as Astana, Nur Sultan has been the capital of Kazakhstan since 1997. Located on the Ishim River, Nur-Sultan is a fascinating, ultra-modern city with futuristic-style buildings.

DAY 10 - GUIDED TOUR OF NUR SULTAN

Spend the day with your guide on a city tour and visit Nur-Astana – Central Asia’s largest mosque, the National Museum to see the “Golden Man”, panoramic views from top of Baiterek Tower that opened in 2002, as well as other highlights including Constitution Square and Kazakh Eli Square. Also, explore the older quarter where streets are lined with 19th century buildings  and feel the atmosphere of the old town.

DAY 11 - VISIT THE SIGHTS AROUND NUR SULTAN

Today, visit Sofievka to get a glimpse into the nomadic life of traditional Kazakhs. Look around a yurt and sample local delicacies, hear Kazakh music, witness an eagle hunting demonstration, learn how to make Kazakh cheese and gain an insight into a variety of Kazakh traditions. Later, drive to ALZHIR Museum-Memorial Complex. The cryptic acronym ALZHIR stands for the Russian for “Akmolinskiy Internment Camp for the Wives of the Betrayers of the Homeland” and was a Stalinist gulag for families of political prisoners who were deemed traitors. The wives were simply considered as guilty as their husbands by association. On the way back to Nur Sultan, visit the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation that opened in 2006 and is built in the form of a regular tetrahedron.

DAY 12 - DEPART NUR SULTAN

This morning we will ensure you are taken to the airport in good time for your onward flight.

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DETAILS:

This itinerary costs from £2790 per person B&B based on 2 sharing and including all private transfers but not international flights.

You can get flights from as little as £570 per person return and do ask us for advice. Alternatively we can book the flights for you but a booking fee may apply.

What's included?

INCLUDED:
  • Prices start from £2790 per person
  • 11 nights accommodation on B&B basis
  • Accompanied by an English speaking guide throughout.
  • Private vehicle and transfers
  • Internal flights (two)
  • All entrance fees for excursions
  • Lunch on Days 5 & 8
  • Dinner on Day 4, 5, 7 & 8
  • Local taxes
  • Meals for guides and drivers
  • All trips are ATOL protected or ABTT bonded to ensure you are financially protected
Make a booking

This in-depth trip will take you all over this interesting Central Asian republic, taking in modern urban areas, ancient sites and wild nature.  Beginning in Almaty, head up into the Tien Shan mountains that tower over the city before flying to Shymkent – an important staging post on the Great Silk Road.  Then it is off to beautiful Zhabagly Nature Reserve and the huge Charyn Canyon – often compared with America’s Grand Canyon – and the stunning Kolsai and Kaindy Lakes before exploring the country’s ultra-modern capital Nur Sultan.  A very exciting tour!

Khiva
Khiva, a delightful, small, walled city, is often overlooked on tours through the region but its labyrinth of side streets and small squares have a very particular charm that evokes the centuries of history the city has witnessed.
Dunhuang
Dunhuang is a fascinating city full of historical and cultural riches. The main highlight is Moago caves - known as the Cave of a Thousand Buddhas - which are home to fantastic Buddhist murals and art. There are nearly 500 caves and over 2000 coloured statues. Crescent Lake, a beautiful clear water lake set in a desert oasis is only a short drive away.
Xiahe
Xiahe attracts very few travellers but those who do make the journey will be rewarded with spectacular mountain views and the opportunity to visit the majestic 18th century Labrang Monastery. Founded in 1709, this is one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries outside the Tibet Autonomous Region. You can learn the fascinating history of Tibetan Buddhism and discover the daily life of monks.
Turpan
Turpan is located in the Turpan Basin at the depth of 154 m below sea level and known sometimes as "Fire Land”, because it is the hottest city in China and one of the driest places in the world. Some of the places of interest are the ruins of Gaochang, Astana tombs and the Bezeklik Buddha caves which are decorated with wonderful murals.
Bukhara
One of the great trading cities along the Silk Road, Bukhara’s layout and architecture bring its past to life and make for a truly fascinating visit. During your visit you can stay in stunning boutique hotels that are perfectly located in the old town of medieval Bukhara.
Samarkand
The historic town of Samarkand lies at an ancient caravan crossroads and is a melting pot of world cultures. It was Tamerlaine’s capital and contains some of Asia’s most stunning architecture. There are plenty of traditional hotels to choose from, featuring classic Uzbek décor, that are close to
Bishkek
One of the great trading cities along the Silk Road, Bukhara’s layout and architecture bring its past to life and make for a truly fascinating visit. During your visit you can stay in stunning boutique hotels that are perfectly located in the old town of medieval Bukhara.

Merv
The magnificent archaeological site of Merv was once one of Central Asia’s most civilised cities and is referred to as the Pearl of the East. This is a vast site of 125 square kilometres and due to its location along the Great Silk Road Route, several cities have existed on the site of current Merv.
Almaty
Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan and its largest city, is situated at the foot of the northern Tien Shan ridge - Zaili Alatau. Almaty was one of the ancient cities on the Great Silk Road, but this modern and bustling leafy city has plenty of sights to visit, such as Panflilov Park, Zenkov Russian Cathedral and the busy Zelyony (Green) Bazzar.

Tashkent
Tashkent is one of the oldest cities on the Great Silk Road between China and Europe and the capital of Uzbekistan. You will be able to explore the Old Quarter of Tashkent with its impressive Khast Imam Complex, wander around Chorsu Bazaar and take the metro to the city centre.
Kashgar
Kashgar is an oasis city in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the far west of China. It has been an important trading centre since the days of the ancient Silk Road, where it was at the point of four branches of the Silk Road despite being surrounded by the mighty obstacles of the Pamir mountains and the Taklamakan desert.

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