Central Asia Overland

22 DAYS - FROM £4950 PER PERSON

An in-depth tour that will take you through the ‘Five ‘Stans’ of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.  During this diverse trip, trek through vast gorges, hike in the foothills of huge mountains and visit cultural masterpieces known throughout the world. Enjoy the stunning scenery of remote alpine  lakes and wander the narrow streets of medieval cities which have traded for millenia.  Trace routes used by travellers and merchants along the great Silk Road and marvel at the Islamic architectural wonders in cities like Bukhara and Samarkand.  You will return steeped in the history and culture of this fascinating region along with images of the extraordinary scenery etched on your mind.

DAY 1 - ARRIVE IN BISHKEK (KYRGYZSTAN)

Your private driver and local guide will give you a warm welcome when you arrive in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, set against the back-drop of snow-capped mountains. Enjoy a guided sightseeing tour of Bishkek including the main square called Ala Too (formerly Lenin Square) where you can watch the guard changing ceremony, the State History Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and Frunze House Museum. Frunze was the famous Bolshevik general after whom the city was named until Kygyz independence in 1991. Stroll around Bishkek’s Osh Bazaar.

Accommodation

DAY 2 - WALKS IN ALA ARCHA NATIONAL PARK

Ala-Archa National park is situated south of Biskek at an altitude of between 1600-4800m and as you can imagine, the scenery is stunning. Today, take a full day excursion into the mountains to Ala Archa National Park, with a mountain picnic. This is an area of incomparable scenic beauty with green valleys, fir forests and high glaciers. Your guide will take you on walks along pristine trails by streams and waterfalls with magnificent views over Ala Archa Canyon. Return to Bishkek where you stay overnight.

DAY 3 - SCENIC DRIVE TO SONG KUL LAKE

Today drive through fantastic mountain gorges to Song Kul Lake, visiting the 11 th century Burana Tower on the way. On arrival in Song Kul Lake you will be accommodated in a yurt, the traditional home of Kyrgyz nomads. Spend the night in a basic yurt camp near the lake shore in a yurt, just like the nomads do, and watch Kyrgyz herding their cattle and making national dishes and handcrafts

Accommodation

DAY 4 - ALPINE LAKES, MOUNTAINS & TRADITIONAL LIFE

Song Kul Lake is a mountain lake in the Central Tian Shan Range and is the second largest lake in Kyrgyzstan, lying at an altitude of 3016m above sea level with a total area of an incredible 275 sq km. Spend the morning exploring either on foot or horseback. There is plenty to see aside from the spectacular scenery, there are yurts in the summer pastures and you will have an opportunity to witness traditional Kyrgyz life. Visit a local family in their yurt and you may even help with the milking or making a batch of Kykyz which is a dairy product similar to Kefir. In the afternoon relax or continue exploring before finishing the day by an open fire beneath the stars.

DAY 5 - MEET THE EAGLE HUNTER & DRIVE TO KARAKOL

Leaving Song Kul, drive along the southern part of Lake Issyk Kul to the small town of Bokonbayevo. One of today’s highlights is meeting a local eagle hunter who will explain the importance of these majestic animals to nomadic survival and demonstrate the art of using these splendid raptors to catch hares and other small animals. Later, visit a family run felt workshop, where you will learn about this important craft in Kyrgyz culture. Continue to Karakol where you stay overnight.

Accommodation

DAY 6 - SCENCI DRIVE TO CHARYN CANYON & ALMATY (KAZAKHSTAN)

Today follow a gravel road through alpine meadows and valleys surrounded by the eastern tip of the Tien Shan mountains and cross the border at Karkara border into Kazakhstan. Half-way through the journey stop at Charyn Canyon. The Valley is a natural counterpart of the Great Canyon of the river Colorado in the USA, 80km long and 200-300 metres in depth. Erosion and weathering have left bizarre shapes like fantastic sculptures and exposed the many colours of the earth. This afternoon make your way back to Almaty, where you will stay overnight.

Accommodation

DAY 7 - GUIDED TOUR OF ALMATY

Although since 1997 no longer the capital, Almaty still remains the cultural and financial centre of the country where Russians, nomadic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tartars and many other ethnic groups rub shoulders in its bustling markets. This morning enjoy a sightseeing tour of the Almaty. Highlights include Panflilov Park, Memorial of Glory and Eternal Flame, Zenkov Russian Cathedral constructed entirely from wood. Next explore the bustling Zelyony (Green) Bazzar, before ending this fascinating day by taking the mountain road to Kok Tibe Hill, where you can enjoy panoramic city views of Almaty. This afternoon enjoy some leisure time to explore Almaty and the green market or head up to Medeo ice rink.

DAY 8 - FLY TO DUSHANBE (TAJIKISTAN)

This morning take the short flight to Dushanbe and transfer you to your centrally located hotel. After a rest, enjoy a guided tour of this green leafy capital that is full of cultural monuments, parks, gardens and museums. Visit the National Archaeological Museum of Tajikistan, with its famous Buddha statue and rich collection of archaeological artefacts and collections of fine art, before moving on to the splendid Navruz Palace. Hundreds of skilled artisans were appointed to work on the building, with it initially being planned to be built as the largest teahouse in the world. After lunch continue on to the statue of Ismail Samani, a large monument commemorating the 1,100th anniversary of the Samanid State, which is considered by many to have been the heyday of the Tajik nation when science and arts flourished. From there walk up to Rudaki Park, dedicated to the great Persian poet Rudaki, who also lived during the Samanid period. This evening head out to a Tadjik restaurant to taste the local cuisine.

Accommodation

DAY 9 - SIGHTSEEING IN DUSHANBE

Today is fairly relaxed where you will enjoy a tour of the splendid Navruz Palace. Hundreds of skilled artisans were assigned to construct the palace, with it initially being planned to be built as the largest chayhana (teahouse) in the world. This afternoon is free to rest or walk around the local markets and shops.

DAY 10 - DRIVE THROUGH THE FANN MOUNTAINS TO PENJIKENT

This morning Leaving Dushanbe, drive through steep mountain passes to Iskander-Kul, the largest and arguably the most beautiful lake in the Fann Mountains. This beautiful glacier lake takes its name from Alexander the Great, as it is said he passed by its waters on his way to India. Spend some time walking around the lake and visit a 40 metre high waterfall that flows out of the lake. After a picnic by the shore, continue return to Penjikent in time for dinner at your guesthouse.

Accommodation

DAY 11 - SEE THE SEVEN LAKES

This morning travel south to the Seven Lakes and along the way stop to visit the settlement of Sarazm – a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Seven lakes of Marguzor are located west of the Fan Mountains; each of them has its own colour which varies from all shades of turquoise to purple. At the last lake, Khoazorchashma, you can enjoy a stroll to soak up the beautiful scenery and enjoy a picnic. Return to Penjikent where you stay overnight in your guesthouse

DAY 12 - FOLLOW THE SILK ROAD TO SAMARKAND (UZBEKISTAN)

After breakfast bid farewell to your hosts and skirting along the Zeravshan River cross the border to Samarkand in Uzbekistan. After lunch go on a guided tour of the city, exploring Ulugbek’s observatory and Bibi Khanum Mosque, built by Tamerlaine for his favourite wife. Later, see Gur Amir, the mausoleum of Tamerlaine and of course the famous Registan Square, which has extraordinary blue tiled madrassas, minarets and shimmering mosaics on three sides. No trip to Samarkand would be complete without a stop at the colourful Oriental Bazaar-Siyab.

Accommodation

DAY 13 - CITY TOUR OF HISTORICAL SAMARKAND

Your second day of excursions include the Shah-i-Zinda mausoleum complex, where a medieval street is lined with sparkling blue coloured tombs and mausoleums on each side that were built in the 14th and 15th century. Later drive out visit the ancient settlement of Afrosiab and its museum, also St. Daniel’s Mausoleum, Hazrati Hizr Mosque and the Regional Studies Museum which occupies an old Jewish merchant’s house.  Then head out of the city to Konigil village to experience a paper-making workshop. For many years, Samarkand has been widely revered as the centre of high-quality paper manufacture. The workshop is run by a talented master, who will demonstrate how the rind of the mulberry tree is transformed into crisp sheets of paper.

DAY 14 - TRAVEL TO BUKHARA

Continue your journey along the Golden Silk Road and drive to Gijduvan which is famous for its crafts, particularly its pottery. Visit the ceramic centre and a family workshop where five generations have been producing finely crafted pottery. Travelling onwards towards Bukhara visit Rabbat Malik Caravanserai, Ulug Beg Madrassah and the shrines and tombs of Vabkent, which towers an impressive 39 metres. Built by the Karakhanids in 1196, it is a sister tower to the Kalyon Minaret in Bukhara which you will see tomorrow! This evening enjoy a traditional Uzbek dinner and painting at Davlat Toshev’s house. Davlat Toshev is one of the most exciting and in-demand contemporary masters of Bukhara miniatures and calligraphy.

Accommodation

DAY 15 - GUIDED WALKING TOUR OF BUKHARA

One of the great trading cities along the Silk Road, Bukhara’s layout and architecture has remained largely unchanged for centuries and brings its past to life making for a truly fascinating visit. A full day tour through the narrow streets of the old Bukhara, where you will have the opportunity to explore the main sites with your local guide. Visit the stunning Chor Minor Madrassa, the Ark Citadel, residence of the Emirs of Bukhara and the Zindan prison in which two 19 th century British officers were kept before being executed in the Registan Square. Continue to Bolo-Khauz Mosque, the Ismael Samani Mausoleum dating from the 10 th century. Highlights also include Kalyan Square with its great minaret, Miri Arab and a mix of ancient mosques and trading domes.

DAY 16 - FLY NORTH TO KHIVA

This morning head to the last Emir’s Summer Palace, known by the poetic name Sitora-i Mokhi -Khossa, which dates from the beginning of the 20th century. Return to Bukhara and see Lyabi-Khauz Square surrounded by madrassahs and crowded tea houses. This afternoon transfer to Bukhara train station in Kagan and take the train to Khiva.

Accommodation

DAY 17 - GUIDED TOUR OF 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. Stroll through the main gate Ota-Davaza and some of the highlights include Madrassah of Mukhamad Amin-Khan, Kalta-Minor Minaret, the Emir’s Palace and Harem as well as the Kunya Ark or old citadel where the Emir lived. In the afternoon visit the Friday Mosque with its 200 carved wooden pillars, the Tash Khauli Palace – built as a royal palace in the 19th century – and a local silk carpet workshop. Finally visit a local silk carpet workshop, currently under UNESCO sponsorship. Overnight in the hotel.

DAY 18 - DRIVE TO OLD URGENCH & DARVAZA CRATER (TURKMENISTAN)

Say goodbye to your Uzbek guide and driver and cross the Shavat border at Dashoguz in Turkmenistan, our last country in Central Asia. Our first stop is the ancient city of Kunya-Urgench (Old Urgench) which in the 11th century was capital of Khorezm and one of the most important cities in the Islamic world. With your guide, visit the 15th century mausoleum of Turabeg Khanum, the 12th century mausoleum of Sultan Tekesh and the 12th century mausoleum of Il-Arslan. Continue your journey south deep into the Karakum desert with its moving sands, saxaul and kandym desert trees to Darvaza gas crater (known locally as the Gates to Hell). This unusual site is a massive burning crater in the middle of nowhere. Camp nearly and experience the impressive flames that billow from its 70m diameter rim while you enjoy a Turkmenistan style barbeque before retiring to your tent.

Accommodation

DAY 19 - TRAVEL SOUTH TO ASHGABAT

After breakfast explore other craters in this remote desert before travelling to Ashgabat. This afternoon there is time to visit Talkucha Bazaar, considered to be one of Central Asia’s most impressive markets, where the local trade jewellery, carpets, species, nuts and livestock. Overnight in a centrally located hotel.

Accommodation

DAY 20 - DAY TO TRIP EXPLORE MERV

Today fly to Mary and then drive to Merv. Spend the day with your local guide discovering this magnificent archaeological site, once one of Central Asia’s most civilised cities and referred to as the Pearl of the East. In the 11 th century the Seljuk Turks appropriated Merv, as the centre of a dominion that stretched from Afghanistan to Egypt. This is a vast site of 125 square kilometres and due to its ideal location along the Great Silk Road Route, several cities have existed here. In the afternoon visit the local History Museum and fly back to Ashgabat.

DAY 21 - SIGHTSEEING AROUND ASHGAHBAT

Today head west of Ashgabat to visit the ancient Parthian fortress of Nissa, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which was the capital and winter residence of Partian kings. Afterwards return to Ashgabat and with your local guide visit the statue of Lenin, the Presidential Palace, the National Museum, the mosque of Khezert Omar and the botanical gardens. Depending on timings, you may also be able to visit Independence Park and the Arch of Neutrality. This evening take a trip south of the capital to the Kopet Dag Mountains and join locals walking in the area or take the cable car for a magnificent view of Ashgabat.

DAY 22 - DEPART ASHGABAT

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

DETAILS:

This itinerary costs from £4950 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.

INCLUDED:

  • Prices start from £4950 per person
  • 21 nights accommodation on B&B basis
  • Accompanied by an English speaking guide throughout.
  • Private vehicle and transfers
  • Internal flights (three)
  • All entrance fees for excursions
  • Lunch on Days 4, 11 & 18
  • Dinner on Days 3, 4, 14 & 18
  • Local taxes
  • Meals for guides and drivers
  • All trips are ATOL protected or ABTA bonded to ensure you are financially protected