Right in the heart of Central Asia, Uzbekistan is a fascinating destination for those who appreciate rich history and diverse culture. For centuries the Silk Road connected East and West, a route where goods and ideas were exchanged that not only transformed the way these different worlds viewed each other but also brought exotic riches to the region. Nowhere is this more marked than in the fabulous cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand, all of which you will visit on this in-depth cultural tour.
Upon arrival you will be met by your private driver and guide who will then drive you through the bustling capital to your centrally located hotel where you can relax after your flight. Once refreshed, go with your guide and explore the Old Quarter of Tashkent with the impressive Khast Imam Complex and see Barak Khan Madrasah, Till Sheikh Mosque and the mausoleum of Abu Bakr Kaffal Shashi. There is also time to wander around Chorsu Bazaar, before taking the Metro to the city centre and walk around Tamerlanes’s central square, Independence Square and visit the Museum of Applied Arts.
After breakfast take a short flight to Urgench where you will be driven to the ancient desert citadels on the edge of the Kyzyl-Kum Desert. The fortresses of Toprak Kala and Ayaz Kala, which date back to the 1st century AD, are set in splendid isolation and the latter has magnificent views over a nearby lake. Look around the ruins and enjoy the dramatic scenery with your guide before driving on to Khiva and checking into your hotel.
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. Finally visit a local silk carpet workshop, currently under UNESCO sponsorship. Overnight in the hotel.
This morning transfer to Khiva train station and board the train number 50 to the mystical city of Bukhara, through the extensive Kyzl Kum or Red Sand Desert. You will be tracing the route of the ancient Silk Road which followed a similar route across the desert from Khiva to Bukhara. On arrival in Bukhara you will transfer to your hotel.
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. Go on 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 19th century British officers were kept before being executed in Registan Square. Continue to Bolo-Khauz Mosque and the Ismael Samani Mausoleumwhich dates from the 10th century. Highlights also include Kalyan Square with its great minaret, Miri Arab and a mix of ancient mosques and trading domes.
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 which is surrounded by madrassas and crowded tea houses. The remainder of the day is at leisure to wander around the old town. 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
Drive to Shakhrisabz, Tamerlaine’s birthplace, a pleasant provincial town located in a small valley surrounded by the Pamir Mountains. Enjoy fantastic views from the portal of Tamerlaine’s Arksarai Palace and visit his mausoleum, a unique architectural structure. Next, drive to Devil Plateau (Shaitan Djiga), an extensive plateau of granite slabs stretching from the creeks of Mirankul. Huge boulders are scattered around and with a small amount of imagination, you can see faces bent in pain, bizarre animals and monsters turned into stones. Then travel to the nearby mountain village Tersac to have lunch in a local family house and learn about traditional village life. Continue to Samarkand and overnight.
The historic town of Samarkand lies at a crossroads and melting pot of world’s cultures. It was Tamerlaine’s capital and contains some of Asia’s most stunning architecture. On today’sfull-day tour, visit the ancient settlement of Afrosiab and its museum as well as 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-Siya.
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 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 at leisure in Samarkand to relax or revisit any sites you would like to. Later in the day transfer to the city’s train station where you will board the ‘Afrosiab’, the passenger train that departs late afternoon train for Tashkent. Taking the train is one of the most comfortable and convenient ways to travel to Tashkent. On arrival you will be met at the station and driven to your hotel.
This morning we will ensure you are taken to the airport in good time for your onward flight.
This itinerary costs from £2675 per person B&B based on 2 sharing and including all private transfers but not international flights.
You can get flights from £750 per person return and do ask us for advice. Alternatively we can book the flights for you but a booking fee may apply.
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