Travel in comfort through Uzbekistan on its modern high-speed rail network, avoiding flights and long drives. This week-long trip introduces the legendary Silk Road Cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, and gives ample opportunity to enjoy the magnificent mountain scenery of this largely untamed country. These cities were right at the heart of the ancient Silk Road which provided a conduit for goods, ideas and religious views between East and West. The Afrosiyab train runs daily from Tashkent and as well as significantly reducing travel times and being a great way to travel is also a relaxing and environmentally friendly way to travel.
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. Today explore with your guide 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 walking around Tamerlane’s central square, Independence Square and visiting the Museum of Applied Arts.
This morning transfer to Tashkent north train station in time to board the Afrosiyab passenger train to Bukhara. This modern train is a wonderful way to travel, comfortable and fast and of course with great views. After checking into your accommodation, have lunch and enjoy a guided city tour walking through the narrow streets of old 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. 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 Mausoleum dating from the 10th century and Chashmai Ayub. Finish the day with a traditional Uzbek dinner in a family-run restaurant where you will experience welcoming local culture and have the opportunity to try unleavened bread and rich mutton dishes.
Spend the morning continuing your exploration of Bukhara. Look around the Poi Kaslyan complex which contains the Kalyan mosque, the 17th Century Kalyan minaret and Miri Arab madrassah. The minaret was used as a ‘lighthouse in the desert’ for camel caravans arriving from the sands of the Kyzyl Kum. Also visit Ulugbeg and Abdulazizkhan madrassahs, Trade Domes, ancient Silk Market, and Magokki Attori mosque. This afternoon transfer to the station and board the Afrosiyob fast train to Samarkand where on arrival you will transfer to your hotel.
Samarkand is one of the Silk Road’s most evocative cities, at one time Tamerlaine’s capital and full of architectural masterpieces. Today’s full day tour includes the ancient settlement of Afrosiyab and the museum which is situated on the spurs of Chupan-Ata hills to the north-east of present-day Samarkand. According to the legend, it was here, on the banks of the river Siab, that the Turanian king and hero Afrosiab, a character of the folk epic ‘Shahnama’, founded the town that became the capital of Sogdiana. Then continue to Ulugbek’s observatory and Bibi Khanum Mosque, built by Tamerlaine for his favourite wife. Then see Gur Amir, the mausoleum of Tamerlaine the Great , and the famous Registan Square, with its gleaming mosaics and detailed minarets shining from the blue tiled madrassas on three sides. There will also be time to make a stop at the noisy and 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. Highlights also include St. Daniel’s Masoleum, and Hazrati Hizr Mosque. Next 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.
Today you may either spend the day relaxing in Samarkand or enjoy an excursion to the village of Mingbulok (Thousand Springs). In this picturesque area originate thousands of springs and it is a sacred place to both Muslims and followers of Zoroastrianism whose pilgrims still visit. Have lunch in the village and meet local residents before visiting a rural school. Later head back to Samarkand via Kalandarov’s House Museum, an old Jewish merchant’s house and catch the late afternoon Afrosiyab train to Tashkent. On arrival you will be met at the station and driven to your hotel.
Your local guide and driver will collect you and transfer you to the airport in plenty of time for your onward flight.
This itinerary costs from £1390 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.