Uzbekistan | Sites & Cities along the Silk Road

 Panoramic view of Samarkand
Panoramic view of Samarkand
Front of Guri Amiri, Samarkland
Front of Guri Amiri, Samarkland
Aerial view of Khiva
Aerial view of Khiva
Khiva
Khiva
Samanid Mausoleum
Samanid Mausoleum
Traditional Uzbek hats
Traditional Uzbek hats
Details of the decorations of the Taqi Sarraon market, Bukhara
Details of the decorations of the Taqi Sarraon market, Bukhara
Amir Timur museum in Tashkent
Amir Timur museum in Tashkent
Mizdakhan cemetery at sunset, Nukus
Mizdakhan cemetery at sunset, Nukus
Oriental buildings in Khiva
Oriental buildings in Khiva
Traditional street market
Traditional street market
Handmade traditional knotted silk rugs
Handmade traditional knotted silk rugs
Karakum Desert
Karakum Desert

Hear the footsteps of history as we explore the sites and cities of the Silk Road, which once ran all the way from China to Europe, with Uzbekistan right at its heart. The steppes, deserts, mountains and gleaming blue-tiled cities tell a story of trade and conquest. Join us in 2019 on the road to Khiva, Bukhara and fabulous Samarkand; cities built to dazzle the travellers who have passed by for thousands of years. For centuries this is where not only goods, but knowledge, ideas, and cultures crossed from East to West. Travel in the footsteps of those ancient caravans, from grassy plain to desert, voyaging from city to city, crossing Uzbekistan on an unforgettable journey.

  • Visit UNESCO World Heritage sites of Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and Shakhrisyabz
  • See the many ornate palaces in the city of Khiva
  • Observe avant-garde art at the renowned Savitsky Art Museum
  • Enter the magnificent Bibi-Khanym Mosque
  • Sample Uzbekistan’s incredible regional cuisine

Themes

  • Prehistory
  • Medieval
  • Cultural Excursion

Itinerary 2019

Day 1

We take an overnight flight to Tashkent.

Day 2

Upon our arrival, we transfer to our hotel with time to rest before lunch. During the afternoon we visit the State Museum of History of Uzbekistan. Founded in 1876, and formerly known as the Lenin Museum, this is one of the oldest institutions in Central Asia, and boasts an epic assortment of artefacts. Highlights include the remains of a prehistoric man dating from 1.5 million years BC, as well as significant statues and reliefs from the country’s Buddhist period. This evening we enjoy a welcome meal together.
Hotel: International Hotel or similar
Meals: Lunch & dinner included

Day 3

This morning we drive through countryside to the ancient settlement of Shahrukhiyah, an important Silk Road city sacked by the Mongols in the 13th century, and now concealed beneath a verdant mound. We return to Taskhent for a walking tour of the Old Town this afternoon, exploring ancient mausoleums and beautiful mosques, including Tillya Sheikh. We will also take in remnants of the city’s Soviet past.
Hotel: International Hotel or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 4

This morning we fly west to Nukus, located in the Karakalpakstan Republic. Upon arrival we make our way to Gyaur Kala, the “Fortress of Infidels”, a settlement established at the time of the First Persian Empire. Its surviving mud brick walls and towers are indicative of Zoroastrian inhabitants. After lunch we continue to the Medieval city of Mizdakhan, site of Uzbekistan’s oldest necropolis, first founded some 2,000 years ago. Still a place of pilgrimage and mysticism, the legends surrounding this settlement include that of the “World Clock”, a building that is said to shed just one brick a year. According to legend, when the last brick falls, the end of the world begins.
Hotel: Jibek Joly or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 5

In the morning we visit the world-renowned Savitsky Art Museum, which hosts the world’s second largest collection of Russian avant-garde art which hangs alongside that of Socialist Realism. There are also archaeological and ethnographic objects on display. Next we travel south along the Amu River to the remote ruined tepe of Chilpik Dakhma, a Zoroastrian “Tower of Silence” used in funerary “sky burial” rituals until the Arab invasion of the 7th century AD. Our final destination for the day is Khiva, an important Silk Road city famous for its role as a slave trading post.
Hotel: Orient Star Khiva Hotel or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 6

The sixth day of our trip begins with an excursion to the mighty fortresses of Ayaz Kala. Dramatically situated on a hilltop overlooking the Kyzylkum Desert, and erected to protect local inhabitants against nomadic attacks, these ancient strongholds were largely destroyed at the time of the Arab invasions. We continue to the abandoned city of Toprak Kala, a complex built by the slave-owning Khorezm, with an extended line of crumbling walls that is visible for miles around. Built in the 3rd century AD, its remains include the residences of Khorezm governors, workshops which formerly manufactured bows, and a palace with three imposing towers.
Hotel: Orient Star Khiva Hotel or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 7

Today we step into a world of “Arabian Nights”, spending a whole day exploring Khiva on foot to enjoy its narrow alleys, graceful minarets and thriving markets. Although it was virtually destroyed by Genghis Khan, much of it what was subsequently rebuilt is impressive. The first of Uzbekistan’s sites to achieve World Heritage status, the city still boasts its original defensive walls and gates, as well as a wealth of ornate mosques and mausoleums. 
Hotel: Orient Star Khiva Hotel or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 8

We take a long drive through the Karakum Desert, with a brief stop en-route at the widest expanse of the Amu Darya (River Oxus) to see how its waters have been diverted by the Soviets, causing the Aral Sea to dramatically recede.. We arrive at Bukhara mid-afternoon, allowing time to visit the beautifully located Samani and Chashma Ayub mausoleums, and the Bolo Khauz Mosque before we check-in to our next hotel.
Hotel: Zargaron Plaza or similar
Meals: Breakfast, boxed lunch & dinner included

Day 9

Today is all ours to wander brilliant Bukhara, long a great oasis of Central Asia. Formerly part of the Persian Empire, the city was seized by the Samanids in 903 AD, and went on to become a significant centre for intellectualism in the Islamic world. As part of our tour we visit the Po-i-Kalyan religious complex, an impressive collection of sacred buildings, so transcendent that not even Ghengis Khan could not bring himself to destroy it. Tonight we enjoy a traditional folk show before having dinner.
Hotel: Zargaron Plaza or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 10

We visit the site at one of Bukhara’s predecessors today — the ruined city of Paykent. After a picnic lunch at the Paykent Museum. We return to Bukhara to visit the Mausoleum of Ismail Samani, a fine example of Samanid architecture, and the Bolo Haus Mosque, as well as other places of interest as we walk back to our hotel.
Hotel: Zargaron Plaza or similar
Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch & dinner included

Day 11

Today we follow the Silk Road route to Samarkand, an extended drive east across the scenic plains of central Uzbekistan. On the way we stop at Rabat-i Malik, an 11th-century caravanserai with an intricate Persian façade matching those found on palace walls at Persepolis.
Hotel: Grand Samarkand or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 12

We wake in fabulous Samarkand, a principal and prosperous city on the Silk Road route, and prepare ourselves for a full day of dazzling discoveries. Among today’s many highlights is the Ulugh Beg Observatory, a 15th century marvel of astronomical research which was unearthed in 1908. Ulugh Beg is widely considered to be one of the finest historical observatories in the Islamic world. Afterwards we’ll explore the stunning necropolis at Shah i Zinda, which is a series of grand palatial tombs. On to Afrasiyab in the Zerafshan Valley, here we find Samarkand’s oldest archaeological site, once the location of a Samanid palace, and now linked to an illuminating museum. We also admire Registan Square, an impressive public square bordered by three stunning madrasahs, or Islamic schools. A breath-taking monument to power and learning.
Hotel: Grand Samarkand or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 13

This morning we switch to smaller vehicles, travelling via the Takhta Karcha Pass to the turquoise-domed city of Shakhrisyabz, ancient birthplace of Amir Temur (Tamerlane). Legend states that the city was destroyed by the Khan of Bukhara when his favourite horse died from exhaustion on the steep ascent to the gates. What remains today are the looming towers and delicate mosaics of Tamerlane’s stupendous 14th-century Ak-Saray Palace (or White Palace), and the Dorus Saodat, an outstanding example of Khwarezmian architecture.
Hotel: Grand Samarkand or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 14

We begin our last full day by exploring more of central Samarkand, first visiting the restored Gur-i-Amir Mausoleum complex where Tamerlane was buried. We continue on to the enormous Bibi-Khanym Mosque, with its magnificent columns, portals and minarets – a grand site established during the reign of Tamerlane. After lunch we return to Tashkent by high-speed train this afternoon, and upon our arrival we enjoy a farewell dinner.
Hotel: International Hotel or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 15

We rise early this morning to head back to the airport for our return flight home to London, via Istanbul.
Meals: Breakfast included

Itinerary 2020

Day 1

We take an overnight flight to Tashkent.

Day 2

Upon our arrival, we transfer to our hotel with time to rest before lunch. During the afternoon we visit the State Museum of History of Uzbekistan. Founded in 1876, and formerly known as the Lenin Museum, this is one of the oldest institutions in Central Asia, and boasts an epic assortment of artefacts. Highlights include the remains of a prehistoric man dating from 1.5 million years BC, as well as significant statues and reliefs from the country’s Buddhist period. This evening we enjoy a welcome meal together.

Hotel: International Hotel or similar
Meals: Lunch & dinner included

Day 3

We spend the day in Tashkent for a walking tour of the Old Town, exploring ancient mausoleums and beautiful mosques, including Tillya Sheikh. We will also take in remnants of the city’s Soviet past.

Hotel: International Hotel or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 4

This morning we fly west to Nukus, located in the Karakalpakstan Republic. Upon arrival we make our way to Gyaur Kala, the “Fortress of Infidels”, a settlement established at the time of the First Persian Empire. Its surviving mud brick walls and towers are indicative of Zoroastrian inhabitants. After lunch we continue to the Medieval city of Mizdakhan, site of Uzbekistan’s oldest necropolis, first founded some 2,000 years ago. Still a place of pilgrimage and mysticism, the legends surrounding this settlement include that of the “World Clock”, a building that is said to shed just one brick a year. According to legend, when the last brick falls, the end of the world begins.

Hotel: Jipek Joly or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 5

In the morning we visit the world-renowned Savitsky Art Museum, which hosts the world’s second largest collection of Russian avant-garde art which hangs alongside that of Socialist Realism. There are also archaeological and ethnographic objects on display. Next we travel south along the Amu River to the remote ruined tepe of Chilpik Dakhma, a Zoroastrian “Tower of Silence” used in funerary “sky burial” rituals until the Arab invasion of the 7th century AD. Our final destination for the day is Khiva, an important Silk Road city famous for its role as a slave trading post.

Hotel: Orient Star Khiva Hotel or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 6

The sixth day of our trip begins with an excursion to the mighty fortresses of Ayaz Kala. Dramatically situated on a hilltop overlooking the Kyzylkum Desert, and erected to protect local inhabitants against nomadic attacks, these ancient strongholds were largely destroyed at the time of the Arab invasions. We continue to the abandoned city of Toprak Kala, a complex built by the slave-owning Khorezm, with an extended line of crumbling walls that is visible for miles around. Built in the 3rd century AD, its remains include the residences of Khorezm governors, workshops which formerly manufactured bows, and a palace with three imposing towers.

Hotel: Orient Star Khiva Hotel or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 7

Today we step into a world of “Arabian Nights”, spending a whole day exploring Khiva on foot to enjoy its narrow alleys, graceful minarets and thriving markets. Although it was virtually destroyed by Genghis Khan, much of it what was subsequently rebuilt is impressive. The first of Uzbekistan’s sites to achieve World Heritage status, the city still boasts its original defensive walls and gates, as well as a wealth of ornate mosques and mausoleums. 

Hotel: Orient Star Khiva Hotel or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 8

We take a long drive through the Karakum Desert, with a brief stop en-route at the widest expanse of the Amu Darya (River Oxus) to see how its waters have been diverted by the Soviets, causing the Aral Sea to dramatically recede. We arrive at Bukhara mid-afternoon, allowing time to visit the beautifully located Samani and Chashma Ayub mausoleums, and the Bolo Khauz Mosque before we check-in to our next hotel.

Hotel: Asia Bukhara or similar
Meals: Breakfast, boxed lunch & dinner included

Day 9

Today is all ours to wander brilliant Bukhara, long a great oasis of Central Asia. Formerly part of the Persian Empire, the city was seized by the Samanids in 903 AD, and went on to become a significant centre for intellectualism in the Islamic world. As part of our tour we visit the Po-i-Kalyan religious complex, an impressive collection of sacred buildings, so transcendent that not even Ghengis Khan could not bring himself to destroy it. Tonight we enjoy a traditional folk show before having dinner.

Hotel: Asia Bukhara or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 10

We visit the site at one of Bukhara’s predecessors today — the ruined city of Paykent. After a picnic lunch at the Paykent Museum. We return to Bukhara to visit the Mausoleum of Ismail Samani, a fine example of Samanid architecture, and the Bolo Haus Mosque, as well as other places of interest as we walk back to our hotel.

Hotel: Asia Bukhara or similar
Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch & dinner included

Day 11

Today we follow the Silk Road route to Samarkand, an extended drive east across the scenic plains of central Uzbekistan. On the way we stop at Rabat-i Malik, an 11th-century caravanserai with an intricate Persian façade matching those found on palace walls at Persepolis.

Hotel: Registan Palace or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 12

We wake in fabulous Samarkand, a principal and prosperous city on the Silk Road route, and prepare ourselves for a full day of dazzling discoveries. Among today’s many highlights is the Ulugh Beg Observatory, a 15th century marvel of astronomical research which was unearthed in 1908. Ulugh Beg is widely considered to be one of the finest historical observatories in the Islamic world. Afterwards we’ll explore the stunning necropolis at Shah i Zinda, which is a series of grand palatial tombs. On to Afrasiyab in the Zerafshan Valley, here we find Samarkand’s oldest archaeological site, once the location of a Samanid palace, and now linked to an illuminating museum. We also admire Registan Square, an impressive public square bordered by three stunning madrasahs, or Islamic schools. A breath-taking monument to power and learning.

Hotel: Registan Palace or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 13

This morning we switch to smaller vehicles, travelling via the Takhta Karcha Pass to the turquoise-domed city of Shakhrisyabz, ancient birthplace of Amir Temur (Tamerlane). Legend states that the city was destroyed by the Khan of Bukhara when his favourite horse died from exhaustion on the steep ascent to the gates. What remains today are the looming towers and delicate mosaics of Tamerlane’s stupendous 14th-century Ak-Saray Palace (or White Palace), and the Dorus Saodat, an outstanding example of Khwarezmian architecture.

Hotel: Registan Palace or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 14

We begin our last full day by exploring more of central Samarkand, first visiting the restored Gur-i-Amir Mausoleum complex where Tamerlane was buried. We continue on to the enormous Bibi-Khanym Mosque, with its magnificent columns, portals and minarets – a grand site established during the reign of Tamerlane. After lunch we return to Tashkent by high-speed train this afternoon, and upon our arrival we enjoy a farewell dinner.

Hotel: International Hotel or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 15

We rise early this morning to head back to the airport for our return flight home to London, via Istanbul.

Meals: Breakfast included

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Tour Manager
  3. Local Travel - Private a/c coach
  4. Meals - Most meals included
  5. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
  6. Field Notes
  7. Hotels
  8. Flights

Travel Information

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2020 Tour Details

Fri 18th Sep - Fri 2nd Oct

Call for Availability

£3,845

inc.

sgl supp: £335

UZB20A

Led By: Francois Desset

Guide Lecturer

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