ITINERARY & MAP
In the early morning, you will arrive in Central Asia’s youngest capital, Astana. It is a showpiece for 21st century Kazakhstan. Talented architects have made major contributions to this futuristic city with its almost surreal skyline. During a guided tour we will see the old and new city, take a ride on a ferry along the Ishim River and we will visit Alzhir, Memorial Museum of Victims of Political Repressions during Stalin times.
This morning we will check in for our flight to Bishkek departing 07.55 am. Upon arrival in Bishkek, you will be met by our guide for the city tour. You will visit the charming capital of Kyrgyzstan, the greenest city in Central Asia. Our sightseeing program in Bishkek will include stops at the museum, the oldest park in Bishkek, Central Square and the Philharmonic Hall. In the afternoon, we will visit Ala-Archa National Park, a forty-minute drive from the city. This alpine wilderness attracts visitors with its breathtaking mountain vistas and scenic hiking trails. The raging Ala-Archa River runs through the alpine gorge, surrounded by snow-covered mountain peaks and steep, forested slopes.
This is quite long and tough day, you should be ready for a long drive. The road goes over the Too Ashu pass (3586 m) to Suusamyr Valley with an amazing view from the top of the pass. Stop for picnic in Kokomeren gorge. Our yurt camp for the night is situated at an altitude of 3000m. There’ll be some time to wander amongst the beautiful lakeshore surroundings. It is possible to rent horses and practice your riding skills to blend in with the locals. Try typical Kyrgyz drink – horse milk that is slightly fermented. Tonight, you will be able to see the sky full of stars and sleep in a traditional yurt.
After an early breakfast you will be transferred to Kyrgyz village called Kochkor in the Naryn Region. There you can see a demonstration of how traditional felt carpets are made. After lunch we continue our journey to Issyk Kul lake, the second largest mountain lake in the world. It sits at an altitude of 1600 meters above sea level, its shores are backed by snow-capped peaks and you’ll be delighted with the view. Overnight is at Beltam yurt camp, where you can relax and swim in the lake.
Departure to Karakol by driving along the southern shore of Issyk-Kul lake. You will be visiting Djety-Oguz valley. It is famous for its countless legends and the special landscape that is unlike other places in Kyrgyzstan. The most popular legends of Djety-Oguz is the “Seven Bulls” and “The Broken Heart”. We will continue with a city tour of Karakol, visiting Przevalski’s Museum & exhibition of Ella Maillart, Swiss Traveler in 1930’s. Next, you will be able to explore a culturally diverse bazaar where you can buy many different types of locally dried fruits and nuts. The highlight of Karakol is the Dungan Mosque, built in 1904 with no metal nails and Russian Orthodox Church which has been standing since1869. Dinner will be with local ethnic Uighur family
After an early breakfast, we will drive along the Northern shore of lake Issyk Kul back towards Bishkek. Visit archeological site Burana that contains petroglyphs and ancient stone carvings (Balbals). Burana Tower was originally 45 meters high, but an earthquake in the 15th century destroyed the upper layers of the tower, reducing its height to 25 meters, the present height. It was built in the 11th century in ancient city of Balasagun, which was established by the Karakhanid empire in the 9th century. Upon arrival in Bishkek, we will have farewell dinner with your Kyrgyz guide before you will be transferred to the airport for the 20:15 flight to Almaty, Kazakhstan. At 21:10 you will arrive in Almaty, your Kazakh guide and driver will meet you.
Our walking city tour begins with such gems as Zenkov Cathedral, a wooden Orthodox church built at the turn of the century and the Almaty Museum of Musical Instruments. We’ll celebrate the fresh produce for which Almaty is famous with our next stop. You’ll be able to experience local Kazakh culture first hand as you shop in Green bazaar for local produce. Outside the city we will visit, Medeu at 1691 meters above sea level, it’s the highest ice rink in the world. Of course, as we’re visiting in summer, there’ll be no snow on the ground but there’ll be plenty of time to explore both places nevertheless.
Today morning we take the flight to Dushanbe, leaving from Almaty 10:10 and arriving in Dushanbe 11:00 local time. Start sightseeing in the capital of Tajikistan. Visit botanic garden – very beautiful garden with many old trees is the favorite place of Tajik people, National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan that includes the exhibits on history, natural history and art (Buddha in Nirvana is one of the valuable exhibits of the museum), Somoni Monument, Building of National Library, Rudaki Prospect and the Main Mosque of Dushanbe.
After breakfast drive to Iskanderkul Lake named after Alexander the Great, this tranquil glacial lake offers a serene location to mull over the sights and experiences we’ve had since arriving in Tajikistan. Triangular in shape, it’s considered one of the most exquisite lakes in all of the former Soviet Union nations. The route is a delightful one, past landscapes that have smoked since ancient times, a crossing of the Anzob Pass at 3437m which affords expansive views over the Zarafshan Range of the Fan Mountains and a drive along the Varzob Valley. Overnight at Saritag village not far from the lake.
Dating from the 5th century, Penjikent was a thriving regional hub, superbly fortified, a planned city which together with a palace had two temples, several markets and rich dwelling houses decorated with numerous paintings, wooden ornaments and clay statues of ancient Gods. It lay hidden until relatively recently but archaeologists have worked hard to uncover the secrets buried beneath the dirt. These days, it’s still a ruin & you will need to have rich imagination to imagine ancient Sogdian civilization. We continue our journey to Seven Lakes – Nofin village.
After breakfast, we will drive through the beautiful Shakhristan tunnel. Lunch in a cafe, which is located in the beautiful Shahristan gorge. Haft Kul-seven lakes of different colors in mountains of Tajikistan. See 1.Mijgon, 2. Soya, 3. Hushyor, 4. Nophin lakes (2139m.a.l), Khurdak, 6.Marguzor, 7.Hazorchashma lakes (2400m a.s.l.). Continue to Istaravshan, with its old town and friendly bazaar. With a history dating back to 500BC, this is a great place to interact with local Tajiks and see local craftsmen at work. Sightseeing of Istaravshan: visit Mugtepa fortress, HazratiShoh mosque, the short stop in a local bazaar. Further, we’ll continue our trip Silk Road town of Khujand.
In Khujand, you will be visiting museums, central mosque and Panjshanbe Bazar that is located at the heart of Khujand. After lunch, we can have an optional boat trip and swim in the famous river Sirdaryo. City Park and Khujand Museum will also be visited before having dinner in a traditional restaurant.
After breakfast transfer to Tashkent (80 km, 1 h 30 min), through Oybek cross border point. Border formalities. Transfer to Tashkent. Meet your guide at the hotel to start sightseeing in the capital of Uzbekistan, the biggest city in Central Asia.. Visit the Old City area of Tashkent where you will discover ancient historical sites: the Khast Imom Complex, which contains ancient Quran book of Caliph Uthman and the mausoleum of the Islamic saint, Abu Bakr Kaffal Shashi. Join the animated throng of traders at Chor-Su Bazaar before taking a ride on the former-Soviet Tashkent Metro and visiting the Amir Temur & Independence Square and Applied Arts Museum.
At 07:00 transfer from your hotel to railway station. Fast-speed train “Afrosiyob” departs Tashkent at 08:00 and arrives in Samarkand at 10:10 (300 km). Your guide and driver will meet you at train station to begin the city tour in Samarkand.Samarkand evokes an almost mythical past full of romance and intrigue. This was the domain of Timur, one of history’s great conquerors. Much of his architectural heritage has been preserved, allowing us to see how the city might have been at the peak of his power. We’ll begin in spectacular Registan Square, the focal point of ancient Samarkand and framed by three beautiful madrassas. We’ll explore one of the city’s unmissable sights, the Bibi Khanum Mosque & Gur Emir Mausoleum, before delving into the Siyob Bazaar to haggle for dried fruit and souvenirs to take home.
Today, we’ll pay a visit to the Afrasiab Museum and the Tomb of Saint Daniel. Later, we’ll drive to Koni Ghil village to explore the traditional way of making Samarkand paper from mulberry. In the afternoon depart Samarkand and drive to Bukhara. Stop on the way at Rabati-Malik Caravanserai. Continue driving to Bukhara. Arrive in Bukhara, check in to the hotel.
The second of our UNESCO World Heritage stops, even the very name Bukhara conjures up images of the exotic Orient. Today, as for centuries, it’s an important trading post and you’ll have numerous opportunities to see traditional Uzbek products being bought and sold. The Old Town has been well preserved and is crammed full of minarets, mosques, and madrassas. Its once notorious canals and pools, the source of many an epidemic, have now been drained but the most famous, Lyabi-Hauz, is still there, an oasis shaded by mulberry trees at the heart of the city.
We leave Bukhara, following the highway that takes us right into the Kyzylkum desert. The mighty Amudarya River cuts through the desert and we will stop on route to see this important waterway that flows into what remains of the Aral Sea. It’s a long day on shaky roads, so prepare yourself with plenty of snacks and charge up your devices so the music doesn’t run out. At the end of this arduous drive, the reward will be Khiva, where we’ll arrive late into the night and ready to rest.
Khiva is packed with historical sites and today you will get a chance to see them all. You will visit the walled inner city of Khiva, an area called Ichan-Kala. This district preserves more than fifty historic monuments and hundreds of old houses dating back hundreds of years.
The fortress is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you walk through the enormous city gates, you’ll be confronted by the glistening Islamic beacon, the Kalta-minor Minaret. Delve deep into the town’s history on a guided tour that embraces all of the city’s unmissable sites and includes an ascent of Islam Khodja Minaret. Enjoy sweeping views of Old Khiva atop the Kunya-Ark Citadel. Invest your free time during the afternoon to enjoy more of the city and shop for souvenirs, or perhaps enjoy a drink at one of the many cafes littered around the ancient city. In the evening during dinner, we will experience a national folklore show.
In the morning drive to Turkmenistan border point Shavat-Dashoguz (60 km, 1 h.). Go through border formalities on both checkpoints. Cross 1.5 km neutral zone (transportation may not be available). Meet your Turkmenistan guide and drive to Kunya Urgench (100 km, 1 h. 30 min.). Visit mausoleums of Turebek-Khanym, Sultan Tekesh, Sultan Il Arslan, Najmad-din-Kubra, Sultan Ali. Discover the Kutlug Timur Minaret and Kyrk Molla hill. In the afternoon driving on 4WD vehicle from Kunya-Urgench to Darvaza Gas Crater burning non-stop for almost 50 years in the middle of Karakum desert. Overnight at tents.
After camp style breakfast drive to Ashgabat via water crater and Erbent desert community. Arrival in Ashgabat around noon. Sightseeing tour in Ashgabat – capital of Turkmenistan which has experienced boom of “Marble Architecture” for the past 25 years. Explore the archeological site of Old Nissa (included in UNESCO World Heritage list) and Spiritual Mosque, one of the biggest mosques in Central Asia. Visit the National Museum of History, and continue to Arch of Neutrality. Continue the tour with visits to Presidential Square, Ertogrul Ghazy Mosque, and the newly built Independence Park.
Transfer to Ashgabat International Airport & flight back home