ITINERARY & MAP
Welcome to Central Asia! Central Asia’s youngest capital, Astana, is a showpiece for 21st century Kazakhstan. Visit the “Old City Center”, stroll down the Millennium Axis line, so named by Kisho Kurokawa, the creator of Astana’s general city plan. In history museum, you will learn about the fascinating heritage of this country covering nomadic, Soviet and modern eras. in the evening, visit Khan-Shatyr, the shopping center in the world’s largest tent.
After breakfast, we will drive to the memorial complex at Alzhir, located 40km outside of the city. The memorial complex you will visit is particularly dedicated to a camp that was there for wives of the betrayers of the motherland. From different regions of the USSR, 20 000 women were brought to that particular camp. From the 1930s, Stalin began to build the infamous labor camps called “Gulags” in this area, bordering Russian Siberia. In 2007 the memorial complex was opened to commemorate the people that fell under Stalin’s repression. In the afternoon we will return to Astana and take the flight departing at 5:10 pm for Almaty. We will have dinner afterwards and check you in at the hotel.
Almaty has a rich history as Kazakhstan’s largest metropolis and it boasts many interesting places to visit. Your guide and driver will meet you at the hotel lobby after breakfast to start your Almaty sightseeing tour. See examples of colonial Russian architecture like the wooden Orthodox Church, the Zenkov Cathedral, and the National Musical Instruments Museum.
After a visit to the museum, walk in the cooling shade of the verdant Panfilov Park, named after the Panfilov division that heroically defended Moscow in World War II. Next, shop at the local market Green Bazaar. Ascend Kok-Tobe Hill on the funicular and enjoy sweeping views of the “Green City.”
After breakfast, transfer to Almaty International Airport for your flight to Dushanbe departing 11:10 am. Upon arrival, begin a guided tour of the city, beginning with a visit to the National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan. The museum contains exhibits on the country’s history, nature and art, including a stunning thirteen-meter long ancient statue of Buddha in Nirvana and many other ancient relics. Continue from there to Gurminj Musical Instruments Museum and get to know the rich musical history of the region. The main square of the capital is dedicated to Ismail Somoni, with his crown of gold. Stroll around Rudaki Park, where famous Persian scientists and poets are memorialized with impressive statues.
This morning we will check in for our flight to Bishkek departing 11.00am. Upon arrival in Bishkek, you will be met by our driver and transferred to your hotel to check in. In the afternoon you will be guided through the charming capital of Kyrgyzstan, the greenest city in Central Asia. Our sightseeing program in Bishkek will include stops at the museum, Oak Park (the oldest park in Bishkek), Central Square and the Philharmonic Hall. Later, amble through more of the city’s charming parks and listen as your guide recounts the stories behind its most beloved landmarks and monuments.
Your first destination for the day is Ala-Archa National Park. The raging Ala-Archa River runs through a narrow gorge, surrounded by snow covered mountain peaks and steep, forested slopes. Enjoy your time in the park either resting or hiking amidst the stunning scenery. In the evening, transfer to Bishkek Airport and take flight to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Your flight will arrive in Tashkent at 7 pm.
Today it is time to begin our journey with the largest city in Central Asia – Tashkent. Visit the Khast Imom Complex, which contains the ancient holy books of Islam; the Madrassa of Barak-Khan; the Tilla Sheikh Mosque; 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 Soviet-built Tashkent Metro, with ornately decorated stations in the world. Exit the metro at Amir Temur Square Station to view the statue of Timurlan. Complete the day with a visit to the Applied Arts Museum.
Catch the high-speed Afrosiyob train which leaves Tashkent railway station at 8.00am. We will travel 300km in just over two hours – before arriving in the ancient city of Samarkand. There you can delve into the history of Timurid Empire. Visit spectacular Registan Square, let your imagination loose to feel the history of this ancient site while you explore this amazing complex. From there you will move on to the remains of the once-glorious 15th century Bibi-Khanum Mosque. Then, take your time bargaining in the Siyob Bazaar, the largest in Samarkand.
Your next destination was once the workplace of Ulugbek, the famed astronomer who was decades ahead of Western astronomers with his observations of the solar system and earth. You will undoubtedly enjoy the well-preserved observatory bearing his name. You will return to the train station at 5.15pm in time to catch the 6pm train back to Tashkent. Upon arrival at 8pm in Tashkent, we will have dinner and then you can take a well-deserved rest.
Another day begins at the airport for your 7.55am flight to the western part of Uzbekistan. Once you arrive in the city of Urgench, you will take a thirty-five-minute drive to your hotel in Khiva. Khiva is packed with historical sites and today you will get a chance see them all. We 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 the Khodja Minaret, the highest in Uzbekistan. 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.
The morning is yours to continue your exploration of fascinating Khiva. This afternoon, we will check out of the hotel and take a one hour drive to the Turkmenistan border crossing at Shavat-Dashoguz. After some border formalities at both checkpoints, you will cross the 1.5 km neutral zone between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan (transportation may not be available).
Once you are across the border you will meet your Turkmenistan guide and drive to Kunya-Urgench (100 km, 1h 30 min). Kunya-Urgench was once an important capital of Khwarezm, part of the greater Achaemenid Empire on the Silk Road, but its inhabitants left the place in 1700 and it remained untouched since then. You get the chance to see the most important sights of this important historic town.
We drive further to the Darvaza gas crater, also known as the “gate of hell” and located in the middle of Karakym desert (270 km, 4h). We will set up our camp right next to the burning crater. For dinner, we will enjoy a delicious fire-cooked meal. Overnight will be in tents.
After breakfast camp style we can enjoy this bizarre scenery of the burning crater in the desert one last time, before heading to Ashgabat (280 km, 4h). Along the way, we will stop at village Erbent to see how people live completely surrounded by desert.
In the afternoon we will reach the final destination of our Central Asia Tour – Ashgabat. You can check-in at the hotel, have a rest and take a shower, before going out to a nice Restaurant for dinner.
Transport: Minivan with A/C 280 km, 4h
The capital city of Turkmenistan has recently been noted by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the highest number of white marble-clad buildings in the world. Your Ashgabat tour will take you 18 kilometers southwest to the excavated ruins of the ancient city of Old Nisa, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will also visit one of the largest mosques in Central Asia, Spiritual Mosque. You will stop at the National Museum of History, the Monument of Neutrality, Presidential Square, Ertugrul Gazi Mosque and the newly-built Independence Park. To wrap up the day, you will visit a staple of Turkmen tradition, the Akhal-Teke horse stables, home of the “Golden Horses” and you might also catch sight of a remnant of Russian influence, the Lenin Monument.
After breakfast transfer to Ashgabat International Airport for your departure.