ITINERARY & MAP
Welcome to Central Asia! Transfer to the hotel and early check in at the hotel. You can have a rest after your long flight, take a shower and have breakfast.
Transfer to Ala Archa National Park, in the mountains, just 30km outside of Bishkek. We will have a walk in the Park, enjoying the nice views and fresh air. Transfer back to Bishkek for lunch in the city center. In the afternoon we will have a city tour in Bishkek. The tour includes Osh Bazaar, Panfilov Park, Ala-Too Square with the National History Museum, and monuments to national hero Manas, writer Chingiz Aitmatov and another Kyrgyz hero Kozhomkul. Dinner in a nice local restaurant.
Hotel Plaza or similar
After breakfast we depart from Bishkek. First stop is Burana Tower near the town of Tokmok, 60km east of Bishkek. The minaret from the 11th century is the only remaining building from the ancient town of Balasagun, once capital of the mighty Karakhanid empire. You can walk up the winding staircase and enjoy a nice view of the Chuy valley. There is also a small open-air museum with “balbals”, carved stone figures used as monuments. We then continue driving to lake Issyk Kul. Lake Issyk Kul is the second-largest mountain lake in the world, after Titicaca. Located at an altitude of 1600m, it is a slightly saline lake with no outlet, surrounded completely by the Tien Shan Mountains. Some evidence suggests that ruins of an old trade center from 2nd century BC can be found under the water. At the beginning of the lake, on the southern shore we visit the village of Kyzyl-Tuu. Most people in this village are engaged in the manufacturing of yurts and it is the perfect place to learn more about the Kyrgyz yurt and how they are made. We then continue driving along the picturesque southern shore of the lake to our yurt camp near the village of Tosor. Upon arrival at the yurt camp there is some time to go swimming in the lake before dinner.
Overnight in yurt – 2-4 people in a yurt, facilities are outside (Western toilet, shower with heated water)
After breakfast drive along the southern shore of the lake back westwards towards the village of Kochkor. On the way we make a first stop at the canyon “Skazka” translated as “Fairytale” due to its bizarre rocky landscape, which for many years has been transformed by wind into fabulous sculptures and formations. We go for a short hike at the canyon. In the village of Bokonbaevo we will make the next stop to meet an Eagle hunter, who will make a demonstration for us. Finally, we arrive in Kochkor, where we visit a workshop where local women produce carpets from felt. You can even try to make your own. Dinner and overnight in a local guesthouse in Kochkor.
Adamkaly Guesthouse, with shared western toilet and shower
After breakfast we depart towards another mountain lake – Song Kul. The lake is not very far from Kochkor, but due to bad road condition it will still be a quite long and bumpy ascent to the lake. Lake Song Kul is a mountainous lake on the altitude of 3016 meters above the sea level. The nomads pass their summer on the “jailoo” (summer pasture) with their animals. You can see herds of horses and sheep grazing on meadows full of Edelweiss. If you like, you may go for a short horse ride. Accommodation and dinner will be in a traditional Kyrgyz yurt. You can taste “kymyz” (mare’s milk) and observe the shepherd’s wife preparing bread and cheese. At night, gaze at the skies like an astronomer – the nearness of the stars will take your breath away.
Overnight in yurt – 4 people in a yurt, facilities are outside (Western toilet, shower with heated water)
After breakfast transfer to Bishkek. The way to Kochkor is the same as we came up. In Kochkor we will stop again for lunch. We then drive directly to Bishkek airport to catch the evening flight to Kyrgyzstan’s second largest city, Osh (1 hour). Upon arrival in Osh transfer to hotel and dinner.
Sun Rise 2 Hotel or similar
After breakfast short city tour in Osh with visiting the Suleiman Mountain – UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nicknamed Kichi-Mecca (Little Mecca), Suleiman Too sacred mountain is a major place of Muslim and pre-Muslim pilgrimage. It was said that prophet Sulaiman was buried here, but even before it was a place of pilgrimage for local people. On top of the mountain is a stone shelter known as Babur’s House, named after the 15-16th century Muslim leader who founded the Mughal Dynasty in India and performed his 40 days fast for meditation here.
Then we transfer to the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. After border formalities meet your Uzbek guide and driver and start the Uzbekistan journey in the Fergana valley. Surrounded by the Tien Shan mountain range and watered by tributaries of the Syr Darya River, this is the most fertile part of Central Asia. Since the time of Alexander the Great and throughout the time of the Great Silk Road it was a rich oasis. Our first stop is Andijan, the birth place of Babur, where we will have lunch. In the afternoon we drive further to the town of Fergana, a relatively young settlement, established as a Russian garrison town at the end of the 19th century. We have a short city tour, including a stroll in Akmed al Fergani Park.
Hotel Asia or similar
We have one more day to explore the Fergana valley. Nowadays the region is famous in Uzbekistan not only for agriculture, but also for its artisans and markets. Our first destination today is Margilan, just 20km from Fergana. In Margilan we visit the Yodgorlik silk workshop, where you can observe the silk-making process. Learn more about the traditional “ikat” pattern which is very distinctive to Uzbek silk fabrics. The next town we visit is called Rishtan and very famous all over Uzbekistan for its ceramics. It is no coincidence that pottery became so prominent exactly at this place, because the red clay and pigments available here are of excellent quality. We have the chance to visit the studio of a pottery master and learn more about his job and passion that has been passed down from generation to generation. From Rishtan we then drive further to Kokand, another town with rich history as a trading and religious center. In the 19th century it was the capital of the Kokand Khanate, that stretched all the way until the southern Kazakh steppe. We will have a short sightseeing tour, which includes remains of Khudayar Khan’s Palace as well the impressive Jami Mosque.
Finally, we catch the 17:30 train from Kokand to Tashkent. We arrive in the Uzbek capital at 21:20. Transfer to the hotel.
Hotel Itchan Qala or similar
Tashkent is the biggest city in Central Asia and one of the oldest. Unfortunately, in an earthquake in 1966 most of its historic buildings were destroyed. Nevertheless, a few buildings notably at the Khast Imom Complex have survived and this is where we are heading first on today’s city tour of Tashkent. The complex contains ancient Quran book of Caliph Uthman (from 7th century!) and the mausoleum of the Islamic saint, Abu Bakr Kaffal Shashi. We then join traders at Chorsu Bazaar before taking a ride on the Tashkent Metro and visiting the Amir Temur & Independence Squares. We complete the city tour of Tashkent with a visit to the State History Museum.
Transfer to the airport for domestic flight to Urgench departing 18:40. Upon arrival at 20:20 transfer to Khiva (40 min) for overnight.
Asia Khiva or similar
After breakfast starts walking tour of the city. Khiva is bursting with historical sites – and today you will get a chance to see them all.
We will visit the walled inner-city section of Khiva called Ichan-Kala. This old section of town preserves more than fifty historic monuments and hundreds of old houses dating back hundreds of years. The entire citadel is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you walk through the enormous city gates, you are confronted by the glistening Islamic beacon, the Kalta-minor Minaret. Delve deep into the town on a guided tour that embraces all of the city sites, and includes an ascent of the Islam Khodja Minaret, the highest minaret in Khiva. Enjoy broad views of Old Khiva atop the Kunya-Ark Citadel. During early dinner we will get the chance to watch exotic folklore show of local musicians and dancers from Khorezm region.
Transfer to Urgench to take flight back to Tashkent, departing 21:00. Upon arrival at 22:45 at Tashkent airport, transfer to hotel.
Hotel Ichan Qala or similar
After early breakfast transfer to train station to catch high-speed Afrosiyob train to Bukhara. The modern and comfortable train departs at 07:30 and arrives in Bukhara at 11:20. Check in at hotel in Bukhara and lunch in the Old Town. In the afternoon we start the sightseeing tour of the Old Town of Bukhara.
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 is an important trading post and you 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. Your guide will show you the city’s unmissable sights and you can soak up the atmosphere wandering through Bukhara’s labyrinthine alleyways.
Hotel Komil Boutique or similar
After breakfast we depart to the village Gijduvan, just 50km outside of Bukhara to visit a famous pottery workshop of Narzullaev family. Uzbek ceramics are rich and diverse. Different regions in Uzbekistan have their own schools and traditions – the most interesting ceramics is produced in Gijduvan. From all around Uzbekistan masters come here to study the art of pottery. You will not become a master today, but you will learn from a master about his passion and the meaning of the different patterns depicted. You will get the chance to make your own masterpiece. It will then be burnt and at the end of the tour it will be ready for you to take home. Gijduvan is also the birthplace of one of the brightest representatives of Sufism – Abdulkhalik Gijduvani – who lived and worked in the 12th century. We visit the madrasah built on his burial place. Some people claim Gijduvan also has the best shashlyk shish kebabs. We will try them for lunch and you can tell us if you agree.
Upon arrival back in Bukhara we will see a few more sights we missed yesterday and then we make sure you have some free time to explore the city on your own or go shopping in the trading domes, just like the ancient merchants on the silk road.
We will have traditional Uzbek dish Plov in the family house of a Suzani embroidery master. You can see how the Plov dish is prepared and during dinner, he will tell you a bit more about Suzanis. Rest assured, there will be no pressure at all, to buy anything.
Hotel Komil Boutique or similar
Today morning we visit two of Bukhara’s rather unusual sights. The first is madrasah Chor-Minor, translated as “four minarets”, because of the four small minarets crowned with blue domes on each site of the rectangular building. Next, we visit the summer palace of the last Emir of Bukhara. It is a unique site combining Oriental and Russian architecture and located not far outside of the city. Back in Bukhara we will have lunch and then head to the train station to catch the high-speed train departing to Samarkand. Upon arrival in Samarkand at 15:50, transfer to hotel for check in and dinner in the city.
Hotel Platan or similar
Sublime Samarkand evokes an almost mythical past full of romance and intrigue. This was the domain of Timur, one of history’s great conquerors. His vast empire rivalled any, stretching across the Eurasian steppe, who ruled his kingdom with an iron fist while at the same time patronizing the arts and literature. Much of his architectural heritage has been preserved, allowing us to see how the city might have been at the peak of his power.
Today, you get to see Samarkand’s and arguably Uzbekistan’s most famous landmark, spectacular Registan Square. The focal point of ancient Samarkand is framed by three beautiful madrassas – Ulugbek, Sherdor and Tillya Kori. We will also visit Gur-Emir mausoleum, where Timur is buried. we then visit Ulgubek’s observatory, once the biggest research center of Central Asia. Ulugbek was decades ahead of the West with his observations of the solar system and the earth and we will learn more about his story in this prestigious setting. Our next stop is Shah-i-Zinda, the necropolis where family members of Timur are buried. After lunch we visit the impressive Bibi Khanum Mosque, before delving into the world of dried fruits and other local delicacies at nearby Siyob Bazaar. Free time.
Hotel Platan or similar
Today, we’ve included a second day at this incredible UNESCO-listed city as we know there’s just too much to take in during a single day. We begin the city tour today just outside the city in the village Koni Ghil to explore the traditional way of making Samarkand paper from mulberry. After, we’ll pay a visit to the Afrasiab Museum and the Tomb of Saint Daniel. In Samarkand we meet a baker, who will show us how the typical Uzbek bread is made.
In the late afternoon, we will take the high-speed train back to Tashkent. Check in at the hotel and Uzbek farewell dinner.
Hotel Ichan Qala or similar
Transfer to airport for departure flight back home. We hope you enjoyed your trip to Central Asia and will return soon to discover more places in this beautiful part of the world!