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 heros. 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. 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 Tamga. 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. If you like, you may go for a short horse ride.
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. Lunch on the way in restaurant “Hawaii”. We then drive directly to Bishkek airport to catch the evening flight to Kyrgyzstan’s second largest city, Osh (6:45 pm – 7:35 pm with flight ZM195). Upon arrival in Osh late dinner and transfer to hotel.
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. 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.
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 birthplace 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 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. After visitig the local market in Fergana we will drive ca. one hour to Rishtan. The town is 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 Wyndham 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 Museum of Applied Arts.
Hotel Wyndham or similar
Today very early in the morning we will transfer to the domestic airport to catch the flight departing 7:25 am to Urgench. Upon arrival in Urgench at 8:55 am, 40 minutes transfer to Khiva.
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 dinner, we will get the chance to watch exotic folklore show of local musicians and dancers from the Khorezm region.
Hotel Asia or similar
Free time in the morning. At 11:00 am check out from hotel and depart towards Toprak & Ayaz Kala, clay ruins of ancient Khorezm in the desert. First, we drive 2 hours to Toprak Kala, ancient capital city of Khorezm around 2nd century AD). From there it is another shaky one hour drive to Ayaz Kala. According to archeological excavations, the Ayaz Kala fortress dates from the 2nd century BC. It was part of a system of border fortresses which stretched as a chain from east to west and which defended the Khiva oasis from the desert side. Transfer to nearby Urgench, where you will have dinner first and then take flight to Bukhara, departing 9:00 pm. Upon arrival at 10:00 pm at Bukhara airport, transfer to hotel.
Hotel Safiya 3* or similar
The second of our UNESCO World Heritage stops – even the very name Bukhara conjures up images of the exotic Orient. For centuries, it was an important trading post and academic center. 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. Sights that you will see on today’s walking tour in the Old Town of Bukhara: Minorai Kalon complex, Ark Fortress, Bolo Hauz Mosque, Chiobs Mausoleum and spring, Bazaar, Mausoleum of the Samanids, and in the evening also the Synagogue and puppet workshop. Dinner in the city.
Hotel Safiya 3* or similar
Check out from hotel and depart at 8:30 am to visit the Mausoleum of Naqshbandiy, 15km outside of the city center. There are a many orders in Sufism and representatives of all the orders were present at different times in what is Uzbekistan today. The Sufi order Naqshbandiyya had the greatest and longest-lasting influence and the memorial place is still well visited by pilgrims. Next, around 11:00 am we visit the summer residence of the last Emir of Bukhara – Sitorai Mokhi Hossa. «The place where the moon meets the stars» is what the name of the palace means in Persian. At 12:30 pm on the way back to Bukhara we see Chor Minor medrasa, whose four minarets (chor – four) and the style remind one of India’s building style. Lunch in the city at 1:30 pm. At 3:52 pm we take the high-speed train Afrosiob to Samarkand. Upon arrival in Samarkand at 5:20 pm transfer to the 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.
We start the city tour with a vist of Siyob Bazaar and the impressive Bibi Khanum Mosque right next to it. Then, finally 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. After lunch we will also visit Gur-Emir mausoleum, where Timur is buried. Free time in the afternoon. Dinner in the city.
Hotel Rabat 3* or similar
We begin the city tour on our second day in Samarkand just outside the city in the village Koni Ghil to explore the traditional way of making Samarkand paper from mulberry. Back in the city 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. In the afternoon visit of Afrasiyab Museum, where you can learn more about the ancient city of Samarkand – then known as Afrasiyab – that was destroyed by the Mongols in early 13th century. Free time.
At 5:30 pm departure from Samarkand by Afrosiyob high-speed train. Upon arrival in Tashkent at 7:40 pm dinner in the city, then transfer to hotel and check-in.
Hotel Wyndham or similar
Transfer to airport for departure. We hope you enjoyed your trip to Central Asia!