ITINERARY & MAP
Welcome to your Uzbekistan & World Expo 2017 Tour. After a long flight you will be met by our driver at the airport and transfer to hotel for an early check in. Free time until evening. During dinner at one of the top restaurants in Tashkent, you will be regaled with stories of Uzbekistan by your tour leader: its rich history, its customs, its traditions and of course its people.
Today it is time to begin our journey delving into the remarkable history of Uzbekistan. Tashkent, the largest city in Central Asia, is a curious blend of Islamic and Soviet influences. Visit the Old City area of Tashkent where you will discover ancient historical sites: 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, which features some of the most ornately decorated stations in the world. Exit the metro at Amir Temur Square Station to view the statue of Timur, the great conqueror and founder of the Timurid dynasty, and, next to that, the grand Independence Square. Complete the day with a visit to the Applied Arts Museum to immerse yourself in the vibrant Uzbek art scene.
Breakfast is served at 6:30 am in time for an early transfer to Tashkent train station to catch the high speed “Afrosiyob” train at 8:00 am. We will travel 300km in just over two hours before arriving in the ancient city of Samarkand. There, you will delve into the history of one of the earth’s greatest conquerors: Timur. He is considered the last of the great nomadic conquerors of the Eurasian Steppe, his vast empire one of the largest in the region.
What is arguably the jewel in the crown of all the sites in Uzbekistan awaits you as you take a visit to the spectacular Registan Square. We then move onto the remains of Bibi Khanum Mosque before a chance to explore amongst the hustle and bustle of the Siyob Bazaar. Uzbekistan astronomer Ulugbek was decades ahead of the west with his observations of the solar system and the earth and we’ll learn more about him at the Ulugbek Observatory overlooking the city.
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’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 and silk carpet factory. You’ll have the chance to try this for yourself; with expert tuition, it’s not as hard as it looks
The drive to Bukhara takes around four hours and on route we shall visit the Rabati-Malik Caravanserai, an especially well-preserved piece of Iranian architecture in the middle of an expansive desert which the road to Bukhara cut through.
After checking into the hotel in Bukhara you spend the afternoon in the magical Old City of Bukhara. This is a true UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with minarets, mosques and ancient trading domes. It’s still as busy today, the workplace of a host of traders offering traditional Uzbek products. Explore the narrow, winding alleys and soak up the essence of Bukhara, past and present. This is where you begin to uncover the true Uzbekistan.
The history of the Bukhara region stretches back for millennia; the city itself is about two and a half thousand years old. Due to its location on the Silk Road, it became an important center for traders and scholars. Your first full day in the city will feature a visit to the Ark Fortress and summer residence of Bukhara’s last emir, a unique site combining Oriental and Russian architecture. The afternoon is yours to spend exploring more of the city, perhaps visit of one of the few remaining Jewish houses for lunch or have a relaxing drink by the large pond situated next to the impressive Bolo Hauz Mosque.
We leave Bukhara and head west on the highway leading into the seemingly endless Kyzylkum desert, following in the footsteps of ancient Silk Road traders who traversed this same route many centuries ago. 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. don’t forget to take audiobooks and good music to listen on the long way.
UNESCO-listed Khiva is a real treat. This low-rise city is constructed in sandstone, punctuated by towers and domes in vibrant shades of emerald and turquoise. Our first stop is at the Ichan-Kala fortress. Part fortress, part city, it’s now an open air museum, its crenellations topping a wall that encloses not only the museum, but the homes of an estimated 300 families who still make their living as artisans to this day. The clay wall has four gates and we’ll enter to find ourselves in front of the glittering Kalta-minor Minaret. We’ll take our time as we explore in order to soak up the atmosphere, climbing the Khodja Minaret enjoy the breathtaking views over Old Khiva at Kunya-Ark. After your orientation tour, your guide will leave you to branch out on your own. Whether you browse for souvenirs or sip coffee at one of the many cafés dotted around the old city is up to you.
In the evening you will take a short transfer to Urgench Airport for the flight back to Tashkent. Upon arrival transfer to the hotel.
Check-out from the hotel before noon. Free time until transfer to Tashkent International Airport and at 14.20 we take a flight to Almaty. Flight duration is ca 2 hours and after transfer to the city, we can enjoy dinner at a Kazakh restaurant.
Under Soviet rule, Almaty was a capital city with settlement dating back to pre-historic times. Today it 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, experience the oriental market at Green Bazaar, where you can buy anything from dried fruit to fresh meat to fermented camel’s milk. Ascend Kok-Tobe Hill on the funicular and enjoy sweeping views of the “Green City.”
After breakfast, your day will begin with a transfer to Almaty International Airport for your flight to Dushanbe departing 11:40 am. Upon arrival in Astana, we will visit the National Museum. It is a modern glass building with huge halls dedicated to ancient nomadic past, Scythian gold artifacts and modern history.
After breakfast, we’ll depart Astana to 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.
Central Asia’s youngest capital, Astana, is a showpiece for 21st century Kazakhstan. Talented architects have made major contributions to this futuristic city with its almost surreal skyline. The city’s history dates back to 1830, when Akmoly settlement was first established. In the following years it’s been renamed Tselinograd in 1961, Aqmola in 1992 and finally Astana (literally “capital” in the Kazakh language) in 1997.
Your guide will be waiting in the hotel lobby to begin our day’s sightseeing. Visit the city’s “Old Centre”, the district known as Akmolinsk, the town of merchants. Stroll down the Millennium Axis line, so named by Kisho Kurokawa, the chief architect, and creator of Astana’s city plan. Delight in the glory of the Astana Opera House. Gaze into the fountains of the Round Square. Continue on down the Nurzhol and Green Water Boulevards, with their distinctive skyscrapers towering overhead. In Kazakhstan’s most important history museum, you will learn about the fascinating heritage of this country covering nomadic, Soviet and modern eras. At the end of the tour, visit the shopping and entertainment center in the world’s largest tent, the Khan-Shatyr.
Astana hosts Expo 2017, following a long line of distinguished predecessors that have held this prestigious global event. We’ll begin, of course, at the Kazakh Pavilion. Astana is a relatively new city, founded by Russian Cossacks in 1824, and an even newer capital, taking the reins from Almaty only in 1997. Once called Akmola, or “White Grave”, its name was changed to Astana, meaning capital, to reflect its new role. Now, its modern buildings are lit by neon and its flourishing economy is a draw to young and dynamic Kazakhs looking to make their fortune. Expo 2017 dedicated to the topic of “Future Energy” sounds very promising and we will have enough time to visit different pavillions.
Today it’s time to say a fond goodbye to Central Asia. Our driver will provide your transfer to Astana International Airport.