The Five Stans

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan & Turkmenistan
TOURCODE: CA3

Duration:
21 Days

Activity Level:
2

When To Go:
Apr, Sep

Countries Visited:
5

Arrive In / Depart From:
Tashkent / Bishkek

Max Group Size:
18

Tour Style:
Cultural

Price From:

Discover the country's true culture with the help of experienced local guides.

  • Small group sizes to help escape the beaten path.
  • Authentic local experiences with lots of inclusions.
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Tour Overview
Tour Overview
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Countries Visited: 5 Activity Level: 2 Tour Style: Cultural

What was once a part of the greatest trade route in the world, Central Asia and the "Five Stans" (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan) are a collection of countries with outstanding history, sprawling landscapes, and timeless beauty.

It is a place to get lost in cities that date back more than 2,000 years, with bazaars and markets in a constant state of buzz. A place to feel like a nomad in the sparsely populated grassy steppes with yurts for homes. Despite being five independent republics, it is a region best visited all together to understand how history and tradition can change a culture.

Starting in Uzbekistan, our Five Stans tours take us into the heart of Central Asia. Cities such as Tashkent are a blend of Soviet architecture with bland buildings leading to grand metro stations, before spilling out onto the old city fit with medieval madrassas, markets and mausoleums, while the superb museums showcase a rich history maintained after the devastating earthquakes and revolutions of the early 20th century.

Indeed, early on into our Five Stans tour one realizes it is also the five M's that will be visited: Madrassas or Islamic schools, markets, mausoleums, museums, and mosques. A city that seems to have stood still despite the passing of time, which encompasses all five 'M's would be Khiva, with its blue domed and tiled features found throughout the walled city. Nowhere feels closer to the Silk Road than here, with ruins and perfectly preserved elements found throughout this oasis city.

As the tour continues, Bukhara and Samarkand are often thought of as highlights as well. The enigmatic Registan Square in Samarkand with its three madrassas standing solemnly are often compared favourably with the Wonders of the World. Meanwhile the bathhouses and royal palaces of Bukhara make this feel like a living museum still in the age of the Silk Road.

While Uzbekistan tends to inspire, Turkmenistan can sometimes tend to mystify. With a capital city recreated in marble, it is also home to the world's largest hand woven carpet and an interesting culture with an immense pride in horses. Certainly, it is an independent culture from that of the rest of the Five Stans with desert regions and ruins of Merv, a city that was once the largest in the world.

By the time our tour arrives in Tajikistan, we will once again prove how diverse this region is. Over the snow-capped and dramatic mountains, we arrive in the gardened capital of Dushanbe for a brief visit before moving onto the grassy steppes and mountains of Kazakhstan. Unlike the ancient cities of Uzbekistan, Almaty in Kazakhstan is relatively new after being built in the 19th century, and many of the features that came to the city during the Soviet Union are still embraced. From the Orthodox churches to the Soviet memorials, Kazakhstan moves at a much quicker pace than the other nations on our Five Stans tour.

The high mountain ranges continue, all the way into the landlocked Kyrgyz Republic. Another former Soviet country, this in an area with strong historical ties to the Silk Road and a long legacy lasting from the Mongol Empire.

From the ancient times to the present, the Five Stans are a destination for those curious of cultures that were once at the centre of crossroads for centuries.

 


 

Dates & Prices
Dates & Prices

 

Prices below are per person, twin-sharing costs in US Dollars (USD). Pricing does not include airfare to/from the tour and any applicable taxes. For single supplement rates and taxes (if any), please refer to below Prices & Dates table. For general information on flights to/from the tour, click here.

 

Select a date below to reserve your spot:

 


The above prices are subject to an additional $116 for taxes/fees levied on flights that occur as part of the tour. The internal airfares ARE included (any exceptions are listed in red below), but we list the taxes separately on your invoice as they are beyond our control and can change at any time.

Optional Single Supplement: $830 USD (number of singles limited).

 


 

Full Itinerary
Full Itinerary

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Day 1 Arrival in Tashkent
Today we arrive in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan (hotel check-in from 2 pm).

Overnight in Tashkent.

Included Meal(s): Dinner



Day 2 Tashkent: City Tour
Today we tour Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, the third largest of the former Soviet Republics.
Uzbekistan is prospering under independence and this shows in the modern capitol building at the centre of town.

We visit the Old City, which has mosques and madrassas (Islamic schools) housing craft workshops and dating from the 14th century. Chorsu Bazaar, a huge open market beside Kukeldash, draws crowds of people from the countryside, many in traditional dress. We also include Kafelsashi Mausoleum, Barak Khana Medressah, Tila Shaikh Mosque and archives.

Later we have an orientation drive by Independence Square and Amir Timur’s Square. We will also make a stop for a visit of the Applied Arts Museum.

Overnight in Tashkent.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

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Day 3 Tashkent - Fly to Nukus - Ayaz Kala - Toprak Kala - Khiva
This is a full-day of travel and sightseeing. This morning we fly to Nukus (approx 2 hours), the capital of the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan (arguably the "Sixth Stan" of our tour to Central Asia) to visit the famous Savietsky Museum with its avant-garde art collection. Karakalpakstan is considered to be autonomous due to their ethnic and cultural similarities with neighbouring Kazakhstan. The Soviets once included Karakalpakstan within the boundaries of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic but transferred it to the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic in 1936 as part of Stalin's divide and rule strategy in Central Asia.

Our destination within Karakalpakstan is the region known for the Ellik-Qala, or Fifty Fortresses. These ruins date as far back as 2,000+ years ago and they represent the varied settlements of the famed Khorezm empire. We will visit two of the well-known Qalas (fortresses) on our journey. We begin with Toprak Qala (4th-5th century A.D.), now left as a series of mud walls and excavated rooms that entails a short hike up to the top of the complex for great views of the surrounding area. Nearby is Ayaz Qala, commanding a great view over the arid plains surrounding this promontory.

We continue our road journey to Khiva, once the most remote of the Silk Road's oasis cities. Upon arrival in the late afternoon we check into our hotel.

Overnight in Khiva.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 4 Khiva: City Tour
Legend has it that Khiva was founded when Shem, son of Noah, discovered a well here. The town certainly existed by the 8th century, as a minor fort and trading post on a Silk Road branch to the Caspian Sea and the Volga. In the early 16th century, Khiva was made capital of the Timurid Empire, becoming a busy slave market and pivot of the khanate for the next three centuries. Khiva is an ancient walled city and looks much like it did in centuries past; it is one of the few sites in Central Asia where one can easily imagine life during the time of the emirates.

We will spend the morning wandering its maze of ruins and great mosques. Our tour includes Ichan Kala (walled city), Kalta Minor Minaret, Kunya Ark (inner citadel), and Madrassa Rakhimkhon. Later we walk to see Mausoleum of Pakhlavan Makhmud, Islam Khodja Minaret and Museum, the medieval Friday Mosque, and Tashauli Palace and Harem.

Your afternoon is free to further explore the walled city.

Tomorrow's journey to Turkmenistan: Your Tour Leader can arrange to have our big bags shipped ahead to Bukhara for us, which can make the border crossing into Turkmenistan crossing easier as it involves a "no man's land" of a considerable distance between border posts, over which you much carry/wheel your luggage (there is no one available/allow to help). This is not mandatory, but if you choose to go this route, please bring a collapsible bag (ie duffle) that you can fill with things you will need until we arrive in Bukhara.

Overnight in Khiva.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 5 Khiva, Uzbekistan - Darvaza Gas Crater, Turkmenistan
Today we travel by road to the Turkmenistan border, arriving about mid-morning.* We complete immigration and customs formalities and then proceed to the nearby Turkmen city of Dashauz (Dashoguz), where we will have the opportunity to have some lunch.

We then embark on our drive (4WD vehicles) to the Darvaza gas crater, known locally as the "Door to Hell" or ''Gates of Hell". This is a natural gas field collapsed into an underground cavern located in Derweze (Darvaza). Legend has it that Soviet archaeologists intentionally set it on fire to prevent the spread of methane gas, and it is thought to have been burning continuously since 1971. We'll travel to/from the crater in 4WD vehicles; on arrival we'll have our initial view of the crater. We'll then enjoy a BBQ dinner at the nearby yurt camp, after which we'll view the crater again.

Tonight we will overnight in the yurt camp situated very close to the gas crater. The yurts are basic but comfortable. Toilets and showers are located approximately 25-70 metres from the yurts.

* This border crossing involves crossing a "no-man's land" of about 1km. This is made easier by the availability of vans to ferry group members across (it may take several trips). This can be a long day with the border crossing acting as a bit of a "wild card."

Overnight at Darvaza Gas Crater yurt camp.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 6 Darvaza - Ashgabat: Afternoon City Tour
We depart early this morning for our drive by 4WD toward Ashgabat (Ashkhabad), meeting our coach halfway between the crater and the capital to continue the drive (total drive time of 4+ hours).

Ashgabat is located in a spectacular natural setting, between the Kara-Kum Desert and the Kopet-Dag mountain range. A settlement on the site of the city was successively occupied by the Parthians, Seljuk Turks, and the Mongols. Under Russian control, it became the administrative capital of the Trans-Caspian oblast, and was the centre of trade between the Russian empire and Persia; the Trans-Caspian railway reached here in 1885. The transliteration of the town's name was changed in 1992 to more accurately reflect the Turkmen original.

After a break for lunch we have an afternoon tour of Ashgabat, including a guided tour of the incredible collection at the Carpet Museum, a visit to the National Museum, and an orientation tour of the capital's incredible architecture. We will also have the opportunity to see the famous Akhal-Teke horses of Turkmenistan, a source of immense pride for the Turkmen people.

Overnight in Ashgabat.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 7 Ashgabat: Morning City Tour - Fly to Merv (Mary)
After breakfast, we continue our touring of the capital. We begin by driving out to the ancient Parthian capital of Nissa, a short drive away from the city. We then continue to the massive Spiritual Mosque of Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan's first president. We will then continue to the city centre to explore the Russian Bazaar.

Later this afternoon we fly to the city of Mary, located nearby the famous Silk Road city of Merv. Several cities have existed on this site, which is significant for the interchange of culture and politics at a site of major strategic value. It is claimed that Merv was briefly the largest city in the world in the 12th century. The site of ancient Merv has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Upon arrival at the airport, we will transfer to our hotel in Mary.

Overnight in Merv.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 8 Merv, Turkmenistan - Bukhara, Uzbekistan
This is a full day of travel and sightseeing; our border crossing can also impact the overall length of our day.

After an early breakfast, we will depart for our drive to the vast site of ancient Merv, visiting the ancient Hellenistic fortress of Gaiyur Kala, and the sites of Erk Kala and Sultan Kala. We shall also see the impressive mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, one of the most powerful Khorezmian rulers.

After our visit and a chance for lunch we travel by road across the Karakum Desert (“Black Desert”) toward the city of Turkmenabat. We will cross the border in the late afternoon and back into Uzbekistan to drive to Bukhara,* former capital of the once powerful Emirate of Bukhara.

En route we stop at the Chor Bakr Necropolis**. With buildings spanning 1,000 years of history and a thoroughly lived-in city centre that hasn't changed much in two centuries, Bukhara is one of the best places in Central Asia to catch a glimpse of pre-Russian Turkestan. Most of the city centre is an architectural preserve and includes a massive royal fortress, plenty of former madrassas, a number of ancient public baths and the remnants of a once-vast market complex.

* This border crossing also involves a "no-man's land" over which we should be able to utilize vans to bridge the distance. You will still need to be independent with your luggage between buildings.

** If our border crossing delays us longer than expected, we will take the opportunity to visit Chor Bakr later in our time in the Bukhara area.

Overnight in Bukhara.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 9 Bukhara: City Tour
We spend today exploring the old quarter of Bukhara on foot.

The region around Bukhara has been inhabited for at least five millennia and the city itself has existed for half that time. Located on the Silk Road, the city has long been a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion. The historic center of Bukhara has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The highlights of today tour include Labi-hauz, a 17th century plaza built around a pool; three domed bazaars; the 12th century Kalan Minaret, once the tallest building in Asia; and the Mausoleum of Ismail Samani, the town's oldest structure (completed around AD 905) and surely one of the most elegant in Central Asia.

Overnight in Bukhara.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 10 Bukhara - Train to Samarkand
This morning we depart Bukhara and travel via Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa, the summer residence of the last Emir of Bukhara. The first structures in this picturesque area were built in the mid-19th century during the rule of Emir Nasrullakhan. In the 1880s, his successor Muzaffarkhan built a palace for his beloved wife Sitora-bonu. The most skillful Bukhara craftsmen were sent to Russia to learn the best practices of country residence construction. Soon after that they constructed a sumptuous set of rooms, including throne room, which had a peculiar mixture of European and Asian architectural styles.

We return to old town in Bukhara (our bus leaves to Samarkand with our luggage) and take the afternoon bullet train from Kagan train station (40 minutes' drive from Bukhara) to Samarkand (2 hours 15 minutes). Upon arrival in Samarkand we will be met by our tour bus and transferred to our hotel for a nicely-placed 3-night stay,.

Overnight in Samarkand.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 11 Samarkand: City Tour
Samarkand, sometimes called the 'Rome of the Orient', was already flourishing when Rome and Babylon were founded. During the course of our full day tour we visit the Bibi Khanum Mosque, Mausoleum of Tamerlane, Observatory of Ulugbek, and the site where Uleg Bek, grandson of Tamerlane, made some of the greatest achievements of the pre-telescope era of astronomy in the 15th century. We also visit the regal mausoleums of Shah-i Zinda, site of Central Asia's most sacred Islamic shrine, and the museum on the site of the ancient Afrosiab archaeological site. The ancient core of Samarkand is located on the Afrasiab hill, named after the legendary Turanian king. The settlement arose in the 8th-early 7th centuries BC and occupied more than 200 hectares; river bluffs on the north and east and deep ravines in the south and west protected it. During the Achaemenids period, the city was encircled with a massive wall having an internal corridor and towers. Scholars identify Afrasiab with ancient Sogdian capital Marakanda, destroyed in the 4th century BC by Alexander the Great.

Overnight in Samarkand.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 12 Samarkand: Registan Square
We keep our sightseeing program to a relaxing visit to the Registan Square this morning. The impressive Registan ("Sandy Place" in the Tajik language) has been compared favourably to the Wonders of the World. Here three Madrassahs stand solemnly: the Ulug Bek Madrassah (built 1417-1420) to the west, the Tilya-Kori Madrassah (built 1646-1660), and the Sher-Dor Madrassah (built 1619-1636). Our sightseeing will take us through a careful exploration of the Madrassahs, now filled with various arts and crafts demonstrations, old photos of the monuments taken before the reconstruction by the Soviets and many varied handicrafts for sale.

After our formal sightseeing visit, you are free for the rest of the day to further explore the Registan and other lane ways and alleys of Samarkand, the second largest city in Uzbekistan.

Overnight in Samarkand.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 13 Samarkand, Uzbekistan - Penjikent, Tajikistan
We depart Samarkand by coach and transfer to the Uzbek-Tajik Jarteppa border connecting Samarkand with Penjikent,* Tajikistan's third largest city. After undergoing border formalities, we say goodbye to Uzbekistan and meet our small vehicles on the Tajik side to take us to the city, a scenic journey that takes in some of the foothills of the Fann Mountains. Upon arrival in Penjikent, we will visit the Ancient Panjikent Town ruins – a walled inter-city, Sarazm Settlement, Rudaki Museum of History and Regional Study, Olim Dodkho Mosque and Medressah.

* This is the longest distance (approx 700m) that you will be expected to transport your luggage between border points, though it is a flat surface and we will have plenty of time to stop and rest along the way. Presently there are usually no vans available.

Overnight in Penjikent.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 14 Penjikent - Iskanderkul - Dushanbe
This is a full day of travel and sightseeing. After breakfast we drive to Dushanbe via Iskanderkul Lake where we will have some free time to enjoy photos and some easy walking by the lake. Afterwards we continue our panoramic drive through the dramatic mountains of Tajikistan towards Dushanbe, briefly reaching a peak of 2500m/8,200 ft (the highest point on our tour) before descending to Dushanbe (706m).

With a rural hinterland of grassy pastures and snow-capped mountains visible from downtown, Dushanbe is a delightful city built around parks, lakes and fountains. With the frenetic building project of the past decade mostly complete, there is a palpable air of satisfaction about the city centre. Its grand plane tree boulevard, Rudaki, threads past pastel-hued remnants of the Soviet era and just as proudly past the modern icons of statehood.

Overnight in Dushanbe.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 15 Dushanbe: City Tour
Today we include a tour of the Museum of Antiquities in Dushanbe. The huge reclining Buddha, the burial place of the Sarazm princess, Tajikistan antiques and ancient wall paintings from Penjikent can all be found here. Dushanbe means "Monday" in Tajik, and the name reflects the fact that the city grew on the site of a village that originally was a popular Monday marketplace. Our tour will also include a visit to the privately funded Navruz Palace, a magnificent cultural centre recently completed by skilled local artisans. We will also tour the city's beautiful Botanical Gardens, and we will take a walk through the Bag-i-Rudaki (Rudaki Gardens), featuring the towering statue to Tajik hero, Ismail Somoni.

Overnight in Dushanbe.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 16 Dushanbe, Tajikistan - Fly to Almaty, Kazakhstan
Today we fly to Almaty. Depending on our flight time, we may accomplish some Almaty sightseeing shortly after arrival. We will aim to visit Zhenkov's Cathedral, built in 1904, and an extraordinary example of a Russian Orthodox church built in wood. We will also take the opportunity to visit Panfilov Park in which the Cathedral is located, enjoying the afternoon family atmosphere. Furthermore, we will have a chance to visit the recently reopened Museum of Musical Instruments, also located in the park.

This is a fairly easy-going day; however, the flight time can impact the convenience factor.

Overnight in Almaty.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 17 Almaty: City Tour
Today we have a full-day tour of Almaty.

Compared to other cities in Central Asia, Almaty is quite young. It was founded in 1854 by Russians in the valley of Almaty and was just a fort at first. Its name was Zailisky, then it was named Verny. In 1921 it became Alma-Ata ("Father of Apples") and in 1929 it became the capital of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1993 the name was changed to Almaty.

We will begin our tour of the Almaty area with a visit to the high-altitude speed-skating complex of Medeo and the Medeo Dam. We will also visit Kok-Tobe, a large promontory featuring stunning views over the city and the nearby Zailiyskiy Alatau mountain range.

Back in Almaty we'll visit the Central State Museum with its excellent displays of Scythian art and some rock drawings depicting the ancient Nestorian pilgrim movement on the Great Silk Routes. A hall dedicated to the nomadic tribes of Kazakhstan is the highlight of the ethnic section of the museum.

We may also take the opportunity to have a short visit of a couple of the Almaty metro stations (completed quite recently in 2011). The metro currently features two lines, with several stations adorned with unique and artistic designs, reflecting local culture and history.

Overnight in Almaty.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 18 Almaty, Kazakhstan - Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic
This morning we travel by road across the border* to Bishkek in the Kyrgyz Republic and embark on a city tour on arrival.

Originally, Bishkek was called Pishpek. In 1926 Pishpek became the capital of the Kyrghiz Autonomous Republic. In 1936, as the capital of the Kyrghiz Soviet Socialist Republic, Pishpek was renamed Frunze in honour of a major political organizer of the Civil War who was born in Pishpek to a Moldavian family. Today Bishkek is a modern city with vast squares, crowded bazaars, impressive administrative centers, and educational institutions.

Our tour includes Oak Park, Central Square, Statue of Manas, and Victory Square. We will also visit the National Historical Museum. At the northern end of Bishkek's central square, this enormous example of socialist realist architecture was once the Lenin Museum, entirely devoted to the man himself. After independence, two of its three floors were cleared to make way for exhibits that reflected Kyrgyzstan's new status as an independent state. Luckily for visitors one floor has been preserved, along with a huge centrepiece statue of Lenin leading the revolutionary masses.

* This is an easy crossing with a short distance across a bridge.

Overnight in Bishkek.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 19 Bishkek - Lake Issyk-Kul
Today's scenic drive takes us along the shores of scenic Lake Issyk-Kul (1607m/5,272 ft), the tenth largest lake in the world by volume and the second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea. Although it is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, it never freezes; hence its name, which means "warm lake" in the Kyrgyz language.

In and around the town of Cholpon-Ata, on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul, we will have the opportunity to view the Petroglyphs located above the town. Most of these etchings are from the time of the Saka-Usun peoples who lived in the area before the arrival of the Kyrgyz. These carvings are between 1,900 and 2,800 years old. Many of the carvings depict animals such as wolves and deer, and include the hunters that pursued them. We will also visit a small regional museum that feature many artifacts from the region and ethnological displays.

This is another full day but quite leisurely with plenty of sightseeing stops.

Overnight at Lake Issyk-Kul.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 20 Lake Issyk-Kul - Bishkek
This morning we depart for our drive back to Bishkek along the same road that we took to get to the lake. On the way back to Bishkek, we will stop and visit the Burana Tower, located at the mouth of the Shamsy Valley. An eleventh century monument, restored by the Soviets in the 1950's, you may choose to climb the minaret to get a view over the old city walls of Balasagun, a fortification built by the Sogdians.

Nearby Burana Tower, we will have an opportunity to witness a demonstration of some of the nomadic games carried out on horseback. Young men from the village will perform examples of "horse wrestling" (where two riders compete with one another to try and wrestle each other off of the horse); snatching up bags from the ground while the horses gallop at top speed; and a game of "Kok-Boru" or horse polo. However, in this version, instead of a ball they take a headless, limbless goat and use that as the object to score into the opposing team's goal. The effort to wrestle and carry this off demands great strength and skill as the two teams face off against one another. The winners get to keep the goat which will be used for the evening meal in their village.

This is a full day but a relatively short distance broken up with several stops of interest. This evening back in Bishkek we'll enjoy our last Central Asian dinner.

Overnight in Bishkek.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner



Day 21 Departure
Departure from Bishkek.

BON VOYAGE!

Included Meal(s): Breakfast

 


 

Trip Info
Trip Info

Inclusions
Breakfast and dinner (at local restaurants and some hotels) are included daily. All transport, accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for drivers, restaurant staff, porters, local guides. Airport transfers for land & air customers.

Exclusions
International airfare to/from the tour. Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), domestic and international (if applicable) air taxes, visa fees, and any excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Optional trip cancellation insurance. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on shopping, not included meals, visas* and locally paid departure taxes.

VISAS: You will need to supply us with some documentation, passport photos, and a fee which will be listed separately on your invoice. You will need to be reasonably computer/email proficient in order to complete the visa process which relies entirely on electronic communication. You will not need to surrender your passport.

Seasonality and Weather
In both April and October, average low temperature is 10C (57 F); average high is 20C (68 F). That said, it is not uncommon for some locations to be rather warm-hot, more so in the early fall than spring. Some locations, such as Karakol and mountain passes can be considerably cooler. The region is semi-arid overall, but showers can still occur in spring and fall, though likely short-lived.

These are the best times to visit this extreme climate region, where summers are unbearably hot and winters bitterly cold. Our spring date will feature snowy mountain scenery through mountain passes and a greener landscape. The fall is a bit warmer and features harvest time and locally-grown produce.

Transport and Travel Conditions
Road Transport: Our buses in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan are big buses with plenty of room. In Tajikistan we use (usually) use a couple of vans on the first day seeing in Penjikent and area, then 4WD vehicles on the mountain drive from Penjikent to Dushanbe, where we generally we use multiple mini-vans for local sightseeing.

Domestic flights via scheduled local carriers, such as Air Astana, Uzbekistan Airways, Turkmenistan Airlines.

Our difficulty rating of "2" on this trip relates to the overall ambitious nature of the itinerary, long travel days, early starts, and the possibility of heat which can cause fatigue. We have numerous walking tours and visit several sites that are LARGE with steps and uneven surfaces. Porters are available at hotels but you must be able to manage with your baggage from time to time, especially at airports.

The highest elevation at which we overnight is Lake Issyk-Kul at 1600m/5,250 ft; all other location are below 1000m.

Border crossings also present a challenge as the facilities are not built for comfort, and there is often a considerable distance (ie 400-500 metres) across "no man's land" between posts over which travellers must walk (we leave one bus behind and meet our next one ahead). These distances occur over rough road (sturdy wheeled luggage is a MUST) and in the open (perhaps hot sun). There is no one to assist with baggage so you must be prepared and independent.

Travellers with very specific dietary requirements, or those with pre-existing medical conditions should be aware that we visit some remote locales where services, varied cuisines/foods, and the possibility of advanced medical attention, are limited.

Pharmaceuticals:
Please note that most Central Asian countries are very strict about the importation of certain medications, especially opioids, pychotropics, medicinal marijuana, certain types of mood stabilizers or anything that can be considered a "narcotic". The official concern here is not your use of the drugs for therapeutic reasons, but rather the possibility of importation for the purpose of trafficking. As such, you must be prepared to fully declare any such items upon entry and carry only the amount consistent with your prescription and length of stay. For more information on this matter, please visit:

https://uz.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/doctors/prescription-medicines/

Am I suitable for this tour? Please refer to our self-assessment form.

Accommodation
Most accommodation is of a 3-4 star standard, though accommodation may be simpler in remote locations. All are heated/air-conditioned as conditions warrant, and all feature private bath. Most passengers are pleasantly surprised at the overall comfort and level of service, though in the part of the world, one must be prepared for some "rough edges."

Staff and Support
Tour Leader throughout, local drivers, local guides at various locations.

Group Size
Maximum 18 (plus Tour Leader)

Tour Extensions
This tour is part of a series that can be upgraded to make for a longer trip. For more options, please refer to tour code/s:

The Five Stans & Caucasus
APR SEP
TOUR CODE: CA5
Tour Overview

 


 

Map & Hotels
Map & Hotels

Regions visited: Central Asia
Countries visited: Uzbekistan; Turkmenistan; Tajikistan; Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan


*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


City Palace Hotel
5 Star Accommodation 5 Star Accommodation 5 Star Accommodation 5 Star Accommodation 5 Star Accommodation
Location: Tashkent
Country: Uzbekistan
The City Palace Hotel is a place where the rich oriental flavour and modern European design merge together to ensure that guests enjoy a pleasant stay at the hotel. City Palace – ... unique. By special experts, the hotel was awarded 4 stars, which means that all conditions were created for the convenience and unforgettable rest of guests in Tashkent. In the center of the city of Tashkent, spacious rooms-from standard to luxury, exquisite Oriental and European cuisine-all this gives guests a real atmosphere of the East
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Hotel Asia Khiva
4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation
Location: Khiva
Country: Uzbekistan
Within walking distance of monuments and mosques, this straightforward hotel is a 12-minute walk from Itchan Kala, the historic Muslim inner city, and a 13-minute walk from Kalta Minor, the intricate Timurid ... tower. The relaxed rooms come with free Wi-Fi, flat screens, minifridges, and tea and coffee making facilities.
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Darvaza Yurt Camp
Location: Darvaza Gas Crater
Country: Turkmenistan
Darvaza Yurt Camp is located just 500 meters from the crater and is linked to the gas-fueled fire pit by a brick path. The camp includes an eating area comprised of large ... tables and traditional raised platforms situated in reed pavilions, while an indoor dining area is available for use in poor weather. Guests will have the opportunity to watch national dishes cooked in a traditional tandoor oven. Yurts are very comfortable; modern toilet/showers are located in a separate building 30-70 metres away.
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Hotel Four-Points Sheraton Ak Altin Plaza
4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation
Location: Ashgabat
Country: Turkmenistan
Contemporary hotel located 5 minutes from city center & 3 km from Carpet Museum & Independence Monument
Hotel Asia Bukhara
3 Star Accommodation 3 Star Accommodation 3 Star Accommodation
Location: Bukhara
Country: Uzbekistan
The convenient location, comfortable rooms, and good service will allow you to enjoy your stay in the ancient city. Outwardly, Asia Bukhara looks like the building of an old madrasah, many of ... have survived in Bukhara.

The hotel is located near the Magoki Attari mosque (12th century) and the Lyabi Hauz ensemble (16-17th century). The advantage of Asia Bukhara compared to other hotels also located in the old part of Bukhara are convenient access roads, the presence of 119 large rooms, their modern equipment, secure parking and an outdoor pool.
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Hotel Asia Samarkand
4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation
Location: Samarkand
Country: Uzbekistan
The Hotel has 84 standard rooms and 1 Suite, which have air conditioning, international telephone, satellite TV, minibar, bath, and hairdryer.

The hotel is equally close to the business part of
... city, as well as to the historical sights of the Old City. The Samarkand International Airport is located 6 km (15 min. drive) from the Hotel. Nearest railway station: Samarkand (15 min drive).
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Hilton Dushanbe Hotel
5 Star Accommodation 5 Star Accommodation 5 Star Accommodation 5 Star Accommodation 5 Star Accommodation
Location: Dushanbe
Country: Tajikistan
The hotel is 15 minutes from central Dushanbe, with Dushanbe International Airport two kilometres away. Take in Tajikistan history at the National Museum of Tajikistan and Ismoil Somoni Monument on the edge ... Rudaki Park, all within four kilometres. Enjoy the full-service spa, indoor heated pool, and fitness center.
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Hotel Kazzhol Almaty
4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation
Location: Almaty
Country: Kazakhstan
The hotel has all the necessary conditions: a convenient location in the city center, and excellent infrastructure. To guarantee your security, the hotel has round-the-clock security and video surveillance.

Comfortably relax
... a cozy environment, enjoying delicious and amazing European and national cuisine, our restaurant invites you.
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Silk Road Lodge
3 Star Accommodation 3 Star Accommodation 3 Star Accommodation
Location: Bishkek
Country: Kyrgyzstan
The Silk Road Lodge hotel is located in the center of Bishkek, 5 minutes walk away from the capital’s main square and a few minutes away from the White House and the ... park.

The Silk Road Lodge Hotel stands proudly on the Great Silk Road, offering distinctive homely accommodation renowned for its privacy and relaxed formality. Apart from a friendly and cozy atmosphere, the Silk Road Lodge is popular with a wide variety of guests drawn from over 75 nationalities. Many of them are repeat visitors, and several choose the Silk Road Lodge for a “long-term” stay as their “home away from home”.
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Plaza Hotel Bishkek
4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation 4 Star Accommodation
Location: Bishkek
Country: Kyrgyzstan
The Plaza Hotel Bishkek is the embodiment of aristocratic elegance and modern multi-functionality. Nine floors of luxury and impeccable style will make you feel part of the High Society.

Part of
... hotel territory belongs to a splendid spa area with an indoor swimming pool of 60 square meters. Relaxing music sounds in the lounge, while for those who prefer active leisure our hotel has a well-equipped gym and Finnish sauna. Rest in our cozy rooms after a long busy day will please you, and the view from panoramic windows will help you experience all the beauty and charm of Bishkek.
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Frequently Asked Questions
ASK A QUESTION
FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions
ASK A QUESTION
01. What is the maximum number of participants on a trip?
Most of our tours carry a maximum of 18 participants; some tours (ie hiking tours) top out at 16. In the event that we do not achieve our minimum complement by our 90-day deadline, we may offer group members the option of paying a "small-group surcharge" as an alternative to cancellation. If all group members agree, we will confirm the trip at existing numbers; this surcharge is refundable in the event that we ultimately achieve our regular minimum. If the small group surcharge is not accepted, we will offer a refund of your deposit or a different trip of your choice.
02. Can I extend my tour either at the beginning or end? What about stopovers?
Yes, you can extend your tour either at the beginning or the end and we can book accommodation in our tour hotel. Stopovers are often permitted, depending on air routing. Stopovers usually carry a "stopover" fee levied by the airline.
03. How do I make a reservation? How and when do I pay?
The easiest way to make a reservation is via our website; during office hours, you are also more than welcome to contact us by telephone. A non-refundable deposit is payable at the time of booking; if a reservation is made within 90 days, full payment is required. Some trips require a larger deposit. If international airline bookings require a non-refundable payment in order to secure space or the lowest available fare, we will require an increase in deposit equal to the cost of the ticket(s). Early enrolment is always encouraged as group size is limited and some trips require greater preparation time. Once we have received your deposit, we will confirm your space and send you a confirmation package containing your trip itinerary, any visa/travel permit related documents, invoice, clothing and equipment recommendations, general information on your destination(s), and forms for you to complete, sign and return to us. Your air e-tickets (if applicable), final hotel list, final trip itinerary, and instructions on how to join your tour, will be sent approximately 2-3 weeks prior to departure.
04. What about cancellations, refunds, and transfers?
Please review our cancellation policy page for details.
05. I am a single who prefers my own room. What is a single supplement?
All of our tours have a single supplement for those who want to be guaranteed their own room at each location. This supplement is a reflection of the fact that most hotels around the world do not discount the regular twin-share rate for a room by 50% for only one person occupying a room. Most hotels will give a break on the price, but usually in the range of 25-30% of the twin-share rate. This difference, multiplied by each night, amounts to the single supplement. The conventional amount can also vary from country to country and some destinations are more expensive than others for single occupancy. In order to be "single friendly," the supplements we apply are not a profit centre for us and we do our best to keep them as reasonable as possible. On most tours we limit the number of singles available, not to be punitive, but rather because many hotels allow for only a limited number of singles; some smaller hotels at remote locations also have a limited number of single rooms available. Please note that most single rooms around the world are smaller than twin-share rooms and will likely have only one bed.
06. Do you have a shared accommodation program?
Yes! If you are single traveller and are willing to share, we will do our best to pair you with a same-gender roommate. On most of our tours, if we fail to pair you, we will absorb the single supplement fee and you will default to a single room at no extra charge. At some destinations, however, where single rooms are not significantly discounted, or not at all, we may apply a "mandatory" single in the event that we cannot find you a share partner. This is usually 50% of the usual supplement, but can be as much as 100%. If applicable, this proviso will be noted on each tour page on this website, on your invoice, and in our tour date/price book (available for download under "Resources").

 

What People are Saying
Toula S.
Nanaimo, BC - CA
Obviously the famous Mosques, Mausoleums and Madrassas and Museums were the highlights. Historic sites of ancient, buried cities. Being close to the local people happened randomly and was enjoyed by everyone. In most cases, the locals were happy to pose for pictures with us. Visiting local craft shops such as pottery making, marionettes, musical instruments, etc. was interesting. The absurd combination of "marble facades", no humans and "no photos" police guards in Ashgabat was unique! The lake drive in Almaty, the side trip to lake Issyk-Kul and the boat ride. The petroglyphs at Issyk-Kul. It is a most fascinating and interesting exploration and it is worth the special effort. We would definitely recommend it to our travelling friends.
Rita C.
Windsor, NS - CA
Adventures Abroad offers the perfect mix of comfort security and adventure. We feel we get as authentic a travel experience as possible. We were very happy to see the well known historic sights Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand and also the lesser known ones. They expanded our understanding and connected lots of dots Merv was amazing as well as the city of Ashgabot. The city tours were great too. Understanding that Central Asia is just being opened for tourists we were impressed with most of the hotels. All the transportation was excellent. Well organized-we were never left waiting. All the buses and cars were modern and clean. All the employees from booking agent to tour guides are top quality. We are already planning our next Adventure Abroad trip.
Paul B.
Charlottesville, VA - US
The highlight of the tour was Khiva. It was a perfect travel experience and truly gave one the feeling of being on the Silk Road. I expected to run into Marco Polo around every corner. We also enjoyed Bukhara for similar reasons. Flights were all very good. Buses ranged from adequate to excellent with plenty of space for hand luggage on all the buses. Drivers were very good and very nice. One of the very best things about AA is the included dinner each evening. After a long day of travel or sightseeing, it is wonderful to have the tour manager take you to a nice restaurant. Our tour leader was a scholar of world travel and his knowledge added greatly to the tour and provided important perspective on some of the assertions of local guides. I believe AA does a very good job in finding decent hotels in remote places. We had a good time in a rather tough part of the world. We look forward to similar experiences with AA in future.
Faye K.
Claresholm, AB - CA
I was really pleased with Adventures Abroad and we all recognized the the 5 Stans were not some place we would have ventured on our own. The service made my seeing this part of the world a great experience and one that I will remember. The consulting staff were absolutely first rate in helping us get the visas and change our flights home when Air Canada cancelled a flight. I enjoyed seeing the local markets and the historical sites in each of the countries. All of the local guides were knowledgeable and willing to answer questions we had. They were interested in sharing their countries with us and getting to know a little about us as well. I think that Adventures Abroad did an excellent job of providing the best accommodation they could given the price point.
Frederick
Lititz, PA - US
I love the way that the tour leader and the local guides briefed us on the sights. I think all the local guides were great. Excellent transportation! On time, easy, perfect!! It was a good chance to try the local foods. I love it!! Our tour leader had a good sense of humor and great timing. Wish I knew half as much as he does!! He has done his homework and obviously loves his job and being a guide. We look forward to traveling with him in the future. A+++++++
Bruce F.
Needham, MA - US
'Twas all pretty spectacular, for me the three biggies in Uzbekistan were the best: Khiva, Samarkand and Bokhara. The mountains in Tajikistan were also superb. The local guides were simply superb, full of knowledge and willing to answer all sorts of questions. Their information delivery was timed well and full of interesting detail...depth of knowledge was amazing. Good food, the soups were particularly good. Our tour leader was just super: patient, helpful, kept us on time and excited about what we were doing now, and next! The hotels were excellent. Wonderful.
Claude G.
Mesa, AZ - CA
I loved Khiva, Samarkand, astabad, and just seeing the countryside. The local guides were great. Transportation was great. Good drivers throughout. Hotels were very good. A really great tour and the group was terrific. Much due to the excellent leadership of our tour leader.
Jean S.
Bolton - CA
We have nothing but praise for this trip - enjoyed every minute and all the sights, places visited etc. It is the first non Europe trip we have done for two years due to medical problems and everything went well. We were the only UK travellers in the group and this was great. We learned a lot about Canada and places in the US, had some excellent travelling companions and feel we made several very good friends.
Barbara T.
Thornhill - CA
I was always interested in Marco Polo's adventures and when I heard that The Silk Road was now an adventure tour I had to find out who was offering it. I found out through a friend who had mentioned was told about it by another friend. And especially a Canadian company!! That was so nice.Jonathan is an exceptional tour leader. He is so knowledgeable, pleasant, funny and ever so sweet. I thought he was one of the best tour leader I ever encountered. I just loved him. We were lucky to have him.
Charles M.
Miami Beach - US
I enjoyed the diversity of this travel experience. There are obviously "highlights" to be seen but it was the total experience that made a lasting impression.
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Countries Visited: 5

Uzbekistan; Turkmenistan; Tajikistan; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan.
Activity Level: 2

These are particularly busy tours that feature a lot of moving around, sometimes by train and short journeys on local transport. Walking tours of towns and cities are leisurely but you should be prepared to be on your feet for several hours. Some of our cultural trips that occur at high altitude and/or require greater independence with baggage handling (at hotels, airports, train stations) also fall into this category.
Tour Style: Cultural

These three- and four-star hotel-based, "soft adventure" trips concentrate on the culture, history, and natural attributes of our destination. Though there are no strenuous activities built into these tours, you need to be prepared for some full days with some early starts, plenty of walking on uneven surfaces through villages, cities and archaeological sites, and not a lot of "down time." Independence, reasonable fitness, and an ability to be steady on one's feet are critical in order for you to get the most out of these programs.
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