CA3 The Five Stans Tours

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Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan & Turkmenistan

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TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Tashkent Old City tour; Khiva: World Heritage Site; Ashgabat: City Tour; Visiting all '5 Stans'; Scenic Lake Issyk-Kul

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before any applicable taxes. The pricing reflects twin-sharing, per-person costs without airfare to/from the tour; however, we can book flights from your home airport for an added cost. Contact us for a no obligation quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Sat 23 Mar 2019Fri 12 Apr 2019 $5380 USD
Sat 30 Mar 2019Fri 19 Apr 2019 $5380 USD
Sat 13 Apr 2019Fri 03 May 2019 $5380 USD Limited availability, please contact us
Sat 14 Sep 2019Fri 04 Oct 2019 $5380 USD Limited availability, please contact us
Sat 21 Sep 2019Fri 11 Oct 2019 $5380 USD
Sat 21 Mar 2020Fri 10 Apr 2020 $5380 USD
Sat 28 Mar 2020Fri 17 Apr 2020 $5380 USD
Sat 12 Sep 2020Fri 02 Oct 2020 $5380 USD
Sat 19 Sep 2020Fri 09 Oct 2020 $5380 USD

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: $671 USD (number of singles limited).


Tour Overview


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.

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


Testimonials


The drive through the Pamir Mountains was beautiful and the tunnels made it exciting! Turkmenistan was a revelation! All the guides were excellent, Deyla,Fred-Chris,Jabbar,Farhud and of course our tour leader Chris Tripodi. The buses were very nice and comfortable. Chris is well suited to being a tour guide. He is friendly, outgoing, very concerned about meeting our expectations, always available to help with anything and very organized. He made the over all trip very enjoyable.

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.

'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.

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.

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.

I most enjoyed visiting with the locals - at markets and on the streets. They were absolutely fantastic. Loved to photograph all the weddings - would have loved to be able to stop and look at the agriculture better. I liked knowing that basically every evening meal was part of the program. They were pretty darn good. Jonathan worked his butt off getting them arranged and as "on time" (5 Stan's time!) as he could. At first I thought "he's not from here, he won't know what's going on." WELL, I was wrong. We had the local guides too, but Jonathan really earned his keep. This is not an easy part of the world to cross borders in, get food ordered and in good time, get flights arranged--just lots of details. It was particularly WONDERFUL that he acted as banker for us too. With all the different currancies, it was hard to have just the right amount of money.

Khiva was wonderful. Nissa was fascinating. Our guide Jabbar was amazing in Turkmenistan. Chris has an absolutely wonderful sense of humor, is extremely patient and kind and knowledgeable. He was the very best tour leader I have had. This was the best tour I have taken!

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.

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+++++++

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.

I found this trip to be very interesting and there were many memorable experiences. Many of the tourist sites in Uzbekistan are centralized, so we were able to do a lot of walking tours. This is definitely my favourite way to see the sites. The land border crossings would not normally be called sightseeing, but they proved to be some of the most interesting parts of the trip - experiences we would not normally have. All of the excursions provided were enjoyable.Acelle (local guide) rates as the best local guide I have ever had on any trip. She is knowledgeable and covers important information thoroughly. She will be hard to beat! This trip included transportation by planes, coaches, vans and even a boat ride. All transportation provided was comfortable and spacious. The vans we had to take to get through no-man's land between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan were very entertaining and gave us lots of conversation for days! Jonathan (Tour Leader) is very calm and measured in his dealings with guests, guides and locals - whether in restaurants, hotels, border crossings or anywhere else.Shoppers were handled really well - shopping was not allowed while we toured a site, but time was always allowed after the "official" tour was finished so those that were interested had time to shop and the rest of us had time to go on our own and take photos or look at sites more closely. Jonathan handled this the best of all the tour leaders that I have had.

I enjoyed all of the excursions. Guides Delia in Uzbekistan and Jabbar in Turkmenistan were outstanding. Transportation was great throughout the trip. Chris is one of the best tour leaders I have ever had. I would love to travel with him again.

Excursions were informative and the local guides were excellent. Chris, our tour leader, was a very caring person and made sure that everyone was taken care of.

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.

The pace of the tour was good. Excellent Transportation. Bus was spacious. Drivers very pleasant. Cars were comfortable. Air travel was no hassle at all. Chris, our tour leader, was as good as you can expect. Good sense of humour,lots of tact and diplomacy and extremely competent in organizing things. Everything went as planned,no surprise,no snafu. Good knowledge of the areas visited and he is a very good communicator. Generally travel on my own. This tour impressed me enough that I will consider others. Met all my expectations and more.

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.

I enjoyed all the excursions. All the local guides were excellent and I had no problems with any of them. The buses and vehicles were wonderful and I never felt cramped for space. Chris is the type of person that is excited about travel and you have to be to be a tour leader. He had many suggestions for optional things to try if one felt like it and was always up for an adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed travelling with Chris. I would definitely travel with Chris on another trip as he helped to make it more interesting and exciting. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and would travel with Adventures Abroad again.

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.

Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

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

Day 3 Tashkent - Ayaz Kala - Toprak Kala - Khiva
This morning we fly to Nukus, 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 then depart for our transfer by road to Khiva, once the most remote of the Silk Road's oasis cities. Upon arrival in late afternoon we check into our hotel in Khiva.

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.

Overnight in Khiva.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 5 Khiva, Uzbekistan - Dashauz (Dashoguz), Turkmenistan - Ashgabat
Today we travel by road to the Turkmenistan border. 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 and visit the local bazaar, brimming with fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and much, much more.

Later in the afternoon we will transfer to the airport and fly from Dashauz (Dashoguz) to Ashgabat (Ashkhabad).

Overnight in Ashgabat.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 6 Ashgabat: City Tour
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.

Today we have a full day tour of Ashgabat, including a visit to the Russian Bazaar, a guided tour of the incredible collection at the Carpet Museum, the massive Spiritual Mosque of Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan's first president, and an orientation tour of the capital's incredible architecture. We will also explore the ancient Parthian capital of Nissa, a short drive away from the city. 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 - Merv (Mary)
This morning 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 Mary to visit the Museum, containing many of the archaeological finds from the site of Merv. Afterwards we 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.

Overnight in Merv.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 8 Merv, Turkmenistan - Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Today we travel by road and cross the border back into Uzbekistan and 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. You will have some free time this afternoon to wander and enjoy this atmospheric town.

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 - 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.

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.

Overnight in Penjikent.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 14 Penjikent - Iskanderkul - Dushanbe
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.

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 - Almaty, Kazakhstan
Today we fly to Almaty. Depending on our flight time, we may accomplish some Almaty sightseeing shortly after arrival. In this case, 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 Sunday afternoon family atmosphere. Furthermore, we will have a chance to visit the recently reopened Museum of Musical Instruments, also located in the park.

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 begin our day with a drive (approximately 1 hour) to "Big Almaty Lake", up in the nearby mountains to the south of Almaty (weather-permitting, which can be rather temperamental here). The Kazakh name for the lake is "Zhasylkol" which translates as "Blue Lake" due to the mineral content of the water that provides a vibrant blue hue to the surface of the lake. The mountain scenery is dramatic at this altitude of 2500 metres (8,200 feet), with the peaks of Sovetov, Ozernaya, and Bolshoy Almatinskiy visible from this beautiful vantage point.

After taking this picturesque location and enjoying the fresh air, we will drive back to Almaty in time for some lunch, after which 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.

Overnight in Almaty.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 18 Almaty, Kazakhstan - Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic
Today 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.

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 (1607 meters/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 1900 and 2800 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.

Overnight at Lake Issyk-Kul.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 20 Lake Issyk-Kul - Bishkek
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 evening back in Bishkek we'll enjoy our farewell dinner (likely not goat).

Overnight in Bishkek.

Included Meal(s): Breakfast and Dinner

Day 21 Departure
Departure from Bishkek.

BON VOYAGE!

Included Meal(s): Breakfast

Tour Map

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


Hotel List


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

Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Tashkent
Country: Uzbekistan

Hotel City Palace invites all comers to a world class business hotel located in the center of Tashkent at the
... of major highways. It is located in close proximity to business and administrative institutions, as well as entertainment centers. The rooms include fashionable and comfortable furniture, and they are equipped with all necessary appliances, including air conditioning, TV, hairdryer. The hotel has 251 standard rooms and suites, 1 presidential room and 7 administrative rooms.
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Hotel Malika Khiva

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Khiva
Country: Uzbekistan

Malika Khiva, Malika Kheivak and Malika Khorezm are three modern hotels built in national style represent famous chain of Malika
... in Uzbekistan.

Malika Khiva Hotel opened in May, 2004. It is situated directly opposite the main Ata Darvaza gates of the Ichan Qala. It has the indisputably best view in all of Khiva!

Malika Kheivak is a new hotel, built in 2008. The hotel is located in the center of Ichan Qala, the historical fortress of Khiva, next to the Islam Khoja Minaret. The perfect location, rooms in national style and very great service from the hotel's staff makes it the perfect place to stay while visiting Khiva.

Malika Khorezm Hotel is located one block from the gates of the ancient old town of Khiva near the Art Museum. The decor of each hotel is classic Uzbek and cozy. The authentic Uzbek and European cuisine is unforgettable.

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Hotel Four-Points Sheraton Ak Altin Plaza

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Ashgabat
Country: Turkmenistan

Contemporary hotel located 5 minutes from city center & 3 km from Carpet Museum & Independence Monument

Hotel Malika

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Samarkand
Country: Uzbekistan

This newly built private hotel presents the finest Uzbek woodcraft. Hotel Malika features 26 guest rooms. There is a small
... in the hotel with Uzbek national sitting benches - "supa", where you can have breakfast or relax and have a cup of tea. Rooms: Air conditioning, telephone, satellite TV, mini bar, shower. Property amenities: Restaurant, internet, bar, laundry, souvenir shop.


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Hotel Otrar

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Almaty
Country: Kazakhstan

Well situated facing Panfilov Park, the Otrar dates from Soviet times but stands up very well. It has spick-and-span rooms
... air-con and satellite TV, a fitness room, sauna and a good help-yourself breakfast.
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Silk Road Lodge

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Bishkek
Country: Kyrgyzstan

The Silk Road Lodge was built in 2000 in the centre of the capital, next to the Central Park and
... a few minutes walk from the White house and Bishkek's popular restaurants. In-house bar-restaurant offers a wide range of international and local meals. Hotel also has facilities for a leisure: heated indoor pool with two saunas. All rooms have en suite bathrooms with bath and heated floors, tea/coffee making facilities and taps that are equipped with water filters.


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Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

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.

At present this tour will require THREE visas, two of which we will acquire for you. You will need to supply us with some documentation, passport photos, and a fee which will be listed separately on your invoice. Uzbekistan requires a visa in advance, which you must acquire yourself with our assistance. The Uzbekistan visa has a separate fee that is not included in our billing. You will also need to be reasonably computer/email proficient in order to complete the visa process which relies entirely on electronic communication.

*** You will be without your passport for about 3 weeks prior to departure ***

Seasonality and Weather

In both April and October, average low temperature is 57 F/10C; average high is 71 F/20C. 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 throughout via air-conditioned private bus. 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.

Border crossings also present a challenge as the facilities are not built for comfort, and there is often a considerable distance 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.

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)