Surreal Landscapes and Silk Road Cities (12D11N)


At a Glance

  • Tashkent, 2 nights
  • Aral Sea, 1 night
  • Nukus, 1 night
  • Khiva, 2 nights
  • Bukhara, 2 nights
  • Samarkand, 2 nights
  • Tashkent, 1 night

Day 1. Tashkent

Welcome to Uzbekistan!

A Central Asian nation and former Soviet republic, landlocked Uzbekistan is the proud home to spellbinding architecture and ancient cities that have been overlooked for many years.

Its centuries-long history under Persian rule and as a key stop on the Silk Road left a rich cultural and architectural legacy, made all the more fascinating by the country’s time as an enclave of the Soviet Union.

Upon clearing immigration and customs, the representative will be waiting at the airport meeting area for your transfer to the hotel.

Overnight in Tashkent

Meals: –


Day 2. Tashkent 

Tashkent, a charming mish mash of austere Soviet-style buildings and classical Russian architecture, has a long history of 2,200 years and has been the capital of Uzbekistan since 1930.

We’ll go on a half-day city tour, starting by exploring the narrow winding streets of the Old Town. This area is home to Barakkhan Madrasah, Tillya Shaykh Mosque, Kaffal Shashi Mausoleum and the Library of Islamic Literature.

Under a giant dome, we’ll find a delightful slice of city life in the traditional Chor-Su Bazaar. It’s also a great place to buy souvenirs, watch Uzbek bread baking and taste many national dishes in between the numerous food rows. 

In the modern part of the city we’ll visit Mustakillik Square. We’ll even take a ride on the vibrant, arty Tashkent Metro. The tour of Tashkent ends at Amir Temur Square, established on the intersection of two ancient trade roads in the heart of the city. 

Overnight in Tashkent

Meals: Breakfast


Day 3. Tashkent – Nukus – Aral Sea  

The early morning flight will bring us to Nukus, from where we start the 8 hour drive to the Aral Sea. The drive takes us via Kungrad district, which used to be one of the trading centres on the Silk Road.

The mysterious Ustyurt Plateau consists of a clay and stony desert with chalky mountains, jagged limestone peaks and deep sheer-sided canyons.  We’ll stop for a picnic lunch at Lake Sudochie. We’ll also visit the ruins of a fishermen’s house, a fish factory, an old lighthouse and the abandoned airport.

On arrival at the ever-shrinking Aral Sea, an hour’s walk will bring us to Kurgancha-Kala, an old caravansarai and fortress from the great Silk Road period hidden in the hills.

In the evening, we’ll have dinner under the starry desert sky and then retire for the night to our cosy yurts amid the surreal moon-like surroundings.

Overnight in the yurt

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day 4. Aral Sea – Nukus 

Let’s set our alarms as it’s worth the early start to watch the sunrise over this incredible landscape. 

After breakfast we’ll drive to the eerie ‘cemetery of ships’ where the husks of rusting ships lie stranded in the sand of this dry sea bed. Once they were submerged in water, so it’s incredible to think that the nearest shore is now over 100 miles away. We’ll visit the museum to learn more about this disaster and drive past the gas towers and gas plant. On hills near Khodjeli city we’ll find the Mizdakhan necropolis – an ancient cemetery; and the ruins of the Gyaur-Kala fortress.

Overnight in Nukus

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch


Day 5. Nukus – Khiva 

After breakfast we’ll visit the astounding Savitsky Museum. Also known as the ‘Louvre of the Desert’, it houses the world’s second largest collection of Russian avant-garde art – rescued from the clutches of Stalin.

We then start our 3 hour drive to Khiva. On the way we’ll discover the ancient desert fortresses of Khorezm – Ayaz Kala and Toprak Kala. We’ll also see Chilpik Dahma, known as the Tower of Silence. The Zoroastrians would throw the bodies of their dead into this roofless tower for the birds to consume. 

Overnight in Khiva 

Meals: Breakfast


Day 6. Khiva

Wake up in Khiva!

A visit to this 6th century walled city is like travelling back in time. It is a city of colour thanks to the navy, indigo and cerulean ceramic tiles embedded in the ochre walls of many of the buildings.

We’ll walk the labyrinth of sand-laden alleyways to find the Juma Mosque whose roof is supported by 213 unique columns of 10th century elm; Tash Hauli, the main palace of Khiva rulers and Pakhlavan Mahmud Mausoleum, an open-air mausoleum.

We’ll also visit Muhammad Amin Khan Madrassah, Kalta Minor Minaret, Kunya Ark, Muhamad Rahim Khan Madrassah, Islam Khodja Minaret and Shirgazi Khan Madrassah.

Overnight in Khiva

Meals: Breakfast


Day 7. Khiva – Bukhara 

After breakfast we’ll set off on a road trip of six to seven hours to Bukhara. The drive takes us through the red sands of Kyzylkum Desert, the 15th-largest desert in the world. It’s a dry and desolate, yet beautiful area, populated by nomadic tribes. We’ll have stops to stretch our legs on the bank of the Amudarya River.

Upon arrival in Bukhara, time at leisure. We recommend relaxing at local ancient hammam Bozori Kord (XVII C) with some spa procedures.

Overnight in Bukhara

Meals: Breakfast


Day 8. Bukhara 

Today we’ll explore Bukhara, Central Asia’s holiest city. It is home to buildings spanning a thousand years of history and a thoroughly lived-in and cohesive old centre that hasn’t changed too much in two centuries. It is one of the best places in Central Asia for a glimpse of pre-Russian Turkestan.

We’ll visit the Ark Fortress – the residence of Bukhara khans, Bolo Hauz Mosque, Samanids Mausoleum, Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum and some beautiful madrassahs.

At the Poi-Kalyan complex we can see the Kalyan Minaret, also known as the ‘Tower of Death’. We’ll also visit the Lyabi Hauz complex, a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city containing several impressive Islamic monuments.

Dinner with a family of local artisan – master of oriental miniature, where you can eat main Uzbek dish – plov (pilaf).

Overnight in Bukhara

Meals: Breakfast


Day 9. Bukhara – Samarkand  

The City of the Dead – this is one of the sights we will see today. Located just outside Bukhara, Chor Bakr Necropolis, as it is officially known, is an unusual and mysterious burial place for the Dzhuibar sheikhs.

We’ll also visit the Chor Minor Mosque; Sitorai Mokhi Khosa – the summer residence of the last Emir of Bukhara; and the Baghautdin Nakhshbandi Mausoleum – an important Muslim shrine and pilgrimage site.

In the afternoon, we’ll board the train for the 1.5 hour ride to Samarkand.

Overnight in Samarkand

Meals: Breakfast


Day 10. Samarkand 

No name is as evocative of the Silk Road as Samarkand, which lies at the crossroads of the silk trading route through Europe and Asia.

We’ll visit the awe-inspiring restored madrassas standing on three sides of the iconic Registan Square: Ulughbek Madrassah, Sher-Dor Madrassah and the gold-covered Tillya-Kari Madrassah.

Other highlights include the Bibi Khanym Mosque with its ocean-blue domes and exquisite carvings and the Shakhi Zinda Necropolis, which contains monuments dating back between 500 to 1000 years. We’ll also visit the Gur Emir Mausoleum and the Ulughbek Observatory with its interesting underground passages.

In the evening, we’ll visit Khovrenko Winery and have degustation of wine produced there.

Overnight in Samarkand

Meals: Breakfast


Day 11. Samarkand – Tashkent  

We’ll continue seeing the sights of Samarkand today. There’s the ancient settlement and museum of Afrosiab, and the Tombstone of Saint Daniyar – the restored tomb of the Old Testament prophet Daniyar (Daniel).

At Konigil village there’s time to visit the local paper mill which offers a fantastic insight into how traditional paper is still made using old-fashioned techniques.

We’ll then catch the evening train to Tashkent.

Overnight in Tashkent

Meals: Breakfast


Day 12. Departure from Tashkent 

Sadly it’s our last day and time to say goodbye. Enjoy a final breakfast before the transfer back to the airport for your onward flight.

Meals: Breakfast

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