Upon arrival in Ashgabat meet our guide and driver, transfer to hotel for rest. After having rest meet the group at 01 PM at the hotel lobby and proceed for Ashgabat city tour.First visit the Old Nisa fortress that once was a residences of the Parthian Empire (247 BC-253 AD). After that we return to Ashgabat to explore the capital of Turkmenistan. We will see independence period parks and monuments, such as the Monument and Park of Independence (looking like a white-marble “Eiffel Tower” standing in a beautiful park) and a fountain-monument devoted to the 10th anniversary of independence (sculptural depiction of ten Akhal-Tekke horses placed on the top of a beautiful fountain), impressive Ertoghrul Ghazi mosque. After visit the National Carpet Museum, exhibiting an interesting collection of hand-made Turkmen carpets and various carpet objects. Visit the colorful Russian bazaar. Here you will plunge into the atmosphere that resembles exactly the rhythm of Ashgabat life, peculiarities of mentality of the Turkmen capital's residents. Overnight at hotel.
Later visit Arkadash stud farm near GeokDepe, which was the site of the biggest battle for the Russian domination in Central Asia in the late 19 c. The fortress is also a site of a beautiful Geok-Depe mosque, built in 1996 inhonour of the fortress defenders. On the farm, we have a chance to take a close look at the “winged” Akhal-Tekkes, and even take a ride on them. Having finished our photo session with horses, we continue our drive to Ashgabat, en-route make a stop to visit an impressive complex in Kipchak, consisting of the largest mosque in Turkmenistan and the family mausoleum of the first president of the country. Return to the comfort of our hotel in Ashgabat. Lunch at local restaurant. After lunch free time. Overnight at hotel.
OPTIONAL: Ashgabat – Darvaza Flaming Crater – Ashgabat (280 km, one way)
After lunch we want to offer you day trip to Darvaza Flaming crater which must be seen at dark time. Depart Ashgabat by 4WD JEEPS (3 pax per car) at 14:00 and arrive destination by 18:00. Drive north to Darvaza flaming crater. Arriving at the border between the northern and southern regions of Turkmenistan we turn off the main road for an exciting eight-kilometre desert drive. The drive over, we find ourselves a couple of hundred metres away from the flaming crater, which, at daylight, seems more of an ordinary whole in the ground slightly smoked by fire. Having unpacked our vehicles, we go for a walk around the crater. By the time the simple whole of the crater turns into what may seem a front door of hell, a fire temple or any other mysteriously spectacular place that a romantic’s imagination may associate with fire. We finish the day with the picnic dinner packed and taken from the city. After dinner return to Ashgabat by midnight and have rest.
DAY 3. ASHGABAT - KHIVA
After breakfast at hotel transfer to the airport. Upon arrival drive to cross border to Uzbekistan near Dashoguz/Shavat. Complete border formalities. Proceed to Khiva. On arrival transfer to hotel. Check in. Overnight at hotel.
Khiva is made for walking. It is compact, well looked after, lived in and basks in a beautiful desert light. This walking tour takes in all the major sights of the Ichan Kala - the citadel - where we will see the truncated Kalta Minor minaret, the Kunya Ark, the Madrassah Rakhimkhon, the Mausoleum of Pakhlavan Makhmud and Islam Khodja minaret - from the latter you will see the entire town beneath you and the desert beyond. As you walk around you can imagine the layers of history around you - the town is thought to date back more than 2,000 years. What can be seen now would not be dissimilar to the city that the Russian Army stormed in 1873 in their conquest of Central Asia. The ravages of modern development have been largely kept away from the citadel itself, much to our advantage.
In the afternoon we will continue, visiting the Friday mosque and Tashauli Palace, including the harem. Overnight at hotel.
DAY 5. KHIVA – URGENCH - BUKHARA
Morning transfer to the airport in Urgench to catch the flight to Bukhara. Full day exploring fabulous Bukhara. This incredible city, one of the most famous names of medieval Islam, is home to hundreds of registered monuments. Look around - they're literally everywhere. On today's tour we visit some of the main highlights (listed below), as well some lesser known sights along the way. Bring a fully charged camera battery. In no particular order we will visit: Lab-i-khauz ensemble - modern centre of traditional Uzbekistan, madrassah Nadirkhon Devanbegi, Khanaga, Mogaki Attari mosque, Poi Kalon minaret and mosque, see Madrassahs Aziz Khan and Ulugbek.
After lunch visit Ark Fortress, Balakhauz mosque, mausoleum of Ismail Samanid, ChashmaAyub. We will also visit Hunarmand UNDP Assisted workshops near Lyabikhauz. We see block printing, metal chasing, suzani embroidery, carving and miniature painting, gold embroidery. Overnight at hotel.
Today we will have a half day tour of Bukhara with an out-of-town excursion to visit the Sitora-i-Mokhikhosa, the summer residence of the former emir of Bukhara where you can see unique mixture of traditional Russian style of architecture harmoniously mixed with local oriental traditions. Famous thrown white hall decorated with carved alabaster resembles halls in Petergof Palace in the suburb of St Petersburg.
Later excursion to Bahauddin Naqshbandi Mausolem famous Sufi spiritual leader of this region in 14th century. Bahouddin Naqshband's cult was highly venerated among folks. The rulers, too, paid a considerable attention to this architectural ensemble.
Return to Bukhara and enjoy your time at leisure. Overnight at hotel.
Full day free time at leisure in Bukhara for own exploration of the city and shopping. Overnight at hotel.
DAY 8. BUKHARA – GIJDUVAN – SAMARKAND
Morning drive to Samarkand en route visit Gijduvan – center of famous hand made ceramic, see the process of making this unique ceramic and local life of the small town. Proceed to Samarkand. On arrival transfer to hotel, check in. Reminder of the day at leisure. Overnight at hotel.
No name is so evocative of the Silk Road as Samarkand. It is one of the oldest existing cities in the world and the oldest of Central Asia. Built on the site of Afrosiab, which dated from the 3rd or 4th millennium B.C., Samarkand was known to the ancient Greeks as Marakanda; ruins of the old settlement remain north of the present city.
You will have a full day tour of Samarkand to see the famous Registan Square which was for many centuries the heart of Samarkand. See the three beautiful madrassahs: the Ulug-Bek Madrasah built in 15th century; the Tillya-Kori Madrasah built in 17th century; the Sher-Dor Madrasah, also built in 17th century. Visit Gur Emir - mausoleum of Great Tamerlane. Later see the grandest structure of Amir Temur’s times - the chief Friday Mosque called Bibi-Khanum, the Silk Road bazaar and ShahiZinda necropolis. Overnight at hotel.
OPTIONAL: Visit Khovrenco winery with wine tasting.
DAY 10. SAMARKAND – TASHKENT
Today we continue exploring Samarkand to visit Ulugbek’s observatory, constructed by Ulugbek (Grandson of the Great Amir Temur) in 1428-1429. Visit the ancient settlement of Afrosiab, which is situated on the spurs of Chupan-Ata hills to the north-east of present-day Samarkand. According to the legend, it was here, on the banks of the river Siab, that the Turanian king and hero Afrosiab, a character of the folk epic ‘Shahnama’, founded the town that became the capital of Sogdiana.
We are heading to Konigil village (10 km from Samarkand) to visit the paper-making workshop. For a long time Samarkand has been famous as a center of a high-quality paper manufacture. In the workshop of a talented master you will see how the rind of the mulberry tree turns into a paper. Here you will be able to take part in the unique process of hand-made paper production: cleaning tree branches from the bark, polishing paper with a stone and painting it. Return to Samarkand and transfer to the railway station to take train to Tashkent. On arrival transfer to hotel. Overnight at hotel.
Tashkent is one of the oldest and largest cities in Central Asia, the Uzbek capital since 1930, and very much a showpiece of Soviet and post-soviet architecture.
Morning we start exploring the capital by going back in time - to visit the old town: Barak Khana Seminary, TilaShaikh mosque and their archives, known for a rare copy of the Koran written by the third Caliph Osman. Later we will continue to Chorsu bazaar, the oldest market in Tashkent and Kukeldash Madrassah. Afternoon visit the Museum of Applied Arts, excursion to visit Mustakillik (Independence) Square in the heart of Tashkent and famous Tashkent Metro (underground) decorated with local marble and granite like an underground palaces, visit Amir Temur squire. Overnight at hotel.
DAY 12. TASHKENT – KHUJAND
Set out overland for Tajikistan via “Oybek” border.
Meeting guests on the Tajik side of the border. After crossing the border drive to Khujand – center of Sugd region, Northern Tajikistan. Khujand was continuously occupied for 2500 years and found – possibly on the site of an earlier settlement – by Alexander the Great. It is the furthest point he reached in Central Asia thus the city was named Alexandria Eschate (Alexandria the Furthest). Check-in hotel.
City tour in Khujand to visit: Pushkin square with Kamoli Khudjandi Square, Timur Malik’s fortress and Sugd museum , Muslihiddin memorial complex , Panjshanbe bazaar (Khujand’s central market that has many shops offering different kind of goods and services. The name Panjshanbe comes from Persian language meaning “Thursday”). Panjshanbe is considered as one of the oldest markets in Tajikistan. The Silk Road which passes Khujand city had always made Panjshanbe to be crowded with traders and tourists. Visit Arbob palace (Arbob palace had its particular significance in 1992, when it was the place for the meeting of the Tajik Soviet which officially declared independence from the Soviet Union. Also, it was the site where the Tajik flag was chosen). Overnight at hotel.
DAY 13. KHUDJAND – ISKANDARKUL LAKE – DUSHANBE
After breakfast at hotel we split the group into several minibuses (4-6 pax in a VAN) and drive to Dushanbe where en route we will see beautiful Iskanderkul lake. According to the legend, the Lake Iskanderkul was named after Alexander the Great, known as Iskander in the East. People say that Alexander the Great’s path to Central Asia from India laid through this lake.
Continue to Dushanbe and if time allows visiting picturesque Varzob gorge on the way , enjoy short rest by the mountain river side. Varzob Gorge is a beautiful alpine mountain region within easy driving distance of Dushanbe. The main road north out of Dushanbe follows the route of the rushing Varzob River for about 70 Km, before climbing steeply to Anzob Pass (3,373 m). There are also natural thermal springs at Khoja Obi Garm.
Arrive in Dushanbe, check in to hotel. Overnight at hotel.
DAY 14. DUSHANBE – BISHKEK
Morning see the monument of Ismoili Somoni and Rudakipark in the center of city. Also visit local bazaar and Botanical garden. Later we visit the Cultural palace “Kohi Navruz” (Subject to permit). Here you will witness the traditional architecture of Tajik people with woodcarving, painting and mosaic arts.
Afternoon excursion to Hissor town (23 km from Dushanbe) to see the ancient fortress of Hissor - one of the most precious historical sites of Tajikistan .Comfortably located near Dushanbe Hissor Fortress combines the traditional elements of power, trade and culture of the ancient Tajik nation. Visit Medrassah Kuhna (16th c) and Museum of Tajik Way of life there, 19c Medrassah nearby and mausoleum of Sufi saint Mahdumi Azam.
Later visit famous Museum of National Antiquities, opened in 2001. Featuring artefacts from Tajikistan's Islamic and pre-Islamic history (Greek/Bactrian, Zoroastrian, Buddhist and Hindu), the museum shows that Tajikistan was an important crossroad in Central Asia. The centrepiece is the 14m reclining Buddha in Nirvana, a 1,400 year-old statue created by the same Kushan civilisation that made the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan. After early dinner transfer to the airport for flight to Bishkek. Upon arrival transfer to hotel. Overnight at hotel.
DAY 15. BISHKEK – ALA ARCHA - BISHKEK
Bishkek city is the capital and the largest city of Kyrgyzstan. Bishkek is situated at about 800 meters (2,600 ft) altitude near the northern range of the Kyrgyz Ala Too range. This range is an extension of the Tian Shan mountains, which rises up to 4,855 meters (15,928 ft) and provides a spectacular backdrop to the city. This entire day is dedicated to a guided tour of Bishkek. It includes visiting Pobeda Square (Victory Square), Duboviy Park (Oak Park), Central Ala-Too Square, the National Arts Museum, National Philharmonic, and many others places of interest. But no tour of Bishkek is complete without visiting our Asian Bazaar! We will show it to you today and you will be able to take a lot of dynamic photos of bustling local life. This bazaar is a noisy and colorful tapestry of fabrics, produce, and people selling and buying goods. Lunch is in local restaurant. After lunch we will move to Ala Archa National park where we will have some walking around the forest and see nice nature scenery. Overnight at hotel.
DAY 16. BISHKEK – CHOLPON ATA
Your guide will pick you up at 8 am and you will be transferred to Issyk Kul Lake, surrounded by the celestial mountains. It’s the second largest alpine lake in the world (1608 m above sea level). The lake is called "the pearl of Central Asia". Due to the salty water, Lake Issyk Kul possesses curative qualities. On route to the lake you will visit Burana Tower (an 11th century minaret) and an open air museum of Balbals (stone warriors). Here you will see national horse games. Your night and dinner are in a hotel.
DAY 17. CHOLPON ATA - KARAKOL
In the morning you will have 1 ride on a boat to enjoy the beauty of the lake. Then we will drive to beautiful Semenovskoye gorge! This area is part of the national park. Here you will be able to enjoy the magnificent mountains covered with snow tops and slopes grown by blue and green pine trees. Then we continue our way along the northern shore of the lake to the town of Karakol. On the way, we will take a short break to give you the opportunity to visit ancient stone inscriptions (dating back to 800 B.C.). These petroglyphs were made more than 2 000 years ago by shamans. Then we continue our way along the northern shore of the lake to the town of Karakol. You will visit the Dungan mosque. One of its highlights is the fact that it was built in a Chinese style without using a single metal nail. The mosque will be followed by a visit to an old wooden Orthodox Church. The night is spent in a guesthouse. Overnight at hotel.
DAY 18. KARAKOL – BOKONBAEVO
Today we head towards– Bokonbaevo village but first we visit a fabulous Skazka Canyon (“Fairy tale”). The canyon was named so due to its bizarre rocky landscape, which for many years has been transformed by wind into fabulous sculptures and formations. Some formations in "Skazka" have been named for their similarity to well-known objects. For example, one set of ridges in the canyon is named "The Chinese Wall" due to its similarity to the Great Wall of China. You can also find what appear to be statues of a hippopotamus, snake, dragon, sleeping giant and even whole castles. This day we also visit a picturesque Barskaun Gorge where we will make an easy hike to the waterfall named “Tears of Leopard”. The gorge is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Issyk-Kul area. In Bokonbaevo we will arrange an Eagle-Hunting show. This evening you will participate in baking of flatbread in the traditional oven at our yurt camp. Overnight at home stay.
DAY 19. BOKONBAEVO – SON KUL LAKE
Today we will drive to Son Kul Lake. This time we will drive along the southern shore of Issyk Kul Lake. This is a great chance to see the whole lake from all sights. We will have a break in Kyzyl Tuu village where we will assist a yurt workshop. These are nomadic collapsible dwellings made of a wooden skeleton, covered with felt coverings. Then you will continue your trip. Son Kul lake is surrounded by mountains and it is the highest alpine lake in Kyrgyzstan, situated at an altitude of 3013 meters above sea level. Kyrgyz nomads started to come to this wonderful area with their families for rest and relaxation. Herders of the Naryn region come to the lake to use it as a pastureland. Dinner and overnight is in nomadic collapsible dwellings – yurts. They are made of a wooden skeleton, covered with felt coverings. Overnight at Yurts.
DAY 20. SON KUL – BISHKEK – ALMATY
After meeting with locals, in the early morning we will drive to the capital of Kyrgyzstan – Bishkek city. We will have a break In Kochkor village, where a local family will show you how our national felt carpets are made. You can even learn the art of felt making and create your own carpet together with them! You will also get to visit a small handicraft museum there. They have many examples of silver decorations, coats made of wolves, horse saddle decorations, carpets and more. Transfer to airport. Overnight at hotel.
Almaty is the former capital of Kazakhstan and is still its largest city. Being a financial and cultural center of Central Asia, Almaty boasts moderate sized tourist and expatriate communities. After breakfast, embark on a city tour of Almaty. Visit the Park of Heroes 28-Panfilovtsev, located in the heart of the city. This park is the memorial of glory and eternal memory lane with fire established in memory of those who defended with great courage and honor of the WWII years. Continue the journey to the orthodox Zenkov Cathedral where it is deservingly considered the most interesting architectural monument in Almaty. This wooden building, towering at a height 56m.Go on a tour in the Central Mosque. After lunch, visit the Republic Square and the Central State Historical Museum and the Golden room. Magnificent exhibits of a big collection of Kazak National tools and the history of jeweler art of Kazakhstan can be found. We will take a cable car ride up the Kok-Tobe Hill in the very heart of the city. Breathtaking views are guaranteed on the top. Overnight at hotel.
In the morning we drive 40km to the ethnographic recreation center "Huns". Here you immerse in the life of nomads, learn more about the customs of the Kazakh people and try delicious national dishes. Back to the city after lunch. Transfer to Medeo - the highest mountainous ice skating sports complex in the world. Stop at Medeo dam which protects the city from destructive mudflows formed on top of the western Tien Shan. On top of the dam, enjoy an amazing panorama view of the largest mountain skating ring in the world.(approx. daily mileage 130km). Overnight at hotel.
Check-out the hotel. Transfer to the airport for the flight home.