Heart of the Silk Road

Heart of the Silk Road

  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Turkmenistan

More than 2,000 years ago the great trade routes that linked Europe and China opened Central Asia to foreign cultures and religions. Surprisingly well-preserved evidence of these original explorers remain today in the ancient cities, towns and villages dotted throughout the region. Join us on this epic journey to four of the most fascinating countries in the region. We will admire masterpieces of Islamic architecture, interact with locals in vibrant bazaars, visit awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage sites and view incredibly diverse landscapes from red sand deserts to dramatic mountain ranges. Although the people of these countries have at times faced challenging circumstances and strict governance, hospitality remains an essential element of daily life and you’ll be made to feel genuinely welcome.

We begin in Kazakhstan, the world’s largest landlocked country. The capital city, Almaty, is the major commercial, cultural and population centre.

From here we travel to Kyrgyzstan, defined by its landscape of unspoilt mountainscapes, stark craggy ridges and deep valleys, all brought to life by semi-nomadic, yurt-dwelling shepherd cultures. Our sightseeing here includes the changing of the guard ceremony at the Presidential House in Bishkek, the open air “Museum of Painters” and beautiful Ala Archa National Park.

Next is Uzbekistan – Central Asia’s biggest draw and so most of our touring will take place in this fascinating country. Recognized as the region’s “cradle of culture”, Uzbekistan is home to a treasure trove of ancient cities with impressive architecture, including fabulous mosques, madrasahs and mausoleums, all deeply infused with the fascinating (and often bloody) history of the Silk Road.

Lastly we visit Turkmenistan, a vast desertscape with deep rooted spirituality, tradition and natural beauty. Enjoy a full day tour of the capital, Ashgabat, with its contrast of historic neighbourhoods and modern development, the archeological site of Nisa and a visit of a farm specializing in the breeding of the famed Turkmen horse – the Akhel-Teke.

***This tour will suit only the fit traveller who can walk fairly long distances and climb stairs easily.

Tentative Itinerary

Day 1: Departure

We depart for Kazakhstan via Frankfurt.

Day 2: Almaty, Kazakhstan

We arrive in Almaty and transfer to our hotel.

Day 3: Almaty

After a morning at leisure, we visit the intricately beautiful Zhenkov’s Cathedral - an extraordinary Russian Orthodox Church built entirely of wood. We will stroll through Panfilov Park and visit the Museum of Musical Instruments.

Day 4: Almaty / Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan)

We begin with a visit of the Green Bazaar - a local market where folks from different regions come to sell their produce and wares. We then visit the Central State Museum, one of Central Asia’s largest museums, and then the huge Central Mosque, constructed in the Timurid style of architecture. Later this afternoon we fly to Bishkek.

Day 5: Bishkek

This morning’s tour includes the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at the Presidential House and the open air “Museum of Painters”. After lunch we visit Ala Archa National Park in the Tian Shan Mountains. The park is known for skiing, hiking and a variety of flora set amidst a background of snowy peaks. We will enjoy tea at the guest house before returning to Bishkek. Tonight we enjoy a folklore show at a local restaurant.

Day 6: Tokmok / Tashkent (Uzbekistan)

We visit the Tokmok Animal Market where locals haggle to purchase cows, sheep, horses and donkeys. Later we fly to Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital.

Day 7: Tashkent

Our touring includes the Old City, the Khast Imam complex, Tilla Sheikh Archives, Chorsu Bazaar, Akbar’s Pottery House and a visit to the Museum of Applied Arts - housed in an exclusive mansion built by a Czarist commissioner in 1907.

Day 8: Tashkent

We first visit the State Museum of History of Uzbekistan - one of Central Asia’s oldest museums, which lists over 250,000 exhibits of Uzbek history from the primitive times up to the present. Then we will see Mustaqlik Square and the Gospitalny Church. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Tashkent at our own pace. This evening we attend a performance at the Navoi Theatre followed by dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 9: Samarkand

This morning we take the high speed train from Tashkent to Samarkand. Upon arrival we visit Gur-e-Amir - mausoleum of the Asian conqueror Tamerlane. After lunch we visit the Afrosiab Museum of the history of Samarkand, and then Ulugbek’s Observatory - the largest in Central Asia. After our visit we will travel to a traditional paper making factory in Kunhill, which produces paper from mulberry bark using traditional methods. This evening we attend a performance at the El Mirosi Theatre featuring ancient and traditional costumes.

Day 10: Samarkand

Further sightseeing in Samarkand includes Registan Square, the Bibi Khanum Mosque and the bustling Siyob Silk Road Bazaar. After a special lunch at the home of an Uzbek local we will visit the Shahi Zinda Necropolis featuring some of Central Asia’s best tile and majolica work. This evening we enjoy a cocktail party at Kalantarov House - a mansion built by Jewish merchant Isaac Kalantarov in 1911, followed by a party in the reception hall, originally constructed to receive Czar Nikolai.

Day 11: Gijduvan / Bukhara

We depart for Bukhara. After stopping enroute at a local village we continue to the pottery center of Gijduvan. Here we will visit the workshop of Master Alisher Nurzullaev - a second generation potter, to see a pottery making demonstration followed by lunch. We continue on to Bukhara, where we will enjoy a short walking tour of the old streets followed by dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 12: Bukhara

Our sightseeing begins with a visit to the Arg Fortress - home of former rulers of the Bukhara Khanate. We then visit the notorious Zindan Prison (now a museum), and the Ismail Samanid Mausoleum (one of Bukhara’s oldest preserved monuments). We will enjoy a traditional Uzbek lunch of “plov” prepared by a local artist in his studio. Afternoon is at leisure to explore Bukhara’s covered markets.

Day 13: Khiva

We travel to Khiva via the Kizilkum Desert (red sands) - the route of the invading nomadic hordes and the armies of the Persians, Alexander the Great and Genghiz Khan. After a picnic lunch at the Amudarya (Oxus River) we continue to Khiva - considered a living museum of Central Asia.

Day 14: Khiva

We enjoy a walking tour of this fascinating walled city (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and see the Kalta Minor, Madrassah Rakhimkhon and the Hunarmand workshops. Afternoon at leisure.

Day 15: Tashuaz / Ashgabat (Turkmenistan)

We proceed to Turkmenistan and visit Tashuaz, also known as “Dashoguz” (Turkmen for “stone spring”). The city used to be a key transit point of the Silk Road route due to its fine oasis. After a city tour and lunch here we fly to Ashgabat.

Day 16: Ashgabat

This morning we visit the 2000-year-old archaeological site of Nisa, which includes remnants of one of the first capitals of the Parthian Empire (among the most powerful and influential civilizations of the ancient world). We also visit the State Museum of History where the huge collection of artifacts includes the famous ivory figurines, followed by a visit to the Carpet Museum. Later we visit a stud farm to see the famous Akhel Teke horses, world renowned for their agility and beauty.

Day 17: Ashgabat

This morning we will visit the famous Tolkuchka (Russian) Bazaar - the largest market in Turkmenistan, and drive past the government buildings and City Mosque. The afternoon is at leisure to further explore the city or to return to the Bazaar. Tonight we depart for home.

Day 18: Home

We fly home via Frankfurt, and Montreal.

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Cost per person: $5197
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