trip
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2
Adventure touring

Traveller Rating

 

Activities
  • 21 days adventure touring
Accommodation
  • 17 nights hotel
  • 5 nights homestay/guesthouse
Meals
  • 7 Dinners
  • 22 Breakfasts

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23 Days$4620USD

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Small groups only
Guided group sizes are strictly limited to maximum 16 people, average of 8-10


 
 
Trip Code: FSS

Silk Road Five Stans Trip highlights


  • Discover the five former Soviet Republics of Central Asia
  • Spring & Autumn departures provide optimal comfort & experience
  • Uncover the history and culture of the fabled Silk Road cities, Samarkand and Bukhara
  • Enjoy the natural beauty of Iskanderkul Lake in the Fann Mountains
  • Marvel at Darvaza - one of the world’s more unusual sites in the Karakum Desert
  • Journey through the central Tian Shan Mountains to the Chychkan Gorge
  • Take in the ancient Persian era fortress of Nisa
  • Immerse yourself in the important historic sites of Shakhrisabz

Explore the lands that attracted Alexander the Great, boasting truly astonishing cultural, architectural and natural heritage. Surrounded by mystical deserts and towering mountains, discover the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia, the Five Stans. We begin our journey in the white marble adorned capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat. From here we venture out into the surrounding deserts to the ancient Persian era fortress of Nisa, the gas crater known as the “Door to Hell” at Darvaza and Merv, the site of a once grand oasis city on the ancient Silk Route. Uncover the fascinating medieval city of Bukhara, Uzbekistan and marvel at the ornate mosques and mausoleums of world famous Samarkand. In Tajikistan visit the impressive Ak-Saray Palace in Shakhrisabz and the southern town of Termez before heading north to the capital Dushanbe then retreating up into the cool of the Fann Mountains. Explore the rich and fertile Fergana Valley and gaze upon crystal clear alpine lakes in Kyrgyzstan before ending in Kazakhstan’s former capital, Almaty which lies in the foothills of the dramatic Trans-Lli Alatau, the northernmost mountain range of Tian Shan. Throughout the trip you’ll have the opportunity to spend time with the local people, learning about their history, age old traditions and ways of life. From the Silk Road cities and arid deserts to the towering mountain ranges and fertile valleys, this is an all encompassing journey for the ages. Our spring and autumn departures are set to provide the most comfortable travel experience, missing the intense summer heat.


Welcome to Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. You will be met upon arrival with a private transfer to the group hotel. No activities have been planned for today as the majority of flights arrive into Ashgabat in the early hours of the morning. Note: Hotel check-in time today is 14:00. Should your flight arrive earlier, please discuss arrangements for earlier room access with your World Expeditions Adventure Travel Consultant. Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn or similar

Meals:  Nil

Ashgabat holds the world record for the most white marble buildings in the world. In the post-soviet era successive Turkmen leaders have invested into these impressive buildings as a show of the country’s strength and grandeur and they make for quite a surreal experience. Ashgabat has been described as Pyongyang meets Las Vegas and you can easily see why. We visit some of the city’s greatest monuments, buildings and fountains including Ertogrul Gazy Mosque, Independence Park, the Neutrality Arch and the National Museum. In the evening there will be a group briefing followed by a welcome meal of local cuisine. Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn or similar

Meals:  B,D

Today is a long day trip out of the city. Our first stop, on the outskirts of Ashgabat, is the ancient Persian era fortress of Nisa. A former capital of the Persian Parthian Empire which controlled much of the region from Iraq to Pakistan 2000 years ago. The ruins of Nisa were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. We later head north into the Karakum Desert some 260km to one of the world’s more unusual sites, The Darvaza gas crater known locally as the “Gates of Hell”. The burning crater measures some 60m in diameter and 20m in depth and is the result of Soviet engineers searching for natural gas fields in 1971. Shortly after setting up a drilling rig, the ground beneath the rig collapsed exposing the huge crater. Engineers at the time estimated that when light, the gas would burn out within a few weeks. However, it has continued to burn for more than four decades. The sight of the huge glowing crater in the middle of the desert after the sun sets is an experience like none other. We will enjoy a BBQ dinner nearby before heading back to our hotel in Ashgabat. Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn or similar

Meals:  B,D

Leaving the Turkmen capital behind we embark on our journey east along one of the Silk Road routes of old. Our destination today is Mary, about 4½hrs away (plus stops). A short distance outside Ashgabat we make our first stop at the 15th century Anau Mosque, located on the edge of a bronze-age site. From here we continue on to the remains of the Silk Road era town of Abiverd. The settlement was completely abandoned for around three centuries but was once a vibrant and important centre of trade during the Sassanid Empire, the last kingdom of the Persian Empire before the rise of Islam. The 12th Century city is around 2hrs from Ashgabat and makes a perfect midway stop and a great opportunity stretch our legs. As we continue on the way to Mary look out for camels and small dusty desert towns. Upon reaching Mary, we will relax and refresh before heading out in the cool of the early evening for a city tour taking in the Central Bazaar, Juma Mosque and Russian Orthodox Church. Overnight: Hotel Mary or similar

Meals:  B

It has been suggested that Merv was the largest city in the world during its heyday, straddling the prosperous trade routes of the Silk Road. It was a capital of the Seljuk sultanate which ruled from central Asia to the Mediterranean. The once magnificent oasis city of Merv, with its crisscrossing canals and lush fruit orchards was raised to the ground by Genghis Khan and his Mongolian hordes in 1221. It is believed that some 700,000 people lost their lives when the city was destroyed and it was unfortunately never recovered. Today, this UNESCO Heritage listed site is Turkmenistan’s most important historical site and we take our time to explore. Following our tour of Merv, we drive north-east for around 4hrs (240km) to reach the border with the second Stan on our journey, Uzbekistan. Here we bid our farewells to our Turkmen crew and cross the border to meet up with our Uzbek crew. Please note this border crossing can sometimes take over an hour for all formalities to be completed. Once with our Uzbek crew, we will drive a further 1.5hr (100km) to reach another of the great Silk Road cities, Bukhara. Bukhara is a city-museum, with over 140 architectural monuments, boasting a vibrant history. Note: expect to have a very late lunch today (around 16:00) so ensure you have snacks handy. Overnight: Kavsar Boutique Hotel or similar

Meals:  B

The region around Bukhara has been continually inhabited for at least five millennia, and the city has existed for approximately half that time.The UNESCO listed old city centre evokes the many centuries of traders and travellers who’ve passed through on their way between the Mediterranean and China. This richly historic city was a major centre of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion, succumbed to Ghengis Khan and Tamerlane the Turco-Mongol conqueror, was the last capital of the Emirate of Bukhara before being besieged by the Red Army during the Russian Civil War. We spend the day exploring this fascinating Silk Road city including at its heart the historic Lyabi Khauz architectural complex with the oldest reflection pool in Central Asia, surrounded by medieval buildings including the Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah and Khanaka with its facade of intrinsic mosaics. We also visit the Poi Kalyan Complex which includes the 48m tall Kalyan Minaret which has come to symbolise the city, and the Kalyan Mosque with 288 domes covering intricate galleries. Overnight: Kavsar Boutique Hotel or similar

Meals:  B

This morning we uncover more of Bukhara’s fascinating history and culture as we explore the Samanid’s Mausoleum, the Ark Citadel, Chor- Minor, the original building of four minarets and oldest residence of the Emirs. We also take in the Sitorai-Mohl-Hosa Palace, Bukhara’s Emirs’ summer palace. Following lunch we'll depart from Bukhara and head east for around 4hrs (300kms) to reach the most famous of the great Silk Road cities, Samarkand. Over the centuries this road has been travelled by major historical figures such as Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan and Tamerlane on their incredible journeys. Overnight: Hotel Dilshoda or similar

Meals:  B

Possibly the most famous of the Silk Road cities, Samarkand's majestic blue tiled buildings dazzle in the bright desert sun. The city boasts one of the world’s grandest squares, Registan Square, surrounded on three sides by the madrassahs of Ulugh Beg, Sher-Dor and Tilya-Kori. It is said that the square and its madrassahs influenced other sites from the great square in Isfahan to the Taj Mahal in Agra. These colossal monuments with domes and minarets covered in a mosaic of azure tiles were built from the 1400s onward. The city was the capital of the great Timurid dynasty and we spend the day visiting a number of Timurid dynasty era sites including the Gur-Emir Mausoleum, Ulugh Beg’s observatory, the gigantic cathedral mosque Bibi Khanum as well as the impressive Necropolis. Tamerlane made Samarkand his capital, setting about making it the richest city on earth by pillaging and destroying other cities and removing their wealth and skilled traders to Samarkand. Overnight: Hotel Dilshoda or similar

Meals:  B

A long day ahead with a combination of driving and site-seeing. The day starts with a 3hr transfer to the town of Shakhrisabz. The Timurin (from the Timurid dynasty) city boasts a number of important historic monuments including the ruins of the Ak Saray Palace, the Doruttilyavat Ensemble, the Kok Gumbaz Mosque amongst others dating back between the 14th and 15th centuries. The city’s historic centre is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage in danger sites. After exploring Shakhrisabz’ sites we continue south heading towards the Silk Road city of Termez, about 5hrs away. On the way we make stops as the village of Jarkurgan, famed for its medieval minaret as well as the Oasis of Sayrob. We eventually arrive at Termez in the early evening. Overnight: Hotel Meredian Termez or similar

Meals:  B

The region around Termez is unusual for the Stans as it is home to Buddhist ancestry and relics as well some more traditional Silk Road sites and interesting museums. We spend the day exploring this city often overlooked by visitors (due to its remote location) including the 1st century Fayaz-tepe Buddhist complex, the 9th and 10th century Samanid Sultan Saodat Mausoleum. 3km outside of town is the Kyrk Kyz Farmstead (which translates as forty girls) which served as an abbey, a caravanserai and a palace. Further out of town (about 40kms) is the oldest site in Uzbekistan dating back to the 4th Century BC, Kampyr-Tepe. We visit the ruins of the ancient settlement before returning to Termez in order to visit the historical museum. Overnight: Hotel Meredian Termez or similar

Meals:  B

Today we head to the third Stan on our journey, Tajikistan. Upon arrival at the Saryosiyo border crossing, we say good-bye to our Uzbek crew and upon crossing are greeted by our Tajik crew. The drive from Termez to Dushanbe is 205km and takes about 5hrs (depending on border crossing time). Dushanbe's origins stretch back some 3,000 years though the city grew under Soviet rule as the capital for the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, a part of the Uzbek USSR. Upon arrival in the Tajik capital we have a city tour taking in the Independence Square, the Samany Monument (to the founder of the Tajik Government), Rudaki Avenue and a historical museum. Overnight: Hotel Atlas or similar

Meals:  B

The Fann Mountains are one of two of Tajikistan's great ranges (the other being the Pamirs) and have peaks towering up to 5,489m. Our destination (about 4hrs from Dushanbe) is Iskanderkul alpine lake, named after Alexander the Great and thought to be the final resting place of the conqueror’s beloved horse, Bucephalus, situated at 2,200m. This afternoon we explore the area around the lake including visiting Tajikistan’s biggest waterfall, affectionately called ‘Tajikistan Niagara’ which cascades down some 40m. The glacial lake itself is often claimed to be the jewel of the Fann Mountains and one of the most beautiful in the former Soviet Union. Tonight we will stay at a basic guesthouse. Every effort is made to ensure that men and women not travelling together do not have to share a room but as rooms are limited this cannot be guaranteed. There are shared bathrooms and toilets (some indoor and some outdoor). Overnight: Shahboz Guesthouse or similar

Meals:  B,D

Leaving the Fann Mountains behind we make our way into Tajikistan's industrial and agricultural heartland around the city of Khujand (about 4hrs drive). On the way we visit the town of Istravashan founded by the Persian king Kier in the 6th century where we visit the old city with its bazaar, the Kok-Gumbaz mosque and madrassah. Whilst Khujand today is not the most attractive of cities it has a long history. Believed to be one of the oldest in Central Asia, it has over the centuries been attacked by successive armies including Alexander the Great, Arab invaders and the marauding hordes of Genghis Khan as well as being an important stop on along the Silk Road. There are still traces of the city’s glory days and we will take in a tour of the sites including the Sheikh Maslikhiddin Mausoleum and mosque, the Payshhambe bazaar and Urumkhodjaev family country estate, an imitation of the grand Russian tsarist palace of Petergof. Overnight: Khudjand Delux Hotel or similar

Meals:  B

Today we return to Uzbekistan via the border crossing at Andurkhan where we bid our farewells to our Tajik crew and re-join the Uzbeks. The total driving time to Fergana town is about 5hrs from Khujand but we make a number of stops along the way. The first of these is at Kokand which was the capital of the 19th century Kokand Khanate. We visit the Khudoyar-Khan Palace (1871) which houses a local museum, the Norbuta-Biy Madrassah and the Modarikhon Mausoleum. From here we move on to the small village of Rishtan which is famous for potters’ dynasties and ceramics masters. We visit a local ceramics studio and watch a demonstration of the craft. This is a great place to purchase some of this iconic earthenware direct from the source. Our final stop is at Marghilan where we visit a local silk factory and learn about the material which has given its name to the greatest trade route in history. Eventually we arrive in Fergana town where we spend the night. Overnight: Hotel Club 777 or similar

Meals:  B

Today we head to the fourth of the five Stans, Kyrgyzstan. In the morning we transfer to the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border and meet up with our Kyrgyz crew. We then transfer from the outpost at Dustlik to the city of Osh. Upon arrival into Osh, we'll check-in before heading out to see the sites of this ancient band bustling city. The city's origins are estimated to stretch back over 3000 years, having long been the central city of the fertile Fergana Valley. Some suggest the city was founded by Solomon, and others Alexander the Great. Despite this uncertainty, the city has been an important place for merchants and traders for millennia. The first place to visit is Osh Bazaar, the largest market in Central Asia. We will walk along the colorful rows of the Golden market, watch black smiths working and smell the rich aromas of spices, fruits and other fresh local produce. We'll finish up our immersion into this exotic hub of daily life life by visiting the rows of handicraft makers, creating all manner of wares. After lunch we visit Suleiman Mountain, one of the main shrines of the Islamic world in Central Asia. At the mountain we will visit the historical museum, located within the main cave, before following the way of all pilgrims up to the top of the mountain. At the top sits the small mosque of Babur, The Great Mogul dynasty founder. If time permits we can also visit the central square and go for a short walk in the city park. Overnight: Sun Rise Hotel or similar

Meals:  B

In the morning following breakfast we will drive to the town of Jalal Abad. En route we'll stop for an excursion to see the ancient minaret and mausoleums in Uzgen town (60km from Osh), after which we'll continue on to Arslanbob valley. Arslanbob, situated at an elevation of 1,600m has a cooler, more temperate climate. The fertile region is home to fruit orchards and its main treasures are the southern walnut forests. Upon arrival we'll have some time to relax and refresh before heading out for a light walk to a nearby waterfall. For the next two nights we will be hosted by a local family who will prepare our evening meals. Facilities will be basic but this is a great opportunity to connect with the local people who are incredibly hospitable. Overnight: Local guesthouse

Meals:  B,D

Having covered many miles over the past two weeks, today we'll spend the entire day in and around the the slow paced rural village. The inhabitants are some of the most friendly people you'll meet and the village is a peaceful place to sit and relax with a pot of tea and enjoy the local produce. For those feeling more adventurous there are numerous options for fantastic hikes in the surrounding picturesque forests and valleys. Overnight: Local guesthouse

Meals:  B,D

After breakfast we begin our drive towards Sary Chelek alpine lake. The lake is located in its namesake National Park. The park comprises river valleys which flow along winding courses through almost the entire territory of the reserve, in places between steep banks, strewn with boulders forming rapid cascades and waterfalls up to three meters high. Glaciers, permanent ice fields and high mountain lakes lie on the north facing slopes. Sary-Chelek Lake rests at the foot of the Chatkal mountain range. The natural beauty of this alpine lake is truly mesmerising; its waters often appear a turquoise shade of blue and make for stunning photographs. Remote villages are scattered throughout the park. We will spend the following two nights with a host family in one of these small, rural villages and they will prepare traditional evening meals for us. Overnight: Local guesthouse

Meals:  B,D

In the morning after breakfast we meet up with our local guide and drive for around an hour up to the lake. Upon arrival to the spectacular location, we will enjoy a 3 hour hike around the lake and the guide knows the very best trails and scenic spots. Later we meet back up with our driver and return to the village and our host family who will have dinner ready. Overnight: Local guesthouse

Meals:  B,D

In the morning we bid farewell to our hosts and transfer from the lake area to Chychkan Gorge, a drive of around 260km/ 4-5hrs. The stunningly picturesque gorge boasts a wide diversity of flora and fauna. Animals commonly seen in the gorge include the ibex (mountain goat), roe deer, argali (mountain sheep), wild boar and eagles with wingspans up to 2.5m. A variety of of juniper, spruce, and wild berries grow in abundance on the surrounding mountains and valleys. The Chychkan River flows through the gorge before it empties into the Toktogul reservoir. There are two alpine lakes located at over 3000m and a stunning 60m high waterfall. We'll have ample time to explore the natural beauty of this gorge today. Overnight: Oson Motel or similar

Meals:  B

In the morning we transfer from the beautiful Chychkan Gorge to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. The distance is 250km and the drive will take between 4-5hrs. Bishkek is situated at an elevation of around 2,600 ft in the foothills of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too range, part of the Tian Shan range. These mountains soar up to 15,928ft, providing a dramatic backdrop to the city. Extending from the city’s north is a verdant steppe grassland which reaches into neighboring Kazakhstan. Bishkek is a city of open boulevards and grand marble-lined public buildings combined with towering Soviet-era apartments overlooking central courtyards. The carefully planned, grid patterned streets are mostly flanked on both sides by canals which serve to irrigate the endless rows of trees which provide welcome shade to residents and travellers from the summer sun. In the afternoon we will venture out for a sightseeing tour of the city. Time permitting; we will visit the Manas Monument, the State History Museum, Ala Too Square to witness the changing of the Guard, the Independence Monument, the Old Square with Parliament House and the Victory Square. Overnight: Asia Mountains Hotel or similar

Meals:  B

After an early breakfast, we leave Bishkek and begin our drive north across the fertile, gently undulating steppe into the fifth and final Stan. Completing formalities crossing the Kazakh – Kyrgyz border can take around an hour but your guide will provide assistance. Once across, the drive will take around 3hrs to reach Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest metropolis which lies in the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains. Up until 1997 it served as the nation's capital and remains Kazakhstan's trading and cultural hub. Following lunch we'll set out on a sightseeing tour of the city's landmarks which include: the Central State Museum, displaying thousands of historic Kazakh artifacts (closed Tues), Panfilov Park, home to the bright-yellow towers of Zenkov Cathedral, a tsarist-era Russian Orthodox church, the soviet era Palace of the President, Republic Square and the Monument of Independence (dependent on time). We will finish our day with a cable car ride up Kok Tube Hill for a panoramic view over the city and stunning mountain backdrop. Overnight: Kazjol Hotel or similar

Meals:  B

Following breakfast at the hotel, the trip concludes. Private airport transfers provided today. We also provide excellent options to extend your stay in Kazakhstan. Please ask your World Expeditions Adventure Travel Consultant for further details.

Meals:  B


Map

Elevation

The map and elevation chart are for illustrative purposes only and meant to provide general guidelines.


Inclusions

  • 22 breakfasts and 6 dinners
  • Well located hotels on a twinshare basis
  • Simple local guesthouses on a multi-share basis
  • Local sightseeing and entrance fees as listed in itinerary
  • Private air conditioned vehicle
  • Arrival & departure airport transfers
  • Expert bilingual guide (different in each country)
  • Emergency medical kit

  • Meals not indicated in the program
  • Any optional tours, and entrance fees and permits during free time (ie. photo & video shooting fees in museums)
  • Expenditure of a personal nature such as drinks, souvenirs and laundry
  • Visas
  • Turkmenistan migration tax
  • Tips and gratuities
  • International airfares and taxes
  • Personal travel insurance (compulsory)
  • Excess luggage charges

About Your Leader

On this trip you will have national English-speaking escort guides (different in each country).


Accommodation


Departure dates


Notes

1
Coincides with Ramadan Festival 24th April - 23rd May 2020. Itinerary operates completely unaffected
2
This departure will run in reverse, starting in Almaty and ending in Ashgabat due to the highland region's cooler climate during August. Please contact us for further details.

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Total Priceper person from

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Essential Information

Ready to book? Make sure you download and read the detailed Ancient Silk Road Cities - The Five Stans trip notes which contains all the essential information you need to know before booking. Once you’ve booked, we will supply you with a Pre-Departure document which contains a detailed gear list and other important information to help you prepare for your adventure ahead.


Silk Road Five Stans Trip reviews


Silk Road Five Stans Videos

Joanna Lumley's Silk Road Adventure | The Afrasiab Museum of Samarkand | ITV

Positive Impact Travel

By joining this trip you are directly supporting positive impact projects in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We’ve offset the carbon emitted by this trip by purchasing credits that support important projects that address the UN’s seventeen SDGs, like reducing poverty, affordable and clean energy, reducing hunger, clean water and climate action.

Proceeds from this adventure purchase carbon credits through the world’s largest and most awarded carbon project developer, South Pole, which are invested into projects accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources in developing countries.

Supported projects are based on internationally recognised standards and are third-party audited. They entail a series of positive impacts on the ground, which benefit local communities and ecosystems, that are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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