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Tour in Focus: Silk Road Odyssey

14th February 2018


Our Tour in Focus blog series takes an in-depth look at some of our most popular tours, highlighting what makes them different and answering the most common questions travellers might have.

Here we look at one of our most popular tours along the Silk Road, the Silk Road Odyssey. Taking in many of the highlights along this historic route, from the endless grassy plains of the Kyrgyzstan steppe to the architectural wonders of Uzbekistan, this tour gives an overview of the culture and landscapes of Central Asia.

You can find out more about our Silk Road Odyssey tour here.

What is the top highlight?

With so many varied experiences it’s difficult to pick out one sight or activity in particular, but one of the highlights of the trip is the contrast of the historic Silk Road cities of Uzbekistan and Kashgar with the rugged wildness of the landscapes in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. This tour really does offer the best of the cultural and natural wonders of the region.

What route does it take?

Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) – Son Kul (Kyrgyzstan) – Tash Rabat (Kyrgyzstan) – Kashgar (China) – Sary Tash (Kyrgyzstan) – Osh (Kyrgyzstan) – Kokand (Uzbekistan) – Khodjent (Tajikistan) – Fann Mountains (Tajikistan) –Dushanbe (Tajikistan) – Samarkand (Uzbekistan) – Bukhara (Uzbekistan) – Khiva (Uzbekistan) – Tashkent (Uzbekistan)

What does the tour do differently from other tours along the Silk Road?

Our Silk Road expert Dan Waters thinks that what makes this tour different to others along the Silk Road is the sheer variety of sights to be seen and experiences to be had. He says ‘One moment you’re watching Kok Boru (goat polo) on the high altitude steppe of Kyrgyzstan, the next you’re getting your head round Kasghar’s place in modern China, then you’re admiring an azure blue lake in the mountains of Tajikistan before capping it off by trying to buy a carpet in the backroom of a 16th century caravanserai in Bukhara.’

Who is the tour suited to?

Anyone who has a sense of adventure and doesn’t mind roughing it a little will enjoy this tour. There is something for everyone whether you like incredible scenery, historical sights, cultural encounters or active exploring. The tour does involve a lot of travelling which requires a certain level of stamina, but many of the activities are optional.

What’s the accommodation like?

In a word, varied. Uzbekistan has quirky and very comfortable properties. China’s hotels are typical in that they are comfortable but a little soulless, while Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are a little more rugged and accommodation largely consists of yurts or homestays. These are very simple but allow you to get into the heart of a community or immerse yourself in a stunning natural landscape.

Is there much walking involved? How fit should I be?

There are good opportunities for walks in Kyrgyzstan & Tajikistan but they are optional, and anyone with an average level of fitness would be okay on this trip. There is some moderate altitude in Kyrgyzstan to consider.

Is there much interaction with the locals?

Yes, especially in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan where we’ll be visiting nomadic camps and staying in traditional homestays. Dan says ‘I had some great experiences being invited into yurts by nomads in Kyrgyzstan to share Kumis & talking Premier League football with some young Tajiks in a mud brick village in the Fann Mountains.’

What’s the food like?

Central Asia isn’t known for its culinary scene, but you won’t go hungry. Expect plenty of plov (rice with onions and carrots served with slow cooked meat) in Uzbekistan. Dan described the food as ‘better than I thought’ but did say that ‘Central Asia is highly unlikely to ever become a culinary destination…’

Any hygiene issues?

When staying in the yurts & homestays in Kyrgyzstan & Tajikistan the facilities will be long drop toilets and there won’t be any showers for part of the trip. As usual when travelling off the beaten path, take antibacterial hand gel, toilet paper and some wet wipes and you’ll be fine.

Do I need a visa?

UK passport holders require visas for China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan but not Kyrgyzstan. Non-UK passport holders should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

Are there many long drives?

As to be expected on a tour that crosses four countries there are a few but the drives are spectacular, particularly through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and so the incredible scenery will more than make up for some long travel times.

Are there any shopping opportunities?

There are plenty of opportunities for shopping along the way on this tour, from the not to be missed experience of the Sunday Market in Kashgar where you can pick up anything from a new hat to a new horse to carpets in Bukhara and souvenirs in Samarkand’s excellent bazaar.

Is there anything in particular I should pack?

Layered clothing is a must. The weather in the mountains can be variable even in the summer months so pack for cool temperatures and the possibility of rain, while the cities of Uzbekistan can be scorching in the summer. Dan also recommends packing some snacks, saying ‘It’s always nice to have some sweets or biscuits to share with your hosts when you’re invited to have tea.’

What do those that have done the trip think?

'Spectacular scenery, friendly people, lively markets and fabulous buildings, this trip has it all!' Lucy Philips

'An amazing trip that exceeded our expectations. Memories of wild horse games on the shores of Lake Son Kul, walking up the the valley of Tash Rabat in the footsteps of Marco Polo, a night of vodka and dancing in a homestay in the Fan mountains, the Samarkand Registan lit up at night, clambering up the mud walls of the old city of Khiva and many many more will stay with us for a long time.' Nicholas Hardwick

'Thank you Jonny and Wild Frontiers for the holiday of a lifetime! Travelling with you on the Silk Road was everything I dreamed of and so much more. Your passion for Central Asia and your wealth of knowledge of the region was truly inspirational. Each new day brought a fresh offering of exotic sights, sounds, cultures, experiences, and of course, more vodka! I have returned home with some wonderful memories of the trip and shall look forward to my next one with Wild Frontiers.' Sue Fisher

If you'd like to find out more about the history of the Silk Road, try our A to Z of the Silk Road or our Silk Road Infographic.

If you've been inspired to take a trip along the Silk Road, you can browse all our tours here.

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