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Land only price$7,428
Duration29 Days

Optional Single Supplement$662

Deposit$32

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Silk Road: The Five 'Stans of Central Asia

Itinerary

Day 1: Tour starts in Ashgabat (Turkmenistan)

Today, after checking-in to our hotel in Ashgabat, the rather bizarre capital of Turkmenistan (the first of our five ‘stans), we’ll settle ourselves in and have a gentle introduction to this “white-marble city”. Over the course of the day, we’ll see some fascinating reminders of the city’s rich and eclectic past, including the famous so-called Arch of Neutrality. Rooms will be available on arrival for anyone taking our suggested group flights (see the GETTING THERE section below) due to the early morning schedule.

  • Nusay Hotel or similar
  • Lunch, Dinner
Day 2: Ashgabat

With a full day to explore the city and its surrounds, we will travel out to Nissa, the 3rd Century BC capital of the Parthians, and visit the famous site of Geo Tepe where the Turkmens made their last stand against the Russians. We’ll also visit a nearby stud farm to see some of the beautiful pure-bred Akhel Teke, or ‘heavenly’ horses’, the Chinese desire for which gave birth to the original impetus for the Silk Road. Later we’ll visit the largest mosque in Central Asia and the mausoleum of the first Turkmen President “Turkmenbashy”. We plan to take dinner at a stunning rooftop restaurant back in the city.

  • Nusay Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3: Ashgabat - Mary

A morning’s flight will take us to Mary, our base for the next two nights. Here we’ll drive out to Ancient Merv to see remaining traces of the glorious “Maru Shahu Jahan” – “Queen of Cities”. Due to its size and historical importance, Merv is one of the most significant sites in Turkmenistan, indeed in all of Central Asia. It consists of a series of towns each succeeded by another throughout the course of history. We’ll see the remains of several sites including the Erk Kala (6th C BC) with its citadel and the Mausoleum of Muhammed Ibn Zeid (12th C AD) before later returning to Mary to visit the local history museum, presenting a wide array of archaeological finds (dating back to the 3rd millennium BC through to the late 19th century) from both Ancient Merv and the Bronze Age sites of Margush, which we will visit tomorrow.

  • Mary Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 4: Mary – Gonur Depe - Mary

After an early breakfast we drive northeast from Mary to ancient Margush and the archaeological site of Gonur Depe (40km off-road). Fertile silt brought by waters of the Murgab River delta and a moderate climate created favourable conditions for Bronze Age settlements known as the Margiana Oasis deep in the desert. This is an amazing site said to be the fifth great civilisation of ancient times where, it is believed, the Zoroastrian culture was born. We’ll return to Mary in the afternoon.

  • Mary Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5: Mary – Bukhara (Uzbekistan)

Leaving Mary we’ll head north and after lunch in Turkmenabat, we’ll have the thrill of crossing the great Oxus (Amu-Darya) River. From here we’ll arrive at the Turkmen border and enter Uzbekistan (the second of our five ‘stans). After customs formalities we’ll transfer to Bukhara, aiming to arrive early afternoon and check in to our guesthouse close to the famous Labi Hauz plaza and pool. This afternoon there will be free time to explore the streets and alleyways of this ancient town before meeting up for dinner.

  • Sasha & Sons or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 6: Bukhara

This morning we visit the famous Arc – or town citadel – in front of which the British officers Connelly and Stoddard lost their heads in what was one of the most infamous events of the Great Game. We’ll also visit the Kolan Minaret – or Tower of Death, from which Amir Nasirulla Khan threw his enemies – as well as the rest of the beautiful old town. The rest of the day is free to explore Bukhara at your leisure, with opportunities to wander through the bazaar and maybe do a little souvenir shopping.

  • Sasha & Sons or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 7: Bukhara

With a second full-day in Bukhara, we’ll spend the morning visiting the Sitorai-Mokhi Hosa, the impressive summer residence of last Emir of Bukhara. Once more the afternoon has been left free for personal exploration of this endlessly fascinating place, which remains for many, the most evocative of all the Silk Road towns.

  • Sasha & Sons or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 8: Bukhara - Khiva

Today we’ll take a long drive across the desert towards Khiva. En route we’ll cross once more the famous Amu-Darya River before arriving in Khiva’s UNESCO-protected old town. This evening there will be time to take a first wander around the quiet streets of this wonderfully preserved Silk Road city.

  • Khiva Madrassa or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 9: Khiva

There’ll be ample time to soak up the atmosphere of Khiva today. We’ll visit some of the most colourful and sumptuous sites, including the Kukhna Arc and the Mohammed Khan Madrassa. In addition, there’ll be the opportunity to climb up the Kalta Minor minaret, explore the Jama Majid mosque with its amazing wooden pillars and the Alloquli Khan Madrassa, bazaar and caravanserai.

  • Khiva Madrassa or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 10: Khiva - Tashkent

After a short drive to Urgench, we’ll take a morning flight to Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s vibrant capital which sat at the heart of the old Central Asian trading routes, gaining prominence under the Mongols and the Shabanids, before finally being absorbed by the expansionist policies of the Russian empire during the 19th century. Flattened by a devastating earthquake in the mid 1960s, the city was reinvented by the Kremlin to represent the very epitome of the socialist ideal. Today a prestigious working madrasah overlooks the sprawling Chorsu bazaar and nearby is the modern complex of the Khast Imam Mosque, which contains the oldest known copy of the Koran dating from 655. Tashkent is a colourful mixture of history and culture which we shall have a taste of today, including visiting the Museum of Fine Art to give an insight of regional decorative styles.

  • City Palace Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 11: Tashkent - Samarkand

Early this morning we take a train ride to probably the most famous of all Silk Road cities, Samarkand. We have the rest of the day in this amazing town, wandering through the gargantuan sights and visiting Guri Amir (Tamerlane’s tomb), Bibi Khanym mosque, Shah-i-Zindar – the street of the dead - and the town’s excellent bazaar. Of course we will also visit the Registan Square, one of Central Asia’s most iconic sights.

  • Malika Prime or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 12: Samarkand

Today there will be more time to explore some of Samarkand’s greatest sites including Ulug-Beg’s extraordinary observatory, built in 1437 whereby he calculated the length of a year to within 1 minute of what we now know it to be. The rest of the day will be free for personal exploration.

  • Malika Prime or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 13: Samarkand - Termez

Heading south from Samarkand, we’ll drive on to Termez, a city whose ancient heart dates back to the 4th Century BC. Built on the banks of the Amu-Darya River, the old city was located at the intersection of many Great Silk Road routes and has a long, rich history. There will be time this afternoon to visit the impressive Fayaz Tepa Buddhist Complex.

  • Ason Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 14: Termez – Dushanbe (Tajikistan)

This morning we’ll visit some of the city’s other notable sites including the Archaeological Museum and the Sultan Saodat Complex, before driving to the border and crossing into Tajikistan, the third our five ‘stans, and heading towards its relaxed capital, Dushanbe.

  • Avesto Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 15: Dushanbe – Fan Mountains

After some time this morning to stroll along Rudaki, the city’s main street and - depending on their erratic opening hours – a chance to visit one of the city’s impressive museums, we’ll continue our journey north into the Fan Mountains, an area of outstanding natural beauty lying to south of the Zarafshan River.

  • Homestay
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 16: Fan Mountains

We’ll have a full day to explore the famed alpine scenery of this rarely visited part of Central Asia. Abounding in deep blue lakes and sporadically inhabited by Tajik pastoralists, the area is still relatively undiscovered and allows for a fascinating insight into this gem of a country.

  • Homestay
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 17: Fan Mountains - Khodjent

Leaving the Fan Mountains, we will take a spectacular drive over the Shakristan Pass (3378m) to arrive in Khodjent, which once played host to Alexander the Great’s armies. After checking in to our homestay we can have an optional swim in the famous Syr-Darya river, which runs through the town.

  • Homestay
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 18: Khodjent – Kokand (Uzbekistan)

As our plan today is to stick as close as possible to the original Silk Road route along the Syr Darya River, we’ll cross back into Uzbekistan and head for Kokand, once a powerful independent khanate whose might once controlled this entire region. Here we’ll visit what remains of the khan’s palace.

  • Khudayarkhan Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 19: Kokand – Osh (Kyrgyzstan)

Our drive today will take us through the Fergana Valley. This incredibly fertile region was the breadbasket of the Central Asian USSR and is still one of the wealthiest parts of the whole region. Our first stop today will be Rishton, renowned for its blue and green ceramics and later the town of Margilon, centre of the still thriving silk trade in the area. Here we hope to see the entire silk-weaving process from cocoon to end product. In the afternoon we’ll arrive at the Uzbek border and enter our fourth, and probably most beautiful of the ‘stans, Kyrgyzstan. Our night stop will be the ancient Silk Road town of Osh. Reputed to be 3000 years old, Osh is a place steeped in history and dominated by Solomon’s Throne which looms over the town. We plan to stay with our old friend, Iman Jan and his family.

  • Homestay
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 20: Osh - Arslanbob

Heading into Kyrgyzstan’s mountainous interior we’ll make, by way of the 12th century Uzgen minaret, for Arslanbob village. Considered to be one of the country’s most attractive villages, it sits in the middle of a vast walnut forest. On arrival we will visit the local bazaar and settle in to our community-based homestay, where we stay for the next two nights.

  • Homestay
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 21: Arslanbob

Today we will have the whole day to explore on foot the surrounds of Arslanbob and to see its famous walnut forests, as well as some of the waterfalls and streams which dot the region. The walnut forests are believed to pre-date the 11th century and may even date back to the times of Alexander the Great. In fact legend has it that Alexander brought back large quantities of the nuts from Central Asia, but had to give them up once he reached Greece as payment to the boatmen who transported his troops. While this may just be the stuff of legend, what is certainly true is that Central Asian walnuts regularly formed part of the goods that were transported along the Silk Road, branches of which ran close to Arslanbob. Those preferring a less active day can take shorter walks and relax amidst the beautiful scenery of this small village.

  • Homestay
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 22: Arslanob – Sary Chelek

Departing Arslanbob, we aim to arrive by mid-afternoon at Sary Chelek, which was included in the list of UNESCO Protected Biosphere Reserves in 1978. This is one of Kyrgyzstan’s least visited but most striking locations. Centred around a spectacular lake, which sits at an altitude of 1873m, Sary Chelek is almost alpine in appearance and provides some of the finest scenery in Central Asia. We base ourselves here for two nights.

  • Homestay
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 23: Sary Chelek

Today we plan to head out with a picnic lunch and take an easy but exhilarating walk between and around two of the lakes of Sary Chelek. Being home to over 1000 species of plant, 160 species of bird and 34 different types of mammal we can never be sure of exactly what we might see, but the views all around are spectacular.

  • Homestay
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 24: Sary Chelek – Chychken Gorge

A beautiful drive takes us east towards Chychkan Gorge where there should be time on arrival to explore some of the impressive surrounding area. As we travel we should have the opportunity to observe nomadic herders living in their traditional yurts surrounded by huge flocks of sheep, as well as many horses. We may have the opportunity to stop to see them milking mares in order to make ‘kumys’, a popular drink for the nomads. This is a great introduction to the life of the nomadic shepherd.

  • Oson Guesthouse or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 25: Chychken Gorge - Bishkek

As we head towards the Kyrgyz capital today we will drive over two mountain passes - the dramatic Tuu Ashuu (3586m) and the Ala Bel (3184m) which in Kyrgyz means ‘colourful pass’. Finally we’ll arrive at Bishkek, one of the world’s more relaxed capitals.

  • Asia Mountains Guesthouse or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 26: Bishkek

Today we’ll head to Ala-Archa, a grand, rugged but very accessible gorge situated about an hour's drive from Bishkek. In the Kyrgyz language, Ala-Archa means bright juniper and it grows in abundance here over the mountain slopes. Now converted into a national park, it also offers some good walking possibilities and is a favourite place with the citizens of Bishkek, who like to relax and enjoy picnics here.

  • Asia Mountains Guesthouse or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 27: Bishkek – Almaty (Kazakhstan)

Today we enter our fifth and final ‘stan, Kazakhstan. Depending on border formalities we should arrive in Almaty in time for a visit to the Holy Ascension Cathedral, which is made entirely of wood.

  • Otrar Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 28: Almaty

After a morning visit to Republic Square to see the Independent Monument and the State History Museum we’ll drive up to Medeo gorge, taking a funicular up to Chimbulak for some great views out over the highest ice-skating rink in the world. Later we’ll drive to Sunkar to learn about the old tradition of falconry – hunting with birds of prey, before returning to Almaty for our final night’s dinner.

  • Otrar Hotel or similar
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 29: Tour ends in Almaty

The tour ends after breakfast this morning

  • Breakfast

Accommodation

As an overall ethos, wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night. This can obviously vary dramatically from country to country and from trip to trip. On this particular trip we will be in a combination of some comfortable hotels (particularly in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan) to some simpler hotels and guesthouses in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. We will also spend several nights in homestays where it may be necessary to share more than 2 to a room. Please note that the accommodation mentioned in the itinerary is intended as a guide only and is always subject to availability

Transport

On this tour we will use minibuses, train and domestic flights.

Climate

For a tour which lasts almost a month in duration, covers five countries, crosses deserts & mountains and experiences changes in altitudes from 500m to 3500m it can be quite hard to give a brief summary of the anticipated climate. However as this trip has been scheduled to avoid the extremes of summer and winter, you should typically expect daytime temperatures to range from 15oC – 30oC and night-time temperatures from 5oC to 10oC depending on the location. 

Is this trip for me?

It may sound obvious but Wild Frontiers tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. Please therefore take time to read the itinerary carefully. All our tours are graded to give an overall picture of the trip but these are only guidelines and you should check the daily itinerary. In certain instances we may ask you to complete a travel questionnaire before confirming your booking in order to ensure your suitability. Should you have any concerns about your ability to partake in any aspect of the tour then please contact the office. 

Key aspects to consider

This tour offers an incredible variety of experiences and scenery as we travel through five very distinct countries. However with the exception perhaps though of Uzbekistan, this should not be considered as an in-depth tour of any of the individual countries, as it offers more of an ‘overview’ of the region.

Anyone in a reasonable state of health, with an open mind and a sense of adventure should be perfectly able to cope with this tour, especially as all walks are optional. Bear in mind, though, that the sheer length of the tour and distance covered means that it can be tiring and there are some long drives involved.

Please note that in certain places you will be staying in homestays so you should be prepared for basic facilities for part of the trip. We think that what you will be witnessing will easily make up for any discomfort!
 

Extensions

If you have more time available, why not arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts? Or alternatively you might choose to allow a few extra days after the tour to relax or to undertake some further exploration.

The choice is completely yours and we can usually arrange anything from simply additional accommodation and transfers to full tailor-made itineraries.

Below is just a small sample of what you could do. Please contact the office for more details and to discuss your individual requirements. 

Turkmenistan

If time allows, why not extend your visit to see the ruins at Konye Urgench and to have a memorable overnight camping besides the Darvaza Gas Crater? Allow 2-3 days.

Iran

Lying to the south of Turkmenistan is the fascinating country of Iran which offers an incredible array of sights from Esfahan and Shiraz to Yazd and Mashhad. Allow 10-15 days.

Responsible travel

Responsible travel and sustainable tourism are fundamental ideas that Wild Frontiers has been committed to since our birth. It is our strong belief that these words should not be simply ‘tagged on’ to itineraries and websites but should be at the very core of each trip, and our adventures are therefore designed with the local people, culture and eco-system in mind. We believe that a successful trip not only delivers a unique and unsurpassable journey for our clients, but that it also benefits the peoples whose lands we are privileged to visit. 

Travel, Discover, Help

For every passenger that our local agent in Kyrgyzstan hosts, $1 per day is donated to their charitable project during your stay.
 
Travel, Discover, Help enables children from orphanages to learn more about Kyrgyzstan, by offering excursions to the countryside and events throughout the year.  
 
Additionally, they provide 40,498 days of work for locals annually and support ecological campaigns - transporting waste from glaciers and mountain gorges across this beautiful country.

Getting There

If you would like us to send you a quote for the suggested tour flights or on any alternative flight that may suit you better, please let us know, noting that for our US clients, we will most likely refer you to one of our preferred partners. For this trip our suggested flights from the UK (subject to change) are shown below.

If you wish to arrange your own flights you are completely free to do so and in this case we can arrange any transfers or supplementary accommodation that you may require. However please note that if you are planning on making your own flight arrangements, we recommend that you first check with us to see if the trip is guaranteed. We then suggest that you purchase flights that are flexible and ideally refundable as due to the nature of adventure travel, itineraries and destination accessibility can change at any time. For more information, please refer to our booking conditions.
 

Flight Code Departing Arriving
TK 1980 London Heathrow (LHR)
11:30
Istanbul (IST)
17:15
TK 322 Istanbul (IST)
20:20
Ashgabat Airport (ASB)
01:55
TK 353 Almaty Airport (ALA)
10:10
Istanbul (IST)
13:20
TK 1971 Istanbul (IST)
14:25
London Heathrow (LHR)
16:30

Visas

Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact our recommended visa agency, Travcour www.travcour.com 

For this tour, UK passport holders currently require visas for Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan but NOT for Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan.

Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

Further details will be sent out to you on booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.

Key information

Tour price

All our tours are priced on a land-only basis, giving you maximum flexibility when deciding how to get to and from your tour. For the latest prices, please refer to our website or contact the office.

Deposit

A £500 (or equivalent) deposit is required to confirm your booking. In addition, due to the particular nature of this trip, an interim deposit of £600 (or equivalent) per person will be required within 30 days of booking a guaranteed departure, or subsequently within 30 days of receiving confirmation from us that the trip has been guaranteed. 

Travelling Solo & single supplement

As a company approximately 70% of our clients are solo travellers, so it’s very unlikely you’ll be alone!

Our prices are typically based on twin-share accommodation but single supplements are not compulsory for any Wild Frontiers tour. If you prefer not to pay a single supplement we’ll pair you with someone else of the same sex for you to share with throughout the trip.

On this trip, if you do opt to pay for a single supplement then please note that it will cover you for all nights of the tour except in the homestays.

Please note that paying a single supplement entitles you to lone occupancy of a single room. In many cases these rooms will be of the same size as a double/twin room, but in some cases they may be smaller.
 

Insurance

Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all tours. You should be aware that due to some of the geographical areas visited and some of the activities included on certain of our trips some standard insurance policies may not always provide adequate cover. As such we strongly recommend that you purchase a policy that adequately covers your trip. If you choose to purchase the Wild Frontiers bespoke policy through Travel & General (currently available to UK residents only) then please note for this trip the minimum required level of cover will be the Standard policy. Please see the Insurance section for more details.

What's Included

Transport

All transport as required for the tour

Guides

The full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides where appropriate

Accomodation

All accommodation as outlined in the itinerary

Entrance Fees

All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary

Meals

Meal plan as detailed in the itinerary with the majority of meals being taken in local restaurants where viable

Airport transfers

Complimentary airport transfers are included for anyone arriving/departing on the suggested group flights (see GETTING THERE for details)

Carbon contribution

A carbon-offsetting contribution to Eco Act (if booking international flights through us)

What's Not Included

Visas & Travel Insurance

Visas will always be tour/nationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatory

Tips

Always optional, but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information pack you’ll receive after booking

International Flights

Please feel free to ask us for an obligation-free quote

Beverages & any costs of a personal nature

This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs

Additional information

Protection for your money

For further details please see our travelling with peace of mind page

Responsible Travel

For more information, please refer to our responsible travel page

British foreign & Commonwealth office

As advocates of the FCO's Travel Aware campaign, we highly recommend checking out their website for lots of useful information. Non-UK citizens should consult the travel advice of their respective government.

Wild Frontiers Community

If you’re still not sure if this trip is right or just want to see get some different perspectives, then why not have a look at the wide variety of resources we have on our website?

Browse our community section to read our blogs, watch videos and find out about our events.

Why Wild Frontiers?

We are frequently asked what makes Wild Frontiers different from other tour operators. Visit our why Wild Frontiers page to find out.