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Uzbekistan and the Ancient Silk Road

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11 days From £2,895 £2,695 per person
4.6 stars(24 reviews)


A timeless melting pot of history and culture awaits in the enchanting cities of the evocative Silk Road

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Mobility Rating 3

2024 Tour code: TKJ24

About the tour

Step back in time as we uncover the bewitching stories and intriguing landscapes of Uzbekistan.

Explore ancient fortresses hidden in sandy deserts on a fascinating journey conjuring up images of ancient traders on the golden road to Samarkand. Be immersed in the beauty and history of the ancient towns of Bukhara and Khiva, and discover Uzbekistan's vibrant capital, Tashkent.

Authentic local experiences - including lunch at a yurt camp and dinner with a local family - add to the magic of this spellbinding central Asian country.

Unforgettable Experiences

Marvel at the sensational Registan in gorgeous Samarkand
Marvel at the sensational Registan in gorgeous Samarkand
At the centre of centuries-old Silk Road trading, the focus of majestic Samarkand is the spellbinding Registan. Three richly decorated madrasas stand stately in what has been dubbed “the noblest public square in the world.”
Admire breathtaking Bukhara’s enduring beauty
Admire breathtaking Bukhara’s enduring beauty
Awash with dazzling madrasas, gorgeous mosques and timeless trading domes interwoven with labyrinthine streets, Bukhara is one of the finest cities in central Asia and evokes the Silk Road spirit like nowhere else.
Explore extraordinary Khiva walled fortress, Itchan-Kala
Explore extraordinary Khiva walled fortress, Itchan-Kala
Based in a historic madrasa in Khiva’s UNESCO-listed Old City, enjoy a guided tour of stunning sights across the ‘largest open-air museum in the world’, with amazing buildings dating back to the 9th century.
Uncover ancient fortresses in the Kyzylkum desert
Uncover ancient fortresses in the Kyzylkum desert
Journey into the Uzbek desert to unearth ancient garrisons of the ‘Fifty Fortress Oasis’, including the 1st-century palace city of Toprak-Kala and the mystical hilltop Ayaz-Kala, whose origins are undetermined.
Tour Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s cosmopolitan capital
Tour Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s cosmopolitan capital
Boasting a captivating mix of architectural styles from ancient Islamic madrasas to Soviet government buildings, get to know inviting Tashkent on a guided tour featuring a ride on its stunningly decorative metro.

What’s included


Day 1 – Direct flight from London to Tashkent

Our Silk Road adventure begins at London Heathrow as we board a direct overnight flight to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. As the largest city in central Asia, the name evokes images of intrepid travellers journeying off the beaten track into a mysterious and enchanting land of deserts, mountains and a long, storied history of hospitality to visitors from far-off places.

An area of major importance on the evocative Silk Road, the cities of Uzbekistan boast a remarkable legacy of culture, innovation, tradition and architecture. From the turquoise domes and towering madrasa entrances of its magical Silk Road cities to the crumbling fortresses and yurt camps of its sprawling deserts, this welcoming central Asian country - one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world - makes for an unforgettable destination.

Day 2 – Exploring the vibrant Uzbek capital of Tashkent

On arrival in Tashkent, we check in to our centrally located 4-Star hotel. There is time to freshen up before we embark on a guided sightseeing tour.

Tashkent is a pleasingly varied city of assertive Soviet-style architecture, traditional Uzbek buildings, green open spaces and bustling bazaars. Our tour takes us to Khast Imam Square, where we get our first glimpse of the architecture that underpins this beautiful part of the world. Ornately decorated sandy coloured mosques, madrasas and minarets gather round a sedate square that has been Tashkent's spiritual centre for centuries.

We also view the 16th-century Kukeldash Madrasa, an excellent example of Islamic architecture, with rich blue decorations on the portals and attractive mosaics on the minarets. After exploring the spice and food stalls under the striking dome of the nearby Chorsu Bazaar, we board the Tashkent metro. One of the most beautiful underground railways in the world, the unique stations are each individually decorated with the likes of elaborate Art Deco chandeliers and futuristic finishings.

This evening we gather at the hotel for our first dinner together.

Day 3 – Kyzylkum desert fortresses and historic Khiva

A short internal flight takes us from Tashkent to the ancient Khorezm region lying between Turkmenistan and the Amu Darya River, historically known as the mighty Oxus.

On arrival in Urgench, we transfer by coach for a journey into the vast Kyzylkum desert. Meaning 'Earth City', Toprak-Kala is believed to be an ancient palace city dating from the 1st century. Zoroastrian wall paintings and Greek-style sculptures were discovered on the site that is thought to have been an early capital of Khorezm. Nearby, the intriguing hilltop Ayaz-Kala is suspected to be even older and forms one of a chain of garrisons in the 'Fifty Fortress Oasis'.

Lunch is provided at a yurt camp before we continue to enchanting Khiva. Our wonderful hotel is located in a former madrasa - a historic Islamic institution of learning - in the heart of Khiva's UNESCO-listed Old City. Rooms are reached from an authentic and serene courtyard. Over dinner, we're treated to a colourful and enjoyable performance by a traditional Khorezm folklore troupe.

Day 4 – Astounding Khiva, the ‘largest open-air museum in the world’

Our focus after breakfast is firmly on the astonishing Old City of Khiva, called Itchan-Kala. This stunning walled town contains many historic baked-brick buildings dating from the 9th to the 19th centuries and, due to its remarkably well-preserved condition, is often dubbed the 'largest open-air museum in the world'.

Historically the spot where caravans would rest before crossing the desert to Persia, this mighty fortress and its four looming gates are an awe-inspiring sight to behold. This morning, we take an insightful guided sightseeing tour. Strolling through living history amongst narrow streets dappled with stall holders and caravanserais, we visit the Djuma Mosque which contains original 10th-century carved wooden pillars.

After learning more about the decorative minarets, divine mosques and scholarly madrasas, there is a free afternoon to continue exploring at your leisure. You can admire the intricately carved adornments attached to enclosed homes or visit elaborate palaces and ornate fortifications while appreciating the harmonious blend of history stretching back a millennium.

This evening, we regroup at a local restaurant to relay our tales of this breathtaking city over dinner.

  • Dinner
Day 5 – Along the Silk Road to Bukhara

After breakfast, we set out by coach across the Amu Darya River - once again entering the vast Kyzylkum desert for our journey from Khiva to Bukhara. Amidst the intriguing scenes of Bactrian camels, distant yurts and sand drifting gently across the road, we view everyday rural life in Uzbekistan as stalls plump with fresh watermelon line the streets in small towns.

There's a stop at a yurt camp where there is the option to grab some lunch on your own, before we arrive in beautiful Bukhara and check in to our hotel for three nights.

Bukhara is a masterpiece of spectacular monuments, ancient labyrinthine streets, authentic trading domes and historic squares. Founded in the 6th century BC, this is one of the finest cities in central Asia and a major stopping-off point on the Silk Road, with much of the city's wealth of architecture dating from this prosperous time. On arrival, there is the choice to unwind or step out from our centrally located hotel before returning for dinner this evening.

Day 6 – Exploring the eternal beauty of breathtaking Bukhara

The timeless tapestry of the Silk Road unravels in front of our eyes this morning as we delve into the architectural and cultural heritage of Bukhara on a fascinating guided tour.

This enduring city brims with beautiful buildings, traditional roadside inns called caravanserai and Turkish-style baths. Walking the attractive streets, a jaw-dropping reveal greets us at the magnificent Po-i-Kalyan complex. The 16th-century Kalan Mosque stands confidently beside the soaring 12th-century minaret opposite the striking Mir-i-Arab madrasa. We are also introduced to the historic trading domes, ornate bazaars where jewellers, cap makers and moneychangers hawked their wares in bygone days.

Later, we visit a puppet workshop to learn about the art of handcrafted theatrical marionettes, before heading to the Ark of Bukhara. This spectacular 5th-century fortress is the oldest structure in this ancient city and was home to emirs, poets and scholars. There is time to explore the museums and interesting exhibits in former royal quarters.

We enjoy a highlight of our adventure this evening as we take part in a cooking masterclass, preparing some of the region's most popular dishes.

Day 7 – Uncovering beautiful Bukhara’s storied history

Bukhara continues to disclose its fabled history during a visit to the Chor Bakr Memorial Complex on the outskirts of the city. A place of serene beauty, this sacred site contains a necropolis of elaborate family tombs and peaceful courtyards. Purportedly built on the burial site of Abu-Bakr-Said, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, the UNESCO World Heritage site has been a place of pilgrimage for Muslims since it was established in 1559.

Our tour continues as we take in the Chor Minor, a historic madrasa gatehouse with four symmetrical, dome-capped towers, as well as the Bahauddin Naqshband Memorial Complex, which commemorates the 14th-century founder of the Naqshbandi order of Sufism. Next, we visit the former home of Fayzulla Khodjaev, leader of the Bukharan People's Soviet Republic after the Russian Revolution, to discover the lifestyle of wealthy residents in the early 20th century.

There is a free afternoon to enjoy at leisure before dinner at a local restaurant. You could shop for beautiful scarves and artworks or relax beside the pond or gardens of the Laub-i-Hauz, sheltered by centuries-old trees.

Day 8 – The golden journey to Samarkand

Covering much of modern-day central Asia, from Uzbekistan's Ferghana Valley through Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to Iran, the Samanid Empire had its capital in Bukhara. Such was the influence of this 10th-century emirate, that Bukhara rivalled Baghdad in importance. The only surviving Samanid monument is the impressive mausoleum that we visit this morning. The gorgeous intricately carved brickwork signified a new era in Persian and central Asian architecture when it was built in the early 900s and its detail - inside and out - is jaw-dropping.

Transferring to the train station in nearby Kogon, we board the modern, high-speed Afrosiyob train to Samarkand - the capital of the Samanid Empire before Bukhara. A melting pot of cultures, this evocative city changed hands multiple times over the centuries, coming under the rule of both Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. However, Samarkand is more synonymous with the romance of the Silk Road, being at the crossroads of global cultures for more than 2,500 years.

On arrival in one of the world's oldest cities, we check in to our hotel where we have dinner this evening.

Day 9 – The ‘noblest public square in the world’ in Tamerlane’s city

A prince of a small tribe, Tamerlane - or Timur - defeated Genghis Khan's son to become ruler of a medieval empire stretching from India to Turkey. Fearsome warrior Tamerlane knew the importance of the Silk Road and set out to control it. Our first stop on a guided tour of Samarkand is the lavish Gur Emir Mausoleum, where we find Tamerlane's tomb. Rich blue mosaics adorn the arches, cupola and minarets of this structure, the design of which influenced the Taj Mahal.

However, it was Tamerlane's grandson who had the greatest impact on Samarkand's architecture. A gifted mathematician, Ulugh Beg ushered in the Islamic renaissance and, in 1420, constructed the first of the Registan's three madrasas. Dubbed "the noblest public square in the world" by British Viceroy of India George Curzon, the fabled Registan is the most famous site along the Silk Road. Its spellbinding patterns and exquisite adornments are truly a sight to behold.

Visits to the astonishing Bibi-Khanym Mosque and bustling Siyob Bazaar precede a fascinating dance show at the Theatre of Historical Costume, before dinner at a restaurant.

Day 10 – Ancient Afrasiyab and on to Tashkent

Key players in the Silk Road, the merchants of ancient Sogdiana possessed the skills and diplomacy to bridge the gap between east and west for centuries. One of their most important settlements was Afrasiyab, the oldest part of Samarkand. At the museum in this lost hilltop city destroyed during Genghis Khan's invasion, we learn about the palaces and bathhouses, as well as viewing ancient Sogdian frescoes showing Chinese and Turkish merchants exchanging silk.

Later, a visit to the Meros Silk Paper Centre details how local artisans have revived the lost art of Samarkand papermaking using the bark of mulberry trees.

Our exploration of Samarkand concludes at the remarkable Observatory of Ulugh Beg. The scholarly sultan was one of the most respected astronomers of his era and his observatory drew scientists from across Asia, who in turn produced crucial observations that have informed our knowledge of astronomy to this day.

We join a local family for a traditional lunch and board the comfortable Afrosiyob train to Tashkent, enjoying our final dinner together at a restaurant before checking in to our hotel.

Day 11 – Homeward bound

After breakfast in our hotel this morning, we are transferred to Tashkent airport for our direct flight back to London Heathrow as our Silk Road adventure draws to a close.

Saying a fond farewell to incredible Uzbekistan, we can look back at the fantastic sights we have witnessed during our time in central Asia. From the sparkling Tashkent metro to Khiva's wonderland of authentic streets and on to atmospheric Bukhara's jaw-dropping mosques and madrasas, we have travelled through history in the footsteps of intrepid traders centuries before. Spectacular Samarkand's glory as the centre of the Silk Road shone through in Afrasiyab and the astonishing Registan.

Arriving back at London Heathrow, we say farewell to our Tour Manager and fellow travellers with whom we have shared these unforgettable experiences - the memories of which will last a lifetime.

Additional information

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.


Hotel Omar Khayyam, Bukhara

Hotel Omar Khayyam, Bukhara

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Orient Star Hotel, Khiva

Orient Star Hotel, Khiva

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Grand Samarkand Superior, Samarkand

Grand Samarkand Superior, Samarkand

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Radisson Blu Hotel, Tashkent

Radisson Blu Hotel, Tashkent

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4.6 stars4.6 / 5 · 24 reviews

  1. 5 stars
  2. 4 stars
  3. 3 stars
  4. 2 stars
  5. 1 star

M Hemmings

4 stars

Submitted 11/Jun

Overall a most enjobable trip. Very interesting places to visit and good hotel accommodation with excellent tour guide and manager who ensured that all went smoothly. An indirect flight for the return trip (via Instanbul) was not ideal as it meant a very early start on the final day and a longer journey back.

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Susan Henderson

4 stars

Submitted 5/Jun


Collected by Trustpilot


5 stars

Submitted 31/May

Deserves more than five stars! An exceptionally enjoyable, varied and informative tour; outstanding in a lifetime (87yrs) of travel. This part of our beautiful world needs to be far better known.

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Ada Foreman

4 stars

Submitted 05 Nov 2023

I loved the variety of cities and the quality of accommodation. The local guide made the trip memorable. I recommend everyone visit this amazing country.

from Great Rail Journeys
Dear Mrs Foreman, Thank you for your review. That is brilliant to hear! Kind regards, Sophie.
1 comment

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Louise Waterhouse

5 stars

Submitted 01 Nov 2023

Spectacular buildings and culture. Always wanted to do the Silk Road. Learned a lot about the history

from Great Rail Journeys
Dear Ms Waterhouse, Thank you for your review and those wonderful photos. That is brilliant to hear! Kind regards, Sophie.
1 comment

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alan coltman

5 stars

Submitted 29 Oct 2023

Very interesting country, clean and safe.

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