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Uzbekistan and the Ancient Silk Road

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4.7 stars(3 reviews)

A collision of history and culture awaits along the iconic Silk Road

11 days From £2,195 per person

2023 Tour code: TKJ23

About the tour

Step back in time as we uncover the jewels of the legendary Silk Road, immersing ourselves in the storied history and intriguing landscapes of Uzbekistan. Discover ancient fortresses hidden in sandy deserts, explore mysterious cities unchanged for centuries and sample the unique flavours and culture of the region with authentic local experiences.

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 – London to Tashkent

Meeting at London Heathrow, we board our direct overnight flight to Tashkent, the historic capital of Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is a country quite like no other and one off the usual well-trodden tourist trail. Having spent centuries being passed through by history's most celebrated traders, travellers and conquerors, there's a rich cultural and architectural legacy here. From the blue tiled mosques that peek through the skylines of its awe-inspiring cities to the yurt camps that dot the sprawling red desert, Uzbekistan's ancient culture, rich history and warm hospitality make for an unforgettable destination.

Day 2 – Exploring Tashkent

We arrive in Tashkent and check into our hotel before heading out to explore. Tashkent is bursting with rich culture and is a place of great historical importance due to its spot on the iconic Silk Road - the ancient route that once linked the Western world with the Middle East and Asia. Today, we discover a blend of modern and Soviet-era architecture, sitting alongside colourful bazaars and tree-lined streets. On our guided tour, we see sights including Khast Imam Square, the city's spiritual heart, and Chorsu Bazaar, an authentic market in the Old Town. We also enjoy a ride on the Tashkent metro, which introduces us to the city's unique stations. These remarkable, Soviet-era spaces boast décor that ranges from elaborate Art Deco chandeliers and ornamental ceilings to almost science fiction inspired finishings.

Day 3 – Ancient fortresses and Khiva

Leaving Uzbekistan's capital, we fly to Urgench. Heading into the vast desert, we discover the ruins of some of the region's incredible ancient fortresses. We visit Toprak-Kala, or 'Earth City', an excavated palace-city, before continuing to Ayaz-Kala. This intriguing archaeological site sits on a hilltop overlooking the endlessly red sand dunes of the Kyzylkum Desert. Lunch is an unforgettable affair, enjoyed at a traditional Yurt Camp in the heart of the desert. This afternoon, we drive to the desert city of Khiva, where we check into our hotel. At dinner, we enjoy another glimpse into local culture as we're treated to a Khorezm folklore performance. The Khorezm region is known for its melodic music and lively dances, intended to express a love of life and appreciation for the beauty of nature.

Day 4 – Discovering Khiva

We uncover Ichan Kala, Khiva's walled inner town and the oldest part of the city. Historically, this is the spot where caravans would rest before crossing the desert to Iran. Today, the mighty fortress and its four looming gates are an awe-inspiring sight to behold. We take an insightful tour of the vast, open-air museum, which boasts UNESCO World Heritage status due to its amazing historical monuments including the Djuma Mosque, its mausoleums and two magnificent palaces. The rest of the day is free to continue exploring or to relax at our hotel.

Day 5 – To historic Bukhara

Leaving Khiva, we board a coach for an epic journey to Bukhara. Tracing the route of the Amudarya River, we pass through mysterious red sands, soaking up views over exotic landscapes made up of vast deserts dotted with roaming camels and distant yurts. We arrive in Bukhara, where we transfer to our hotel. Bukhara is a masterpiece of spectacular monuments and one of the finest historic cities in all of Uzbekistan, filled with a beautiful labyrinth of ancient streets, markets and squares. Founded in the 6th century BC, it was once a major stop-off point on the Silk Road, and much of the city's wealth of architecture dates back to this prosperous time.

Day 6 – The flavours of Bukhara

We delve into the architectural and cultural heritage of Bukhara on a guided tour. The city is bursting with imaginative designs, from its traditional 'caravanserai' roadside inns to its Turkish-style baths. We begin at the Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, a religious complex home to the Kalan Mosque and the Kalan Minaret. We're then introduced to sights including the famous trading domes, where we see the jewellers', cap makers' and moneychangers' bazaars, before visiting a puppet workshop. Tea plays an important role in Uzbek cuisine, which we discover for ourselves as we call at a retro tea salon to sample traditional spiced tea. In the evening, we live like locals as we enjoy a cooking masterclass, trying our hand at preparing some of the region's favourite dishes before an authentic dinner with a local family.

Day 7 – Exploring Bukhara

Continuing our explorations of Bukhara, our first visit of the day takes us just outside the city to the Chor Bakr Memorial Complex. A place of serene beauty, this holy site is home to a necropolis of elaborate family tombs and courtyards. Purportedly built on the burial site of Abu-Bakr-Said, a descendant of Muhammad, the site has been visited by Muslim pilgrims for centuries. Our tour continues as we take in Chor Minor Madrassah, a historic gatehouse with four symmetrical towers capped with sky-blue domes, as well as the Bahauddin Naqshband Memorial Complex. We also visit Fayzulla Khodjaev Home Museum, the former house of the key Uzbek politician and a striking example of a wealthy Uzbek's home.

Day 8 – To Samarkand

We visit the Ark of Bukhara, an immense fortress with a rich history. Originally built in the 5th century AD and used as a residence by the ruling Emirs of Bukhara, the citadel now houses some fascinating museums that immerse us in its story. We visit the ancient prison of Zindan before transferring to Kagan station to join the modern, high-speed train to Samarkand. Another significant point on the Silk Road, Samarkand is a melting pot of varying cultures, having changed hands multiple times over the years. The likes of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan have held Samarkand throughout history, and a blend of both Western and Eastern influences is noticeable in the city, particularly in its exotic architecture. We check into our hotel for two nights.

Day 9 – Uncovering Samarkand

We set out on a guided tour of Samarkand, discovering a city that has sat at the crossroads of the world for centuries. We visit Gur Emir Mausoleum, a lavish monument built as a tomb for the 14th-century Mongol conqueror Tamerlane and his descendants. Continuing to the world-famous Registan Square, we marvel at the majestic madrassahs (Islamic religious schools), some of the grandest in the Islamic world. Our tour also takes us to the Mosque Bibi-Khanum, Siab Bazaar, the city's main market, and the Meros Silk Paper Centre, where local artisans have revived the lost art of Samarkand paper making. This evening, we visit the Samarkand Theatre of Historical Costume before dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 10 – Samarkand and to Tashkent

We're immersed further in the enthralling history of Samarkand with some time at the Afrasiyab Museum. Found at the site of the ancient settlement of Afrasiyab, it tells of the life and traditions of those who've inhabited the area across the generations and is home to some uniquely preserved wall murals. We visit the Shah-i-Zinda necropolis, a UNESCO-listed complex of mausoleums dating between the 11th and 19th centuries, before stopping at the Ulugh Beg Observatory, an ancient Islamic observatory built in the 1420s. For lunch, we experience rural life with a visit to Uklan Village, where we meet locals and sample some delicious traditional cuisine. Later, we enjoy another trip on Uzbekistan's sleek, high-speed rail network as we journey to Tashkent, sitting down to dinner at a local restaurant before checking into our hotel.

Day 11 – Tashkent and London

We bid farewell to the wonders of the ancient Silk Road and transfer to the airport for our flight to London Heathrow. On arrival, your holiday ends.

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.

Hotels

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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Lotte City Hotel Tashkent Palace, Tashkent

Lotte City Hotel Tashkent Palace, Tashkent

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Enhance your holiday

Upgrades

Flight upgrades
London Hotels
UK rail connections

Reviews

4.7 stars4.7 / 5 · 3 reviews

  1. 5 stars
    (2)
  2. 4 stars
    (1)
  3. 3 stars
    (0)
  4. 2 stars
    (0)
  5. 1 star
    (0)

Mrs M Morris

4 stars

Submitted 04 Nov 2018

Excellent trip. Very interesting

Collected by Great Rail Journeys

Mr T Francis

5 stars

Submitted 12 Nov 2017

The holiday was disapointing but this was not the fault of the company. I had anticipated that the country and buildings would be more interesting than i found them

Collected by Great Rail Journeys

Mrs A Aldridge

5 stars

Submitted 06 Nov 2017

Wonderful holiday, superb country, excellent organisation

Collected by Great Rail Journeys

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Uzbekistan and the Ancient Silk Road

A collision of history and culture awaits along the iconic Silk Road

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Lynne Broadley
Lynne
Luke Simpson
Luke
Helen Laverack
Helen