Uzbekistan cultural tour – 14 days
Starting in Tashkent and ending in magnificent Samarkand, discover the culture, history and the present-day life of the ancient Silk Road cities with this fourteen days odyssey to the heart of the Silk Road. You will also try the nomadic lifestyle staying overnight in the traditional desert Yurt Camp and enjoy the overwhelming hospitality of mountain farmers during your stay in an authentic Nuratau Mountain village.
Places visited: Tashkent, Khiva, Bukhara, Yurt camp, Nuratau Mountains, Samarkand
- Visiting the jewels of the Silk Road – Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand
- Viewing the oldest known copy of the Koran in Tashkent
- Wandering through oriental Bazaars
- Visits to Ichon-Qala, Bukhara’s Ark, and Registan
- Stay in a desert Yurt camp and in a mountain homestay with a farmers
Day 1 – Tashkent
Arrive in Tashkent and meet by our driver who transfers you to the hotel.
Day 2 –Tashkent
Start a sightseeing tour in Tashkent. Visit Independence Square, Amir Timur Square, History Museum, Khast Imam Complex, Chorsu Bazaar, Kukaldosh Medressa etc.
Day 3 – Tashkent – Khiva
Fly to Urgench; transfer to the ancient city of Khiva; full day sightseeing tour in Ichon Qala including Kuhna-Ark citadel, Mohammed Aminkhan Medressa, Kalta Minor minaret, and other monuments.
Day 4 – Around Khiva
Visit the desert fortresses of Toprak Qala, Qizil Qala, Ayaz Qala and Guldursun Qala; return to Khiva late afternoon.
Day 5 – Khiva – Bukhara
Drive through the Kyzyl-Kum desert to Bukhara.
Day 6 – Bukhara
City tour in Bukhara including visits to Trading Domes, Labi Haus Ensemble, 12th-century Kalon Minaret, Bolo Khauz Mosque, Maggoki Attor Mosque, Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Ark citadel and other monuments.
Day 7 – Around Bukhara
Visit sights around Bukhara; summer palace Sitorai Mohi Hosa, Chor-Bakr necropolis, Bakhautdin Naqshband complex.
Day 8 – Bukhara-Nurata-Yurt Camp
Drive via Gijduvan and Nurata to the desert Yurt camp near Lake Aydarkul. On the way to the Yurt stop at the ceramics workshop in Gijduvan and at the ruins of Alexander The Great’s fortress in Nurata. In the afternoon, ride on a camel or walk around the dunes. Overnight stay in the Yurt camp.
Day 9 – Yurt Camp –Lake Aydarkul –Nuratau Mountains
Drive via Lake Aydarkul to Nuratau Mountains. Arrive and settle in the homestay in Hayat village, explore the village and get to know the daily livelihood activities of mountain dwellers.
Day 10- Nuratau Mountains
After breakfast, start a walking tour to the Nature Reserve. Visit the breading enclosure of endangered wild “Severtzov’s sheep and remains of the old village. In the evening, you may help or participate in the preparation of traditional meals.
Day 11 – Nuratau Mountains – Samarkand
Leave Nuratau Mountains and drive to Samarkand. In the afternoon, half-day city tour including Registan Square and Gur Emir Mausoleum.
Day 12- Samarkand
City tour in Samarkand. Visit Bibi-Khanum Mosque, Siob Bazaar, Sha-i-Zinda necropolis, Afrosiab Museum, and Ulugbek’s Observatory.
Day 13 – Samarkand -Tashkent
Transfer to Tashkent, enjoy a free afternoon exploring Tashkent on your own.
Day 14 -Tashkent
After breakfast, transfer to Tashkent International Airport.
END OF THE PROGRAM
Price & Service
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Single supplement – 170 USD
What is Included
- 13 nights in the hotels based on twin/double room sharing, multi-share in the yurt camp, and homestay
- 13 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
- Entrance tickets as per itinerary
- Transport throughout the tour incl. airport pickups, transfers
- Economy class flight ticket: Tashkent-Urgench
- Local guide in each city
- Letter of Invitation for a tourist visa (if necessary)
What’s not Included
- International flight tickets
- Camera fees separately charged by museums and attractions
- Lunches, dinners (allow some 120-140 USD p.p)
- Charges in the hotels for additional services
- Personal Travel Insurance
Day 1 – Tashkent
Arrive in Tashkent airport in the afternoon and be transferred by our driver to the hotel. Depending on the time of your arrival you may go out for a dinner or relax in the hotel.
Day 2 - Tashkent
The tour starts in the morning in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, which has been on this site for more than 2000 years. The city was completely rebuilt by Soviet government with spacious avenues, large parks and ever-present fountains after being flattened by the devastating earthquake of 1966.
Today we spend whole day exploring the sights of charming Tashkent on a city tour. Start the tour by visiting Independence Square, Amir Timur Square and History Museum of the People of Uzbekistan. Continue sightseeing program and visit Khast Imam Complex, which contains the oldest known copy of the Koran dating from 655. From Khast Imam visit the nearby Chorsu Bazaar – the largest and oldest markets in Central Asia. Wandering through this huge bustling market is a great way to see local people going about their daily lives; you will also meet many friendly local vendors willing to talk to you. The 16th century Kukaldosh Medressa – Tashkent’s most renowned Islamic learning centre and 15th century Juma Mosque are also both located at a short walk away from Chorzu Bazaar.
If the time permits, we can still visit the Fine Arts Museum of Uzbekistan and the Museum of Applied Arts.
An early flight takes us from Tashkent to Urgench (1:40 min) from where will be driven to fabled city of Khiva (30 min). Arrive in Khiva and check in at your hotel.
Archaeological findings testify that in the territory of present Khiva people have been living for two millennia. According to legend, the city of Khiva came into being after people discovered Kheivak well in the area of present Ichon-Qala (inner city) fortress. The name of Khiva is believed to be derived from the name of this ancient well. Being strategically located on the Volga branch of the Silk Road, Khiva was one of the three important trading centres of the area. In the 19th century, Khiva was a capital of Khiva Khanate, which hosted the most famous slave market on the Silk Road. At the present Khiva is one of the best preserved ancient cities in the region.
Start exploring UNESCO World Heritage site Ichon-Qala. Entering though the gates of walled Ichon-Qala fortress you will find yourself surrounded by beautiful medieval blue-tiled mosques, minarets and medressas that is like stepping back in time to a scene from the Arabian nights. Wander through maze of twisted alleyways, bargain with locals on the market and view the town from the top of Kuhna-Ark citadel. Our today’s sightseeing tour includes visits to Mohammed Aminkhan Medressa, Kalta Minor minaret, Kuhna-Ark citadel, Juma Mosque, Tosh-Hovli palace, Pahlavon Makhmud Mausoleum (Khiva’s patron saint), Mohammed Rakhimkhon Medressa and minaret of Islom-Hoja
After extensive sightseeing, enjoy a free afternoon roaming around and make your own discoveries in this magic town.
Day 4- Around Khiva
After breakfast, full day excursion to the ancient fortresses in neighbourding Karakalpakstan.
Already 2000 years ago, people who lived in the fertile Amu-Darya delta built many fortresses to defend themselves against the invasions of nomadic tribes, who lived with their herds in the Kyzylkum desert. Most of the fortresses are located at the edge of the Sultan Uiz Dag mountain range. From Khiva you will travel 100km passing the towns of Urgench, Beruni and Boston to reach Toprak-Qal’a. This rectangular fortress dates back to the 2nd and 3rd century AD and was built on a 9m high platform. The city included a temple, a residential area and gardens.
You will pass the nearby Kizil Qal’a, a small but well preserved fortresses that might have been an army base.Ayaz Qal’a is one of the most spectacular fortresses of the region. It consists of three fortress complexes. The view from Ayaz Qal’a to the Kyzylkum desert, the small lake Ayaz, the Sultan-Uiz range and the oasis is stunning.
Lunch at Ayaz Qal’a yurt camp, famous for its traditional dishes. On the way back, we will pass the huge city walls of Guldursun Qal’a (12th century) and learn about the fascinating legend related this fortress.
Following in the traces of ancient caravans, today we have a long drive to fabulous city of Bukhara (6 hours /480 km) though the Kyzyl-Kum, the largest desert in Central Asia. The Kyzyl-Kum desert is populated by nomadic people and driving through this lifeless desert you will see odd shepherd’s huts and a heard of camels. The road to Bukhara runs alongside the Amu Darya River (Oxus River) which starts far from snow-capped Pamir Mountains. We will try to break up this long journey as much as possible with stops along the way.
Arrive in Bukhara and enjoy free afternoon wandering through busy trading domes full of embroideries, handicrafts, jewelleries and various spices. You may also have a tea relaxing on the tapchans (tea beds) under centuries old mulberry trees in the local chaikhana at the delightful Lyabi-Hauz pool.
Day 6 - Bukhara
With more than one hundred unique monuments, Bukhara is regarded as ‘Bastion of Islam’ and the holiest city in Central Asia. We spread our sightseeing program in Bukhara over two days as the city and the surrounding area offer a lot to see. On the first day, we enjoy full day sightseeing tour in the city and on the second day, half-day sightseeing around the city with the free afternoon for own exploration.
Start your tour by visiting Laybi Hauz, 9th century mosque Maghoki-Attar, and Nadir Divanbegi Medressa. Passing medieval trading domes visit Abdul Aziz Khan and Ulugbek Medressas and continue to Kalon Ensemble consisting of Kalon Minaret and Kalon Mosque. 47 meters tall Kalon minaret was built by Bukhara’s ruler Arslan Khan in 1127. The minaret is also called “Tower of Death”, because from the top of it prisoners were once flung to their death on market days. Opposite the Kalon Mosque, there is 16th century Mir-i-Arab Medressa, which is still in operation.
Proceed further west from Kalon Ensemble and visit royal Ark fortress dating back to 5th century AD; this fortress was ancient centre of Bukhara and the scene of many gruesome events. Inside the Ark, view Juma Mosque, Reception & Coronation Court, Zindon (‘Bug Pit’ prison) and emir’s official place of worship Bolo-Hauz Mosque. Leave Ark fortress and continue through Registan Square towards Samani Park to visit 10th century Ismail Samani and Chashma Ayub mausoleums.
This evening is free to explore the nightlife in Bukhara.
Day 7- Around Bukhara
Start second day of your tour with the visit to Sitorai Mohi Hosa – the summer palace of the last emir. Emir Alim Khan involved both Russian and local masters to build this summer residence so you will see the unique combination of Russian and local design. The halls of the palace are opulently decorated with paintings and carpets. Leave Sitorai Mohi Hosa and continue to the village of Kasri Orifon. Stop en route at Chor-Bakr necropolis. Arrive in Qasri Orifon village and visit Bakhautdin Naqshband complex. Bakhautdin Naqshband (1318–89) is the founder of one of the most influential Sufi orders in Central Asia. The complex containing couple of mosques, the minaret and the mausoleum of Bakhautdin Naqshband is one of the countries famous places of pilgrimage.
Return to Bukhara. Today’s afternoon has been left completely free for you to spend more time exploring the city at your leisure. There is plenty of time to explore the artisan shops, wander the narrow twisting streets and alleyways. There is also an option to take in a local puppet show held in an old caravanserai or indulge in a medieval Hammam (steam bath).
Day 8- Bukhara- Nurata -Yurt Camp
Today we leave Bukhara and drive to the east towards the city of Nurata. On the way to Nurata, we stop at a small town of Gijduvan situated in 46 km northeast from Bukhara. Being located along the caravan roads, Gijduvan has been important trading and crafts centre. The town is especially famous for its high quality traditional ceramics. We will visit the workshop of Narzullayev’s family. The owner will proudly explain the process of ceramics producing and will guide us through his ceramics museum. The workshop has huge array of traditional souvenirs on offer and they can be purchased from first hand. We leave Gijduvan and continue to Nurata city (160km).
There are many legends related to the origin of the city and its name. People refer the origin of the city to the fortress ‘Nur’, founded there in the 3rd century BC by Alexander the Great. However, according to archaeological excavations the cultural layer in this area reaches the age of 40 thousand years. Supposedly, the main reason to choose this place as a settlement was holly ‘Chashma’ (spring). Arrive in Nurata and before starting the sightseeing tour we will have a lunch in the traditional house. After lunch, start sightseeing in Nurata. Visit the 9th century mausoleum, mosque and the remains of the Alexander the Great’s fortress. Leave Nurata and Continue to the Yurt camp (65 km / 1 hour).
Today we will stay overnight in Yurts (traditional nomadic felt tents) in the desert Yurt camp. The yurts in the camp are typical of those used in ancient times by the nomadic people of Central Asia. Facilities in the camp include washing and toilet facilities separate to the yurts. Arrive and settle in the Yurt camp. In the late afternoon, ride on the camel or just walk around the dunes where you might be lucky to spot steppe tortoises, hares and desert agamas depending on the season. From the Yurt Camp you may also take a short walk to explore the nearby Kazakh village of Dungalak surrounded by dunes or simply have a rest on the benches in the camp admiring the stunning wives of desert sunset.
Dinner and overnight stay in the Yurt camp.
Day 9 – Yurt Camp - Lake Aydarkul – Nuratau Mountains
Our todays drive will take us via the Lake Aydarkul to an authentic village in the Nuratau Mountains. The Nuratau Mountain range is located north of Samarkand and south of Lake Aydarkul stretching across approximately 180 km. Hayotboshi, the highest peak of the mountain range is 2169 m above sea level. Nuratau Mountains are the last refuge of the highly endangered Severtzov’s wild sheep (Ovis Ammon Severtzovi). In order to protect this endangered wild sheep, the Nuratau Nature Reserve was created in the mid 1970s.
During your stay in the Nuratau Mountains, along with the stunning mountain landscape, you also enjoy the overwhelming hospitality of the local mountain farmers. We will stay in a rustic mountain homestay and get to know the daily livelihood and land use activities of the mountain dwellers.
Arrive and settle in the homestay in Hayat village. Your host welcomes you and shows the homestay facilities. You will be sleeping in the traditional rooms (4 people in one room, usually divided by gender) on the floor on the thick kurpacha matrasses. The homestay has an ablution block consisting of a flush toilets and a shower separate to the house. Like all other houses in the village, the homestay also has a large shady garden with the river passing through where you can relax on a tapchans (comfortable tea beds) under the walnut tree. After having lunch with the family, wander through the village to see the local mosque, school, and the village shop. Wandering through the village is also a fantastic way to meet friendly local people and see the villagers doing their traditional livelihood activities.
In the afternoon, you may watch or help the family to prepare the traditional dish ‘Plov’ from home- grown vegetables and mountain spices.
Dinner and overnight stay in the homestay.
Day 10 - Nuratau Mountains
After breakfast, start guided walking tour to the Nature Reserve. Visit the breading enclosure of endangered wild “Severtzov’s sheep. About 95% of the world’s population of this wild sheep live in the Nuratau Mountains. In the 1950th, many local people from Hayat and other mountain villages were forcible resettled by Soviet government to cultivate cotton fields. Walking up through the valley you will see the ruins of many abandoned houses. On the way back to the homestay we will visit the local self-help elementary school.
After lunch you can spend your time relaxing in the homestay.
Dinner and overnight stay in the homestay.
Day 11- Nuratau Mountains -Samarkand
Early risers can either watch the sunrise from the top of the hill behind the house or watch the host family doing their morning chores (bread baking in a tandir oven, cow milking, cooking on a traditional stove).
After breakfast, we leave Nuratau Mountains and drive to magnificent city of Samarkand.
One of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, Samarkand is truly a jewel of the ancient and modern Silk Road. From its foundation in 5th century BC, Samarkand was the centre of artisans and traders playing an important role on the trade crossroads between China, Persia and India. The city was taken by Alexander the Great (in 329 BC) and ruined by Genghis Khan before it started to blossom as the capital of Amir Timur’s (Tamerlane) empire in 14th century.
In the afternoon, we start our sightseeing tour from Registan Ensemble containing Ulugbek, Sher Dor ,Tilla-Kari Medressas and the Registan Square. Being among the world’s oldest surviving medressas, these three edifices were medieval academies from where regions renowned scientists graduated. Wander through blue tiled and majolica decorated madrassas of mighty Registan, probably Central Asia’s most captivating monument. Leave the Registan to pay a visit to Gur Amir Mausoleum, originally built by Timur for his grandson and later became the resting place for himself and sons. Besides Timur and his sons, the place is final resting place for Timur’s teachers as well.
The evening is free for you to roam around and explore the nightlife of this majestic city, you may also sample a traditional meal in the local chaikhana.
Day 12 - Samarkand
Today we continue our city tour in legendary Samarkand visiting Bibi-Khanym Mosque, Siob Bazaar, Sha-i-Zinda necropolis, Afrosiab Museum and Ulugbek’s Observatory.
Start the sightseeing from Bibi-Khanym Mosque. The legend says that it was Bibi-Kahanym, Timur’s beloved wife who ordered to build this grand mosque with its huge cupola to surprise Timur, who was at that time away in war fields. The mosques was biggest in the empire and originally aimed to accommodate over 10 000 people but as result of earthquakes it partly collapsed and later was reconstructed. Bibi-Kahanym mosque overlooks the busy Siob Bazaar where you can test your bargaining skills with the friendly local merchants and sample some fresh produce on offer. The place is also great for taking the photos of many bustling stalls and meeting hospitable local people.
On the opposite site of Siyob Bazar you will see Shah-i-Zinda necropolis, row of beautiful mausoleums lavishly decorated with blue tiles and majolica, The area is also known as ‘Town of the Dead’. The most important site in Sah-i-Zinda is the shrine of Qusam ibn-Abbas, the cousin of Prophet Mohammed who was first to preach Islam in this area. Leave Shah-i-Zinda and continue to Ulugbek’s observatory with en route stop in Afrosiab Museum. Timur’s grandson Ulugbek was more famous as astronomer than as a ruler. This great medieval astronomer built an extraordinary observatory that enabled him to calculate the length of a year to within 1 minute of what we now know it to be. Complete the city tour with the visit to Ulugbek’s observatory.
There will be still time in the afternoon to enjoy just a little more time in Samarkand. You may visit souvenir and handicraft stalls located in Registan or walk on your own to enjoy your last day in the city.
Your Uzbekistan trip is almost over, after breakfast, we leave Samarkand and drive five hours get to Tashkent. Enjoy free afternoon in Tashkent.
Day 14 – Tashkent
After breakfast, transfer to Tashkent Airport.
I would like to let you know that my family and I greatly enjoyed our travels in Uzbekistan – many thanks to you, Sulaymon and all your team for making our trip so memorable. I should make special mention of Sulaymon’s help when we needed to arrange an x-ray in Nurata, and it was great to have him as part of the journey.
The itinerary you proposed worked very well – three days in Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand allowed enough time to explore each town at our leisure as well as doing guided tours. Having a break between Bukhara and Samarkand at the yurt camp and homestay also worked well, and the homestay was a particular highlight of the trip for us.
The only suggestion I would make about the trip is whether the final Samarkand-Tashkent journey could be done by train – that would have made a change from another long car journey.
One final question I would like to ask is whether you have a recipe for plov that you could send to me? We had plov in Khiva, Samarkand and Tashkent, with our favourite being at a restaurant in Samarkand near to Ulug Bek’s observatory.
We have told many people about what a wonderful destination Uzbekistan is, and I would encourage anyone to use your company in arranging their travel.
Здравствуйте Шерзод, мы вчера благополучно вернулись домой. Все прошло очень хорошо, спасибо за организацию. Водители были надежные и компетентные, Хусейн очень заботился о нас. Гиды на месте тоже были хорошие. В гостинице в Бухаре были проблемы с кондиционером и комната на троих была маловата, в Ташкенте гостинца Узбекистан, наверное, была бы лучшим выбором и по расположению. В Хиве и Самарканде гостиницы нам понравились. Пребывание в горах было интересно, в том числе поход по долине, двух дней, как и было предусмотрено, было достаточно. Мы всем остались довольны. Спасибо ещё раз за хорошую подготовку и организацию. С уважением. Татьяна
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