On arrival in Tashkent, you will be met by our representative who will transfer you to your centrally located hotel. Tashkent is a modern city of three million people and is the arts centre of the region. Museums and the opera house are perhaps its best known attractions. It has a relaxed pace and charming street side cafes. Trams amble beside green parks and the wide tree-lined roads give a sense of space. We will have an important tour briefing later today, so please check with reception for the time and location
Tashkent is a modern city of three million people and is the arts centre of the region. Museums and the opera house are perhaps its best known attractions. It has a relaxed pace and charming street side cafes. Trams amble beside green parks and the wide tree-lined roads give a sense of space. In the morning we'll visit the Tashkent underground, where each station displays a specific architectural and artistic decoration. In the afternoon we follow the Silk Road past old caravanserai to the ancient city of Samarkand. Over the centuries this road has been travelled by Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane as they travelled the route to extend their knowledge and influence. Overnight: Samarkand
Samarkand is a wondrous city showcasing the legacies of the great ruler Tamerlane. Also referred to as Tamerlane; the most influential military leader of the middle ages. He set about making it the richest city on earth by pillaging and destroying all other cities and removing their wealth and skills to Samarkand. Covering the tomb where he lies in the city today is a large single slab of green jade, said to be the largest such stone in the world and symbolic of the extravagance of the ruler and the city he built as his capital. A visit to the tomb reveals an impressive piece of work, but his legacy, the Registan, the market place of ancient Samarkand, is his greatest achievement. It is enclosed by spectacular medressas (Islamic centres of learning) on three sides. These huge buildings with domes and minarets covered in a mosaic of azure tiles were built from the 1400s. The Registan is deserving of its title as one of the wonders of the ancient world. We will also visit the huge mosque, bazaar and observatory during our exploration in and around Samarkand.
Our Silk Road journey continues as we travel between Samarkand and Bukhara in our private vehicle, passing through the desert along the ancient trade route. The road trip takes about four hours which allows the afternoon to be free for exploring Bukhara or to relax at the hotel.
Bukhara boasts 2500 years of vibrant history. Capital of the Samanid state in the 9th and 10th Century's, Bukhara became the centre of an intellectual, religious and commercial renaissance of Central Asia until the city succumbed in 1220 to Genghis Khan and then to Tamerlane in 1370, after which Samarkand became the regions most important city. Bukhara had a second lease of life in the 16th century when it became the capital of what we now know as Bukhara Khanate during which time it had more than 300 mosques, 100 medrasses with over 10,000 students. In 1868 it became the protectorate of the Tsar and later became incorporated into the Russian and then Soviet Empires. Over two days we'll immerse ourselves in the tapestry of this city with its rich history, taking in sights such as The Ark, the former royal city and fortress that was the focus of the city for 2000 years, the Summer Palace of the last emir, mausoleums and mosques and of course the exotic bazaars and markets that make Bukhara famous amongst shoppers. It is in these enclaves where bold and intricate carpets, gold and an assortment of jewelry, tapestries, musical instruments, carved boxes, hats from provinces all over Central Asia provide endless interest.
The road journey from Bukhara to Mary takes around 8-9 hours, depending on the border crossing times. We will have to cross the actual border on foot and is without vehicle support so please ensure you are able to carry or wheel your luggage along the way. Once border formalities are complete, we will pass through the industrial city of Turkmenabat and continue on to Mary by private vehicle.
We commence the day with a short distance drive out of Mary to Merv, an ancient Silk Road staging post. Its origins date back more than 8000 years; the city was at its height during the 11th and 12th centuries when it was considered to be the second most important city in the Islamic world (after Baghdad), being the capital of the Seljuk Turks. Under their domination of the region stretching from Afghanistan to Egypt, the Seljuk's created a city full of treasures and palaces, irrigation channels and fertile gardens. The Mongols all but destroyed the city under the rule of Genghis Khan in the 13th century and it lay dormant for a century. Whilst parts of the city were resettled over the next few centuries it was not until the 18th century that the dam and some of the former riches were restored. Again, this did not last long, as the Emir of Bukhara opened the dam and his army reduced the city to rubble in 1795. The remains of the city are spread over an area of 100 square kilometres, and the site contains five walled cities from different periods. We spend a few hours exploring the remains of these cities before returning to Mary for our evening flight to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan's capital.
Today we visit the main city sights of Ashgabat including the Palace of Turkmenbashi, the National Museum which houses a rich collection of ancient artifacts from Turkmenistan, and the Archaeological site of Nissa including the remains of Old and New Nissa. The city was an important centre of the Parthian State, which existed from the 3rd century BC up to the 3rd century AD. As the archaeological research shows, the township of New Nissa was the centre of the Parthian City. It was inhabited up to the 16th - 17th centuries. Old Nissa was a royal residence of the Parthian kings with the palace and temple, the depositories and the treasury. During the archaeological excavations about 2700 texts inscribed with black paint on the clay vessels fragments were discovered. The written language used in Nissa was of the Aramaic origin, which dates back to the 2nd century BC. We also take in the sights of the Presidential Palace, Lenin Square, Ertogrul Ghazy, and Turkmenbashynyn Ruhy Metjidi which is largest mosque in Central Asia.
Today we transfer to the airport for the short flight to Dashoguz (Tashauz). From here we are accompanied by an English speaking driver who will brief you and assist with the border formalities. Once across the border you will be met by your guide for Khiva. The drive to Khiva is about 1 hour and upon arrival we check into our hotel. Subject to flight timings, the afternoon is free to explore this historical town.
The ancient walled city of Khiva is a stunning monument to the rich history of the region. Slave caravans, wild tribesmen and a harsh and unrelenting desert are all part of its tumultuous history. We spend the day exploring the mazes of mosques, tombs, alley ways, palaces and medressas. The following day will be at your leisure in this fascinating town.
Today we transfer to the airport for our flight back to Tashkent. Subject to flight timings we hope to have some free time this afternoon to explore Tashkent.
Today is departure day, there may be some free time before you need to transfer to the airport for your onward connection. If your onward travel is later in the day, remember that check out time is 12:00 noon. You can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.