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Premium Small-Group Coach Touring

Secrets of the Silk Road

SECRETS OF THE SILK ROAD TOUR
FULL DAY-BY-DAY ITINERARY

Day 1 - Fri 27 August
Arrival Tashkent (2 nights)
On arrival at Islam Karimov, Tashkent's International Airport you'll be met by our representative and privately transferred to our hotel centrally situated in the new part of the capital of Uzbekistan.
Accommodation: Hyatt Regency (or similar)
Day 2 - Sat 28 August
Tashkent - Sightseeing
Tashkent is the biggest city in Central Asia and it's known the world over as a city of friendship. After a leisurely breakfast we'll commence our full day tour in the old part of the city including the Khast Imam Architectural Complex, the mediaeval Kukeldash Madrassah and Tashkent's most well-known market, the impressive Chorsu Bazaar. We'll enjoy an included lunch before visiting the city's new area where we'll explore the Independence Square, the Amir Timur Square, the Museum of Applied Arts of Uzbekistan and the Alisher Navoi Theatre, the home of Uzbekistan's National Opera and Ballet. Tonight's dinner is in a local restaurant. (BLD)
Day 3 - Sun 29 August
Tashkent - Samarkand (3 nights)
We start the day with an early breakfast before we're transferred to Tashkent's Main Railway Station to board our Afrosiab (a high-speed fast train) for our journey to Samarkand. We'll depart at 08:00 and the 344 kilometre trip, in business class seats, will take about 130 minutes. On arrival in Samarkand we'll check into our hotel and the afternoon and evening is ours to do with as we wish. (B)
Accommodation: Grand Samarkand Superior (or similar)
Day 4 - Mon 30 August
Samarkand - Sightseeing
Samarkand is close to the birthplace of the legendary conqueror Amir Timur (also known as Tamerlane) and it boasts the biggest Mausoleums, Madrassahs and Mosques in Central Asia. This morning's agenda takes in the Gur Emir, the Mausoleum where Amir Timur and all his family are buried and the Bibi-Khanam Mosque, which, built by the eldest wife of Tamerlane as a gift to her husband, was the biggest Mosque ever built in Central Asia. Our next stop is in Registan Square with its world famous complex of three Madrassahs and the Golden Dome Mosque. Close by is the Siyob Bazaar, a unique place where we can get acquainted with the life of the Samarkand people and spend some time for lunch. This afternoon our first visit is to the Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis, a holy site and cemetery established over 1000 years ago. It has been expanded over the centuries and now houses the remains of a great number of people, both famous and unknown, including the graves of members of the Timur dynasty and the grave of Kusam ibn Abbas, purported to be a cousin of the Prophet Muhamed. Our sightseeing day finishes with a visit to the Ulegh Beg Observatory, an incredible structure built in the 15th century for studying astronomy, and then we'll return to Registan Square where there'll be free time to browse in the bazaar before returning to our hotel for dinner. (BD)
Day 5 - Tue 31 August
Samarkand - Excursion to Penjikent (Tajikistan)
After breakfast we'll leave our hotel at 08:00 and a 60 minute drive will bring us to the Uzbekistan-Tajikistan border at Jartepa. Here we'll complete Passport & Customs control on both sides, cross the border (a walk of around 100 metres), then meet our local Tajik guide and take a 40 minute drive to Penjikent, 30 kilometres east of the crossing. In Penjikent we'll first visit the Rudaki Museum, a museum of local history featuring frescoes from the ancient city of Penjikent. Afterwards we'll visit the Central Bazaar followed by lunch at a local restaurant. Penjikent was a major Sogdian city dating back to the 5th century but was destroyed by Arab conquerors in the 8th century. After lunch and a short drive we'll visit these ancient ruins before a late afternoon arrival back at the Jartepa border crossing. We'll complete Passport and Customs formalities then, later in the evening; we'll be back at our hotel in Samarkand in time for dinner. (BLD)
Day 6 - Wed 01 September
Samarkand - Bukhara (3 nights)
The ceramics of Gijduvan are internationally famous thanks to Abdulla Narzullaev, Master of Ceramics of Gijguvan. En route to Bukhara we'll visit the Narzullaev family's house-museum-workshop to see how this beautiful pottery is created. Photo opportunities abound as we travel the 278 kilometres from Samarkand to Bukhara so we'll stop for views of cotton fields, a cotton factory and at the ruins of the ancient Caravanserai Rabati Malik, a 'motel' for traders built along the Great Silk Road. On arrival in the fairy-tale city of Bukhara, an oasis that the Silk Road merchants never missed, we'll have time to relax before dinner in our hotel. (BD)
Accommodation: Asia Bukhara (or similar)
Day 7- Thu 02 September
Bukhara - Sightseeing
Bukhara is unlike any other city in Uzbekistan and today its architectural wonders beckon to us! Along with our local guide we spend the whole day amongst them. There's so much to see! Our first stop this morning is in Samani Park where we'll visit the Samanid Mausoleum, the oldest preserved building of Central Asia. It was completed in 905 for Ismail Samani (the founder of the Samanid dynasty), and contains his grave along with the graves of his father and grandson. Next we'll visit the Chashma-Ayub (Well of Job) Mausoleum where, legend has it; Job struck the rock with his staff and created a spring of pure water with healing powers. Old Bukhara is a fascinating area of the city and here we'll visit the Poi Kalon, an ensemble of striking buildings including the Kalon Minaret (built in 1227 and over 46 metres high), the Emir Alim Khan Madrassah, the Kalon Mosque (started in the 12th century, finished in the 16th century and boasts 288 domes) and the Mir-i-Arab Madrassah. This Madrassah is still a fully functioning Madrassah today, and in the Soviet era was the only one allowed to maintain teaching and was therefore the Islamic centre of the Soviet Union. Well browse through the Taqi (Trading Domes) before enjoying an included lunch in a local restaurant and then resume our tour by visiting the Kukeldash Madrassah and the Lyab-i-Hauz ensemble to admire the reflection of the blue domes of its Mosque in its adjacent pond. We'll see the Madrassah of Nadir Divanbegi which is special because its mosaics depict animals instead of the much more common geometrical shapes. While in this area we'll also see the Madrassahs of Magok-i-Attari, Ulugbek and Abdulaziz Khan. Our afternoon exploration concludes with a visit to the Registan ensemble and one of the city's oldest structures, the Ark, a massive white Citadel which has protected the entrance to Old Bukhara for nearly 15 centuries and now houses several museums, a mosque and old stables. Close by is the Bolo-Hauz Mosque with its towering intricately carved wooden pillars... definitely worth a visit before we relax and enjoy a Folklore Show which also features the National Costumes of Uzbekistan. Tonight's dinner is a special occasion when we're invited to a local house to learn about preparing and cooking 'plov' (a dish of lamb and rice) which then becomes the main course for our evening meal! (BLD)
Day 8 - Fri 03 September
Bukhara - At Leisure
Today we have the whole day to do as we wish. We can use our new-found knowledge of this cosmopolitan city to further explore it, re-visit sites from the previous day, shop in the Bazaar or relax pool-side in our hotel. The choice is ours. (B)
Day 9 - Sat 04 September
Bukhara - Turkmenabat - Mary (1 night)
The border crossing between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan is at Farap, a 75 minute drive from Bukhara. We'll arrive at approximately 09:00 and after completing Passport and Customs formalities (a process of up to 3hrs) we'll meet our Turkmen Guide and coach. We'll continue to our included lunch stop at a local restaurant in the city of Turkmenabat, Turkmenistan's second largest city located at the hub of an intersection between 3 roads of the Great Silk Road, leading to Bukhara, Khiva and Merv. After lunch our afternoon drive includes photo-stops for camels and sand dunes before arriving in the city of Mary late afternoon with time to freshen up before dinner in a local restaurant. (BLD)
Accommodation: Hotel Mary (or similar)
Day 10 - Sun 05 September
Mary - Merv - Ashgabat (3 nights)
A short drive this morning brings us to the UNESCO site known as the State Historical and Cultural Park, or - 'Ancient Merv' where we'll find the oldest and most completely preserved oasis cities built along the Silk Roads in Central Asia. This huge archaeological site contains the remains of population centres spanning 4000 years, from the Bronze Age (2500-1200 BC) and Iron Age (1200-300 BC) to the 15th and 16th centuries AD. While here we'll visit the Gyz Gala & Oglan Gala, the Complex of Askhabs, the Gawur Gala & Erk Gala, the Mausoleum of Soltan Sanjar and the Mausoleum of Muhammed Ibn Zeyd before we return to Mary and our included lunch in a local restaurant. This afternoon we'll explore Mary by first visiting the United Museum of Mary and the Orthodox Church, followed by a short walking tour where many photo opportunities arise when we pass the main Mosque of Mary, the Central Library of Mary, the Kemine Theatre and the Ruhiyet Palace Convention Centre. Early this evening we'll join a 40 minute flight taking us to Ashgabat, the capital and largest city of Turkmenistan. On arrival later this evening we'll first enjoy an included dinner in a local restaurant before checking into our hotel located in the foothills of the Kopetdag Mountains, just a few minutes' drive from the centre of Ashgabat. (BLD)
Accommodation: Hotel Yyldyz (or similar)
Day 11 - Mon 06 September
Ashgabat - Sightseeing
Ashgabat was completely destroyed by a major earthquake in 1948 and was then rebuilt in the Soviet style of the era. After independence from the Soviets in 1991 a major re-construction took place, the result of which is a brand new city with a jumble of lavish golden-domed palaces, Bellagio fountains, neon-lit monuments and Stalinist ministries of state, 80% of which are constructed of white marble! We'll spend a full day sightseeing in and around the city including a morning visit to the Memorial Complex which is home to Monuments dedicated to the victims of the Earthquake, victims of Patriotic Wars and victims of World War II. An inside visit to the Turkmenbashy Ruhy Mosque (the largest Mosque in Central Asia) and the UNESCO site of Old Nissa is also on the agenda before we take time for lunch. This afternoon we'll pursue more photo opportunities when we stop by the Monument of Independence, the Arch of Neutrality, the Monument of Constitution & Unity and the Alem Culture & Entertainment Centre which houses the worlds largest indoor Ferris wheel. (B)
Day 12 - Tue 07 September
Ashgabat - At Leisure
Today we can follow our instincts and fill in the day in any way we choose. Relax and enjoy the facilities of the hotel or venture into the bazaars and shopping malls... it's up to us... (B)





Day 13 - Wed 08 September
Ashgabat - Koneurgench - Dashoguz - Khiva (2 nights)
This morning we'll rise before the sparrows as we have a very early flight from Ashgabat to Dashoguz. After a 50 minute flight and an early morning arrival at Dashoguz Airport we'll drive to the city of Koneurgench, the ancient capital of Khorezm, and the UNESCO site of the Koneurgench State Historical and Architectural Reserve. Here we'll visit the ancient Mausoleums of Turabek Khanum, Soltan Tekesh and Il-Arslan along with the Kutlug Timor Minaret before driving back to Dashoguz and our included lunch at a local restaurant. This afternoon we'll cross back into Uzbekistan via the border crossing situated about 20 minutes south-east of Dashoguz. After completing Passport and Customs formalities on both sides a further short drive will see us in the city of Khiva where we'll have time to relax and freshen up before partaking of an included dinner at a local restaurant. (BLD)
Accommodation: Hotel Asia Khiva (or similar)
Day 14 - Thu 09 September
Khiva - Sightseeing
Khiva is an open-air museum and since 1969 its walled inner town, Ichan Kala - the oldest part of the city - has been protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. This morning's sightseeing in Ichan Kala will include the Kunya Ark (Old Fortress), the Pakhlavan Mahmud Architectural Complex, the Islam-Khodja Complex (with its 56.6 metres tall Minaret), the Tash-Khauli Palace and Harem, the Juma Mosque and the Muhammad Amin-khan Madrassah, among its 60 or so historical sites. Lunch today is rather special when we join a local Uzbek family in their home to get acquainted with their customs and to taste their national specialties. After lunch our sightseeing continues when we view the Kalta-Minor Minaret, the Kheivak Well, the Allakuli-Khan Madrassah and the Allakuli-Khan Caranvanserai. There's time to relax in the late afternoon before we venture out to find our own interesting eateries for our evening meal. (BL)
Day 15 - Fri 10 September
Khiva - Tashkent (1 night)
This evening we fly from Urgench Airport to Tashkent so we have the whole day in Khiva for us to do as we wish. Opportunities abound to complete further sightseeing, shop in the TIM Allakuli-Khan or relax in our hotel. We'll be collected from our hotel in the late afternoon for our 50 minute drive to the airport. The 90 minute domestic flight arrives in Tashkent in the late evening and on arrival we'll be transferred to our hotel. (B)
Accommodation: Hyatt Regency (or similar)
Day 16 - Sat 11 September
Tashkent - Almaty (4 nights)
After a leisurely breakfast, we have free time to take a last look around Tashkent. Perhaps a museum or bazaar, or maybe a relaxing dip in the hotel pool, before transferring to the airport for our 2:20pm flight to Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, and former capital under Soviet rule. It was then called Alma Ata - 'city of apple trees'. After our late afternoon arrival, there's free time before enjoying an included dinner in our hotel. (BD)
Accommodation: Hotel Rixos Almaty (or similar)
Day 17 - Sun 12 September
Almaty - Sightseeing
This morning we begin with our city tour of Almaty, which is set in the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau Mountains, and has a population of 1.4 million. Although Astana became the capital in 1997, and was renamed Nur Sultan in March 2019, Almaty remains the commercial and cultural centre. We'll see the Presidential Palace & Park, Republic Square, Monument of Independence, Abai Square and Palace of the Republic. We also visit the Historic Museum before our included lunch at a local restaurant. We then visit Panfilov Park, with its Great Patriotic War Memorial, as well as Zenkov's Orthodox Cathedral, made entirely from timber, and which claims to be the second tallest wooden building in the world. Tonight we enjoy dinner in a local restaurant. (BLD)
Day 18 - Mon 13 September
Almaty - Issyk Gorge Excursion
Today's excursion will reveal the peaks, valleys and lakes of the Trans- Illi Alatau Mountains. Before departing Almaty, a visit to the State Historical Museum will explain the history and culture of the Saka period, and of the 1969 discovery of a 3rd and 4th century BC burial mound containing the skeleton of 'the Golden Man'. Many artifacts, ceramics, and weapons of the period were recovered, and are also on display. We'll also see a model of a Saka burial mound. From there, our 2 hour drive climbs 1756 metres above sea level to the beautiful turquoise Lake Issyk, where we have time to soak up the majestic views, whilst enjoying our especially prepared picnic lunch. After taking time to breathe in the mountain air, and take a stroll along the lake shore, we return to Almaty, where dinner tonight is again included at a local restaurant. (BLD)
Day 19 - Tue 14 September
Almaty - At Leisure (or an Optional Excursion to Charyn Canyon)
We're free to make our own plans today, with the opportunity to explore more of Almaty's, and indeed Kazakhstans, historical and cultural secrets. Perhaps a visit to the Green Bazaar, which specializes in a huge variety of foods, including spices, herbs, vegetables, nuts, fish, sweets and horsemeat? Maybe a look in at the Kazakh Museum of Folk Musical instruments or a cable car ride up Kok-Tobe hill, which provides a great view over the city? On the way, check out the cafes and restaurants for more local cuisine to help in the choice of a suitable eatery for lunch and dinner. (B)'

Optional Excursion to Charyn Canyon
The Almaty Region is famous for its spectacular scenery and the Charyn Canyon (200 kms from Almaty) is no exception. So, today we have an opportunity to join a private optional excursion to hike this unique Canyon with its myriad photo opportunities. The price is NZD90.00 per person for the full day and includes a guide, coach transport to and from the Canyon and a picnic lunch. The excursion will only operate with a minimum of 10 participants so please express your interest in joining at the time you make your tour booking.
Day 20 - Wed 15 September
Almaty - Bishkek (1 night)
This morning we leave Almaty and follow mountain foothills to Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, about 4 hours and 230 kilometres away, and settled just north of the nearby Tian Shan - Heavenly Mountains - range. The border crossing to Kyrgyzstan takes about an hour, assisted by our local guide. We will arrive in time for lunch in a local café before beginning our city tour. Sights include a visit to the Manas Monument, a tribute to the national hero of the Kyrgyz people in the vast Ala-Too Square, and an excursion to the Soviet era Frunze Museum. We wander around Ala-Too Square to see the changing of the Guard of Honour, Independence Monument, and various Government buildings and fountains, followed by the Old Square to see Parliament Buildings, and the only surviving Lenin Monument in Central Asia. We finish with a visit to Victory Square, built in 1984 to commemorate the victory over Nazi Germany 40 years earlier. After checking into our hotel, there is time to relax before this evening's included dinner. (BLD)
Accommodation: Hotel Orion (or similar)
Day 21 - Thu 16 September
Bishkek - Tokmok - Issyk Kul Lake (1 night)
After breakfast, today's journey takes us through amazing scenery into the mountains, to 'the Pearl of Central Asia', and the world's second largest saline lake, Issyk Kul. After 75 kilometres we visit the 11th century Burana Tower, a minaret which is among the few remnants left of the ancient city of Balasagun, one of the capitals of the Kharakhanid State, and an important trading point on the Great Silk Road. After exploring these city ruins, and visiting a small museum dedicated to the Kyrgyz civilization, we have lunch in nearby Tokmok, at the unlikely named Hawaii Café! We then continue to the remote Issyk Kul Lake, which means 'Warm Lake' in the Kyrgyz language, although that mainly refers to the fact that it doesn't freeze over in the sub-zero winters. There's plenty of time to take a walk and absorb the scenic Tian Shan mountain views, or maybe a refreshing lake swim, before dining in our lakeside hotel. (BLD)
Accommodation: Hotel Karven (or similar)
Day 22 - Fri 17 September
Issyk Kul Lake - Bishkek (2 nights)
After breakfast this morning, we check out and transfer to a local boat for a cruise on picturesque Issyk Kul Lake, which, although second only to the Caspian Sea in size for saltwater lakes, is just a fraction of its size, and far less saline. No river outlet exists, although subterranean leakage is suspected. Take in the stunning mountain scenery, and look for signs of deer, various migratory ducks, and maybe a lynx? Local farmers may be seen herding their horses, as they have done for centuries. After lunch in a local café, we begin our return to Bishkek, stopping to visit the open air Petroglyphs Museum below the Kungey Alatoo Mountains, which dates to the Sak-Usun period, as far back as 800 BC. We'll return to Bishkek in time to choose a local restaurant for our evening meal. (BL)
Accommodation: Hotel Orion (or similar)
Day 23 - Sat 18 September
Bishkek - Excursion to Ala Archa National Park
On our last full day of this amazing journey, we again venture into nearby mountains, and drive 40kms to Ala Archa National Park, popular for alpine sports, hiking, and picnics. The 200 square kilometre park contains some 50 mountain peaks, ranging from 1500 metres at the park entrance, to 4895 metres at the highest peak, as well as more than 20 glaciers, plus forests, river gorges, waterfalls and springs. Enjoy your picnic lunch here amidst this scenery, and look for the local fauna, which includes roe deer, wild goats, marmot, trout, and snow leopards. No wonder this is a favourite tourist destination in Kyrgyzstan, for foreigners and locals alike! Tonight we mark the end of our Silk Road tour in style, with a farewell dinner in a local restaurant, including a Kyrgyz Folklore Show! (BLD)
Day 24 - Sun 19 September
Departure Bishkek/Flight to Tashkent
All good things must come to an end and after 23 wonderful days, it's time to bid farewell to this amazing journey. Our tour ends after breakfast with private transfers to Bishkek International Airport for our flight to Tashkent to connect with onward journeys. Guests who remain in Tashkent and stay at the EuroVista hotel will receive a complimentary transfer to Tashkent Airport on the day of their departure. (B)

Note: The above itinerary is subject to change necessitated by any change in Community regulations as well as changes by Government and/or local operators and natural circumstances beyond our control.