Central Asia

Trace the ancient Silk Road in today's Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and come to understand the diversity of cultures as you visit important sites and meet with experts and local people.

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 Shah-i-Zinda Mausoleum, Samarkand  Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand  The Chor-Minor Madrassah in Bukhara  Domes of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand  Panorama of the ancient city of Khiva, Uzbekistan  Ruins of Nisa, Turkmenistan  Antique jars and carpets in a Samarkand shop  Kerchiefs and women’s wear, Turkmenistan  National Uzbek dish pilau with quails and eggs  Dry fruits in a bazaar in Tashkent  The Guri Amir Mausoleum in Samarkand  Mir-i Arab Madrasah, Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Central Asia is the exotic heart of the Silk Road. Here, ancient kingdoms were established around oases along lucrative caravan routes used for the silk and spice trade between East and West. While Samarkand and Bukhara have retained some of their former glory, others have slowly receded into the desert.

Join other adventurous travelers to trace the ancient Silk Road in today’s Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, and come to understand the diversity of cultures through meetings with experts and local people and exploring their ancient sites. In Tashkent enjoy an introduction to the arts at the Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts and dine in the home of a family of acclaimed ceramicists. Your journey continues with visits to outstanding World Heritage sites in Samarkand, Shakhrisabz, Bukhara, and Merv. In Samarkand you’ll observe artisans weave silk carpets, and in Bukhara, you’ll dine in the home of a respected preservationist and enjoy a private folklore performance under the stars in the courtyard of the Divan Begi Madrassa. Concluding in Ashgabat, tour the textile museum and visit a farm featuring the famous horse breed so critical to the region.

October 5 — 6, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Depart the U.S. on individual flights bound for Tashkent, traveling overnight and arriving in the evening of the next day. Upon arrival, transfer to our centrally located hotel. Tashkent Palace (Meals in flight)

October 7 — Tashkent
This morning, embark on a tour of Uzbekistan’s capital. Visit the Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts and view the antique suzani (silk embroidery) and other textiles of the museum. Then explore the Chorsu bazaar and the Kukeldash Madrasa and the Barak-Khan Madrasa, a 16th century Islamic seminary which housed the Sunni Mufti of Central Asia. Late this afternoon, take a ride on Tashkent’s subway, built by the Soviets to rival Moscow’s legendary underground. Enjoy a welcome dinner this evening at the home of the Rahimovs, a renowned family of ceramicists. (B,L,D)

October 8 — Tashkent, Samarkand
Depart early this morning for Samarkand. The fabeled Silk Road oasis has been settled since the 6th century B.C. Tamerlane (known in Uzbekistan as Timur the Great) made it his capital city in the 14th century and gathered the finest architects, builders, and artisans of the time to enhance its beauty. Upon arrival in the city, visit the Registan, a huge public square bordered by three magnificent madrasas. Registan Plaza Hotel (B,L,D)

October 9 — Samarkand
Begin your exploration of Samarkand with a visit to Gur-Amir, the tomb of Timur the Great. Then, walk through the old part of town to the massive Bibi Khanum Mosque, begun in 1399 by Timur in honor of his wife after his military campaign into India. Its sheer size pushed the limits of technology at the time, and it is said that Timur needed 90 elephants to haul the precious stones from India for its construction. Later, venture a little ways outside of the city to the necropolis of Shakh-i-Zinda for a private, expert-led tour, and then on to the observatory of Uleg Bek, Timur’s grandson who was one of the most sophisticated astronomers of the 15th century. (B,L)

October 10 — Samarkand, Shakhrisabz, Bukhara
Depart this morning for Bukhara, stopping at Shakhrisabz en route. The birthplace of Timur, Shakhrisabz reached its zenith in the 14th and 15th centuries and is now a World Heritage site. Visit the Ak-Sarai Palace and the Jehongir Mausoleum, the burial place of Timur’s son. Continue on to Bukhara, arriving in the early evening. Hotel Emir (B,L,D)

October 11 — Bukhara
Spend the day exploring Central Asia’s most ancient living city, whose historic center has been a World Heritage Site since 1993. Beijing at Lyabi-Hauz Plaza, in the heart of the old town, and continue by foot to the Kalyan Mosque and its imposing minaret. Explore the Ark Citadel, the original fortress of Bukhara, and visit the former home of a wealthy merchant to learn about Uzbek traditions. For dinner this evening, enjoy a performance by the Uzbek Folklore Ensemble under the stars in the courtyard of the Divan Begi Madrasa. (B,L,D)

October 12 — Bukhara
After breakfast, visit the Summer Palace of the last Emir of Bukhara. Returning to town, enjoy an unscheduled afternoon to explore the city on your own. Tonight, enjoy a special meal in the home of one of Bukhara’s most respected preservationists. (B,D)

October 13 — Bukhara, Khiva
The drive today follows the old Silk Road across long stretches of the Kyzyl Kum Desert, the same route once traversed by caravans of merchants carrying goods between Europe and the Far East. Arrive in Khiva this evening. Hotel Azia-Khiva (B,L,D)

October 14 — Khiva
Today explore the walled city of Khiva by foot, including visits to the Tash-Hauli Palace, built for the reigning khan and his four wives; the Dzhuma (Friday) Mosque with its dramatic forest of carved wooden pillars; the Kunya Ark, the original residence of the khans; and the ancient well of Khievak. (B,L,D)

October 15 — Khiva, Dashogus, Ashgabat
After breakfast, cross the border from Uzbekistan into Turkmenistan and head for the town Kunya Urgench, the ancient seat of Central Asian civilization. Among the ruins you will find the Turabeg Khanum Mausoleum, the Kutluk Timur Minaret, the tallest in Central Asia, and the Sultan Ali Mausoleum. In evening, take a flight to Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. Sofitel Oguzent Ashgabat (B,L)

October 16 — Ashgabat
Recently Ashgabat has seen a boom in new construction, initiated by the former President Saparmurat Niyazov and funded with oil and gas revenues. Today’s tour includes visits to the new mosque, the local bazaar, and the Museum of Carpets and Textiles. In the afternoon, visit a farm of Akhal-Teken horses. (B,L,D)

October 17 — Ashgabat, Merv, Ashgabat
Fly to ancient Merv for a full-day exploration of the ruins of its five ancient cities. The remains of Merv were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the wealth of ongoing information they provide about the evolution of urban centers. Meet with a local artist before returning to Ashgabat in the evening. (B,L)

October 18 — Nisa
This morning, visit the ancient ruined city of Nisa, the capital of the Parthian Empire, dating back to the 3rd century B.C. This evening, celebrate your journey to Central Asia with a festive farewell dinner. (B,L,D)

October 19 — Ashgabat, U.S.
Return to the U.S. (B, Meals in flight)