Explore the fabled Silk Road as you journey through Central Asia’s Five ’Stans: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

Starting at: $7,595 Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Bukhara Palace, Uzbekistan  The Shah i Zinda, Samarkand, Uzbekistan  The Sher Dor Madrassah, Registan Square Ensemble, Samarkand, Uzbekistan  Cupola of Bibi Khanum Mosque, Samarkand, Uzbekistan  Facade detail of the Sher Dor Madrassah, Samarkand, Uzbekistan  Dried fruit and spices at Siab Bazaar near Bibi-Khanum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan  Statue of Magtymguly, Independence Monument, Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan  The Mausoleum of Turkmenbashi, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan  Vendor selling traditional bread at Panjshanbe Bazaar, Khujand, Tajikistan  Zenkov Cathedral (detail), Almaty, Kazakhstan  Zenkov Cathedral, Almaty, Kazakhstan  Cupola of the Sher Dor Madrassah, Samarkand, Uzbekistan  Traditional falconer with hawk

The Silk Road: A Journey to Central Asia

Featuring the Five “Stans” of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan

16 days from $7,595

Explore the fabled Silk Road as you journey through Central Asia’s Five ’Stans: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

or Call 855-330-1542

Tour Details

TOUR BROCHURE

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WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY

A fascinating tour in a fascinating world. Don't miss it.

- Bechir R.

Our trip to the Silk Road cities of days of yore was a fascinating journey into the past. Ancient cities like Bukhara and Samarkand took on a modern cast after our fabulous Smithsonian trip there.

- Adrienne D.

Central Asia with Smithsonian Journeys was an eye-opening experience to a little-known part of the world. One of the most memorable trips I have ever taken.

- Janice S.

Our trip to the Five Stans with Smithsonian Journeys was extraordinary. Exploring the Silk Road fulfilled a lifelong dream—particularly Samarkand with some of the most magnificent Islamic architecture on the planet.

- Laura G.

JOURNEYS DISPATCHES

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Overview

Central Asia is the exotic heart of the Silk Road, ancient caravan routes used for the silk and spice trade between East and West. Experience the past and present of five Central Asian counties as you explore legendary cities, visit religious sites and museums, attend cultural programs, and meet local experts.

Highlights Include

  • Turkmenistan: Beginning in Ashgabat, visit the National Museum of History and Ethnography, plus tour the ancient site of nearby Nisa with an archaeologist.
  • Uzbekistan: Explore the legendary cities of Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand, and Tashkent, with their noble squares and breathtaking architecture. Highlights feature religious sites, including madrassahs and important mosques such as the 20th-century Tillya Sheikh Mosque, home to the oldest Koran in the world, and Bibi Khanum Mosque, built by Tamerlane to be the largest mosque in the world. You'll meet with the scientific advisor of the Ark Citadel, artists at a renowned ceramics observatories, drive across the Red Sands Desert, and enjoy performances of traditional music and dance.
  • Tajikistan: Visit Penjikent, an isolated city of 130,000 that was built in the 5th century and most famous for its past as an important Sogdian trade center. Visit the site of an archaeological dig at Old Penjikent, where excavations began over 50 years ago. Tour the remains of Shakristan, two Zoroastrian temples, the citadel, and Rudaki Museum of History and Regional Studies, named after the founder of Tajik and Persian poetry. 
  • Kyrgyzstan: In the capital of Bishkek, tour the central square, the National History Museum, and the State Museum of Fine Arts, and meet with a Kyrgyz resident who participated in the 2010 revolution. In a nearby village, enjoy lunch with a family in their home and watch a demonstration of Kyrgyz horse games. Later delight in a Kyrgyz Manas folk performance. 
  • Kazakhstan: Highlights in Almaty include the Zenkov Cathedral, the delightful Museum of Musical Instruments, and the State Central Museum. Outside the city, see the Small Almaty Gorge and visit a traditional Kazakh falcon farm. 

A fascinating tour in a fascinating world. Don't miss it.

- Bechir R.

Our trip to the Silk Road cities of days of yore was a fascinating journey into the past. Ancient cities like Bukhara and Samarkand took on a modern cast after our fabulous Smithsonian trip there.

- Adrienne D.

Central Asia with Smithsonian Journeys was an eye-opening experience to a little-known part of the world. One of the most memorable trips I have ever taken.

- Janice S.

Our trip to the Five Stans with Smithsonian Journeys was extraordinary. Exploring the Silk Road fulfilled a lifelong dream—particularly Samarkand with some of the most magnificent Islamic architecture on the planet.

- Laura G.

2019 Itinerary

Days 1 & 2 – Depart U.S. and Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Fly to Ashgabat, losing from 9 (East Coast) to 12 hours (West Coast). Arriving in Ashgabat late tonight, transfer to the centrally located hotel for check in and rest. (In flight)

Day 3 – Ashgabat

Spend the day exploring Ashgabat. Highlights of today’s tour include the National Museum of History and Ethnography, the Arch of Neutrality and an archeologist led visit to ancient Nisa. Gather this evening with fellow travelers for a welcome dinner to celebrate the beginning of the journey. (B,L,D)

Day 4 – Ashgabat, fly to Tashauz, drive to Khiva, Uzbekistan

This morning check out and transfer to the airport for a flight to Tashauz in the northern part of the country. On arrival, enjoy a short tour before driving across the border to the UNESCO-listed city of Khiva, Uzbekistan. Dinner is served at the hotel this evening. (B,L,D)

Day 5 – Khiva

Spend the day exploring Khiva on foot. Highlights include the Tash Hauli Palace, once the home of the khan and his four legal wives, and an open courtyard for enthroning the khans. Also see the 9th-century Dzhuma Mosque with an unusual wood ceiling and 115 carved wood columns, creating a forest-like effect. The khans had several residences, including the Tash Hauli Palace, but the Kunya Ark (Old Fortress) dates back to the 5th-century as the original residence. The view from the watchtower of the Kunya Ark encompasses an ensemble of architectural masterpieces. Over dinner, enjoy a colorful Khalfi performance of Khorezmian music and dance. (B,L,D)

Day 6 – Khiva, drive to Bukhara

This morning, depart Khiva for Bukhara. The drive lies across long stretches of the Kyzyl Kum, or Red Sands Desert. This is the same route ridden by loaded Silk Road camel caravans and once plagued by brigands on hand to plunder their riches. The landscape is made up of dunes, saxaul bushes, and the distant mountains. Arrive in Bukhara in time for dinner. (B,L,D)

Day 7 – Bukhara

Spend the day exploring Central Asia’s most ancient living city. The Old Town in Bukhara has a unified feel, drawn together by a central reflecting pool and plaza, by commonality in the structure of the domed bazaars and by the major monuments ringing the old town: the Kalon Assembly, the Zindan Prison, and the Ark Citadel. Enjoy an exclusive meeting with the Scientific Advisor of the Ark Citadel. Finish the day with a walk through Bukhara’s old Jewish Quarter, where in the mid 19th-century 2,500 families of prosperous merchants were estimated to have been living. 

This evening, visit a local madrassah to dine and enjoy a performance by local artists. (B,L,D)

Day 8 – Bukhara, drive to Samarkand

This morning after breakfast visit the Emir’s Summer Palace and the Bakhaudin Nakshbandi mausoleum complex before setting out for Samarkand. On arrival stroll through the Registan, Central Asia’s most noble square, which maintains the majesty that it has radiated through the ages. Three emblematic madrassahs frame the square and loom over the empty space in the center. Check in to the hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 9 – Samarkand

Today continue exploring glorious Samarkand. Visit Bibi Khanum Mosque, built by Tamerlane to be the largest mosque in the Islamic world. Wander the row of tombs and mausoleums collectively called Shah-i-Zinda, or “place of a living king,” stretching between the present and the past. Pay a visit to Ulug Bek’s Observatory, one of the most advanced observatories of the ancient world. Other highlights include the colorful bazaar, as well as the Gur-Emir Mausoleum, the final resting place of Tamerlane. Later, visit a workshop where handcrafted paper is made according to traditions handed down from the 8th-century, when paper-making began in Samarkand. This evening enjoy a performance by a local dance troupe. (B,L,D)

Day 10 – Samarkand, drive to Khujand, Tajikistan

This morning after breakfast, get an early start and drive to the Uzbek/Tajik border and proceed with formalities to enter into the northern part of Tajikistan. After crossing the border into Tajikistan, continue to Khujand. Situated at the entrance to the Fergana Valley on the Syr Darya River, Khujand is the second largest city in Tajikistan. A former religious center and an important Silk Road stop, Khujand is home to several medieval monuments. Upon arrival to Khujand, embark on a short introductory driving tour before transferring to the hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 11 – Khujand, drive to Tashkent

After breakfast at the hotel, set out to explore the exciting Panshanbe Bazaar, Khujand’s pink-painted covered bazaar is overflowing with goods to buy. Pay a visit to the remains of the 10th-century Timurmalik Fortress, restored in 1999. Continue on to the Muslihiddin Memorial Complex, the final resting place of the twelfth century leader and poet Muslihiddin Khudjandi. Enter the Historical Museum of Sogdiana through a reconstructed medieval city gate.  Displays here include ancient Sogdian artifacts and exhibits from more recent Tajik history. Enjoy lunch in Khujand before driving to the Tajik/Uzbek border. Following border formalities, continue onwards to Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital. Set out on an introductory city tour featuring Tashkent’s Independence Square, Shahid Memorial Complex, Courage Monument, and Alisher Navoi Park with its Artisan Center. Dinner this evening is served at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)

Day 12 – Tashkent, fly to Bishkek, Kygyzstan

Spend the morning exploring Tashkent's Old Town with its winding streets, mudbrick buildings and Middle Eastern feel. A visit to Old Tashkent begins with a stroll through Khast Imam Square, where some of Tashkent’s oldest monuments remain.  The 16th-century Kaffal Shashi Mausoleum, the tomb of one of the first imams of the Muslim world, and Barak-Khan Madrassah, also 16th-century, are flanked by the 19th-century al-Bukhari Madrassah and the early 20th-century Tillya Sheikh Mosque, which houses the oldest Koran in the world. After lunch, transfer to the airport for the flight to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.  Upon arrival, transfer to the city center for check into the hotel. 

Bishkek is graced with large boulevards, friendly people and more trees than any other Central Asian city. On clear days, the permanently snow-capped mountains looming over the city provide spectacular views. Begin exploring Bishkek upon arrival with a visit to Bishkek's central square, Ala-Too. Also set on Bishkek's main square, the National History Museum features four floors of art and artifacts. Dinner is independent. (B,D)

Day 13 – Bishkek

This morning, meet with a resident Kyrgyz individual who participated in the April 7, 2010 revolution and together visit the “Ata-Beiit” Memorial complex on the outskirts of Bishkek to pay respects to the fallen Kyrgyz heroes and leaders from ancient times to the modern times who have been laid to rest.  Travel approximately 80 km outside the city to see the Burana Tower and the small nearby museum with its collection of ancient bal-bals, carved stone figures used as monuments.  Lunch today is at the private home of a local family in Tokmak village.  Enjoy the opportunity to meet the host and hostess and sample traditional Kyrgyz dishes.  Following lunch, attend a demonstration of Kyrgyz horse games, such as Ulak Tartysh, a sort of polo played with a goat carcass, and Kurosh, which is wrestling on horseback. This evening, enjoy dinner accompanied by a Kyrgyz Manas folk performance at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)

Day 14 – Bishkek, drive to Almaty, Kazakhstan

After breakfast at the hotel, continue touring Bishkek this morning.  We will tour the State Museum of Fine Arts, focusing on art created during the Soviet period, the collection consists of more than 15,000 paintings, sculptures and decorative pieces.  Then later this morning we will depart Bishkek, and drive overland for Almaty.  Undergo border-crossing procedures and then continue onward to the former capital of Kazakhstan, Almaty.  Spread out at the foothills of the Zaili Alatau Mountains in the Tien Shan range, Almaty is the largest city in Central Asia’s richest country, Kazakhstan.  Present-day Almaty sits on the site of an old Silk Road oasis town called Almatu; laid waste by the Mongols in 1211, the city left no ancient remains.  Almaty’s name means “the place with apples,” and the many varieties of wild apple in the vicinity give scientists reason to believe that this is where apples were first domesticated. Dinner this evening is served at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)

Day 15 – Almaty

A tour of Kazakhstan’s largest city begins with a visit to a traditional Kazakh falcon farm, where hunters on horseback wearing national costumes will give an exclusive demonstration of how the beautiful birds are used for hunting in Kazakhstan. Tour the State Central Museum, a history museum with exhibits that detail the development of Kazakhstan and its people from the Bronze Age through the Russian Empire, the Communist Period, and the present day. At Panfilov Park visit Zenkov Cathedral, a wooden Orthodox church built at the turn of the century without the use of nails.  Also stop at the delightful Museum of Musical Instruments and enjoy a short performance. Admire the views from Kok-Tobe, a 3,800-foot hill on the outskirts of Almaty with an aerial tramway leading to a recreation area at the top. Raise a toast to the end of our journey at a festive farewell dinner with a Kazakh national music performance. (B,L,D)

Day 16 – Depart Almaty

The main tour concludes with an early morning transfer to the airport for international departures. 

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)

2020 Itinerary

Days 1 & 2 – Depart U.S. and Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Fly to Ashgabat, losing from 9 (East Coast) to 12 hours (West Coast). Arriving in Ashgabat late tonight, transfer to the centrally located hotel for check in and rest. (In flight)

Day 3 – Ashgabat

Spend the day exploring Ashgabat. Highlights of today’s tour include the National Museum of History and Ethnography, the Arch of Neutrality and an archeologist led visit to ancient Nisa. Gather this evening with fellow travelers for a welcome dinner to celebrate the beginning of the journey. (B,L,D)

Day 4 – Ashgabat, fly to Dashoguz, drive to Khiva, Uzbekistan

This morning check out and transfer to the airport for a flight to Dashoguz in the northern part of the country. On arrival, enjoy a short tour before driving across the border to the UNESCO-listed city of Khiva, Uzbekistan. Dinner is served at the hotel this evening. (B,L,D)

Day 5 – Khiva

Spend the day exploring Khiva on foot. Highlights include the Tash Hauli Palace, once the home of the khan and his four legal wives, and an open courtyard for enthroning the khans. Also see the 9th-century Dzhuma Mosque with an unusual wood ceiling and 115 carved wood columns, creating a forest-like effect. The khans had several residences, including the Tash Hauli Palace, but the Kunya Ark (Old Fortress) dates back to the 5th-century as the original residence. The view from the watchtower of the Kunya Ark encompasses an ensemble of architectural masterpieces. Over dinner, enjoy a colorful Khalfi performance of Khorezmian music and dance. (B,L,D)

Day 6 – Khiva, drive to Bukhara

This morning, depart Khiva for Bukhara. The drive lies across long stretches of the Kyzyl Kum, or Red Sands Desert. This is the same route ridden by loaded Silk Road camel caravans and once plagued by brigands on hand to plunder their riches. The landscape is made up of dunes, saxaul bushes, and the distant mountains. Arrive in Bukhara in time for dinner. (B,L,D)

Day 7 – Bukhara

Spend the day exploring Central Asia’s most ancient living city. The Old Town in Bukhara has a unified feel, drawn together by a central reflecting pool and plaza, by commonality in the structure of the domed bazaars and by the major monuments ringing the old town: the Kalon Assembly, the Zindan Prison, and the Ark Citadel. Enjoy an exclusive meeting with the Scientific Advisor of the Ark Citadel. Finish the day with a walk through Bukhara’s old Jewish Quarter, where in the mid 19th-century 2,500 families of prosperous merchants were estimated to have been living. 

This evening, visit a local madrassah to dine and enjoy a performance by local artists. (B,L,D)

Day 8 – Bukhara, drive to Samarkand

This morning after breakfast visit the Emir’s Summer Palace and the Bakhaudin Nakshbandi mausoleum complex before setting out for Samarkand. On arrival stroll through the Registan, Central Asia’s most noble square, which maintains the majesty that it has radiated through the ages. Three emblematic madrassahs frame the square and loom over the empty space in the center. Check in to the hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 9 – Samarkand

Today continue exploring glorious Samarkand. Visit Bibi Khanum Mosque, built by Tamerlane to be the largest mosque in the Islamic world. Wander the row of tombs and mausoleums collectively called Shah-i-Zinda, or “place of a living king,” stretching between the present and the past. Pay a visit to Ulug Bek’s Observatory, one of the most advanced observatories of the ancient world. Other highlights include the colorful bazaar, as well as the Gur-Emir Mausoleum, the final resting place of Tamerlane. Later, visit a workshop where handcrafted paper is made according to traditions handed down from the 8th-century, when paper-making began in Samarkand. This evening enjoy a performance by a local dance troupe. (B,L,D)

Day 10 – Samarkand, day trip to Penjikent, Tajikistan

Today take a day trip to Penjikent in nearby Tajikistan, an isolated city of 130,000, most famous for its past. On a ledge above the new town are the ruins of what was an important Sogdian trade center. Called Bunjikath, meaning “five villages,” the town was built in the 5th century A.D., and survived for three hundred years until the Arabs burned it during their 8th century invasion.

Visit the site of an archaeological dig at Old Penjikent, where excavations began over 50 years ago. Tour the remains of Shakristan, two Zoroastrian temples, the citadel, and the houses of wealthy families. Visit the Rudaki Museum of History and Regional Studies, named after the celebrated founder of Tajik and Persian poetry.

Following lunch, return to Samarkand and enjoy an afternoon at leisure. Gather in the evening for dinner at a private home. (B,L,D)

Day 11 – Samarkand, train to Tashkent

Continue to explore Samarkand with a visit to a workshop where handcrafted paper is made according to traditions handed down from the 8th century, when paper-making began in Samarkand. Also stop at the Uzbek-Afghan Silk Carpet Factory, tour the gardens outside the factory where the weavers grow indigo, coleus, and dahlias to use for dye, and observe the process of dying the thread and weaving the carpets. Witness a demonstration of traditional Uzbek bread making at a local home and enjoy some free time to explore independently before catching the evening express train to Tashkent. Upon arrival, transfer to the city-center hotel for check-in and a late dinner. (B,L,D)

Day 12 – Tashkent, fly to Bishkek, Kygyzstan

Spend the day exploring Tashkent's Old Town with its winding streets, mudbrick buildings and Middle Eastern feel. A visit to Old Tashkent begins with a stroll through Khast Imam Square, where some of Tashkent’s oldest monuments remain.  The 16th-century Kaffal Shashi Mausoleum, the tomb of one of the first imams of the Muslim world, and Barak-Khan Madrassah, also 16th-century, are flanked by the 19th-century al-Bukhari Madrassah and the early 20th-century Tillya Sheikh Mosque, which houses the oldest Koran in the world. After lunch, browse the Museum of Applied Arts, its interior decorated by artisans from Samarkand, Bukhara, and Fergana, featuring the painted carved plaster called ganche, carved wood, and tile work.  Exhibits include the Uzbek embroidered wall coverings called suzani, ceramics, jewelry, rugs, and musical instruments. Transfer to the airport for the late afternoon flight to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.  Upon arrival, transfer to the city center for check into the hotel. 

Bishkek is graced with large boulevards, friendly people and more trees than any other Central Asian city. On clear days, the permanently snow-capped mountains looming over the city provide spectacular views. Begin exploring Bishkek upon arrival with a visit to Bishkek's central square, Ala-Too. Also set on Bishkek's main square, the National History Museum features four floors of art and artifacts. Dinner is independent. (B,L)

Day 13 – Bishkek

After breakfast at the hotel, travel approximately 80 km outside the city to see the Burana Tower and the small nearby museum with its collection of ancient bal-bals, carved stone figures used as monuments.  Lunch today is at the private home of a local family in Tokmak village.  Enjoy the opportunity to meet the host and hostess and sample traditional Kyrgyz dishes.  Following lunch, attend a demonstration of Kyrgyz horse games, such as Ulak Tartysh, a sort of polo played with a goat carcass, and Kurosh, which is wrestling on horseback. This evening, enjoy dinner accompanied by a Kyrgyz Manas folk performance at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)

Day 14 – Bishkek, fly to Almaty, Kazakhstan

This morning, meet with a resident Kyrgyz individual who participated in the April 7, 2010 revolution and together visit the “Ata-Beiit” Memorial complex on the outskirts of Bishkek to pay respects to the fallen Kyrgyz heroes and leaders from ancient times to the modern times who have been laid to rest., Continue touring in Bishkek, visiting the State Museum of Fine Arts, focusing on art created during the Soviet period, the collection consists of more than 15,000 paintings, sculptures and decorative pieces.  At the end of the day, take a short flight to the former capital of KazakhstanAlmaty.  Spread out at the foothills of the Zaili Alatau Mountains in the Tien Shan range, Almaty is the largest city in Central Asia’s richest country, Kazakhstan.  Present-day Almaty sits on the site of an old Silk Road oasis town called Almatu; laid waste by the Mongols in 1211, the city left no ancient remains.  Almaty’s name means “the place with apples,” and the many varieties of wild apple in the vicinity give scientists reason to believe that this is where apples were first domesticated. Dinner this evening is served at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)

Day 15 – Almaty

A tour of Kazakhstan’s largest city begins with a visit to a traditional Kazakh falcon farm, where hunters on horseback wearing national costumes will give an exclusive demonstration of how the beautiful birds are used for hunting in Kazakhstan. Tour the State Central Museum, a history museum with exhibits that detail the development of Kazakhstan and its people from the Bronze Age through the Russian Empire, the Communist Period, and the present day. At Panfilov Park visit Zenkov Cathedral, a wooden Orthodox church built at the turn of the century without the use of nails.  Also stop at the delightful Museum of Musical Instruments and enjoy a short performance. Admire the views from Kok-Tobe, a 3,800-foot hill on the outskirts of Almaty with an aerial tramway leading to a recreation area at the top. Raise a toast to the end of our journey at a festive farewell dinner with a Kazakh national music performance. (B,L,D)

Day 16 – Depart Almaty

The main tour concludes with an early morning transfer to the airport for international departures. 

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)