The Stans of Central Asia

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Day 1: Arrive in Almaty

You will be met on arrival at the airport in Almaty and transfer to your hotel. The remainder of the day is free for you to explore on your own before meeting for dinner and our orientation meeting/welcome dinner in you hotel. Overnight in Almaty.


Day 2: Almaty

Today, we enjoy a full day tour of Almaty including visits to the Zhenkov Cathedral; an extraordinary Russian Orthodox Church built of wood and a walk through beautiful Panfilov Park. We also visit the Central State Museum, which exhibits more than 40 different musical instruments; even today in remote villages, music is a big part of the Kazakh way of life. In the afternoon, we will take a cable car to the top of Kok Tube Hill for a wonderful panoramic view of Almaty. Overnight in Almaty.


Day 3: To Chong Kemin Valley

Today we will drive from Almaty to the Chong-Kemin Valley in Kyrgyzstan where we will have the opportunity to visit an old soviet farm (kolkhoz) village and enjoy a short hike in the Valley. This evening experience true Kyrgyz hospitality with a traditional dinner in the Kalmak Ashuu Guest House. Overnight in Chong Kemin Valley.


Day 4: Chong Kemin Valley to Lake Issyk-Kul

Today we drive to the Pearl of Tian-Shan, Lake Issyk-Kul. Enroute, stop in the village of Tamchy for a demonstration of felt production. We continue driving to Cholpon-Ata. We will have boat cruise on the Issyk-Kul Lake with lunch on board. After lunch we visit the open air Museum of Petroglyphs , which covers about 42 hectares, the Petroglyphs date from the 2nd millennium BC to the Middle Ages. Overnight in Cholpon-Ata.


Day 5: To Karakol

Today we will drive to the town of Karakol to visit to the Preshevalsky Museum, which is dedicated to the memory of Nikolai Michailovich Preshevalsky, an enthusiastic explorer accredited for his excellent works on flora and fauna of the Issyk-Kul region. He was also known for breeding a tiny horse on the steppes of Tibet, which later came to be known as the Preshevalsky Horse. We also visit the local Orthodox Church and mosque before returning to Cholpon-Ata. Overnight in Cholpon-Ata.


Day 6: Lake Issyk-Kul to Bishkek

Today we continue to Bishkek stopping enroute at the Burana Tower Archaeological Museum, which is situated on the site of a caravan town dating from the 10th Century. Surrounding the area are mysterious stone heads perhaps representing ancient Kyrgyz Gods. Enjoy a local lunch in a traditional Kyrgyz Yurt and view a Kyrgyz Horse Show. Overnight in Bishkek.


Day 7: Day Trip to Al Archa Park

Enjoy either an easy or strenuous hike at Al Archa Park, with snow-capped peaks reaching 9200 feet (2,800 meters). Overnight in Bishkek.


Day 8: To Osh

A very early start as we drive from the mountains to the lush Ferghana valley. Through mountain passes and a tunnel almost 2 miles long you descend from 3686m above sea level to where there are vistas of seemingly endless fields of cotton. Overnight in Osh.


Day 9: Osh, Sulaiman Too Sacred Mountain

This morning we visit the first UNESCO World Heritage site on this trip "Sulaiman - Too Sacred Mountain" revered as a place of worship for over a millennium. In the afternoon we have a complete change of scenery when you visit the Osh Bazaar, one of the largest in Central Asia. Overnight in Osh.


Day 10: To Khujand, Tajikistan

After breakfast drive to the Kyrgyzstan/Tajikistan border where we will clear immigration and customs formalities. Our new guide and driver will then take us to Khujand. We visit the Citadel, Masoleum of Sheikh Massal ad-Din, Madrassah, Mosque of Sheikh Massal ad-Din, Panchshanba Bazaar. Overnight in Khujand.


Day 11: To Istarafshan

Our day starts with a relatively short drive to Istarafshan, a city that is one of the oldest in Tajikistan, dating back over 2,500 years. Once an important stop on the Silk Road, you will visit the Kok Gumbaz mosque, Khazreti Shokh mausoleum and the Mugtepa bazaar. We will enjoy our lunch in the national chayhana before returning to Khujand. Time permitting we will visit the Arbob Cultural Palace. Overnight in Khujand.


Day 12: To Tashkent, Uzbekistan

After breakfast drive to the Uzbek border. After border formalities, we continue our drive to Tashkent. Upon arrival, enjoy a city tour of Tashkent. Visit the Old city: Khast Imam complex, Kaffal Shashi Mausoleum, Kukaldash Madrassah, bazaar, Amir Temur Square, Independence Square and Alisher Navoi Square. Overnight in Tashkent.


Day 13: Tashkent, To Samarkand

This morning visit Independent Square, Navoi Theatre Square and Amir Temur Square, afterwards depart for Samarkand. The historic town of Samarkand, recently declared a World Heritage Site, was and still is a crossroads and melting pot of world cultures. Founded in the 7th century BC as ancient Afrosiab, Samarkand had its most significant development in the Timurid period from the 14th to the 15th centuries. Overnight in Samarkand.


Day 14: Samarkand

Full day city tour of Samarkand. Visit Registan Square, the heart of ancient city, Temur's burial place - Mausoleum Gur Emir, famous Bibi Khanum Mosque, which intended to out-rival everything Tamerlane had ever seen.

Also visit Shakhi Zinda necropolis and Ulugbek observatory. Visit the Silk paper center. In the evening, participate in plov preparation at a Uzbek local family restaurant. Overnight in Samarkand.


Day 15: To Bukhara

Depart this morning by coach to Bukhara, regarded by many to be one of the most cultural and evocative cities in the world. Time permitting, we will have an evening walk through the old city maze, in the intact and still inhabited historic core. Overnight in Bukhara.


Day 16: Bukhara

One of the grandest of Uzbek centers, Bukhara is an open museum with many mosques, madrassahs and a grand minaret. We spend the day visiting some of the finest examples of Islamic Architecture in the world, where exquisite tile and mosaic work complements the beautiful brickwork; it is no wonder this city is a World Heritage Site. Our visit includes the Lab- e-Khauz Complex with the Nadirkhon Devanbegi Madrassah, the Mogak Attari Mosque and the Poi Kalon Minaret. We also visit the Madrassahs of Aziz Khan and the Ulugbek Ark Fortress, the residence-cum-army headquarters of the Bukharan Emirs that houses an interesting collection of objects from those days and the Mausoleum of Ismail Samanid, which features some of the best 10th century brickwork, with a marked Persian influence. We conclude the day with a visit to Sitora-I-Mokhikhosa, the Summer Residence of the Emir. Overnight in Bukhara.


Day 17: Bukhara, Train to Khiva

A free day in Bukhara to explore it's magnificent sites on your own. Relax or stroll around Bukhara and perhaps indulge in a little bit of shopping. In the evening, we prepare for our overnight train to Khiva. Overnight Train to Khiva.


Day 18: Khiva

Upon arrival in Khiva, we explore this World heritage site. Khiva is a city where time has stood still in the age of the Arabian Nights. Our visit starts with the main site of Itchan Kala followed by Kalta Minor, the Kunya Ark, the Rakhimkhon Madrassah, the Mausoleum of Pakhlavan Makhmud, the Friday Mosque and the Tashauli palace and harem. To complete this extraordinary day, we climb the Khodja Minaret to take in the amazing fairy tale panorama. Overnight in Khiva.


Day 19: To Konya Urgench & Ashgabat

Today we will enter Turkmenistan through the border crossing of Dashoguz. This day will be dedicated to exploring the UNESCO World Heritage site of Knoye Urgench. Although destroyed over 800 years ago by Ghengis Khan there are still many ruins to see today. Returning to Dashoguz, we will fly to Ashgabat. Overnight in Ashgabat.


Day 20: Ashgabat, Archeological Site of Nissa

Visit the National Museum of History and Ethnography with its 5000 exhibits. Just outside of Ashgabat, we visit the archeological site of Nissa contains the remains of Old and New Nissa. The original city was an important center of the Parthian State, which existed from 300 BC to 300 AD and was a royal residence of Parthian Kings with a palace, temple and treasury. Recent archeological excavations have uncovered 2700 texts inscribed with black paint on clay vessel fragments. We continue on to Kipchak Village to visit the largest mosque in Central Asia. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Turkmenabat. Overnight in Turkmenabat.


Day 21: To Koytendag, Astana Baba Mausoleum

Today we drive to Koytendag Nature Reserve. Enroute, we visit the Astana Baba Mausoleum (12th century) before checking into our lodge. Overnight in Koytendag.


Day 22: 150 Million Year Old Dinosaur Footprints

Today see the panorama of Aribaba peak, the highest mountain in Turkmenistan at 3137 m (10, 300 f). Later visit Kyrk Gyz Gorge and caves, a popular site for pilgrims. The Plateau of Dinosaurs is a sloping plateau 500 meters (1640 feet) long and 200 meters (655 feet) wide containing the footprints of more than 400 dinosaurs. These remarkable footprints are 150 millions old. Afterwards, we return to the nature reserve. Overnight in Koytendag.


Day 23: To Turkmenabat

Today we drive back to Turkmenabat enroute to Mary. Overnight Turkmenabat.


Day 24: Ancient Merv

Today we visit Merv, the oldest of the oasis cities along the Silk Route in Central Asia. The remains of this oasis span four thousand years of human history and a number of monuments are still in evidence. Classical writers often mention Merv as Margiana, as part of the Achaemenian Empire in the 6th century BC until its invasion by Alexander the Great. The "Queen of Cities" as it was known in the Islamic world, Merv was considered as the second city after Baghdad between the 8th and 13th centuries and was an important town on the Silk Road. We continue on to Mary. Overnight in Mary.


Day 25: Margush - Bronze Age of Civilisations

We drive to the site of the ancient country of Margush, believed by many to be the birthplace of Zoroastrianism. It is also the site of Bronze Age ruins. Returning to Mary we will also visit a museum of local history. Return to Mary for our flight to Ashgabat. Overnight in Ashgabat.


Day 26: Ashgabat - City of White Marble

Today we will have a tour of the capital city of Turkmenistan. Ashgabat was founded in 1881, and originally served as a military fort. We will visit the Tower and Arch of Neutrality. The height of the Arch is 75 meters (246 feet) and is adorned with a rotating statue of the former President. Other stops include Lenin Square, the Ertogrulgazi Mosque and the excellent Carpet Museum, which showcases carpets and designs from the various tribes of Turkmenistan. Tonight we have our farewell dinner to the "Stans" of Central Asia. Overnight in Ashgabat.


Day 27: Departure from Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Transfer to the airport for your departure.

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