In history, there are a handful of fabled explorers whose travels into the great unknown not only changed their perception of the world at the time, but also initiated the first great cultural exchanges between civilizations at opposite ends of that world.
Marco Polo is one of those explorers, whose journeys across the vast expanses of Asia’s deserts, steppes and mountains epitomize the words epic, exotic, adventurous and grand. These descriptions still hold true today when you follow in his footsteps through the countries of Central Asia that were once part of the Silk Road, and which are now known as ‘The Stans”– because to explore Kazakhstan, Kyrgyszstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan today is to experience not only the exotic beauty of distant and wildly diverse landscapes, but to answer the call of adventure itself.
Still relatively new to tourism, having gained their independence from the USSR in 1991, the Stans now offer a rare opportunity for travellers to rediscover what drew the early explorers to the region so many centuries ago.
Historically the Stans have been part of some of the world’s most powerful empires including those ruled by Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great. Recognizing the region’s strategic importance as a trading crossroads, these ancient conquerors fought for control of these lands and the thousands of caravans using them to connect the Middle East, Mediterranean and Europe with India and China. The legacies of these cultural giants are visible everywhere in monuments, archaeological sites, and storied cities like Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva, where you will feel like you stepped into the pages of the Arabian Nights.
If culture and history aren’t enough for your inner explorer, the Stans boast some of the most varied and beautiful geography a traveller could hope to find: its huge land mass encompasses a terrain that includes deserts, oases, steppes, valleys and spectacular snow-capped mountains rising to more than 10,000 feet. Which means for hikers, adventure seekers, nature lovers and photographers, the vistas and activities are endless.
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyszstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan offer the perfect trifecta of history, culture and geography to appeal to any modern-day Marco Polo who is looking for a route that is truly out of the ordinary. All that’s left to do is book the date!
Read more about our adventure to The Stans of Central Asia.