Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand | 11 days
The highlights of Central Asia’s ancient caravan routes and the spectacular silk road cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand are revealed in this fascinating tour. In Samarkand, the immense blue domes of the Registan, the most spectacular architectural ensemble in Central Asia, stopped many a traveller in their tracks. Here too, the 19th century ‘Great Game’ struck terror into the hearts of all its players, including two British officers, Conolly and Stoddart, who lost their heads in the great square in the summer of 1842 after weeks of hellish incarceration.
Day 1:Fly to Tashkent
Day 2:Arrive Tashkent and connect onwards by flight to the fabled Khanate of Khiva, the most completely preserved Silk Road city
Day 3:A fascinating walking tour of Khiva and its many treasures
Day 4:A full day of driving through the Kizyl-Kum Desert to reach Bukhara, centre stage for the 19th century ‘Great Game’
Days 5-6:Explore the many sites of Bukhara, including the 2,000 year old brooding Ark Fortress, the Lyab-i-Khauz complex and Sitorai-Mokhi-Khosa, Summer Palace of the Emir
Day 7:Drive to Shakrisabz, the birth place of Tamerlane and then continue to Samarkand, most famous for its Registan Square ensemble.
Day 8-9:Tour Registan Square in Samarkand with its immense blue domes, Bibi Khanum Mosque, Shah-i-Zinda necropolis, Gur Emir (Tamerlane's Mausoleum) and Ulug Beg's 15th century Observatory.
Day 10:Take the high speed train back to Tashkent and explore Tashkent.
Day 11:Return flight to London
guide price £1,850 per person
Fiona’s travel tips
THE GREAT GAME: The Great Game refers to the 19th century battle for supremacy played out by the Russian and British empires for political dominance in Central Asia. While Russia spread east, swallowing up the Silk Route khanates of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand, Britain edged determinedly north towards the forbidden land of Tibet, with the aid of knowledge accumulated by fabled pundits like Nain Singh. The very centre of this political chessboard was the Gilgit Valley, where, high among the mountains, the borders of India, China, Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan all converge.
DON’T MISS: Drinking green tea in Bukhara’s Lyiab-y-hauz in the shade of an ancient mulberry tree, watching some of the elders sitting cross-legged on charpoys bent over a chess board.
BOOKS: Peter Hopkirk’s The Great Game and Eastern Approaches by Sir Fitzroy Maclean.
BEST TIME TO GO: The ideal time to travel is May to September, apart from Turkmenistan where the height of summer is better avoided.
FOR THE ACTIVE: For wild, remote, back to nature trekking, Tajikistan is perfect.
WHY NOT: Start your journey in Azerbaijan and cross by local ferry from Baku into Turkmenistan, the hottest, driest and harshest of the stans, where Ashkhabad’s Sunday Market will be swarming with the dominant Turkmen tribe, the Tekke, resplendent in their extraordinary shaggy hats.
Kazakhstan: 9 hours (direct)
Kyrgyzstan: 9½ hours (direct)
Tajikistan: 9 hours (indirect)
Turkmenistan: 9 hours (indirect)
Uzbekistan: 8¾ hours (direct)
Clients’ comments“Our journey along the Silk Route was truly memorable. These beautiful ancient lands with their Khanate cities and bazaars, unforgiving deserts and high, snow-capped mountains with lakes and lonely passes are memories we will treasure. Our guides were knowledgeable, helpful and fun, sharing their own family lives and culture with us, helping put all that we saw into a social context. The planning and organisation of our trip was faultless and Fiona’s first-hand knowledge and contacts in Central Asia smoothed a forced change in plans at short notice efficiently and effortlessly. Thank you so much."
Mr and Mrs Rob Aylott, Central Asia from Baku to Urumqi