Highlights of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan
Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, overland | 15 days
Compare and contrast the three most interesting newly independent republics or ‘stans’ that emerged from the former Soviet Union. Highlights will be Samarkand’s Registan Square, where the three majestic Madrassahs are dominated by immense blue domes and lofty minarets said to hold up the sky, Bukhara where the Emir of Bukhara’s brooding Ark played host to many a terrifying event and Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, at the foot of the Tien Shan Mountains. Finish in Almaty, the delightful tree-lined former capital of Kazakhstan, where you can savour all the colourful experiences of your journey with a traditional Russian banya at the Arasan Baths.
Day 1: Fly to Tashkent
Day 2: Explore Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital city
Day 3: Travel by road to Samarkand
Day 4: See Samarkand’s Registan Square, where the three majestic Madrassahs, are dominated by immense blue domes and lofty minarets said to hold up the sky
Day 5: Drive to Bukhara in the middle of the Kizyl-Kum Desert
Day 6: Bukhara
Day 7: Drive to Khiva, the most remote of Uzbekistan’s outposts and now a beautifully preserved living museum
Day 8: Khiva, fly to Tashkent
Day 9: Fly to Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital situated at the foot of the Tien Shan Mountains
Day 10: Drive to Issykul, one of the largest mountain lakes in the world
Day 11: Issykul
Day 12: Return to Bishkek
Day 13: Fly to Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan
Day 14: Enjoy Almaty’s delightful tree-lined streets and visit the traditional Arasan Baths
Day 15: Fly to London
guide price £3,475 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