Shawl Ladies, Samarkand, Uzbekistan Registan Square - Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Essential Silk Road

Sail down the beautiful rivers
Sail down the beautiful rivers

Day 1
Arrival | Tashkent

Arrival into Tashkent. Your driver will meet you outside of baggage claim and customs to transfer you to your hotel.

Exeter Services: Arrival Transfer

Hotel: Hyatt Regency or Similar

Day 2
Tashkent | Tashkent

This morning, your guide will meet you in your hotel lobby for a tour of Tashkent’s main sights. Originally an oasis on the Chirchik River, Tashkent gradually grew to become an important commercial center, which now has a population of over 2 million.

Your tour will start in Tashkent’s Old City, where you will visit the Barak Khan Madrasah from the 16th century, and the Tillya Sheikh Mosque. The mosque houses a rich Islamic library with ancient manuscripts, including the famous Uthman Koran, considered to be the oldest copy of the Koran in the world. Dating from 655 and reputedly stained with the blood of murdered caliph Uthman, it was brought by Timur to Samarkand and later seized by the Russians as a war trophy and taken to Saint Petersburg (held in the Hermitage) before it was returned to Uzbekistan in 1989.

Later, you will see the 16th-century Kukaldosh Madrassah, which is one of the few remaining authentic historic monuments in the Old Town (the massive earthquake of 1968 destroyed most of central Tashkent), which is one of the largest Islamic schools in Central Asia. It was named after Kukeldash, who was a vizier (prime minister), a poet, and a scientist. The main façade of the Madrasah has a high portal, two-story loggias, and angular turrets. In the 18th century it was used as a caravanserai (roadside inn) and later as a fortress. Nowadays it also includes a functioning mosque.

Next, you might want to stroll through the Chorsu Bazaar for the true feeling of Tashkent! Bazaars in Uzbekistan are a unique site in each city. You will capture some of your best local photos at these markets, where you will find everything from bins of spices, nuts, fruit and cheese to clothing, toys, tools and everyday goods.

If you are interested, your guide will also take you to the Applied Arts Museum. This building was constructed at the end of the 19th century in the elaborate style of the period as a private residence of a wealthy merchant. It now displays various types of national handicrafts, including carpets, jewelry, woodcarving and gold embroidery from the 19th and 20th centuries.

This afternoon we recommend visiting the workshop of a famed Uzbek ceramist who comes from a dynasty of ceramic artists. His workshop and peaceful gardens give an insight into the ceramic arts in Uzbekistan. You may also enjoy a masterclass in ceramic making.

Following your days touring you will be transferred to your hotel where you will have the remainder of your day at leisure

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Hyatt Regency or Similar

Day 3
Tashkent - Khiva | Tashkent - Khiva

This morning you will check out of your hotel and meet your driver for the departure transfer to the airport. Here you will meet your onward flight to Urgench. Once you have arrived into Urgench you will be met by your driver and transferred to your hotel in Khiva.

After checking in, you will meet today’s guide and enjoy a tour of the historical town of Khiva. Khiva’s origin dates to the 6th century and during the medieval times it became a city of great importance. It also has a long history of barbaric rulers and your guide will give you a glimpse into their colorful stories. Today, approximately 40,000 people live and work inside the ancient city walls (called Ichan Kala). Within these walls, the old town of Khiva is an official “city museum, ” where you will find several interesting sites

One of the most notable sites within the walls of Khiva is the Kunya Ark. This was the former fortress and residence of the Khiva rulers since the 12th century. You will be able to walk through the courtyards of this partially restored building and see some residential and administrative quarters, such as the harem, the mint, the stables, and the jail. Just opposite the Kunya Ark, you will see the Muhammad Rakhim Madrasah II, which was built to honor the last Khivan Khan who surrendered the city to Russia in 1873 and signed a peace treaty, which turned Khiva into a semi- independent Russian province.

You will also visit the Djuma Mosque, which dates back to the 10th century. Its unique design features a roof supported by 218 wooden columns, possibly an early Arabic influence. The two openings in the roof provide light for only the inner courts, while the opposite walls lie hidden from sight by the colonnade. The mausoleum of Pakhlavan Makhmud was built in 1810 to honor the patron of Khiva, Pakhlavan Makhmud, a poet and wrestler who died in the 14th century and is thought to be buried here. Its full turquoise dome has become a symbol of Khiva, along with the nearby Islam Khodja Minaret, banded in dark and light blue.

In the afternoon, if you are interested, a visit to a silk carpet workshop sponsored by UNESCO could be arranged.

Afterwards, we recommend attending a traditional folk show at one of the Hareems in Khiva. (Cost not included in program cost)

Following your days touring you will be transferred to your hotel where you will have the remainder of your day at leisure.

Exeter Services: Airport Transfers, Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Hotel Bek or similar

Day 4
Khiva | Khiva

This morning, your driver and guide will meet you in your hotel lobby and take you to Toprak- kala and Ayaz-kala, the ancient settlements of the Khorezm State. This ruined city fortress dates back over 2000 years. Many of the regions old settlements such as this flourished from the 1st Century BC to 3rd Century AD under the Kushan patronage. But the region saw a sharp decline in population during the 6th Century AD as a result of turkish raids and the destruction of irrigation canals. Unfortunately, the region was never able to recover its former glory.

Following your days touring you will be transferred back to your hotel where you will have the remainder of your day at leisure

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Hotel Bek or similar

Day 5
Khiva - Bukhara | Khiva - Bukhara

This morning you will meet your driver and guide in your hotel lobby for the drive to Bukhara along the Kizilkum Desert. Be sure to stop at the Amudaryo river bank for fantastic photos.

Alternatively: If the flight schedule allows (typically Tuesday and Sunday), this afternoon you can take a flight from the Urgench Airport to Bukhara (cost of flight not included in program cost) We will advise if this flight is available upon booking.

Upon arrival in Bukhara, check-in to your hotel and you will have the remainder of your evening at leisure.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Emir’s Garden Hotel or similar

Day 6
Bukhara | Bukhara

This morning, your guide will meet you in your hotel lobby for an overview tour of this historic city, which was once one of the main centers of Persian civilization.

Bukhara is actually an oasis in the Kyzyl Kum desert, which is located on the banks of the Zeravshan River and has been inhabited since approximately 3,000 BC. Located on the historic Silk Road, the city has long been a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion. The old city has a small and friendly feel and much of today’s sights are accessible on foot.

There are over a hundred buildings in the historic city center (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and you will have a very full day of exploration ahead. You will first visit the massive Ark Fortress – the very core of the ancient city and the oldest building in Bukhara. Initially built in the 5th century, it was used as a royal residence and fortress until the early 20th century when it fell in the hands of the Russians. The main entrance into the citadel is protected by two 18th Century towers, the upper parts of which are connected by a series of rooms and terraces. A long, covered corridor leads to a mosque and offers access to storerooms, prison cells, and the inner courtyard housing a large complex of buildings.

Just opposite the Ark, you will see the Bolo-Khauz Mosque. The earliest part of this religious complex is the Bolo-Khauz pond (The Children's pond) - one of the few remaining ponds in the city of Bukhara. Until the Soviet period there were many such ponds, which were the city's principal source of water, but they were notorious for spreading diseases and were gradually filled-in in the 1920s. Another one of these ponds - the Lyabi Khauz, survived because it was the centerpiece of a magnificent architectural ensemble from the 16th -17th centuries, which still exists and includes a madrasah and a lodging house.

Next, you will visit the Ismail Samani mausoleum, which was built in the 9th century as the final resting place of Ismail Samani - the founder of the Samanid dynasty, the last Persian dynasty to rule in Central Asia. Near the Samani mausoleum, you will also see the Chashmai Ayub (Job's Well). According to a legend, Job (Ayub) once visited this place and made a well with a single blow of his staff. The water of this well is considered healing. The current building was constructed during the reign of Timur and features an unusual conical dome.

This would be a good time to stop for lunch and enjoy a tasting of herbal teas in the “Silk Road Spices” tea house.

Afterwards, you will head to Old Town and the impressive Poi Kalyan architectural complex located south of the Ark citadel. Its most impressive feature and a popular landmark is the Kalyan Minaret, which was built in the form of a circular 150-foot-high brick tower. A spiral staircase twists up inside the tower leading to a rotunda with 16 arched windows, from which the Muslims in the city were called to prayer. It is said that the tower so impressed Genghis Khan that he ordered it to be spared while his invading army was destroying the rest of the city. The 16thcentury Kalyan Mosque is covered by 288 domes resting on 208 pillars. The mosque’s courtyard ends with a portal leading to the main chamber with a cruciform hall, topped with a massive blue cupola on a mosaic drum. Here you will also see the Miri Arab madrassah.

Continue on to the Ulugbeg and Abdulazizkhan madrasahs, which stand facing each other in representation of the two dynasties that once ruled Bukhara – the Ashtarkhanids and Timurids. The Ulugbeg madrasah now houses the Bukhara Restoration History Museum and the Abdulazizkhan madrasah contains the Museum of Wood Carving Art.

Next, enjoy the Trading Domes of Bukhara. Since it was located on the Silk Road, Bukhara contained many markets and trading stores. Only four trading domes remain to this day. You will also get to see an ancient silk market.

Following your days touring you will be transferred to your hotel where you will have the remainder of your day at leisure.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Emir’s Garden Hotel or similar

Day 7
Bukhara | Bukhara

This morning, your guide will meet you in your hotel lobby for a visit of the national Uzbek bakery “Tandir”, where tourists can see the baking process of traditional Uzbek bread. You will also visit the Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, the summer residence of the Emir of Bukhara. It was specifically built in this location because of its much cooler microclimate.

You will also visit a popular pilgrimage shrine for many Muslims, the Naqshbandi complex. Dating back to the 14th century this complex was built by the great theologian and founder of the Sufi Order, Naqshbandi. The complex includes a museum that gives great insight into this sect of the Muslim religion.

One of today’s last stops is the Chor- Bakr memorial complex. Dedicated to Abu-Bakr-Said who died in 970 A.D, he was said to be one of the four descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.

Following your days touring you will be transferred to your hotel where you will have the remainder of your day at leisure.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Emir’s Garden Hotel or similar

Day 8
Bukhara - Samarkand | Bukhara - Samarkand

This morning after checking out of your hotel, you will meet your driver and guide to begin the journey to Samarkand.

On your way you will stop in the historic city of Shakhrisabz, one of Central Asia’s most ancient cities. Founded more than 2,700 years ago by the Persian empire, Shakhrisabz is also the birth place of the great Turco Mongol conqueror Timur (Tamerlane) in the 14th Century.

You will first visit the Ak-Saray Palace, commissioned by Amir Timur, the palace contains intricate mosaics that took a quarter of a century to complete. Also built by Amir Timur, you will visit the Dorus Saodat and Dorut Tilovat complexes, also known as “the house of power”. These were constructed as a mausoleum for Amir Timur’s eldest son and heir who tragically died at the age of 20.

Afterwards, you will visit Kok-Gumbaz (blue dome) Mosque, which is the largest Friday Mosque in the city where many of the major religious ceremonies are still held despite being built in the 15th century.

After touring Shakhrisabz you will continue your drive to Samarkand. Once in Samarkand you will be transferred to your hotel where you will have the remainder of your evening at leisure

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Grand Samarkand Superior or Similar

Day 9
Samarkand | Samarkand

This morning, your guide will meet you in your hotel lobby for an overview city tour of Samarkand. One of the most famous towns along the Silk Road, Samarkand is also amongst the oldest cities in Central Asia. It was sacked by the Mongols under Genghis Khan in 1220’s and remained under Mongol domination until the late 14th century, when Timur (Tamerlane) decided to make Samarkand the capital of his empire which extended from India to Turkey.

One of the highlights of today’s tour will certainly be the Registan Square, the most famous landmark and the heart of the ancient city. Registan (Sandy Place) probably got its name from the sand, which was strewn on the ground to soak up the blood from the public executions, which were held there until the early 20th century. Nowadays, the Registan complex consists of three main buildings – the 15th-century Ulugbek Madrasah, Tilya-Kori Madrasah and the 17th century Sher-Dor Madrasah, where, if you are interested, you can get acquainted with the history of Uzbek musical instruments.

You will also visit the Gur Emir (Tomb of the King) Mausoleum – the actual place where Timur was buried. This architectural complex with its bright blue dome contains not only the tomb of Tamerlane, but also his sons, grandsons, and other notable political and religious figures.

Another highlight of Samarkand is a visit to the Observatory of Ulugbek, located on a hill in the outskirts of the city. Ulugbek turned Samarkand into the intellectual and scientific center of the empire. He built the madrasah on Registan Square and invited Islamic mathematicians and astronomers to study there. His observatory was a remarkable scientific discovery in its time (the early 15th century). As Ulugbek did not have a telescope to work with, he improved the accuracy of his observations by increasing the length of his sextant, which helped him compile one of the best-known star catalogues of that time.

Afterwards, you will continue on to the Afrosiab Museum and ruins. An ancient city under Samarkand and one of the largest archeological sites in the world, destroyed by Mongol invaders in the 13th century.

This afternoon, you may also see the Shakhi Zinda Necropolis. This cluster of 11 mausoleums was built during the 14th through the 15th centuries and will allow you to see several types and

periods of architecture and design of the region. This religious center is still very much in use today.

Your guide will show you the Bibi Khanym Mosque, which was constructed in the 14th century after Timur’s conquest of India. It is said that some 90 elephants were used to carry from India the precious stones and metals to be used for the decoration of this temple. There is a large marble Koran standing in the center of the mosque’s courtyard and the bazaar next to it has changed little since the time of Tamerlane.

Optional: Before dinner, you may wish to visit the Khovrenko Wine Factory and enjoy a wine tasting.

Following your days touring you will be transferred to your hotel where you will have the remainder of your day at leisure

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Grand Samarkand Superior or Similar

Day 10
Samarkand | Samarkand

This morning, your guide will meet you in your hotel lobby to continue your city tour of Samarkand. You will see the mausoleum of Imam Al Bukhari, the large complex contains mosques, hotels for pilgrim, souvenir shops, and a large collection of religious literature.

Next, we recommend visiting the State Museum of Culture History of Uzbekistan. This museum has a large collection of artifacts spanning from the bronze age to modern day art. Another highlight of Samarkand is Hazrat-Hirz Mosque. Burnt down in the 13th century by Genghis Khan, this Mosque was rebuilt in 1854 and is said to be the most beautiful Mosque in the area. Next to the Mosque you can find the modest tomb of Islam Karimov, the first president of Uzbekistan.

Your guide will then take you to the small village of Konigil, a few miles from the center of Samarkand. With the help of UNESCO funding, the ancient art of silk papermaking has been revived here. You will have the opportunity to learn about this ancient process, brought to Samarkand from China in the 7th century, and have a go at making your own silk paper to take home.

Following your days touring you will be transferred to your hotel where you will have the remainder of your day at leisure.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Grand Samarkand Superior or Similar

Day 11
Samarkand - Tashkent | Samarkand - Tashkent

Today after checking out of your hotel and meeting your driver and guide, you will begin the journey back to Tashkent.

Alternatively: You can take the train from Samarkand to Tashkent. (These tickets sell out very quickly and need to be purchased well in advance.)

Once you have arrived in Tashkent you will be taken to your hotel for check-in. After checking in, your guide will meet you in the hotel lobby, and take you to see the remaining sites of the city. You will visit Independence Square, Amir Temur Square, the Tashkent Metro and Navoi Theatre Square.

Another popular site in the city is the Monument to Courage Earthquake Memorial in remembrance of those who suffered the 1966 Tashkent earthquake. This tragic event left much of the city destroyed, leaving a large number of its population homeless.

Following your days touring you will be transferred to your hotel where you will have the remainder of your day at leisure.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Hyatt Regency

Day 12
Tashkent - Almaty | Tashkent - Almaty

This morning, your driver will meet you in the hotel lobby to transfer you to the airport to catch your onward flight to Almaty. Once in Almaty, your driver will meet you outside of baggage claim and customs to transfer you to your hotel.

Exeter Services: Airport Transfers

Hotel: Ritz Carlton Almaty

Day 13
Almaty | Almaty

This morning, your driver and guide will meet you in the hotel lobby, together you will drive to Tamgaly North-West of Almaty. Tamgaly has unique petrographs representing several historical periods. The petroglyphs of different ages were discovered in 1957, the most ancient are believed to be from the bronze age. These petroglyphs depict many ritualistic scenes and hunt dances, wild animals such as boar, oxen, mountain sheep, deer, horses, wolves, snow leopards and foxes. These are scattered in an area of about 10 km. Afterwards, you can drive to an Issyk winery, where you can try a variety of regional wines.

Following your days touring you will be transferred back to your hotel in Almaty where you will have the remainder of your day at leisure.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Ritz Carlton Almaty

Day 14
Almaty | Almaty

This morning, your driver and guide will meet you in your hotel lobby for a day of sightseeing in Almaty and its surroundings. Your first stop may be Panifiloy Park, founded in the 1960’s in the area around the Voznesenki (Zenkov) Cathedral. While here you will notice Almaty is a city full of greenery, finding some exquisitely beautiful gardens in this area.

Before leaving the park, you may wish to stop at the Museum of Musical Instruments. This small museum is housed in a unique wooden building. Inside you will find over 60 different types and varieties of Kazakh folk musical instruments.

This afternoon, journey outside the city for a drive up into the mountains. The area known as Medeo, features the largest speed skating rink in the world. Kazakhstan is actually made a bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, and this area played an important role in the Olympic proposal. You may drive above the ice rink for a bit to reach the observation deck at the “green peak”, where you will find a panorama view of Almaty stretching out to the steppes beyond.

Following your days touring you will be transferred to your hotel where you will have the remainder of your day at leisure

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Ritz Carlton Almaty

Day 15
Almaty - Karakol | Almaty - Karakol

This morning, your driver and guide will meet you in your hotel lobby, you will then set off for the town of Karakol. The drive will take you through the scenic Kegen pass, giving you spectacular views of Kazakhstan’s untouched natural beauty. You will have the opportunity to visit the Charyn Canyon, a similar looking canyon to the American Grand Canyon. Its length is approximately 125 miles and its height varies from 300 to almost 1,000 feet. The red clay walls of the canyon are carved with deep fissures, forming caves, grottos and niches of different shapes and sizes. They create an impression of a huge ghost city inhabited by fantastic creatures. Spreading bay leaf poplars, saksaul, tamarisk, reeds and kargans help create the atmosphere of an untouched and deserted place.

Trekking, hiking and rafting are all available. Please let your guide know of any activity you may wish to enjoy.

Once in Karakol, you will be transferred to your hotel where you will have the remainder of your day at leisure.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Karagat Hotel

Day 16
Karakol - Lake Issyk Kul | Karakol - Lake Issyk Kul

This morning, your driver and guide will meet you in your hotel lobby for a tour of Karakol. Kyrgyzstan is a melting pot of religion and culture, here you will see one of the first Orthodox Churches in the region, and the very unusual Dungan Mosque. The Dungan Mosque shows influences of Chinese architecture, in the late 1800s Kyrgyzstan saw a massive influx of Chinese Muslims as a result of religious persecution in China.

Next you will visit the Museum of Przhevalsky, dedicated to Nikolai Przhevalsky, one of the first European explores to visit the region. Afterwards, you will drive around Lake Issyk Kul and arrive at Grigorievska gorge for a hiking excursion in this beautiful part of Kyrgyzstan.

Afterwards, you will be transferred to your resort style hotel on the north side of Lake Issyk Kul where you can spend the rest of your day at leisure.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Karven Four Seasons

Day 17
Lake Issyk Kul | Lake Issyk Kul

This morning, your driver and guide will meet you in your hotel lobby and take you to the Ethnographic Museum to learn more about Kyrgyzstan’s diverse culture. Afterwards, you will see the Cholpon-Ata petroglyphs, dating back all the way to 2,000 BC. This is a large open-air museum with over 900 glacially deposited rocks that have various images of animals, hunters, and chariots.

Later today you will have a boat cruise on Lake Issyk Kul, the second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea. Lake Issyk Kul is one of the deepest lakes in the world at just shy of 2,200ft and has a high endemic fish population that is found nowhere else in the world.

Following your days touring you will be transferred to your resort style hotel along the banks of Lake Issyk Kul where you will have the remainder of your day at leisure

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Karven Four Seasons

Day 18
Lake Issyk Kul - Bishkek | Lake Issyk Kul - Bishkek

This morning, your driver and guide will meet you in your hotel lobby and transfer you to the city of Bishkek.

In route you will visit a large minaret (Mosque Tower) called the Burana Tower. This tower, standing at 82 ft tall, has been used since the 9th Century AD to call Muslims to prayer. The town of Burana was founded in the middle of the 10th century AD and was the site of the ancient Soghdian city of Balasagun.

Once in Bishkek you will check into your hotel, once settled your guide will take you on an overview walking tour of the city. Situated in the Tien Shan mountain range, Bishkek is the largest city and capital of Kyrgyzstan. Originally Bishkek was simply a rest stop along the Silk Road, it was fortified in 1825 by the Uzbek Khan and prospered from there. You will see numerous soviet influences still in the city, included a statue of Lenin outside the State History Museum. You will visit Panfilov Park, named after Ivan Panfilov, a hero of the Soviet Union and defender of Moscow during the Second World War. You will also see Ala- Too Square, Bishkek’s central square that sees most of the city’s national events.

Following your days touring you will be transferred to your hotel where you will have the remainder of your day at leisure

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide

Hotel: Hyatt Regency

Day 19
Departure | Bishkek

This morning, your driver and guide will meet you in your hotel lobby to take you on an excursion to the beautiful Ala-Archa Nature park. The Kyrgyz National Nature park of Ala-Archa is situated just south of Bishkek in the Kyrgyz Ala-Too mountain range. The elevation varies greatly between 1600 m to 4860 m (Korona Peak) and the total area of the Park is 19,500 thousand sq. km. The park has an abundance of wildlife, including eagles, ibexes, Marco-Polo sheep, wolves, bears, lynx, boars and the rarely seen snow leopard.

Following your days touring you will be transferred back to your hotel where you will meet your driver that will then transfer you to the airport for your onward flight.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide; Airport Transfer

Meet a ballerina in St Petersburg
Extraordinary Experiences
VIEW VIEW page

Extraordinary Experiences

Discover our insider access Extraordinary Experiences.

VIEW PAGE
Exeter Experts Feb 2019
The Experts
VIEW VIEW page

The Experts

Meet the Experts that will make your trip extraordinary.

VIEW PAGE
Rovinj, Istria
View Our Destinations
VIEW VIEW page

View Our Destinations

Our specialty is in the countries that link East & West, both in Europe, and between Europe & Asia.

VIEW PAGE
Family travel
View Our Trip Types
VIEW VIEW page

View Our Trip Types

How do you like to travel? View your choices here.

VIEW PAGE