Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Essential Uzbekistan

Sail down the beautiful rivers
Sail down the beautiful rivers

Breathtaking. The magic of a starry evening in Khiva that makes you feel transported to a scene from 1001 nights; clouds drifting over a minaret in Bukhara; the intense blue of the majolica tiles on the magnificent Registan in Samarkand; the hussle of the Chorsu bazaar in Tashkent. 

Uzbekistan is a place you have already been to - in your imagination. If this sounds overly romantic, that is because we believe that there is something special for everyone when they take a vacation to Uzbekistan. History, romance, the feel of a place less travelled, engaging with the wonderful people who are genuinely delighted that you are visiting their country and will do anything to make your stay feel more special.

Two thousand years ago the Silk Road trade routes crisscrossed Eurasia, from China to the ports of the Mediterranean, from the first millennium AD silk was already being sold in Europe in the fourth century BC, and many important scientific and technological innovations migrated along the Silk Road to the West: gunpowder, the magnetic compass, the printing press, mathematics, ceramic and lacquer crafts.

First Transoxiana, then Turkestan, now Uzbekistan, this part of central Asia has always been a melting pot and a much contested region. From Alexander the Great to Ghengis Khan to the ‘Great Game’ between Russia and Great Britain in the 19th century, Uzbekistan finally succumbed to the Soviet Empire.  With Stalin’s terrible divide and rule policy in the region, it seems almost incredible that the key cities on the path of the Silk road are still relatively unchanged and the old traditions of the people have been preserved.

For custom luxury travel and tours to Uzbekistan, please contact one of our travel experts.

Download a PDF itinerary here.

ITINERARY

PRICING FROM

$4,425 per person, based on two guests traveling together. Please contact Exeter International for specific pricing and availability. 

Day 1
Arrival | Tashkent

Arrival into Tashkent. If you arrive on Uzbek Air in Business class, a CIP arrival will be included for you to make the customs process much easier. If you are not arriving on Uzbek Air in Business,thiscanbeaddedforapproximately$250perperson. Asyourairplanelands,lookfor a CIP bus on the tarmac and give your name at boarding. You will be taken to a CIP arrival hall where a special immigration officer will complete the formalities – your passport and visa will be checked. Once you provide your luggage tags, your luggage will be collected for you.

Please note that due to heightened security at the airport, your guide and driver will not be able to meet you inside the terminal building, but at the perimeter gate, clearly visible upon exit from the arrivals area.

You will be met by your guide and driver for a transfer to your hotel. Early check-in is included. After checking-in at your hotel, take some time at leisure to relax and settle-in.

Today, late in the morning or at noon, you will meet your guide in the 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.

You will return to your hotel for an evening at your leisure.

Exeter Services: Airport Transfer; Half Day Vehicle, Driver & Guide (Afternoon Tour)

Accommodation: Hyatt Regency Tashkent

Day 2
Tashkent - Urgench - Khiva | Tashkent - Urgench - Khiva

This morning is at leisure. At noon, after check-out, your guide will meet you for some exploration of Tashkent. You will visit Independence Square, Amir Temur Square, the metro and Navoi Theatre Square.

In the afternoon, you will transfer to the airport for your evening flight to Urgench. (Cost of the flight is not included in this itinerary but can be arranged – Business Class seats are approximately $130 per person – please note cost is subject to change).

Upon arrival in Urgench, your vehicle and driver will meet you for transfer to your hotel in Khiva. Upon check-in, evening is at leisure.

Exeter Services: Half-Day Guide (Tashkent); Airport Transfers (Tashkent & Urgench)

Accommodation: Asia / Bek / Kalika Kheivak or Similar

Day 3
Khiva | Khiva

This morning, enjoy a tour 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 peopleliveandworkinsidetheancientcitywalls(calledIchanKala). Withinthesewalls,theold 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 was built in the 10th century and rebuilt in the 18th 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, and if you are interested, you can attend a traditional folk show at one of the Hareems in Khiva. (Cost not included in program cost)

Exeter Services: Full-Day Guide, Vehicle & Driver

Accommodation: Asia / Bek / Kalika Kheivak or Similar

Day 4
Khiva - Bukhara | Khiva - Bukhara

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

Optional: If the flight schedule allows (typically TUESDAY and SUNDAY), this afternoon you will take a flight from the Urgench Airport to Bukhara (cost of flight not included in program cost – Business Class seats are approximately $100 per person). We will advise if this flight is available upon booking.

Upon arrival in Bukhara, check-in to your hotel and the rest of your evening is at leisure.

Exeter Services: Transfer Khiva to Bukhara

Accommodation: Minor / Amelia / Omar Hayyam / Asia / Zargaron Plaza or Similar 

Day 5
Bukhara | Bukhara

This morning you will begin with 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 part of the town 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 (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and you will have a very full day of exploration ahead. Your logical first step will be 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 a fortress until the early 20thcentury 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 pond called Bolo-khauz (The Children's pond) - one of the few remaining ponds 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.

At the end of the day you will enjoy a tasting of herbal teas in the “Silk Road Spices” tea house.

After a short break to refresh yourselves, you will be invited into the home of Rahmon, who will teach you how to make traditional Uzbek Plov. Rahmon is also a master Suzane embroiderer and has an incredible selection for sale.

Exeter Services: Full-Day Guide, Vehicle & Driver

Accommodation: Minor / Amelia / Omar Hayyam / Asia / Zargaron Plaza or Similar 

Day 6
Bukhara | Bukhara

This morning 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 16th- century 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.

Afterwards you will visit the Lyab-i Khauz complex, a pond that used to be the centerpiece of a magnificent architectural ensemble dating from the 16th -17th centuries. Still standing today, it now includes a madrasah and a lodging house.

Next, if you are interested, your guide will also take you to the Jewish Quarter where you can see the Synagogue. Bukhara once had a large Jewish community. As a matter of fact, most of the Jews in Central Asia in the 16th century used to live in Bukhara and played a major role in the city’s development. The Bukharan Jews, many of which migrated to the United States and Israel after the collapse of the Soviet Union, still speak a distinctive language, which is a dialect of the ancient Persian.

Please note that all touring today is on foot and includes walking on cobblestone and stairs. Please wear comfortable walking shoes.

Exeter Services: Full-DayGuide (Vehicle & Driver as needed)

Accommodation: Minor / Amelia / Omar Hayyam / Asia / Zargaron Plaza or Similar 

Day 7
Samarkand | Samarkand

Your guide will meet you this morning for a visit to the Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace. This was the summer residence of the Emir of Bukhara. It was specifically picked in this location because it was not as hot as other locations.

Continue on to the Kagan Palace – White Palace built for Tsar Nicholas I. After touring the palace, your driver will meet you for transfer to the train station, where you will board the train to Samarkand (train times may vary). The cost of the train in VIP class is not included in your program cost and is subject to availability – VIP Class seats are approximately $50 per person.

Upon arrival in Samarkand, you will transfer to your hotel, where the rest of your evening is at leisure.

Exeter Services: Half-Day Vehicle, Driver & Guide (Bukhara); Station Transfers (Bukhara & Samarkand) 

Accommodation: Grand Samarkand Superior / Platan or similar 

Day 8
Samarkand | Samarkand

This morning you may choose to walk around Samarkand’s former Jewish quarter and visit the synagogue. You will also walk through the Siyab Bazaar and the Hodja Doniyor Mausoleum.

Afterwards your guide will take you to the small village of Konigil, a few miles from the centre of Samarkand. With the help of UNESCO funding, the ancient art of silk papermaking has been revived. 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.

Next, you will meet your driver for the transfer to the train station for the train to Tashkent (train times may vary). The cost of the train in VIP class is not included in your program and is subject to availability – VIP Class seats are approximately $55 per person.

Upon arrival, you will transfer to your hotel where the rest of the evening will be at your leisure.

 Exeter Services: Vehicle Driver & Guide (Samarkand); Station Transfers (Samarkand & Tashkent)

Accommodation: Hyatt Regency Tashkent

Day 9
Samarkand - Tashkent | Samarkand - Tashkent

Today, you will visit 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.

Later, your guide will take you out of the center to the small village of Konigil. With the help of UNESCO funding, the ancient art of silk papermaking has been revived. 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.

Today, lunch of traditional Uzbek plov will be served at the Silk papermaking center.

Next, you will transfer to the train station for the train to Tashkent. VIP class is included in your program (subject to availability and change).

Upon arrival, you will transfer to your hotel. As many flights depart very early in the morning, the rest of this evening will be at your leisure.

Exeter Services: Station Transfer, Guide, Vehicle & Driver

Accommodation: Hyatt Regency Tashkent

Day 10
Chimgan Day Trip | Chimgan Day Trip

Today your guide and driver will take you to the Chimgan mountains, Uzbekistan’s winter-sports center, located about 100km outside of the city. There you will find ski tracks, hiking trails and splendid views from the Great Chimgan, the highest summit in the region. The nearby resort of Beldersay is also worth a visit.

Later you will visit the Charvak Reservoir, created recently by the confluent of several mountain rivers. Its stunning blue waters are very popular among local people and half of its 60 miles of coastline is occupied by various recreation zones and summer camps. There you will visit the village of Brichmula, as well as the rock paintings of Khodjikent.

Late afternoon return to Tashkent.
If you are interested, an evening performance at the Alisher Navoi Theater can be added (Not included in program cost and subject to availability).

Exeter Services: Guide, Vehicle & Driver (8 Hours)

Accommodation: Hyatt Regency Tashkent

Day 11
Departure | Departure
 

Today, check-out of the hotel and meet your driver for the transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

Exeter Services: Airport Transfer

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