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.

Day 1
Arrival | Tashkent Applied Arts Museum - Tashkent, Uzbekistan

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, this can be added for approximately $250 per person. As your airplane lands, look for 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, around 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 Shawl Ladies, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

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 Theater Square.

In the afternoon, you will transfer to the airport for your evening flight to Urgench. (Cost of business class seats for this flight is included in itinerary.)

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: Malika Kheivak / Orient Star / Erkin Palace / Bek or similar

Day 3
Khiva | Khiva Khiva Uzbekistan

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 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 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 included in program cost)

Exeter Services: Full-Day Guide, Vehicle & Driver

Accommodation: Malika Kheivak / Orient Star / Erkin Palace / Bek or similar

Day 4
Khiva - Bukhara | Khiva - Bukhara Khiva, Uzbekistan

As the flight schedule allows, today you will take a flight from the Urgench Airport to Bukhara. Cost of flight is included in program, we will advise of specific flight availability upon confirmation.

Flight schedule, subject to change:
Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 9:30AM flight to Bukhara at 10:35AM. Upon arrival, meet your driver and begin a city overview tour before checking into your hotel. You may enjoy an additional afternoon tour this evening or enjoy the evening at leisure.

Tuesday, Sunday: 9PM flight to Bukhara, arrival at 10PM. Upon arrival, meet your driver and transfer to your hotel.

Wednesday: 3:10PM flight to Bukhara. Upon arrival at 4:05PM, meet your driver and transfer to your hotel. You may enjoy an afternoon overview tour or enjoy the evening at leisure.

Exeter Services: Transfer Khiva to Bukhara

Accommodation:  Minorai Kalon/ Omar Hayyam / Minzifa / Basilic / Zargaron Plaza or similar

Day 5
Bukhara | Bukhara Bukhara, Uzbekistan

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 20th century when it fell in the hands of the Russians.

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).

At the end of the day you will enjoy a tasting of herbal teas in the a local tea house. After a short break to refresh yourselves, you will be invited into a local home, where you will be taught how to make traditional Uzbek Plov.

Exeter Services: Full-Day Guide, Vehicle & Driver

Accommodation:  Minorai Kalon/ Omar Hayyam / Minzifa / Basilic / Zargaron Plaza or similar

Day 6
Bukhara | Bukhara Bukhara, Uzbekistan

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.

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-Day Guide

Accommodation:  Minorai Kalon/ Omar Hayyam / Minzifa / Basilic / Zargaron Plaza or similar

Day 7
Bukhara - Samarkand | Bukhara - Samarkand Samarkand, Uzbekistan

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 included in your program cost but is subject to availability.

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: Dilimah Luxury Premium / Grand Samarkand Superior or similar

Day 8
Samarkand | Samarkand Ulugbeg Observatory, Uzbekistan

Today you will begin your exploration of this historic city. One of the most famous towns along the Silk Road, Samarkand also belongs among the oldest cities in Central Asia. It was sacked by the Mongols under Genghis Khan in 1220s 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 the ones of his sons, grandson, and other notable political and religious figures.

One of the highlights 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.

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.

Just before returning to your hotel, be sure to make a stop and visit the Happy Bird handicrafts Center and meet with the famous artist Mr Toir Sharipov.

If time allows, and you are interested, you may wish to visit the Hudjum Silk Carpet Factory.

Return to your hotel, where the rest of your evening is at leisure.

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience (optional)

Before dinner, you may wish to visit the Khovrenko Wine Factory and caves and enjoy a wine tasting with mini lecture. (Please note factory visit and wine tasting not included in program cost.)

Exeter Services: Full-Day Vehicle Driver & Guide (Samarkand)

Accommodation: Dilimah Luxury Premium / Grand Samarkand Superior or similar

Day 9
Samarkand - Tashkent | Samarkand - Tashkent Samsa Seller - Bukhara, Uzbekistan

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.

You will stop by the museum of Local Lore of Samarkand, in the home of Mr. Kalandarov, a famous Jewish merchant.

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 included in your program but is subject to availability.

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 Transfer (Samarkand & Tashkent)

Accommodation: Hyatt Regency Tashkent

Day 10
Chimgan Day Trip | Chimgan Day Trip Puppets, Market, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

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: Full-Day 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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