Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Ultimate 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

Arrival in Tashkent. Your guide and driver will meet you at the airport and then transfer you to the Lotte Hotel for guaranteed early check in.

After some time to rest, 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 centre, 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. It was taken to Saint Petersburg (and held in the Hermitage) before being returned to Uzbekistan in 1989.

Later, you will see the 16th century Kukeldash Madrasah, which is one of the few remaining authentic historic monuments in the Old Town (the massive earthquake of 1968 destroyed most of central Tashkent), and 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. Today it also includes a functioning mosque.

This afternoon we recommend visiting the workshop of a famed Uzbek ceramist who comes from a dynasty of ceramic artists. His workshop and gardens are not commercial and he has some beautiful pieces.

In front of your hotel is the Alisher Navoi Theatre which is currently    under complete refurbishment. Your guide will point out the theatre and Square.

Exeter Services: Airport Transfer & Guide

Accommodation: Lotte Tashkent Palace

Day 2
Tashkent | Tashkent

Your guide and driver will meet you for an overview tour of modern Tashkent. Your first stop will be Independence Square, the largest square in Tashkent, and Amir Timur Square.

We also recommend a visit to the beautiful applied arts museum, built in 1927, showing excellent examples of Uzbek applied arts.

 Later, 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, fruit and cheese to clothing, toys, tools and everyday goods.

Exeter Services: Guide, Vehicle & Driver

Accommodation: Lotte Hotel

Day 3
Khiva | Khiva

This morning your driver will transfer you to the airport for departure from Tashkent on Uzbekistan Airways HY1055 to Urgench at 08:40, arriving 10:20 local time.

You will then be transferred from Urgench airport to Khiva, arriving at approximately 12:00. After you have checked in to Malika Kheviak or Asia Hotel, you will begin touring with your guide.

 Khiva’s origin dates back to the 6th century and during 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 colourful 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’.

One of the most notable sites within the walls of Khiva is the Kunya Ark. This was the 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 is the Muhammad Rakhim Madrasah II, which was built to honour 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 may also be interested in some carpet shopping in Khiva. We can highly recommend the book Carpet Ride to Khiva by Christopher Aslan Alexander, a Brit who set up the wonderful UNESCO-funded carpet workshop pictured above. Carpets are unique (the one shown is a design of the West Gate of Khiva) and can be made to order and shipped. It’s also a relief to have fixed pricing!

Exeter Services: Airport Transfer, Guide, Vehicle & Driver

Accommodation: Malika Kheviak or Asia Hotel

Day 4
Khiva | Khiva

Today, you will continue your tour of Ican Kala starting with 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.

Your next stop will be at the Tosh Khovli (Stone House) Palace, which has some of Khiva's finest interior decorations with ceramic tiles and wood and stone carvings. It was built in the early 19th century as an alternative residence to the Kunya Ark and supposedly contained over 150 rooms and 9 courtyards.

The mausoleum of Pakhlavan Makhmud was built in 1810 to honour 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.

Exeter Services: Guide, Vehicle & Driver

Accommodation: Malika Kheviak or Asia Hotel

Day 5
Bukhara | Bukhara

This morning your driver will transfer you to Urgench airport for departure on Uzbekistan Airways HY1052 to Bukhara at 10:10, arriving 11:10 local time.

You will then be transferred to the Amelia Boutique Hotel. After you have checked in, you will begin touring with your guide.

Bukhara is actually an oasis in the Kyzyikum desert and is located on the banks of the Zeravshan River. The old city part of the town has a small and friendly feel and much of today will be accessible on foot.

There are over 140 historic and protected buildings in the city centre and you will have a very full afternoon of exploration ahead. Among your visits will be Chor Minor and Tandir, where you can see the baking process of Uzbek bread ‘lepyoshka’. Later, you can visit the imposing Ark Fortress, a royal walled town within the city which dates back to the 5th century.

This afternoon you will visit Rahmon, a local Suzane maker and enjoy tea in his restored Jewish merchant home. 

Exeter Services: Airport Transfer, Guide, Vehicle & Driver

Accommodation: Amelia Boutique

Day 6
Bukhara | Bukhara

The summer residence of Bukhara Emir (King) Sitorai Mohi Khosa (The Palace of Moon and Stars) is located just outside the city. This beautiful palace was built at the beginning of the 20th century, combining peculiarities of Oriental architecture with European elements.

You will also visit the Khoja Bakhautdin Naqshbandi complex, one of the most important Muslim shrines. The founder of the Sufi Order Naqshbandi was buried 12km from Bukhara in his native village of Kasri Orifon.

This evening we have arranged for dinner in a private home – one of the most delicious meals we have experienced in the whole country!

Exeter Services: Guide (Vehicle & Driver as needed)

Accommodation: Amelia Boutique

 

Day 7
Samarkand - Bukhara via Shakhrisabz | Samarkand

Bukhara-Samarkand

Morning departure for Samarkand (approx. 175 miles and a 5 hour drive). Along the way you may stop at Shakhrisabz.  Nestled in a small valley in the foothills of the Pamir Mountains, Shakhrisabz is one of the most historically significant villages in the area.  Its origin dates back over 2,700 years.  Shakhrisabz is best known as the birthplace of Tamerlane, the mighty conqueror who was a direct descendant of Genghis Khan.  In his day, Tamerlane was second in conquest only to Alexander the Great.  This ancient village has risen and fallen many times throughout history, but its charm and historical significance are easily recognized today.

Afternoon arrival into Samarkand and transfer to your hotel for check in.

One of the most famous towns along the Silk Road, Samarkand is also one of the oldest cities in central Asia. You will find many notable architectural remains from the 14th through to the 17th century when Samarkand flourished as the fabled capital of the Mongol empire of Timur and his successors.

 

Exeter Services: Full Day, Guide, Vehicle & Driver

Accommodation: Grand Samarkand Superior, Bibikhanym or Malika Prime

Day 8
Samarkand | Samarkand

This morning you will start your exploration of Samarkand with a visit to the History Museum and then Shakhi Zinda Neceopolis.

This cluster of 11 mausoleums was built between the 14th and 15th centuries, allowing you to see several types of architecture and design of the region. This centre is still very much in use today. It is also worth taking a walk through the more modern hill top cemetery behind the Necropolis. 

This afternoon you will visit the Observatory of Ulugbek. This remarkable scientific discovery was revolutionary in its time (the mid-15th century).

 Exeter Services: Guide, Vehicle & Driver

Accommodation: Grand Samarkand Superior, Bibikhanym or Malika Prime

Day 9
Samarkand | Samarkand

One of the most famous towns along the Silk Road, Samarkand is also one of the oldest cities in central Asia. You will find many notable architectural remains from the 14th through to the 17th century when Samarkand flourished as the fabled capital of the Mongol empire of Timur and his successors.

 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, the 17th century Sher-Dor Madrasah and Tilya-Kori Madrasah.

You will also visit the Bibi Khanum Mosque and Mausoleum. Finished just before Timur’s death, its dome is majestic.

 The idea of veils for women is rumoured to have originated here when Timur’s wife fell in love with the architect while her husband was away. Upon discovering the affair Timur had the architect executed and decreed that women should henceforth wear veils so that men would not be tempted.

Exeter Services: Station Transfer, Guide, Vehicle & Driver

Accommodation: Grand Samarkand Superior, Bibikhanym or Malika Prime

Day 10
Departure | Departure

This afternoon your driver will transfer you to Tashkent airport for departure.

Exeter Services: Airport Transfer

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