Discover the spring gems, classic history and sublime landscapes of Central Asia. Of all of the cities along the former Silk Road none resonates quite like Samarkand, arguably the very nexus of the ancient trade route. Fully restored the magnificent blue-tiled monuments of Timur gleam and impress. To the south is Shakhrisabz, Timur's birthplace and between the cities lies floral splendour with a swirl of corydalis, crocus and gorgeous irises, whilst to the north on the western end of the Tien Shan a completely different selection of species awaits. As the snows of winter recede the magnificent landscapes of neighbouring Kyrgyzstan awaken with a kaleidoscope of bulbs from stands of the Moonflower Fritillaria eduardii and stately Eremurus alberti. Oceans of stunningly patterned Papaver pannonicum are matched by vast drifts of Corydalis ledebouriana and turf painted gold with Colchicum luteum. The Kyrgyz name for tulip is turban and these range from the sumptuous cerise cups of Tulipa rosea to red-and-yellow Tulipa tetraphylla or the pretty stars of Tulipa tarda.
A pretour takes in more of the glorious architecture of the region, visiting Bukhara and Khiva.
Following our early morning arrival into Tashkent (on 6 April) we'll take and internal flight to Konya-Urgench (this flight is included in the tour cost), the city closest to Khiva and start of our cultural experience of Central Asia. Here we'll enjoy and introduction to the fabulous architectural and desert oasis style fortifications. Overnight Khiva.
Beyond Khiva are various eroded, ancient fortresse, and in the surrounding steppe we hope see stately Ferula foetida as well as the delicate Iris longiscapa. Please note Ferula are notoriously erratic in their blooming, having big years and lean years, Fingers crossed it's the former. Overnight Khiva.
In the morning we’ll transfer by express train/or flight (depending on schedule) to Bukhara another city renowned for it’s sublime architecture. In the afternoon time will spent looking at other sights in and around Bukhara. Overnight Bukhara.
We’ll take a walking tour of this compact city to see the Ark, Chor Minar, the Kalon Minaret, trade domes and many other superb cultural highlights of this enchanting Silk Road city before travelling to Samarkand by express train. Overnight Samarkand.
Following our early morning arrival at Samarkand we will transfer to our hotel and have a late breakfast and rest. Afterwards we will begin our exploration of the fantastic monuments of Samarkand, including; magnificent fluted dome of the Gur-i-Amir, the medrasa complex of the Registan, the fabulous blue-tiles of Shah-i-Zinda and the Observatory of Ulugbeg. Overnight Samarkand.
A granitic extension of the Hissar Range rises south of the Samarkand and it's a botanical highlight with a suite of superb spring flowers including Iris bucharica, Iris magnifica and the incomparable Iris warleyensis, cerise Primula fedtschenkoana, golden Crocus korolkowii, purple and white striped Colchicum kesselringianum and a dazzling array of hybridising Corydalis ledebouriana (cerise form) and maracandica illuminating the wide pass. Fritillaria bucharica and Tulipa biflora are more subtle delights. With luck we will get to see the dazzling Tulipa fosteriana too. Overnight Samarkand.
The Tien Shan mountains are just a couple of hours to the east. As we travel there, there will be Fritillaria seversowii, Solenanthus circinnatus and Iris tubergeniana. In the grounds of the hotel are many lovely spring flowers with the delicate winter aconite Eranthis longistipitata, white and black-purple Crocus alatavicus, Gymnospermium albertii and Corydalis ledebouriana (pale pink form). Exploring the flower-rich areas of this superb reserve, near snow-patch will be Colchicum luteum and Crocus alatavicus, whilst clay-slopes have Fritillaria stenanthera, and abundant gageas. Hikes into Chimgan Valley brings us to a colourful swirl of Tulipa x tschimganica, Tulipa dubia and Tulipa bifloriformis. If the snows permit we can take the cable car to the pass and find delicate Corydalis darvasica too. Overnight Beldersay.
Nearby valleys have varying all red populations of Tulipa tschimganica and the elegant vases of T. greigii amidst slopes of fabulous milky Eremurus lactiflorus. We will spend the morning exploring these and the Thermopsis alternifolia driving alongside Charvak Reservoir to look for more tulips, Arnebia tchimganica and stands of I before returning to Tashkent for the night.
Stalin's convoluted borders (and erratic flight connections) of Central Asia come to the fore today as we make the train journey from Tashkent to Andijan and cross the border into neighbouring Kyrgyzstan to overnight in bustling Osh.
We'll drive west in the morning to remote Batken. Nearby cliffs in a special Fritillary Reserve protect thriving stands of the impressive Fritillaria eduardii, known locally as Aigul, which means Moonflower – alluding to the silvery round nectaries inside the flowers. A scattering of Tulipa korolkowii, Leontice eversmannii and various Gagea accompany them. They are well protected inside their reserve, which is patrolled by nimble school kids who chastise any adults guilty of picking! Nearby stony mounds have the unique reddish-pink of Tulipa rosea, a rare delight growing in austere surroundings. Overnight Batken.
We have more time on this return to Osh to explore stony valleys have a selection of interesting steppic plants and the flat lands have vast carpets of Papaver pannonicum, creating a sea of scarlet. Growing with them are stands of Ixiolirion, purple Romeria hybrida, the attractive gold and purple of Arnebia guttata and its’ unusual cousin pink and blue A. obovata. Earthy slopes have a fine population of the beautiful flesh-pink Eremurus alberti. Overnight Osh.
A long day, but one with rewards. The rocky hills harbour the beautiful lilac-blue of Iris zenaidae, mingling with red and yellow Tulipa tetraphylla, domes of white-flowered Vinca erecta and the robust golden spikes of Phlomoides speciosa. Great billowing swathes of Crambe tartaricum turn the slopes white as stands of golden-spired foxtail lilies colour the rocks. We also hope to find the lovely Iris rodenkoi. There are larger displays of tulips further along and north-facing slopes with the feisty bronzy-green flowered Fritillaria severzowii, as well as some fine vistas of the mountainous landscape that typify the country.
Amazing massed displays are the order of today, beginning with big stands of Fritillaria severzowii and Solenanthus circinnatus. Corydalis glaucescens speckle the slopes at times alongside Colchicum kesselringianum and Tulipa dasystemon, other times with its’ cousin Corydalis ledebouriana. The latter occurs in vast drifts higher up, creating carpets of pink and yellow with the myriad gageas. The golden cups of Colchicum luteum appear closer to the snow and number in their countless thousands. On the approach to the Tor Ashu pass we will drifts of purple and white Colchicum kesselringianum and patches of Tulipa dasystemon. As we make the final descend the slopes begin to colour with the handsome dark-centred yellow and red Tulipa zenaidae.
Close to the Kazakhstan border the pretty yellow and white stars of Tulipa tarda crowd rocky slopes above a river and the neighbouring hills have large drifts of golden Tulipa tetraphylla and the startling red or yellow (or both) forms of Tulipa ostrowskiana. Hidden among them are the lovely purple flowers of Iris kuschakewiczii and if we are lucky the first spires of Eremurus lactiflorus. A detour into greener, grassier hills finds the feathery leaved Adonis tianshanicus topped with yellow flowers. If we have time we will visit the ancient site of Balagassun (Birana Tower) on the way back.
Return flights from Bishkek airport.
Per person (twin share): 1755 USD
Deposit 265 USD
Single supplement 130 USD
*Minimum number of participants 6, maximum 12.
Per person (twin share): 4350 USD
Deposit 650 USD
Single supplement 475 USD
*Minimum number of participants 8, maximum 12.
For more information on our tours
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