The very name ‘Samarkand’ is synonymous with the Silk Road, surely few if any other cities evokes more vivid romance of ancient travel and trade than this former entrepot, one that was arguably the very nexus of the route. Today its’ magnificent monuments have been restored to their former grandeur, a intoxicating collection of fabulous architecture, exquisite tilework and vibrant markets. Skilled handcrafts are manufactured in front of one’s eyes, richly coloured textiles and silks, metal work and fabrics and traditional paper-making using the same mulberry tree as feeds the famed silk worms. Neighbouring Bukhara offers an equally beguiling mix, in a compact user-friendly city where one can walk between monuments, much like more distant Khiva, all part of a friendly and enchanting country. Farther out in the desert are the crumbling remains of even older Khorezm, a reminder of the perils and harsh terrain of a region that lured many a merchant and adventurer to risk all to reach. Ancient mixes with modern, fast trains whisk us between cities and modern Tashkent has its own lively charms and striking new buildings. Quintessential Silk Road.
Part of our Silk Road in Comfort cultural series, small groups, good hotels, convenient transport, expert guides.
Day 1 Arrive Khiva (23 September)
A direct flight from Istanbul brings us to Urgench, gateway to Khiva the most westerly point of our travels. After a late breakfast and rest we will take a city tour to see the first of our UNESCO world heritage sites visiting Ichan-Kala Fortress. Visit Mukhammad Amin Khan Madrasah, Mukhammad Rahimkhan Madrasah, Kalta Minor, Kunya-Ark, Juma Mosque, Toshkhovli Palace, Pakhlavan Makhmud Mausoleum, Minaret of Islom-khodja. Overnight Khiva.
Day 2 Khiva fortresses
Way out in the surrounding Kyzylkum Desert are the monuments of Ancient Khorezm and we will drive out into this remote area to see the Kushan monuments of Kyzyl-Kala and Toprak Kala, the latter the former third century capital of Khorezm. Not without reason this is called "the museum of fine arts of Ancient Khorezm" and is the only completely dug out Khorezm monument, known for its ingenious architecture. Later in the afternoon we’ll visit one of the largest fortresses of Ancient Khorezm; Ayaz Kala. Overnight Khiva.
Day 3 Fly to Bukhara
The desert reaches are large and so this morning we will fly onto Bukhara. The rest of the day will be spent enjoying a walking tour of this compact and fascinating city, taking in the quirky Chor-Minor Madrasah, the showpiece Kalyan Minaret is magnificent and nearby one can sit under the shade of mulberries in the attached Kalyan Mosque complex. There is the exquisitely constructed Ismail Samany Mausoleum, with the most intricate brickwork imaginable and we wil see a variety of other superb brick and blue tiled constructions including; Miri-Arab, Ulugbek and Abdulazizkhan Madrasahs, Lyabi Hauz, Magoki-Attori Mosque and the smaller Bolo-Khauz Mosque with wooden supporting columns. Huge walls still surround part of the Ark Fortress a reminder of the past glory and strength of Bukhara and we will walk through the vaulted ceilings of the restored trade domes where many a deal was struck in the past and great place to find finely-constructed handicrafts today. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 4 Bukhara
There will be a morning excursion to Sitorai Mokhikhosa, the summer residence of Bukhara’s last emir and a unique site combining Oriental and Russian architecture with collections of artefacts from around the world as well as exhibitions of fine Susana embroidery and ornate handmade clothing with remarkable intricate needlework. An eclectic place. In the afternoon there will be more time to enjoy the old city, which is a delight to wander independently. Any sites not seen yesterday will be covered today. Overnight Bukhara.
Day 5 To Samarkand
An express train takes us onto Samarkand, arguably the most iconic of all Silk Road cities. After lunch and before we explore the city in full we will sample other cultural aspects and visit the Meros paper mill, where artisans have resurrected the techniques of traditional paper making using mulberry wood. Back in the city we will see the Afrisob Museum to give an overview of the history of Samarkand. Overnight Samarkand.
Day 6 Samarkand
The finale to our tour will be a full day exploring magnificent Samarkand. We will visit the spectacular Registan Square, the crumbling ruins of Bibi Khanum Mosque, a structure too vast in concept for the ground it stands on, the nearby Siyob Bazaar still buzzes with activity and affords the chance to buy delicious local treats and see what local residents buy and sell. There are the modest but significant remains of Ulugbek’s ground-breaking and incredibly accurate Observatory, as well as the exquisite blue-tiled ensemble at Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis and iconic Gur Emir Mausoleum, the authentic shrine of Tamerlane. Overnight Samarkand.
Day 7 Tashkent
A day of contrast. We will take the excellent fast train to the capital Tashkent and after lunch there will be a city tour, a chance to see modern Uzbekistan and its new architecture, tree-lined grand boulevards and its historical context. Overnight Tashkent.
Day 8 Direct Flights to Istanbul
Departure to Istanbul for connecting flights.
Per person (twinshare): 3000 USD
Single supplement: 450 USD
- 7 nights accommodation
- Internal flight
- All food
- Ground transport
- Guide services
- Entrance fees
- International Flights
- Visa fees (if applicable)
- Travel/Medical Insurance
- Alcoholic and soft drinks
- Personal expenses
- Camera fees at cultural sites
Minimum number of participants 14; maximum 18.
Please note if the number of participants is less than 8 the cost may rise.
Why not connect this tour with one of our other Silk Road cultural experiences in Armenia, Iran or other parts of Turkiye?
Did you know we will soon have trips to Mexico and South America, to sample Aztec and Inca culture as well as remote Easter Island?