Relive the dynasty of Tamerlane on this Silk Road adventure

Strategically positioned along the Silk Route, the cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva were famed trading centres for the caravans that passed this way in ancient times. On this Overland trip we follow in their footsteps, discovering magnificent architecture and bustling bazaars that have changed little since the rule of Tamerlane. We'll stay with nomads in the Turkmenistan’s desert, explore the imposing Oxus Valley, tour the wonders of Samarkand and head into the markets of Ashgabat to practice our bargaining skills.

Start
Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Finish
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Countries
Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan
Themes
Overland
Code
KDOO
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 4 Max 22
Carbon offset
615kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Pick up souvenirs in the bazaars of Tashkent
  • Experience the romance of the Silk Road in Samarkand
  • Spend a memorable night sleeping in a yurt
  • Walk through Bukhara's historic Old Town
  • Gaze up at the ancient walls surrounding Khiva
  • Discover the futuristic architecture of Ashgabat
  • Learn about Tamerlane’s dynasty

Itinerary

Border Information: if joining in Tashkent, you will most likely enter Uzbekistan at Tashkent International Airport. There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a note
from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting.
We will then have a free afternoon to explore the Soviet city of Tashkent. In Tashkent we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities. *Important note - do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all
circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*

Hotel for the night: Grand Orzu Hotel
Grand Orzu Hotel
27 Makhmud Tarobi Street
Tashkent
Uzbekistan
Tel: +998 71 120 88 77

Activity
Take in an opera performance at the neoclassical Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre UZS 1500
Explore the delightful traditional farmer's market at the Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent's Old Town
See the grand 16th-century Kukeldash Madrassa and the city's principal Juma Mosque in the Old Town
Visit the religious centre of Tashkent at Hast Imam Square and see the Uthman Koran, believed to be the world's oldest extant copy of the Koran USD 5

About Tashkent
Tashkent was once the fourth largest city in the Soviet Union. Whilst the historic cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva still retain much of the atmosphere of the ancient Khanates, Tashkent is very definitely a Soviet city, because old Tashkent was largely destroyed by a series of earthquakes and
Soviet planners. Having said that, it is still a great place to visit. The city has a clean, modern feel and there is some unusal contemporary architecture here, which makes it an interesting contrast to many other places along the Silk Road. The city markets (especially the Chorsu Bazaar) are well worth strolling around, you can get some excellent souvenirs here as there is a huge amount of Soviet ephemera on sale, ranging from entire Soviet stamp collections, old paintings of Lenin, through to Military uniforms. You should also try to plan a journey that involves a trip on the metro, so you can take in the impressive architecture and decoration of the Tashkent underground. Then after a busy
day sightseeing, you might like to head out for a meal at one of the old Imperial Russian style nightclub/restaurants which often put on some unbelievably risqué cabaret.
Today our journey begins will a drive to the fascinating ancient city of Samarkand where we will stay for the next 3 nights. In Samarkand we will stay in a good hotel on the outskirts of town. Drive time - 5-6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are approximate estimates only and are given with the best intentions - however please be aware that the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, borders and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

About Samarkand:
In the 14th century the city of Samarkand was the capital of the great sultanate of Timur. Thanks to it's cemtral location along the Silk Route, the town originally grew propserous as a crossroads between East and West, creating a melting pot of different cultures and traditions whose influences are still very
much apparent event today. Samarkand is perhaps the most romantic and evocative of the Silk Road cities, and crowned by the decorative domes and minarets of the many beautiful buildings here it certainly looks the part. The must-see's include Registan Square, which feels like the centre-point of the
city, home to a group of impressively decorated Madressas, Guri Amir and the Shah-i-Zinda mausoleum
Today we will have a guided tour of the incredible historic city of Samarkand and the surrounding area, including the Registan, Ulug Beg Observatory, Bibi- Khanym Mosque and Shah-I-Zinda. On our second day, we will have a free day to further explore the beautiful city and its surroundings.
Activity
the 15th-century Ulug Beg Observatory, once the finest observatory in the Islamic world
Included in Kitty
Visit the Guri-Amir Mausoleum, the final resting place of the Turko-Mongol conqueror Timur Included in Kitty
Explore the stunning plaza of The Registan, a worldfamous and iconic symbol of Central Asia Included in Kitty
Explore the stunning green city of Shahrisabz, the centre of folk art in Uzbekistan and the birthplace of the medieval warlord Timur USD 20
Discover the ruins of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, once one of the largest mosques in the world and the jewel in Timur's empire Included in Kitty
See the beautiful and moving ancient mausoleum of Shah-I-Zinda Included in Kitty
Wander through the markets and carpet vendors of Samarkand, and marvel at the intricate craftsmanship of the local carpet weavers

Today we will drive into the Kyzylkhum Desert near the town of Nurata. In the afternoon we will have the opportunity to take a swim in Lake Ajdar Kul and head out on an optional camel ride into the desert! Tonight we will stay in a desert yurt camp. Drive time - 4-5 hours.

Activity
Spend the night in nomadic yurts out in the the Kyzylkhum Desert Included in Kitty
See the ruins of Nur, the ancient fortress of Alexander the Great, on the drive into the Kyzylkhum Desert (if time allows) UZS 2000
Take a short camel ride around the sand dunes of the Kyzylkhum Desert UZS 5000

About Nurata:
Nurata is home to the Nurata mountains and is famous for it's old circle patterned Suzani which sell for thousands at auctions. Dating back to The Bronze Age, you can see how amazingly historical this place is with so much knowledge to be gained here. The history doesn't stop there, as there are tenth
century mosques and the place where the Chashma Springs formed.
Today we will drive to the beautiful city of Bukhara, where will spend the next 3 nights. Our drive will take us via the desert town of Nurata, which we will have a brief stop. In Bukhara we will stay in a comfortable local hotel. Drive time - 7-8 hours.

About Bukhara:
Bukhara is an atmospheric city alive with it's history. Exploring the streets, you get the feeling that this is how Central Asia was before Soviet domination. Bukhara was once a very powerful Khanate, controlling most of Turkmenistan and the surrounding area in years gone by. This has left the city
with a rich and interesting history and many of the buildings here are spectacular, particularly the Ark Fortress, Ismail Samanid Mausoleum and the famous Kalyan Minaret (also known as the Death Tower). Today the Government has invested a considerable amount of money into the city, in order to preserve the architecture here, as some of the buildings are considered to be the finest in all of Uzbekistan.
Today we will have a guided tour of Bukhara and the surrounding area, including the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Kalon Mosque, Zindon Prison and the Ark Fortress. On our second day here, we will have a free day to further explore this incredible historic city and its surroundings.

Activity
See the Indian-style Char Minar Minarets, four towers nestled in a maze of alleyways in downtown Bukhara
Visit the gruesome museum at the old prison of Zindon UZS 4500
Explore the city's oldest Islamic monument, the 10thcentury mausoleum of Ismail Samanid, the founder of the Samanid Dynasty Included in Kitty
Discover the ruins of the ancient 5th-century fortress of the Bukhara Ark Included in Kitty
Explore the colossal Kalon Mosque and Minaret, which has survived without restoration for 850 years and impressed Genghis Khan so much that he ordered the building to be spared Included in Kitty
Visit the magnificent 16th-centrury architectural ensemble surrounding the Lyab-i Hauz ponds, once the
city's principal source of water Included in Kitty
Watch an entertaining evening puppet show, featuring many local Uzbek and Tajik poems and songs
USD 5
Today we have a full day drive to the incredible historic town of Khiva. Drive time - 10-11 hours. On the next day, we have a guided tour of the ancient city of Khiva during the morning. In the afternoon we will have plenty of free time to further explore this wonderfully preserved Khanate town. In Khiva we will stay in a comfortable hotel.

Activity
See the beautiful turquoise Kalta Minor Minaret, one of the iconic symbols of Khiva Included in Kitty
Visit the Mohammed Rakhim Khan Madrassa, a museum dedicated to the Khan that surrendered to the Russians in 1873 Included in Kitty
Explore the incredibly photogenic blue palace of Tash Khovli in Khiva Included in Kitty
Learn all about the Khoezm culture and handicrafts at the Islam Hodja Madrassa, Khiva's newest monument Included in Kitty
Explore the incredible Juma Mosque and the 12th century fortress of the Kukhna Ark Included in Kitty
Visit the mausoleum of Pahlavon Mohammed, the legendary 14th-century poet, philosopher, wrestler, and patron saint of Khiva Included in Kitty

About Khiva:
The small historic town of Khiva in Uzbekistan was once the capital of Khwarezmia and the Khanate of Khiva, a central asian state that existed from the 1500's right through until 1924, when it was fully incorporated into the Soviet Union. The city's long history is fascinating and fortunately much of the
magnificent architecture has been incredibly well preserved. The ancient walls that used to provide sanctuary for the travellers on the Silk Route are intact, as is the old town that the walls were built to protect. Many of the buildings are beautifully decorated in classic turquoise tiles. As well as exploring the streets of the old city, you should make sure you visit the Kukhna Ark & Juma Mosque, Pakhlovan Mahmus Mausoleum and Islam Hodja Madrassa.
Border Information: Exit Uzbekistan at Nijazov, enter Turkmenistan at Shovot. This morning we will drive across the border into Turkmenistan, visit the markets in the border town of Dashoguz, and explore the Kunye Urgench ruins towards the end of the day. We will wild camp in the deserts near Kunye Urgench tonight. Drive time - 5-6 hours (heavily dependent on the time taken to cross the
border).

Activity
Explore the ancient ruined city of Kunye Urgench, once one of the most splendid cities in Central Asia until it was ransacked by Timur and abandoned Included in Kitty

About Kunye Urgench:
Kunye Urgench is situated on the shores of the Amu Daria River and was once the capital of the Khorezm region, which was part of the Achaemenid Empire. The old town is brimming with historic buildings dating back as far as the 11th century, including a mosque, mausoleum and towering 60-m high minaret.
Today we continue south through the Karakum Desert. We will have an included side trip to the amazing flaming Darvaza Gas Crater (also known as the 'Door to Hell'!). We will wild camp in the deserts near Darvaza Crater tonight. Drive time - 7-8 hours.

Activity
See the bizarre and incredible burning gas crater at Darvasa, popularly known as the 'Door to Hell'
Included in Kitty

About Darvaza
From Darvaza, it's possible to hire local vehicles to visit the incredible open gas crater that's located nearby. It's a truly breathtaking sight; imagine a huge crater approximately the size of a football pitch, ablaze with a fire fed by natural gas vents, or failing that try to envisage what the entrance to the Underworld would look like, and chances are you'll be pretty close!
Today we will complete our drive to the interesting capital of Ashgabat, usually arriving mid-afternoon. There will hopefully be time to explore one of the city's museums upon arrival. In Ashgabat we will stay in a decent quality local hotel. Drive time - 6 hours.

About Ashgabat:
Ashgabat is a unique modern city that has been extensively rebuilt over the last ten years since the country gained independence. Little is left of the original Russian Imperial city as most of it was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1948, today the centre is a unique mix of futuristic and outrageous public buildings that are an extraordinary sight. The earthquake affected every family
in Ashgabat and is ingrained in the psyche of the local people. The Earthquake monument and museum are well worth a visit, as are the Carpet and the National Museums. If you are into carpets, Turkmenistan is the country to visit, and if you are in Turkmenistan, Ashgabat's Sunday Market is the place to buy them. This wonderful market stretches for hundreds of acres into the desert. Carpets, camels, clothes, pigs, jewellery, goats, cars, chickens, hats and ex soviet military paraphernalia are readily available.
Today we will have an included tour of the city of Ashgabat using local minibuses. In the afternoon we have the option of visiting the famous Ashgabat Sunday Market.

Activity
Explore, shop, and haggle at the vast Altyn Asyr Sunday Bazaar Included in Kitty
Learn about the history and culture of Turkmenistan at the huge National Museum in Ashgabat USD 10
Explore the unique and bizarre Turkmen capital of Ashgabat on a guided tour of the city Included in Kitty
See a myriad of incredible and impressive hand-woven carpets in the Ashgabat Carpet Museum (if open) USD 10
Border Information: if finishing in Ashgabat, you wil most likely exit Turkmenistan at Ashgabat International Airport. Today will be a free day to further explore the city if Ashgabat. Please note that if you are finishing your trip here, there is no accommodation included tonight.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
n/a
Transport
Overland vehicle
Accommodation
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nights), Hotel (11 nights), Yurt (1 night)

Dates

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Important notes

1. Some destinations visited on this trip do not have consulates in Australia and New Zealand. We recommend that travellers from these countries book the WESTBOUND itinerary of this trip where some visas can be obtained en route.
2. Please note that this trip requires minimum numbers to depart, and may be cancelled up until 56 days prior to departure. The places showing on the dates and availability page are an indication only so please contact Intrepid to check if your preferred date will depart before making any final arrangements, such as booking non-changeable flights.
3. Local Partner: Please note this Intrepid trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Your departure will be run in a Dragoman vehicle with a Dragoman crew.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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Reviews

Our Tashkent to Ashgabat trips score an average of 4.67 out of 5 based on 3 reviews in the last year.

Tashkent to Ashgabat , October 2015

Tashkent to Ashgabat , September 2015