Price is based on double or twin hotel room occupancy and includes accommodation, transfers, car/driver, English-speaking guide, activities and entrance fees, breakfasts and some casual lunches while touring. Flights and optional special activities will be quoted separately. Most personal expenses, including dinners, alcoholic beverages, spa treatments and gratuities can be paid on the spot while traveling. Prices may vary depending on season, choice of accommodation and other factors.
On this unforgettable 14-day tour, you’ll be enchanted and charmed by the wonders of two neighboring countries. Take a journey from the world’s Islamic capital of Tashkent in Uzbekistan, through the historic inner-city at Khiva to cross the border and camp near burning gas craters and see the ancient Turkmenistani sites of Merv and Ashghabat. Visit the metallic coated horses of Akhal Teke and make your way back to the Uzbek cities of Bukhara and Samarkand with their stunning mosques, madrassas and mausoleums. Explore Tamerlane's summer palace and return to Tashkent via a cotton honey farm.
What better way to get your bearings in Central Asia than by starting in the ancient Uzbek capital of Tashkent. After checking in to your comfortable hotel, take a walk to the Khast Imam Mosque, whose library contains the world’s oldest Quran, see traditional artists and sculptors at work in the Barak-Khan Madrassah and browse the bustling bazaar.
From your hotel, your driver will whisk you to the airport for your flight to Urgench and from there it’s a beautiful drive to historic Khiva. Explore the ancient inner city, Itchan Kala, surrounded by crumbling crenellated walls and discover more than fifty architectural wonders including 10th century Djuma Mosque, with its great hall supported by 112 columns. In the evening relax for dinner at Toza Bog, the last Khan’s summer palace.
Enjoy the scenery as you cross the border into Turkmenistan and head for the medieval monuments of UNESCO-protected Kunya-Urgench, including its pearl, the intricately decorated Turabek-Hanum mausoleum and the towering Kutlug Timur minaret. Finally, head into the sands of Karakum (around 4 hours' drive) to bed down in traditional tents next to the blazing gas crater of Darvaza.
Enjoy breakfast in the camp before packing up your tent and taking a drive through the Turkmenistan desert to marvel at the dramatic scenery. Stop off to see two more active gas craters, where the water boils and the mud bubbles naturally. Continue your drive to fascinating Ashgabat (around 4 hours) where you check in to your cosy accommodation and relax for the night.
A short drive out of the city is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nissa, with its stunning ancient fortress and royal necropolis dating back to 250 BC. Continue your drive along the stunning gorge of Ushelye for a picnic with a view. On the way back to Ashgabat, you’ll visit a farm of Akhal Teke horses with their distinctive metallic coats and spend the afternoon discovering ancient artifacts of Turkmenistan at the National Museum of History and Ethnography.
After a short drive and quick flight to Mary, travel to the string of ancient, medieval and post-medieval cities that make up Merv. Explore the ruins of this mini empire that dominated the Central Asian Silk Road including the 6th-century Kyz-Kalas forts. Marvel at the elaborate Seljuk decoration of the mausoleums of the 12th century, before returning to Mary.
Drive back across the border into Uzbekistan for your destination, the seat of central Asian learning, Bukhara with its stunning architecture (around 5-6 hours' drive). Stroll around the shady pool of Lab-i-Hauz and gaze up at the towering Po-i-Kalyan minaret and explore the madrassas surrounding them. In Samani Park, venture into the oldest building in the region, the mausoleum of the Samanid Dynasty.
Today you will experience a touch of sovereign opulence with a visit to the 18th century Bolo Khauz complex, built for the wife of an Emir; and Sitorai Mokhi Hosa, a royal summer residence. Join the pilgrims en route to the Baha-ud-Din Naqshband memorial, the sacred resting place of the first Sufi Muslim.
Take a drive through Gijduvan, known throughout the region for its gorgeous pottery. Visit a traditional ceramics workshop to see the production process and take tea with a master artisan. From here, continue to historic Samarkand (around 3.5 hours) for a traditional Uzbek lunch followed by a stroll around the vast Registan Square, surrounded by its three intricately decorated madrassas.
Continue your discovery of this ancient city, taking in the Bibi-Khanym mosque with its elaborate turquoise dome; explore the labyrinthine necropolis of Shak-i-Zinda, the burial site of the cousin of the Prophet Mohammed and Tamerlane's final resting place, the Gur Emir Mausoleum. Finally, join six centuries of astronomers and gaze at the sky from Ulugbek Observatory.
In the morning, take a trip to the old paper mill of Samarkand to see the ancient techniques of paper-making still employed today. Visit the mausoleum of Daniel the Prophet, a common place of pilgrimage for Jews, Christians and Muslims. The afternoon is your own to relax and explore; we recommend strolling around Sivab Bazaar to sample some traditional Uzbek delicacies.
Take a scenic mountain drive through the lush green Uzbek countryside to the verdant city of Shakhrisabz; Tamerlane himself grew up nearby and favored the area for his summer residence. The 14th-century Ak-Saray Palace was one of the ruler’s most grandiose homes and the ‘White Palace’ is still breathtaking in its crumbling glory. Relax on your drive back to Samarkand for the evening.
On your comfortable 4.5-hour drive back to the capital, enjoy the scenery and make a stop at Bakhmal village, where you will see and try the unique honey, made from cotton plants. When you arrive back in Tashkent, check in to your hotel and share some lunch. Take the afternoon to enjoy the city sights, we recommend haggling for souvenirs under the domes of the covered market, before a final farewell dinner.