Central Asia has been traversed by travellers, traders, explorers and adventurers since time immemorial. From Alexander the Great to Tamarlane, Marco Polo and the great traders of the Silk Road, it’s the stuff travel legends are made of. Explore capital cities dotted with blue domes, remote national parks with endemic wildlife, ex-Soviet ghost towns, ruined ancient cities of heroes long since passed and carve your own niche haggling it out in the marketplaces of the crossroads of humanity. All the while, greeted by some of the friendliest locals anywhere on Earth, both in the cities and in the untamed wildernesses of this remarkable area. Explore some of our most amazing tours to Central Asia here.
The Toastmasters Table
Saturate yourself in oenology on this enophiles odyssey to explore the ancient wine culture of Georgia. Meander through Tbilisi’s wine scene with leisurely visits to cellar doors, wine bar crawls and a visit to a winery in the old capital of Mtskheta. Journey to Telavi, Georgia’s premiere wine destination for long lunches, wanders through the vines and of course tastings a plenty! Visit some of Georgia’s lesser known sites (and lesser known wineries) including the Chiatura Cable Cars and Mgvimevi Convent, as well as a tour and tasting at the fabulous Prince Alexander Chavchavadze House Museum.
What better way to immerse yourself in the viticulture of Georgia but to stay at Chateaus, complete with vineyard and wine themed hotels with fully stocked cellars, offering you the opportunity to taste.
In Search of the Mountain Ghost
Prepare yourself for the harsh Mongolian winter in remote Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, as you spend a week with a local tracker in pursuit of the elusive Snow Leopard, Mongolia’s “Mountain Ghost.” Experience one of the last true wildernesses, a place where few travellers venture, at a time when it is covered in a picture-perfect blanket of snow. Go on safari in Hustai National Park in search of Przewalski’s horse, once extinct in the wild, and learn about eagle hunting from people still practicing this ancient way of life on this trip for the hardcore adventure and wildlife lover.
Stay in locally owned and operated hotels, marvel at the hospitality of the eagle hunters and participate in putting together a traditional nomadic ger where will stay while in pursuit of the Mountain Ghost.
The Heart of the Silk Road
Trace the footsteps of legends, heroes and ancient traders on this legendary journey through the heart of the Silk Road. Venture into the unknown in the far west autonomous republic of Karalkalpakstan, a place where few travellers have set foot, to camp on the shores of the Aral Sea, investigate the ship graveyard of Moynaq and view the enigmatic ‘Tower of Silence’ outside Chilpik – integral to the mysterious religion of Zoroastrianism. Visit the fertile Fergana region to learn about silk production, still a trade staple in this part of the world. Explore the legendary cities of Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva and visit the birthplace of the national hero Tamerlane in Shakhrisabz. Journey into the perilous red sands of the Kyzylkum, to explore desert fortresses, visit ancient caravanserais and taste delicious food cooked on a Saksaul tree and eaten around a campfire. We are sure you will agree that a trip to Uzbekistan is the quintessential tour to Central Asia.
As part of the adventure, stay in yurt camps both on the edge of the Aral Sea and among a population of ethnic Kazakh nomads in the Kyzylkum desert, as well as converted former mansions, and historic and unique hotels throughout.
Shamans & Spacemen
Step back into the past of the ancient Silk Road and blast off into the future of space travel on this in-depth adventure of magnificent Kazakhstan, a land of colourful characters, glittering tiled mausoleums and palaces, vast landscapes, scientific endeavours and diverse cities.
Celebrate a country whose legacy spans the days of ancient khans, nomadic pilgrimages and the cold war, and where a fierce spirit of independence and unique national identity is emerging 30 years after declaring independence. Explore remote national parks with limestone formations that rival Monument Valley and unique endemic bird life and sail the Caspian Sea. Spend a day with fishermen in remote villages in the Aral Sea, and spend a night on a honey farm with beekeepers in a fairy-tale forest, where you will be lulled to sleep with honey-steeped tea and bedtime stories.
Explore iconic Dark Tourism sites including an abandoned bomber plane hangar, visit the National Nuclear Research Facility and discover the country’s contribution to the Russian space program with a day at the spaceport of Baikonur.
This is Kazakhstan – a country of contrasts and anachronisms, of storied history, modern innovations and traditional lifestyles that simply defies being categorised. Travel where few have stepped before you and conquer one of Earth’s lost frontiers.
Cossacks, Cold War & Cosmonauts
Three, two, one and blast off, on a trip that’s once in ten lifetimes! Get as close as a regular human can to space travel with a visit to Roscosmos, the largest working space port in the world, located deep in the desert of remote Kazakhstan. Explore the history of Russian space travel, from the launch of the first man into space and throughout recent history. A hat tip to ‘dark tourism’ this trip also delves into the use of gulags in both Russia and Kazakhstan, as well as the use of nuclear power and weapons by the former-Soviet Union at the Semey test site and the Semipalatinsk polygon. In Russia visit the town of Akedemgorodok, Russia’s ‘Scientific Vatican’, stand on the border between Europe and Asia in Yekaterinburg and tour and ex-Soviet submarine with a crew member. Visit ‘Star City’ in Moscow, check out the Museum of Rocket and Space Corporation and take a tour of a genuine soviet bunker.
Experience the long-distance rail network in both Kazakhstan and Russia, with the Russian section of this trip along the Trans-Siberian Railway and stay in traditional, locally owned hotels throughout.
Into the Wild. Kyrgyzstan.
In one of the least visited regions on Earth, take a walk in the wild in Kyrgyzstan, land of horse games and eagle hunters. Explore the ancient cities of the Karakhanids, with visits to the sites of Uzgen and Balasagun and gaze in wonder at the ramparts of the mysterious fortress of Koshoy Kurgan. Hike among some of the most impressive works of nature on the planet with stays in the majestic Jeti Oguz gorge and hikes around the southern lakes of Kol-Suu and Son-Kul. Take a journey along the silk road with a stay near the caravanserai lodge at Tash-Rabat and view a twinkling night sky full of millions of stars from the step of your yurt. Although Kyrgyzstan is already off the beaten track, go one step further with visits to the scenic village of Jyrgalan and the remote beautiful lake of Sary-Chelek.
Wake up among the stunning natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan with stays in nomadic yurts and enjoy the warm hospitality of the local people with stays in small guesthouses and homestays in small towns and villages. This is a tour to a part of Central Asia you will never forget.
Tours to Central Asia – HIGHLIGHTS
Darvaza Gas Crater, Turkmenistan
The gas crater, known colloquially as ‘the gates to hell’ is a collapsed natural gas pocket in the Karakum desert of Turkmenistan. The name was given to the phenomenon by the locals after the fire, boiling mud and orange flames rising out of it. The site was originally drilled as an oil field by soviet engineers, when they hit the natural gas pocket it was thought that a release of poisonous gas was imminent so it was decided that the gas would be burned off. Upon the lighting of the Davarza Crater it was thought that the gas would burn out within a few weeks, instead it has been burning for forty-nine years and shows no sign of slowing down.
Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand Uzbekistan
Meaning ‘the living king’ Shah-i-Zinda is a necropolis located in the north of the city of Samarkand – ‘City of Legend.’ The complex was founded on the legendary site of Kusam ibn Abbas burial, cousin of Muhammad. It contains a series of palatial tombs, crypts and other religious buildings dating from the 11th-14th centuries AD. One of the least crowded sites of otherwise the most famous city in Uzbekistan, we love it because you can wander freely through many of the buildings unhindered and to marvel at the blue domes, intricate tile work and many different architectural styles, including the so-called ‘gazelle’s foot’ design characteristic of Persian archways.
Wilderness of Kyrgyzstan
80% of Kyrgyzstan is covered by the dramatic Tien Shen mountains, which has earned the country the moniker ‘the Switzerland of Central Asia’. The mountains are traversed by some of the windiest, twistiest, turniest roads in the world – but the view is well worth it. Often, you’ll step out of your vehicle and find yourself above the clouds. Along the way you’ll run into herds of domestic animals roaming across the roads, little villages and nomads living in yurts and abandoned railway cars. Stop to meet the families living the same way their ancestors have for hundreds of years and perhaps even challenge the local kids to a football game. At night, look to the heavens for one of the best views of the Milky Way anywhere in the world.
Frequently asked questions for tours to Central Asia
Many countries in Central Asia have opened up recently and no longer require visas for certain nationalities. For Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Armenia and Turkey you should check with your nearest consulate.
For Turkmenistan we are given a group visa which is payable locally. The cost of this is included in the trip price, however, we may need to reach out to you for additional details to assist in obtaining this on your behalf.
If you would like to check visa requirements you can do so at the Visalink website.
Yes. For services you undertake independently such as a meal in a restaurant you should budget roughly a 10% tip. Tipping is of course discretionary and should be in line with the quality of service received.
Tipping for local guides, drivers and other providers whose services are listed on the itinerary are included in the trip price for Central Asia trips.
In Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan cash is king. You should bring enough US Dollars with you to change into local currency once on the ground in your destination. Your trip leader will make stops at banks or money exchanges frequently for the group to exchange money. ATM’s in these countries do not work with foreign cards. Credit cards are accepted in large cities.
In Georgia, Armenia and Turkey ATM’s work with foreign cards and credit cards are widely accepted.
You should check with your local provider if coverage is provided in Central Asian countries prior to departure. Make sure you are also aware their of international roaming charges.
Local SIM cards are not easily obtainable in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In many of these countries SIM cards are not obtainable by foreigners and locals need to show proof of residency in order to get a SIM card.
Local SIM cards are easily obtainable in major cities in Armenia, Georgia and Turkey. If you are arriving into any of these countries by air, we suggest you pick up a tourist SIM prior to leaving the airport.
If you wish to use a local SIM you will need to ensure your phone is unlocked prior to departure from your home country.
We won’t lie. It’s not great and patience is required. Even in hotels in major cities the internet will be much slower or drop out a lot more than what you’re used to.
WiFi is much better and more readily available in Armenia, Georgia and Turkey.
Toilets – All hotels in Central Asia have clean, upright western toilets. Public toilets you encounter could be of the eastern squat variety.
Pharmacies – Pharmacies are readily available in major cities, although it is unlikely that the pharmacist will speak English. If you require medication from a pharmacy, please let your trip leader know as far in advance as possible. They will be able to arrange your local guide to go with you to collect what you need or the local guide may be able to pick up what you require on your behalf.
Hospitals – Hospitals are generally of a good standard, however, locations with hospitals can be somewhat spread out. We ask that if you are feeling unwell that you let your trip leader know as soon as possible and consider their advice when it comes to hospital admission. Trip Leaders have the discretion to remove someone from the trip if they feel that continuing would endanger their health.
Please ensure you purchase adequate travel insurance that includes repatriation to your home country in the event of a medical emergency.
For all medication it is a good idea to carry a note from your GP detailing what medication you are on and why you are taking it.
You should be aware that if you take anti-depressants or prescription pain medication that these are illegal in some Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan and could be confiscated on arrival. Unfortunately, it is also the case that legal medication could be confiscated through lack of education or because the official is simply being overzealous.
Absolutely not. Drinking the water in Central Asia, with the exception of Turkey, will likely make you so sick you will end up in hospital. Please do not even brush your teeth with it. Many hotels provide bottled water for this purpose.
In Turkey the water is quite clean, however different minerals are used to purify the water and it could still upset your stomach. For this reason, we would still recommend bottled water while in Turkey.
Food in Central Asia consists mostly of grilled meats, fresh vegetables (the tomatoes are to die for!) and rice dishes.
Absolutely. Please disclose these when you secure your place on the trip so that we can make our local providers aware. Your trip leader will not be able to accommodate any dietary requirements that have not been disclosed in advance.
If you have a gluten free, vegan or vegetarian diet consider bringing some snack food from home. There will be plenty of fresh fruit in local markets, however, beyond that you may find that variety in snack foods for these diets may be somewhat lacking.
Women are required to cover their hair in religious institutions throughout Central Asia and may be required to wear a long skirt or cover their arms. Your trip leader will let you know in advance exactly where these places are, but please bring these items along on with you.
Please be aware that you are travelling through largely Islamic and/or conservative countries (with the exception of Georgia) while not illegal please consider whether items such as short shorts and mid-drift tops are culturally sensitive.
Men may be required to wear long pants in some mosques.