Heart of the Silk Road

A Unique Journey through Uzbekistan

Trace the footsteps of legends, heroes and ancient traders on this legendary journey through the heart of the Silk Road in Uzbekistan. 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.

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 on the Silk Road in Uzbekistan.


TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • Venture to the far west of the country to the region of Karakalpakstan to the town of Nukus and beyond to experience the unique culture of the region and see the impact of the Aral Sea disaster at the ship graveyard of Moynaq
  • Journey to the ‘Fergana Valley’ a region of Uzbekistan often skipped by travellers, but one steeped in the production of the Silk Road’s name’s sake commodity
  • Wander the streets of the ‘two ladies’ of Uzbekistan, Bukhara and Samarkand, ‘City of Legend’; wander the blue domed mosques and fortresses and stand on the shoulders the of giants of the ancient world
  • Traverse the desert of Kyzylkum to the village of Nurata legendarily established by Alexander the Great, visit his fortress, citadel and pool of sacred fish
  • Stay in a desert yurt camp, converted former mansions and unique locally owned hotels

The Basics

Start: Tashkent

Finish: Tashkent

Trip style: Unique

Max group size: 15

22 Days

TASHKENT – TASHKENT

$6985 AUD*

Departure date: 20 April 2023

OR CONTACT US for more information

Trip code: HRTT *from

ITINERARY

Arrive in Tashkent and make your own way to the trip hotel. Meet your trip leader and travel companions for a welcome meeting and introduction to your tour of Uzbekistan at 17.00. After the meeting, head out into the city to a local restaurant for a special dinner.

Arise early this morning and transfer by road to the fertile valley of Fergana via the scenic Kamchik mountain pass, stopping in a local restaurant for lunch along the way.

On arrival we will check in to our locally run hotel and spend the rest of the day at leisure in the town of Fergana which was once a major stop on the Silk Road in Uzbekistan.

In the morning we will transfer to the town on Margilan to visit a silk processing factory, where silk is still made in a similar way to the days of the Silk Road trade, and whose silk was traded as far away as Baghdad, Cairo and Athens.

After lunch we will proceed to the town of Rishtan, known as the town of foreman, and famous for its colourful Uzbek ceramics, to watch a local master at work his magic.

In the afternoon we will return to Fergana.

Prior to departure from Fergana, we will arise early and return to the nearby town of Margilan to visit the lively Kumpeta Sunday Bazaar. Bazaars and trading posts were a key feature of the Silk Road in Uzbekistan and we will be visiting as many as we can. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of one of Central Asia’s best local food markets.

Later we will drive to the city of Kokand for a wander through the spectacular Khudayar Khan Palace, Jommi Mosque and the Dasturkhanchi Madrasah, which showcases traditional Uzbek crafts.

This afternoon we will board a train at Kokand station and return to Tashkent.

We spend today visiting one of the oldest cities in Central Asia and capital of Uzbekistan since 1930. We will begin by visiting the blue domes of Burak Kahana seminary and Tila Shaikh mosque, famous for holding an original version of the Koran written by the third Caliph Osman.

Next, we will browse the stalls at the immense Chorsu Bazaar, the oldest market in Tashkent (an important stop on the Silk Road in Uzbekistan) and visit Kukeldash Madrasah.

We will explore independence square, before heading underground to discover the palace like stations of the Tashkent metro. We will alight at the Museum of the History of Uzbekistan to gain insight into the history and culture of this amazing country before finishing at Opera and Ballet Square to view Tashkent’s magnificent opera house.

In the evening we will transfer to the airport and board a short domestic flight to Nukus.

Upon arrival in Nukus we will check in to our homely local hotel.

We spend today visiting one of the oldest cities in Central Asia and capital of Uzbekistan since 1930. We will begin by visiting the blue domes of Burak Kahana seminary and Tila Shaikh mosque, famous for holding an original version of the Koran written by the third Caliph Osman.

Next, we will browse the stalls at the immense Chorsu Bazaar, the oldest market in Tashkent and visit Kukeldash Madrasah.

We will explore independence square, before heading underground to discover the palace like stations of the Tashkent metro. We will alight at the Museum of the History of Uzbekistan to gain insight into the history and culture of this amazing country before finishing at Opera and Ballet Square to view Tashkent’s magnificent opera house.

In the evening we will transfer to the airport and board a short domestic flight to Nukus.

Upon arrival in Nukus we will check in to our homely local hotel.

This morning after breakfast we head out to the remote region of the Aral Sea to explore life on the Ustyurt plateau. Along the way we will pass through the Kungrad district, one of the major trading centres of the Silk Road and stop at Lake Sudochie.

As we travel, we will encounter ancient burials from the second century BCE and stop to take in vistas of the canyons and collapsed land in the area.

We will reach our peaceful seaside yurt camp by the end of the day and in time to watch the sunset over what remains of the Aral Sea.

Dinner this evening will be served around the campfire, under a sky filled with thousands of the brightest stars.

Arise early this morning to take in a majestic sunrise over the Aral Sea.

After breakfast at camp, we will journey to the former seaside fishing village of Moynaq, now home to the Aral Sea Ship Graveyard. On arrival we will explore the rotting hulls of ships that litter the former port and if conditions permit the town museum dedicated to the Aral Sea disaster.

Return to Nukus to visit the Islamic Mizdakhan complex, built in the fourth century BCE. The fortress was built to defend a large town which once occupied the eastern hill. Archaeologist have identified Mizdakhan with the town of Mazda, built in honour of Akhura-Mazda – the main deity mentioned in the Zoroastrian holy book.

After visiting Mizdakhan check back in to the hotel.

We leave Nukus today and start heading south to the fabled city of Khiva. Along the way we will visit the mysterious ‘Tower of Silence’ at Chilpik Kala. Towers of Silence were once used as part of the funerary rites of the Zoroastrians, who did not believe the dead should be buried or cremated, but instead should be ‘left out’ for the scavenger birds.

We will then visit the fortress of Ayaz Kala, one of the largest forts in the area of Karalkalpakstan and later we will visit the Toprak Kala fortress; an excavated town that dates back to the first century CE.

On arrival in Khiva we will check in to our traditional hotel.

Khiva is a town that has remained largely unchanged by the ravages of modern development. The town you see today, would not be too dissimilar from the town the Russian Army stormed in 1873 during their conquest of Central Asia or from the days of the Silk Road in Uzbekistan.

Khiva is a city made for walking and this morning we will embark on a walk to see some of its most amazing sights. We will begin with the citadel of Ichan Kala, where we will see the squat minaret of Kalta Minor, the site that makes Khiva famous. We will continue on to the Kunya Ark and the Madrasah of Rakhimkhon. Visit the mausoleum of Pakhlavan Makhmud and Islam Khodja and contemplate the surrounding history in the town that is thought to date back over 2 000 years.

The afternoon is free for you to explore and have your own adventure in Khiva.

Today we set out for the city of Bukhara across the red sands of the Kyzylkum desert. The Silk Road in Uzbekistan once routed through the cities of Khiva and Bukhara almost exactly the same as the modern-day road we will be journeying along.

Along the way we will make several stops for you to experience the desert with its unique flora and fauna, as well as stop by the banks of the Amudarya River, the fabled ‘Oxus’ of antiquity.

On arrival in Bukhara, we will check in to our traditional hotel.

This morning we will set out to explore Bukhara. Take a walk through the centre of the city in the Lab-i-khauz area and marvel at its great central fountain. Visit the madrasahs of Nadirkhon Devanbego, Khanaga and Mogaki Attari, as well as the Poi Kalon minaret and mosque, widely considered to be Bukhara’s defining monuments.

In the afternoon we are invited to lunch at the home of local man Rakhmon Toshev. Rakhmon is one of the best makers of suzani (tapestries) in Uzbekistan. You will be able to visit his workshop and see his great collection of antique suzani with many colourful patterns and try some Uzbek style Plov. While there are many good restaurants in Central Asia, with out question the best food is cooked in the homes of the local people. Experiencing welcoming hospitality, which comes naturally to the Uzbeks, and a home cooked meal is a must for any culinary adventurer.

Today we continue our exploration of fabulous Bukhara by exploring some of the lesser-known sights the city has to offer. We will begin with a visit to the Chor Minor minaret, a historic gate house for the madrasah in the Lab-I khauz area, followed by a visit to the infamous ‘Ark of Bukhara’ a citadel in the centre of the city made famous by its ‘bug pit’. The worst prisoners would be thrown into the pit which held all sorts of nasty creepy-crawlies for set lengths of time, sometimes that length of time was until they died and were eaten by their ‘roommates’.

We will stop at the wooden Balak hauz mosque to admire its intricate design and see the perfect reflection in the pool in front of the building. Next, we take a walk through the park to visit the ancient Mausoleum of Ismail Samanid Chashma Ayub.

After lunch we will take short trip outside Bukhara to visit the summer residence of the former emir of Bukhara, Sitora-i-Mokhikhosa. Here you can see traditional Russian architecture mixed with that of Central Asia, especially interesting is the throne room which resembles the same room in Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg.

Today is free for you to enjoy Bukhara on your own.

We leave Bukhara this morning and head out into the desert of the Kyzlkum, whose name means ‘Red Sands’. Along the way we will stop at a genuine Silk Road caravanserai. These lodges were spaced out along the great trade route and have spaces for travellers, goods and stables for camels. We will stop in the town of Nurata or ‘Nur’ legendarily established by Alexander Great on his army’s great move east. The remains of ‘Alexander’s fortress and irrigation system’ are still here. We will also visit the Friday Mosque with its pool of sacred fish.

After lunch we will head out into the desert to meet our hosts for the evening. We will be staying in Kazakh yurts, as the local population are ethnic Kazakhs. You can explore the desert sand dunes on foot or by camel and get to know the friendly desert inhabitants. This evening dinner will be served around the campfire under a sky of millions of bright stars.

Emerging from the desert sands this morning, we make our way to Samarkand – ‘City of Legend’, and the key stopping point on the Silk Road in Uzbekistan.

On the way to Samarkand, we will stop at Aydarkul Lake, known as a geographic miracle, the lake has formed in the middle of the desert and is teeming with fish! Lunch today will be fried fish caught directly from the lake – what a treat!

We will continue on to Samarkand after our picnic fish lunch by the lake and check in to our hotel.

The remainder of the day is yours to wander this legendary city.

There is no other name more evocative of the Silk Road than Samarkand and we will spend a full day exploring it today.

We will begin in the heart of the city at the famous Registan Square. Visit the buildings of the Registan all intricately carved and painted with stunning blue and gold leaf design. Don’t forget to look up! The domes are truly a sight to behold!

Our next stop is the Gur Emir Mausoleum built for the country’s national hero – Tamerlane or as he is known locally Amir Timur. The mausoleum contains the remains of the famous conqueror of Central Asia as well as the remains of his closest relatives.

Following we will take a walk through the Friday Mosque of Bibi-Khanum, a mosque which commemorates Amir Timur’s wife. The mosque and surrounding buildings are now somewhat unstable due to various earthquakes over the years and huge cracks can be seen crawling up the towering structure.

Next to the Bibi-Khanum Mosque is the bazaar, which has been in use since the times of the Silk Road. Don’t miss the opportunity to become part of history and haggle for wares in the Silk Road’s true heart.

We will take a wander through the Shah-I-Zinda necropolis to explore the intricately designed tombs dating from 11th century CE and containing the tomb of one of the prophet Muhammad’s cousins.

Our final stop will be an Uzbek winery where we will sample some of the country’s fine vintages before returning to our hotel from our day of exploring.

After breakfast this morning we will take a drive to the outskirts of Samarkand to the village of Konigil. Samarkand has long been a centre for paper manufacture and today we will visit a paper making workshop where the rind of the mulberry tree is turned into fine paper.

After learning all we can about paper manufacture, we will return to Samarkand to visit the Museum and Observatory of Ulugbek. Ulugbek was the grandson of Amir Timur and a renowned scientist in his day, charting the stars and constructing a huge astronomical device more than one hundred years before the birth of Galileo.

Our final stop for today will be the hill of Afrosiab on which the city was founded and after which the city it named. According to legend, Alexander the Great stood on the hill of Afrosiab to survey his conquest of the greatest city of Sogdiana and Central Asia.

The remainder of the day is yours to explore Samarkand on your own.

Today is a full free day for you to have your own adventure in this legendary city on the Silk Road in Uzbekistan.

We depart Samarkand this morning and travel to the city of Shakhrisabz, the birthplace of Amir Timur. On our way to Shakhrisabz we will pass through Shaitan Djiga, the ‘Plateau of the Demons’. The vast plateau stretches out from the creeks of Mirankul, its rocks look like sculptures, demons in the distance.

On arrival in Shakhrisabz we will visit the ruin of the Aksaray Palace, the Dorus Tilavat seminary, the Kok Gumbaz and Friday Mosques.

Lunch today will be in a local restaurant in Shakhrisabz, before we board the high-speed train back to Tashkent and check in to our hotel.

Early this morning we will travel into the Chimgan Mountains to further explore wine making in Uzbekistan. We will take a stroll through the vineyards of a local winery and discover its ornamental garden. This winery, with the assistance of equipment from Italy, makes eco-friendly top-class wine from its own grapes grown right here in Uzbekistan.

After our tour of the winery, we will of course taste some of the wines that are made here.

Before returning to Samarkand, we will have lunch at a local restaurant in a picturesque ski resort town near Charvak reservoir.

This evening join your trip leader and travel companions for a farewell dinner at one of Tashkent’s restaurants.

Your adventure along the Silk Road Uzbekistan comes to an end this morning after breakfast.

Heart of the Silk Road - Uzbekistan Tour
Trip Map – Heart of the Silk Road

Details

Duration: 22 Days

Trip style: Unique

Group size: Minimum 6 / Maximum 15

Trip code: HRTT

Cost: $6985.00 AUD twin share

Single supplement: $850.00 AUD

Inclusions

  • 21-nights’ accommodation in historic and traditionallyinspired hotels, converted mansions and yurt camps
  • Meals as specified in itinerary (B = Breakfast / L = Lunch / D = Dinner)
  • One-way flight from Tashkent to Nukus
  • All other transport as specified in the itinerary
  • Services of your Inverted Atlas trip leader and local guides

Trip price does not include

  • International airfares
  • Airport transfers on arrival and departure
  • Visa for Uzbekistan
  • Any expenses associated with COVID-19
  • Meals not included as per trip itinerary including drinks and mini bar
  • Additional accommodation before or after the tour
  • Items of a personal nature including but not limited to laundry, souvenirs, porterage etc.
  • Travel insurance – please note comprehensive travel insurance is a condition of travel with Inverted Atlas

Journey Rating – Quest

This trip travels along the Silk Road in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is a country that is not overly accustomed to tourists and travelers. The friendly local people have one of the most welcoming and hospitable attitudes toward visitors in the world, however, it does mean that tourist type infrastructure and service standards may not be of the quality you expect at home. This trip does involve a lot of walking during the sightseeing, to get the most out of this trip you should be able to walk confidently across uneven surfaces and climb stairs. There is no dress code in Uzbekistan, however it is a moderate Islamic country, and you should dress conservatively to avoid causing offense culturally. Woman may be required to cover their shoulders, heads and knees while exploring religious institutions and men should wear long trousers on these days.

Trains in Uzbekistan often stop at stations where the platform is quite low and require a step or ‘scramble’ up into the train, trains also often do not stop for long periods of time giving the group very little chance to get on and get settled before departing. Good quality hospitals, pharmacies and other public amenities will be limited to big cities but should never be too far away.

A note about fitness

This trip requires a good level of physical fitness. You should be able to walk up to 4km over at times and, manage uneven surfaces during sightseeing, which will sometimes be at an incline. In addition, you should be able to climb up to 200 stairs unassisted and use an eastern style squat toilet (beware if you have knee issues).

You will need to be able to carry your own luggage to and from the coach and on and off the train. (Due to OH&S regulations our trip leaders are not able to assist with luggage.)

In addition, you should be in good health, with no major chronic conditions requiring frequent medical attention. This trip often travels through remote locations where the availability of a hospital or even phone reception to call an ambulance is limited. While all our trip leaders are required to have a valid first aid certificate, they are far from doctors and any assistance they are able to provide will be limited to basic first aid. For more information please see our booking conditions.

Single supplement

Traveling by yourself? No problem, we love single travellers and don’t believe in penalising them by charging half the trip price again for our single supplement. With us you are only paying the actual cost to have a room all to yourself. If you’re up for making a new friend, you can elect to share with another single traveller of the same sex and only pay the twin-share price. The choice is yours!

Please note that in this instance, the single supplement payable does not include the yurt camps which are in shared style accommodation.

Trip leader description

Accompanying you along your journey will be your Inverted Atlas trip leader. Your trip leader is a logistics extraordinaire, keeps the trip running smoothly and ensures you have the best time possible on your trip. It is important to know that while your trip leader has the best job in the world, they aren’t actually on holidays, but rather they are there to make sure you have the best time while you are on your holiday! Your trip leader may at times need some time out so that they can complete back of house tasks that ensure everyone continues to enjoy the trip. It is also your trip leaders’ job to handle any issues (heaven forbid!) that come up while you’re on your trip like:

  • If you lose your passport or other travel documents
  • If there is a problem with your room at the booked accommodation – seriously please tell your trip leader don’t wait until you leave
  • If you become unwell and need to find a pharmacy
  • Assisting with restaurant recommendations or additional sightseeing during free time
  • Questions regarding the itinerary

Your trip leader will have some good local knowledge about the destination in which you are traveling, however they are not a ‘local guide’. You’re welcome to ask your trip leader anything about the trip and if they don’t know they will find out and get back to you. Other people you will meet along the way are ‘local guides’ who are generally available to the group in specific towns or at specific sites like national parks, temples or archaeological sites. These people are the local experts and will be able to answer any questions you may have about the history and culture of a specific site.

Itinerary disclaimer

This itinerary is correct at the time of upload to our website and we have composed it in good faith. From time to time we may elect to make changes before departure, if we are making a big change we will of course notify you, however if it is a small change this will be reflected in the final trip notes. So, make sure you download these prior to departure. Small changes prior to departure are usually made with the groups best interests in mind and come about due to liaising with our best resources – our past travelers and of course our trip leaders! The ability to change and evolve depending on what our travelers enjoy is what makes us such a great trip operator.

While we strive to operate our trips exactly to the letter of the itinerary, sometimes we may need to make changes on the ground while the group is on the road. This is all part of the adventure of traveling and we would ask that you come on your trip with an open mind and a good sense of humour because as much as we want it to, everything doesn’t always go to plan. In fact, these impromptu situations often make the best stories that you can have a laugh with your friends about later.

Age requirements

Minimum Age: 18 years

Due to the shared nature of some of the accommodation and remote locations on this trip children under 18 years of age are not permitted.

There is no upper age limit for this trip, but you should consider the above fitness requirements prior to booking. If you are 65 years or over, you will be asked to complete our Health Check Form and have your medical practitioner sign it to confirm you are in good health and able to participate safely on this trip.

Travel insurance

Please note that comprehensive travel insurance is a condition of travel with Inverted Atlas. Insurance must include provision for medical situations, emergency medical repatriation to your home country and personal liability at a minimum. Proof of valid travel insurance will be requested by your trip leader on arrival at the pre-departure meeting. Please have this paperwork available for them. If you are unable to provide proof of comprehensive travel insurance, you may not be allowed to join the trip and no refund will be payable.

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