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Uzbekistan cultural tour - 18 days

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Uzbekistan cultural tour -18 days

From remarkable monuments of Tashkent to famous avant-garde banned art collection of remote Nukus, follow the ancient trading road that takes you across stunning desert landscapes of Central Asia. Explore the legendary UNESCO World heritage sites Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand. Discover the culture, history and the present day life of the ancient Silk Road cities with this eighteen days odyssey to the heart of the Silk Road. During this cultural tour you will also try the nomadic lifestyle staying an overnight in the traditional desert Yurt Camp and enjoy the overwhelming hospitality of mountain farmers in a rustic homestay in the Nuratau Mountain village. The tour also includes the visit to the town of Moynak in western Karakalpakistan where you can witness one of the planets worst environmental disasters drying Aral Sea wandering through the ship cemetery in the desert.

Places visited: Tashkent, Nukus, Moynak, Khiva, Bukhara, Yurt camp, Nuratau Mountains, Shakhrisabz, Samarkand

Trip Highlights

  • Visiting the jewels of the Silk Road - Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand
  • Viewing one of the oldest surviving copy of the Koran in Tashkent
  • Famous collection of Russian avant-garde paintings banned by Stalin regime
  • Ship cemetery in Moynak
  • Wandering through oriental Bazaars
  • Visits to Ichon-Qala, Bukhara’s Ark, and Registan
  • Stay in a desert Yurt camp and in a mountain homestays with local families


Quick Itinerary

Day 1 - Tashkent
Arrive in Tashkent in the afternoon and meet by our driver who transfers you to the hotel.

Day 2 –Tashkent
Start sightseeing tour in Tashkent. Visit Independence Square, Amir Timur Square, History Museum, Khast Imam Complex, Chorsu Bazaar, Kukaldosh Medressa etc.

Day 3 – Tashkent - Nukus - Moynak - Nukus
Transfer to Tashkent airport and take morning flight to Nukus. Arrive in Nukus and drive to Moynak (220km, 2,5 hours). En route stop in Mizdakhan complex. Arrive in Moynak and visit the ship cemetery and local museum. Return to Nukus. 

Day 4 – Nukus – Khiva
After breakfast, visit Savitsky Art Museum. Before leaving for Khiva stop at the statue of famous Karakalpak poet Berdakh, Nukus City Hall, and Drama Theatre. PM drive to Khiva. En route stops at ‘Chilpik’ and ‘Topraqala’. Arrive in Khiva.

Day 5 & 6 – Khiva
Full day sightseeing tour in Ichon Qala. Visit Kuhna-Ark citadel, Mohammed Aminkhan Medressa, Kalta Minor minaret and other monuments. On the day 6 visit desert fortresses of antient Khorezm.

Day 7 – Khiva – Bukhara
Drive through the Kyzyl-Kum desert to Bukhara.

Day 8 & 9 – Bukhara
City tour in Bukhara including the 12th century Kalon Minaret, Bolo Khauz Mosque, Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Ark citadel and other monuments. On the day 9 visit sights around Bukhara.

Day 10 – Bukhara – Nurata – Yurt camp
Drive via Gijduvan and Nurata to desert Yurt camp near Lake Aydarkul. Visit ceramics workshop in Gijduvan and the ruins of Alexander the Great’s fortress in Nurata. In the afternoon, ride on a camel or walk around the dunes. Overnight stay in the Yurt camp.

Day 11 – 14 Nuratau Mountains
Drive from the Yurt camp via Lake Aydarkul to Nuratau Mountains. During three days in the Nuratau Mountains stay with two local families in Hayat and Asraf village and explore the area during the day hikes to the mountains. Learn about culture and traditions of mountain farmers during your stay in the homestays. 

Day 14 & 15 – Samarkand
Two days sightseeing tour in legendary city Samarkand.

Day 16 – Samarkand - Shakhrisabz - Samarkand
Day trip to Shakhrisabz, the birthplace of Tamerlane. Visit Ak Saray Place, Kok Gumbaz Mosque, Khazrati Imam Complex. Return to Samarkand.

Day 17 - Samarkand – Tashkent
Transfer to Tashkent, enjoy free afternoon exploring Tashkent on your own.

Day 18 – Tashkent
Breakfast. Transfer to Tashkent Airport.

END OF SERVICE

Price & Service 

  Number of People         2-3               4-7             8-14         
  Price per person Price upon request




Single suplement - 260 USD

What’s Included

  • 17 nights – accommodation (double/twin room sharing in the hotels and multi-share* in the Yurt Camp and in the homestay)
  • 17 Breakfast, 5 Lunches, 4 Dinners
  • Transport- throughout the tour including airport-hotel-airport transfers
  • Economy class internal flight ticket Tashkent-Nukus
  • Local guide service in each city
  • Letter of Invitation for obtaining tourist visa (if necessary)
    * - four people in the Yurt / room

 

What's not Included

  • International flights
  • Camera fees charged separately by museums and other attractions
  • Personal Travel Insurance
  • Lunches and dinners (except included ones, (allow some USD 130-140 p.p for not included meals)
  • Charges in hotels for additional services

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 – Tashkent

Arrive in Tashkent airport in the afternoon and be transferred by our driver to the hotel. Depending on the time of your arrival you may go out for a dinner or just relax in the hotel.

Day 2- Tashkent

The tour starts in the morning in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, which has been on this site for more than 2000 years. The city was completely rebuilt by Soviet government with spacious avenues, large parks and ever-present fountains after being flattened by the devastating earthquake of 1966.

Today we spend whole day exploring the sights of charming Tashkent on a city tour. Start the tour by visiting Independence Square, Amir Timur Square and History Museum of the People of Uzbekistan. Continue sightseeing program and visit Khast Imam Complex, which contains the oldest known copy of the Koran dating from 655. From Khast Imam visit the nearby Chorsu Bazaar - the largest and oldest markets in Central Asia. Wandering through this huge bustling market is a great way to see local people going about their daily lives; you will also meet many friendly local vendors willing to talk to you. The 16th century Kukaldosh Medressa – Tashkent’s most renowned Islamic learning centre and 15th century Juma Mosque are also both located at a short walk away from Chorzu Bazaar.
If the time permits, we can still visit the Fine Arts Museum of Uzbekistan and the Museum of Applied Arts.

Day - 3 – Tashkent – Nukus - Moynak – Nukus

Transfer to Tashkent domestic Airport to take morning flight to Nukus, the capital of Karakalpak Autonomous Republic. Arrive in Nukus and drive to the town of Moynak. Moynak was a busy fishing fleet with large canning factory that supplied fish products to the whole country prior retreat of Aral Sea. Many locals left the town following the retreat of waters of Aral, those who still live in the town believe that the waters of Aral will one day return to its original shores.
On the way to Moynak stop at Mizdakhan Complex located in the settlement of Hujayli 30km west of Nukus. The complex consists of several mausoleums, medressa and a caravan serai that date back to 9-14 century AD.
Arrive in Moynak and have lunch with local family. After lunch visit the ship cemetery and small local museum with many photos and painting describing environmental disaster in Aral.
In the afternoon return to Nukus and stay overnight in the hotel.

Day - 4 – Nukus-Khiva

After breakfast visit the famous Savitsky Art Museum of Nukus. The Museum is well known for its huge collection of Russian avant-garde paintings and Karakalpak folk art. Savitskiy’s collection of avant-garde paintings were banned by soviet regime and could only escape destruction due to its remote location. On the same building you will also have a chance to see the exposition of Karakalpak applied arts items.

Having finished visiting Savitskiy Museum, drive around in Nukus to see the local sites such as statue of famous Karakalpak poet Berdakh, Nukus City Hall, Drama Theatre and local Bazar.
In the afternoon, drive to Khiva. On the way to Khiva visit ‘Chilpik’ and Toprak Qala. Chilpik, the circle shaped Zoroastrian temple “dakhma” (“a Tower of Silence”) was used as a place of Zoroastrian faith for exposure of the dead. This tower is believed to be constructed in 2nd – 4th centuries A.D. Chilpik was initially used as a temple (“dakhma”) and later in 9th -11th centuries it served as a signal tower for neighbourhood residents.
Toprak Qala, the rectangular fortress dates back to the 2nd and 3rd century AD and was built on a 9m high platform. The city included a temple, a residential area and gardens.
Arrive in Khiva and settle in the hotel.

Day - 5 – Khiva

Archaeological findings testify that in the territory of present Khiva people have been living for two millennia. According to legend, the city of Khiva came into being after people discovered Kheivak well in the area of present Ichon-Qala (inner city) fortress. The name of Khiva is believed to be derived from the name of this ancient well. Being strategically located on the Volga branch of the Silk Road, Khiva was one of the three important trading centres of the area. In the 19th century, Khiva was a capital of Khiva Khanate, which hosted the most famous slave market on the Silk Road. At the present Khiva is one of the best preserved ancient cities in the region.
Start exploring UNESCO World Heritage site Ichon-Qala. Entering though the gates of walled Ichon-Qala fortress you will find yourself surrounded by beautiful medieval blue-tiled mosques, minarets and madrassas that is like stepping back in time to a scene from the Arabian nights. Wander through maze of twisted alleyways, bargain with locals on the market and view the town from the top of Kuhna-Ark citadel. Our today’s sightseeing tour includes visits to Mohammed Aminkhan Medressa, Kalta Minor minaret, Kuhna-Ark citadel, Juma Mosque, Tosh-Hovli palace, Pahlavon Makhmud Mausoleum (Khiva’s patron saint), Mohammed Rakhimkhon Medressa and minaret of Islom-Hoja
After extensive sightseeing, enjoy a free afternoon roaming around and make your own discoveries in this magic town.
Overnight stay in Khiva.

Day 6 - Khiva –Desert Fortresses - Khiva

After breakfast, full day excursion to the ancient desert fortresses.
Already 2000 years ago, people who lived in the fertile Amu-Darya delta built many fortresses to defend themselves against the invasions of nomadic tribes, who lived with their herds in the Kyzyl-Kum desert. Most of the fortresses are located at the edge of the Sultan Uiz Dag mountain range.
From Khiva you will travel 100km passing the towns of Urgench, Beruni and Boston to reach Kizil Qala, a small but well preserved fortresses that might have been an army base.

Ayaz Qala is one of the most spectacular fortresses of the region. It consists of three fortress complexes. The view from Ayaz Qala to the Kyzyl-Kum desert, the small lake Ayaz and the Sultan-Uiz range is stunning.

Lunch in Ayaz Qala yurt camp, famous for its traditional dishes.

On the way back, visit Jonbos Qala and Qoyqirilgan Qala and learn about the fascinating legend of these fortresses.

Day 7-Khiva-Bukhara

Following in the traces of ancient caravans, today we have a long drive to fabulous city of Bukhara (6 hours /480 km) though the Kyzyl-Kum, the largest desert in Central Asia. The Kyzyl-Kum desert is populated by nomadic people and driving through this lifeless desert you will see odd shepherd’s huts and a heard of camels. The road to Bukhara runs alongside the Amu Darya River (Oxus River) which starts far from snow-capped Pamir Mountains. We will try to break up this long journey as much as possible with stops along the way.
Arrive in Bukhara and enjoy free afternoon wandering through busy trading domes full of embroideries, handicrafts, jewelleries and various spices. You may also have a tea relaxing on the tapchans (tea beds) under centuries old mulberry trees in the local chaikhana at the delightful Lyabi-Hauz pool.

Day 8- Bukhara

With more than one hundred unique monuments, Bukhara is regarded as ‘Bastion of Islam’ and the holiest city in Central Asia. We spread our sightseeing program in Bukhara over two days as the city and the surrounding area offer a lot to see. On the first day, we enjoy full day sightseeing tour in the city and on the second day, half-day sightseeing around the city with the free afternoon for own exploration.
Start your tour by visiting Laybi Hauz, 9th century mosque Maghoki-Attar, and Nadir Divanbegi Medressa. Passing medieval trading domes visit Abdul Aziz Khan and Ulugbek Medressas, continue to Kalon Ensemble consisting of Kalon Minaret and Kalon Mosque. 47 meters tall Kalon minaret was built by Bukhara’s ruler Arslan Khan in 1127. The minaret is also called “Tower of Death”, because from the top of it prisoners were once flung to their death on market days. Opposite the Kalon Mosque, there is 16th century Mir-i-Arab Medressa, which is still in operation.
Proceed further west from Kalon Ensemble and visit royal Ark fortress dating back to 5th century AD; this fortress was ancient centre of Bukhara and the scene of many gruesome events. Inside the Ark, view Juma Mosque, Reception & Coronation Court, Zindon (‘Bug Pit’ prison) and emir’s official place of worship Bolo-Hauz Mosque. Leave Ark fortress and continue through Registan Square towards Samani Park to visit 10th century Ismail Samani and Chashma Ayub mausoleums.
This evening is free to explore the nightlife in Bukhara.

Day 9- Bukhara

Start second day of your tour with the visit to Sitorai Mohi Hosa – the summer palace of the last emir. Emir Alim Khan involved both Russian and local masters to build this summer residence so you will see the unique combination of Russian and local design. The halls of the palace opulently decorated with paintings and carpets.
Leave Sitorai Mohi Hosa and continue to the village of Kasri Orifon. Stop en route at Chor-Bakr necropolis. Arrive in Qasri Orifon village and visit Bakhautdin Naqshband complex. Bakhautdin Naqshband (1318–89) is the founder of one of the most influential Sufi orders in Central Asia. The complex containing couple of mosques, minaret and the mausoleum of Bakhautdin Naqshband is one of the countries famous places of pilgrimage.

Day 10 - Bukhara- Nurata -Yurt Camp

Today we leave Bukhara and drive to the east towards the city of Nurata. On the way to Nurata, we stop at a small town of Gijduvan situated in 46 km northeast from Bukhara. Being located along the caravan roads, Gijduvan has been important trading and crafts centre. The town is especially famous for its high quality traditional ceramics. We will visit here the workshop of Narzullayev’s family. The owner will proudly explain the process of ceramics producing and will guide us through his ceramics museum. The workshop has huge array of traditional souvenirs on offer if you would like to purchase one from first hand. We leave Gijduvan and continue to Nurata city (160km).

There are many legends related to the origin of the city and its name. People refer the origin of the city to the fortress ‘Nur’, founded there in the 3rd century BC by Alexander the Great. However, according to archaeological excavations the cultural layer in this area reaches the age of 40 thousand years. Supposedly, the main reason to choose this place as a settlement was holly ‘Chashma’ (spring). Arrive in Nurata and before starting the sightseeing tour we will have a lunch in the traditional house. After lunch, start sightseeing in Nurata. Visit the 9th century mausoleum, mosque and the remains of the Alexander the Great’s fortress. Leave Nurata and Continue to the Yurt camp (65 km / 1 hour)

Today we will stay overnight in the yurts (traditional nomadic felt tents) in the desert camp. The yurts in the camp are typical of those used in ancient times by the nomadic people of Central Asia. Facilities in the camp include basic washing and toilet facilities separate to the yurts. Arrive and settle in the Yyurt camp. In the late afternoon, ride on the camel or just walk around the dunes where you might be lucky to spot steppe tortoises, hares and desert agamas depending on the season. From the Yurt Camp you may also take a short walk to explore the nearby Kazakh village of Dungalak or simply have a rest on the benches in the camp admiring the stunning wives of desert sunset.

Dinner and overnight stay in the Yurt camp.

Day 11 – Yurt Camp - Lake Aydarkul – Nuratau Mountains

Our todays drive will take us via Lake Aydarkul to an authentic village in the Nuratau Mountains. The Nuratau Mountain range is located north of Samarkand and south of Lake Aydarkul stretching across approximately 180 km. Hayotboshi, the highest peak of the mountain range is 2169 m above sea level. Nuratau Mountains are the last refuge of the highly endangered Severtzov’s wild sheep (Ovis Ammon Severtzovi). In order to protect this endangered wild sheep, the Nuratau Nature Reserve was created in the mid 1970s.

During your stay in the Nuratau Mountains, along with stunning mountain landscape, you also enjoy the overwhelming hospitality of the local mountain farmers. We will stay in a rustic mountain homestay and get to know the daily livelihood and land use activities of the mountain dwellers.

Arrive and settle in the homestay in Hayat village. Your host welcomes you and shows the homestay facilities. You will be slipping in the traditional rooms (4 people in one room, usually divided by gender) on the floor on the thick kurpacha matrasses. The homestay has an ablution block consisting of a flush toilets and a shower separate to the house. Like all other houses in the village, the homestay also has a large shady garden with the river passing through where you can relax on a tapchans (comfortable tea beds) under the walnut tree. After having lunch with the family, wander through the village to see the local mosque, school, and the village shop. Wandering through the village is also a fantastic way to meet friendly local people and see the villagers doing their traditional livelihood activities.

In the afternoon, you may watch or help the family to prepare the traditional dish ‘Plov’ from home- grown vegetables and mountain spices.

Dinner and overnight stay in the homestay.

Day 12- Nuratau Mountains

After breakfast, start guided walking tour to the Nature Reserve. Visit the breading enclosure of endangered wild “Severtzov’s sheep. About 95% of the world’s population of this wild sheep live in the Nuratau Mountains. In the 1950th , many local people from Hayat and other mountain villages were forcible resettled by Soviet government to cultivate cotton fields. Walking up through the valley you will see the ruins of many abandoned houses. After having lunch with the family relax in the garden on of the tapchans. In the evening you are welcome to watch or participate in the preparation of traditional meals.

Dinner and overnight stay in the homestay.

Day 13- Nuratau Mountains

After breakfast, say goodbye to the host family. The vehicle transfers you to the next mountain village Asraf. Arrive in the homestay and be welcomed by the host family. Before you settle in, the owner will show you the property. The homestay in Asraf village has a large vegetable garden where all the ingredients for the meals are grown. 

In the afternoon, start guided excursion around the village. Visit the ruins of the old fortress and abandoned village.

Dinner and overnight stay in the homestay.

Day 14- Nuratau Mountains -Samarkand

This mooning we leave the Nuratau Mountains and drive to magnificent city of Samarkand. One of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, Samarkand is truly a jewel of the ancient and modern Silk Road. From its foundation in 5th century BC, Samarkand was the centre of artisans and traders playing an important role on the trade crossroads between China, Persia and India. The city was taken by Alexander the Great (in 329 BC) and ruined by Genghis Khan before it started to blossom as the capital of Amir Timur’s (Tamerlane) empire in 14th century.

In the afternoon, we start our sightseeing tour from Registan Ensemble containing Ulugbek, Sher Dor ,Tilla-Kari Medressas and the Registan Square. Being among the world’s oldest surviving medressas, these three edifices were medieval academies from where regions renowned scientists graduated. Wander through blue tiled and majolica decorated madrassas of mighty Registan, probably Central Asia’s most captivating monument. Leave the Registan to pay a visit to Gur Amir Mausoleum, originally built by Timur for his grandson and later became the resting place for himself, his sons and grandsons. Besides Timur and his sons, the place is final resting place for Timur’s teachers as well.
The evening is free for you to roam around and explore the nightlife of this majestic city, you may also sample a traditional meal in the local chaikhana.

Day 15- Samarkand

Today we continue our city tour in legendary Samarkand visiting Bibi-Khanym Mosque, Siob Bazaar, Sha-i-Zinda necropolis, Afrosiab Museum and Ulugbek’s Observatory. 

Start the sightseeing from Bibi-Khanym Mosque. The legend says that it was Bibi-Kahanym, Timur’s beloved wife who ordered to build this grand mosque with its huge cupola to surprise Timur, who was at that time away in war fields. The mosques was biggest in the empire and originally aimed to accommodate over 10 000 people but as result of earthquakes it partly collapsed and later was reconstructed. Bibi-Kahanym mosque overlooks the busy Siob Bazaar, where you can test your bargaining skills with the friendly local merchants and sample some fresh produce on offer. The place is also great for taking the photos of the many bustling stalls and meeting hospitable local people.
On the opposite site of Siyob Bazar you will see Shah-i-Zinda necropolis, row of beautiful mausoleums lavishly decorated with blue tiles and majolica, the area is also known as ‘Town of the Dead’. The most important site in Sah-i-Zinda is the shrine of Qusam ibn-Abbas, the cousin of Prophet Mohammed who was first to preach Islam in this area. Leave Shah-i-Zinda and continue to Ulugbek’s observatory with en route stop in Afrosiab Museum. Timur’s grandson Ulugbek was more famous as astronomer than as a ruler. This great medieval astronomer built an extraordinary observatory that enabled him to calculate the length of a year to within 1 minute of what we now know it to be. Complete the city tour with the visit to Ulugbek’s observatory.
There will be still time in the afternoon to enjoy just a little more time in Samarkand. You may visit souvenir and handicraft stalls located in Registan or walk on your own to enjoy your last day in the city.

Day 16 -Samarkand-Shakhrisabz-Samarkand

Shahkrisabz is a small city located 70km to the north-east from Samarkand. The city is a birth place of Tamerlane. Today during the day trip to Sahkhrisabz we will visit impressing medieval pieces of architecture such as Ak Saray Place, Kok Gumbaz Mosque, Khazrati Imam Complex and other sites. In the late afternoon return to Samarkand.

 

Day 17 -Samarkand-Tashkent

Your Uzbekistan trip is almost over, after breakfast, we leave Samarkand and drive five hours get to Tashkent. Enjoy free afternoon in Tashkent.

Day - 18 -Tashkent

The trip ends in the morning after breakfast.

END OF SERVICE

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