Uzbekistan Embraced


Uzbekistan Embraced

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 12 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers

Dossier

The legendary ‘Silk Road’ occupies a mythical place in the imaginations of western travellers, a remote region in the centre of the Eurasian landmass through which countless traders journeyed on their voyages between Europe and the Far East. As well as commerce, the exchange of ideas and cultures flowed through the various arteries of the Silk Road, resulting in an incredible flowering of architecture, education and religion. Placed at the heart of the region lie the enigmatic sites and history of Uzbekistan. On this tour we visit the truly astounding sites of Khiva and central Asia’s holiest city, Bukhara and of course take in the spectacular architecture of Samarkand’s Registan – one of the most stunning collections of architecture to be found anywhere. We spend a night in a yurt at Lake Aydarkul, the centre of Uzbekistan’s developing ecotourism, and finish in the busy capital of Tashkent. Blessed with among the friendliest people you could meet anywhere this tour is a great introduction to this delightful country.   


Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●○○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●●● | Wildlife ○○○○○○

Tour Pace

Busy

Tour Highlights   

  • The splendour of the Museum City of Khiva
  • The unique art gallery at Nukus
  • The stunning architecture of Samarkand, in particular the Registan Square
  • A night at a yurt camp at Lake Aydarkul

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Mix of hotels and one night in a yurt camp
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary.
Group Size: Maximum of 12
Start Point: Tashkent
End Point: Tashkent
Transport: Private cars or minibuses, domestic flights and train
Countries: Uzbekistan 

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour.

Day 1 – Tashkent

Arrive in Tashkent where you will be met and transferred to your hotel. In the afternoon we will start to explore beginning with Old Tashkent and moving on to the impressive Khast Imam Square, the holy heart of the city. Among the important sites is Tillya Sheykh Mosque which houses the Osman Koran, said to be the oldest in the world. We will also visit the Chorsu Bazaar, the largest farmer’s market in Tashkent, filled with the heady smell of spices. We will also visit Amir Temur Square which is the oldest public park in Tashkent. Overnight at Uzbekistan Hotel or similar.

Tashkent

Uzbekistan’s capital displays its Silk Road heritage even today. An ancient city dating back 2000 years it is the largest in Central Asia and probably it’s most cosmopolitan. Although much of it has been rebuilt following an earthquake in the 1960s, its old quarters still retain their charm with narrow streets and 500 year old mosques, medressas and other religious buildings. Tashkent has always been a centre of commerce and trading links established with Russia made it wealthy during the Middle Ages. In the middle of the 19th century it was a focus of rivalry between the Emir of Bukhara and the city of Khokand to which Tashkent paid tribute. Seizing the opportunity to take advantage of the regional turmoil, the Russian army was able to gain control of Tashkent, bringing it under the Tsar’s rule in a gradual process of imperial expansion throughout Central Asia. Tashkent became the capital of Russian Turkestan and attracted great numbers of immigrants – today there are sizeable Russian and Korean communities within the city.

Day 2 – Nukus- Khiva (203kms, approx.3 hrs 30 mins driving time)   

Check out of your hotel and transfer to the airport for the flight to Nukus, the isolated capital of Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan Republic. It is home to a remarkable Art Museum founded by Igor Savitsky, and thanks to him many of the early 20th century Russian paintings, which were banned by Moscow, found protection here. The story of this collection has been told in the award-winning documentary: Desert of Forbidden Art. We will have the opportunity to view the collection which is the second-largest gathering of Russian avant-garde art after the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. From here we will continue by road to Khiva. Overnight at Malika Khiva Hotel or similar. (BL)

Khiva

Khiva is one of the true highlights of this astounding region – its ancient monuments have been superbly preserved and its historic centre contains more than fifty of them, along with around 250 old houses dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The inner town, or Ichon Qala, is encircled by 18th century mud walls and holds the cream of Khiva’s sites, a collection of remarkable palaces, mosques and mausoleums capped with bright blue domes and bedecked with stunning decoration. Minarets poke into the sky while its graceful archways betray links with Moghul India, and it is easy to visualise what this city once looked like when it was one of the most important in the region. Khiva was once an independent khanate renowned as a centre of the slave trade – raiders from Khiva would set off to vulnerable communities bringing back slaves to live in tortuous conditions, or be sold to end up somewhere else along the Silk Road. Peter the Great first sought to bring Khiva under his control in 1717, but it was not to be – Russian forces were tricked and then massacred, humiliating the Tsar. In following years a number of attempts were made to free Russian slaves and take Khiva but it was not until 1873 that it fell.

Day 3 – Khiva

Today is at leisure for you to make your acquaintance with this stunning city, the most remote of Central Asia’s Silk Road cities,  and its wealth of ancient monuments. Overnight at Malika Khiva Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 4 – Khiva

Today will be given over to a full day city tour of the UNESCO listed Ichan Kala, or inner town, and its many sights, including the Friday Mosque with its 218 wooden pillars supporting its roof, and the Islam Khoja Minaret whose stripes rise to an impressive 60 metres in height. We will visit Kunya Ark, or Old Fortress, the residence of the rulers of Khiva from the 12th Century and the Pakhlavan Mahmud Mausoleum which is one of the most beautiful spots with its lovely courtyard and stately tilework. After lunch at a private house we will continue our tour to include a visit to a bazaar and a caravanserai. Overnight at Malika Khiva Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 5 – Khiva- Bukhara (455 kms, approx. 6 hrs, 35mins driving time)

We will depart Khiva this morning for the Holy City of Bukhara and on arrival begin our introduction to the city. Overnight at Caravan Hotel or similar. (B)

Bukhara

Mighty Bukhara is renowned as the holiest of Central Asia’s cities and is said to have been in existence when Alexander the Great passed through the region, more than two thousand years ago. Its old centre is exceptionally well preserved and contains old medressahs and mosques, ancient minarets and protected buildings dating back as far as the 10th century. The independent khanate of Bukhara was one of the focal points of the ‘Great Game’ – a period of imperial rivalry between Britain and Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries that saw each seek to expand their influence. The British sent Alexander Burnes to the city in 1832 in an attempt to bring the city into their sphere of influence, but this was inconclusive and although Burnes was treated well, later emissaries were to fare far worse – two English officers were kept captive there for some time before eventually being executed in Bukhara’s Registan square.

Day 6 – Bukhara

We will spend today delving further into Bukhara one of the most spectacular cities in the region and with a superbly preserved old quarter. Our first of many visits will be to the spectacular Kalon Minaret, one of the defining symbols of Bukhara, and probably the tallest building in Central Asia when it was first built in 1127.We will continue to the three remaining domed bazaars; the Jewellers Bazaar, the Cap Makers Bazaar and the Moneychangers Bazaar which are among dozens of specialist bazaars in the city. We will take a break for lunch at a local restaurant and afterwards include the Ark fortress, a royal town within a town, home to the rulers of the city for over a millennium, and as old as Bukhara itself, and the satisfyingly perfect Ismoil Samani Mausoleum completed in 905. Overnight at Caravan Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 7 – Bukhara- Nurata- Lake Aydarkul - (175 kms, approx. 3 hrs driving time)

We will check out of our hotel and begin the drive towards the Nuratau Mountains. On the way we will visit the town of Nurata, famous for its Suzuni, an embroidered and decorative tribal textile. We will visit an old fortess remaining from the days of Alexander the Great, and then continue to Lake Aydarkul, and on arrival settle into our yurt camp. Overnight in a yurt. (B)

Day 8 – Lake Aydarkul- Samarkand (190 kms, approx. 3 hrs driving time)  

After a relaxing morning (there will be the opportunity to take a camel ride at your own expense, or to swim in the lake) we will drive to the legendary city of Samarkand. The rest of the day will be at leisure. Overnight at Malika Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 9 - Samarkand

A full day to discover glorious Samarkand with its spectacular collection of traditional buildings. The city is most famous for its Registan Square, which contains perhaps the most stunning and well preserved architecture in the whole region. Long held in awe by early western travellers, it is easy to lose yourself in wonder at the incredible mosques and medressas, elaborately decorated in blue tiles and traditional Islamic art. We will also visit the Tomb of the Emir, beneath which lie Timur, along with two of his sons and two of his grandsons. After admiring the impressive Bibi Khanym congregational mosque we will continue to Siab Market, the main farmers market, before taking lunch in a local restaurant. In the afternoon we will visit Shakhi Zinda, a dazzling collection of richly tiled mausoleums, the tombs of the rulers and nobles of Samarkand, lining either side of a gently rising pathway. The name, meaning the tomb of the Living King, refers to the original shrine which is thought to be the grave of Qusam ibn- Abbas, a cousin of the prophet Muhammad, who is said to have brought Islam to the area.  Overnight at Malika Hotel or similar. (B)

Samarkand

Samarkand is perhaps the most atmospheric of all of Uzbekistan’s and the whole region’s cities, a glorious collection of immaculately preserved monuments that reach their climax in the superb Registan square, renowned as the finest architectural ensemble in Central Asia. Founded in the 8th century BC by the Persians, Samarkand has always been an important centre for the various forces passing through and has at times been controlled by Arabs, Sogdians and the armies of Alexander the Great. It was Timur who left the greatest mark on the city, designating it as his capital and embarking on a program of building that was continued after his death to produce one of the most startling sights in Asia. Vivid blue capped minarets jostle for space with tiled medressas, enormous arched gateways decorated with Islamic art and numerous mosques and mausoleums of the great and the good, as well as a marvellous observatory built by the ruler and astronomer Ulugbek. Samarkand takes your breath away – there is no other place like it.

Day 10 – Samarkand

Today gives the opportunity to discover more of the sights of this inspiring city. We will begin with a tour of Ulugbek’s Observatory, which was constructed in 1420, and he was probably more famous as an astronomer than as a ruler. He was fascinated by the stars and the universe, and as a result of the observations he undertook with the naked eye only, he calculated the length of the year to within a minute of the modern accepted value; and predated the telescope by over 150 years. Other sites will include the Khodja Daniil Mausoleum and the Meros craft centre where silk paper is made.Overnight at Malika Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 11 – Tashkent

After breakfast transfer to the railway station to board our train for Tashkent (0840/1240). In the afternoon we can take in some more of the city sights including Independence Square, the largest in the former Soviet Union, and flanked by public buildings and walls of fountains. In addition we will visit the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre completed in 1947 by Japanese prisoners of war, and the Museum of Applied Arts, as popular for its setting in a beautiful house, as for its many lovely exhibits. Overnight at Uzbekistan Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 12 – Tashkent

The tour ends with a transfer to the airport to connect with your onward flight. (B)

Fergana Valley Extension

Day 1- Tashkent - Fergana (300 kms, approx. 5 hours)

The morning is at leisure and we then begin the drive to Fergana, stopping at the Kamchik Pass for photos, and any other places of interest along the way. On arrival in Fergana there may be time to look around. Overnight at Hotel Asia Fergana or similar. (B)

Day 2- Rishtan – Margilan

A full day excursion to Rishtan famous for its traditional cobalt pottery techniques and Margilon to witness traditional silk production and the local bazaar. Overnight at Hotel Asia Fergana or similar. (B)

Day 3- Kokand – Tashkent

After breakfast drive back to Tashkent via Kokand visiting Khudoyar Khan’s Palace, the Norbuta Museum- Bia Madrassah, and the Modarikhon Mausoleum. Overnight at Uzbekistan Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 4- Tour ends.

Transfer to the airport for flight home. (B)

Tour Inclusions: 
Arrival and departure transfers 
Domestic flight
Transport throughout
All accommodation 
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader 
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner) 
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Excluded: 
International flights
Any airport taxes
Travel Insurance
Visas
Drinks
Tips


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