7 Highlights of Central Asia
Uzbekistan 08.12.2016 TransIndus
Encompassing some of the least explored mountain and desert regions on the planet, the former-Soviet states of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan (collectively known, for obvious reasons, as ‘the Stans’) – have emerged from the shadow of Communist rule to assert their own vibrant and distinct identities.
The mighty Tianshan range sprawls over 80% of Kyrgyzstan, where nomadism and dramatic wilderness combine to unique effect. In the course of a typical two-week tour you’ll sleep in yurt encampments in the middle of nowhere, dine on mare’s yoghurt along the shores of shimmering glacial lakes and watch sunsets over grasslands unchanged in thousands of years.
Elsewhere in the region, the focus is primarily cultural: a string of splendid oasis cities retaining some of the most sublime monuments ever created by the Islamic world. The turquoise mosaic and gilded domes of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, and the eroded remains of Merv and Konye-Urgench, spring from the surrounding sand flats like hallucinations – a vivid testament to the power of the dynasties who dominated trade along the Oxus to the Caspian Sea.
Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan
Swim from wild beaches in a vast, saline inland sea, encircled by snow-streaked ranges and grasslands dotted with the summer camps of Kyrgyz nomads.
Five thousand years of history are encompassed by the monuments of Bukhara, the most secretive of the caravan cities on the Silk Road, and the cultural heart of Central Asia.
Torugart Pass, Kyrgyzstan
Culminating point on the epic road journey from China, Torugart provides the only motorable route over the Tianshan – one of the world's great road trips.
Heli Trek to Inylchek
An ex-Russian military helicopter flies weekly to the base camp of Pobeda (7,439m) and Khan Tengri (7,010m) peaks, depositing you in a land of rock and ice.
Pamir Highway, Tajikistan
Travel through the heart of the snow-topped Pamirs from Khorog to Osh, crossing one of the world’s great unspoilt wilderness areas – a road trip of the highest calibre.
The great Mongol warlord Timur, aka ‘Tamerlane’, made Samarkand his capital in 1370 – and the buildings his successors erected still rank among the finest in the Islamic world.
Marvel at the white marble monoliths and gilded domes erected by the Turkmeni dictator, Niyazov at the end of the 20th century – a striking affirmation of the country’s independence.