When to Travel:

Much of the Silk Road passes through Central Asia and covers regions of extreme landscapes, including deserts and mountains. Between the lowest point at 132m (433ft) below sea level to peaks over 7,000m (23,000ft) high, the weather varies from one extreme to another as travel across the zones from scorching hot summers and freezing winters. By rule of thumb, Spring and autumn (May and September) are the best seasons to visit, as temperatures are milder and conditions perfect for travel. 

If you visit either the lowlands or the highlands, the weather is not an issue, but if you combine both, you may need to equip yourself for cold and warm weather.

Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, which sit in the lowlands, have agreeable springlike weather from March to May and September to November. On the other hand, Kazakhstan is, for all intents and purposes, Siberia with sweltering summers and winters that last a month longer at either end.

Kyrgyzstan's mountainous areas, particularly the Pamir Highway, are best visited in the summer from mid-June until mid-September.  

Novruz, the Persian New Year, a significant time of celebration and feasting, falls on 21 March each year. It is a time when the whole Silk Road region, including the nomadic dwellers, take a week off to gather and burst into song and dance, eat special dishes and engage in horse games of all manner and kind. It is an exceptional time to visit. Kazakhstan, however, is still cold, but Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan can be visited for a festive Nowruz tour. In Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Nowruz is a snowy affair and bet avoided.

Remember that some mountain passes, like the Tougrat Pass and sections of the motorable Pamir Highway, may be closed from October to March, depending on the weather. It is also sensible to avoid travelling during Ramadan, a religious holiday when people are fasting.

Where to stay:

As the popularity of the Silk Road and Central Asia has grown, so has the choice of hotels, from pleasant standard-grade hotels, homestays, yurts, and Gers and increasing to grand luxury hotels in the larger cities. Our favourite properties are the converted Madrasas, housed within cultural hubs that provide the most memorable and experiential stays.  

Community-based tourism is rather popular and easily accessible in more rural places and thoroughly enjoyable with exceptional food prepared by your hosts. It's a great way to stay with locals and become familiar with their culture as you travel.

Foods to try:

The nomadic heritage of Central Asian Silk Road countries has meant opportunities for farming grains, pulses, and vegetables were limited; hence the cruise revolves largely around meat and is limited to a few dishes found widely throughout the region. They essentially include plov, fragrant rice fried with chicken and topped with raisins, saffron and pine nuts; Manty dumplings; Shish Kebab, Shaslik and barbequed meat with an incredible array of dairy products made from cow, goat, horse and camel milk.

You should look out for regional variations like Beshbarmak in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, a meat-based dish served with homemade pasta and an onion sauce and Kazy, a kind of speciality sausage made with horsemeat and revered as the national dish of both these counties. 

Try Kozhe, a cold soup of fermented milk and barley in Uzbekistan with some fresh, warm Lepyoshka or local flatbread. Turkmenistan offers some excellent meat pies, and in Tajikistan, you should seek out Qurutob, a very enjoyable fresh salad mixed with yoghurt.

Vegetarians and Vegans, in particular, may find the cuisine challenging. Still, meat-free options are available, particularly in restaurants in the larger cities. The bazaars are full of delicious melons, pomegranates, nuts and other fruit and vegetables in spring and summer. 


You will be pleased to know that tourists can travel visa-free to most nations of Central Asia, making multicounty touring and crossing borders relatively easy.

The only two that do require a visa are Tajikistan, which requires an easy-to-obtain online E-visa. The other is Turkmenistan which should be applied for well in advance, as the application is taken in London but referred to Ashgabat for issue. 


For more details about your travels to the region

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