Places Visited: Tashkent, Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand
No monuments epitomize the exotic grandeur of the Silk Road as vividly as those of Uzbekistan. To travellers crossing the great deserts of Central Asia, the splendid turquoise domes and mosaic-tiled facades of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva must have seemed like visions of heaven after the sandy wastes of the Kyzl Kum. They’re no less impressive today, having been painstakingly restored to their former glory by the Uzbek government over the past two decades.
Join TransIndus for a tour of the UNESCO-listed highlights of this fascinating region, whose cultural legacy spans more than three millennia. Marvel at the emerald, lapis blue and wax-yellow patterns adorning Samarkand’s Registan Square – one of the great wonders of the Islamic world. Shop for hand-woven kilims, silk scarves and soft, camel-wool shawls in the bazaars of Bukhara. And savour the exotic desert sunsets as you cross the Oxus Delta in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and Marco Polo.
With a Zero single Supplement this tour is ideally suited to single travellers.
A perfect ‘follow-on’ trip for anyone who enjoyed the splendours of Mughal India, the itinerary has been carefully devised to showcase the architectural genius of the Timurids and their successors, the Shaybanid Dynasty, whose buildings greatly influenced those of the Mughals. Along the way, you’ll have opportunities to meet local people, experience traditional music and dance, watch ceramicists, carpet weavers and embroiderers at work, and shop for fabulous, locally made silk garments.
Accommodation will be in comfortable, Western-style hotels, and nearly all meals are included in the price. As well as one of our members of staff from the London office, a dedicated, English-speaking TransIndus guide will be with you every step of the way. You’ll also be accompanied around specific monuments by specialist guides.
What our clients have to say:
“A BIG thank you again for a truly memorable and wonderful trip to Uzbekistan. It really exceeded my expectations and I feel so very lucky to have been able to come along to experience all that we saw and did. I have returned with many special memories and some new friends.”
“I had a very enjoyable voyage round Uzbekistan. The company was hugely entertaining and great fun. Small group tours suit me well.”
“I got out of the tour all I had hoped and learnt a lot.”
Cultural Holidays Group Tours
- Group Size 4 -16 people
- Internal Travel Air-conditioned vehicles
- Accompanying Guide Accompanying tour leader
- Accommodation 10 nights
- Meal Plan Full board
Uzbekistan - A journey of Discovery Special Group Tour
Join TransIndus for a journey of discovery to the Silk Road cities of Uzbekistan. With all the travel practicalities taken care of by our team, you’ll be free to enjoy the sights of this Central Asian gem. Accommodation is in comfortable, western-style hotels, and all meals are included with plenty of opportunities to sample the local delicacies.
Itinerary for Uzbekistan - 'A Journey of Discovery' Special Group Tour
Fly overnight from London Heathrow to Tashkent.
On arrival in the Uzbek capital, you’ll be met at the airport by your local TransIndus representative and driven to your hotel. Spend the rest of the morning recovering from the journey. Later, the group will gather in the lobby ahead of lunch at a traditional Uzbek restaurant, before beginning a gentle afternoon’s sightseeing.
Your first experience of Tashkent will be a visit to the Hast Imam complex, in the old, pre-Russian part of the city. Although much of the medieval core was destroyed in the 1966 earthquake, the handsome 14th-century mosques, tomb and madrasa at Hast Imam survived. They now enjoy a new lease of life hosting workshops for traditional crafts, where you can watch ceramicists, painters, weavers, metalworkers and embroiderers in action. Highlight of the visit is a glimpse of one of the world’s oldest Quran’s.
We’ll wind up our first day in the capital with a stroll around the centrepiece of the modern city, Amir Timur Square (formerly ‘Constantine Square’), previously dominated by a statue of Stalin, but now home to a huge equestrian statue of Uzbekistan’s eponymous national hero, better known in the West as ‘Tamerlame’. On western side, the gleaming white-marble Congress Hall is crowned by a pair of silver storks, symbols of Peace and Happiness.
An early start is required today to reach the domestic airport in time to catch the morning flight to Urgench, in the far west of Uzbekistan, from where the group will transfer by bus to Khiva, arriving in time for lunch and afternoon of leisurely sightseeing.
Our hotel in Khiva will be a delightful heritage hotel housed in a former madrasa. The building retains much of its original mosaic tilework and is an atmospheric haven in the heart of the old walled town, the ‘Itchan Kala’. Green-glazed domes and tapering minarets soar above the surrounding belt of flat rooftops and medieval mud walls – all beautifully renovated over the past 15 years or so.
There will be time before lunch for a short walking tour of the Itchan Kala’s principal monuments, beginning with the squat, elaborately tiled Kalta Minar outside the hotel. The nearby Jama Masjid (‘Friday Mosque’) retains richly carved elm pillars, some of which are believed to date from the time of Alfred the Great! Afterwards, you’ll visit a walled courtyard in an old madrasa opposite the Jama Masjid where Khiva’s last family of wood carvers, the Jumanijozovs, sculpt pillars from wood identical to those in the mosque. Their picture frames make great souvenirs.
More potential mementos are on sale at a nearby suzani workshop, where local women embroider beautiful panels with gold thread, in a distinctly Persian style. Look out too for the shaggy telpek hats traditionally worn by the region’s nomadic shepherds – a speciality of local stallholders.
A morning’s sightseeing in Khiva today begins with a guided tour of the remaining monuments in the Itchan Kala, followed by a free afternoon, when you can revisit some of the highlights and enjoy a spot of shopping in the town’s markets.
The morning starts with an ascent of the Islam Khoja minaret, the city’s tallest and most prominent building, which is embellished with handsome bands of turquoise tiles. A narrow, steep flight of steps corkscrews to the viewing platform at the top where a fabulous 360-degrees view over the city is revealed.
Sumptuous tilework, painted ceilings, finely carved wood pillars and exquisite calligraphy adorn the remarkable ensemble of palaces and madrasas surviving in the Itchan Kala. Your guide will lead you through the highlights in the morning, leaving you free to wander, shop or lounge on your hotel balcony in the afternoon.
The busy covered market on the east side of town is a great place for people watching. It’s also well worth squeezing in a second visit to the Kunya Ark Palace an hour or so before it closes in the evening. The tower at the top of the complex is perfectly placed for sunset views over Khiva’s wonderfully exotic skyline.
A long drive across the Kyzl Kum desert to Bukhara takes up most of today. En route, you’ll traverse the Amu Darya River, known in the time of Alexander the Great (who crossed it twice) as the ‘Oxus’.
Nearly a mile wide, the Amu Darya is still an impressive sight, despite the fact much of its water is nowadays diverted into vast fields of cotton. Your lunch stop today will be at a traditional Uzbek restaurant just off the highway, which serves particularly succulent kebabs, salads and freshly baked bread. All being well, the group should arrive in Bukhara in time for a short wander around the historic centre, near your hotel, before supper. Start at the shimmering Lyab-i Hauz pond at its ensemble of 16th-century architectural masterpieces.
Tour the historic highlights of this beautiful ‘Silk Road’ city in the company of your guide.
The monuments of Bukhara rank among the most striking and best preserved in all of Central Asia. The majority were erected by the Timurid Dynasty and the Shaybanids in the 16th century, after the city had been destroyed three-hundred years earlier by Genghis Kahn.
One of the only structures spared by the Mongol warlord was the Minara-i Kalan, a magnificent brick minaret whose distinctive profile has dominated Bukhara since 1127AD. Below it, facing each other from opposite sides of a large piazza, are the mosaic-tiled facades and turquoise domes of the Kalan Mosque and Mir-i Arab Madrasa – two of the most spellbinding buildings ever constructed in Asia.
Spend the morning touring Bukhara’s remaining sights, starting at the old citadel and nearby mosque, before a leisurely afternoon of shopping and relaxation. After supper, you’ll be invited to attend a concert of Uzbek music and dance.
In the northwest of the old walled city, the Ark citadel is a rather more implacable and functional edifice, its sloping walls enclosing the labyrinthine palace where the British emissaries, Stoddart and Conolly, met with untimely deaths in 1842.
After your day’s sightseeing, you’ll be invited to attend a performance of traditional Uzbek music and dance at the Nadir Divan Begi Madrasa – an experience not to be missed.
Today you’ll drive east through the green belt lining the Zeravshan River to Samarkand, pausing for lunch at a pottery in the town of Gijduvan. The group should arrive in Samarkand with time to visit one or two sites before supper.
The Narzullayev family have been making ceramics on the same spot near the Zeravshan River for five generations, according to methods used in the area for literally thousands of years. You’ll see how pots are thrown and fired in a traditional kiln, with glazes made from desert plants and local minerals (ground in situ on a wheel driven by a donkey!). A wide selection of plates and pots are available for purchase.
On arrival in Samarkand, you’ll have time to freshen up at your hotel before a short walk to Timur’s azure-domed tomb, the Gur-i Amir. Inside, the site of the great king’s remains (actually in the crypt below) is marked by a beautiful slab of polished Chinese jade – thought to be the largest of its kind in the world. After supper, you’ll be at leisure – time for photographers to visit the Registan to see the great square under floodlights.
A memorable excursion awaits today as you visit the oasis town of Shakhrisabz, 50 miles (80km) south of Samarkand, on the far side of the Gysar Mountains. On returning to Samarkand in the afternoon, the group will visit the ruins of ancient Afrosiab, and the nearby tomb complex of Shah-i-Zinda.
Shakhrisabz was the birthplace of Timur – a fact celebrated by a crop of wonderful 14th and 15th-century monuments, foremost among them the majestic Kok Gumbaz mosque, with its three vibrant turquoise domes. The remnants of Timur’s own Summer Palace, the Ak-Saray, come a close second: sublime blue, white and gold mosaics embellish the surviving gateway of the building.
After lunch, the tour will take in the archeological site of Afrosiab, the site of ancient Samarkand, occupied between 500BC and 1220AD, where a small museum holds a precious collection of Sogdian murals. We’ll then call at a nearby silk carpet weaving workshop before heading to the Shah-i Zinda to see the tombs of the Timurid queens – a wonderfully vibrant collection of buildings featuring some dazzling tilework.
A full morning’s sightseeing in Samarkand today starts with a visit to the Registan, the most spectacular ensemble of buildings in Central Asia. Around late afternoon you’ll board the bus for the journey back to Tashkent.
The magnificent Registan complex in Samarkand comprises three separate madrasas, or theological colleges, lining three sides of a plaza that once served as the city’s main market square. Behind the richly decorated facades are hidden cloistered courtyards where the priests’ and students cells today hold small crafts and souvenir shops. One of our favourite is Babur’s musical instrument boutique, where visitors can enjoy impromptu performances of Uzbek classical and folk music.
From the Registan, the group will be driven to the giant Bibi Khanym mosque, whose construction was funded with loot from Timur’s India campaign of 1398. Conceived on a vast scale, it was, in its day, the largest and most impressive mosque in the Islamic world, and still presents an imposing spectacle, despite the fact most of the building collapsed in the 19th century and had to be almost completely rebuilt. Before breaking for lunch, we’ll round off the morning with a visit to the wonderful Urgut market, next door to the mosque and a great place for picking up local dried fruit, nuts and textiles.
In the morning the group will visit Afrosiab, the site of ancient Samarkand, where a small museum holds a precious collection of Sogdian murals. We’ll then call at a nearby silk carpet weaving workshop and Shah-i Zinda tomb complex before catching the high-speed train to Tashkent. A performance of ballet or opera will take up in the evening.
Afrosiab occupied between 500BC and 1220AD, when the city was razed by the Mongol warlord, Genghis Khan. Still in the process of being excavated, the site has yielded some startling finds, most notable among them a beautiful 6th-century mural from the Sogdian era, depicting a lavish royal procession. It forms the centrepiece of a small museum on the site.
Depending on the programme at the time of the tour, the group will take in a performance of opera or ballet at the Alishers Navoi Theatre in the evening.
A visit the capital’s Museum of Fine Arts, whose collection spans 1500 years of Central Asian history and culture, will take up most of the morning, before the group transfers to the airport to catch our flight back to London.
12 days from £3295 per person
NO SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT
2018 tour prices for Uzbekistan - 'A Journey of Discovery' Special Group Tour
|DEPARTURE DATE||PRICE PER PERSON||SINGLE ROOM supplement||AVAILABILITY|
|Fri 14 Sep 2018||£3295||£0||Good|
For the majority of visitors, the Uzbek capital serves primarily as a gateway hub, where you can recover from your jet lag in a modern, comfortable hotel and acclimatize with shor...
In the early 19th century, the name ‘Khiva’ struck fear into the hearts of Western explorers. The capital of a famously sadistic despots known as the ‘Khans’ (direct descendants o...
The chimeric monuments of Bukhara were mostly erected by the descendant of Timur, and by the Uzbek Shaybanid dynasty who succeeded them in the 16th century. In recent years, a hug...
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