Tailor-made Tour 8 days from £2500 per person
Places Visited: Tashkent, Bukhara, Samarkand
If you only have a week to spare then this streamlined tour, starting and ending in the capital Tashkent, is our recommended option. To squeeze in as much as possible, it makes use of Uzbekistan’s impressive high-speed rail network connecting the capital with Samarkand and Bukhara. This significantly reduces transfer times between cities and allows you to get around more of the highlights. We’re confident you’ll find this varied, well balanced route hugely rewarding and full of fascination.
Marvel at the splendour of the great Registan in Samarkand, the apogee of Timurid architecture
Explore the famous landmarks of Bukhara’s old city
Visit arts and crafts workshops where the ancient skills of the Silk Road endure
Experience traditional markets, music and cuisine
Stay in comfortable, well run hotels throughout
Includes the services of an English-speaking guide and driver
Travel by a mix of luxury car and high-speed train.
Fly overnight on Uzbek Airways flight HY57 from London Heathrow direct 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 for a one-night stay. Spend the rest of the morning recovering from the journey. Later, enjoy an afternoon of guided sightseeing in the north of the city.
After a late lunch at a traditional Uzbek restaurant, enjoy a gentle afternoon’s tour, beginning at the Hast Imam complex in old Tashkent, whose handsome 14th-century mosques, tomb and madrasa today house workshops for traditional crafts, as well as one of the world’s oldest Qurans. From there, head across town to the centrepiece of the modern city, Amir Timur Square, home to a huge equestrian statue of Uzbekistan’s eponymous national hero, Amir Timur, better known in the West as ‘Tamerlane’.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your morning flight to Bukhara. Having checked in and had lunch, you’ll be accompanied by your guide on a tour of the city’s historic highlights, beginning with the shimmering Lyab-i Hauz pond and its ensemble of 16th-century architectural masterpieces.
Most of Bukhara’s standout buildings were erected by the Timurid Dynasty and the Shaybanids in the 16th century, after the city had been destroyed by Genghis Khan. One of the only structures spared by the Mongol warlord was the Minara-i Kalan, a magnificent brick minaret whose striking form dominates the Poi-i-Kalan complex. 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 great architectural masterpieces of the old Silk Road.
Continue exploring Bukhara’s medieval monuments in the morning, covering the mighty Ark fortress and iconic Chor Minor Madrassa. After lunch, you’ll be driven to the station to catch the afternoon train to Samarkand.
The Ark citadel is a more implacable and functional edifice than the nearby Poi-i-Kalan, its sloping walls enclosing the labyrinthine palace where the British emissaries, Stoddart and Conolly, met with untimely deaths in 1842 at the hands of the redoubtable Khan of Bukhara. Most of what stands today is a modern reconstruction. The last ruler, Alim Khan, ordered the building be blown up rather than allow it to fall into the hands of the Bolsheviks in 1920.
On the eastern outskirts of the city, the four-towered, delightfully quirky Chor Minar is on an altogether smaller scale. Modelled on the famous ‘Char Minar’ of Hyderabad in India, the building dates from the 19th century, when it was prized by Sufi mystics and musicians for its wonderful acoustics.
We recommend you start your day’s sightseeing with a visit to the magnificent Registan, the greatest ensemble of buildings surviving from Timurid times, followed by Bibi Khanum mosque and nearby Siab market.
Amir Timur’s magnificent Registan complex is made up of three separate madrasas, or theological colleges, lining three sides of a huge plaza. Behind the richly decorated facades are hidden cloistered courtyards where the former priests’ and students cells today hold small crafts and souvenir shops. At one, you can listen to traditional Uzbek instruments being played. In another, majolica tiles are made in time-honoured fashion.
After the Registan, you could cross town to see the giant Bibi Khanum mosque, once the largest and most impressive on the Silk Road, before a wander around nearby Siab market – a great place for picking up local dried fruit, nuts and textiles.
Spend the afternoon relaxing ahead of a return visit to the Registan at sunset time.
Visit the archeological site of ancient Samarkand (aka ‘Afrosiab’) in the morning, followed by Ulug Beg’s museum. After lunch and some downtime back at the hotel, savour the superb tilework and sociable atmosphere of the Shah-i-Zinda tomb, squeezing in a tour of a nearby silk carpet weaving workshop if time permits.
The ruins of Afrosiab sprawl over an expanse of sun-baked wasteland on the northeast side of the city. The site was founded by the Sogdian Dynasty in the 7th century BC and rose to become one of the great trading centres of the Silk Road before its destruction by Genghis Khan in 1220 AD. Although little remains of the city itself, the adjacent museum warrants a visit to see the fabulous 'Ambassador's Painting', a rare survivor from of the Sogdian period painted over two-and-a-half-thousand years ago, yet still vibrant. After lunch, visit Ulugbeg’s extraordinary observatory complex, considered by astronomers as one of the finest of its kind in the Islamic world.
The Shah-i Zinda group of tombs occupies the southern edge of the plateau on which ancient Samarkand was built. Its sumptuously decorated mausoleum were built for the Timurid queens, consorts and concubines, and are a popular destination for Uzbek women. The combination of their traditional clothes and wonderful tilework offer some great photos, and opportunities to interact with local people. For many, this site ranks among the highlights of the trip.
Round off your sightseeing with a visit to the exquisite Gur-i-Amir mausoleum in the morning to see the family crypt of the Timurid Dynasty. Spend the remainder of the day relaxing by the hotel pool or doing a spot of last-minute souvenir shopping ahead of your train journey back to Tashkent in the evening.
The 15th-century Gur-i-Amir is a richly decorated tomb enshrining the remains of Amir Timur and his family. The beautiful jade graves take pride of place in a building whose exquisite proportions and fine majolica tilework greatly influenced the architects of the Mughal emperors, creating a blueprint that saw its culmination in the Taj Mahal in Agra.
After a relaxing afternoon, you’ll be transferred to the station for the two-hour journey back to Samarkand by high-speed train.
After breakfast there will be time to visit Tashkent’s Museum of Fine Arts and possibly a trip to the capital’s bustling market, Chorsu Bazaar, before lunch and your transfer to the airport to catch your flight back to the UK, which departs at 4.20pm local time.
Among the many items on display at the National Museum are some of the Asia’s most sumptuous antique carpets, a collection of ancient suzani embroidered silk wall hangings and Buddhist figurines from the pre-Islamic Silk Road era. Lunch today could be at the famous National Plov Centre, high altar of the national dish of Uzbekistan – a regional take on pulao made with sizzling lamb, rice, vegetables and apricots. Afterwards, time permitting, consider a visit to Tashkent’s bustling market – Chorsu Bazaar – where everything from embroidered Uzbek hats to wedding gowns and bowls of juicy mulberries are on sale. Photographers will be in their element.
Tailor-made Tour 8 days from £2500 per person
✓ International flights from London
✓ 6 nights accommodation
✓ All internal transportation and transfers
✓ English-speaking guides
✓ Breakfast daily
✓ Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary
Places and Experiences in this tour
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...
Thousands of captured artisans from Persia, Iraq and Azerbaijan were put to work by Timur to create his imperial capital, Samarkand. Encircled by snow-lit mountains, the exquisite...
The Carpet Weavers of Samarkand
Carpets are produced throughout Uzbekistan. Most are made of silk, and are of an exceptionally high quality – with a price tag to match! It can take a couple of women six months 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...
Many forms of traditional Uzbek music were suppressed in the Soviet era, particularly those associated with Sufi worship and other expressions of the Islamic faith, but certain fo...
‘Plov’, from the Persian ‘pilaw’, is the national dish of Uzbekistan. Consisting of rice, carrots, onions and meat – usually mutton, but also lamb or beef – it’s slow cooked in sh...
Of all the art forms refined under the patronage of the Timurids, glazed tilework has achieved the most enduring and visible legacy in Uzbekistan. Every inch of the minarets, dome...
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