Tour: Discovery of Silk Road Treasures
Duration: 26 days
Countries: Kazakhstan + Tajikistan + Uzbekistan + Kyrgyzstan + China
Places to visit: Astana - Almaty - Charyn - Shymkent - Big Almaty Lake - Dushanbe - Norak - Kalai Khum - Khoburubot - Iskandarkul Lake - Khujand - Urgench (Khiva) - Bukhara - Samarkand - Tashkent - Bishkek - Son Kul Lake - Naryn - Tash Rabat - Torugart - Kashgar - Urumqi - Turpan - Xian - Beijing
Day 1: Astana
Your guide will pick you up at International Airport and accompany you to Astana City. Today you will have a city tour. First of all you will visit complex «Astana - Baiterek». The unique construction is a symbol of Astana. The viewing platform is located at the height of 97 meters, and from the height of the bird's flight you can see the panorama of building of a new capital of Kazakhstan. Also after walking around the city you will have time to visit the singing fountains alley. The wide alley cuts the left river-bank into two parts. The object is extremely difficult. The parkway represents a three-level gallery type construction consisting of two pavilions, glass transition-passes, open galleries, green lawns, colorful sidewalks and huge bowls with musical fountains. In the evening you will have a dinner at 7 p.m. Night is in a hotel.
Day 2: Astana - Almaty
In the morning is a flight to Almaty. Today we will have a city tour. You will get acquainted with Almaty's history and see the Ascension Cathedral - the second highest wooden building in the world. Then you will visit the Square of 28 Panfilov Heroes. Afterwards you will visit the Museum of Musical Instruments. After lunch we will drive to the "Hawks nursery". There you will see different hunting dogs and many birds of prey. At this place people train hawks, eagles, golden eagles to hunt together with them. Your guide will tell you about amazing traditions of Kazakh hunting with hawks. In the evening we drive to Kok Tebe to see the panoramic view of Almaty. Night will be in a hotel.
Day 3: Almaty - Charyn - Almaty
Today we will visit one of the most popular places of Kazakhstan - Charyn Canyon. It is an amazing creation of nature that has existed for millions of years, picturesque and very diverse in geomorphologic aspects. The height of steep mountainsides reach 150-300 meters. Numerous ravines and gullies make dense rambling net. Wind and water created stunning "Red Castles Valley". All along the valley you are surrounded by towers of fantastical forms, built of sedimentary. Throughout time nature has created these architectural wonders, without haste, it has built majestic castles. The road to the Canyon and back is 400 km. After a short walk in the canyon we will drive back to Almaty.
Day 4: Shymkent - Almaty - Big Almaty Lake - Almaty
In the morning is a flight to Almaty. Today will drive to the most beautiful Big Almaty Lake. It is located at an altitude of 2511 m, on the upper side of the canyon by the same name, is fed by the Almaty River running through it, and is part of a wonderful national park. Big Almaty Lake is set high up in a gorge of the Bolshaya Almatinka River, 2,511m above sea level and 28.5km south of Almaty. It lies in a hollow like a gleaming mirror, surrounded on all sides by majestic peaks. Fed by glacial water, the lake is 1.6 km long, almost a kilometer wide and 40 m deep. In the evening you will come back to Almaty city.
Day 5: Almaty - Dushanbe
In the morning is transfer to airport to have a flight to Dushanbe. Our guide will meet you in the airport and accompany to Dushanbe. Th entire day is dedicated to a guided city tour. First of we will visit Rudake Park, National library, White House, National state seal, House of parliament and Jomi theatre. After it we will walk in National park to make photos of Ministry of Inner Affairs and the biggest National Flag in the world - 165 m high pole, 30 m wide, 60 m long. After excursion in Central Museum you will have lunch. Then you will visit to Gurminj Museum of traditional musical instruments. To feel real life you should visit Asian bazar. It has colorful goods, fruits and vegetables. We will see today the main highlights of Dushanbe and you will find out many interesting facts about Tajik people. Dinner will be in a traditional restaurant where you try Tajik food. Night is in a hotel.
Day 6: Dushanbe - Norak - Kalai Khum
Today we will drive to Kalai Khum village. You will see Norak water reservoir that is called Tajik Sea. The highest point of the day is Shuraba pass (2 267 m) and after drive along Afghanistan border starts. This part will amaze you by its unique mountains - it is already Territory of Pamir Mountains. Over the centuries, the Pamirs have inspired the world's greatest explorers - Marco Polo, Hsuan Tsang, Mirza Muhammad Haidar. And now you also have a chance to travel here. You will drive along natural border - Pyanj River. Having visited the Pamirs, many travellers called this giant mountain system the ocean of white and blue mountains. This night you will spend in a home stay to see the way of local people's life.
Day 7: Kalai Khum - Khoburubot - Dushanbe
In the morning we will drive to Dushanbe via another mountain road. You will drive over high Khoburubot Pass (3 252) known as Western Pamir Tract. The road goes through the most picturesque river valley and amazing gorges in the terrain, where one can stop for rest and shoot photos of the mountain and rivers. On the way you will see small villages and meet local people. Tajiks are by nature hard working, hospitable, and kind-hearted. This nation greatly respects its traditions and folklore. This trip is attractive for the lovers of exotics, those curious about the ethnic and cultural diversity and captivated by the beauty of wild nature. Dinner will be in a restaurant. Night is in a hotel.
Day 8: Dushanbe - Iskandarkul Lake
Our trip today is to high Mountain lake - Iskanderkul (2 255 m. a. s. l.). It is situated in the famous Fann Mountains. This fabulous area is one of the best places of Central Asia. The road to the lakes goes over Anzob pass (3 372 m) with amazing panorama views. After arrival to the lake you will go for a walk along it beaches. Also we will hike 40 minutes to see a waterfall. Tajikistan takes the second place among the CIS countries for volume of water resources: it has the highest water reserves of all Central Asian countries with more than 1 000 rivers, 2 000 lakes and 8000 glaciers. Night is in a hotel.
Day 9: Iskandarkul - Khujand
In the morning is transfer to Khujand city. On the way we will visit Istaravshan and its mosque. Khujand is the second largest city of Tajikistan. It is situated on the Syr Darya River at the mouth of the Fergana Valley. The population of the city is 149,000. It is also the capital of the northernmost province of Tajikistan, now called Sughd. You will visit in the afternoon a Cultural Palace of Khujant. At this place the first president of Tajikistan was chosen. Also we will go to see Central Mosque that is situated in the middle of the city. Night is in a hotel.
Day 10: Khujand - Tashkent
Today you will spend the whole day to drive to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Tashkent has important position in Central Asia, it came under Sogdian and Turkic influence early in its history, before Islam in the 8th century AD. After its destroying by Genghis Khan in 1219, Tashkent was rebuilt and profited from the Silk Road. In 1865 year it was conquered by the Russian Empire, and in Soviet times witnessed major growth and demographic changes due to forced deportations from throughout the Soviet Union. Today Tashkent is a multi-ethnic population with ethnic Uzbeks as the majority. Night is at the hotel.
Day 11: Tashkent - Urgench (Khiva)
In the morning you will have a flight to Urgench. Today you will have an excursion in Khiva. It is an open air museum- city similar to Pompeii and Herculanum. According to UNESCO Khiva is on the World Heritage List. The first half of the day is dedicated to a visit to the oldest part of the city - Kunya-Ark fortress, including Kurinish Khana (17c); Mohammed-Amin-Khan(19c) Madrassah, Islam Khodja Minaret; Palvan-Kari complex, Abd Al Bobo complex(18c), Rafanek Madrassah, Mohammed Rakim Khan (19 c), Amir-Tur Madrassah, Sho-I-Kalandar Bobo Mausoleum. On the second half of the day you will see Mazary Sharif Madrassah, Kheivak well (10c), Uch Avlioli («three saints») Mausoleum, Jami Mosque(18c), Kutluq-Murad Inaq (19c) Madrassah, Pakhlavan Mahmoud Mausoleum, Tash Havli palace with Harem. Night is in a hotel.
Day 12: Khiva - Bukhara
In the morning is transfer to Bukhara. It is 500 km. This city is like a real fairy tale combining the magic lamps and eastern beauties. It is an oasis that Silk Road merchants never missed. On the way you can make a photo stop near the biggest river in Central Asia named Amudarya (Oxus). You will also have a picnic lunch in one of oasis in the middle of Kyzylkum desert. Upon arrival to Bukhara you will have free time. Night is in a hotel.
Day 13: Bukhara
Full day is dedicated to a sightseeing tour in Bukhara. You will visit Ismael Samani mausoleum, the oldest royal mausoleum of Bukhara, Chor-Minor madrasah, Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum, local bazaar, Poi-Kalon ensemble including Minaret, Jome Mosque and Madrassah Miri-Arab, Amir- Alim-Khan Madrassah and trading domes. In the afternoon you can visit Lyab-i-Hauz Ensemble, Nadir Divanbegi, Magoki Attari, Ulug Beg, Abdul Azizkhan Madrassahs; Registan Ensemble, Ark Fortress and Bolo-Hauz complex. Night is in a hotel.
Day 14: Bukhara - Samarkand
In the morning we will start our way to Samarkand. It is 268 km between the two cities. On the way we will visit house-museum-workshop of Gijguvan Master of Ceramics Abdulla Narzullaev. You can make a lot of photo stops at cotton fields, cotton factory and at ancient Karavan Sarai (motel for traders) Rabat Malik, built along the Great Silk Road on the way. Upon arrival you will have free time. Night is in a hotel.
Day 15: Samarkand
Samarkand is the grandiose capital of the Empire of famous Tamerlane -Amir Temur. It has has the biggest mausoleums, madrasahs and mosques in Central Asia. Full day will be dedicated to sightseeing in Samarkand. Today you will visit Guri Emir, legendary mausoleum of Amir Temur and all his family members, Registan square, world famous complex of 3 Madrasahs and Golden mosque, Mosque Bibi Khanum, Traditional Siyab bazzar, Shahi - Zinda necropolis, a holy place and cemetery with mausoleums of Temurid dynasty and a grave of cousin of Prophet Muhamed, and finally observatory of Ulugbek. After excursion you will have a train to Tashkent. Night is in a hotel.
Day 16: Tashkent - Bishkek - Ala Archa - Bishkek
Transfer to airport to have a flight to Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz guide will meet you in the airport and accompany you to the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, just a 30-minute drive from the airport. The first half of the day is dedicated to a guided tour of Bishkek. It includes visiting Pobeda Square (Victory Square), Duboviy Park (Oak Park), Central Ala-Too Square, the History Museum, National Philharmonic, and many others places of interest. In the afternoon we will visit Ala Archa gorge. It is a Natural Park. At the Soviet Time only V.I.P. people had permission to go for a walk here. The Ala Archa gorge is on a spur of the Tien Shan mountain range. It is just 45 km from Bishkek. You can have a short hiking tour to see a panoramic view of the gorge. Afterwards we return to Bishkek. A traditional dinner will be organized at 7 o'clock. This overnight will be in a hotel.
Day 17: Bishkek - Son Kul Lake
After breakfast we start our drive to the second largest lake in Kyrgyzstan - Son Kul Lake. This lake is surrounded by mountains and it is the highest alpine lake in Kyrgyzstan, situated at an altitude of 3013 meters above sea level. Kyrgyz nomads started to come to this wonderful area with their families for rest and relaxation. Herders of the Naryn region come to the lake to use it as a pastureland. Picnic is on the way. After our arrival, you will be free to explore and enjoy the virgin nature of the lake and its surroundings. Free ride is along the shore of the lakes, meeting of nomadic families on the way. Dinner and overnight is in nomadic collapsible dwellings - yurts. They are made of a wooden skeleton, covered with felt coverings.
Day 18: Son Kul - Naryn
After breakfast you will have free time at Son Kul Lake, to explore nature on your own. You can ride along the lake on a horse, or just relax and soak in the calm atmosphere of the lake side wilderness. Also you will have time to communicate with nomads and have a glimpse into their way of life. Lunch will be served at 2 pm. Then we will drive to the town of Naryn which is situated right in the gorge. The drive to Naryn traverses over one of the most beautiful passes, along the top of a mountain. Dinner will be served in a local restaurant at 7 pm. Night will be spent in a guesthouse.
Day 19: Naryn - Tash Rabat - Torugart - Kashgar
Early in the morning you will be transferred to the Tash Rabat Caravanserai on the Great Silk Road (Stone Castle from the 14th century). The building is unique. Tash Rabat is located at the very heart of Tian Shan Mountains. Tash Rabat was built of stone blocks inside a mountain at an elevation of 3200 m above sea level. In total there are 31 rooms in the mountain. The walls are 1 m thick. There are also underground prison cells formerly used to incarcerate thieves in ancient times. After the excursion we will drive to Kyrgyz-Chinese border. Chinese guide will meet you there and you will drive to Kashgar city. Dinner is in the national restaurant. Night is in a hotel.
Day 20: Kashgar
Today we will visit Id Kah Mosque. It is the largest Mosque in China and the most famous one in Xinjiang. Afterwards we will continue to Apak Hoja Mazar. It is a holy place and an architectural treasure. Built in 1640 it is reminiscent of the Central Asian artistic style of Samarkand or Isfahan. In the afternoon we will drive to Old Town. Kashgar is an ancient city, and while walking along the streets of its Old Town, you will get a sense of what this legendary Central Asian hub was like in the days when the Silk Road was at its zenith. You will be really impressed by all these unusual views. This day will leave lasting impressions. National dinner will be at 7 p.m. Night will be organized in a hotel.
Day 21: Kashgar - Urumqi - Turpan
In the morning you will have a flight to Urumqi. There you will visit History Museum. After it we will drive 150 km to famous Turpan region. It is situated in a mountain basin at an elevation of 30 m (98 ft) above sea level. And there is also the lowest point of China at the bottom of dried lake - minus 80 meters above sea level. Turpan has dry climate and it is the most famous place for grape gardens. Turpan has been long time the center of a fertile oasis and an important trade center. It was historically located along the Silk Road, at which time it was adjacent to the kingdoms of Korla and Karashahr. Night is in a hotel.
Day 22: Turpan - Xian
In the morning we will drive to famous Flaming Mountain and after them visit the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves. It is one of the most important Buddha grotto relics in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. It was built during the Northern and Southern dynasties (386-589) and for 700 years, it remained the Buddhist center of the Western Regions. Then we will drive to visit Emin Minaret. After it we will drive to the Ancient City of Jiaohe. It was the capital of the former Gushi Kingdom, which was first built in 60 BC to the west of Turpan City. It has a long history of about 2,300 years. It is the largest and best preserved ancient city built from compressed earth anywhere in the world. Then we will drive back to Urumqi to have a flight to Xian. Night is in a hotel.
Day 23: Xian
Today you will visit Terracotta statues. It is considered one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world, and one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century. It is significant because the hundreds of detailed life-size models represent the army that triumphed over all other Chinese armies in the Warring States Period 2 200 years ago. Why Were the Terracotta Warriors Made? First Emperor Qin ordered the creation of this army to be buried with him: as a show of his glory, and because it was believed that objects like statues can be animated in the afterlife, and Qin Shihuang required an after-death army. Then we will drive to visit Imperator luxurious palace - Huaquings Hot Springs. You will have time to walk around to see its garden. In the evening you will see Tang Dynasty Dance show. Night is in a hotel.
Day 24: Xian - Beijing
Today we will drive to see Wild goose Pagoda. It is a well-preserved ancient building and a holy place for Buddhists. It is rated as a National Key Cultural Relic Preserve. In addition, it was added to the World Heritage List. After it we will visit Muslim quarter, where you will see amazing bazar. We will show it to you today and you will be able to take a lot of dynamic photos of bustling local life. This bazaar is a noisy and colorful tapestry of fabrics, produce, and people selling and buying goods. Then we will walk to see City Wall. In the evening is a flight to Beijing. Night is in a hotel.
Day 25: Beijing
Today you will have a great chance to visit The Great Wall. It is one of the greatest wonders of the world, was listed as a World Heritage by UNESCO in 1987. Just like a gigantic dragon, it winds up and down across deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus, stretching approximately 13,170 miles (21,196 kilometers) from east to west of China. With a history of more than 2 000 years, some of the sections are now in ruins or have disappeared. However, it is still one of the most appealing attractions all around the world owing to its architectural grandeur and historical significance. After you will have a city tour of Beijing. Night is in a hotel.
Day 26: Beijing
In the morning you will visit Forbidden City. It was the imperial palace for twenty-four emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It was forbidden to enter without special permission of the empeor. Hence its name "The Purple Forbidden City", usually 'The Forbidden City'. It is the world's largest palace complex and covers 74 hectares. Surrounded by a 52-meter-wide moat and a 10-meter-high wall are more than 8 700 rooms. In the afternoon you will go to Summer Palace. Being the largest and most well-preserved royal park in China, it greatly influences Chinese horticulture and landscape with its famous natural views and cultural interests, which also has long been recognized as "The Museum of Royal Gardens". The construction started in 1750 as a luxurious royal garden for royal families to rest and entertain. It later became the main residence of royal members in the end of the Qing Dynasty.
Day 27: Beijing– Airport
In the morning is transfer to airport.
For centuries, so-called barter trade flourished between nations. It has grown to such an extent that regular trading routes have been created for it. We can assume that these trade routes more than 5000 years ago passed by sea and by land, throughout our history they have served as a means of communication and for exchanges of goods. The main of these trade routes originated in China and later became known as the Great Silk Road, which you can see for yourself on the Discovery of Silk Road Treasures tour.