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Silk Road Adventure

Departing: Tashkent, Uzbekistan - 22 days
Countries visited: Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakstan & China

Designed especially for travellers who seek high adventure among the peaks and mountain passes of the Tien Shan Mountains, this journey traverses some of the least travelled routes of the Silk Road. Your adventurous spirit will be rewarded with breathtaking scenery in unspoilt wilderness and some of the most welcoming the Silk Road has to offer.

  

 

Itinerary

Days 1-4 Tashkent and the Fergana Valley
We begin in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital by exploring the old city and the Chorsu Bazaar. Later, we travel by road to the Fergana Valley to visit the potters' town of Rishton; and the silk producing town of Margilan where tourists are seldom seen, and locals dress in traditional wear. The local bazaar with its seductive sights, sounds and aromas is one of the most interesting in the valley. To the valley's east we find Osh, strategically positioned along the old Silk Road, where it prospered as a major silk producing centre, and was generally regarded as a midway point between China and Europe.  

Days 5-11 High Passes of the Tien Shan Mountains 
The roads leading to the Chinese Frontier carry little traffic. Apart from a few small towns in river valleys, the terrain is alluringly barren and rugged. We steadily climb through the Tien Shan Mountains to the newly opened Irkeshtam Pass (3,005m.), bound for Kashgar, now the most westerly city in China. Located between the massive mountain ranges of the Tien Shan to the north, the Pamir to the west, the Karakoram to the south, and Asia's largest desert, the Taklamakan, to the east; Kashgar remains a strategically important trading centre. Its old city once regarded as one of the best preserved examples of a traditional Islamic city anywhere in Central Asia, is now sadly reduced in size.

Travelling north through barren mountains, we pass Muslim shrines and traditional homes of Central Asia's nomads (known as yurts), en route to the Torugart Pass (3,752m), and the Kyrgyzstan border. Set within a beautiful valley, near Tash Rabat we find and stay in one of the few remaining Silk Road caravanserais with its large impressive stone walls dating from the 10th century. Farther north, the road to Cholpon Ata cuts through the rugged Kyrgyz steppe and offers spectacular mountain views.

Later, we see Lake Issyk Kul (Warm Lake), a pearl amid the snow-capped peaks of the Tien Shan Mountains. Despite an altitude of 1,600m this lake never freezes. Kyrgyzstan's capital of Bishkek is justly famous for its parks and intriguing Soviet-style buildings. After an excursion to the breathtaking Ala Archa National Park, we return to Tashkent by air, in time for our train journey to Urgench in Uzbekistan's ancient west. 

Days 12-17 Ancient settlements of Uzbekistan
We head for a remote region bordering Karakalpakstan to explore the ancient forts of Ayaz Qala, before spending a night in a traditional yurt under some of the world's most astonishing skies. Khiva is a highlight; being one of the best preserved examples of a walled Khanate city with foundations dating from the 10th century. Beyond, Bukhara brings history alive with some of the world's oldest monuments, and a covered bazaar where trade in silks, rugs and spices goes on in much the same manner as it did in the days of Marco Polo. 

A spectacular drive through the Zerafshan Mountains takes us to Shakhrisabz, the birthplace of Tamerlane. Beside the ruined entrance towers of his Ak-Serai Palace, the pretty market town offers a relaxed atmosphere with traditional homes, tea houses and mosques. 


Days 18-20: Golden Samarkand
No city is so evocative of the Silk Road as 'golden' Samarkand. Registan Square is the most spectacular architectural ensemble in Central Asia. Made up of three madrasas (places of learning) and a mosque, this beautiful square is inspiring. Other highlights include Shah-i-Zinda, the narrow alley of tombs and mausoleums, Bibi Khanym Mosque and the Ulug Bek Observatory. We return to Tashkent and spend the evening in the Uzbek capital.

Days 21-22: Return to Tashkent - Journey concludes
This incredible journey, tracing the path of defeats and victories, of births and deaths, ends where it all began.

 

Essentials

Group Size
15 maximum plus the Tour Leader

Accommodation
Hotels & Guesthouses - 17 nights (twin share)
Traditional Yurt - 2 night (shared)
Homestay - 1 night (shared)
Train - 1 night (4 berth)

Meals
Breakfast (20), lunch (3), dinner (2).

Travel by
A variety of private chartered vehicles are used for non-rail sectors depending on group size.
Overnight Train: Between Tashkent and Urgench
Day Train: Between Samarkand and Tashkent
Other: For 'Scheduled Sightseeing' we generally use the small minibuses and for 'City Exploring' we use local taxis, public transport and go on foot.

Sightseeing
Scheduled Sightseeing is part of the itinerary and includes all transport, entrance fees and English speaking local guide. The main highlight and attraction of this journey is the incredible mountain scenery along the way and the many remote villages and mountain passes that we encounter, however 'Scheduled Sightseeing' is provided in the following cities: Fergana Valley, Osh, Kashgar, Cholpon Ata, Ayaz Qala, Khiva, Tashkent, Bukhara & Samarkand. Full details in the Journey Itinerary. City Exploring is further sightseeing outside the itinerary guideline, with the Local Guide.

Visas
Required for Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. Sundowners Overland will provide all required invitation letters and full visa support including detailed visa guidelines.