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Travel along the fabled Silk Road past ancient caravanserais and across the remote Central Asian landscape on this trip that takes in the highlights of Uzbekistan. Marvel at incredible Islamic architecture and learn about a history that crosses cultures and spans millennia.
Explore Tour Leader
9 nights comfortable hotel
1 nights simple yurt
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Tashkent, the fusion city of Uzbekistan. For those arriving on time today our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 1pm for the welcome meeting and to take us on the afternoon sightseeing tour. We head out to explore Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, which has been on this site for over 2000 years. Our sightseeing tour includes various points of interest around the city, like the Independence Square, Old City and the Earthquake Monument. We also take a ride for 2-3 stops on the Tashkent Metro, which boasts some ornately decorated stations. The tour ends in Timur Square, just opposite from our hotel.
If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Islam Karimov Tashkent International Airport (TAS), which is 20 minutes' from the hotel. For those arriving on flights in the early hours of this morning, we'll arrange for your hotel room to be available immediately upon your arrival. For anyone arriving before today please contact us to book additional nights accommodation.
Please note that if you wish to join the afternoon sightseeing tour today, you must arrive at the hotel by 1pm. If you are booking your own flights, we recommend giving yourself at least 75 minutes' to clear the airport. From the airport to the hotel is around 20 minutes' drive, so therefore the latest your flight can arrive is 10.30am.
Hotel Panarams by Radisson Individuals (or similar)
We rise early this morning for our flight to Urgench. A further 40-minute bus journey will take us to the remarkable ancient city of Khiva, which will be our base for the next two nights.
The early history of this area is sketchy. We do know that, by the time the Arabs arrived in the 8th century, Khiva was one of three important cities which dominated the region. The city's strategic location on the Volga branch of the Silk Route made it a much sought-after imperial asset, with the British and Russians vying for sovereignty throughout the 19th century as part of the 'Great Game'. In 1873, it fell to the Russians as both Samarkand and Bokhara had already done. A 1970s Soviet conservation programme restored much of the city, turning it into what is effectively an open air museum.
On this afternoon's walking tour, we may well feel like we are stepping into a scene from the film 'Arabian Nights' as we explore the majestic Old Citadel. This 12th century fortress dominated the city before a palace, harem, barracks and mosques were constructed.
Hotel Musa Tura (or similar)
Today has been left free to explore the mosques, tombs, palaces, madrassahs, mausoleumns, craft workshops, city walls and museums of this well-preserved city, which has hardly changed since ancient times. This evening, you may choose to explore a bit more of the city after dark, when magical moonlit silhouettes make it even more spectacular.
There is also the option to take a half day trip to the desert castles of Toprak Qala and Ayaz Qala, part of UNESCO's Golden Ring of Ancient Khorezm, located in the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan
Today's drive to the fabled city of Bokhara will take up the day, but is broken up with stops as we cross the Oxus (Amu-Darya) River and travel through the expansive plains of the Kizilkum Desert.
. As home to the famous Islamic poets, Firdausa and Rudaki, Bokhara is considered by some to be the 'Bastion of Islam'. The town retains much of its Uzbek character and has more than 140 unique monuments. We will take a short stroll to picturesque Lyabi Khauz, a water-filled stone pool flanked by chaikhanas (tea houses), cafes and restaurants, popular with newlyweds taking wedding photographs.
Royal Bukhara Hotel (or similar)
Today's day of sightseeing starts off by bus before we continue on foot. Highlights include the Bolo Khauz mosque, the Samanid mausoleum (a place of pilgrimage where the founder of the Samanid dynasty is buried)the 9th century Magoki Attar mosque and the Poi Kalyan complex (a simple square frsamed by some spectacular buildings - the Mir-i-Arab Madrassah, the Kalyon Juma mosque and the majestice 11th century Kalyon ~Minar, one of the few buildings in the city to pre-date Genghis Khan's invasion), from where we will see the Kalyan minaret.
We also visit the Ark - a massive citadel which was used as a fortress from the 5th century until its fall to the Russians in 1920. Today it houses several small museums connected with Bokhara's history. Bokhara was the site of the imprisonment for two British soldiers during 'The Great Game' - an epic battle fought between Victorian Britain and Tsarist Russia across the vastness of Central Asia.
This afternoon we plan to visit the summer palace of the Emirs of Bokhara, which is known as the 'Palace of Moon-like Stars'. Here, we will see the famous White Hall, which took 30 architects two years to construct. Finally, we will take in the Char Minar Mosque - the impressive entrance to a now-demolished madrassah, and wander the backstreets of the old town maybe stopping off at a 'chaikhana', a local tea house.
Today has been left free for you to spend as you wish.
You may wish to explore the Taqi-Sarrafon market - one of the four domed bazaars in Bokhara. Used as a money exchange during the height of the Silk Road, it is now home to plenty of souvenir shops.
This morning, we will drive a short distance to Gijduvan - a town celebrated for its crafts and trade since the 10th century. Here, we will visit the famous ceramic centre. Our next stop is Karmana, where we plan to visit the 10th century Mir-Said Bakhram Mausoleum. Heading off the main highway, we continue our journey north across the desert to Nurata. Famous for its sacred Chashma Spring, the town attracts visitors from across the Islamic World. According to legend, this healing spring, containing gold, silver and bromide, was formed by a meteorite hitting the ground. Whilst in Nurata, we plan to have lunch in a local house and see the remains of Alexander the Great's Karazy Fortress, affording excellent views of the desert landscape.
This afternoon, we head to our overnight base in the desert and o n the journey we may see camels wandering through the desert as well as sheep herds. Once we arrive and settle in we have the opportunity to go on a short optional camel ride, or simply relax and take in the remote surroundings.
In the early evening we climb the sand dunes to watch the sunset then after dinner, sit around the campfire listening to a local Kazakh musician
Tonight's desert camp accommodation is in yurts, typical of those used by the nomadic people of Central Asia. Yurts are circular dwelling structures made from felt and insulated with sheepskins, traditionally made to be portable.
Kyzyl-Kum Safari Yurt Camping (or similar)
We spend this morning driving to Samarkand, through plenty of small towns and past cotton fields, giving a glimpse into rural life in Uzbekistan. Stormed by Alexander the Great and reduced to ashes by Genghis Khan, Samarkand was nevertheless transformed into the most glittering city in Transoxiana by Tamerlane, who made it his capital in the 14th century. Even today, the monumental scale of the buildings overwhelms visitors. This afternoon, we will visit Registan, a majestic square framed on three sides by huge blue tiled madrassahs. We will also visit the Gur Emir, the gold-ceilinged tomb of Tamerlane himself.
Hotel Minor (or similar)
This morning's sightseeing takes us to the Shah-i-Zinda - a beautifully-tiled necropolis of tombs, mosques and mausoleums belonging to Tamerlane's family, friends and the prophet Mohammad's cousin. We will also visit the Ulug-Beg Observatory, considered to have been one of the finest observatories in the Islamic World. It was here that Ulug-Beg, the great medieval astronomer, built his gigantic sextant which enabled him to calculate the length of a year to within just 10 seconds. We see the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, once the largest in Central Asia; it was built by Tamerlane with loot from Indian campaigns and named after his favourite Mongolian wife.
This afternoon has been left free to explore more of the city at your own pace. You may choose to visit ancient Afrosiab - the original site of the town in north east Samarkand, dating back to the late Stone Age.
Today, there is more free time for further exploration. Later this afternoon, we transfer to the train station for our modern high speed train back to Tashkent. Arriving just after 7pm, we will have time to enjoy our last evening of the tour.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Tashkent.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Tashkent at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Islam Karimov Tashkent International Airport (TAS), which is 20 minutes drive from the hotel.
Spring and autumn are the best times to visit, when the temperatures are mild and there is the chance of occasional rains. April can bring colourful blooms to the normally barren desert landscapes, whilst summer days in the cities and desert can be very hot, when the temperatures can reach as high as 50°.
2 Pin Round
Islam, predominantly Sunni, Eastern Orthodox
Uzbek, Russian, Tajik
Khiva - Desert Castles: Half day trip to visit 3 Qala castles 140km from Khiva. From US$50 per car / 2 pax, from US$100 per minibus / 6 pax, from US$160 per bus / 16 pax Bukhara - Hammam: US$25 pp (40 mins) / Use of swimming pool at Hotel Asia US$10 pp Samarkand - Day trip to Shakhrisabz, including transport, entrance fees and city tour, from US$50 per person pax
Light-weight natural fabrics such as cotton and linen are most suitable for the hot summers of Central Asia, it is best to avoid synthetic fabrics as temperatures can get very hot in the summer months. During spring and autumn temperatures are cooler and a good fleece or down jacket are recommended for yurt stays in Uzbekistan as the desert temperatures drop at night and a pair of thermals is good as an extra layer, or for wearing in bed. The region is traditionally Muslim and therefore t-shirts and knee-length shorts or skirts are recommended for most sights we visit. Women should bring a headscarf as this may necessary for some mosque visits.
Good quality, comfortable shoes/trainers and sandals.
One main piece of baggage and a daysac will be needed as you will not have access to your main luggage during the overnight Yurt stay.
Bring sunscreen, a sunhat, water bottle and torch for the Yurt camp. An umbrella is recommended for shade.
Bus, Flight, Train
The yurt camp consists of 20 traditional felt yurts, each accommodating four people. Single rooms are not available. Mattresses, pillows, linen, blankets and towels will be provided. There are 8 showers, 4 (western style) WC cabins and 2 wash basins. Each yurt is equipped with a 220v/50HZ power socket and an electric lamp. Meals will be served in either the ventilated restaurant hut or out in the open air under shade, a campfire will be lit in the evenings. Summer temperatures (May to September) can reach 30-50 degrees during the day and around 20-25 degrees at night time. During spring and autumn, the desert can be very cold at night. Otherwise the accommodation on this trip is comfortable with en-suite facilities and great central locations. Hotel Uzbekistan is a Soviet icon, brutalist concrete architecture acts as a historical beacon right in the heart of the city and it offers a great insight into the Soviet era. Please note however, this does extend to the Soviet-era service levels offered in the hotel.
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Australian, Irish, Canadian and 'British citizen' passport holders can enter Uzbekistan as a visitor for stays of up to 30 days without a visa. Other nationalities including US nationals require a e-visa which can be obtained from www.e-visa.gov.uz All visa related information should be confirmed with the relevant Embassy prior to departure
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory, we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on the need for and different prophylaxis available against malaria. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.