«Five Stans» 2: Minarets, buddhist temples and celestial mountains

Category:Tours of Central Asia
24 Days / 23 Nights
Cities:Ashgabat – Darwaza – Kunya-Urgench – Dashoguz – Mary – Bukhara – Samarkand – Shakhrisabz – Termez – Dushanbe – Iskanderkul Lake – Istaravshan – Khujand – Kokand – Fergana – Osh – Son-Kul Lake – Bishkek – Almaty – Charyn Canyon – Almaty
Season: Spring, Summer, Autumn,
Description
Tour structure
Price

Tour description

For many people Central Asian countries are just “former part of Soviet Union”. However, this land has long history full of wars and migrations, cultural and linguistic interchange. In this tour, you will face different landscapes: from hot and dry deserts Karakum and Kyzylkum to the lakes and celestial mountains of Pamir & Tien-Shan. A cultural shift is also ensured: from minarets and mosques of Bukhara, Samarkand and Shakhrisabz to the ruins of Buddhist temples of Termez. The tour for the first time includes recently discovered Alexandria Oxiana, forsaken stronghold of Alexander the Great on the land of Sogdiana. 

Tour structure

Day 1 | Flight to Ashgabat
Flight to Ashgabat
  • Flight to Ashgabat. 

For European countries, best way is to fly via Istanbul.
Hotel booking for early check-in.

Meals: - / - / -

Day 2 | Ashgabat
Ashgabat
  • Early arrival to Ashgabat.
  • Meeting with driver and transfer to hotel, early check-in. 
  • After late breakfast city tour with visits Independence Park, Rukhnama monument, Neutrality Arch, Earthquake monument, Soviet War memorial complex and Ertogrul Ghazi mosque.
  • Transfer to hotel, overnight.

Meals: B / - / -
 

Day 3 | Ashgabat - Nissa - Darwaza
Ashgabat - Nissa - Darwaza
  • After breakfast half day tour with visits Sunday bazaar, Nissa (UNESCO) and Turkmenbashi mosque-mausoleum.
  • Afternoon drive to Darwaza gas crater located in the middle of Karakum desert Empire.
  • Arrival in Darwaza before the sunset.
  • Dinner near the burning gas crater (BBQ dinner); discover the crater by day and nighttime.
  • Overnight in yurts (4-5 pax in each) or tents (1-2 pax in each).     

Meals: B / - / D

Day 4 | Darwaza - Kunya-Urgench - Dashoguz
Darwaza - Kunya-Urgench - Dashoguz
  • After camp style breakfast drive to historical site Kunya Urgench (UNESCO), explore historical park with Kutlug Timur minaret, Mausoleum Turabek Khanum, Mausoleum Tekesh, Mausoleum Il Arslan Caravan-saray gateway, Kyrk Molla hill and etc. 
  • Drive to Dashoguz, free time.
  • Overnight at the hotel.

Meals: B / - / -
 

Day 5 | Flight Dashoguz – Mary
Flight Dashoguz – Mary
  • Morning at leisure.
  • Transfer to domestic airport for flight to Mary.     
  • Upon arrival drive to ancient city of Merv (UNESCO), discover historical park with Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum, Large and Small Gyz Gala, Erk Gala, Gyaur Gala, Keshk Fortresses, Muhammed ibn Zaid Mausoleum and others.
  • Return to Mary.
  • Overnight at the hotel.

Meals: B / - / -
 

Day 6 | Mary – Bukhara
Mary – Bukhara
  • After breakfast transfer to the Turkmenistan - Uzbekistan border checkpoint.
  • Cross the border before lunch break. Meeting from Uzbek side. Transfer to the Bukhara. Free time.
  • Overnight at the hotel.

Meals: B / - / -
 

Day 7 | Bukhara
Bukhara
  • Breakfast at the hotel.
  • Start excursion in Bukhara

One of the oldest cities in the world - fabulous Bukhara. Bring the picture is drawn in being acquainted with its architectural masterpieces, which were created over the centuries-old history. In Bukhara many names. The word "Bukhara" in tune with the Sanskrit word "vihara" - "Monastery" and the Chinese "Bihar" - a place of idols. It is said that the founder of Bukhara was the son of Iranian king Siyavush. He married the daughter of the king Afrasiab, he built the Ark Fortress.
Visit ensemble Lyabi Hauz, Nodir Divan Begi (1622), a fantastic bird in the portal madrasa - symbol of Bukhara. Kukeldash - the biggest madrassah in Bukhara, Ulugbek Madrasah - the only building left over from the famous "scientist on the throne" Ulugbek.
 
Kalyan Minaret (47 meters), without which it is impossible to imagine the silhouette of Bukhara. It was built of brick exquisite workmanship in 1127 during the reign of Arslankhan. Next to the mosque Kalyan minaret is located and acting from the 16th century to the present day, the Muslim religious school - madrasah Mir-i-Arab.
Citadel Ark, Bolo Hauz Mosque (1712), the dome of the building trade - and still Tim.
Mausoleum of Ismail Samani (10th century) - the oldest surviving buildings in Central Asia. 
Overnight at the hotel.

Meals: B / - / -
 

Day 8 | Bukhara – Gijduvan – Samarkand
Bukhara – Gijduvan – Samarkand
  • Breakfast at the hotel. Road to Samarkand.
  • By the way excursion in Gijduvan town, to the workshop of famous ceramists dynasty.
  • Arrive to Samarkand. Free time.
  • Overnight at the hotel.

Meals: B / - / -

Day 9 | Samarkand
Samarkand
  • Breakfast at the hotel. 
  • Start excursion in Samarkand

Samarkand is one of the oldest cities in the world; its age is 2750 years. Samarkand is situated in the picturesque valley of the Zarafshan River, surrounded by the Pamir-Alai Mountains. Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Timur (Tamerlane), who made Samarkand the capital of his vast empire, wrote their names in the history of this famous city. Samarkand became a scientific and cultural center of the Middle East during the reign of the grandson of Timur - "scientist on the throne" Ulugbek.
Registan square with three sides surrounded by beautiful buildings: Ulugbek (1417 - 1420), Sher-Dor (1619 - 1636) and Tilla-Kari (1647 - 1660).
Bibi Khanum mosque. According to the legend, Timur built a huge mosque for his beloved wife Bibi Khanum. 
Guri-Emir Mausoleum (14th century), where lie the ashes of the great Timur, his sons Shahrukh and Miranshah, and his grandson Ulugbek.
- Ensemble Shakhi-i-Zinda. It consists of eleven mausoleums, who joined up in succession to each other for 14 - 15 centuries. This unique and mysterious ensemble located near the settlement of Afrasiab. 
Mausoleum of St. Daniel (Daniyar) - a unique place of pilgrimage - the mausoleum of the spiritual guardian of Samarkand and prophet of three world religions - Hodge Daniyor (the biblical prophet Daniel).
Ulugbek Observatory. A striking confirmation of a significant development in the XIV-XV centuries in Central Asia, architecture, science and culture.
Paper factory. Visit to the village of Koni Gil, a workshop on the production of tissue paper from the bark of the mulberry tree.

  • Overnight at the hotel.

Meals: B / - / -
 

Day 10 | Samarkand – Shakhrisabz – Termez
Samarkand – Shakhrisabz – Termez
  • Breakfast at the hotel.
  • Road to Termez via Shakhrisabz.
  • Excursion in Shakhrisabz. Shakhrisabz was capital of the ancient state Sogd, at that time, it was called as Kesh and about it was known far behind its borders.
  • Visiting Ak-Saray ("White Palace", built in 1379-1409, palace of Tamerlane and now only the ruins - the 50 metre-high portal), Dorut Tillovat (“A Place of Meditation”) is the 14th century complex of Kok Gumboz mosque (1437), madrasah and mausoleums of Shamsiddin Kulol (1374) - a Sufi master, Amir Taraghay - Tamerlane's father and four Termez Sayeds - descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. Kok Gumboz Mosque (Blue Dome) was finished by Ulugbek in 1437 in honour of his father Shah Rukh (Timur's son). Dorus Saodat (Place of Power and Might) is the family crypt of the Timurids with the graves of two sons of Tamerlane (Jahangir and Umar Sheikh).
  • Evening arrival to Termez.
  • Overnight at the hotel.

Meals: B / - / -
 

Day 11 | Termez
Termez
  • Breakfast at the hotel.
  • Start of excursion in Termez.

Termez is southernmost city of Uzbekistan; it was populated even before the times of the Greek-Bactrian kings (3-2 cc. BC). This city is a cradle of Buddhism in Central Asia, and together with Islamic heritage, you will be able to see two ancient Buddhism monasteries. 

Sightseeing tour in suburbs of Termez includes following historical monuments:
•    Architectural Complex of Khakim At-Termezi;
•    Kara-Tepa Buddhist Monastery;
•    The Buddhist complex of Fayaz-Tepa;
•    Kyrk-Kyz Khanaka;
•    Termez archeological museum;
•    Necropolis Sultan Saodat.

  • In the afternoon as a special feature, we go to the city-fortress of Alexander the Great – Alexandria Oxiana (Alexandria on the Oxus). Oxus was a name of Amudarya river at that time. This fortress was built by Alexander’s order as a stronghold for the further conquest of India. In 1970-ies Alexandria was firstly found by Soviet archeologist E. Rtveladze, but for a long there was no understanding of what he really found. Since then, stronghold had a name Kampyrtepa, and only in 2019, after a thorough analysis of some facts, E. Rtveladze declared that the ruins are definitely Alexandria Oxiana.  
  • Return to Termez. 
  • Overnight at the hotel.

Meals: B / - / -

Day 12 | Termez – Dushanbe
Termez – Dushanbe
  • Breakfast at hotel. Drive to Dushanbe.
  • Crossing the border, meeting from Tajik site. 
  • Visit Hissar fortress (23 km from Dushanbe) - one of the most precious historical sites of Tajikistan. This Fortress combines the traditional elements of power, trade and culture of the ancient Tajik nation.
  • Arrival to Dushanbe. Visit Tajikistan State Museum (closed on Mondays) that includes the exhibits on history, nature and art. Wooden Buddha in Nirvana is one of the most valuable exhibits of museum. 
  • Continue of city tour – Somoni monument, Building of a national spirit, Rudaki Avenue.
  • Overnight at the hotel.

Meals: B / - / -

Day 13 | Dushanbe - Iskanderkul lake
Dushanbe - Iskanderkul lake

Tajikistan is rich with water, it has more than 1 000 rivers, 2 000 lakes and 8 000 glaciers. 

  • Our trip today is to high mountain lake Iskanderkul (2 255 m).

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 through Istiklol tunnel (2 630 m) with amazing panorama views. After arrival to the lake, you will go for a walk along its shore. This is an amazing place to have a rest. In addition, we will hike 40 minutes to see a waterfall. 

  •  Overnight at a cottage. 

Meals: B / L / D

Day 14 | Iskanderkul lake
Iskanderkul lake
  • Breakfast. Walking around Iskanderkul Lake and observing the beautiful view.
  • Nice day for taking pictures. 
  • Overnight at a cottage. 

Meals: B / L / D
 

Day 15 | Iskanderkul lake - Istaravshan - Khujand
Iskanderkul lake - Istaravshan - Khujand
  • Breakfast, drive to Khodjent.
  • One the way visiting Istaravshan town (former Kiropolis, town of Kir), ancient center of trade and handicrafts. Visiting museum on the hill Mug (where the town was creaded by Kir, ancient Persian king). 
  • Arrival to Khujand, city tour. Khujand is second biggest city of Tajikistan, its northern capital. Visiting museum of archeology, mosque of Sheikh Muslekhiddin (XVII c), medieval Khujand fortress and traditional bazaar Panshanbe with Soviet-time portal. 
  • Overnight at the hotel. 

Meals: B / - / -

Day 16 | Khudjand – Kokand – Rishtan – Fergana
Khudjand – Kokand – Rishtan – Fergana
  • Transfer to Uzbekistan border, crossing the border. Meeting from Uzbek side.
  • Transfer to Kokand. Excursion in Kokand, inspection of 5 architectural monuments of the city: Khudoyar-khan Palace, Jami Mosque and the Minaret, Necropolises of Dahmai Shahon and Modarikhan.
  • Transfer to Rishtan, center of ceramic production of the Fergana Valley. 
  • Visiting ceramic workshop. Further drive to Fergana. 

Meals: B / - / -
 

Day 17 | Fergana – Margilan – Osh
Fergana – Margilan – Osh
  • Breakfast at the hotel. Start excursion of Margilan, located in the southeast of the Fergana Valley; it is ancient center for the production of silk fabrics in Central Asia.
  • Transfer to the suburbs of Margilan, a walk along the largest bazaar in the Fergana Valley - Kumtepa. Inspection of craft rows. After the bazaar visiting famous silk-making factory “Yodgorlik” in Margilan. This factory still makes silk of ancient technologies, without using any machines. 
  • Transfer to the border with Kyrgyzstan, crossing the border. Kyrgyz guide will meet you on the other side. Transfer to Osh, short city tour: Central Square of Osh, city with Town Hall and the biggest statue of Lenin, St. Michael Cathedral, “Tears of Mother” monument dedicated to the victims of June 2010, Eternal fire and victims of WW2 monument. Transfer to Suleiman mountain. There you will live your minibus on the parking place and go up to get to Museum in the cave. You will have an excursion in Museum, go out on the other side of the mountain and walk up by stair to the top of Suleiman mountain. You will see on the top Ancient Mosque of Babur.
  • From the top of the mountain, you will see a panoramic view of Osh city.
  • Go down by the stairs, your minibus will pick you up from the other side of the mountain and drive to Alymbek Datka Museum. 
  • Transfer to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.

Meals: B / - / -
 

Day 18 | Osh - Chichkan
Osh - Chichkan
  • Breakfast in the hotel. After breakfast you will start your trip with the transfer to Chichkan gorge. On the way you will visit Uzgen town famous for Uzgen tower, an ancient minaret built in 12th century by Karakhanids. Excursion in the spot.
  • After excursion continue your way to Chichkan. En route, you will see rice fields, rape field, cotton fields. 
  • You will drive near Toktogul Water Reservoir. It plays a significant role in electricity system of Kyrgyzstan. I was being built for 12 years. 
  • Upon arrival Chickan you will get accommodated in the guesthouse.
  • Free time to walk in the gorge and enjoy the nature.
  • Overnight at guesthouse. 

Meals: B / - / -

Day 19 | Chichkan – Son-Kul
Chichkan – Son-Kul
  • Breakfast at guesthouse.
  • After breakfast you will have a drive towards a famous Son-Kul lake. Son-Kul from Kyrgyz translates as Last Lake. The lake is located at the elevation of 3016 m above sea level.

It is rural area; there are no hotels, restaurants, shops or museums. This place is unique with its silence, peace and virgin nature. In summer period you can meet many nomads here. They collect their stocks of animals and drive up to Son-Kul Lake to graze. Your road lies via Kyzyl Oi village and Karakeche pass.

  • Upon arrival lunch at the yurt camp.
  • After lunch you will walk down to the lakeshore. Your guide can show you petroglyphs site left in Bronze period.
  • You will visit local nomads, see their way of life. They will welcome you and give to try kymyz- traditional Kyrgyz drink made of mare’s milk.
  • Dinner and overnight at the yurt camp.

Meals: B / L / D
 

Day 20 | Son Kul-Lake – Bishkek
Son Kul-Lake – Bishkek
  • Breakfast in the yurt camp.
  • After the breakfast you will start a long drive to Bishkek city. On the way, you will visit many interesting places. The first stop will be in Kochkor village at Museum of Handicraft of Women Cooperative.
  • Continue drive to Bishkek city. On the way, you will visit Burana Tower Historical Complex built in 12th century by Karakhanids. The Complex consits of tower, gravestones, remains of the temple and museum. After excursion, continue drive to Bishkek. Upon arrival hotel check in. 
  • Overnight at the hotel.

Meals: B / - / -
 

Day 21 | Bishkek
Bishkek
  • Breakfast in the hotel. 
  • After breakfast, you will have a sightseeing tour of Bishkek city. 

Your trip starts with visit of the Main Alatoo Square with Manas hero in the center of it. Manas is a symbol of Kyrgyzstan and serves as the monument of Independence of Kyrgyz nation. Right behind the monument, you will see the biggest flag of Kyrgyzstan. Ask your guide about the meaning of the flag.  If you are lucky you will catch Changing of the National Guards (changing is every hour).  In front of you, there is a State Historical Museum (you will see it from outside only, closed for reconstruction).  A short walk down to the Old Square with Lenin Statue and Parliament House. Your sightseeing tour continues with Oak Park, Monument of Kurmanjan Datka, Russian Drama Theatre, Fine Arts Museum, Opera and Ballet Theatre. 
Your sightseeing tour ends with the visit of Victory Square. 

  • Optionally: visit of ZUM or GUM Malls.
  • Overnight at the hotel. 

Meals: B / - / -
 

Day 22 | Bishkek - Almaty
Bishkek - Almaty
  • In the morning after breakfast, you will have a transfer to the border of Kazakhstan.
  • Meeting from the Kazakh part, drive to Almaty. 

Sightseeing in Almaty:
•    Park of 28 Panfilovtsev, named in honor of the heroes of World War II, who stopped Nazi army not far from Moscow;
•    Cathedral - a wooden structure built without a nail; 
•    Museum of National Music Instruments;
•    State Museum;
•    Green Bazaar - the old central market called "green" bazaar, because here the first green traded from time immemorial, the rich gifts of nature the Trans. 
•    Square of Republic - the main square in Almaty with monuments;
•    Kok-Tobe - On a hilltop-viewing platform is located, which is visible from the beautiful panorama of the city of Almaty, as well as the endless horizon of the steppe area.
•    Medeo, huge high-mountain ice-rink, known around the world.

  • Overnight at the hotel.

Meals: B / - / -
 

Day 23 | Almaty – Charyn canyon – Almaty
Almaty – Charyn canyon – Almaty
  • After breakfast, drive to Charyn canyon. 

Charyn canyon is located in the National Park and protected by the state. In fact, the length of the entire canyon is about 155 km so you can imagine how large this unique place is. Naturally, there are about a thousand of various species of trees and plants growing in such a huge area, some of them are red-listed as rare.

  • The most attractive place for tourists is the Valley of Castles. Tourists go down the stairs and then dive into the atmosphere of complete silence. You can take a walk of about two kilometers along the canyon and will be able to see all the greatness of these mountains. In addition, later you can have a picnic sitting by the river. 
  • After hearing all the legends about this mystical place and having enjoyed the views, we return to Almaty and accommodate in a hotel.

Meals: B / - / -
 

Day 24 | Departure from Almaty
Departure from Almaty
  • Transfer to the airport. 
  • Flight home.

Meals: B / - / -

Price

Group Standard Comfort
20 $2040 $2305
19 $2060 $2325
18 $2060 $2335
17 $2070 $2340
16 $2095 $2350
15 $2100 $2380
14 $2120 $2390
13 $2270 $2540
12 $2300 $2600
11 $2380 $2560
10 $2310 $2570
9 $2230 $2640
8 $2210 $2645
7 $2330 $2760
6 $2620 $2860
5 $2870 $3150
4 $2960 $3230
3 $3870 $4155
2 $4040 $4520
1 $6740 $7130
Single supplement $405 $545

Included

  • Accommodation in double/twin rooms in mentioned hotels (or similar), with breakfast
  • Shared accommodation in yurts and homestay
  • All land transportation
  • English-speaking escorting guide in each country
  • Visa invitation to Turkmenistan
  • Meals according to the program
  • Entrance fees by the program
  • In Almaty: Cable car + shuttle to Kok-Tobe
  • Mineral water for transfers

Not included

  • To be paid in addition: Domestic airline ticket Dashoguz – Mary = 110 USD per person (price is subject to change)
  • International flights
  • Visa fees
  • Meals not mentioned in the program
  • Turkmenistan: visa 85+4 USD per person, when obtained at Ashgabat Airport (subject to change)
  • Turkmenistan: migration tax 10+4 USD per person, to be paid at Ashgabat Airport (subject to change)
  • Turkmenistan: tourist fee per night, charged in the hotels at departure 2 USD per person per night (obligatory)
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Photo/video fees at historical parks and in museums
  • Tips for local guide(s) and/or driver(s)
  • Porters fee
  • Souvenirs and other personal items
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • All other charges and services not mentioned under “Included”

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