This unique tour focuses on the culture, history, crafts, cuisine and people of two modern day countries…two which were formally kingdoms and territories of great leaders such as Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. They are located along the route of the ancient Silk Road(s) traversed from China to Europe.
You will have personable and well-educated local guides and a spacious air-conditioned bus to travel in comfort. The itinerary provides many diverse experiences including visits to historic architectural wonders which will create a feeling of the tales of the 1001 Nights. Among the many special experiences you will have are: meals at private homes with locals, music and dance performances; various demonstrations of famous local crafts; visits to colorful local open-markets, and views of various natural landscapes such as the Tian Shan mountains which divide Central Asia from China and the world’s second largest Alpine lake.
Led by specialist Christine Robison, who has led eighteen trips to the region and brings extensive experience and knowledge about crafts and cultural studies…
you can be assured of the personalized service and enjoyment that will make this small-group tour even more enjoyable.
Friday, April 13 Kyrgyzstan — Bishkek
Arrive in Bishkek in the early morning. Rest until 11:00a.m., then begin sightseeing tour of Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. After lunch continue with the sights. There will be time to rest before the 7:00 dinner and Folklore Show of traditional Kyrgyz music are conveniently offered in the hotel. You will also see a brief but dramatic and fascinating recitation by a Manaschi (a master who has memorized the entire National Epic of Manas). Overnight at the Garden Hotel in Bishkek. (L, D)
Saturday, April 14 — Biskek to Avrora at Lake Issyk Kul
Depart by bus at 9:00 a.m. and travel approximately 4 hours towards beautiful Lake Issyk Kul, the 2nd largest alpine and saline lake in the world, into which over 118 rivers and streams flow. Although it is surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Tian Shan mountains, the lake never freezes. On the way, visit a feltmaker named Baktygul in the village of Tamchy, for lunch in her yurt (nomadic felt dwelling) and see a demonstration of her art, so important to traditional Kyrgyz culture. Learn about felt carpets of shyrdak technique (with patterns sewn in) and ala kiyiz technique (with patterns pressed in). Visit ancient petroglyphs of Cholpon Ata in countryside open-air museum. Continue to hotel for dinner and overnight at Avrora Plus in Avrora. (B, L, D)
Sunday, April 15 — Avrora to Kara Kol
Travel to Karakol, a typical small town founded in 1869 which is 150 miles from the border with China and was the furthest eastern outpost of the Russian Empire in Central Asia. On the outskirts of town, visit the Museum of Przevalsky (a famed officer of the 19th century tsarist army and an amazing explorer of Central Asia, Mongolia, China and Tibet). Once in Karakol enjoy lunch, visit the lively local open-market, a craft/souvenir shop, and stroll along residential lanes where “gingerbread” style houses still stand. See the historic wooden Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Church from 1895 and the Dungan Mosque, built in 1907 by a unique Islamic minority originally from China. The architecture of this mosque is rare in that it includes pre-Islamic (Buddhist) elements and a pagoda style minaret! Dinner and overnight at Green Yard B&B in Kara Kol. (B, L, D)
Monday, April 16 - Kara Kol to Kemin
Begin our day at 8:00 a.m. and travel to Kemin several hours along the south shore of Lake Issyk Kul. Meet a Berkutchi (eagle hunter) and see a swift and precise hunting demonstration of his glorious trained bird on the plains near the mountains. Have lunch in private home and visit a women’s craft co-op in Kochkor. This co-op assists local women enter the craft industry by providing education in technique and marketing so they can help support their families during winter months. Visit a yurt maker if time permits. Continue to cozy, woodsy, Kemin-Ashu Guesthouse filled with exquisite, historic textile arts, for dinner and overnight in Kemin. (B, L, D)
Tuesday, April 17 — Kemin to Bishkek
Travel to the Tower of Burana which was an 11th century settlement. Lunch in a private home in the village of Don Aryk where you will see traditional Horse Games played by local young village men. This demonstration reflects the important role horses have played in the traditional Kyrgyz nomadic lifestyle. Kyrgyz nomads played such competitions as odarysh (wresting on horseback) and buzkashi (a type of goat-snatching polo). See a demonstration of how nomads assembled a yurt. Return to Bishkek. In the early evening see a demonstration of Elechek (traditional headdresses) at the home of a local historian and master. Dinner and overnight again at the Garden Hotel in Bishkek. (B, L, D)
Wednesday, April 18 – Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan — Bishkek to Margilan
Morning flight from Bishkek to Osh. Upon arrival, transfer to nearby Kyrgyz-Uzbek border “Dustlik”, for crossing on foot through passageway for visitors and walk thru and experience the border formalities. Once having crossed the border, the differences between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are immediately recognized in the manner of dress of the locals, in the architecture and many other aspects. Lunch across the border in Uzbekistan. Continue drive through the famous, fertile Fergana Valley to Margilan. There, tour the Ikat silk production and weaving factory and overnight at the unique and quaint, Ikat House Hotel. Dinner in a private home. Overnight in Margilan. (B, L, D)
Thursday, April 19 – Uzbekistan — Margilan to Kokand to Tashkent
Visit the Palace Museum of last Khan of Kokand, a Silk Road “khanate’ (kingdom) which reached its zenith in the 18th-19th centuries. Lunch in Kokand. Continue for a demonstration of famous Uzbek “Rishtan” style ceramic ware at the home and studio of renowned master Rustam Usmanov. Continue by private cars on long drive to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Private cars are used because buses are not allowed through the mountain pass. Arrive in time for dinner and overnight at LOTTE Palace Hotel. Overnight in Tashkent. (B, L, D)
Friday, April 20 — Tashkent
Again in your bus, sightseeing in the modern capital city of Tashkent today will include a visit to the historic center of the city with its original mosques, madressahs and mausoleums, all of which are supreme examples of typical historic Silk Road architecture. They are covered in blue and white tile which sparkles in the sunlight. Walk through original canal-laced neighborhoods known as ‘mahalas’, where housing is made of a type of adobe. Tour the highly animated local ‘Chor-Su’ market with its blue domes, and the immaculate and carefully adorned Metro built by the Soviets, so unlike the repetitive, featureless Monolithic Modernism architecture they are famous for. Enjoy lunch of local specialties in a colorful restaurant. Visit the Museum of Decorative Arts in the breathtaking and ornate residence of a former diplomat, built in 1907. This museum is overflowing with textile masterpieces of ‘Suzanni’ (needlework). Dinner in the city and overnight at the LOTTE Palace Hotel. Overnight in Tashkent. (B, L, D)
Saturday, April 21 — to Samarkand
After breakfast begin a drive throughout the Uzbek countryside to Samarkand. Lunch in an outdoor teahouse along the way in Gzhizak, the geographical site called “Tamerlane’s Gate.” Arrive in Samarkand in the late afternoon. Samarkand was founded at the same time as Babylon—almost 2,000 years ago— and was called the “Pearl of the Islamic World.” The site shows evidence of human habitation dating back more than 10,000 years! Samarkand has been conquered by some of the most famous people of history—Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane (who made it his capital and named it the “Center of the Universe”). The culture of Samarkand was developed and mixed with the cultures of Persia, India and Mongolia and became the central part of the Silk Road, with additional influences from China, the Middle East and Europe. Its period of greatest glory and trade was from the 2nd until the 16th centuries.
Check-in to the hotel and rest a bit. Meet your local guide and visit Gur Emir, the sparking tile and gold Mausoleum of Tamerlane. Dinner of regional specialties at Suzanni Restaurant. Overnight in Samarkand. (B, L, D)
Sunday, April 22 — Samarkand
Spend the full day seeing highlights of Samarkand, including the Registan Architectural Complex of 15th-17th century tile decorated brick buildings—the Madrashs of Ulugbek, Shir-Dor and Tilly-Akhari. The opulent interior of the Tillly-Akhari Madrassah is breathraking in its beauty, with the blue tile work illuminated by the sun and reflecting off the pure gold of much of the walls and ceilings. Also see the partially restored Bibi Khanym Mosque purported to have been built as a gift to Tamerlane by his Chinese main wife. Visit Shakti-Sinda Mausoleum Complex also known as the ‘Stairway to Heaven’. After lunch there is more sightseeing and shopping from the myriad of venues showcasing the exquisite products of the local craftspeople. Dinner and show at designer Valentina’s private home and studio. Overnight in Samarkand. (B, L, D)
Monday, April 23 — Bukhara
Drive to the open-air museum city of Bukhara, a UNESCO world heritage site. En route, see famed Uzbek cotton fields (a source of wealth for the former Soviet Union) and ruins of a Caravansarai. Lunch in Guijduvan at the private home of a master ceramicist of that school of famous Uzbek ceramics.
The oasis of Bukhara dates back 2300 years. Having once been conquered by Alexander the Great, it was ruled later by the Kushan Empire. Later when the Samanids came into control however, they created a large feudal state with Bukhara as its capital. It was part of what came to be called the “Golden Road”, the meeting point of the northern and southern branches of the Great Silk Road. By the 10th century it was a powerful center for commerce, science, religion and culture. In the Medieval Islamic East, it was known as the ‘Noble and Glorious Stronghold of the Faith’. Visiting Bukhara is akin to being transported through time into the past. It has more than 140 architectural monuments dating back to the Middle Ages.
Over the course of your days in Bukhara visit mosques, madressahs, minarets such as the 17th century Bolo Khauz Mosque, and a medieval masterpiece known as the Poi-Kalayan Complex—the heart and focal point of all Bukhara. Visit the oldest monument, the Ismail Samani Mausoleum dating from the early 10th century. Constructed by one of the rulers of the Samanid Dynasty, this building is made of baked bricks laid out so that the ornamentation changes as the light shines on it. It is considered to be one of the finest achievements of early medieval architecture and revered by locals who circumnavigate it, invoking wishes. See the Citadel (the “Ark’) and Palaces of the Emir, a synagogue, shops and a dance performance.
One evening will be ‘Free’ for dining on your own in one of many nice restaurants.
Located in the former Jewish Quarter, within the old city and in easy walking distance of many points of interest, you will overnight both nights at Salom Inn B&B. Overnight in Bukhara. (B, L, D)
Tuesday, April 24 – Bukhara.
Continue your touring of the fabled city. Overnight in Bukhara. (B, L)
Wednesday, April 25 — Bukhara / Tashkent
Visit the Sitorai-Moskhi-Khosa Palace Complex also known as the Summer Palace of the last Emir of Bukhara who ruled until 1920 and then fled the Communist Revolution into Afghanistan. This palace has elaborate stucco interior decorations and a large collection of historic clothing. Its residence once featured a harem that numbered as many as 400! Continue sightseeing and shopping in Bukhara, enjoying lunch at a papermaking workshop powered by a stream. Evening flight to Tashkent, arriving in time for dinner and overnight at LOTTE Palace Hotel. Overnight in Tashkent. (B, L, D)
Thursday, April 26 — Departure
Group midnight transfer by bus to the Tashkent airport to fly home to US destinations.
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: Garden Hotel
Avrora, Kyrgyzstan: Avrora Hotel
Kara Kol, Kyrgyzstan: Green Yard
Kemin, Kyrgyzstan: Kemin Guest House
Tashkent, Uzbekistan: Lotte Palace Hotel
Samarkand, Uzbekistan: Malika Diyora Hotel
Bukhara, Uzbekistan: Salom Inn
Cost per person: $5,675., based on double occupancy.
Single supplement of $1,500.
What is included:
• All hotels with breakfast and meals included, as indicated by B, L, D, entrance fees at sites noted on itinerary, water with group sit-down lunches and breakfasts, English speaking guide and private vehicle and driver.
* All flights noted during the tour
* Camera fees at sites
What is NOT included:
* International airfare to Central Asia
* Gratuities to guides and drivers.
* Alcohol, additional beverages and any items of a personal nature.
* Visa for Uzbekistan. (Iconic Journeys Worldwide will assist in the process…)
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