Five Capitals of Central Asia Tour

10
Days
Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan

The Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan share an overlapping past and common threads of cultural uniformity, while each remains wildly eclectic in its own right. These similarities and distinctions become starkly apparent in each capital city, which provide glimpses into the nation’s history, values and everyday culture.
Five Capitals of Central Asia Tour is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to visit the seat of culture and change in each Central Asian nation. Whether you’re visiting flashy Nur-Sultan and Ashgabat, pensive Bishkek or the welcoming tree-lined boulevards of Tashkent and Dushanbe, you’ll be rewarded with fascinating, informative experiences from start to finish. Special trips to former capital city Almaty and ancient Samarkand are also included.

We recommend arriving in Bishkek on Sunday in order to match regional flights in the itinerary.

Upon arrival in Bishkek, your driver will meet you at the airport to take you to your hotel, where check-in begins at noon. Free time. Overnight in Bishkek.
In the morning your guide and driver will meet you at hotel reception to begin a city tour of Bishkek, including:
  • Ala Too Square, Bishkek’s large central square that maintains a distinctly Soviet feel. Watch the hourly changing of the guards, take a selfie under the large Kyrgyzstan flag and pay your respects to a Kyrgyz legend at Manas Monument.
  • Old Square with Parliament House, a regal piece of 20th century architecture, and Lenin Statue, relegated to its current place after being supplanted by Manas in Ala Too Square.
  • Philharmonic Hall, a stately Bishkek landmark whose courtyard is a popular meeting place for local students and youth.
  • Oak Park, where the beautiful tree lined Erkindik Boulevard will take you to a statue of Kurmanjan Datka, a prominent 19th century Kyrgyz leader known as the “Queen of the Mountains”.
  • Opera and Ballet House, a stylish hall serving as a key center for the performing arts.
  • Victory Square, which honors those who lost their lives in WWII with an Eternal Flame burning under a sizable granite half-yurt.
Continue sightseeing with a drive to Burana Museum Complex (80km, 1hr 30min), enjoying the breathtaking view of the Chuy Valley and Tien Shan Mountains en route. This open-air museum encompasses several significant sites:
  • Burana Tower (11th century), a 25-meter-high minaret that impresses with its intricately chiseled exterior. The only remaining structure from Balasagun city, it affords a memorable climb up its dark and winding stairwell, with a spectacular view at the top to reward you for your efforts.
  • Balbals (6th century), round stone figures used as grave markers and memorial stones of the deceased.
  • Museum containing items found in Balasagun including jewelry, pottery and religious objects.
  • Petroglpyhs (2nd century) and mausoleums (9th century).
Return to Bishkek for an evening flight to Tashkent (470km, 1hr 10min). Arrive in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital. Transfer to the hotel and have a rest after your flight. Overnight in Tashkent.
Tour duration: approximately 8 hours
Your guide and driver will pick you up from your hotel to begin your Tashkent city tour. Your private tour will include:
  • Excursion to the Old City, including the Khazret-Imam Architectural Complex, which holds the oldest known Quran in the world. Also on site are the Madrasah of Barak-Khan (16th century), Tillya-Sheykh Mosque, Juma Mosque and Mausoleum of Saint Abu Bakr Kaffal Shashi (15th century).
  • Visit to Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent’s most well-established bazaar that includes a large selection of traditional Uzbek ceramics, jewelry, handbags, garments and more.
  • Ride on the Tashkent Metro, an immaculate subway system with each station decorated in colored mosaics and ceramics to depict a specific theme.
  • Walk through Amir Timur Square, with a massive statue of none other than Tamerlane himself at the center.
  • Independence Square, including the moving Mourning Mother Monument and the Eternal Flame, in memory of more than half a million Uzbek soldiers who died during World War II.
  • Drive to the Sacred Heart Cathedral, a 20th-century Roman Catholic Church with beautiful stained-glass windows and Gothic-style architecture.
  • Tour of the Applied Arts Museum, an informative collection of Uzbekistan’s finest handicrafts housed in an ornately decorated villa.
Overnight in Tashkent.Tour duration: 4-5 hours
In the morning a driver will pick you up from your hotel to chauffeur you to the railway station for your Tashkent to Samarkandd train. (330km; Journey on high-speed Afrosiyob train is 2hrs 10min, and on the regular-speed Sharq train, 3hrs 10min).
Your private city tour of Samarkand will include:
  • Gur Emir, the impressive burial site of Tamerlane and Mirzo Ulugbek.
  • Registan Square, the social and commercial center of Samarkand for centuries and Samarkand’s most famous site today. The square includes three madrasahs: Ulugbek Madrasah (15th century), Sher-Dor Madrasah (17th century) and Tilla-Kori Madrasah (17th century).
  • A boulevard lined with workshops, souvenir stores and ice cream stands.
  • Siab Bazaar, a multi-level complex where you can shop for souvenirs and sample sweets, fruits and Samarkand’s famous bread.
  • Bibi Khanum Mosque, built by Tamerlane for his favorite wife.
  • Shakhi-Zinda, a burial complex built between the 9th-14th centuries. Climb the blue-domed path and explore more than 20 small mausoleums that line the broad alleyway.
  • Ulugbek Observatory, the remains of a 14th-15th century sextant and its accompanying museum dedicated to this amazing astronomer’s life.
At the end of your tour the driver will see you off at the railway station for your train ride back to Tashkent.
Upon arrival in Tashkent, you’ll be picked up and taken to the airport for a late-night flight to Dushanbe (300km, 45min).
Tour duration: 6-7 hours
Early in the morning, arrive in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan. A driver will take you to the hotel for rest after your flight.
Later in the morning, your guide and driver will meet you at hotel reception for your private Dushanbe city tour, beginning with a drive to the sites at Hissar Historical and Cultural Reserve (30km, 50min):
  • Hissar Fortress (15th century), where the impressive gates of a castle, once the home of a Bukharin emir, still amaze with their stateliness.
  • Kukhna Madrasah (17th century), a spacious religious school that functioned until the early 20th century, it now contains a small history museum.
  • Khistin Caravanserai (19th century), an unusual caravanserai constructed of burnt brick.
Drive back to Dushanbe to continue your tour to:
  • National Museum of Tajikistan, housed in an artsy 4-story building and holding more than 40,000 expositions, including a 12-meter statue of Buddha discovered on Tajikistan territory.
  • Haji Yaqub Mosque (19th century), Dushanbe’s landmark mosque that can hold up to 3,000 people.
  • Rudaki Park, a beautifully manicured park filled with fountains and flowers, with a tasteful monument of Rudaki in the center.
  • Gurminj Musical Instruments Museum, dedicated to celebrating the musical heritage of the Tajiks and Pamiris through a collection of national instruments, music lessons and periodic concerts.
  • Ayni Opera and Ballet Theatre (1940s), whose gorgeous outer décor is accentuated by the pristine lawns that surround it.
  • Statue of Ismail Somoni, a classy tribute to the founder of the Tajik people towering 25 meters high in the city center.
  • Mehrgon Market, Dushanbe’s newest bazaar that’s housed in an ornately designed atrium.
Overnight in Dushanbe.
Tour duration: approximately 5 hours
Free time in the morning before transferring to the airport for a flight to Almaty (860km, 1hr 30min).
Arrive in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city. You will be met by our driver for transfer to the hotel. Check in to the hotel, followed by free time. Overnight in Almaty.
Your guide and driver will meet you in the lobby of your hotel to begin the Almaty city tour:
  • Walk through Panfilov Park and see the World War II Memorial Complex, with a gigantic monument of soldiers bravely in advance and an eternal flame blazing nearby.
  • Visit Zenkov Cathedral (a.k.a Ascension Cathedral), also situated in Panfilov Park. Constructed entirely of wood without a single metal nail, this colorful five-domed wonder is one of the oldest buildings in Almaty.
  • Plunge into the atmosphere of Green Bazaar, a lively eastern market with festive colors, mouth-watering smells and lively crowds. It’s the perfect spot to purchase dried fruits and famous Kazakhstan chocolates...but don’t forget to bargain!
  • Stop by Republic Square, where the Mayor’s Office, Central State Museum and former Presidential Palace encircle the Monument of Independence, a towering statue of the Golden Man and bronze bas-reliefs depicting the country’s history.
  • Tour the Central State Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, containing nearly a quarter million exhibits, including a replica of the Golden Man. Exhibits cover the full gamut of Kazakhstan ethnography and history, from prehistoric times to the 21st century.
  • Drive from Almaty to Medeo along a scenic mountain road (18km), to see the world's highest Olympic-sized skating rink.
  • Continue the tour with a short drive to Kok-Tobe Hill, which provides a striking panoramic view of Almaty. Entertain yourself atop Kok-Tobe with the petting zoo, souvenir shops, famous Beatles statue and a meander down the Alley of Lovers.
  • Take a short ride from the top of the hill to the city center on the famous Almaty Cable Cars.
Transfer to the airport to catch a flight to Nur-Sultan (1200km, 1hr 40min). After landing in Nur-Sultan, a driver will take you to the hotel. Overnight in Nur-Sultan.
Tour duration: approximately 6 hours
Your guide and driver will meet you in your hotel lobby to begin the tour of Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana). The tour will include:
  • Independence Square, a marble plaza with symbolic sculptures whose crowning glory is the staggering 91-meter-high Kazakh Eli Monument.
  • Excursion to Hazrat Sultan Mosque, boasting of the largest dome in Kazakhstan (51x28m) plus four minarets 77 meters in height. The premises are adorned with fountains and flowers, while the interior impresses with massive white pillars and intricate Kazakh ornamentation.
  • Continue to the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, a huge symmetrical pyramid built by architect Norman Foster whose glass-and-granite symbol of unity holds conference halls, exhibition rooms and even an opera house.
  • Cross the Ishim River and continue sightseeing along Nurzhol Boulevard. This pedestrian walkway is lined with fountains and statues that reflect Kazakhstan’s heritage and culminates in Round Square, a busy center of shops, cafes and fountains.
  • Ride to the top of Bayterek Tower (a.k.a. the Tree of Life), the city’s most popular attraction which provides an amazing view of the city. Place your palm in the famed golden imprint of former President Nazarbayev’s hand.
  • Shop at Khan-Shatyr, a unique shopping mall and entertainment center housed in the largest tent in the world. Its amazing eco structure maintains warm temperatures inside even during the city’s frigid winters.
Transfer to the airport to catch a flight to Almaty (1200km, 1hr 40min). After landing in Almaty, you’ll have a layover before your flight to Ashgabat.
Tour duration: 4-5 hours
Take the midnight flight to Ashgabat (1670km, 3hrs). Arrive in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. A driver will meet you at the airport to bring you to your hotel. Free time to relax at the hotel.
Later in the day, tour Ashgabat with your private guide and driver. Meet at the hotel to begin your tour to the following sites:
  • Old Nisa, a spectacular archaeological site just 15 kilometers from the city. Nisa was the capital of the Parthian Empire, founded in the 3rd century BC and remaining in power for nearly 500 years. Today it’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque, the largest mosque in Central Asia. Also referred to as the Spiritual Mosque and the Gypjak Mosque, it houses the tombs of former president Turkmenbashy and his immediate family members.
  • Arch of Neutrality, a 95-meter-high tower topped with a gold statue of former president Saparmurat Niyazov (Turkmenbashy) that rotates to face the sun. Ride to the top in a funicular to tour a small museum and enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
  • Independence Park, including the yurt-shaped Independence Monument housing the Museum of National Values. The museum is surrounded by lavish fountains, 27 statues of Turkmenistan’s key historical figures and a golden sculpture of Niyazov himself.
  • Statue of Lenin, unique in that it stands on a large base ornately decorated in traditional Turkmen ornamentation.
  • National Museum of History, displaying over half a million items from every region of the country, including rare artifacts from ancient times through the Middle Ages.
  • Gulistan Bazaar (also known as the Russian Bazaar), one of the oldest markets in the city, a clean yet lively place to buy snacks and mingle with local shoppers.
Today’s excursion also includes a trip to the Akhalteke horse stables, (app. 1 hour from Ashgabat), where you’ll learn about the care and training of these pure-bred Turkmen horses, known for their incredible speed, agility and sleek beauty.
Return to the hotel after sightseeing. Overnight in Ashgabat.
Tour duration: 5-6 hours
Check out of the hotel by noon and transfer to the airport for departure to your next destination. End of Five Capitals of Central Asia Tour.

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