Central Asia Explorer Tour

18
Days
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan

On the Central Asia Explorer Tour, you’ll trace the path of the pioneers of old, who braved the fierce rulers of Khiva and Bukhara, the snowy mountains of Kyrgyzstan and the scorching desert of Turkmenistan to traverse this vast land. This 18-day adventure places a special emphasis on Uzbekistan, the region’s top destination, and allows for ample free time as it guides you through each of Central Asia’s 5 stan countries.
Countless adventurers and conquerors have passed through the lands of present-day Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, from Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan to Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta. Central Asia is more accessible now than ever before, and ancient cities such as Kunya-Urgench, Penjikent, Bishkek and Tashkent can be discovered anew by travelers of the 21st century.

Arrive in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. A driver will meet you at the airport to bring you to your hotel, where check-in begins at noon.
Meet your guide and driver at the hotel for sightseeing in the capital to Old Nisa, Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque, Arch of Neutrality, Independence Park, Statue of Lenin, National Museum of History and Gulistan Bazaar (a.k.a. Russian Bazaar). Overnight in Ashgabat.
Tour Duration: approximately 5 hours
Meals: none
Free time in the morning. Drive in the afternoon to Darvaza Gas Crater (275km, 4hrs), also known as the Door to Hell. Enjoy the drive through the Karakum Desert, stopping for photos along the way. Arrive at the crater in the evening to enjoy a spectacular sunset view before admiring the crater’s flames against a pitch-black sky. Set up camp and enjoy a campfire meal as you lounge near the burning crater. Overnight in tents or a yurt at Darvaza Crater.
Meals: breakfast, dinner
Wake up early to see the sunrise and have breakfast before continuing your journey, stopping on the way to visit mud and water craters. Depart for Kunya-Urgench (270km, 4hrs). Your tour in Kunya-Urgench will include the Tyurabek-Khanym Mausoleum, Sayid Ahmed Mausoleum, Kutlug Timur Minaret, Sultan Tekesh Mausoleum, Kyrk Molla Hill, Fakhreddin Razi Mausoleum, Mausoleum of Najmaddin Kubra and Sultan Ali Mausoleum.
Drive to the Dashoguz-Shavat border crossing into Uzbekistan and cross the 1.5 kilometer (app.1 mile) neutral zone. Meet your driver in Uzbekistan and continue to Khiva (60km,1hr).
Arrive in Khiva and check in to the hotel. Overnight in Khiva.
Tour Duration: 2-3 hours
Meals: breakfast
In the morning your guide will pick you up and drive to ancient Khorezm in the Kyzylkum Desert (2 hours one-way, 140km). Visit the Desert Castles of Ancient Khorezm in the Ellik Kala (Fifty Fortresses) region: Kyzyl-Kala (Red Fortress), Toprak-Kala (Earthen Fortress), Kirk-Kyz Kala (Fortress of Forty Virgins) and Ayaz-Kala (Wind Fortress). Visit a yurt camp and go for a camel ride before returning to Khiva.
Tour Duration: approximately 7 hours
Meals: breakfast, lunch
Begin your walking tour of Khiva, the "Museum Under the Open Sky", to Ichan-Qala, the historical center of Khiva and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tour includes Kunya-Ark Fortress, the inner citadel of Ichan-Qala, and Kalta Minor Tower, Muhammad Amin-Khan, Mukhammad Rahimkhan Madrasa; Juma Mosque, Tash-Hauli Palace, Necropolis of Pahlavan Mahmud and Residence of Islam Khodja, including a minaret with the highest observation point in town. Overnight in Khiva.
Tour Duration: approximately 6 hours
Meals: breakfast
After breakfast, take the fast train to Bukhara (390km, app. 6hrs). Arrive in Bukhara, one of the most esteemed cities of Islamic civilization, and transfer to your hotel in the Old City, the heart of Bukhara that resembles a scene from Arabian Nights.
Free time in the evening. Overnight in Bukhara.
Meals: breakfast
Explore Bukhara on a walking tour with your local guide to the Old City’s most impressive sights: Lyabi-Hauz Ensemble, Magoki-Attori Mosque, Four Trade Domes, Poi Kalyan Ensemble (consisting of the Kalyan Minaret, Kalyan Mosque, Amir-Alimkhan Madrasah and Miri-Arab Madrasah), Ulugbek Madrasah and Abdulazizkhan Madrasahs, Ark Fortress, Bolo-Khauz Complex, Samanids Mausoleum and Chashma Ayub Mausoleum. Overnight in Bukhara.
Tour Duration: 6-7 hours
Meals: breakfast
Free time in Bukhara before taking the afternoon train to Samarkand (280km, 1.5hrs). Arrive in the historical town of Samarkand, seat of Tamerlane’s ancient empire and a crossroads of the world's cultures. Transfer to the hotel, followed by free time to rest or explore the city. Overnight in Samarkand.
Meals: breakfast
Your private city tour of Samarkand, led by an experienced, local guide, will include a tour of spectacular Registan Square (including Ulugbek Madrasah, Sher-Dor Madrasah and Tilla-Kori Madrasah), Siab Bazaar, Bibi Khanum Mosque, Shakhi-Zinda, Mausoleum of Gur Emir and Ulugbek Observatory. Free time in the evening. Overnight in Samarkand.
Tour Duration: approximately 6 hours
Meals: breakfast
Transfer in the morning to the Uzbekistan-Tajikistan border crossing at Jartepa (50km, 1hr). After passing through customs, your Tajik guide and driver will meet you on the Tajikistan side to drive to Seven Lakes (90km, 2hrs), located in the Fann Mountains. Each lake has its own color, varying from turquoise to purple. Have lunch at the guest house next to the fourth lake.
Drive back to Penjikent. Overnight in Penjikent hotel.
Meals: breakfast, lunch
In the morning, tour ancient Penjikent (Panjikent), the ruins of a town founded by the Sogdians in the 5th century. See the foundations of houses, a citadel with Zoroastrian fire temples, the remains of the city bazaar and other excavated ruins. In the newer section of Penjikent visit a local bazaar, mosque and the Rudaki Museum.
Drive to the Jartepa border crossing (30km, 40min) via Sarazm, a UNESCO World Heritage Site founded in the 4th century BC. After crossing the border, your driver will meet you to take you to the Samarkand railway station. Take the late afternoon train to Tashkent (330km, 2hrs, 15min). Arrive in Tashkent and transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Tashkent.
Meals: breakfast
Check out from the hotel and begin a private tour of Tashkent to Khazret-Imam Architectural Complex in the Old City, Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent Metro, Amir Temur Square, Independence Square, World War II Memorial, Sacred Heart Cathedral and Applied Arts Museum.
Transfer to the airport for a flight to Bishkek (472km, 70min) *. Upon arrival in Bishkek, your driver will take you to your hotel. Overnight in Bishkek.
Tour Duration: 4-5 hours
Meals: breakfast
*Recommended flight: HY777 on Mondays and Wednesdays, leaving Tashkent at 16:00 and arriving to Bishkek at 18:10.
In the morning your guide and driver will meet you at hotel reception to begin a city tour of Bishkek to Ala Too Square, Old Square (including Parliament House and Lenin Statue), Philharmonic Hall, Oak Park, Opera and Ballet House and Victory Square.
Continue to the Burana Tower and Museum Complex (80km, 1.5hrs), enjoying the breathtaking view of the Chuy Valley and Tien Shan Mountains en route. Drive to Chon-Kemin Village. Arrive to the guesthouse and get in touch with Kyrgyz village life as you enjoy a traditional dinner and kumus (horse milk). Overnight in the Chon-Kemin guesthouse.
Meals: breakfast, dinner
After breakfast, start a horseback riding adventure. Guided by a skilled local horseman, you’ll trot up the Chon-Kemin Valley along green slopes, open fields and alpine spruces (3hrs riding, 2500m above sea level). Pass through a famous local meadow and ride to picturesque overlooks before returning to the village.
Drive to Cholpon-Ata (85km, 3hrs), situated on the northern shores of Lake Issyk-Kul in the Tien Shan Mountains. Overnight at Cholpon-Ata.
Meals: breakfast
After breakfast, visit the Museum of Petroglyphs (app. 500BC-100AD), a sprawling open-air museum full of grave markers and ancient drawings.
Drive to Bishkek (260km, 4hrs). Upon arrival take a flight to Almaty* (235km,1hr), where a driver will take you to the hotel.
Free time in the evening. Overnight in Almaty.
Meals: breakfast
*Multiple flights available daily
Your guide and driver will meet you to begin the Almaty city tour to Panfilov Park, Zenkov Cathedral, World War II Memorial, Green Bazaar, Republic Square (including the former Presidential Palace and Monument of Independence) and the Central State Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Drive from Almaty to Medeo along a scenic mountain road (18km, 30min), to see the world's highest Olympic-sized skating rink. Continue 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.
In the late afternoon catch a flight to Nur-Sultan* (1200km, 1hr,45min). After landing in Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana), a driver will take you to the hotel. Overnight in Nur-Sultan.
Tour Duration: approximately 6 hours
Meals: breakfast
*Multiple flights available daily
Your guide will meet you to begin the tour of Nur-Sultan. The tour will include Independence Square, Hazrat Sultan Mosque, Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, Nurzhol Boulevard, Bayterek Tower and Khan-Shatyr.
Free time for remainder of the day. Overnight in Nur-Sultan.
Tour Duration: 4-5 hours
Meals: breakfast
Free morning. Check out of the hotel by noon and transfer to Nur-Sultan International Airport. End of Central Asia Explorer Tour.
Meals: breakfast

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