Pearls of Central Asia Tour

16
Days
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan

Central Asia lays claim to riches untold, preserved in delightful remnants of the past that transcend time and astounding natural wonders which remain remarkably untouched. The calming presence of Seven Lakes near Penjikent; roughly chiseled precipices in Charyn Canyon of Almaty region; entire neighborhoods preserved from the Middle Ages in Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva; and the larger-than-life constructions of prestigious Ashgabat all speak to the wonder of this region.
Pearls of Central Asia Tour is the ultimate expedition, a journey through all five of Central Asia’s unique countries- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Experience capital cities and mountain enclaves, desert outposts and national parks, grandiose medieval architecture and local customs. For anyone desiring a comprehensive and authentic experience of one of the world’s most fascinating regions, Pearls of Central Asia Tour will not disappoint!

Arrive in Almaty. Check-in to hotel at noon, followed by free time. Overnight in Almaty.
Your guide and driver will meet you at 09:00 at your Almaty hotel. Depart Almaty and drive to Charyn Canyon, enjoying the view of the Altai Mountains and villages along the way (220km, 3-4hrs). Arrive to Charyn Canyon in time for a picnic lunch. Hike through Charyn Canyon, where steep mountainsides reach up to 300 meters and the stunning "Castles Valley" runs more than 2 kilometers in length. Return to Almaty in late afternoon. Overnight in Almaty hotel.
Meals: breakfast, picnic lunch
After breakfast at the hotel, your guide will meet you in the lobby around 10:30 for a sightseeing tour of Almaty. A short drive (25km) will take you to Chimbulak, where you can ride the cable cars to a plateau to enjoy the amazing view of the Tian Shan Mountains. Return to the heart of Almaty to ride the metro to Panfilov Park to learn more about the city’s history and see one of the largest wooden buildings in the world, Zenkov Cathedral. Visit the Memorial of Glory and the Eternal Flame, dedicated to the soldiers who died for the country’s independence. Continue to Republic Square and Almaty City Museum. Shop for sweets, souvenirs and freshly cooked meals at the famed Green Bazaar. Drop-off at the airport for your evening flight to Bishkek (235km, 1hr). Arrive in Bishkek and transfer to hotel. Overnight in Bishkek.
Meals: breakfast
Your guide will meet you after breakfast and drive you to Burana Tower, part of the ancient city of Balasagun (11th-13th centuries) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Watch the Kyrgyz national sport Ulak Tartysh (Goat Pulling), as two teams on horseback battle for possession of a goat carcass. Transfer to Don Aryk village for lunch at the home of a local Kyrgyz family. After lunch, watch a demonstration and explanation of a yurt construction by local women. You can even take part in the demonstration if you wish! Return to Bishkek. Overnight at Bishkek hotel.
Meals: breakfast, lunch
Begin your day with a city tour of Bishkek’s impressive examples of Soviet urban planning and architecture: Oak Park, Ala Too Square, Manas Statue, the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Philharmonic Hall, and Victory Monument.
Travel to Ala-Archa National Park (40km). Hike this alpine gorge, flanked by snow-covered peaks, to Ak-Sai waterfall and the banks of the Ala-Archa River. Drive back to Bishkek for your evening flight to Tashkent (472km, 1hr 10min). Arrive in Tashkent and transfer to your hotel for the night.
Meals: breakfast, picnic lunch
Your guide will pick you up from the hotel to begin your introduction to Tashkent city: Excursion to the Old City, including the architectural Khazret-Imam Complex (15th century), which holds the oldest known Quran in the world. Visit Chorsu Bazaar, one of the oldest markets in Central Asia, where you can sample or buy sweets, fruits and souvenirs. Ride on the Tashkent Metro, where ceramic tiles and murals depict a unique theme at each station. Walk through Amir Timur Square and Independence Square, admiring the paintings for sale on ‘Broadway’ Drive. Drive to Sacred Heart Cathedral. Tour of the State Museum of the History of Uzbekistan. Overnight in Tashkent.
Meals: breakfast
Your driver will help you transfer to the railway station for your train to Samarkand (310km, 3hrs). Upon arrival to Samarkand, a guide and driver will meet you to begin your city tour of Samarkand, the capital of Tamerlane’s magnificent empire: Gur Emir, the mausoleum of Tamerlane and Mirzo Ulugbek. Spectacular Registan Square with its three madrasahs (15th -17th centuries), the center of Samarkand for centuries. Bibi Khanum Mosque, built by Tamerlane, and Shakhi-Zinda, a 15th century burial complex. Climb the imposing walkway and explore its blue-domed tombs. Overnight in Samarkand.
Meals: breakfast
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer around 9am to the Uzbekistan-Tajikistan border crossing at Jartepa (50km, 1hr).
After passing through customs and passport control, your local Tajik guide and driver will meet you on the Tajikistan side to drive you 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, where you’ll also stay overnight.
Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Have breakfast at the lake before driving to ancient Penjikent (80km, 1hr 30 min), the ruins of a town founded by the Sogdians in the 5th century and abandoned by Arabs in the 8th century.
In old Penjikent you’ll see the foundations of houses, a citadel with Zoroastrian fire temples, the remains of the city bazaar and other excavated ruins in the old city.
In the newer part 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, you’ll continue your group tour in Uzbekistan, with your driver meeting you at the border to take you to your hotel in Samarkand. Overnight in Samarkand.
Meals: breakfast
Pearls of Central Asia Tour continues with a drive from Samarkand to Bukhara via Gijduvon. Stop on the way at the Rabat-i-Malik Caravanserai (11th century). Visit Gijduvon, a small town whose traditional crafts and ceramics have been sought after in Central Asia for centuries due to their quality and colorful, decorative style. Visit the ceramic center and museum before having lunch. Transfer to Bukhara and check in to the hotel. Overnight in Bukhara.
Meals: breakfast, lunch
Begin the morning with a city walking tour led by your local guide. Your private tour will include the Lyabi-Hauz Ensemble, Magoki-Attori Mosque and the Trade Domes (15th-16th centuries) that serve today as a tourist bazaar. Continue your excursion outside of the old city center to see the following: Poi Kalyan Ensemble, (including Kalyan Minaret, Kalyan Mosque and Miri-Arab Madrasah); Ulugbek and Abdulazizkhan Madrasahs; Ark Fortress and museum; Bolo-Khauz Mosque; and Mausoleum of the Samanids. Free time in the evening. Overnight in the Bukhara hotel.
Meals: breakfast
Breakfast. Free time for leisure and shopping. Transfer to train station for train to Khiva via the Kyzylkum Desert (470km, 5hrs 25min). Arrival in Khiva, the "Museum Under the Open Sky". Free time in the evening. Overnight in a hotel located inside or near Ichan Kala, the historical center of Khiva and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Meals: breakfast
Take a walking tour around Ichan Kala with a local guide to see Kunya-Ark, the Khan's castle and inner citadel of Ichan Kala, before continuing to the following sites: Kalta Minor Tower; Muhammad Amin-Khan, the largest medieval madrasah in Khiva; Mukhammad Rahimkhan Madrasah; Juma Mosque, with 212 wooden columns and a minaret 32.5 meters high; Tash-Hauli Palace (Stone Courtyard Palace) with its high battlements, towers and fortified gates; Necropolis of Pahlavan Mahmud, the cultic center of Ichan Kala; and residence of Islam Khodja, vizier of the last khan, an ensemble consisting of a minaret with the highest observation point in town. Overnight in Khiva.
Meals: breakfast
Travel with your driver in the morning to the Turkmenistan border point to pass through customs (transportation may not be available when passing through customs). Your Turkmenistan guide will meet you after you’ve passed through border control and together you’ll drive to Kunya-Urgench. In Kunya-Urgench visit the Tyurabek-Khanym and Sayit Ahmed Mausoleums, Kutlug Timur Minaret, Sultan Tekesh Mausoleum of Khorezmshakh and Kyrk Molla Hill.
In the afternoon drive to Darvaza Gas Crater, located in the middle of the Karakum Desert (270km, 4hrs). Set up camp and enjoy the enormous ring of fire by night (app. 80m in diameter and 30m in depth). Enjoy a campfire meal for dinner near the burning gas crater. Overnight in tents.
Meals: breakfast, picnic lunch, camp style BBQ dinner
Watch the desert sunrise before eating a camp-style breakfast. Visit the mud crater and water craters before driving to Ashgabat (280km, 4hrs). Enjoy the desert drive and photo ops of sand dunes and camels.
Arrive to Ashgabat for a sightseeing tour of the capital, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as having more white marble buildings than any other city in the world. Explore the archaeological site of Old Nissa (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Spiritual Mosque, one of the largest mosques in Central Asia. Visit the National Museum of History, the Monument of Neutrality, Presidential Square, Ertugrul Gazi Mosque and the recently built Independence Park. Overnight at Ashgabat hotel.
Meals: breakfast, farewell dinner
Check out from the hotel by noon. Free time until transfer to Ashgabat International Airport for departure. End of Pearls of Central Asia Tour.
Meals: breakfast

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