Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – Central Asia private tour, September 15 – October 10, 2022.
Aral Sea and Nukus:
Enlightening, visually compelling experience, despite long drives over poor tracks. Long two days driving, but it held our interest throughout. Two of the ladies were especially THRILLED to visit the Savitskiy Museum in Nukus. They even met the previous curator. The yurt experience was great.
Khorezm and Khiva:
An amazing walk through an amazing town. Visited all the sights at a perfect pace. Thorough and informative inspection of UNESCO sights.
Guide Ali - Knowledgeable. Well spoken. Very accommodating.
Hotel Orient Star - Great madrassah experience in Khiva. Excellent location right in the middle of everything (and for night photos).
I think we liked Bukhara even more than Khiva, the day before; it’s more “lived in”. Again, a walking tour with good pace and coverage. Very good* second day. Hard to compete with the first day, although each of the second day sights were all well worth visiting.
Guide Rustam - Knowledgeable. Well spoken. Personable. Very accommodating.
Hotel Komil - Another hotel with character and ambiance. Excellent location near the walkable sights.
After the wonders of Khiva and Bukhara it was a little harder to get engaged with Shakrisabz. But we’re very glad we went; it was worth the drive.
Awesome and Unbelievably amazing day. Best day yet. Great sights, great pacing. We didn’t feel rushed. Being able to see it at night also was a real gift.
Guide Dilshod - Enthusiastic, well-spoken, knowledgeable, personable, accommodating. Perceptive – quickly moved on when we were apparently less interested in something, and lingered when we were more interested.
Hotel Malika Prime – Excellent. The room was very nice, and the location was perfect (walked to night photos – thanks for the extra Gur Emir and Registan tickets, we got great night pictures).
It started off well with excellent visits to the Khazret-Imam complex, Chorsu Bazaar, and Applied Arts Museum. Then the rest of the tour was a quick drive around the city with fleeting partial glimpses of various sites. I ended up walking on my own from the hotel to Independence Square, and then to the Holy Assumption Cathedral so I could actually see them. And we never went by the Minor Mosque at all.
Guide Nusrat - He started off well, but after the Applied Arts Museum it’s as if he completely lost interest. He also had to sit down lots.
Hotel Bek - Good. Negative marks for the air conditioning not working in our room, and the internet being spotty. Positive marks for very accommodating staff, and walkable to signts.
Penjikent and Iskander kul:
There really wasn’t much of interest for us in Penjikent (e.g.the mosque was closed for repairs, and the museum was dilapidated) EXCEPT the amazing bazaar. We took our time walking through the bazaar. Then we had a really great drive into the mountains to picturesque Iskander kul. We sat by the lake and watched the sun set while we ate dinner, and then ate breakfast by the lake while the sun rose the next morning. Fabulous.
Adequate accommodations, in wonderful setting in Iskander-kul.
The guide took us to a few additional sights not on the program (mostly buildings or monuments). Dushanbe was a very pleasant big surprise. We could have probably spent a second day there just to wander around more. And the drive there was also really interesting.
Hotel Serena - Modern hotel. Great location for my usual night pictures habit.
A mixed day. There wasn’t much of interest to us in Istaravashn itself, except the great bazaar. The wander through the bazaar and the drive through the mountains and into the Fergana Valley were definitely the highlights.
Very good. Especially the Payshanba Bazaar. We finished the program well before noon, but relaxed with a small lunch at a tea room.
Hotel Khujand Delux - Staff disinterested. Internet was poor and inconsistent. AC was barely adequate. Breakfast was poor.
Tajikistan escort guide Bobochon and Omar - Everything nice I said about the Samarkand guide you could apply to the Tajikistan guide. He did a masterful job of answering our questions and providing relevant information, and/or moving along when there was less interest. When I come back to see the Pamir Highway I’d be thrilled to have the same guide.
Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
Excellent. Great drive through Kazak countryside to Otrar. Otrar was fabulous; it was amazing to walk around an obviously ongoing archeological dig. Turkistan was an excellent surprise, an eclectic mixture of old and new. The only thing that could have been better is if we would have been able to fly to Almaty direct from Turkistan.
Hotel Hampton by Hilton - Modern hotel. Great location for my usual night pictures habit.
Charyn Canyon, Lake Kolsai, Lake Kaindy:
The canyon walk was sunny and gorgeous.
Kolsai Lake was fabulous even in the rain.
Matched expectations for an out-of-the-way guesthouse and the food they provided far exceeded expectations.
The Lake Kaindy part was amazing, and I plan to add Karakol back onto my list when I return to Kyrgyzstan for some hiking, and maybe just relaxing at The Green Yard.
Awesome. Guest house full of personal touches. I could easily see coming back just to stay here for a few days. The guide took us to an amazing local place for dinner, and then the guesthouse provided an excellent breakfast in an awesome environment.
Good. Traffic delays coming from Bishkek limited our time, and there was a huge line-up at the gondola, so there were some things that were missed. However, we did see the things that were most important to us (Cathedral and bazaar, so we are all happy).
Hotel Novotel – Excellent. Modern hotel.
Full day in an amazing city full of monumental buildings.
Hotel Ramada - Modern hotel in great location.
Guide - more than awesome. I gave Dilshod (Samarkand) and Omar (Tajikistan) awesome reviews, but Aleksandr was even better! Great English skills, engaged, personable, knowledgeable, and always extremely helpful. The driver (Nikolai) was also the very best of a great selection of drivers so far.