Along the Silk Road Tour

20
Days
Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan

Along the Silk Road Tour is a magical 3-week journey stretching across six countries in West and Central Asia, spanning millennia and multiple cultures along the way. Mountains and mosques, cathedrals and caves, palaces and parks await you at every turn on this in-depth discovery of the world’s most famous caravan route.
Silk Road history clashes with modernity in Georgia and Azerbaijan’s capital cities, while comfortable bullet trains have replaced pack animals on the road to Samarkand and Khiva in Uzbekistan. Bazaars in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan straddle 20th-century plazas, while Kyrgyzstan’s petroglyphs vie with resort towns for visitors’ attention. Whispers of the old Silk Road abound, yet its present-day counterpart is equally delightful.

Arrive in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital. You will be met by our driver for drop-off at the hotel, where check-in begins at noon. Have a rest before taking a private, guided walking tour of Old Baku (Icheri Sheher) to see several historical monuments:

  • Maiden Tower (date unknown), a city symbol of mysterious origins which offers a great view of Baku;
  • Palace of the Shirvanshahs (15th century), a UNESCO ensemble and Azerbaijan’s finest example of medieval architecture;
  • Multani Caravanserai (15th century), built as a haven for Indian merchants and fire worshipers;
  • Juma Mosque (12th century, rebuilt 1899), constructed on the site of a Zoroastrian temple;
  • Market Square (17th century), a plaza of winding streets and shops selling souvenirs and antiques.
Return to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel in Baku.
Meals provided: none

Depart Baku and drive to Gobustan National Park (60km, 1hr), located on the Caspian Sea, to visit:

  • Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, an open-air gallery dating back to 10000 BC. Enjoy the gorgeous view as you discover nearly 6000 petroglyphs;
  • Petroglyph Museum, which provides a brief introduction to the park’s cultural and ecological history;
  • Mud Volcanoes (10km, 15min), where gases bubble up from the earth in a mix of mud and methane.

Return to Baku via Absheron Peninsula (78km, 75min) On the way, visit Bibi Heybat Mosque (dates vary) a central piece of Azerbaijani Islamic architecture.

  • In Absheron, visit Yanar Dag (Burning Mountain), a natural gas fire which has been burning for thousands of years.
  • Drive (20km, 30min) to Ateshgah Fire Temple (dates vary), a historic center of Zoroastrian worship.
Transfer to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel in Baku.
Meals provided: breakfast

Your guide and driver will meet you at your hotel for a drive to Shamakhi (120km, 1hr 30min).
Stop in Maraza at Diri Baba Mausoleum (15th century), a two-story monument carved into a cliff as a unique display of Shirvan-Absheron architecture.
Continue driving to ancient Shamakhi, former seat of the Shirvanshah Empire, to visit Juma Mosque (8th century), Azerbaijan’s oldest mosque whose architecture is unparalleled in the country.
Drive to Sheki (170km, 2hrs 30min) to tour its finest sites:

  • Sheki Khans’ Palace (18th century), a UNESCO Site built without glue or nails and famed for its stained glass and miniature paintings;
  • Sheki Caravanserai (18th century), an old Silk Road post where you can stop for tea and local sweets;
  • Gelersen-Gerersen Fortress (Come-and-See Fortress, 15th century), a once-impenetrable citadel whose history is closely linked with the city.
Overnight at the hotel in Sheki.
Meals provided: breakfast
Depart Sheki for the Georgian border (110km, 1hr 45min).
Cross the border and drive to Sighnaghi (50km, 45min), a small Silk Road town in east Kakheti surrounded by 23 towers and defensive walls. Walk the narrow cobblestone streets of this outpost known as The City of Love.
In Sighnaghi, explore Bodbe Monastery Complex (9th century), one of Georgia’s most significant sites and the purported burial site of St. Nino, who is credited with converting Georgia to Christianity in the 4th century.
Drive to Tbilisi (110km, 1hr 40min). Overnight at the hotel in Tbilisi.
Meals provided: breakfast

In the morning, your guide and driver will meet you at the hotel for a private city tour to the following:

  • Holy Trinity Cathedral (Sameba Church), one of the largest houses of worship in the world;
  • Drive to Tbilisi’s modern quarter, passing the Parliament Building on Rustaveli Avenue before reaching Freedom Square;
  • Metekhi Church (13th century), guarded by a statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali;
  • Bridge of Peace, which leads to the popular Rike Park;
  • Cable car ride to Narikala Fortress (4th century), Georgia’s oldest citadel and the best spot for a panoramic view of the city. Nearby stands the 20-meter-high statue of Kartlis Deda, Mother of Georgia;
  • Old Tbilisi, the city’s largest district, including the famous Jumah Mosque;
  • Bridge of Lovers, found near the cooling waters of the 22-meter-high Legvtakhevi Waterfall;
  • Historic Abanotubani District, including the Tbilisi Sulfur Baths;
  • Jan Shardeni Street (Jean Chardin), filled with cozy coffee shops, wine tasting bars and souvenir stores;
  • Sioni Cathedral (7th century), with a jaw-dropping interior of gold and turquoise frescoes;
  • Leaning Clock Tower of Tbilisi, next to the famous Reza Gabriadze Puppet Theater;
  • Anchiskhati Basilica Church (6th century), the oldest house of worship in Tbilisi.
Transfer to the hotel or continue exploring Old Tbilisi on your own. Overnight at the hotel in Tbilisi.
Meals provided: breakfast

In the morning, your guide and driver will meet you for a drive to Mtskheta (25km, 30min) to explore two UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

  • Jvari Orthodox Monastery (6th century), a unique remnant of the early Georgian church which amazes with beautiful facades and a panoramic view;
  • Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th century), where one of the holiest items of the orthodox Christian world -the robe worn by Jesus at crucifixion - is reportedly buried. Admire its stunning architecture and frescoes.
Continue to Uplistsikhe Cave Town (1st millennium BC), built entirely from rock. Trace the civilizations that inhabited the town across millennia as you climb through homes, churches and even a secret tunnel.
Transfer to Kutaisi (160km, 2hrs 30min). Tour Gelati Monastery (12th century), a UNESCO Site and the center of medieval Georgia’s spiritual and scientific life. The site includes the tombs of Georgian kings, three churches and a bell tower.
Explore Motsameta Monastery (10th century), which attracts crowds of religious pilgrims and travelers.
Overnight at the hotel in Kutaisi.
Meals provided: breakfast
In the morning, depart Kutaisi for Batumi (150km, 2hrs 30min). Stop at Petra Fortress (6th century), which was built by Justinian I and offers a great view of the Black Sea.
On the way, visit Batumi Botanical Garden, one of the largest gardens in the Caucasus which is home to rare vegetation from around the world.
Arrive in Batumi and check in to the hotel, followed by free time. Overnight at the hotel in Batumi.
Meals provided: breakfast

In the morning, begin your Batumi city tour, which will take you to the following sights:

  • Driving tour of the House of Justice, Batumi Mall, Dolphinarium, Rustaveli University, Museum of Art, Batumi Port and Orta Mosque;
  • Gonio Fortress (1st century AD) the oldest fortress in Georgia which spans 4.5 hectares of land;
  • Europe Square with its famous Medea Statue and nearby Italian Piazza Square;
  • Batumi Boulevard, including a dancing fountain and the famous Ali and Nino Monument;
  • Seaside Miracle Park, a delightful promenade featuring the Panoramic Wheel, Chacha Tower, Alphabetic Tower, Batumi Lighthouse and Nurigeli Lake;
  • Church of St. Nicolas (1871), one of Batumi’s key historical monuments built by the Greek community;
  • Holy Mother Virgins Nativity Cathedral (1897), a gothic-style church with large stained-glass windows.
Take the Batumi - Tbilisi train, departing from Batumi in late afternoon (390km, 5hrs 10min). You’ll be met at the station for transfer to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel in Tbilisi.
Meals provided: breakfast

Free morning before hotel check-out and transfer to Tbilisi International Airport for a flight to Almaty (2620km, 3hrs 30min). Arrive in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan. Our driver will take you to the hotel, where check-in begins at noon. Your guide and driver will meet you to begin your private tour of Almaty to the following:

  • Panfilov Park, a famous tree-lined park which includes a large World War II Memorial Complex;
  • Zenkov Cathedral (Ascension Cathedral), one of the oldest and most colorful buildings in Almaty;
  • Green Bazaar, a lively market filled with festive colors, mouth-watering smells and edible souvenirs;
  • Republic Square, including the former Presidential Palace and Monument of Independence;
  • Central State Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, including a replica of the Golden Man;
  • Drive from Almaty to Medeo (18km, 30min) to see the world's highest Olympic-sized skating rink;
  • Kok-Tobe Hill, where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Almaty and various entertainment options;
  • Short ride from Kok-Tobe to the city center on the famous Almaty Cable Cars.
Drop-off at the hotel. Overnight at the hotel in Almaty.
Meals provided: breakfast

Free time in the morning before transfer to Almaty International Airport for a flight to Tashkent (665km, 1hr 30min).
Arrive in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital. Transfer to the hotel, where check-in begins at noon. Your guide and driver will pick you up to begin your private tour of Tashkent to see:

Overnight at the hotel in Tashkent.
Meals provided: breakfast

After breakfast, take the Tashkent-Samarkand bullet train (330km, 2hrs 30min). Transfer to the hotel, where check-in begins at noon.
Begin your private tour of Samarkand, seat of Tamerlane’s ancient empire. The tour will include:

  • Gur Emir, the imposing burial site of Tamerlane and Mirzo Ulugbek;
  • Registan Square, Samarkand’s most famous site which includes Ulugbek Madrasah, Sher-Dor Madrasah and Tilla-Kori Madrasah (15th- 17th centuries);
  • A boulevard lined with workshops and souvenir stores;
  • Bibi Khanum Mosque, built by Tamerlane for his favorite wife;
  • Siab Bazaar, where you can shop for souvenirs, fruits and Samarkand’s famous bread;
  • Shakhi-Zinda, an exquisite burial complex built between the 9th-14th centuries;
  • Ulugbek Observatory, including Ulugbek Museum and the remains of a 14th-15th century sextant.
Overnight at the hotel in Samarkand.
Meals provided: breakfast

After breakfast, continue your tour of Samarkand region:

  • Visit the excavation site and museum of the ancient city Afrasiab;
  • Tour the Khodja Daniyar Mausoleum, believed to be the tomb of the prophet Daniel;
  • Drive to Konigil Village to observe the traditional way of making Samarkand paper from mulberry leaves;
  • Take a tour of Oriental Silk Carpet Factory to see how top-quality carpets are created. You can even try carpet weaving yourself!
Overnight at the hotel in Samarkand.
Meals provided: breakfast

Your guide will meet you at your hotel and drive to Shakhrisabz (90km, 2hrs) via the Tahtakaracha Pass. During your tour of Shakhrisabz you’ll visit:

  • Downtown Shakhrisabz, unique for its layout and architecture;
  • Dorus Saodat Memorial Complex (dates vary) including Jahongir and Omar Sheikh Mausoleum and Khazratiy Imam Mosque;
  • Dor-ut Tilovat Ensemble, including Kok-Gumbaz Mosque and the burial vault of Tamerlane’s father;
  • Ak-Saray Palace, Tamerlane's summer residence which was greatly admired by his contemporaries.
Return to Samarkand in the afternoon. Overnight at the hotel in Samarkand.
Meals provided: breakfast

After breakfast, take the morning train to Bukhara (280km, 1hr 30min). Arrive in Bukhara, one of the most esteemed cities of Islamic civilization, and transfer to your hotel in the Old City.
Explore Bukhara on a private walking tour to the Old City’s most impressive sights:

  • Lyabi-Hauz Ensemble, including Lyabi-Hauz Pool and the Khanaka, Kukeldash and Nadir Divan Beghi Madrasahs (all 16th century);
  • Magoki-Attori Mosque, the oldest mosque in Bukhara (12th century);
  • Four Trade Domes (15th-16th centuries), where you can purchase handmade souvenirs;
  • Poi Kalyan Ensemble (12th-16th centuries), including Kalyan Minaret and Mosque and Amir-Allimkhan and Miri-Arab Madrasahs;
  • Ulugbek Madrasah (15th century) and Abdulazizkhan Madrasah (17th century);
  • Ark Fortress (4th century), ancient center of Bukharin statehood now home to a small museum;
  • Bolo-Khauz Complex, consisting of an artfully decorated 18th- century mosque, a minaret and reservoirs;
  • Samanids Mausoleum (9th -10th centuries), the oldest brick building in Central Asia, and Chashma Ayub Mausoleum.

Overnight at the hotel in Bukhara.
Meals provided: breakfast

Check out of the hotel by noon and enjoy free time before continuing your tour of Bukhara to the following:

  • Chor Minor (18th century), an unusual madrasah whose four minarets are said to reflect the four major world religions of that period;
  • Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa (19th century), the emir’s summer residence which blends Oriental and Russian architecture;
  • Bakhautdin Naqsband Mausoleum, an ensemble dedicated to the founder of the Naqshbandia Sufi Order;
  • Chor-Bakr Necropolis, (City of the Dead, 10th century), ancient burial grounds and memorial complex.
Return to Bukhara. Transfer to the railway station to take the afternoon train to Tashkent (580km, 3hrs 30min). Transfer to your hotel upon arrival. Overnight at the hotel in Tashkent.
Meals provided: breakfast

After breakfast, your driver will transfer you to the Uzbekistan-Tajikistan ‘Oybek’ border crossing (100km, 1hr 30min). After crossing, your Tajik guide and driver will take you to Khujand (70km, 1hr) for a city tour:

  • Khujand Fortress (dates vary), once one of the most impenetrable castles in Central Asia;
  • Historical Museum of Sughd, which houses unusual artefacts from the territory of Sughd;
  • Mausoleum of Sheikh Muslihiddin Khujandi (12th century), two-story tomb of a local ruler and poet;
  • Payshanba Bazaar (Thursday Bazaar), a colorful oriental market rumored to be the best in Tajikistan;
  • Somoni Park, where a statue of Ismoil Somoni, fountains and bright mosaics are displayed.
During the tour you will have lunch at a local restaurant.
Drive back to the border in late afternoon, pass through customs and enter Uzbekistan. Arrive in Tashkent for drop-off at the hotel. Overnight at the hotel in Tashkent.
Meals provided: breakfast

Free time in the morning before transfer to Tashkent International Airport for a flight to Bishkek (470km, 1hr 10min). Upon arrival, your driver will take you to your hotel, where check-in begins at noon.
Begin your sightseeing tour of Bishkek to the following:

  • Ala Too Square, Bishkek’s large Soviet-style central plaza. Watch the hourly changing of the guards, take a selfie under the Kyrgyzstan flag and pay respects to a Kyrgyz legend at Manas Monument;
  • Old Square, including Parliament House and Lenin Statue;
  • Philharmonic Hall, a stately Bishkek landmark whose courtyard is a popular meeting place for locals;
  • Oak Park, including the tree-lined Erkindik Boulevard and statue of Kyrgyz leader Kurmanjan Datka;
  • Opera and Ballet House, a stylish hall serving as a key center for the arts in Bishkek;
  • Victory Square, including a World War II memorial of an eternal flame burning under a granite half-yurt.
Drive back to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel in Bishkek.
Meals provided: breakfast

Breakfast at the hotel before an adventure-filled day as you head into rural Kyrgyzstan. Stop in the small town of Tokmok (80km, 1hr 30min) for an excursion to Burana Tower and Museum Complex:

  • Burana Tower (11th century), a 25-meter-high minaret and the only remaining structure from Balasagun city. Climb its stairwell for a spectacular view from the top;
  • Balbals (6th century), round stone figures used as memorial stones for the deceased;
  • Museum containing items found in Balasagun, including jewelry, pottery and religious objects;
  • Petroglyphs (2nd century) discovered in the greater Chuy Region.
Drive to Lake Issyk-Kul (190km, 2hrs 30min). Arrive to Cholpon-Ata, a small town on the shores of the mountain lake.
Visit the Museum of Petroglyphs (app. 500BC-100AD), an open-air museum full of ancient drawings.
Transfer to the hotel in Cholpon-Ata. Free time in the evening to walk along the beach or take a dip in the warm waters. Overnight at the hotel in Cholpon-Ata.
Meals provided: breakfast
After breakfast, visit Issyk-Kul State Historical and Cultural Museum to see possessions of Kyrgyz nomads, Buddhist artifacts, ancient coins, weapons and a display dedicated to the Epic of Manas.
Continue to the Rukh Ordo Cultural Center, which includes murals, photo exhibits, a house and statues dedicated to Kyrgyz author Chingiz Aitmatov.
In the afternoon, drive back to Bishkek for drop-off at your hotel (260km, 4hrs). Overnight at the hotel in Bishkek.
Meals provided: breakfast
Free time until hotel check-out at noon. Transfer to Bishkek International Airport. End of Along the Silk Road Tour.
Meals provided: breakfast
  • Round-trip airport and train station transfers;
  • Private local guide;
  • Entrance fees to the sights as per itinerary;
  • Transportation throughout the tour;
  • Accommodation based on double/twin room at hotel (19 nights, with breakfast);
  • Bottled mineral water (1 liter per person per day);
  • Lunch on day 16;
  • Economy class train tickets for Batumi-Tbilisi, Tashkent-Samarkand, Samarkand-Bukhara and Bukhara-Tashkent routes.
  • International flight tickets before and after the tour;
  • Flight tickets for Tbilisi-Almaty, Almaty-Tashkent and Tashkent-Bishkek;
  • Hotel charges for additional services;
  • Lunches and dinners not specified under Inclusions;
  • Personal travel insurance;
  • All other charges and services not mentioned under Inclusions;
  • Tips are not included but are appreciated.

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