Stans and Caucasus on the Silk Road Tour

22
Days
Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia

Stans and Caucasus on the Silk Road Tour is a journey into the heart of West and Central Asia to unlock its treasure trove of cultural discoveries. Age-defying fortresses in Turkmenistan and lively trade posts in Tajikistan contrast with Uzbekistan’s exquisite Silk Road cities and the verdant mountain backdrops of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Anyone looking for a diverse yet in-depth introduction to Eurasia need look no further. Whether visiting the seats of ancient empires in Old Nisa and Shamakhi, tasting the delicacies of Kakheti Region wineries and Khujand’s bazaar or touring the historic quarters of Khiva, Bukhara and Yerevan, Stans and Caucasus on the Silk Road Tour is an exotic 3-week journey of non-stop adventure.

Arrive in Ashgabat, capital of Turkmenistan. You will be met by a driver and brought to the hotel, where check-in begins at noon. Enjoy a half-day of sightseeing with your private local guide and driver to the following:

  • Old Nisa, capital of the Parthian Empire and present-day UNESCO World Heritage Site;
  • Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque, the largest mosque in Central Asia which includes the tomb of former president Turkmenbashy;
  • Arch of Neutrality, a 95-meter-high tower topped with a gold statue of Turkmenbashy. Ride to the top in a funicular to enjoy a panoramic view of the city;
  • Independence Park, including Independence Monument, lavish fountains and 27 statues of historical figures;
  • National Museum of History, displaying over half a million items from every region of the country, including many rare artifacts.
Overnight at the hotel in Ashgabat.
Meals provided: none

Take an early morning flight from Ashgabat to Mary (370km, 40min). Upon arrival, drive to Merv (40 km, 40 min), an ancient trade center on the Great Silk Road and UNESCO Site. Your guided tour of Merv will include:

  • Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum (12th century) –majestic monument displaying amazing craftsmanship for its day;
  • Greater and Lesser Kyz Kala (8th-9th centuries) - unique homes with no archeological equivalents;
  • Askhab Mausoleums (9th-12th centuries) - one of Turkmenistan’s most important pilgrimage sites;
  • Erk Kala (6th century BC) - seat of ancient Merv and its oldest city. Climb its walls for a great view!
  • Gyaur Kala (3rd century BC) - Merv’s second oldest settlement famous for its thick, 2-km long walls;
  • Beni Makhan Mosque (7th – 9th centuries) – also called Juma Mosque, it sits near a still-functioning cistern;
  • Muhammad Ibn Zeid Mausoleum (12th century) - popular Sufi shrine with symmetrical architecture.
Return to Mary airport for an evening flight to Ashgabat. Overnight at the hotel in Ashgabat.
Meals provided: breakfast

Transfer to Ashgabat’s domestic airport for a morning flight to Dashoguz (570km, 50min). Upon arrival, your guide and driver will meet you to drive to Kunya Urgench, ancient capital of the Khorezm Empire (120km, 1hr 30min). Your tour includes:

  • Tyurabek-Khanym Mausoleum (14th century), burial site of a Mongolian princess;
  • Sayid Ahmed Mausoleum (14th century), tomb of a leader of the Golden Horde;
  • Kutlug Timur Minaret (11th-13th centuries), which at 62 meters is the tallest minaret in Central Asia;
  • Sultan Tekesh Mausoleum of Khorezmshakh (12th century), a medieval tomb for royalty;
  • Kyrk Molla Hill (dates vary), a fortress including Mamun Library and an ancient cemetery;
  • Fakhreddin Razi Mausoleum (13th century), one of the oldest, most unique structures in Central Asia;
  • Mausoleum of Najmaddin Kubra (12th century), grave of the founder of the Sufi order Kubrawiya;
  • Sultan Ali Mausoleum (16th century), a half-completed structure built for a powerful Turkmen ruler.
Drive to the Turkmenistan/Uzbekistan border. Cross into Uzbekistan and meet your driver to continue on to Khiva (60km, 1hr). Overnight at the hotel in Khiva.
Meals provided: breakfast

After breakfast, meet your guide to begin your walking tour of Khiva’s Ichan Kala, the city center that has been preserved for the past 1500 years. Your tour will include:

Overnight at the hotel in Khiva.
Meals provided: breakfast
After breakfast, head to the railway station for your morning departure to Bukhara (456km, 5hrs 30min). Your train will take a similar route as that of the Great Silk Road, which also ran through the Kyzylkum Desert between Khiva and Bukhara.
Upon arrival, your driver will take you to the hotel. Free time to rest or explore the old streets of Bukhara, whose alleyways resemble a scene from “A Thousand and One Nights”. Overnight at the hotel in Bukhara.
Meals provided: breakfast
Have breakfast at the hotel before your private walking tour of the Old City’s 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;
  • Chashma Ayub Mausoleum, otherwise known as Job’s well.
Overnight at the hotel in Bukhara.
Meals provided: breakfast

After breakfast, continue your tour of greater Bukhara to the following locations:

  • Chor Minor (18th century), whose minarets represent 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 Naqshband Mausoleum, an ensemble dedicated to the founder of the Sufi Order "Naqshbandia";
  • Chor-Bakr Necropolis, (10th century), ancient burial grounds developed into a memorial complex.
Return to Bukhara for an afternoon departure by train to Samarkand (280km, 1hr 30min). Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel in Samarkand, capital of Tamerlane's Empire.
Meals provided: breakfast

Breakfast at the hotel before your private tour of Samarkand, crossroads of the world's cultures, including:

  • 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);
  • Bibi Khanum Mosque, built by Tamerlane for his favorite wife;
  • Siab Bazaar, where you can shop for souvenirs, fruits, sweets 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

A driver will meet you at your Samarkand hotel for transfer to the Jartepa border with Tajikistan (50km, 1hr). After passing through customs, your Tajik guide and driver will meet you and drive to Penjikent (30km, 40min).
Stop on the way at Sarazm, a UNESCO Site founded by 3500BC. The excavation site still holds intact structures of palaces, temples, altars, homes, city walls and paved roads.
Continue driving to Penjikent (Panjakent) to tour the following:

  • Republican Museum of History (Rudaki Museum), which has diverse exhibits on Tajik customs and the life of Rudaki, founder of Tajik-Persian classical literature;
  • Central Mosque and Olim Dodkhoh Madrasah, the city’s main center for worship;
  • Penjikent Bazaar, a bustling bazaar with standard goods and Tajik souvenirs;
  • Ancient Penjikent (5th century BC), a labyrinth of walls and passages decorated with amazing murals.
Overnight at the hotel in Penjikent.
Meals provided: breakfast

Depart Penjikent in the morning and drive to Khujand (260km, 4hrs) via Istaravshan. Arrive in Istaravshan and begin your city tour to the following:

  • Istaravshan Bazaar - housed chiefly in a 3-story building, it’s impressively large and authentic;
  • Hazrat Shah Architectural Complex (18th-19th centuries) - includes two mausoleums and a mosque known for its brightly painted ceiling;
  • Mug Teppe – a renovated fortress which provides a great overlook of the city.
Continue driving to Khujand. Free time in the evening. Overnight at the hotel in Khujand.
Meals provided: breakfast

In the morning, begin your tour of Khujand, one of the oldest cities in Central Asia. The tour includes:

  • 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.
In the afternoon, drive to the Uzbekistan border and pass through customs. Meet your Uzbek driver and transfer to Tashkent (165km, 2hrs 45min from Khujand). Overnight at the hotel in Tashkent.
Meals provided: breakfast

After breakfast, transfer to Tashkent International Airport for your departure flight to Baku (1620km, 6hrs).
Arrive in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital. You will be met by our driver for drop-off at the hotel. Have a rest, followed by a private walking tour of Old Baku (Icheri Sheher) to see:

  • 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: breakfast

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, 1hr 15min) 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 for a drive to Shamakhi (180km, 2hrs 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;
  • Yeddi Gumbaz Mausoleum (19th century), burial site of the last khan of Shamakhi.
Drive through the breathtaking Girdimanchay River Valley to the alpine village of Lahic (60km, 1hr 15min), situated 2000 meters above sea level. Explore this ancient village filled with traditional workshops and unique homes, shopping for souvenirs as local artisans demonstrate their techniques.
Tour Lahic History Museum to learn about the lifestyle of Azerbaijan’s people throughout the centuries.
Drive back to Baku. Overnight at the hotel in Baku.
Meals provided: breakfast

Free morning for packing before transfer to Baku International Airport for a flight to Tbilisi (450km, 1hr).
Arrive in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. Transfer to the hotel, where check-in begins at noon. After a rest, take a private walking tour of Old Tbilisi. Your tour begins at Metekhi Bridge and includes the following sights:

  • Metekhi Church (13th century), guarded by a statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali;
  • Cable car ride to Narikala Fortress (4th century), Georgia’s oldest citadel. Nearby stands the 20-meter-high statue of Kartlis Deda, Mother of Georgia;
  • Old Tbilisi’s narrow winding streets, on which you’ll see the famous Jumah Mosque;
  • Bridge of Lovers, situated near the cooling waters of the 22-meter-high Legvtakhevi Waterfall;
  • Historic Abanotubani District, where you’ll pass by the famous 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, a cartoonish landmark next to the city’s famous Reza Gabriadze Puppet Theater;
  • Anchiskhati Basilica Church (6th century), the oldest house of worship in Tbilisi;
  • Bridge of Peace, which spans the Kura River into Rike Park.
Overnight at the hotel in Tbilisi.
Meals provided: breakfast

After breakfast, transfer to Mtskheta (25km, 30min), ancient capital of Iberia, to visit two UNESCO 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 Mount Kazbek in Georgia (130km, 2hrs 30min) via Ananuri Castle.

  • Visit Ananuri Castle Complex (16th-17th centuries) and stand awestruck before a view of the Caucasus Mountains and Zhinvali Reservoir;
  • Stop for a quick photo shoot at the People’s Friendship Arch (1983);
  • Arrive in Stepantsminda for a drive up 2170 meters to Gergeti Holy Trinity Church (14th century), with Mount Kazbek looming before you at 5030 meters. Enjoy the view as you tour the church and belfry.
Overnight at the hotel in Gudauri.
Meals provided: breakfast
Drive in the morning to Uplistsikhe Cave Town (185km, 3hrs), built entirely from rock in the 1st millennium BC. Trace the civilizations that inhabited the town as you climb through homes, churches and even a secret tunnel.
Your next stop is Ateni Sioni Church (7th century), a remote Georgian Orthodox chapel famous for its frescoes.
Finish your tour in Gori, a town built in 1089-1125 and placed on the map by Joseph Stalin, who was born here in 1920. Visit Stalin Museum, which includes the house in which Stalin was born.
Drive to Tbilisi (100km, 1hr 30min). Overnight at the hotel in Tbilisi.
Meals provided: breakfast
In the morning, drive to Georgia’s wine country, Kakheti Region, via Gombori Pass (95km, 1hr 30min).
On the way, visit Akhali Shuamta Monastery Complex (5th and 16th centuries), site of two monasteries reflecting distinct architectural styles.
Drive to Telavi through picturesque rivers and valleys. Take a walking tour through Telavi’s charming streets to see the 900-year-old Giant Plane Tree and a monument of the 18th-century King Irakli II.
Drive to Tsinandali to tour Tsinandali Estate, which includes a garden and the House Museum of Prince Alexander Chavchavadze, the 19th-century poet and stateman who developed the manor.
Enjoy lunch and wine tasting at Shumi Georgian Winery and Museum, an ancient winery with a unique collection of wines that are made according to traditional methods in centuries-old qvevri vessels.
Continue to Sighnaghi, a Silk Road outpost in east Kakheti known as The City of Love.
Explore Bodbe Monastery Complex (9th century), one of Georgia’s most acclaimed religious sites and purported resting place of St. Nino, who is credited with converting Georgia to Christianity in the 4th century.
Return to Tbilisi (110km, 1hr 40min). Overnight at the hotel in Tbilisi.
Meals provided: breakfast, lunch, wine tasting

Free morning before transfer to Tbilisi International Airport for your flight to Yerevan (173km, 45min). Arrive in Yerevan, the 2800-year-old capital of Armenia, and transfer to the hotel.
With your private guide and driver, begin your city tour to the following:

  • Matenadaran, a.k.a the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, which holds nearly half of the world’s historic Armenian manuscripts, including original texts and early 5th-6th century writings;
  • Cascade Complex, whose 500 steps serve as a modern city symbol;
  • Holy Mother of God Katoghike Church (13th century), one of the city’s oldest churches which is famous for its engravings and its disappearance from the public eye on two occasions;
  • Republic Square, a famous plaza in the heart of Yerevan filled with fountains and historic buildings;
  • Megarian Carpet Museum, where you can observe the production of rugs and see colorful carpets from each region of Armenia.
Transfer back to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel in Yerevan.
Meals provided: breakfast

In the morning, meet your guide and driver for a trip to Garni in Kotayk Province (30km, 45min), to tour the following:

  • Garni Temple (1st century AD), ancient Temple of the Sun dedicated to Mithra which strongly mirrors architecture of the Greco-Roman Empire;
  • Garni Fortress (3rd-2nd centuries BC), the summer residence of Armenian kings which overlooks the Azat River from a height of 300 meters;
  • Mashtots Hayrapet Church (12th century), noted for its stone khachkars and pre-Christian carvings.
Depart Garni and drive to Geghard (10km, 20min).
Explore Geghard Monastery (4th century), also called Ayrivank Monastery. A UNESCO Site, it is famous for its bas-reliefs and stunning scenery. Explore its tunnels and see the spear believed to have pierced Christ's body.
Return to Yerevan (40km, 1hr). Overnight at the hotel in Yerevan.
Meals provided: breakfast
After breakfast, depart Yerevan for a scenic drive to Khor-Virap in southeast Armenia (45km, 50min).
  • Discover Khor-Virap Monastery (dates vary), located near Mt. Ararat in Artashat (Artaxata), ancient capital of Armenia. The site includes a monastery, chapel, monks’ cells and an old dungeon.

Drive to Noravank (75km, 1hr 20min).

  • Visit Noravank Monastery (13th century), located on a precipice near Zangezur Canyon. The complex includes St. Karapet Cathedral, St. Gregory and St. Astvatsatsin Sepulchers and cross-stone khachkars;
  • Explore nearby Areni Cave, where the world’s oldest shoe and winery were discovered;
  • Tour Areni Winery, one of Armenia’s most popular wineries, to taste wines distilled from apricots, grapes and pomegranates.
Return to Yerevan for drop-off at the hotel (110km, 2hrs). Overnight at the hotel in Yerevan.
Meals provided: breakfast, wine tasting
Free morning. Check out of the hotel by noon and transfer to Zvartnots International Airport. End of Stans and Caucasus on the Silk Road Tour.
Meals provided: breakfast
  • Round-trip airport transfers;
  • Private local guide;
  • Entrance fees to the sights as per itinerary;
  • Transportation throughout the tour;
  • Accommodation based on double/twin room at hotel (21 nights, with breakfast);
  • Bottled mineral water (1 liter per person per day);
  • unch and wine tasting on day 18 and wine tasting on day 21;
  • Economy class train tickets from Khiva-Bukhara and Bukhara-Samarkand (on rare occasions when the high-speed train is unavailable, we will replace it with a reservation on the regular train);
  • Round-trip airline ticket from Ashgabat-Mary and one-way airline ticket from Ashgabat-Dashoguz.
  • International flight tickets before and after the tour;
  • Flight tickets from Tashkent-Baku, Baku-Tbilisi and Tbilisi-Yerevan;
  • 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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