11-Day Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan Tour

11
Days
Ashgabat, Mary, Merv, Kunya-Urgench, Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent

Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most-visited destination, and Turkmenistan, the least-visited post-Soviet nation, are oddly the most popular combination of dual-country destinations in the region. Both countries share a similar climate and an extensive border, making joint travel to them a sensible choice. At the same time, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan offer their visitors varied landscapes, distinct cultures and unique historical sites, ensuring a diverse variety of experiences from start to finish.
On the 11-Day Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan Tour you’ll traverse the boundless desert by train and car as you travel to historical Nissa, Kunya-Urgench and Merv, whose spellbinding remains invite exploration and discovery. Meanwhile Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand offer dazzling medieval architecture, narrow Old City alleyways and Uzbek culture at its finest. Begin and end your trip in capital cities Ashgabat and Tashkent, whose lush parks, fine restaurants and clean, shady streets will refresh your body and soul.

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 the following:
  • Old Nisa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former capital of the Parthian Empire, founded in the 3rd century BC and remaining in power for nearly 500 years.
  • Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque, the largest mosque in Central Asia. Also referred to as the Spiritual Mosque and the Gypjak Mosque, it includes a mausoleum with the tombs of former president Turkmenbashy and his immediate family members.
  • Arch of Neutrality, a 95-meter-high tower topped with a gold statue of former president Saparmurat Niyazov (Turkmenbashy) that rotates to face the sun. Ride to the top in a funicular to tour a small museum and enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
  • Independence Park, including the yurt-shaped Independence Monument housing the Museum of National Values. The museum is surrounded by lavish fountains, 27 statues of Turkmenistan’s key historical figures and a golden sculpture of Niyazov himself.
  • Statue of Lenin, unique in that it stands on a large base ornately decorated in traditional Turkmen ornamentation.
  • National Museum of History, displaying over half a million items from every region of the country, including rare artifacts from ancient times through the Middle Ages.
  • Gulistan Bazaar (also known as the Russian Bazaar), one of the oldest markets in the city, a clean yet lively place to buy snacks and mingle with local shoppers.
After your tour, transfer to the hotel. Overnight in Ashgabat.
Tour duration: approximately 5 hours
Take an early morning flight from Ashgabat to Mary (370km, 40min). Upon arrival your guide and driver will meet you for your drive to Merv (40km, 40min), an ancient trade center on the Great Silk Road and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your guided sightseeing tour of Merv will include:
  • Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum (12th century) – considered by many to be the most majestic architectural monument of Merv, it displays amazing architectural craftsmanship for its day.
  • Greater Kyz Kala and Lesser Kyz Kala (8th-9th centuries) - These unique fortified homes are built of mud brick, with no known archeological equivalents.
  • Askhab Mausoleums (9th-12th centuries) - Built for two of the prophet Muhammad’s earliest disciples, the Askhab Mausoleums are one of Turkmenistan’s most important pilgrimage sites today.
  • Erk Kala (6th century BC), the seat of ancient Merv and its oldest settlement, whose remaining walls are nearly 30 meters high. Climb the walls for a great view of the surrounding area.
  • Gyaur Kala (3rd century BC) - Merv’s second oldest settlement, famous for its thick, 2-kilometer long walls.
  • Beni Makhan Mosque and cistern (7th- 9th centuries) - Also called the Juma Mosque, it’s located in the center of ancient Gyaur Kala, along with an intact cistern that still functions today.
  • Muhammad Ibn Zeid Mausoleum (12th century) - A popular Sufi shrine known for its symmetrical architecture and Arabic inscriptions chiseled into its walls.
After completing the tour of Old Merv, return to Mary to visit the Mary History Museum. Housed in a marble hall, the museum has six main exhibition rooms holding artifacts from ancient and modern times.
Transfer to the airport upon completion of the tour. Return to Ashgabat on the evening flight (370km, 40min). Overnight in Ashgabat.
Tour duration: approximately 5 hours
Take an early morning flight to Dashoguz (570km, 50min). Upon arrival, your driver and guide will meet you at the airport to begin your drive to Kunya-Urgench, ancient capital of the Khorezm Empire (120km, 1hr,30min). Your tour will include:
  • Visit to the Tyurabek-Khanym Mausoleum (14th century), burial site of a Mongolian princess, and the Sayid Ahmed Mausoleum (14th century), burial place of a leader of the Golden Horde.
  • Discovery of the Kutlug Timur Minaret (11th-13th centuries), which at 62 meters is the tallest minaret in Central Asia.
  • Travel to the 12th-century Sultan Tekesh Mausoleum of Khorezmshakh.
  • Exploration of Kyrk Molla Hill (Forty Mullahs Hill), a fortress covering three hectares of land that includes the famous Mamun Library (8th-9th centuries) and an ancient cemetery believed to hold present-day healing powers.
  • Walk through the Fakhreddin Razi Mausoleum (a.k.a. mausoleum of Arslan II, 13th century), a rare survivor of the Mongol invasion and one of the oldest, most unique structures in all Central Asia.
  • Drive to the Mausoleum of Najmaddin Kubra (12th century),founder of the Sufi order Kubrawiya and a favorite pilgrimage site for visiting Muslims.
  • Walk through the Sultan Ali Mausoleum (16th century), a half-completed structure intended for a powerful Turkmen ruler but left unfinished due to ongoing war.
Drive to the Dashoguz-Shavat border crossing from Turkmenistan into Uzbekistan. Go through border formalities and cross the 1.5 kilometer (app.1 mile) neutral zone. Meet your driver in Uzbekistan and continue the tour with a drive to Khiva (60km,1 hour), known as Central Asia’s "Museum under the Open Sky".
Arrival in Khiva and check in to the hotel. Overnight in Khiva.
After breakfast, begin your walking tour of Khiva’s architectural complex Ichan-Qala, the city’s historical center and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city complex, which has been almost completely preserved for the past 1500 years, includes:
  • Kunya-Ark Fortress, the inner citadel of Ichan-Qala;
  • Kalta Minor Tower, which would have been the tallest minaret in Central Asia had construction been completed; its name literally means “Short Tower”;
  • Muhammad Amin-Khan and Mukhammad Rahimkhan Madrasah, the largest medieval madrasahs in Khiva;
  • Juma Mosque, built with 212 wooden columns and a minaret 32.5 meters high;
  • Tash-Hauli Palace (Stone Courtyard Palace), which resembles a fortress with high battlements, towers and fortified gates;
  • Necropolis of Pahlavan Mahmud, ancient religious center of Ichan-Qala;
  • Residence of Islam Khodja, personal advisor of the last khan. The complex consists of a madrasah and a minaret whose top platform has a height of 45 meters, the highest observation point in town.
Overnight in Khiva.
Tour duration: approximately 6 hours
After breakfast, head to the railway station for your morning departure to Bukhara (470km, 6hrs)*. Your train will take a similar route as that of the Great Silk Road, running through the Kyzylkum Desert between Khiva and Bukhara.
Arrive in Bukhara in the afternoon, where your driver will meet you at the station to take you to your hotel.
Enjoy free time as you explore the old streets of Bukhara, whose alleyways resemble a living depiction of “A Thousand and One Nights”. Overnight in Bukhara.
*Alternative transportation is a private car and driver; the road takes 7 hours and also passes through the Kyzylkum Desert.
*Since there is only one cafe on the way, you might want to consider preparing a packed lunch before this trip.
Have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before your private walking tour of the Old City’s most impressive sights:
  • Lyabi-Hauz Ensemble, holding the largest artificial reservoir of medieval Bukhara (14th-17th centuries). This ensemble includes some of the largest madrassahs in the city: the Khanaka Madrassah, Kukeldash Madrassah and Nadir Divan Beghi Madrassah (all 16th century).
  • Magoki-Attori Mosque, the oldest mosque in Bukhara (12th century).
  • Four Trade Domes (15th-16th centuries), which still house local handicrafts for sale.
  • Poi Kalyan Ensemble (12th-16th centuries), consisting of the Kalyan Minaret, Kalyan Mosque, Amir-Alimkhan Madrasah and Miri-Arab Madrasah.
  • Ulugbek Madrasah (15th century) and Abdulazizkhan Madrasah (17th century), relatively untouched yet impressive religious schools.
  • Ark Fortress (4th century), the ancient center of Bukharan statehood and currently home to a small museum.
  • Bolo-Khauz Complex, consisting of an artfully decorated 18th century mosque, a minaret and reservoirs that once provided water for the entire city.
  • Samanids Mausoleum (9th-10th centuries), believed to be the most ancient brick building in Central Asia, and the Chashma Ayub Mausoleum.
Overnight in Bukhara.
Tour duration: 6-7 hours
Check out of your hotel after breakfast and drive to Shakhrisabz (270km, 4hrs). Upon arrival, your guide will meet you to start city tour of Shakhrisabz, where you’ll visit:
  • Downtown Shakhrisabz, unique for its town layout and architecture;
  • Dorus Saodat Memorial Complex, which includes the Jahongir and Omar Sheikh Mausoleum and the 14th-century Khazratiy Imam Mosque;
  • Dor-ut Tilovat Ensemble, including Kok-Gumbaz Mosque (Blue-Domed Mosque) and the burial vault of Tamerlane’s father;
  • Ruins of the Ak-Saray Palace (White Palace), Tamerlane's summer residence that was considered an astounding work of art by his 14th-15th century contemporaries.
Drive to Samarkand via the Tahtakaracha Pass (85km, 2hrs). Arrive in Samarkand, capital of Tamerlane's Empire. Check in to the hotel and have a free evening to rest or explore the neighborhood. Overnight in Samarkand.
Breakfast at the hotel before beginning your private tour of Samarkand, a 2500-year-old city, to the following sites:
  • Gur Emir, the imposing burial site of Tamerlane and Mirzo Ulugbek.
  • Registan Square, the commercial center of Samarkand for centuries and Samarkand’s most famous site today. The square includes three madrasahs: Ulugbek Madrasah (15th century), Sher-Dor Madrasah (17th century) and Tilla-Kori Madrasah (17th century).
  • A boulevard lined with workshops, souvenir stores and ice cream stands.
  • Bibi Khanum Mosque, built by Tamerlane for his favorite wife.
  • Siab Bazaar, a multi-level complex where you can shop for souvenirs and sample sweets, fruits and Samarkand’s famous bread.
  • Shakhi-Zinda, a burial complex built between the 9th-14th centuries. Climb the blue-domed path and explore more than 20 small mausoleums that line the broad alleyway.
  • Ulugbek Observatory, where you can see the remains of a 14th-15th century sextant and tour the Ulugbek Museum.
Overnight at the hotel.
Tour duration: 6-7 hours
Breakfast and check out of the hotel. Your sightseeing tour of Samarkand will continue with trips to these culturally significant sights:
  • Visit to the excavation site and museum of the ancient city Afrosiab.
  • Tour of Khodja Daniyar Mausoleum, believed to be the tomb of the prophet Daniel, whose remains were brought here by Tamerlane.
  • Drive to Konigil Village to observe the traditional way of making Samarkand paper from mulberry leaves.
  • Excursion to the Oriental Silk Carpet Factory to see firsthand how top-quality carpets are created. You can even learn basic skills from the masters and try carpet-weaving yourself!
Transfer to the railway station to catch the afternoon train to Tashkent (330km, 2.5hrs). You’ll be met at the Tashkent station and taken to the hotel. Overnight in Tashkent.
Tour duration: 4-5 hours
Your guide and driver will pick you up from your hotel to begin your Tashkent city tour, which will include:
  • Excursion to the Old City, including the Khazret-Imam Architectural Complex, which holds the oldest known Quran in the world. Also on site are the Madrasah of Barak-Khan (16th century), Tillya-Sheykh Mosque, Juma Mosque and Mausoleum of Saint Abu Bakr Kaffal Shashi (15th century).
  • Visit to Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent’s most well-established bazaar that includes a large selection of traditional ceramics, jewelry, handbags, garments and more.
  • Ride on the Tashkent Metro, an immaculate subway system with each station decorated in colored mosaics and ceramics to depict a specific theme.
  • Walk through Amir Temur Square, with a massive statue of none other than Tamerlane himself at the center.
  • Explore Independence Square, including the moving Mourning Mother Monument and the Eternal Flame, burning continuously in memory of more than half a million Uzbek soldiers who died during World War II.
  • Drive to the Sacred Heart Cathedral, a 20th-century Roman Catholic Church with beautiful stained-glass windows and Gothic-style architecture.
  • Tour of the Applied Arts Museum, an informative collection of Uzbekistan’s finest handicrafts housed in an ornately decorated villa.
Overnight in Tashkent.
Tour duration: 4-5 hours
Free morning. Check out of the hotel by noon and transfer to Tashkent International Airport for your outbound flight, departing Uzbekistan with sweet memories! End of 11-Day Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan Tour.

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