12-Day Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan Tour

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

Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan share much more than just a border. Both countries are virtually crime-free and safe for travelers, and in both locales travelers can experience unique features of Central Asian Muslims - religious tolerance, absence of strict formality in dress, and a hospitable, foreigner-friendly attitude. At the same time, tourists will likely be struck by the contrast in language, cuisine and infrastructure between these sister countries as they experience an eye-opening reality of the infinite depth and variety of Central Asian Turkic cultures.
Join us on the 12-Day Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan Tour to travel by plane, train, car and foot through boundless deserts outposts and the glories of well-preserved masterpieces in Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. Roam the enduring bazaars of Ashgabat and Tashkent in search of tasty fruits and handcrafted souvenirs. Stand mesmerized by the forlorn remains of Merv and Kunya-Urgench and the fiery depths of Darvaza Gas Crater. Yet the greatest treasure to be discovered in these lands is the enduring, heartfelt hospitality of its citizens.

Arrive in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Transfer to the hotel, where check-in begins at noon, and have a rest after your flight. 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 Timur 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
After breakfast, transfer to the train station to take the Tashkent - Samarkand train (330km, 2.5hrs). You’ll be met at the Samarkand station for transfer to the hotel. Check-in to the hotel and begin your tour of Samarkand, a contemporary of ancient Rome with a history dating back 2500 years. The private tour will include:
  • 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 in Samarkand.
Tour duration: 6-7 hours
Breakfast at the hotel. Your sightseeing tour of Samarkand region will continue to the following:
  • 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!
Overnight in Samarkand.
Total duration: 4-5 hours
Breakfast at the hotel before taking the morning train to Bukhara (280km, 1.5hrs). Arrive in Bukhara and transfer to your hotel in the Old City, an area resembling a scene from Arabian Nights.
Enjoy a walking tour of the most impressive sights of Bukhara’s Old City:
  • 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
Have breakfast. Continue your tour of Bukhara to the following locations:
  • Chor Minor (Four Minarets), an unusual madrassah built by Niyazkul in the 18th century, 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 boasting of a blend of Oriental and Russian architecture.
  • Bakhautdin Naqsband Mausoleum, an ensemble dedicated to the founder of the Sufi Order "Naqshbandia"; the site includes a mausoleum, mosque, pond, and museum.
  • Chor-Bakr Necropolis, (City of the Dead, 10th century), ancient burial grounds which were developed into a memorial complex in the 1500s.
Free time in the evening to rest or roam Old Bukhara’s labyrinth of roads. Overnight in Bukhara.
Tour duration: approximately 4 hours
Breakfast and depart for the Alat-Farab border crossing from Uzbekistan to Turkmenistan (100km, 1.5hrs). After completing border formalities, cross the 1.5-kilometer neutral zone. Your Turkmen guide will meet you at the border and continue to Merv (270km, 4hrs), an ancient trade center on the Great Silk Road and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your 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, drive to Mary (35km, 40min). Overnight in Mary.
Tour duration: 4-5 hours
Enjoy free time in the morning followed by a visit to the city’s main mosque and the Mary History Museum. Housed in a marble hall, the museum has six main exhibition rooms holding ancient and modern artifacts.
Transfer to the airport for an evening flight to Ashgabat (370km, 40min). Overnight in Ashgabat.
After breakfast, meet your guide and driver at the hotel for a half-day of sightseeing in the capital:
  • 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.
Transfer to the hotel after your tour. Overnight in Ashgabat.
Tour duration: approximately 5 hours
Free time in the morning. Drive in the afternoon to Darvaza Gas Crater (275km, 4hrs), also known as the Door to Hell. Enjoy the drive through the Karakum Desert, stopping to take photos of sand dunes and camels along the way.
Arrive at the crater in the evening to enjoy a spectacular sunset view before admiring the crater’s flames against a pitch-black sky. The fire crater is about 80 meters in diameter and 30 meters deep, and staring into this ‘Door to Hell’ with your own eyes is an experience like no other. Set up camp and enjoy a meal cooked over the fire as you lounge near the burning crater.
Overnight at Darvaza in tents or a yurt.
Wake up early to see the sunrise and enjoy a camp-style breakfast before continuing your journey. Before leaving the desert, you’ll stop to visit a nearby mud and water crater.
Depart for Kunya-Urgench, capital of the Khorezmshah Dynasty (270km, 4hrs). 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.
Tour Duration: 2-3 hours
After breakfast, begin your walking tour of Khiva’s architectural complex Ichan Kala, 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 Kala;
  • 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 Kala;
  • 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.
Drive to Urgench (35km, 45min) for an evening flight to Tashkent (1093km, 1hr,20min). Arrive in Tashkent and transfer to the hotel. Overnight in Tashkent.
Tour duration: approximately 6 hours
Free morning. Check out of the hotel by noon and transfer to Tashkent International Airport for your outbound flight.
End of 12-Day Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan Tour.
If you would like to extend your tour an extra day, we would be happy to offer you a one-day trip to Chimgan Mountain and Charvak Lake, just 90 kilometers from Tashkent.
In the morning, depart Tashkent for the Chimgan Mountains in Ugam-Chatkal National Park (130km, 2hrs). Enjoy the picturesque drive, stopping for photo ops at the most scenic overlooks along the way.
Upon arrival, have a short walk before continuing to the shores of Charvak Reservoir to bask in the sun and soak up the magnificent view.
Drive down the well-known Serpentine Road to have a hot lunch at a local restaurant. Before returning to Tashkent, stop by the Ugam River to dip your feet in its cool mountain waters and take a few final photos.
Drop-off at your Tashkent hotel.
Tour duration: approximately 7 hours

Optional Activities:

Ride the cable cars in Beldersay Gorge to Kumbel Peak (3km). Note: the cable cars do not always function on weekdays and may have long lines on weekends.
Horse or donkey rides.
Swimming and/or paragliding at Charvak Lake (summertime only).

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