Ancient Cities of the Orient Tour

Tashkent, Ellik Kala, Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand

Uzbekistan’s history reaches back thousands of years, and today there are countless relics preserved in both its cities and deserted corners that give us astounding glimpses of the life and accomplishments of our predecessors in this region. The desert fortresses that comprise the Golden Ring of Ancient Khorezm; the Ark Fortress where powerful emirs once ruled; the 2,000-year old remains of Ming Urik that now sit in the middle of a modern capital city; and the exquisite tomb of Tamerlane, whose exterior rivals many palaces, are all vestiges of former great empires.
The Ancient Cities of the Orient Tour is a 9-day expedition to Uzbekistan’s most famed destinations in Tashkent, Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and the Kyzylkum Desert. You’ll tour sights that are revered by historians, studied by archeologists, admired by travelers and preserved with pride by the people of Uzbekistan. Customize your tour by choosing the group size, time of departure and budget option best suited for you, and come prepared for a remarkable journey!

Arrive in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, where a driver will help you to transfer to your hotel. Hotel check-in begins at noon, followed by a free day in Tashkent.
Overnight in Tashkent.
Your guide and driver will pick you up from your hotel to begin your Tashkent city tour. Your private tour 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 (all 15th century);
  • Visit to Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent’s most well-established bazaar that includes a large selection of traditional Uzbek 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;
  • Independence Square, including the touching World War II Mourning Mother Monument and the Eternal Flame;
  • Ming Urik settlement, a stratified archaeological site holding 2000 years of history in the middle of Tashkent city;
  • 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: approximately 5 hours
After breakfast you’ll take a Tashkent to Urgench flight from the domestic airport (1093 km, 1 hr 40 min).
Upon arrival in Urgench your driver will meet you at the airport to take you on a tour of Ellik Kala Region (80 km, 1-1.5 hrs). This area holds the Desert Castles of Ancient Khorezm, historically significant fortresses built during the height of the Kushan dynasty. Your drive will include stops at three major fortresses:
  • Kyzyl Kala Fortress, a remnant of antique history from the Kushan dynasty;
  • Toprak Kala, one of the most unique monuments in all Khorezm due to its size and architecture, which served as the capital of Khorezm in the 3rd century AD;
  • Ayaz Kala, a Zoroastrian complex that holds on of the largest fortresses in Khorezm, with ruins dating from 4th century BC – 2nd century AD.
End your day at a yurt camp, where you’ll enjoy a local meal while stargazing under the desert sky. Overnight at the yurt camp.
(Note: no guide will accompany you on Day 3).
After breakfast drive to Khiva (110 km, 2 hrs), stopping along the way for photos of sand dunes in the Kyzylkum Desert. Check-in to your Khiva hotel around noon and begin your walking tour within Khiva’s Ichan Kala Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to visit its most famous places:
  • 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 “the short tower”;
  • Muhammad Amin-Khan, the largest medieval madrasah in Khiva;
  • Muhammad Rahim Khan Madrasah, one of the largest madrasahs in all of Central Asia;
  • Juma Mosque (Friday Mosque), with 212 wooden columns and a minaret 32.5 meters high;
  • Tash-Hauli (Stone Courtyard) Palace, resembling a fortress with high battlements, towers and fortified gates;
  • Pahlavan Mahmud Necropolis, the former religious center of Ichan Kala;
  • Minaret and madrasah of Islam Khodja, the vizier of the last khan. This ensemble includes a madrasah and a minaret with a viewing platform 45 meters high, the highest observation point in town.
Overnight in Khiva.
Tour duration: 6 hours
After breakfast, head to the railway station for your morning departure to Bukhara (390 km, 7.5 hrs). Your train will take a similar route as that of the Great Silk Road, which also ran through this 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.
Have a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before your private walking tour of the Old City’s most impressive sights:
  • The Lyabi-Hauz ensemble holds the largest artificial reservoir of medieval Bukhara (14th-17th centuries). This ensemble includes some of the largest madrasahs in Bukhara: the Khanaka Madrasah, Kukeldash Madrasah and Nadir Divan Beghi Madrasah (all 16th century);
  • The Magoki-Attori Mosque is the oldest mosque in Bukhara (12th century);
  • Walk through the four Trade Domes (15th-16th centuries), where you can join your traveling predecessors in purchasing carpets, jewelry, fabrics, ceramics and other handmade souvenirs;
  • Continue your city tour of Bukhara to the Poi Kalyan Ensemble (12th-16th centuries), consisting of the Kalyan Minaret, Kalyan Mosque, Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah and Miri-Arab Madrasah;
  • Explore the relatively untouched Ulugbek Madrasah (15th century) and Abdulazizkhan Madrasah (17th century);
  • Head to the Ark Fortress (4th century), the ancient center of Bukharin statehood and currently home to a small museum;
  • Stop by the Bolo-Khauz Complex, consisting of an artfully decorated 18th century mosque, a minaret and reservoirs that once provided water for the entire city;
  • Complete your city tour of Bukhara at the Samanids Mausoleum (9th-10th centuries), 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 Gijduvon (50 km, 1hr), a small town whose traditional crafts and ceramics have been sought after in Central Asia for centuries due to their quality and colorful, decorative style.
Continue driving to Samarkand (240 km, 3.5 hrs). Along the way, stop by the Rabat-i-Malik Caravanserai ruins and Sardoba, an ancient reservoir.
Arrive in Samarkand, the 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 and check out before your Samarkand tour. Your guide will meet you at the hotel to begin your tour of Samarkand to all of its most renowned sites:
  • 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 and souvenir stores;
  • 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 twenty small mausoleums that line the broad alleyway;
  • Gur Emir, the imposing burial site of Tamerlane and Mirzo Ulugbek;
  • Ulugbek Observatory, where you can see the remains of a 14th-15th century sextant and tour the Ulugbek Museum.
After your Samarkand tour you’ll be taken to the railway station to catch your train to Tashkent (330 km, 2 hrs 15 min). Upon arrival in Tashkent, a driver will meet you and bring you to your hotel. Overnight in Tashkent.
Tour Duration: 6-7 hours
Check out of the hotel by noon. Your driver will take you to the airport for your departure flight. End of the Ancient Cities of the Orient Tour.

Prices in US$

Travellers 1234
Transfers 630380420350
Hotels standard 660440440440
Hotels budget 535375375375
City tour 480280240200
Single supplement for Standard: US$ 220 | for Budget: US$ 155
  • Transfers:

    Airport and train station transfers; Transfers between Urgench to Ellik Kala, Ellik Kala to Khiva and Bukhara to Samarkand (1-2 ppl in sedan; 3-8 in minivan);
    Economy class flight tickets from Tashkent to Urgench (flight times subject to change based upon availability);
    Economy class train tickets for the Khiva to Bukhara and Samarkand to Tashkent routes (on rare occasions when the high-speed train is unavailable, we will replace it with a reservation on the regular train).

  • Accommodation:

    Accommodation based on double/twin room at hotel (7 nights, with breakfast) and yurt camp, shared room (1 night, with lunch, dinner and breakfast);

  • City tour

    Private, local English-speaking guide and entrance fees to the sights as per itinerary on days 2, 4, 6 and 8;
    Transportation during the city tour on day 2 and 8 (1-2 ppl in sedan; 3-8 in minivan);

  • Tour leader to accompany the travellers for the whole period of the tour;
  • Consular fees for Uzbekistan tourist visa and Letter of invitation;
  • International flight tickets before and after the tour;
  • Tips are not included (driver, guide, porter);
  • Hotel charges for additional services;
  • Full board (lunches and dinners);
  • Travel insurance;
  • All other charges and services not mentioned under “Inclusion”.

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