Desert Yurts and Mountain Villages Tour

Aydarkul Lake, Nurata, Sarmish, Gijduvan

The Nurata Mountains of central Uzbekistan have been inhabited since the times of Alexander the Great, and today these villages appear frozen in time, a living depiction of eras long past. Women still cook outdoors, bake their own bread and milk the cows while the men farm, shepherd and build houses from stone and clay. Nearby, yurt camps have sprung up near the life-giving waters of Aydarkul Lake, recollecting these nomadic peoples’ valuable ancestral heritage.
The Desert Yurts and Mountain Villages Tour is a truly unique experience, an excellent opportunity to witness the life of local villagers in a peaceful environ. In between camping in yurts, swimming in the cool waters of Aydarkul Lake and overnighting with a local village family, this tour will take you to the petroglyphs of Sarmish, a ceramic workshop in Gijduvan and the quiet streets of remote mountain enclaves, an ideal three-day getaway from the bustle of city life.

In the morning, a driver will pick you up from your hotel to take you to a yurt camp located in the Kyzylkum Desert (Red Sand Desert). Stop along the way to see these historical treasures:

  • Gijduvan (50km, 1hr), a small town whose ceramic museum and workshop displays the city’s famous pottery, sought after for centuries due to its high quality and colorful, decorative style.
  • Rabat-i-Malik Caravanserai ruins and Sardoba, an ancient reservoir (50km, 1hr).
  • Sarmish (50km, 1hr), an open-air museum of petroglyphs.
  • Nurata village (80km, 1.5hrs), complete with a local mosque known for its holy spring waters and the ruins of a fortress built by Alexander the Great.

Continue to the yurt camp (70km, 1hr). After arriving to the camp, you’ll have free time for camel rides, resting or walking among the dunes.
Enjoy dinner around a campfire in the evening while a Kazakh akin (skilled improvised singer) entertains with folk songs.
Overnight in the yurt after star gazing in the endless desert sky.
Meals provided: dinner*

Optional Activity:
Take a short camel ride to the nearby village Dungalak (1.5 km, 30 min), where you’ll help to bake traditional naan bread. Walk around the village to get a glimpse of daily life before returning to the camp (Cost: app. 20 USD).

In the morning visit Aydarkul Lake (5km). Walk along the shore or go for a swim in its clear waters.
Have lunch at the yurt camp before driving to one of several small villages in the Nurata Mountains (130km, 2hrs). Each village is in remote, picturesque mountain territory with fresh air, green orchards and friendly people.
Take a walk around the village and learn about the daily life of its people.
Overnight with a local family.
Meals provided: breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner

Optional Activity:
Take a guided hike to a waterfall, stopping to look at petroglyphs on the way. (6-7 km, 2-3hrs one way; app. 20USD; available from select villages only).

Spend the morning relaxing in the village – go for a hike, ride a donkey, help with preparing traditional food, or simply drink tea and read a book under the shade of a walnut tree.
In the afternoon, say goodbye to your host family and drive to Samarkand (230km, 4hrs).
Arrive in Samarkand for drop-off at your hotel. End of Desert Yurts and Mountain Villages Tour.
Meals provided: breakfast, lunch

* Note: While filling meals are provided at the yurt camp, all snacks should be bought in advance and brought with you, as the yurt camp is in a remote area with no shops or vending machines available.

Price includes:

  • Transportation throughout the tour (1-3 ppl in sedan; 4-8 in minivan);
  • Accommodation in a yurt camp and homestay, shared room (2 nights);
  • Meals (2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners).

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