Five Golden Stans


    enquire now 29 Days From NZD $12,340 pp twinshare
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    This incredible journey will take you through the five “Stans” of Central Asia, across mountains and steppes, treading in the footsteps of those who travelled the ancient Silk Road with their caravans winding trails through the deserts, exchanging their wares and ideas, which has led to the extraordinary melting pot of cultures that exists in the region today.

    Itinerary

    Day 1: Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana)
    Our journey begins in Nur-Sultan formerly known as Astana – a living monument to modernity in Kazakhstan. The capital was recently renamed to honour it’s outgoing president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who served the nation for almost thirty years.

    Day 2: Nur-Sultan and to Almaty
    We explore the sights before boarding the train south to Almaty, perhaps still the country’s most important city and full of architectural wonders set against a backdrop of magnificent peaks. (B)

    Day 3: Almaty
    This morning we arrive in Almaty. Thanks to an abundance of natural resources, Almaty is a sophisticated patchwork of leafy avenues, European cafes, refined restaurants and glitzy shopping malls. (B)

    Day 4: To Karakol Via Charyn Canyon
    Our departure takes us to Charyn Canyon, a natural wonder said to rival the Grand Canyon. Then it’s on to Kyrgyzstan. In a land of celestial mountains and rolling pastures, yurt-dwelling nomadic spirits roam free. Explore the awe-inspiring scenery and learn about Kyrgyz culture. Across the border we arrive in Karakol. (B, L)

    Day 5: Karakol
    Today we visit a Chinese mosque, which was constructed in 1907, in the style of a Chinese temple for the local Dungans, yet was built in the Kyrgyz traditional wood feathering style instead of metal nail construction. We will also visit the striking Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, which was completed in 1895. In the afternoon we travel to the Valley of the Flowers and DJety-Oguz where we can enjoy a light hike through the magnificent canyon of red sandstone. (B, L)

    Day 6: Lake Issyk Kul and to Chon Kemin
    After breakfast we drive to Chon Kemin valley, a unique natural reserve where glaciers are bordered with coniferous forests and steppe. We see the contrast of green meadows in the valley permanent snow covering the ranges of Kungei-Ala-Too and Zailiyskiy-Ala-Too which tower above us. Tonight we’ll experience Kyrgyz hospitality in a guesthouse in the quaint village Ashu. (B, D)

    Day 7: To Bishkek
    After a walk in the foothills, we continue on to Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek. Along the way we stop to wander around the Burana Tower, before spending the evening enjoying Bishkek’s many parks and intriguing soviet buildings. (B)

    Day 8: Bishkek – Ala Archa National Park
    We experience a Kyrgyz alpine adventure in Ala Archa National Park. Take a rewarding trek to rushing rivers, waterfalls and glaciers. The park is high altitude and much cooler than Bishkek – to enjoy it fully, bring proper footwear and clothing. (B)

    Day 9: Toktogul
    Our final highlights in Kyrgyzstan are Toktogul Lake reached via mountain passes at 3000m. You will drive over the Too-Ashu Pass and through Suusamyr valley to see the sparkling waters. (B, D)

    Day 10: To Osh
    In Osh we visit the bazaar, still the largest market in Central Asia. You walk along the colorful rows of Golden market, watch black smiths working and smell aromas of spices, fruits and vegetables of Food market. Sulaiman Mount, towering above the city remains one of the main shrines of the Islamic world and we follow the way of all pilgrims up to the top of the hill to see the little mosque of Babur, The Great Moghul Dynasty founder and to take in a bird’s eye view of the city. (B, L)

    Day 11: Kyzyl Bel Border to Khujand
    Our third “Stan” awaits as we cross into Tajikistan and drive to Khujand, one of the oldest cities in Central Asia, dating back about 2,500 years. It is situated on the Syr Darya at the mouth of the Fergana Valley and was a major city along the ancient Silk Road. (B)

    Day 12: Khujand
    The city will delight, not only with the intricate woodcarvings of the region but also with the vast array of ancient monuments; the fortress, palace and mosque as well as Panjshanbe bazaar, considered as one of the oldest markets of the region. (B)

    Day 13: Khujand to Dushanbe
    Leaving the northern capital of Tajikistan we travel to Dushanbe via Istaravshan. Located in the northern foothills of the Turkistan mountain range, Istaravshan is one of the oldest cities in Tajikistan and offers an opportunity to interact with local Tajiks and see local craftsmen at work. (B)

    Day 14: Dushanbe
    Dazzling Dunshanbe awaits where we explore the national history, including a visit to see ancient fortress of Hissor, one of the most precious historical sites of Tajikistan. (B)

    Day 15: Iskanderkul Lake and Penjikent
    Continuing to Penjikent, an ancient city from the 5 century BC, via the beautiful Iskanderkul lake. According to the legend, the Lake was named after Alexander the Great, known as Iskander in the East. They say that Alexander the Great’s path to Central Asia from India laid through this lake. (B, D)

    Day 16: To Samarkand
    After a morning city tour of Penjikent and Excursion to the Seven Lakes, we depart Tajikistan bound for Golden Uzbekistan. (B)

    Day 17: Samarkand
    Samarkand, often considered the jewel in the crown of Central Asia awaits. Registan Square is truly unrivalled in its magnificence, a far cry from the “sandy place” from which its name derives. Stand in wonderment at the glittering mosques and madrassahs, and awe inspiring monuments of Amir Timur’s time. (B)

    Day 18: Bukhara
    Today we journey via Shakhrisabz, birthplace of Timur and still symbolic of the power he commanded over the region. Visit Ak Saroy Palace – the greatest palace, built by Tamerlane, similar in structure to Samarkand’s Bibi Khanum Mosque, but unparalled in size and decoration. The inscription survived only in part, yet the ruined entrance towers stand in monumental testimony to an age of power writ large on tiled canvas. (B, L)

    Day 19: Bukhara
    Bukhara, an incredible city, home to hundreds of monuments, from the soaring Poi Kalon Minaret ensemble, to the Ark Fortress, architectural wonder of the Samanid Mausoleum and Chor Minor located close by the tranquil resting spot of Lyabi-hauz. Take some tea under the mulberry trees to reflect on all that you have seen so far. Don’t miss out on a visit to the bazaar to choose your silk carpet to provide a lasting memory of this journey. (B)

    Day 20: Bukhara
    Today we venture out of town to visit the Sitora-i-Mokhikhosa, the summer residence of the former emir of Bukhara where you can see unique mixture of traditional Russian style of architecture harmoniously mixed with local oriental traditions. (B)

    Day 21: Welcome to Turkmenistan
    Turkmenistan, our final country, awaits as we cross the border to Mary our gateway to the ancient city of Merv. (B)

    Day 22: To Ashgabat via Merv
    One of the major archaeological sites of Central Asia, Merv played an important part in the development of the Silk Road for more than 2,000 years. Then it’s on to the capital city of Ashgabat. (B)

    Day 23: Ashgabat
    Ashgabat is a shimmering metropolis, its marble and gold mimicking the opulence of Dubai. Visit grandiose monuments then head to the old quarter where the city comes to life. This secretive fantasy land has its quirks, but you’ll find warm hospitality among its multicultural people. (B)

    Day 24: To Darvaza Crater
    A highlight of the journey awaits with a visit to the Darvaza flaming crater which, at daylight, seems a hole in the ground but by night transforms into the doors of hell, a fire temple, or any other mysteriously spectacular place. We spend the night under canvas enjoying delicious nomadic food in the light of the flickering flames. (B, D)

    Day 25: to Khiva via Shavat Border
    Today we awake refreshed from our night under the stars and our journey continues. This morning we’ll get the chance to explore Kunya-Urgench, once the glorious capital of the Khorezmshah Empire, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (B)

    Day 26: Khiva
    Today we find ourselves back in Uzbekistan in the living museum of Khiva. Made for walking, you will discover all the major sights of the Ichan Kala, the citadel, where we will see the truncated Kalta Minor minaret, the Kunya Arkand many more. We climb the city walls to look out across the town and the desert beyond. (B)

    Day 27: Overnight train to Tashkent
    In the afternoon we board our overnight train to our final destination, Tashkent, who cleverly juggles its cultural and historical past, the Soviet era’s impact and modern day lifestyles. (B)

    Day 28: Tashkent
    Tashkent is one of the oldest and largest cities in Central Asia, the Uzbek capital since 1930, and very much a showpiece of Soviet and post-soviet architecture. Although much of the Old City was lost to an earthquake, Tashkent still retains some of its ancient treasures. Visit the Madrasah Kukeldash – an Islamic School that sits beside the 15th century Jume Mosque, the Museum of Applied Arts where the colourful building is an attraction in itself, see the statue of the 14th century national hero, Amir Temur (Tamerlane) on horseback in Armir Temur Square.  Get amongst the hyper-activity of the Chorsu Baazar found in the unique complex of trade halls crowned with magnificent blue domes. This is one of the oldest and largest Bazaar’s in central Asia. Gather around one of the steaming street kitchens and sample some Plov, the king of Uzbek cuisine. (B)

    Day 29: Tashkent
    Our journey ends in Tashkent and we reflect on this monumental journey through countries, broken by borders but united in history and peoples. (B)

    Inclusions

    • Meals: 27 breakfasts; 4 lunches; 8 dinners
    • Transfers: All transfers including to and from the airport.
    • Accommodation: 25 hotel / guesthouse (twin share); 1 tent; 2 train; Optional single supplement available for hotel stays on this journey – prices available on request.
    • Sightseeing: Comprehensive schedule of sightseeing with certified Local Guides. You’ll have a generous sprinkling of free time to relax or explore on your own.
    • Expertise: An experienced Tour Leader accompanies the whole journey to keep your adventure on track. Local Guides are native to each destination and as certified professionals will share their immense knowledge with you. 24/7 support is available in the office and on the ground.

    SD2020

    Images courtesy of Sundowners