samarkand bukhara mosques

Samarkand and Bukhara have a stunning architectural legacy

Exquisite mosaics and blue-tiled domes are characteristic of Central Asian mosques.

Photo by Galyna Andrushko / 123RF

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Central Asia Explorer

A Cultural Odyssey to Samarkand and Beyond
Repertory Trip: No Future Dates Set

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: TBA  
Length: 24 days
Arrive: Almaty, Kazakhstan
Depart: Ashkabat, Turkmenistan
Lodging: 23 nights in best-available hotels and guest houses
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: Cultural exploration and walking tours, rugged road travel


  • Issyk-Kul Lake in the Tien Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan
  • Ancient Samarkand, capital of Tamerlane, with its magnificent blue mosques
  • Silk Road cities of Bukhara and Khiva, now World Heritage Sites

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Departure Notes

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

Repertory Trip

This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered every two to five years.  Future dates have not been set for this trip, but you can see the “Itinerary at a Glance” and the “Full Detailed Itinerary” below (there may be small changes to the itinerary for the future departures, and prices will be finalized closer to departure). Contact us to receive early notification of the trip dates. These special trips fill very quickly once the exact dates are set!

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan—sometimes known as the four ’Stans—present a rich historical and ethnic canvas, dazzling scenery, and a multitude of architectural wonders, from the blue-domed Silk Road oasis of Samarkand, where Tamerlane once held sway, to Issyk-Kul, a vast alpine lake surrounded by the forested peaks of the Tien Shan. With veteran Central Asia Trip Leader Roger Williams, we enjoy a full exploration of these four countries, roaming ancient bazaars that take us back to the times of the Arabian Nights, meeting local families and traditional artisans, and exploring two World Heritage Sites: magnificent Bukhara, a 2,000-year-old Silk Road city-state, and Khiva, a walled town isolated in a vast desert. Join us for the ultimate Silk Road adventure!

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-8
Almaty, Kazakhstan / Bishkek, Kyrgystan / Karakol / Issy-Kul Lake

After exploring Almaty, we head to Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, and onward to remote Karakol, a town on the shores of Issyk-Kul Lake, one of the largest alpine lakes in the world. We visit the colorful market, a summer encampment of Kyrgyz nomads, and  fascinating lakeside petroglyphs. We head back to Bishkek via the striking 11th century Burana tower, a Silk Road monument.

Days 9-14
Tashkent, Uzbekistan / Samarkand

We fly to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent,  Central Asia’s biggest hub, and tour its Old Town, then drive to ancient Samarkand, with its breathtaking main square, the Registan, a panorama of handsome blue-tiled mosques. We also visit the Shahr-i-Zindah, one of Tamerlane’s first creations,  the famed market at the village of Urgut, and enjoy lunch at the home of a local Uzbek family. A day’s excursion brings us out to Shakre Sabz, birthplace of Tamerlane.

Days 15-19
Bukhara / Khiva

We head to historic Bukhara, with two full days to relish this fascinating city, whose beautifully restored medieval quarter is now a World Heritage Site. We visit the covered bazaars and mulberry-shaded plazas where old men play chess and enjoy roaming Bukhara’s marvelous markets. We visit the sand dunes of the Kyzyl-Kum Desert en route to Khiva, then enjoy a full-day walking tour of this atmospheric walled city.

Days 20-24
Tashauz, Turkmenistan / Urgench / Ashgabat

Crossing the Turkmenistan border, we arrive at the town of Tashauz for an excursion to Urgench, with its pre- and post-Mongol monuments, then fly to Ashgabat, the Turkmen capital, an ancient city surrounded by the Kara-Kum (“black sands”) desert. Flying to southeastern Turkmenistan, we visit the vast ruins of ancient Merv, once one of the most important cities along the Silk Road and now a stunning World Heritage Site. After an excursion by 4WD vehicle to the nomadic village of Bogurdak, deep in the desert, we depart from Ashgabat on Day 24.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

The trip is rated Level 3, moderate. While this trip is not expected to be physically strenuous, the rustic accommodations, long travel days, and transportation conditions may be quite demanding. Accommodations are in good city hotels and in comfortable rustic lodges. Overland travel is in minivans and small buses, depending upon the size of the group. Road conditions can be very basic, and trip members should be prepared for long drives. Our expedition travels to areas that have experienced very little tourism. We believe that the most important requirements are a spirit of adventure and the understanding that you are visiting a remote and fascinating region. This is not a hiking trip, but we do hope to have opportunities for walks of two hours or more during the journey.

Explanation of Trip Levels