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!
Almaty, Kazakhstan / Karakol / Issy-Kul Lake / Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
After exploring Almaty, we head 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. En route to Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, we visit the striking 11th century Burana tower, a Silk Road monument, and stop in a Mennonite village for lunch with a local family.
Tashkent, Uzbekistan / Samarkand
After exploring Bishkek, we fly to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, Central Asia’s biggest hub, and tour its Old Town. We 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.
Bukhara / Khiva
We head to historic Bukhara, with two full days to savor 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.
Urgench, Turkmenistan / Ashgabat / Merv
Crossing the Turkmenistan border, we head 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. Back in Ashgabat, we enjoy a full-day tour of the capital city of Turkmenistan, including the famous Tolkuchka Sunday market, and explore the famous archaeological site of Nisa, which served as the winter capital of the Parthian rulers. Depart from Ashgabat on Day 24.