Road Scholar : Home
On the Silk Road in Central Asia

Program Number: 18766RJ
Start and End Dates:
4/10/2015 - 4/29/2015; 5/1/2015 - 5/20/2015; 5/29/2015 - 6/17/2015; 6/5/2015 - 6/24/2015; 8/21/2015 - 9/9/2015; 9/4/2015 - 9/23/2015; 9/18/2015 - 10/7/2015; 10/16/2015 - 11/4/2015; 10/23/2015 - 11/11/2015;
Duration: 19 nights
Location: Kazakhstan/Kyrgyzstan/Uzbekistan/Tajikistan/Turkmenistan
Price starting at: $4,987.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 50; 17 Breakfasts, 17 Lunches, 16 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Two thousand years ago, caravans of pack animals and traders followed a route west from their home in China over the steppe of Central Asia and into the fertile valleys of Europe, bringing with them silk, porcelain and spices. When adventurous Europeans traveled the Silk Road in the opposite direction, they came back with knowledge that changed the destiny of Western Civilization. Experience the history, culture and people that link the living cities and ancient ruins lining the Silk Road.




Highlights

• Share tea with a sixth-generation ceramics master and enjoy a private exploration of his studio.
• At the Bukhara Ark Citadel, a local specialist discusses archaeological excavations throughout the region.
• Enjoy a performance of Kyrgyz Manas folk tradition in Bishkek.



Activity Particulars

Walking and standing up to two hours at a time on paved sidewalks, streets, packed dirt, mostly level terrain. Some stairs.



Due to the nature of this program, listening devices are not available.




Date Specific Information

5-1-2015

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Itinerary Summary

Arrival Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) 2 nights; coach to Almaty (Kazakhstan), 2 nights; flight to Tashkent (Uzbekistan), 2 nights; coach to Khujand (Tajikistan), 1 night; coach to Samarkand (Uzbekistan), 2 nights; coach to Bukhara, 3 nights; coach to Khiva, 2 nights; coach to Tashauz (Turkmenistan), flight to Ashkabad, 3 nights; departure.



Overnight flight from the U.S.A.
1 night
Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan)
2 nights

Visit Victory Park and enjoy an authentic dinner and Kyrgyz Manas cultural performance in a local restaurant. Make a trip to Burana Tower, one of the only existing watch towers remaining from the old Silk Road. Enjoy lunch with a Kyrgyz family and attend a demonstration of Kyrgyz horse games in a local village.



Almaty (Kazakhstan)
2 nights

Enjoy a panoramic overview of Almaty beginning at the St. Nicholas Cathedral. Stop in at the delightful Museum of Musical Instruments for a short performance.



Flight to Tashkent (Uzbekistan)
2 nights
Coach to Khujand (Tajikistan)
1 night
Coach to Samarkand
2 nights

In the crossroad city of Tashkent, share tea with a ceramics master and tour his studio. Then discover the ancient city of Khujand, Tajikistan. Voyage on to Samarkand, for 2,700 years the trade center of Central Asia. Experience awesome Registan Square, with its three massive madrassas.



Coach to Bukhara
3 nights

Find cool shade in the oasis town of Bukhara, just as camel caravans did hundreds of years ago. At the USAID-UNESCO Handicraft Development Center, see puppet makers, coppersmiths and jewelry makers at work.



Coach to Khiva
2 nights

Well-preserved Khiva today is a window into life as it was lived hundreds of years ago. Join an expert on a walk through the Old Town and discover the palace of the khans, a mosque with a forest of wooden pillars and the ancient well.



Coach to Tashauz (Turkmenistan)
Flight to Ashkabad
3 nights
Departure

Learn about the art of weaving the priceless handmade carpets of Turkmenistan, visit one of the largest bazaars in Central Asia and savor the sweet taste of traditional plov (pilaf).




Accommodations
Bishkek: Four-star hotel. Almaty: Quality hotel near National Museum. Tashkent: Four-star hotel renowned for excellent service. Khujand: Comfortable hotel. Samarkand: Very new hotel. Bukhara: Boutique hotel with beautifully decorated niches. Khiva: Quality hotel a two-minute walk from city wall. Ashkabad: Hotel near National Museum.
Meals and Lodgings
   Golden Dragon Hotel
  Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan 2 nights
   Kazzhol Hotel
  Almaty, Kazakhstan 2 nights
   Shodlik Palace Hotel
  Tashkent, Uzbekistan 2 nights
   Sugd Hotel
  Khujand, Tajikistan 1 night
   Asia Samarkand Hotel
  Samarkand, Uzbekistan 2 nights
   Sasha and Son B&B
  Bukhara, Uzbekistan 3 nights
   Asia Khiva Hotel
  Khiva, Uzbekistan 2 nights
   Ak-Altyn Plaza Hotel
  Ashkabad, Turkmenistan 3 nights
 Golden Dragon Hotel
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: 35 kilometers from Manas international Airport
  Contact info: 60 Elebaev Street
Bishkek,  720005 Kyrgyzstan
phone: +996 (312) 90 27 71
web: www.gdhotel.kg/
  Room amenities: International telephone line, internet, minibar, safe deposit box, ironing and sewing accessories.
  Facility amenities: Outdoor swimming pool, business center with computers, internet, copy machine, scanner, fax, laptop rental, DVD player, VHS, camera; and several restaurants.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: TBA Please contact the program provider MIR Corporation at 877-535-9815 for rates and bookings.

 Kazzhol Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: The three star Kazzhol Hotel is located in the administrative and commercial center of Almaty. In 2002, the hotel received the International Quality Era Award for its excellence in service. Each room comes with satellite TV, a mini-bar and air conditioning. Enjoy the on-site sauna, beauty salon, Internet access, café, laundry, and safety deposit boxes.
  Contact info: Gogol St. 127/1
Almaty,   Kazakhstan
phone: +7 (727) 250 50 16
  Smoking allowed: No

 Shodlik Palace Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Contact info: 5 Pakhtakorskaya Str
Tashkent,  100011 Uzbekistan
phone: +998711207292
web: shodlikpalace.com/en/
  Room amenities: Large and centrally located, the Shodlik Palace Hotel has rooms furnished with a minibar, safe, satellite TV, complimentary WiFi and individually-controlled air-conditioning. Two onsite restaurants serve local and European cuisine and the bar offers a wide array of beverages and cocktails.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Sugd Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Contact info: 179 Lenin Street
Khujand,   Tajikistan
phone: +998 662 235-8230
  Room amenities: TV, minifridge, hairdryer.
  Facility amenities: Lobby bar, shop, internet access in public areas.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Asia Samarkand Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: Opened in 2008, the Asia Samarkand Hotel is well located, just across from the Registan.
  Contact info: 50 Kosh-Hauz Street
Samarkand,  140100 Uzbekistan
phone: +998 662 235 8230
  Room amenities: Telephone, satellite TV, hairdryer, windows that may be opened, minibar, air-conditioning.
  Facility amenities: Hotel bar, full service restaurant offering Uzbek and European food, open-air catering, conference facilities, non-smoking rooms, hotel safe, outdoor swimming pool, outside parking, sauna, massage, fitness room, disco/night club, business center, luggage service, 24-hour room service, currency exchange office, laundry service, evening entertainment, internet access
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Sasha and Son B&B
Type: Boutique Hotel
  Description: This charming property is more a boutique hotel than a B&B and is decorated in the national style. Fashioned from several old merchant houses, it contains high ceilings, exposed beams and beautifully decorated niches.
  Contact info: Ishoni-Pir Street, 3
Bukhara,  705000 Uzbekistan
phone: +998 65 224 4966
  Room amenities: Air conditioning, mini bar, telephone, satellite television, internet.
  Facility amenities: The rooms surround a garden courtyard. There is a pleasant restaurant. Laundry services and massage are available.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Asia Khiva Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: The Asia Khiva was built in 2004 and is located just outside of Ichon Qala, a two-minute walk from the city wall.
  Contact info: K. Yaqubova Street
Khiva,   Uzbekistan
phone: +998 362 375 76 83
  Room amenities: Satellite TV, air conditioner, telephone, internet, and minibar.
  Facility amenities: Bar, restaurant, cafe, business center, conference hall, beauty salon, non-smoking rooms, outdoor pool, outdoor pool bar, sauna, hotel safe, sauna, gift shop, billiards, 24-hour room service, laundry service, in-house doctor, luggage service, internet.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Ak-Altyn Plaza Hotel
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: The Four Points Ak Altin Hotel was built in 1995. It is located in 3 km to the city centre and near Independent Monument, National Museum, Earthquake Victims Museum. Turkmenbashi Airport - 7 km. Railway station - 5 km.
  Contact info: 141 Magtum Guli Avenue
Ashkabad,  744000 Turkmenistan
phone: (+993-12) 512-181
  Facility amenities: 24-hour font desk, 24-hour room service, business center/services, car rental service, casino, concierge service, fitness facility, indoor heated pool, lounge, outdoor heated pool, wake-up service.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: TBD Please contact the program provider MIR Corporation at 877-535-9815 for rates and bookings. Please note that additional nights post-program affect visa in Turkmenistan. Extra nights in Ashkabad must be booked by the provider at the included hotel due to visa requirements and must be arranged prior to applying for visas, more than 90 days prior to the program date.


Travel Details
  Start of Program:
The program begins at breakfast at the hotel on day 3. You will be staying at Golden Dragon Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
The program ends after breakfast at the hotel on day 19. You will be staying at Ak-Altyn Plaza Hotel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required. All travelers must have a valid passport to travel to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Passports must be valid for at least six months after the return date of your trip and have at least three completely blank pages available for visas (amendment pages on the back of your passport cannot be used for visas). If you do not have enough blank visa pages in your passport or if your passport expires earlier than six moths after the return date of your trip, please apply for additional pages or a new passport right away as the process may take time. Visas for Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan are required. U.S. citizens, as well as citizens of most other countries, do not require visas for Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan is visa-free for the U.S. citizens visiting before July 15, 2015. Canadian citizens still require a visa for Kazakhstan. You will receive a separate packet containing the visa application forms and instructions four months prior to your departure date. The completed visa materials must be submitted for processing three and a half to three months prior to your departure date. Estimated standard processing time for all four visas is 27 business days; per person fee for all three tourist visas, standard processing is $455 (as of 05/22/14) but subject to change without advance notice. If you require or prefer to receive your visas earlier, please contact MIR Corporation. The enclosed Turkmenistan Visa Support Information Form is designed to gather information about yourself, which we have to submit to the Turkmen Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to obtain a visa approval letter. Please complete this questionnaire and return it to MIR Corporation. A clean scanned copy of your passport in color and a scanned color copy of the passport photo you will use when processing your visa should be sent to MIR Corporation by e-mail: marina@mircorp.com no later than 90 days prior to the program start date.
  Parking availability:
Parking is not available.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Bishkek
  Transportation to site: A group arrival transfer is organized for all participants who purchased an air inclusive program and arrive on the group date. Program Only Participants can take the group transfer as long as their flight arrives at or around the same time as the group.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Ashkabad
  Nearest airport:  Ashkabad International Airport (ASB).
  Transportation from site: A group departure transfer is organized for all participants who purchased an air inclusive program and depart on the group date. Program Only Particpants can take the group transfer as long as their flight departs at or around the same time as the group.
Elevation Note: Almaty, Kazakhstan, 5,577 feet, and Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan, 5,276 feet.

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.


Daily Schedule

Day 1: Departures
(Friday, June 5)

Note: Most travelers will arrive in Bishkek either very late in the evening on Day 2 or very early in the morning (2:40 a.m.) on Day 3. Upon arrival travelers will be transferred to the hotel and checked into their rooms. Touring will begin in the late morning (11 a.m.) of Day 3. Those that arrive before 2:00 p.m. on Day 2 will require to book additional hotel night(s) prior to their arrival. Please contact the program provider MIR Corporation at 877-535-9815 for rates and bookings.



   
 In Transit Overnight: Depart on overnight flights from the U.S.

Day 2: In transit
(Saturday, June 6)
   
 In Transit Overnight: In Flight

Day 3: Arrivals in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
(Sunday, June 7)

Note:



   
 Arrive To: Most airlines arrive into Almaty very early this morning (approximately 3:00am). Following customs procedures, transfer to a hotel for the rest of the night. Start a bit later today (approximately 11:00am) to have time to rest from the long flight to Bishkek. The exploration of the city includes visits to Victory Park, Ala Too and the National History Museum, which features four floors of art and artifacts. Browse the State Museum of Fine Arts, featuring Kyrgyz embroidery, jewelry and unique felt rugs; then pause at Oak Park, the Village of Manas, and the monument "Manas on the Horse".
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Later this afternoon, enjoy some independent time or visit Ala Archa National Park, centered on the steep forested gorge of the Ala Archa River and the mountains that surround it. An alpine park, Ala Archa includes over 20 glaciers and 50 peaks, which range from 12,000 to 15,000 feet. Soviet alpinists used to train at a camp here.
 Dinner: Enjoy a special Welcome Dinner tonight at a local restaurant.
   
Accommodations: Golden Dragon Hotel
Meals Included: Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Highlights of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
(Monday, June 8)

Note: Note: Spiral staircases at Burana Tower involve steep steps inside a narrow passageway with limited light.



   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: This morning travel outside of Bishkek to Tokmak Village. Pay a visit to the International University of Central Asia. Next visit the Burana Tower, one of the only remaining watchtowers on the Silk Road. Visit the small museum here and the collection of ancient bal-bals, carved stone figures used as monuments.
 Lunch: Lunch today is at the private home of a local family in Tokmak Village. Enjoy the opportunity to meet the host and hostess and sample traditional Kyrgyz dishes.
 Afternoon: Following lunch, attend a demonstration of Kyrgyz horse games, such as Ulak Tartysh, a sort of polo played with a goat carcass, and Kurosh, which is wrestling on horseback. Next, learn traditional Kyrgyz felt-making techniques at a feltmaker’s workshop.
 Dinner: This evening at dinner, enjoy a glass of wine as you experience a traditional Kyrgyz music concert and a Manas performance. The Kyrgyz mythical hero, Manas, fought against the Uighur people in the 9th century. His story, the Epic of Manas, is a Kyrgyz epic poem with nearly a half million verses. Never written down until the 19th century, the poem has been passed down by word of mouth for centuries. A performance of selections from the beloved poem is often given at Kyrgyz festivals, accompanied on the komuz, a traditional three-stringed instrument.
   
Accommodations: Golden Dragon Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Drive to Almaty, Kazakhstan
(Tuesday, June 9)

Note: Distance from Bishkek to Almaty is approximately 155 mi. Today's travel time is approximately 5 to 6 hours including the border crossing. Border crossings may require crossing a relatively long distance by foot while managing your own bags. Kyrgyzstan/Kazakhstan border crossing: Length of walking on Kyrgyz Side 0 ft; Neutral Area 560 ft, Kazakh side is 100 ft



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: This morning after breakfast, drive across the border into Kazakhstan and onward to Almaty.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Visit a traditional Kazakh falcon farm outside of Almaty. Observe the birds and the gear the hunters use when they ride out into the country to hunt. Then continue to your hotel for dinner and overnight.
 Dinner: Dinner tonight is at the hotel.
   
Accommodations: Kazzhol Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Highlights of Almaty, Kazakhstan
(Wednesday, June 10)
   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: The city tour of Almaty includes Panfilov Park with its Zenkov Cathedral, and a visit to the Green Bazaar where one can find all types of produce, nuts, and dried fruits. Panfilov Park, a green oasis in Almaty’s central area, was renamed by the Soviets in honor of 28 Kazakh soldiers led by General Panfilov who died on the outskirts of Moscow during WWII. A monument in the park honors the soldiers, and an Eternal Flame memorializes all the people who died during the war. Also in the park is Zenkov Cathedral, a wooden Orthodox church built at the turn of the century without the use of nails. Visit the delightful Museum of Musical Instruments, located in a 1907 Russian style wooden building formerly called the House of Officers. Created in 1980, the museum exhibits a collection of traditional Kazakh instruments, including the dombra, a two-stringed instrument ubiquitous in Central Asia. Next, travel approximately 30 minutes outside the city to the Small Almaty Gorge. The Gorge is 5,577 feet above sea level and home to the famous Medeo Sports Complex with its Olympic ice rink.
 Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a nearby restaurant in a yurt with the soaring Tien Shan Mountains all around.
 Afternoon: After lunch, return to Almaty center and continue the exploration. Visit Kok-Tobe, a 3,800-foot hill on the outskirts of Almaty with an aerial tramway leading to a recreation area at the top. The view of Almaty from Kok-Tube is fantastic and gives a unique perspective on this sprawling regional business capital. Next, explore the State Central Museum (schedules permitting) with its collection of applied art, and observe traditional Kazakh falconry at a falcon farm outside of Almaty. Hunters on horseback wearing traditional costumes give an exclusive demonstration of how the beautiful birds are used for hunting in Kazakhstan.
 Dinner: In a local restaurant.
   
Accommodations: Kazzhol Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Fly to Tashkent, Uzbekistan
(Thursday, June 11)
   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer early this morning to the airport for the short flight to Tashkent. Although it doesn’t look it today, Tashkent is one of the oldest cities in Uzbekistan. Rock paintings in the Chaktal Mountains about 50 miles away show that humans have been here since perhaps 2000 BC. In the 2nd century BC the town was known as Ming Uryuk. A major caravan crossroads, it was taken by the Arabs in 751 and by Genghis Khan in the 13th century. Tamerlane feasted here in the 14th century and the Shaibanid khans in the 15th and 16th. The Russian Empire arrived in 1865, and Uzbekistan was not an autonomous country again until 1991. Tashkent lost much of its architectural history in a huge earthquake in 1966, and although it is an old city, most of it has been built since then. Today, the city is a jumble of wide tree-lined boulevards, oversized 20th century Soviet buildings and reconstructed traces of the old city with mud-walled houses, narrow winding lanes, mosques and madrassahs (Islamic religious schools).
 Lunch: In a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: A city tour today includes visits to the Assumption Cathedral, Museum of Applied Arts and Alisher Navoi Theater. The original Uspensky (Assumption) Cathedral was consecrated in 1879 near Tashkent's Military Hospital. The Soviets put the church building to other purposes until after WWII when it was returned to the Orthodox Church. Renovated in 1958, it was re-consecrated and restoration continued. Today the cathedral's cupolas gleam with gold and the icons at the altar are freshly gilded. Browse the Applied Arts Museum. A wealthy czarist diplomat to Turkestan, Alexander Polovtsev, admiring Uzbek architecture, built a traditional mansion in 1898, inviting artisans from Samarkand, Bukhara and Fergana to decorate the interior. Featuring the painted carved plaster called ganche, carved wood and tile work, the house itself is a main attraction. Exhibits include the Uzbek embroidered wall coverings called suzani, ceramics, jewelry, rugs and musical instruments. Alisher Navoi, who lived and wrote at the end of the 15th century, is Uzbekistan’s most beloved poet. The Navoi Opera and Ballet Theater was built in 1947 by Japanese prisoners of war, and includes six foyers representing the main cities of Uzbekistan. Each foyer is decorated differently, using carved and painted plaster (ganche), woodcarving and frescoes.
 Dinner: In a local restaurant.
 Evening: Schedules permitting, attend a performance at the Navoi Theater.
   
Accommodations: Shodlik Palace Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Tashkent
(Friday, June 12)
   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: This morning visit the Tillya Sheikh Mosque. The Uthman Koran, considered by Sunni Muslims to be the oldest Koran in the world, is safeguarded in the library of the Tillya Sheikh Mosque in the Muy Muborok Madrassah, where several of Mohammed's hairs are said to have been enshrined. Written on deerskin 19 years after Mohammed’s death, the manuscript was compiled in Medina by Uthman, the third caliph of Islam. (Shi’a Muslims believe that Uthman’s successor Ali, was the first true caliph, and his version of the Koran is held to be the only true version.) It has been inscribed onto the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. The experience of viewing this 7th century sacred document is a powerful one. Next, explore the Chorsu Bazaar that spills out of the tiled dome that shades its merchants from the sun. Open every day, the bazaar is at its most exhilarating on weekends when traders and shoppers come in from outlying areas to buy and sell anything from spices and produce to woodwork and embroidery. Visit the private studio of a sixth-generation Uzbek ceramicist whose family has been making pottery since the 1790s. They have revived the lost art of natural dye use, and are teaching contemporary Uzbek ceramicists their rediscovered techniques.
 Lunch: In a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: A city tour includes visits to the the Shahid Memorial Complex, its blue-domed rotunda reminding the nation of Uzbek leaders, artists and poets shot in 1938 during Stalin’s purges; the Courage Monument, named for the workers who rebuilt the city after the earthquake; and Independence Square, its history revealed in its parade of names - first “Cathedral”, then “Red”, then “Lenin,” and finally in 1992, “Independence.” The day will conclude with a tour of Tashkent Metro. Tashkent boasts the first metro in Central Asia. (The second is in Almaty.) Begun in 1977, each station has a different theme, some incorporating Central Asian decorative motifs and some resembling Russian palaces. With granite and marble, chandeliers and mosaics, the stations on Tashkent’s three lines are meant to be “art galleries for the people.”
 Dinner: In a local restaurant.
   
Accommodations: Shodlik Palace Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Journey to Tajikistan
(Saturday, June 13)

Note: Distance from Tashkent to Khujand is approximately 120 mi. Today's travel time is approximately 4 to 5 hours including the border crossing. Border crossings may require crossing a relatively long distance by foot while managing your own bags. Uzbekistan/Tajikistan border crossing: Length of walking on Uzbek Side 650-2000 ft; Neutral Area 325-1500 ft, Tajik side is 1000-2500 ft.



   
 Breakfast: Early breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Depart early driving south for a few hours and head across the Tajik border today to nearby Khujand. Khujand, situated at the entrance to the Fergana Valley on the Syr Darya River, is the second largest city in Tajikistan. Its origins have been attributed to both Alexander the Great (in 329 BC) and Cyrus the Great of Persia (several centuries earlier); whichever is true, the city is an ancient one. A former religious center and a Silk Road center, Khujand is home to several medieval monuments. Upon arrival depart for a city tour of Khujand including a visit to the exciting Panshanbe Bazaar. Khujand's pink-painted covered bazaar is overflowing with goods to buy. The huge columned structure shelters orderly rows of tables covered with bags of brilliant spices and nuts, straw-bedded melons with macramé handles, hanging haunches of meat and piles of vegetables.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: This afternoon check in to the hotel. Later we enter the new Historical Museum of Sogdiana through a reconstructed medieval city gate. Displays include ancient Sogdian artifacts and exhibits from more recent Tajik history. Next visit the Muslihiddin memorial complex. 12th century leader and poet Muslihiddin Khudjandi is buried here in the Muslihiddin memorial complex, which has been rebuilt many times since that time. Today the complex includes a 16th century mosque and 19th century minaret as well as the poet's mausoleum. Next visit the Timur Malik Fortress. On the left bank of the Syr-Darya in the middle of Khujand are the remains of its 10th century citadel, restored in 1999. Archaeological excavations around the walls have uncovered artifacts from the 4th century BC.
 Dinner: In a local restaurant.
   
Accommodations: Sugd Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Along the Silk Road
(Sunday, June 14)

Note: Distance from Khujand to Samarkand is approximately 200 mi. Today's travel time is approximately 8 to 9 hours including the border crossing.



   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Return to Uzbekistan, arriving this afternoon in perhaps the most well known of Silk Road towns, Samarkand, fabled oasis on the fringes of the Kyzyl Kum Desert that has been settled since the 6th century BC. Because of its location on the plains where the Zeravshan River spills out from the Pamir Mountains, Samarkand became a major Silk Road crossroads. It has been visited through time by many of the world's conquerors - Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. Alexander said of Samarkand, "Everything I have heard about the beauty of the city is indeed true, except that it is much more beautiful than I imagined." Tamerlane made it his capital city and gathered the finest architects, builders and artisans of the time to enhance its beauty.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Discover Registan Square, the centerpiece of Samarkand and the most recognizable landmark for visitors. Three emblematic madrassahs frame the square and loom over the empty space in the center. It was this central space that originally gave the place its name, for "registan" simply means "place of sand." This sandy place was at the center of ancient Samarkand and was a public square and marketplace before Ulug Bek built the Ulug Bek, Tillya-Kori, and Shir Dor madrassahs. In its reconstruction, the square maintains the majesty that it has radiated through the ages. Visit Gur-Emir Mausoleum, the final resting place of Tamerlane, built at the turn of the 15th century. The interior of the mausoleum has been restored and is brilliant in gold leaf and fresh tile. The heavily gilded central dome opens over the set of tomb-markers resembling sarcophagi. All are marble, with the exception of Tamerlane's, which is a slab of solid jade reportedly from Mongolia.
 Dinner: At the hotel.
   
Accommodations: Asia Samarkand Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Ulug Bek, Son of Tamerlane
(Monday, June 15)

Note: Note: There're fairly steep staircases with roughly 80 steps at the Shah-i-Zinde.



   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Today resume discovering Samarkand, visiting the Bibi Khanum Mosque, Ulug Bek's observatory, and the bazaar. Bibi Khanum Mosque, built by Tamerlane to be the largest mosque in the Islamic world, and dedicated to the memory of his favorite wife. Architects from India and Persia were brought in to build the mosque, and 95 elephants were used to transport the marble and other building materials from India to Samarkand. The row of tombs and mausoleums collectively called Shah-I-Zinde, or "place of a living king," stretches between the present and the past. At its front is living Samarkand, and at its back the dusty slopes at the edge of ancient Afrosiab. Even on hot summer days the mausoleums remain shady and cool, and seem to lure the traveler to approach the oldest tomb at the far end. Behind the complex and set into the hill lies an active cemetery with gravesites dating back as far as the ninth century, and as recently as the present day.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Visit the local Carpet Factory Workshop. Observe the entire process of dying the thread and weaving carpets. Visit the workshop where hand-crafted paper is made according to traditions handed down from the 8th century, when paper making began in Samarkand. Founded in 1997 with the support of UNESCO, the workshop of Abdurakhim Mukhtarov produces lovely paper crafts and stationery as you watch.
 Dinner: In a local restaurant.
 Evening: Attend a dance performance by a young local troupe.
   
Accommodations: Asia Samarkand Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Along the Silk Road to Bukhara, Uzbekistan
(Tuesday, June 16)

Note: Distance from Samarkand to Bukhara is approximately 170 mi. Today's travel time is approximately 4 to 5 hours.



   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Continue along the Silk Road, to Bukhara. Stop at a ceramics master’s home and studio to learn about traditional ceramics and take a private visit of his workshop.
 Lunch: Share lunch with the ceramics master in his home.
 Afternoon: After arrival in Bukhara, take a short orientation walk around the center of the Old Town. In the mid 19th century 2,500 families of prosperous merchants were estimated to have been living here. Cut off in the 15th century from contact with other Jews, the Bukharan Jews developed their own dialect of the Tajik-Persian language that incorporates many Hebrew words, their own style of dress and their own unique form of Judaism. The only Bukharan synagogue allowed by the Soviets to remain is an unassuming place near the Lyabi-Hauz pool. Almost underground and still somewhat run-down, the synagogue is the center of life for Bukhara's greatly diminished Jewish community. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, more than 70,000 Jews have left Uzbekistan.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant.
   
Accommodations: Sasha and Son B&B
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Bukhara: A Surprise Behind Every Corner
(Wednesday, June 17)
   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Explore the Lyabi-Hauz plaza. With the feel of a true oasis in an oasis town, the Lyabi-Hauz plaza is at the center of Bukhara's old town and is -- as it has been throughout history -- a place to meet friends, to eat, to drink, and to relax in the shade. The atmosphere is cooled by the long rectangular reflecting pool that makes up the center of the plaza, and by the shade of the trees that ring the plaza. The mulberry trees here are hundreds of years old and frame the 16th- and 17th-century madrassahs that make up three of the four edges of the ensemble. Visit Poi Kalon, also called the Bukhara Forum. The 12th-century Kalon assembly, including the Kalon Mosque and Minaret, and the Mir-i-Arab Madrassah, surrounds an open plaza teeming with merchants and local vendors.
 Lunch: Lunch in a local restuarant overlooking the plaza.
 Afternoon: Continue to explore Bukhara, including its Ark Citadel -- the original fortress of Bukhara that likely dates back two thousand years or more. The current structure has been built and rebuilt on the same site throughout its history, and has preserved something of the form, purpose and function of the first ark. Like the medieval castle complexes of Europe, the Bukhara Ark served the Emirs of Bukhara as a residence, audience hall and as protection from neighboring enemies. An expert discusses the bountiful archaeological excavations in the Bukhara region at the Ark Citadel.
 Dinner: Dinner at a private house. Dinner today includes a master class in the art of making plov (or pilaf), Central Asia’s most ubiquitous dish. Learn how the freshest ingredients are combined to create the savory concoction that you will then consume.
   
Accommodations: Sasha and Son B&B
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 14: Bukhara: The Riches and Power of the Past
(Thursday, June 18)
   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Explore the Summer Palace of the last emir and its Museum of National Crafts. A short distance outside of the city sits the Palace of Moon and Stars, or the Summer Palace of the last Emir of Bukhara, built at the turn of the century after the Russians took control of Bukhara. The palace itself is something of a showpiece, as it was designed to keep the emir in luxury, but removed from the city, in isolation and politically impotent. The main palace is a mixture of local materials, regional influences and Russian style. Western furniture abounds, but design choices reflect traditional Uzbek decorations. Witness artisans at work in the USAID-UNESCO Handicraft Development Center near Lyabi-Hauz Plaza. Learn about the history of their crafts at a special presentation by the artisans themselves.
 Lunch: In a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Free time.
 Dinner: Your choice to explore local fare.
   
Accommodations: Sasha and Son B&B
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 15: Through the Desert to Khiva
(Friday, June 19)

Note: The highway between Bukhara and Khiva is currently under construction and delays are possible. Although distance from Bukhara to Khiva is about 350 mi, expect a very long drive of approximately 11 hours. Unfortunately there are no direct flight alternatives so this drive remains the best method of getting between these cities.



   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Depart Bukhara and drive to Khiva, one of the best-preserved cities along the ancient Silk Road. Legend says that the oasis of Khiva was founded at the place where Shem, son of Noah, discovered water in the desert, and that the city got its name from Shem’s joyful shout, “Hey va!” at the discovery. Today the living city is part museum town, part re-creation of life hundreds of years ago. Archaeologists have found traces of human habitation around Khiva dating from the 5th century BC. It was for hundreds of years a stop on the old Silk Road and a fortress town, but it was not until the 16th century that Khiva became the capital of the Khorezm Khanate. The khanate ruled the surrounding area for over 300 years, and was a well-known slave-trading center.
 Lunch: Stop for a picnic lunch en route on the shores of the Amu Darya River.
 Afternoon: Arrival in Khiva and check into the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant.
   
Accommodations: Asia Khiva Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 16: Walk Through Ancient Khiva
(Saturday, June 20)
   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Spend the day exploring Khiva on foot. An expert-led walk explores the monuments of the Old Town, or Ichon-Qala, including the Tash-Hauli Palace, or Stone House, built in the 19th century for the reigning khan and his four wives.
 Lunch: In a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Continue the guided walk of Khiva. The late afternoon is free for independent exploration.
 Dinner: Dinner in a local restaurant.
   
Accommodations: Asia Khiva Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 17: Cross the Uzbek-Turkmen Border and Fly to Turkmenistan
(Sunday, June 21)

Note: Please Note: Regulations require three (3) color passport-type photos for Migration Service registration upon arrival in Turkmenistan. Photos should be 2" x 2". Please ensure that you have these photos with you when you arrive on the program.



   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Early departure for the drive to the Uzbek-Turkmen border crossing. Customs formalities can be time consuming; after clearing customs, continue to Tashauz.
 Lunch: In a restaurant in Tashauz.
 Afternoon: Later this afternoon, fly over the Kara Kum (black sands) Desert to Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashkabad. Check into the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant.
   
Accommodations: Ak-Altyn Plaza Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 18: Ashkabad, the Capital of Turkmenistan In All Its Glory
(Monday, June 22)
   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: This morning visit a horse-breeding farm devoted to the renowned Akhal-Tekke horse, arguably the oldest cultured breed of horse in the world. Next, explore the site of the capital of the ancient Parthian Kingdom of Nisa. More than two thousand years ago the Parthian Empire spread out from Nisa and took its place among such kingdoms as the Achaemenid under Cyrus the Great and the Macedonian under Alexander the Great. Though Nisa was ruled by a succession of dynasties, it remained an important center in the ancient world until the 13th century, when the Mongols sacked it. Today archaeological work continues at Nisa, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. Meet with a local archaeologist while visiting the excavations that continue to reveal more about this ancient city. On the way back to Ashkabad, make a stop at Kipchuk village to admire Turkmenbashi's personal mosque. The huge $100-million-dollar mosque in former Turkmen President Niyazov's hometown of Kipchuk was inaugurated in 2004. The mosque is big enough to hold 10,000 people. Its 164-foot golden dome had to be lowered in place by helicopter. Verses from Niyazov's own spiritual book, the Ruhnama, are etched on the walls alongside Koranic verses. Niyazov was buried here in the family mausoleum that he built, along with the mosque, with government funds.
 Lunch: In at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Visit the National Museum of History and Ethnography with its superb collection of carved ivory drinking horns from Nisa. Ashkabad is known for the many elaborate marble monuments constructed by former President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov, a.k.a. Turkmenbashi (which means “Leader of all Turkmen”). The tradition has continued: in 2013 Ashkabad was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having the most white marble buildings in the world. Turkmenbashi was also responsible for building the 250-foot Arch of Neutrality, on which a 40-foot golden statue of himself revolved to continuously face the sun. Sadly, the statue is now stationary, though still imposing; current President Berdimuhamedov promised to dismantle it, but decided not to destroy it. Instead, it has been retired to the Berzenghee Settlement and now tops a less extreme "Monument" of Neutrality rather than the "Arch."
 Dinner: In a local restaurant.
   
Accommodations: Ak-Altyn Plaza Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 19: Altyn-Asyr, One of Central Asia's Largest Bazaars
(Tuesday, June 23)
   
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: After breakfast, set out to explore Ancient Anau that has been inhabited since Neolithic times. Archaeologists have recently uncovered evidence of a sophisticated town from around 2300 BC, the time of the early cities of Mesopotamia and ancient Iran. Up until a severe earthquake in 1948, Anau was well known for its beautiful 15th century mosque, decorated with a tiled mosaic of two dragons. Although the site of the old mosque is today mainly of interest to archeologists, a new mosque has arisen, built of bricks from the rubble of the old one.
 Lunch: Return to Ashkabad for a celebratory farewell lunch with a fashion and folk show or Turkmen dancers.
 Afternoon: Visit the Russian Bazaar. The Russian Bazaar in the center of Ashkabad is a large covered market selling all kind of foodstuffs, including prepared foods, fruits, nuts, vodka, high quality caviar and traditional breads. Before independence, this was where most ethnic Russians would shop, but today anyone is welcome. Turkmen women in traditional dress make up the majority of the sales force.
 Dinner: A light dinner is served in the hotel.
   
Accommodations: Ak-Altyn Plaza Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 20: Depart Ashkabad
(Wednesday, June 24)
   
 Breakfast: Available at the hotel. However flights out of Ashkabad depart in the early morning hours, in which case, breakfast is on board the flight.
 Morning: Departures. *Note: All flights to Europe with connections to the U.S. depart very early in the morning.
   
Meals Included: Breakfast
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