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18766
Central Asia

On the Silk Road in Central Asia

Join experts to discover the preserved ruins, grand cities and cultural monuments that line the Silk Road, discovering how this ancient trade route altered the course of human history.
Rating (4.95)
Program No. 18766RJ
Length
21 days
Starts at
5,699
Central Asia

On the Silk Road in Central Asia

Join experts to discover the preserved ruins, grand cities and cultural monuments that line the Silk Road, discovering how this ancient trade route altered the course of human history.
Length
21 days
Starts at
5,699
Program No. 18766 RJ
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At a Glance

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.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • 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.

General Notes

Listening devices are not available for this program.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
The Lost Heart of Asia
by Colin Thubron
In this classic narrative, Thubron recounts his travels to Samarkand, Bukhara and throughout Central Asia in the wake of the breakup of the Soviet Union. A fine writer, intrepid traveler and insightful observer, he's an outstanding guide to the history, people and culture of the region.
Empires of the Silk Road
by Christopher I. Beckwith
Beckwith rescues Central Asia from the periphery of world affairs with flair and scholarship, depicting millennia of empires, trade and cultural life on the Silk Road.
Lost Enlightenment, Central Asia's Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane
by S. Frederick Starr
Starr brings to life the great flowering of ideas and advances of Central Asia’s medieval enlightenment, showing how, between the years 800 and 1200, Central Asian societies led the world in trade and were at the vanguard of mathematics, philosophy, history, geology, astronomy and science.
Genghis Khan and the Quest for God
by Jack Weatherford
With compelling evidence, top-notch historian Jack Weatherford argues that Genghis Khan used religious tolerance to offset fanaticism and hold his disparate territories together.
The Silk Road, A Very Short Introduction
by James A. Millward
Millward's pocket history highlights the important exchanges of goods, ideas and spiritualities that traveled the Silk Road, the Mediterranean's link to Persia, India and China.
Lonely Planet Central Asia
by Lonely Planet
A comprehensive, detailed guide to travel in the region, including Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Marco Polo, The Journey That Changed the World
by John Man
John Man travels in the footsteps of Italian merchant Marco Polo, bringing to life the exotic world that he uncovered, one of huge armies, untold riches, unusual spices and the great Mongol emperor Kublai Khan.
Life Along the Silk Road
by Susan Whitfield
With insight, scholarship and dramatic flair, Susan Whitfield recounts the lives of ten diverse individuals on the ancient Silk Road, including four tales set in Dunhuang. With a superb 15-page history of Central Asia.
Flashman in the Great Game
by George MacDonald Fraser
What caused the Sepoy Mutiny, a pivotal moment in the Raj? How about Harry Flashman, the reluctant, much-decorated coward, cad and womanizer at the center of George MacDonald Fraser's wildly entertaining, irreverent series of historical novels.
A Splendid Exchange, How Trade Shaped the World
by William J. Bernstein
Primates may share food but only Homo Sapiens trade, says William Bernstein in this far-reaching, dare we say splendid, hymn. An economist (and fine writer), he considers not just silk and spices, sugar and tea but also the considerably less savory exchange of opium and slavery in this sweeping tale.
The Silk Road, A New History
by Valerie Hansen
A professor of Chinese and world history at Yale, Hansen draws on original sources and the latest archaeology for this magnificently illustrated tale of the overland routes across Asia and the life, history, and culture of fabled Silk Road cities Niya, Kucha, Turfan, Samarkand, Chang'an, Dunhuang and Khotan.
Mapping the Silk Road and Beyond
by Kenneth Nebenzahl
This visually stunning collection of 80 rare illuminated manuscripts, early modern masterpieces and archival maps traces two millennia of exploration across Asia.
The Silk Roads, A New History of the World
by Peter Frankopan
Tightly researched and filled with swashbuckling stories, this history by Peter Frankopan looks eastward, showing how the West grew out of a restless desire to access Asian trade.
Central Asia Map
by Nelles
An up-to-date, double-sided shaded relief map at a scale of 1:1,750,000.
Lonely Planet Central Asia Phrasebook
by Justin Jon Rudelson
A handy pocket phrasebook that focuses on pronunciation, basic grammar and essential vocabulary for the traveler on the Silk Road.
Samarkand
by Caroline Eden, Eleanor Ford
An excellent introduction to Samarkand (by turns inhabited by Uzbeks, Tajiks, Russians, Turks, Koryo-Sarams, Jews and Afghans), this compendium brings the region to life with essays, photos and plenty of recipes little-known to the West.
The Great Game
by Peter Hopkirk
Hopkirk's spellbinding account of the great struggle for European supremacy in Central Asia takes us over the high mountain passes and through the scorching deserts and caravan towns of the Silk Road, capturing the glamour, intrigue, treachery and adventure of the time.
Everyday Life in Central Asia, Past and Present
by Jeff Sahadeo (Editor)
Dozens of scholars and ethnographers contributed to this lively reader on the peoples, cultures and customs across Central Asia.
Central Asia, Through Writers' Eyes
by Kathleen Hopkirk
A literary introduction to the Silk Road that uses the words of travelers, explorers and writers from Marco Polo and Fitzroy Maclean to William of Rubrick and Ella Maillart.
Shadow of the Silk Road
by Colin Thubron
Thubron returns to Central Asia in this lyrical, erudite account of a 7,000-mile trek across Asia, visiting archaeological sites, people and cities from Xi'an and Dunhuang to Samarkand, Bukhara, Afghanistan and Iran.
The Silk Road, Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia
by Frances Wood
Wood draws on hundreds of archival photographs, manuscripts and paintings from the British Library in telling this lively story of the art, culture and history of diverse trade routes.
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21 days
20 nights
47 meals
19 B 17 L 11 D
DAY
1
Depart USA on overnight flight
In Flight

Activity note: Overnight flight to Almaty, Kazakhstan

DAY
2
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
3
Transfer to the hotel, free day, orientation, welcome dinner
Almaty
B,D
Dostyk Hotel

Activity note: This day is designated for recovery from international flights and adjustment to the change in time zone.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: At leisure.

Lunch: Explore local fare on your own.

Afternoon: At leisure.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy a welcome dinner, including a glass of wine, coffee, tea and water.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Survey of the City
Almaty
B,L
Dostyk Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off the bus; driving about 5 miles, approximately 30 minutes in total. Walking about 2 miles throughout the day on paved sidewalks and short distances on dirt pathways; periods of standing during field trips.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: Your introduction to Almaty includes the State Central Museum, with exhibits that detail the history of Kazakhstan and its people from the Bronze Age through the Russian Empire, the Communist Period and the present day. The centerpiece of the museum is a replica of the country’s chief archeological treasure, the Golden Man, a warrior’s armor made from 4,000 gold pieces. We will also 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-Tobe is fantastic and gives a unique perspective on this sprawling, regional business capital.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Afternoon: We will continue to Panfilov Park, a green oasis in Almaty’s central area, renamed by the Soviets in honor of 28 Kazakh soldiers, led by General Panfilov, who died on the outskirts of Moscow during WWII. Also in the park is Zenkov Cathedral, a wooden Orthodox church built at the turn of the century without the use of nails. We'll also 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. Lastly, we’ll stop by the Green Bazaar, where you one find all types of produce, nuts, and dried fruits.

Dinner: Explore local fare on your own.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Falconry, drive to Bishkek
Bishkek
B,L,D
Golden Dragon Hotel

Activity note: The distance from Almaty to Bishkek is approximately 150 miles (240 kilometers). Today's travel time is about 5 hours, including the border crossing. Border crossings may require traveling a relatively long distance on foot while handling your own baggage without assistance. The distance between the checkpoints at the Kyrgyzstan/Kazakhstan border is 300 meters.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: After breakfast, we will continue exploring Almaty before departing for a drive across the border into Kyrgyzstan and onward to Bishkek. We will 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.

Lunch: At a yurt restaurant, we will enjoy lunch and a Kazakh folklore performance.

Afternoon: We'll depart by private bus for Bishkek, changing buses at the border.

Dinner: At the hotel restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
University Visit, Burana Tower
Bishkek
B,L,D
Golden Dragon Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off the bus; driving about 100 miles, approximately 3 hours total. Walking about 2 miles throughout the day on paved sidewalks and unpaved walks and roads without handrails; periods of standing during field trips. Spiral staircases at Burana Tower involve steep steps inside a narrow passageway with limited light.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: After a leisurely drive to the village of Tokmok, we will visit a local university, which offers students the opportunity to receive a western-style, liberal arts education, with many classes conducted in English. International and Kyrgyz professors teach a full curriculum, including Business Management, IT, Chinese language, International Relations, Law, and Psychology. Classes in Central Asian languages are also available to international and local students. Then, we will observe a demonstration of traditional Kyrgyz felt-making techniques.

Lunch: We will enjoy lunch as guests of a local family in neighboring Don-Aryk village.

Afternoon: Following lunch, we will 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. Then, we will stop at the Burana Tower, one of the only existing watchtowers on the Silk Road. Inside its small museum you'll see a collection of ancient bal-bals, carved stone figures used as monuments.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy a glass of wine at dinner along with a concert of traditional Kyrgyz music and a Manas performance.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Fine Arts Museum, Ala Archa National Park
Bishkek
B,L
Golden Dragon Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off the bus; driving about 5 miles, approximately 30 minutes in total. Walking about 2 miles throughout the day on paved sidewalks and short distances on dirt pathways; periods of standing during field trips. Drive to Ala Archa is 1.5 hours round trip; hiking 1 to 2 miles along dirt trails with an elevation gain of between 300 and 500 feet.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: The exploration of the city this morning includes visits to Victory Park; Ala Too, the city's central square; and Oak Park. Bishkek's central square, Ala-Too, was laid out in 1984 and adorned with a giant statue of Lenin. In 2003, Lenin was replaced by a new statue, called Freedom. This is where the public gathers to celebrate – or to demonstrate. We'll browse the State Museum of Fine Arts, which features Kyrgyz embroidery, jewelry and unique felt rugs, and we'll make a brief stop at the Village of Manas and the monument "Manas on the Horse."

Lunch: At a local restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Afternoon: The afternoon is at your leisure, but has on offer an optional visit to Ala Archa National Park, which is centered on the steep forested gorge of the Ala Archa River and the mountains that surround it. This alpine park 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: Explore local fare on your own.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Fly to Tashkent, Underground Metro
Tashkent
B,L
Miran International Hotel

Activity note: The flight from Bishkek to Tashkent is about 1.5 hours long and allows for a caryy-on of 8 kgs and a checked bag of 20 kgs. Other activites will include getting on/off the bus; driving about 30 miles, approximately 1.5 hours in total. Walking about 2 miles throughout the day on paved sidewalks; stairs and escalators with handrails in the underground metro; periods of standing during field trips.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: We'll transfer to the airport for the short morning flight to Tashkent.

Lunch: At a local restaurant in Tashkent, including coffee, tea, and water.

Afternoon: Our exploration of Tashkent begins underground with a visit to the city's subway system, known as the Metro. Tashkent boasts the first metro in Central Asia. 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: Explore local fare on your own.

Evening: Schedules permitting, we'll attend a performance at one of Tashkent's theaters.

DAY
9
Uthman Koran, Ceramicist's Studio
Tashkent
B,L
Miran International Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off the bus; driving about 10 miles, approximately 1 hour in total. Walking about 2 miles throughout the day on paved sidewalks; periods of standing during field trips.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: We will visit the Tillya Sheikh Mosque, where 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. 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 they hold his version of the Koran to be the only true version.) Next, we will explore the Chorsu Bazaar. 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 everything from spices and produce to woodwork and embroidery. We'll visit the private studio of a sixth-generation Uzbek ceramicist, whose family has been making pottery since the 1790s and has kept alive the art of using natural dyes.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Afternoon: We'll stop by several important sites in Tashkent after lunch. The blue-domed rotunda of the Shahid Memorial Complex reminds the nation of Uzbek leaders, artists and poets shot in 1938 during Stalin’s purges. The Courage Monument was named for the workers who rebuilt the city after the devastating earthquake of 1966. And the history of Independence Square is revealed in its parade of name changes: from “Cathedral Square” to “Red Square,” then “Lenin Square” to, finally, “Independence Square” in 1992. We will browse the collections of the Applied Arts Museum, housed in the former mansion of a wealthy czarist diplomat. Featuring 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, as well as ceramics, jewelry, rugs, and musical instruments.

Dinner: Explore local fare on your own.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
10
Panshanbe Bazaar, Arbob Palace
Khujand
B,L,D
Khujand Grand

Activity note: The distance from Tashkent to Khujand is approximately 120 miles. Today's travel time is between 4 and 5 hours, including the border crossing. Border crossings may require walking a relatively long distance while handling your own luggage without assistance. The distance between the checkpoints at the Uzbekistan/Tajikistan border is 800 meters. Participants are advised to travel to Khujand with only an overnight bag and leave most of their belongings on the bus in Uzbekistan.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: We'll depart early this morning for the Uzbekistan/Tajikistan border. After the formalities of the border crossing, we'll continue to the nearby city of Khujand. Upon arrival, we will visit the pink-painted, covered Panshanbe Bazaar and the Muslihiddin Memorial Complex, dedicated to the 12th-century leader and poet, Muslihiddin Khudjand.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Afternoon: After checking into the hotel, we'll continue exploring Khujand at the Historical Museum of Sogdiana, housing displays that include ancient Sogdian artifacts and exhibits from recent Tajik history. We'll next view the remains of the 10th-century Timur Malik Fortress. We'll continue on to Khujand’s Arbob Cultural Palace, located in the central building of a former Soviet collective farm. Comprising a theater, museum, a 1,000-seat hall, fountains and formal gardens, the palace is the site where independence from the Soviet Union was declared.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
11
Pamir Mountains
Samarkand
B,L,D
Asia Samarkand Hotel

Activity note: The distance from Khujand to Samarkand is approximately 200 miles. Today's travel time is approximately 8 to 9 hours, including the border crossing. The highest point on the drive is approximately 10,000 feet.

Breakfast: Early buffet at the hotel.

Morning: We'll set a course through the beautiful Pamir Mountains to Samarkand, perhaps the best known of the Silk Road towns, a 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: At a local restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Afternoon: We'll check into our hotel in Samarkand in the early evening.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
12
Registan Square and Gur-Emir Mausoleum.
Samarkand
B,L,D
Asia Samarkand Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off the bus; driving about 10 miles, approximately 1 hour in total. Walking about 2 miles throughout the day on paved sidewalks and short distances on dirt pathways; periods of standing during field trips. There is a fairly steep staircase with roughly 80 uneven steps without handrails at Shah-i-Zinde.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: This morning, we'll 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. Next, we'll stop at 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. Tamerlane built the Bibi Khanum Mosque to be the largest mosque in the Islamic world and dedicated it 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. We'll next wander the row of tombs and mausoleums collectively called Shah-i-Zinde, or "place of a living king," which 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: At a local restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Afternoon: At the Carpet Factory Workshop, we'll observe the processes of carpet weaving and dying thread using natural dyes. Later, we'll stop at 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: Enjoy dinner tonight as guests of a local family.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
13
Drive to Bukhara, Jewish Heritage
Bukhara
B,L
Royal Bukhara Hotel

Activity note: The distance from Samarkand to Bukhara is approximately 170 miles. Today's travel time is approximately 5 to 6 hours.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: We'll continue along the Silk Road to Bukhara, making a stop at a ceramics master’s home and studio in the town of Gijduvan to learn about traditional ceramics and take a private tour of his workshop.

Lunch: We'll take our meal with a ceramics master in his home.

Afternoon: Upon arrival in Bukhara, time permitting, we'll take an orientation walk around the center of the Old Town with a focus on Jewish Heritage. In the heart of the Old Town in the mid-19th century is where 2,500 families of prosperous merchants were estimated to have been living. 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: Explore local fare on your own.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
14
Lyabi-Hauz Plaza, Bukhara Forum, Ark Citadel
Bukhara
B,L,D
Royal Bukhara Hotel

Activity note: Walking about 4 miles throughout the day on paved sidewalks, dirt pathways, and uneven cobblestones and stairs; periods of standing during field trips.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: With the feel of a true oasis in an oasis town, the Lyabi-Hauz plaza is at the center of Bukhara's old town. 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. Poi Kalon, also called the Bukhara Forum, includes the Kalon Mosque and Minaret, and the Mir-i-Arab Madrassah, and surrounds an open plaza teeming with merchants and local vendors. The Kukeldash Madrassah on the north side of the Lyabi Hauz reflecting pool is the largest Koranic school in Central Asia. The Khanaka of Nadir Divan-Begi was the first component of the Lyabi-Hauz ensemble, built even before the reflecting pool. The massive structure was originally a place of study and meditation for traveling Sufis. Two phoenixes spread their wings on each side of a shining sun on the archway that leads into the Nadir Divan-Begi Madrassah. Seated on the east side of the Lyabi-Hauz pool, the 1622 madrassah was originally built as a caravanserai.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Afternoon: We'll 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. While at the Ark Citadel, we'll attend a lecture given by a member of the senior scientific staff on archaeological excavations and discoveries in the Bukhara region.

Dinner: Dinner this evening includes a master class in the art of making plov (or pilaf), Central Asia’s most ubiquitous dish.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
15
Nakshbandi Necropolis, Palace of Moon and Stars, Chor Minor
Bukhara
B,L
Royal Bukhara Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off the bus; driving about 5 miles, approximately 30 minutes in total. Walking about 2 miles throughout the day on paved sidewalks and short distances on dirt pathways; periods of standing during field trips.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: The mausoleum of Bakhaudin Nakshbandi, a 14th-century Sufi mystic and founder of the Nakshbandi order of Sufis, is a complex that grew from a simple tomb over his grave to a 16th century hostel for visiting dervishes, then to a spiritual complex in the 17th century with a mosque added in the 18th century. We'll explore the Summer Palace of the last emir and its Museum of National Crafts, located a short distance outside of the city. The Palace of Moon and Stars, or the Summer Palace of the last Emir of Bukhara, was 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. We'll admire the early 19th-century Chor Minor Madrassah, whose four slender, blue-topped minarets give it its name. Then, we'll pay a visit to the Artisan Development Center for a private seminar and demonstration, led by several resident artists, on the history of regional crafts. The goal of the center is to revive and re-develop ancient handicrafts. The many different workshops include puppet makers, coppersmiths, cloth printers, wood carvers, gold and silk embroiderers and jewelry makers.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Afternoon: Free time to be spent at your leisure.

Dinner: Explore local fare on your own.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
16
Train through the Desert to Khiva
Khiva
B,L
Asia Khiva Hotel

Activity note: The distance from Bukhara to Khiva is about 350 miles. The train ride will take approximately 5 hours.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: At leisure until late morning, when we'll transfer to the railway station for our train to Khiva, one of the best-preserved cities along the ancient Silk Road.

Lunch: We'll have packed lunches on the train.

Dinner: Explore local fare on your own.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
17
Walk Through Ancient Khiva
Khiva
B,L,D
Asia Khiva Hotel

Activity note: Walking about 4 miles throughout the day on paved sidewalks, dirt pathways, and uneven cobblestones and stairs; periods of standing during field trips.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: We'll spend the day exploring Khiva's Old Town, or Ichon-Qala, on foot. The Kunya Ark was originally built in the 12th century as the khan’s fortress and residence, and encompassed numerous small courtyards surrounded by administrative buildings, sleeping quarters, kitchens, guardhouse, stables, parade area and weapons strongholds. Much of it was lost when Persia invaded the Khivan Khanate in the 18th century, but what remains, including the mosque, harem and throne room are beautifully decorated with ceramic tiles and majolica. We'll continue with visits to the Mukhammad Rakhimkhan Madrassah and the Said Alauddin and Pakhlavan Makhmud Mausoleums before lunch.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Afternoon: Wood carving is a traditional specialty of Khiva, and more wooden columns are found at the Dzhuma Mosque. The mosque is partially below ground level and the 115 carved columns that support the wooden ceiling create a forest-like effect around two square light wells. The walled Old City was an independent entity and the seat of the Khanate of Khiva. The largest of the existing buildings is the Tash Hauli Palace, the home of the Khan and his four legal wives. The intricate blue and white tile-work in the open-air throne room offsets the airy space set aside by the carved wooden columns.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we'll enjoy dinner and a performance of Khorezmian music and dance.

Evening: We'll return to the hotel around 9:00 p.m.

DAY
18
Cross the Uzbek-Turkmen Border & Fly to Turkmenistan
Ashkabad
B,L,D
Archabil Hotel

Activity note: The distance to Dashoguz, Turkmenistan is 45 miles, and the drive will take approximately 3 hours, including the border crossing, which can be time consuming.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: This morning, you may join a field trip to Nurillaboy Palace or spend this time at your leisure. The Nurillaboy, or Isfandiyar, Palace was built at the turn of the 20th century as a summer residence for the Khivan khans and served as a reception area for foreign guests, as well. The palace was reconstructed in 2017, with seven rooms returned to their former grandeur in a mix of European and Eastern designs.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Afternoon: We'll drive the short distance to the Uzbekistan/Turkmenistan border. After completing the formalities of crossing the border, which can be time consuming, we'll be met by our Turkmen local expert and driven to the nearby town of Dashoguz.

Dinner: At a local restaurant in Dashoguz, including coffee, tea, and water.

Evening: We'll take the evening flight over the Kara Kum (black sands) Desert to Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashkabad.

DAY
19
Akhal-Tekke Horse Ranch, Museum of History and Ethnography
Ashkabad
B,L,D
Archabil Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off the bus; driving about 20 miles, approximately 2 hours in total. Walking about 2 miles throughout the day on paved sidewalks and short distances on dirt pathways; periods of standing during field trips.

Breakfast: Buffetat at the hotel.

Morning: We'll stop at the Arch of Neutrality for a brief photo stop this morning Turkmenistan's first president, Saparmurat Niyazov, had the 250-foot Arch of Neutrality, on which a 40-foot golden statue of himself revolved to continuously face the sun, built and placed in the main square. In 2011, current President Berdimuhamedov moved it to the Berzengi Settlement and renamed it the "Monument" of Neutrality. We'll then visit a ranch devoted to the renowned and striking Akhal-Tekke horse, arguably the oldest cultured breed of horse in the world. Next, we'll explore Ancient Anau, which 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: At a local restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Afternoon: After lunch, we'll visit the National Museum of History and Ethnography, with its superb collection of carved ivory drinking horns from Nisa. The museum introduces modern Turkmenistan on the ground floor and ancient history in the galleries above.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Evening: After dinner, we'll view the fountain-cooled and colorfully lit Independence Park, planned in 1993. A huge green space in the center of the city, the park is lined with monuments and statues.

DAY
20
Ancient Nisa
Ashkabad
B,L,D
Archabil Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off the bus; driving about 15 miles, approximately 1.5 hours in total. Walking about 2 miles throughout the day on paved sidewalks and short distances on dirt pathways; periods of standing during field trips.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel.

Morning: This morning, we'll explore ancient 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. A local archaeologist will accompany us on our field trip to the excavations, which continue to reveal more about this ancient city. Then, we'll make a photo 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, and 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. Before lunch, we'll explore the Russian Bazaar, 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. Photography here is strictly forbidden.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, including coffee, tea, and water.

Afternoon: We'll enjoy some time at leisure to rest and pack.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy a farewell dinner, including a glass of wine.

Evening: To be spent in preparation for early departure flights.

DAY
21
Program Concludes
Ashkabad
B

Breakfast: Packed from the hotel.

Morning: Departures. *Note: All flights to Europe with connections to the U.S. depart very early in the morning.






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