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 (4.89)
Program No. 18766RJ
Length
20 days
Starts at
5,399
Flights start at
1,500
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20 days
19 nights
49 meals
17 B 17 L 15 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight

Activity note: Most travelers will arrive in Almaty either very late in the evening on Day 2 or very early in the morning on Day 3. Upon arrival travelers will be transferred to the hotel with early check-in. Your first field trip will begin late in the morning (11 a.m.) of Day 3.

DAY
2
Almaty
Dostyk Hotel
DAY
3
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Almaty
L,D
Dostyk Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to three miles and standing in place during excursions.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy lunch, plus coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: 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. Next, 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. Explore Panfilov Park with its Zenkov Cathedral and stop by the Green Bazaar, where you 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.

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

DAY
4
Drive to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Bishkek
B,L,D
Golden Dragon Hotel

Activity note: The distance from Bishkek to Almaty is approximately 150 miles (240 kilometers). Today's travel time is 5 to 6 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: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: This morning after breakfast, continue exploring Almaty before departing for a drive across the border into Kyrgyzstan and onward to Bishkek. 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 local restaurant, we will enjoy lunch and a Kazakh folklore performance.

Afternoon: Depart by motor coach for Bishkek.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy dinner, plus coffee, tea, water.

DAY
5
Burana Tower
Bishkek
B,L,D
Golden Dragon Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to three miles and standing in place during excursions. Spiral staircases at Burana Tower involve steep steps inside a narrow passageway with limited light.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Pay a visit to International University of Central Asia (IUCA). Opened in 2008 in Tokmok village, the university offers rural students the opportunity to receive a western-style 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. Next visit 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.

Lunch: We will enjoy lunch as guests of a local family in Tokmok.

Afternoon: Following lunch, observe and participate in traditional Kyrgyz felt-making techniques with a Kyrgyz felt artist. Then 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.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy dinner, plus coffee, tea, water.

DAY
6
Highlights of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Bishkek
B,L,D
Golden Dragon Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to three miles and standing in place during excursions; a short walk (between 10 and 20 minutes) to and from the restaurant for dinner.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: The exploration of the city this morning includes visits to Victory Park; Ala Too, the city's central square; Oak Park and the Osh Bazaar. The sights, smells and sounds of bazaars are part of the sensory experience of Bishkek, and there are several within the city; the largest is called Osh Bazaar. Travelers can purchase local crafts, dried fruit, fermented milk, rice, grains and, of course, the brightly colored Kyrgyz textiles by haggling with the traders in these markets.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy lunch, plus coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: Browse the State Museum of Fine Arts, which features Kyrgyz embroidery, jewelry and unique felt rugs. Pause at the Village of Manas and the monument "Manas on the Horse." Later this afternoon, enjoy some independent time or visit Ala Archa National Park and Ata Beyit Memorial Complex. Ata Beyit (Cemetery of the Fathers) is a memorial complex honoring the victims of the 1937-38 Stalinist repressions. The memorial was built close to the spot where 137 bodies were discovered in a mass grave. An estimated 10,000 people were killed in Kyrgyzstan during the 1930s, including the founders of the original Kyrgyz Soviet State. Ala Archa National Park is 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: This evening we will enjoy a glass of wine at dinner along with a concert of traditional Kyrgyz music and a Manas performance.

DAY
7
Fly to Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Tashkent
B,L
Shodlik Palace Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to three miles and standing in place during excursions.

Breakfast: We will take packed breakfasts to the airport.

Morning: Transfer to the airport for the short morning flight to Tashkent. Upon arrival in Tashkent, take an introductory excursion of the city. 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. Browse the Applied Arts Museum, housed in the former mansion of a wealthy czarist diplomat. 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, as well as ceramics, jewelry, rugs, and musical instruments.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy lunch, plus coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: The afternoon is to be spent at your leisure.

Dinner: Explore local fare on your own.

DAY
8
Tashkent
Tashkent
B,L,D
Shodlik Palace Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to three miles and standing in place during excursions.

Breakfast: Breakfast at 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 into 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, which spills out from 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 everything 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 using natural dyes and teach contemporary Uzbek ceramicists these rediscovered techniques.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy lunch, plus coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: Our exploration of Tashkent continues with an 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: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy dinner, plus coffee, tea, water.

Evening: Schedules permitting, attend a musical performance at one of Tashkent's concert halls.

DAY
9
Drive to Khujand, Tajikistan
Khujand
B,L,D
Sugd Hotel

Activity note: The distance from Tashkent to Khujand is approximately 120 miles. Today's travel time is approximately 4 to 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: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Depart early this morning for the Uzbekistan/Tajikistan border. After the formalities of the border crossing, continue to the nearby city of 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 hub, Khujand is home to several medieval monuments.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy lunch, plus coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: This afternoon embark on an introductory excursion in Khujand, visiting the pink-painted, covered Panshanbe Bazaar; the Historical Museum of Sogdiana, with displays that include ancient Sogdian artifacts and exhibits from recent Tajik history; the Muslihiddin memorial complex, dedicated to the 12th-century leader and poet, Muslihiddin Khudjandi; and the remains of the 10th-century Timur Malik Fortress. Continue on to Khujand’s Arbob Cultural Palace, located in the central building of a former Soviet collective farm. Comprising a theater, museum, meeting places, including 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, we will enjoy dinner, plus coffee, tea, water.

DAY
10
Drive to Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
Samarkand
B,L,D
Asia Samarkand Hotel

Activity note: The distance from Khujand to Samarkand is approximately 200 miles (320 kilometers). Today's travel time is approximately 8 to 9 hours, including the border crossing.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Return to Uzbekistan and continue along the Silk Road 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, we will enjoy lunch, plus coffee, tea, water.

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. Also 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 a local restaurant, we will enjoy dinner, plus coffee, tea, water.

DAY
11
Ulug Bek, Son of Tamerlane
Samarkand
B,L,D
Asia Samarkand Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to three miles and standing in place during excursions. Note: There is a fairly steep staircase with roughly 80 uneven steps without handrails at Shah-i-Zinde.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Visit the Bibi Khanum Mosque, Ulug Bek's Observatory, and a local bazaar. 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. 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, we will enjoy lunch, plus coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: At the Carpet Factory Workshop, observe the processes of carpet weaving and dying thread using natural dyes . Later, 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. Before dinner, attend a dance performance by a young, local troupe.

Dinner: Enjoy dinner tonight as guests of a local family.

DAY
12
Along the Silk Road to Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Bukhara
B,L,D
Modarixon Hotel

Activity note: The distance from Samarkand to Bukhara is approximately 170 miles (275 kilometers). Today's travel time is approximately 5 to 6 hours.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Continue along the Silk Road to Bukhara. 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: Share lunch with a ceramics master in his home.

Afternoon: Upon arrival in Bukhara, time permitting, 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: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy dinner, plus coffee, tea, water.

DAY
13
Bukhara: A Surprise Around Every Corner
Bukhara
B,L,D
Modarixon Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to three miles and standing in place during excursions.

Breakfast: Breakfast 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 Labi-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 Labi-Hauz pool, the 1622 madrassah was originally built as a caravanserai.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy dinner, plus coffee, tea, water.

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. While at the Ark Citadel, 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.

DAY
14
Bukhara: The Riches & Power of the Past
Bukhara
B,L
Modarixon Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to three miles and standing in place during excursions.

Breakfast: Breakfast at 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. 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. 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, we will enjoy dinner, plus coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: Free time to be spent at your leisure.

Dinner: Explore local fare on your own.

DAY
15
Through the Desert to Khiva
Khiva
B,L,D
Asia Khiva Hotel

Activity note: The distance from Bukhara to Khiva is about 350 miles (560 kilometers). The drive will take approximately 8 to 9 hours, including a stop for lunch.

Breakfast: Breakfast at 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 at one of the villages along the way.

Afternoon: Arrive in Khiva and check in to your hotel.

Dinner: Dinner tonight is buffet-style at the hotel's restaurant.

DAY
16
Walk Through Ancient Khiva
Khiva
B,L,D
Asia Khiva Hotel

Activity note: A majority of the day's activities will be done on foot.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: 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. Continue with visits to the Mukhammad Rakhimkhan Madrassah and the Said Alauddin and Pakhlavan Makhmud Mausoleums before lunch.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy dinner, plus coffee, tea, 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, enjoy dinner and a performance of Khorezmian music and dance.

DAY
17
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: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Built in the late 19th century, the fortress-like Toza Bog Summer Residence united Central Asian and European design. Tall windows from St. Petersburg were placed in the adobe brick walls, and western chandeliers hang from the ceilings. Khan Muhammed Rakhim II constructed the palace outside the city and had it planted with orchards and flower gardens.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy dinner, plus coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: Drive a short distance to the Uzbekistan/Turkmenistan border. After completing the formalities of crossing the border, which can be time consuming, you'll be met by your Turkmen guide and driven to the nearby town of Dashoguz.

Dinner: At a local restaurant in Dashoguz, we will enjoy dinner, plus coffee, tea, water.

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

DAY
18
Ashkabad, the Capital of Turkmenistan In All Its Glory
Ashkabad
B,L,D
Archabil Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to three miles and standing in place during excursions.

Breakfast: Breakfast at 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, 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, 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. 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.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy dinner, plus coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: Visit the National Museum of History and Ethnography with its superb collection of carved ivory drinking horns from Nisa. The museum, with its grand approach and panoramic views, introduces modern Turkmenistan on the ground floor and ancient history in the galleries above. 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: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy dinner, plus coffee, tea, water.

DAY
19
Ancient Anau
Ashkabad
B,L,D
Archabil Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to three miles and standing in place during excursions.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: After breakfast, set out to 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 in Ashgabad, we will enjoy dinner, plus coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: Turkmenistan's first president, Saparmurat Niyazov originally built the 250-foot Arch of Neutrality, on which a 40-foot golden statue of himself revolved to continuously face the sun. In 2011, current President Berdimuhamedov moved it to the Berzengi Settlement and renamed it the "Monument" of Neutrality rather than the "Arch." Today it includes the Museum of Neutrality as well as a transparent elevator. See the fountain-cooled Independence Park, planned in 1993. A huge green space in the center of the city, the park is lined with monuments and statues.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy a farewell dinner, including a glass of wine, to the accompaniment of Turkmen national music.

DAY
20
Program Concludes
Ashkabad
B

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.






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