Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan Tour starts in Bishkek with Independence Day celebrations. It will then take you to Ashgabat through pasturelands of Kyrgyz nomads, Silk Road Uzbek cities, and wonder of Turkmenistan – burning gas crater at Darwaza.Read more
Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan Tour starts in Bishkek with Independence Day celebrations. It will then take you to Ashgabat through pasturelands of Kyrgyz nomads, Silk Road Uzbek cities, and wonder of Turkmenistan – burning gas crater at Darwaza.
Surreal Ashgabat with its impressive monuments and buildings made of white marble marks the end of this epic journey. Join this trip and be amazed by fascinating contrasts of architecture, people, landscapes and cultures across these three countries.
Welcome to Central Asia! Most flights arrive very early in the morning. Transfer to the hotel and early check in at the hotel. You can have a rest after your long flight, take a shower and have breakfast.
Transfer to Ala Archa National Park, in the mountains, just 30km outside of Bishkek. We will have a walk in the Park, enjoying the nice views and fresh air. Transfer back to Bishkek for lunch in the city center.
In the afternoon we will have a city tour in Bishkek. The tour includes Osh Bazaar, Panfilov Park, Ala-Too Square with the National History Museum, and monuments to national hero Manas, writer Chingiz Aitmatov and another Kyrgyz hero Baatyr Kozhomkul. Dinner in a nice local restaurant.
Hotel Plaza or similar
After breakfast we visit the central square to watch the Independence Day Parade. After lunch we head to the city’s hippodrome to watch the finals of the horse games. After dinner we go back to the central square to watch the fireworks.
Hotel Plaza or similar
After breakfast we depart from Bishkek. First stop is Burana Tower near the town of Tokmok, 60km east of Bishkek.
The minaret from the 11th century is the only remaining building from the ancient town of Balasagun, once capital of the mighty Karakhanid empire. You can walk up the winding staircase and enjoy a nice view of the Chuy valley. There is also a small open-air museum with “balbals”, carved stone figures used as monuments. We then continue driving to lake Issyk Kul.
Lake Issyk Kul is the second-largest mountain lake in the world, after Titicaca. Located at an altitude of 1600m, it is a slightly saline lake with no outlet, surrounded completely by the Tien Shan Mountains. Some evidence suggests that ruins of an old trade center from 2nd century BC can be found under the water. We drive along the entire northern shore of the lake and make a stop half way, near Cholpon Ata, to visit an open-air site with many ancient petroglyphs, i.e. stone drawings.
In the evening we arrive in the town of Karakol, the administrative capital of the Issyk Kul region near the eastern tip of the lake. We will have dinner in an Uyghur family (small Muslim nation that migrated from China).
Amir Hotel or similar
In the early morning, if you like, you may visit the Sunday cattle market of Karakol. Be aware, the market is really crowded, smelly, and dusty. Return to the hotel for breakfast.
After breakfast, we will have a short tour of the town, including the wooden Orthodox Church, the colorful wooden Dungan Mosque and the History Regional Museum.
After lunch transfer to Tosor village on the southern shore of lake Issyk Kul. On the way, we will visit the canyon “Skazka” translated as “Fairytale” due to its bizarre rocky landscape, which for many years has been transformed by wind into fabulous sculptures and formations. We will go for a short hike at the canyon. Upon arrival at the yurt camp there is some time to go swimming in the lake before dinner.
Overnight in yurt – 2-4 people in a yurt, facilities are outside (Western toilet, shower with heated water)
After breakfast we depart towards another mountain lake – Song Kul. On the way we make a first stop near the village of Bokonbaevo where we meet an Eagle hunter, who will make a demonstration for us. Shortly afterwards there will be another stop in the village of Kyzyl Tuu. Most people in this village are engaged in the manufacturing of yurts and it is the perfect place to learn more about the Kyrgyz yurt and how it is made. We then have lunch in Kochkor, before starting the ascend to lake Song Kul on a dirt road. Lake Song Kul is a mountainous lake on the altitude of 3016 meters above the sea level. The nomads pass their summer on the “jailoo” (summer pasture) with their animals. You can see herds of horses and sheep grazing on meadows full of Edelweiss. Accommodation and dinner will be in a traditional Kyrgyz yurt. You can taste “kymyz” (mare’s milk) and observe the shepherd’s wife preparing bread and cheese At night, gaze at the skies like an astronomer – the nearness of the stars will take your breath away.
Overnight in yurt – 4 people in a yurt, facilities are outside (Western toilet, shower with heated water)
After breakfast transfer to Bishkek. The way to Kochkor is the same as we came up. This time we will spend a bit more time in Kochkor and visit a workshop where local women produce carpets from felt. You can even try to make your own. At the place of the women’s cooperative, we will have lunch. We then drive directly to Bishkek airport to catch the evening flight to Kyrgyzstan’s second largest city, Osh (1 hour). Upon arrival in Osh transfer to hotel and dinner.
Sun Rise 2 Hotel or similar
After breakfast short city tour in Osh with visiting the Suleiman Mountain – UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nicknamed Kichik-Mecca (Little Mecca), Suleiman Too sacred mountain is a major place of Muslim and pre-Muslim pilgrimage. It was said that prophet Sulaiman was buried here, but even before it was a place of pilgrimage for local people. On top of the mountain is a stone shelter known as Babur’s House, named after the 15-16th century Muslim leader who founded the Mughal Dynasty in India and performed his 40 days fast for meditation here.
Then we transfer to the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border. After border formalities meet your Uzbek guide and driver and start the Uzbekistan journey in the Fergana valley. Surrounded by the Tien Shan mountain range and watered by tributaries of the Syr Darya River, this is the most fertile part of Central Asia. Since the time of Alexander the Great and throughout the time of the Great Silk Road it was a rich oasis. Our first stop is Andijan, the birth place of Babur, where we will have lunch. In the afternoon we drive further to the town of Fergana, a relatively young settlement, established as a Russian garrison town at the end of the 19th century. We have a short city tour, including a stroll in Akmed al Fergani Park.
Hotel Asia or similar.
We have one more day to explore the Fergana valley. Nowadays the region is famous in Uzbekistan not only for agriculture, but also for its artisans and markets. Our first destination today is Margilan, just 20km from Fergana. In Margilan we visit the Yodgorlik silk workshop, where you can observe the silk-making process.
Learn more about the traditional “ikat” pattern which is very distinctive to Uzbek silk fabrics. The next town we visit is called Rishtan and very famous all over Uzbekistan for its ceramics. It is no coincidence that pottery became so prominent exactly at this place, because the red clay and pigments available here are of excellent quality.
We have the chance to visit the studio of a pottery master and learn more about his job and passion that has been passed down from generation to generation. From Rishtan we then drive further to Kokand, another town with rich history as a trading and religious center. In the 19th century it was the capital of the Kokand Khanate, that stretched all the way until the southern Kazakh steppe. We will have a short sightseeing tour, which includes remains of Khudayar Khan’s Palace as well the impressive Jami Mosque.
Finally, we catch the 17:30 train from Kokand to Tashkent. We arrive in the Uzbek capital at 21:20. Transfer to the hotel.
Hotel Itchan Qala or similar
Tashkent is the biggest city in Central Asia and one of the oldest. Unfortunately, in an earthquake in 1966 most of its historic buildings were destroyed. Nevertheless, a few buildings notably at the Khast Imom Complex have survived and this is where we are heading first on today’s city tour of Tashkent.
The complex contains ancient Quran book of Caliph Uthman (from 7th century!) and the mausoleum of the Islamic saint, Abu Bakr Kaffal Shashi. We then join the animated throng of traders at Chorsu Bazaar before taking a ride on the Tashkent Metro and visiting the Amir Temur & Independence Squares. You will also have a chance to see the History Museum of Uzbekistan.
Hotel Itchan Qala or similar
At 07:00 transfer from your hotel to railway station. High-speed train “Afrosiyob” departs Tashkent at 08:00 and arrives in Samarkand at 10:10 (300 km). Samarkand evokes an almost mythical past full of romance and intrigue. This was the domain of Timur, one of the history’s great conquerors. Much of his architectural heritage has been preserved, allowing us to see how the city might have been at the peak of his power. We begin the city tour just outside the city in the village Koni Ghil to explore the traditional way of making Samarkand paper from mulberry.
Back in the city we then visit Ulgubek’s observatory, once the biggest research center of Central Asia. Ulugbek was decades ahead of the West with his observations of the solar system and the earth and we will learn more about his story in this prestigious setting.
Our next stop is Shah-i-Zinda, the necropolis where family members of Timur are buried. After lunch, we visit the impressive Bibi Khanum Mosque, before delving into the world of dried fruits and other local delicacies at nearby Siyob Bazaar. Dinner at a local family’s house, just outside the city.
Hotel L’Argamak or similar
Today, finally you get to see Samarkand’s and arguably Uzbekistan’s most famous landmark, spectacular Registan Square. The focal point of ancient Samarkand is framed by three beautiful madrassas – Ulugbek, Sherdor and Tillya Kori. We will also visit Gur-Emir mausoleum, where Timur is buried and Afrasiyab Museum, where you can learn more about the ancient city of Samarkand that was destroyed by the Mongols in early 13th century.
In the afternoon you have some free time until dinner. After dinner, transfer to the train station to catch high-speed train to Bukhara, departing 21:00. Less than two hours later, 22:40 we arrive in Bukhara, transfer to the hotel.
Hotel Komil Boutique or similar
The second of our UNESCO World Heritage stops, even the very name Bukhara conjures up images of the exotic Orient. Today, as for centuries, it’s an important trading post and you’ll have numerous opportunities to see traditional Uzbek products being bought and sold. The Old Town has been well preserved and is crammed full of minarets, mosques, and madrassas. Its once notorious canals and pools, the source of many an epidemic, have now been drained but the most famous, Lyabi-Hauz, is still there, an oasis shaded by mulberry trees at the heart of the city.
Hotel Asia or similar
We leave Bukhara, following the highway that takes us right into the Kyzylkum desert. The mighty Amudarya River cuts through the desert and we will stop on route to see this important waterway that flows into what remains of the Aral Sea. It is a long day on shaky roads, so prepare yourself with plenty of snacks and charge up your devices so the music does not run out. At the end of this arduous drive, the reward will be Khiva, where we will arrive in the evening, just in time for dinner.
Hotel Asia or similar
Khiva is packed with historical sites and today you will get a chance to see them all. You will visit the walled inner city of Khiva, an area called Ichan-Kala and completely protected as UNESCO World Heritage Site. This district preserves more than fifty historic monuments and hundreds of old houses dating back hundreds of years.
As you walk through the enormous city gates, you will be confronted by the glistening Islamic beacon, the Kalta-minor Minaret. Delve deep into the town’s history on a guided tour that embraces all of the city’s unmissable sites and includes an ascent of Islam Khodja Minaret. Enjoy sweeping views of Old Khiva atop the Kunya-Ark Citadel. Invest your free time during the afternoon to enjoy more of the city and shop for souvenirs, or perhaps enjoy a drink at one of the many cafes littered around the ancient city. In the evening during dinner, we will experience a national folklore show.
Hotel Asia or similar
Today it is time to enter the last of the three “Stans”, Turkmenistan. In the morning drive to Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan border point Shavat-Dashoguz (60 km, 1 h.). Go through border formalities on both checkpoints. Cross 1.5 km neutral zone (transportation may not be available).
Meet your Turkmenistan guide and drive to the ancient city of Kunya Urgench (100 km, 1.5h). Visit mausoleums of Turebek-Khanym, Sultan Tekesh, Sultan Il Arslan, Najmad-din-Kubra, Sultan Ali. Discover the Kutlug Timur Minaret and Kyrk Molla hill.
In the afternoon continue driving on 4WD vehicle from Kunya-Urgench to Darvaza Gas Crater burning non-stop for almost 50 years in the middle of Karakum desert.
Overnight in tents.
After camp style breakfast drive to Ashgabat via water crater and Erbent desert community. Arrival in Ashgabat around noon. Have lunch, check in at the hotel and have some rest during the midday heat and after the long and shaky ride of the past couple days.
In the afternoon have a short sightseeing tour in Ashgabat – capital of Turkmenistan which has experienced a boom of “Marble Architecture” for the past 25 years. Tour includes visit of the Spiritual Mosque, one of the biggest mosques in Central Asia, the National Museum of History, the Arch of Neutrality, Presidential Square, Ertogrul Ghazy Mosque, and the newly built Independence Park.
Overnight at Grand Turkmen Hotel or similar
Today we have another busy day. After breakfast we drive to a farm nearby Ashgabat, where you can see the famous Turkmen horses called Akhal Teke. If you like, you can take the unique chance to ride on such a beautiful horse. Our next destination is Kov Ata underground lake, located about 90km to the West of Ashgabat.
The Turkmen word “Kov Ata” translates as “father of the caves”. The water has a constant temperature of 33-37° Celsius. Swimming in the lake apparently is good for your health, so we suggest you go ahead and give it a try! After a picnic for lunch we continue driving a bit further West to the village Nokhur. The village is in the valleys of the Kopet-Dag mountains and unique Turkmen traditions have survived there. The villagers claim to be direct descendants of Alexander the Great. In fact, you can find there fair-skinned people with blue eyes and red hair. Testimony of the unique culture in the village is the cemetery with hundreds of overgrown graves, each one equipped with impressive horns of mountain goats. In the evening we drive back to Ashgabat for our farewell dinner.
Overnight at Grand Turkmen Hotel or similar
Transfer to Airport for departure flight back home. We hope you enjoyed your trip to Central Asia and will return soon to discover more places in this beautiful part of the world!
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