From Almaty to Tashkent in 14 Days Aboard the Orient Silk Road Express
Traverse three of the five ‘Stans of Central Asia on this private rail journey along the Silk Road. Begin in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, and continue into Kyrgyzstan to inspect the capital, Bishkek. Take a boat ride on the country’s most beautiful lake, Issyk-Kul. Stop in Tamerlane’s UNESCO-listed home town, Shahrisabz and visit the three famed Uzbek Silk Road oases – Samarkand, Khiva, and Bukhara. All of them are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Experience five UNESCO sites in 14 days, with six hotel nights and seven nights onboard the comfortable Silk Road Orient Express private train.
- An eastbound departure from Tashkent to Almaty is also available.
- A longer 15-day rail journey over a similar route with Tajikistan included is also available in the fall.
Photos and details: Discover what life is like aboard the Orient Silk Road Express private train.
Days 1-2: Almaty (Kazakhstan)
Start the tour in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city and a thriving business center situated amid the majestic Tien Shan mountain range. Visit Panfilov Park, a hub of the city and home to Zenkov Cathedral, and have lunch in a traditional Kazakh yurt. Then board the Orient Silk Road Express to begin the rail journey.
- Panfilov Park, a green oasis in the middle of Almaty where locals meet to stroll and unwind
- Colorful Zenkov Cathedral, one of the tallest wooden structures in the world and an impressive feat of engineering that survived a massive 1911 earthquake unscathed
- Lunch in a traditional Kazakh yurt
Days 3-5: Issyk-Kul (Kyrgyzstan), Bishkek, Turkistan (Kazakhstan)
Your first stop after Kazakhstan is the neighboring, mountainous country of Kyrgyzstan. Here spend some time at Lake Issyk-Kul, a vast, high-altitude lake ringed by mountains. After learning about nomadic traditions in the countryside you’ll head to the capital Bishkek to explore there. Before entering Uzbekistan you’ll make another stop in Kazakhstan at the historic city of Turkistan to see the revered Sufi sheikh Khoja Ahmed Yasavi’s mausoleum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Vast Lake Issyk-Kul, ringed by mountains and one of Central Asia’s iconic sights
- The Museum of Nomadic Civilizations, a center dedicated to Kyrgyzstan’s nomadic past
- Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s modern capital
- Ala Archa National Park – beautiful, forested mountains located just outside of Bishkek
- Turkistan’s UNESCO-listed Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasavi, commissioned by Tamerlane in the 14th century and topped with the largest dome in Central Asia
Days 6-8: Samarkand (Uzbekistan), Shahrisabz
Continue to blue-tiled Samarkand, Tamerlane’s legendary capital, hailed by UNESCO as “the crossroad of cultures.” Take in massive Bibi Khanum Mosque, Ulug Bek’s incredible observatory, and gracefully proportioned Registan Square. Tour of a silk carpet factory and visit a workshop where handcrafted paper is made using a method that dates from the 8th century. Back on board, continue to Shahrisabz, hometown of the 14th century conqueror Tamerlane, and visit the UNESCO-listed ruins of his Ak Saray (White Palace), one of Tamerlane’s most ambitious architectural undertakings.
- UNESCO-listed Samarkand’s Registan Square, bordered by three beautiful madrassahs
- The 14th century conqueror Tamerlane’s architectural legacy in Samarkand, including Bibi Khanum Mosque, the largest of its day
- Shah-i-Zinda, a row of mausoleums and tombs that collectively span the history of Samarkand
- Ulug Bek Observatory, where Tamerlane’s grandson made historic advances in astronomy
- Seeing artisans make beautifully crafted carpets and paper using age-old techniques
- Shahrisabz’s Ak Saray, a monumental palace complex that includes the remains of a massive portal covered with brilliant blue, white, and gold tile mosaics
Days 9-11: Bukhara
Disembark in beautiful Bukhara, Central Asia’s most ancient living city. Its UNESCO-listed Old Town encompasses more than 140 protected monuments, including the Labi-Hauz Plaza at the heart of the city and the Ark Citadel, Bukhara’s original fortress. Take in a traditional Uzbek performance along with dinner at a former madrassah.
- Bukhara’s evocative Old Town, with its ageless domed bazaars and central Labi-Hauz Plaza, adorned with a reflecting pool
- Ark Citadel, Bukhara’s giant ancient fortress
- A performance and dinner at a local madrassah
- The 10th-century Samani Mausoleum, one of Central Asia’s oldest intact monuments
- The spectacular Kalon Mosque and Minaret – a classic Central Asian scene
Days 12-14: Khiva, Tashkent
Cross the Kyzyl Kum Desert to the city of Khiva, the last great oasis on the northern Silk Road caravan route. Wander through the winding alleys of the UNESCO-listed Old Town filled with minarets, cobbled alleys, mosques, and the beautifully preserved Kunya Ark, the original residence of the ruling khans. Then head to Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital and largest city. Tour some of its most noteworthy sights including Amir Timur Square and Kukeldash Madrassah.
- Khiva’s Old Town (Ichon-Qala in Uzbek), a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Tash-Hauli Palace, built in the 19th century for the khan and his four wives
- Juma Mosque, famous for its carved wooden pillars
- Kunya Ark, the original residence of Khiva’s khans
- Tashkent’s Kukeldash Madrassah, one of the largest 16th century madrassahs remaining in Central Asia, constructed of baked brick with a classic glazed tile facade
- Amir Timur Square, dominated by an equestrian statue of the conqueror Tamerlane
Dates & Prices
Minimum group size: Minimums vary – call for confirmation status
Land Tour Price, Per Person.
Mar 28 - Apr 10Ali Baba, double occupancy$7,845Ali Baba, single occupancy$10,320Aladdin, double occupancy$8,725Aladdin, single occupancy$11,820Sultan, double occupancy$14,195Sultan, single occupancy$21,220Kalif, double occupancy$14,775Kalif, single occupancy$22,020
- Accommodations, as noted in the itinerary.
- Most meals, as noted in the itinerary.
- Arrival/departure transfers, provided you arrive and depart on the tour start/end dates and in the tour start/end cities.
- All guided off-train tours, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Services of an experienced Train Tour Manager as well as local guides for scheduled off-train tours.
- Complimentary tea, coffee, and mineral water from your car attendant at all times while on board the train.
- Baggage handling.
- Complete pre-departure electronic document that includes detailed packing suggestions, reading list links, country-specific information, maps, travel tips and more.
- Customized visa instruction kit (please note, visa fees are not included in the tour price).
- Electronic final update bulletin, with any late news, updates and important information.
- Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements, on request. (Please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost).
- International airfare, including taxes/fuel surcharges, and surface transport to the point of joining/leaving the tour. MIR is able to assist with arrangements, as detailed in the itinerary.
- Meals and drinks not specified as included in the itinerary.
- Single supplement (difference between double rate and single occupancy rate) if requested or required.
- Optional pre- or post-tour extensions.
- Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
- Visa fees, excess baggage charges, airport departure taxes, vaccination, and other medical costs.
- Travel insurance including cancellation, medical, and evacuation insurance.
- Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, email, laundry, and alcohol.
- Gratuities not specified as included in the itinerary.
Level 2: Moderate
This rail journey by private train features significant touring on foot, throughout which travelers are expected to keep up with other group members. Walking during touring days will be on a variety of surfaces, with many streets and sidewalks being uneven, and elevators generally not available during touring excursions, leading to some stair climbing. Challenges on board on board the train include long onboard distances with heavy doors, as well as steep steps and gaps to navigate while embarking and disembarking. Only those willing to accept local standards of amenities and services should consider joining this program.
Travelers must be able to walk a mile per day keeping up with other group members. Streets and sidewalks can be uneven or unexpected surfaces, and handrails are not always present. Steps, which may be required due to lack of elevators, may be steep and/or uneven, and may also lack handrails. The distance on board the train between sleeping and dining carriages may be significant, and there are many heavy doors to navigate when moving throughout the train. Getting on and off the train involves navigating steep steps, low platforms, and possible gaps between the train and the platform. Navigating rail stations may also involve traveling up and over steep steps/footbridges to cross tracks, or steep steps and dark tunnels to cross under to/from the train station. Although porterage is provided where possible, you may have to carry your baggage for short distances.
General shortcomings of the tourism infrastructure may include problems with bureaucratic service and availability and quality of public restrooms when not on board the train.