Markets & Minarets of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan
Experience the highlights of Central Asia both old and new on this tour of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. After visiting the bustling metropolis of Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, take a step back in time to the legendary Silk Road oasis cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva – all distinguished by their monumental architecture. Then cross into Turkmenistan and experience the shock of the new in its capital, Ashgabat, where natural gas and oil wealth have funded opulent modern buildings clad in glowing white marble.
Days 1-2: Tashkent (Uzbekistan)
The trip begins in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital and largest city. Spend a day wandering through its main market, Chorsu Bazaar; touring its most noteworthy sights, including Independence Square and Kukeldash Madrassah; and paying a visit to the studio of a ceramics master.
- Tashkent’s park-like Independence Square, formerly Lenin Square, rechristened and adorned with a new monument following Uzbekistan’s 1991 liberation
- The monumental 16th century Islamic architecture of Tashkent, including Kukeldash Madrassah, Kaffal-Shashi Mausoleum, and Barak-Khan Madrassah
- A visit with a ceramics master dedicated to the use of ancient techniques
Days 2-4: Samarkand
On your third morning, travel to the world-renowned Silk Road Oasis city of Samarkand, the conqueror Tamerlane’s ancient blue-tiled capital, hailed by UNESCO as “the crossroad of cultures.” Visit massive Bibi Khanum Mosque, Ulug Bek’s incredible observatory, and gracefully proportioned Registan Square.
- 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, and Ulug Nek Observatory
- A meal with a family in a Samarkand home
Days 5-7: Shahrisabz, Bukhara
On the road to Bukhara, make a stop at Tamerlane’s hometown, UNESCO-listed Shahrisabz, to see the remains of his Ak Saray (White Palace). Then dedicate two days to Bukhara, Central Asia’s most ancient living city and another Silk Road oasis. Its UNESCO-listed Old Town encompasses more than 140 protected monuments, including the Lyabi-Hauz Plaza at the heart of the city and the Ark Citadel, Bukhara’s original fortress.
- Shahrisabz’s Ak Saray, a monumental palace complex that was one of Tamerlane’s most ambitious architectural undertakings
- Old Bukhara’s ageless domed bazaars and its central Lyab-i-Hauz Plaza, adorned with a reflecting pool
- Ark Citadel, Bukhara’s giant ancient fortress
- Kalon Mosque and Minaret, towering over the Old Town
- Dinner and a cultural performance at a madrassah
Days 8-9: Khiva
Head northwest through the Kyzyl Kum Desert to Khiva, the last great oasis on the northern caravan route. Wander through the winding alleys of the UNESCO-listed Old Town, a living museum filled with minarets, cobbled alleys, mosques, and the beautifully preserved Kunya Ark, the original residence of the ruling khans.
- The drive through Kyzyl Kum Desert, following the path of Silk Road caravans
- Khiva’s evocative 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
- Dzhuma Mosque, famous for its carved wooden pillars
- Kunya Ark, the original residence of the khans
Days 10-13: Dashoguz (Turkmenistan), Ashgabat
Cross the border into Turkmenistan and fly from the town of Dashoguz to the capital, Ashgabat. There, explore the flamboyant gilded architecture that has sprung from the rubble of a massive 1948 earthquake, gain insight into the country’s history and culture at the beautifully situated National Museum, and shop among the locals at the Altyn Asyr Oriental Market and the Russian Bazaar. A trip outside of town takes you to the ruins of the ancient city of Nisa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once the center of the Parthian Kingdom
- The opulent modern architecture of Ashgabat, which holds a Guinness record for the highest density of white marble buildings in the world
- Learning the story of Turkmenistan at the National Museum, where the collection includes Stone Age tools, drinking horns used in Zoroastrian rituals, and beautifully crafted amulets
- The ruins of Nisa’s two fortresses, which show influences of ancient Greek and Roman culture
Dates & Prices
- Private trip prices vary by season and are subject to hotel availability for your travel dates.
- Listed prices below are based on double occupancy and a 2 traveler minimum.
- Hotel upgrades, additional nights, and solo traveler prices are available on request.
Land tour price, per person, starting from:
- Shared accommodations as noted in the itinerary. Contact MIR for hotel upgrade prices.
- Meals, as noted in the itinerary.
- Restaurant tips for included meals.
- One arrival and one departure transfer. Additional arrival and departure transfers available at additional cost.) MIR will arrange for travelers to be met upon arrival and seen off on departure, whether or not we make your air arrangements.
- Ground transportation throughout itinerary by private vehicle (type of vehicle depends on number of travelers in your group).
- Services of experienced, English-speaking local guides, drivers, and other staff, as noted in the itinerary.
- Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Special events, excursions, and cultural performances, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Complete pre-departure information, including detailed packing list, reading list, and Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
- Final document packet, including luggage tags, final updates, and more.
- Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements, on request. (Please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost).
- International airfare and taxes/fuel surcharges.
- Internal airfare. (Internal airfare is quoted separately and subject to change by airlines).
- Meals and drinks not specified as included in the itinerary.
- Single supplement if requested or required.
- Baggage handling.
- Gratuities to local guides, drivers, porters, and other service personnel.
- Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
- Travel-related insurance including cancellation, medical, and evacuation insurance.
- Visa fees, excess-baggage charges, airport departure taxes, vaccination and other medical costs.
- Optional pre- or post-tour extensions.
- Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, email, laundry, and alcohol.
Level 2: Moderate, but Customizable
This ‘Essential’ itinerary, which is designed for private travel, features long days walking and standing, and some possibly long days in the touring vehicle. The border crossing between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan may require walking up to ½ -mile while managing your own luggage, and bags may need to be carried rather than rolled, as the road/sidewalk surface is not always paved or smooth. Only those fit to travel and who accept the local conditions should consider joining this program.
There is a significant amount of touring on foot, and those travelers planning to take the program as written should be able to walk one to two miles a day comfortably. Footing can be an issue and travelers should be able to negotiate cobblestones, uneven surfaces (possibly steep and/or wet), and deal with situations without handrails or ramps. In the hotels, you may find that showers/baths have steep steps up or ledges, which can become slippery and require extra caution. Some attractions are only accessible via steep staircases. Museums rarely have elevators and hotels may not have elevators as well.
Past travelers have also encountered challenges with plumbing, bureaucratic service, variety of locally available foods, and availability and quality of public restrooms.
Accommodations in the basic program are generally three- to four-star hotels, some quite small with basic amenities and services. Upgrades may be available, please call for details.