Road to Samarkand
From $8,870 - 26 Days, fully inclusive from selected Australian cities
The most renowned overland trading route of ancient civilisations was the Silk Road, crossing rugged, mountainous and desert areas where tales abounded of mystical cities, lively open-air bazaars and a seemingly endless hive of activity. Historically, the Silk Road was a remote and arduous path and one can only imagine the kind of difficulties those who travelled this renowned road had to overcome. It spanned from China’s former imperial capital, Xian, westward through to Europe.
DAYS 1-2: AUSTRALIA TO URUMQI
Fly overnight with China Southern Airlines to Urumqi for an overnight stay. In the afternoon, visit the International Bazaar and the local markets.
DAY 3: URUMQI TO KASHGAR
Travel to Tian Chi (Heavenly Lake), a pristine lake nestled in the foothills of the Tianshan Mountains. With melted snow as its source, Heavenly Lake has crystal-clear water. This evening, fly to Kashgar, an ancient market town, once the flourishing centre of the Silk Road trading route.
DAY 4: KASHGAR
Explore the elegantly tiled Abakh Hoja Tomb, the Id Kah Mosque and the old alleys that intertwine through Id Kah Square.
DAY 5: KASHGAR TO NARYN
Travel from China into Kyrgyzstan across the Tian Shan Range (Heavenly Mountain) to Torugart Pass where you cross the border into Kyrgyzstan. Stop at the Tash Rabat Caravanserai en route to Naryn.
DAY 6: NARYN TO KOCHKOR VILLAGE
Leave Naryn and travel to Kochkor Village. Enjoy a traditional lunch at a Ger before watching a ‘shyrdak’ demonstration (making of Kyrgyz wool carpets).
DAY 7: KOCHKOR VILLAGE TO KARAKOL
Travel to Karakol, visiting Bokonbayevo Village en route. Enjoy lunch with a local family and watch a demonstration of eagle hunting.
DAY 8: KARAKOL
Rise early this morning and visit the colourful Sunday animal market, the Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral and a Chinese mosque. Enjoy an easy afternoon hike in Jety-Orguz and the Valley of Flowers.
DAY 9: KARAKOL TO CHON-KEMIN VALLEY
Explore the Przhevalskii Museum and Semenov Gorge before continuing to Cholpon-Ata. Relax on an afternoon cruise on Issy Kul. Explore the petroglyphs of ibex, wolves and deer etched into glacial stone. Continue to Ashu in the Chon-Kemin Valley.
DAY 10: CHON-KEMIN VALLEY
Today take in the real life of Kyrgyz people in Ashu village.
DAY 11: CHON-KEMIN VALLEY TO BISHKEK
Drive to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, visiting the Burana Tower en route. Later, visit Ala Too Square and Oak Park. This evening, enjoy a folklore performance during dinner.
DAY 12: BISHKEK TO TASHKENT
This morning take a leisurely hike in Ala Archa National Park. This evening fly to Tashkent, the capital city of Uzbekistan.
DAY 13: TASHKENT TO KHIVA
Fly to Urgench and drive to the ancient city of Khiva for a three night stay.
DAY 14: KHIVA
Explore the walled inner town called the Itchan Kala. See the Kukhna Ark Fortress, the turquoise-tiled Islom-Huja, Amir-Tur Medressa and Tash Hauli Palace.
DAY 15: KHIVA
Visit the ruins of Elliq-Qala, an impressive fort complex, and enjoy lunch at a yurt camp below the ruins of Toprak Qala.
DAY 16: KHIVA TO BUKHARA
Travel to Bukhara, Central Asia’s most sacred city with a history spanning over 2,500 years.
DAYS 17-18: BUKHARA
Explore the Ark Fortress, Bolo Hauz Mosque, Chor Minor and Kalon Minaret. Tomorrow, visit the Lyabi-Hauz Plaza and the summer residence of the last Bukharan Emirs. Enjoy a cultural folk performance this evening.
DAY 19: BUKHARA TO SAMARKAND
Travel to Samarkand, the site where the Silk Road diverged east to China, south to India and west to Persia, stopping in the historic town of Shakhrisabz en route.
DAYS 20-21: SAMARKAND
Over the next two days explore the historical sites of Samarkand, including Timur’s Guri Amir Mausoleum and Registan Square. Also visit the She Dor Medressa, Bibi-Khanym Mosque, Shah-I-Zinda, Ulugh Beg Observatory and a paper-making workshop.
DAY 22: SAMARKAND TO TASHKENT
Return to Tashkent by road. You will pass through the Tamerlane Gates en route. Visit the majestic 16th-century Kukeldash Medressa, Kaffal Shashi Mausoleum, Khan Medressa, Khast Imam Complex and Moyie Mubarek Library Museum. Later, wander the Chorsu Bazaar and explore the Crying Mother Monument.
DAY 23: TASHKENT TO BEIJING
Explore Tashkent, including Museum of Applied Arts, Independence Square, 1966 earthquake memorial, Amir Timur Maydoni, the Russian-style Alisher Navoi Theatre and Broadway Street. This evening fly overnight to Beijing.
DAY 24: BEIJING
Arrive into Beijing early and enjoy the morning free at your leisure. This afternoon visit Beihai Park, one of the most ancient imperial gardens in China, and Jingshan Park, for views across the Forbidden City.
DAY 25: DEPART BEIJING
This morning is free at your leisure before you are transferred to Beijing airport to board your overnight flight to Australia.
DAY 26: ARRIVE AUSTRALIA
Arrive home today.
"This is a most incredible ride, through this vast expanse of unspoiled landscape."Reviewed:
Peggy and Peter Walker
Looking back on the trip as a whole I have to say that well organised, well led and well informed guides and escorts springs first to mind. The group interacted well together with a smooth running operation overseen by a light touch from the guides.
Starting from Perth our trip to Guangzhou and Urumqi went off without a hitch. Chinese customs and immigration were “thorough” without being officious throughout. Kyrgyz and Uzbek were a slightly lighter touch. But nothing to disturb us and we all came through the experiences unruffled.
Arriving in Urumqi and Kashgar we enjoyed our visit to the markets. It may be part of China but the atmosphere is different I can only describe it as more “laid back”. It is only when you look on the map that you realise you are far to the north of the main area of China, well to the east, in semi desert and with people which are Asian but certainly not Chinese. What we experienced here became the norm for the rest of the trip. The unfailing good humour, friendliness and good manners of everyone we met.
The range of goods on sale and the size of the markets kept us fascinated for hours. Literally. We got lost and had to be rescued by Christine. Fortunately it wasn’t too much of a delay to proceedings as we were all heading back to the hotel.
When we travelled to Urumqi, our visit to Heavenly Lake was a major experience for me. As a geologist I like plenty of rocks and mountains and this trip provided both in the first half. The Lake is spectacular and when we arrived a festival seemed to be underway with some very professional dancers going though their paces on a stage. This kept us all enthralled for quite a while. Walks round the lake and trips on the water rounded out a thoroughly enthralling day.
Flying to Kashgar everything changed. The dry area with little water was a contrast to Urumqi but in its own way equally fascinating. Here Islam is more evident in the carefully tended mosques and cemeteries. However, amongst the people in the street there is less sign of Islam than can be found in Perth. It was a feature of the trip that Islamic dress for women or men was almost completely absent. Not even a headscarf.
Leaving Kashgar and heading for Kyrgyztan via the Torugat Pass everything changed yet again: with bare mountainside scenery blowing dust and a big climb to nearly 3800M. When we arrived at the head of the pass the temperature was -40 C and with the wind blowing strongly. Even the two minutes we had to stand outside the bus was bad enough but the border guards were there all day. We were glad to get back in the warm.
Then we started the descent through the mountains of Kyrgystan. As the bus descended the mountains rose on both sides of us and in the far distance in front were more white capped peaks. This is a most incredible ride for several hours through this vast expanse of unspoiled landscape. On the way down, there was a break for a “comfort stop”. This was more than many were used to. Open Asian style toilets did not endear themselves to most. Only those few used to this style of “comfort” were unfazed.
Our first experience in Kyrgyztan was at dinner in the town of Naryn. We shared a large theatre hall with an engagement or pre wedding party. Many of the guests sang and danced and there were speeches and artists that entertained the large crowd. Our party was later included in the celebration.
From here on we travelled through the stunning beauty of Kyrgyztan for the next seven days. As we went we experienced life Kyrgyz style but very definitely geared towards tourists. The trips we took to Jety Orguz and Semenov gorges and the snow in the Ala Arta National Park were particular scenic highlights.
The highlight of the accommodation experience was the home stays. Whilst being factually accurate the name does no justice to the standards of accommodation we encountered. Without exception they are clean, well ordered imaginative and exceedingly well appointed. They most closely resemble 3+ star hotels. The staff, mainly family members, were unfailing friendly and courteous. Nothing was too much trouble and they went out of their way to provide everything we could possibly want. Most memorable was the Green Door accommodation. The rooms were faultless and the food here, as everywhere in Kyrgyzstan, was varied, well presented, and far in excess of what we could eat. Most remarkable was the widespread understanding of English from almost everyone.
Our final memory of Kyrgyzstan was an evening at a restaurant with entertainment from a trio of Kyrgyz players whose dexterity and beautiful playing of local tunes had to be heard to be believed.
Then we reached Uzbekistan and Khiva in the far southwest, only a short distance from Turkmenistan. The town seems to be largely preserved in its original state and the mosques, madrassas, minarets and palaces give a strong sense of the long history of this town. Its almost completely preserved city wall surrounding the town completed the feeling that entering here and leaving behind the commercial sections, you were stepping back in time to the era of Tamerlane.
Continuing our travels to Bukhara and Samarkand gave a strong impression of travelling through time to the present. Whilst Khiva is largely original, Bukhara has restored and preserved its ancient buildings whilst adding more amenities. In Samarkand the process of transformation to the present is more advanced.
Bukhara seems to be in two parts, the older city with the minarets and madrassas, and its winding streets and many small markets selling a huge range of local wares, and the more modern part where the imposing Ark Fortress stands. The Labi-Hauz pool, preserved from the original town forms a beautiful and peaceful centre to an intriguing town.
Samarkand is a modern town with its many beautiful buildings carefully and lovingly restored and maintained. Without doubt the most spectacular and mind-boggling is the Registan Square. This complex of madrassas and museums is more beautiful than mere words can describe. It has to be seen to be believed and appreciated. Many of these buildings have been built in such a way that when entering them and looking around, and particularly up, you are overwhelmed by the beauty of the design and decoration. This varies from blue tiles to gold leaf and I would think it is of incalculable value.
Our final stop in Tashkent revealed a very modern city with many fine and spectacular buildings, many of which have been completed in the very recent past. We then returned to China via Beijing where we visited the delightful Beihai and Jinshang Parks with its 9 Dragon Wall.
In summary I have to say that we enjoyed a wonderful and diverse travel experience accompanied by impeccable professional guides who made it their business to see that everything went smoothly and efficiently for the great enjoyment of all concerned.
Apart from the “must see” sight-seeing sites we enjoyed visits to: –
The Felt Factory, Kochkor.
The Silk Paper Factory, Samarkand.
The Carpet Warehouse, Bukhara. (Expensive visit!)
The local musical instrument demonstration, Samarkand.
The eagle hunting.
The jam in Kyrgyztan. And the shopping
Travelled on: Road to Samarkand
Dates & Prices
China Southern Airlines - Above prices include fuel surcharges and tipping of $457. Please note the Tipping amount of USD135 (AUD147) is payable on arrival in Central Asia.
Though status is regularly updated, availability above is indicative only, not live and hence does not guarantee that space is available on your selected tour when you or your agent calls Wendy Wu Tours to book. Booking early is the only way to ensure availability of your selected departure date.