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"Great Silk Road, 35 days"
tinerary: Beijing - Xian - Lanchow - Labrang - Lanchow - Jiayuguan - Dunhuang - Turpan - Urumqi - - Kashgar - Irkeshtam pass - Base camp under the Lenin Peak - Osh - Ferghana - Margilan - Ferghana - Rishtan - Kokand - Tashkent - Samarkand - Bukhara - Khiva - Konya - Urgench - Tashauz - Ashgabat - Mary - Merv - Mary - Turkmen - Iranian border - Mashhad - Shiraz - Persepolis - Isfahan - Tehran.
Price: $ 6498
||China - Kyrgyzstan - Uzbekistan - Turkmenistan - Iran.
|Best time to travel:
||aprel - october.
Day 1. Arrival to Beijing.
in the morning as soon as you land and get off the plane you will be
carefully met and taken to the hotel. Right from this moment you are
starting your amazing acquaintance with China and this country is worth
crossing all seas and oceans. To be sure! This is the country with a
5000-thousand-year history! It is really able to astonish. Just imagine:
29 out of 754 UNESCO World Heritage objects are located here, which
results in the fact that China is ranked third in the world with respect
to the number of the world heritage objects. Now you are in the
country, people of which invented compass, sail, printing, plough,
umbrella, porcelain, calendar, seismoscope, kite, and arbalest…
First of all you will visit Tiananmen Square located
in the centre of Beijing. Long ago it was a palatial square situated
behind the Platform of the Forbidden Palace. Appreciate the chance given
to you by luck as in the times of the emperors ordinary people were not
able to visit this square! Take a look at its majesty, symmetry and
thrilling mightiness. This square is the largest in the world, thus, try
to imagine the following: it can fit up to million people at a time!
Then you will see former residence of the Chinese
emperors, which without a doubt is the main attraction of Beijing. Full
name of the emperor’s palace in Chinese sounds like «Zijin Cheng» -
«Purple Forbidden City», and the name «Gùgōng» meaning the «Former
Palace» appeared later. Nowadays people in Beijing mostly use the name
«Gùgōng» when referring to the palace and this name has almost replaced
the first one.
The next place our guide will direct you to is the
Great Chinese Wall! Well, of course not all of it. You will see the part
of the wall, which is located in Beijing. It’s not just another
attraction of China; it is the symbol and the pride of the whole body of
the Chinese civilization, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Do you
know that this wall has been built for more than 2000 years?! And do
you know that its alternative names are «The largest cemetery in the
world» and «The Wall of Tears»? Don’t you? then it’s time to pack and
head for China, time to start the tour along the great Silk Road! Here
you will find a lot of thing, which are impressive, terrifying and
intriguing, the things you won’t ever find in any other country of the
After visit the "miraculous” wall you will continue
your way towards the Mausoleum of the Ming emperors. We have to be quick
because, unfortunately, the day is not endless... Well, Ming Tombs… 13
Ming emperors and empresses rest in peace here. Isn’t it scary? Don’t
worry! Chinese security systems are up and running. Here you will see
not only the tombs by themselves but the whole underground palace
("Underground Palace of Dingling”) - the place where almost every
offspring of the Ming dynasty found his/her ultimate and final
Overnight at a hotel.
Day 2. Beijing - Xian (T27 21:30 - 08:36).
Tonight you will leave Beijing for Xian, which is another beautiful Chinese city.
However, while you are still here you can visit the
Summer Imperial Palace, which has got more than a 800-year history.
There is the largest and pretty well-preserved Imperial Garden in China,
which was laid out around the palace. During the tour around the Summer
Imperial Palace you will see the East Glorious Gate, the Hall of
Literary Glory, the Hall of Nephritic Waves, the Palace of Tranquil
Longevity, roofed gallery, marble boat and other fine monuments of the
past centuries’ architecture.
In the afternoon you will find out what the real
Temple of Heaven looks like! This is the place where the emperors of
Ming and Qing dynasties gathered annually for a prayer to heaven for
peace and good harvest. The most amazing thing here is the Echo Wall.
Could you imagine that every word said by you facing the wall will echo
to your interlocutor at the other side of the wall? Well, definitely
there is nothing to say about the confidentiality of such a
In the evening you will be delivered to the railway station to catch a night train to Xian (Ò27 (21:30 - 08:36)).
Day 3. Xian.
you arrive and check in to the hotel, you will have a full day
sightseeing in Xian. You can be sure that you’ve come here not for
nothing, because long ago Xian was the starting point of the Great Silk
Road. The first caravans were starting from here in the II C BC. It
happened due to the following: Emperor Wu of Han, who ruled that time,
required pedigree horses for his cavalry. In 138-126 BC imperial envoy
Zhang Qian, who were in Central Asia that time, saw local pedigree
horses. Upon coming back he told the Emperor that in the region he was
travelling across there is no silk weaving at all, however, there are
excellent horses, fruit, wine, etc. These news suggested emperor an idea
to create a trade corridor and as it is known nowadays the idea was
worthy! In 121 BC the first camelcade loaded with the silk and bronze
mirrors headed for the Ferghana Oasis through the Turpan Depression
along the Flaming Mountains and Tian Shan ridges. Therefore, Xi’an is
the spot where the beginning of a many-century history of the Great Silk
Road was initiated.
Nowadays Xian is an administrative centre of the
Shaanxi province. It is situated in the western part of the Guanzhong
Plain and is the largest urban area there. In ancient times Xian was
called Chang"an and was a world-famous capital. The history of the city
is more than 3000-year long. For that period many unique monuments were
In Xian you will see the most astonishing attraction
of China - the Terracotta Army of the first Chinese emperor Qin Shi
Huang. The hundreds of warriors of different appearance and with
different eye expressions will stare at you amazed by the fact that
you’ve dared to trespass upon their domain where they are used to guard
the emperor’s peace.
Besides, you will visit the Horse Museum and after
the rich lunch you will head for the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, which one
of the most famous Buddhist pagodas in China. Our guide will friendly
tell you about the foundation of this monument in 652 AD and the legend
related to its origination.
Overnight at a hotel.
Day 4. Xian - Lanchow (K119 22:26 - 06:27).
you will continue your city-tour around Xi’an. The Shaanxi History
Museum is waiting for you as well as the visit to the Great Mosque and
local Muslim bazaar do. Traditional souvenirs reminding you that you’ve
been at the initial point of the Great Silk Road can be bought here.
Furthermore, here you can taste traditional Chinese sweets: dumplings
made of the corn called votaw, sweet rice with candied fruit called
babaofan and fruits in the hot bass caramel. The stands of street
merchants offer not only sweets but also different sorts of tofu (bean
curd), various mushrooms, pieces of meet and bamboo sprouts and even
lotus sprouts roasted in a deep fat. Well, anyway if you will be brave
enough to taste Chinese cuisine the first thing you will be offered are
sweetish, vitamin C and starch-reach lotus underground stem. In fact,
the Chinese eat all parts of the lotus, even stamens and stems because
they believe such a diet prolong adolescence. Therefore, don’t miss your
chance to try this natural cure!
By the way, do you know that the Great Silk Road has
got its name in 1877 following the example of the German geographer
Ferdinand von Richthofen? The fact is that this trade route was
established due to the profitability of the silk manufacture, which
existed only in China and, thus, being an exclusive item was highly
demanded. Hence, the title suggested by Herr Richthofen being a pure
notional quintessence became a commonly used term.
In the evening you will be transferred to the railway
station to take a night train Ê119 (22:26 - 06:27) to the next
destination - the city of Lanchow.
Day 5. Xiahe - Labrang (280 km).
arrival to Lanchow you will be transferred to a small town Xiahe.
Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the history of Lanchow… Lanchow was
purposefully built in the point where the Huang He River was crossing
with the great Silk Road. Nowadays the city is a modern mixture of the
glass and concrete and there are a lot o bridges with small restaurants
located in the bridges. The centre of the city attracts with its market
of antiquities. You can buy here calligraphic scrolls, hand-made carved
folding screens, ancient coins, glittering swords, wooden arbalests,
bronze statues of the warriors, smoking pipes, caskets with the secret,
On your way to Xiahe you will visit the famous
Binling Monastery, which is 80 km from Lanchow. One can get to the
monastery after he/she has ferried over the artificial water reserve,
which appeared due to the construction of the dam on the Yellow River
(the Huang He River) in 1967. The famous Caves of a Thousand Buddhas are
in the Binling. If to evaluate their majesty and historical value they
yield only to the caves in Dunhuang and those in the Mingsha Shan Mount.
34 caves and 149 niches with 679 stone-made figures and 82 clay ones
are preserved up to now along with 900 m2 of frescos. After the lunch
you will continue to Xiahe, where you are expected to be comfortably
accommodated at the hotel.
Overnight at a hotel.
Day 6. Xiahe - Lanchow - (280 km, 5 hrs.) - Jiayuguan.
you will have to visit the legendary Xiahe Monastery. It is one of the 6
largest monasteries of the Geluk school of Buddhism in China. Xiahe
Monastery is a real treasury of the art objects. You will see here
stunning frescos and tapestries, Tibetan furniture, white Tibetan
scarves and stupas (cone-shaped vases decorated with gems where the
bones of the religious and political leaders of Tibet are kept) as well
as the great number of statues of Buddhas: peaceful Gautama (Present
Buddha) and Maitreya (Future Buddha) decorated with the turquoise and
golden ornaments, golden Tsun Kha-pa and a bronze statue of Tszyamuyan
I. The monastery is surrounded by a picturesque landscape ideal for
You will spend the whole day wondering around the
monastery and in the evening you will go back to Lanchow to take a night
train to Jiayuguan.
Day 7. Jiayuguan - Dunhuang (330 km, 5-6 hrs.).
Jiayuguan you will visit an urban fortress, the Museum of the Great
Chinese Wall (straight behind the main gates of the fortress), part of
the wall between the fortress and Qilian Mountains and one of the
numerous watchtowers built in the epoch of Ming dynasty.
Jiayuguan is the very first fortress built at the
Silk Road. It is situated at the western end of the Great Chinese Wall. A
small town of the same name attached to the fortress appeared a bit
later. This fortress was successfully guarding strategic pass ways for
the centuries. The pass way surrounded by the forbidding rocks from both
sides has always been a great temptation for those thinking about an
armed invasion. The Silk Road passing through these natural gates
favored the development and prosperity of the city as all caravans
passing here were obliged to pay certain "customs” due. This pass is one
of the most well-preserved gates of this ancient fortress.
The legend about construction of the fortress is
quite noticeable. When his part of the Great Wall was under construction
the architect in charge was asked how many bricks he would require. The
construction process was stated after they had manufactured the number
of bricks declared by the architect. After the construction had been
finished it happened to be that a single brick left over. However, this
fact didn’t help the architect to avoid an unjust accusation. He was
accused of excess expenditures. The unfortunate "excess” brick is still
there and you can see it peacefully lying on a visible spot above the
Having visited the Wall you will continue to Dunhuang
- the city, at the hotel of which you are supposed to spend an upcoming
Day 8. Dunhuang - Turpan.
is famous with the caves, barkhans and ancient monuments. Actually if
to speak about the caves then this place is like a Turkish Cappadocia!
Today you will visit Mogao cave temples! Here you will find out that
Mogao Grottoes are also known as the "Caves of a Thousand Buddhas”. It
is a unique collection of fresco paintings, sculpture and other objects
of the ancient Chinese architecture (IV - XIV CC) gathered during the
rule of the nine emperor’s dynasties. All 500 grottoes are equipped with
the locked-up aluminum doors, which can be unlocked only by the guides
or the security officers. The walls of each grotto are decorated with
frescos and there are one or more motley statues inside. Guess what? You
can get into the most interesting grottoes only if you are able to pay
an imposed fee. Moreover, nobody is allowed to take photos inside the
grottoes. And the last advice is to take with you a high beam pocket
torch and some drinking water.
Furthermore, 5 km from the city are so called Singing
Sands. In fact, these are huge barkhans. It is very hot here in the day
time but when the weather is windy (but not stormy) the sands are
singing. These barchans are said to be the highest in China as even the
dunes of Taklamakan are lower.
After some rest upon coming back to Dunhuang you will take a night train to Turpan.
Day 9. Turpan.
contrasts of the famous region of the Turpan Depression are regarded as
the most record-breaking on the Earth. As Andrey Mihaylov from the
Russian magazine "Continent” writes: "first of all, these are the
altitude differences. The Turpan Depression is the second deep both in
Asia and in the world after the Dead Sea Depression”. The first person
who measured its depth was Przewalski"s apprentice Roborowski. He
figured out that the depression is 130 m (plus-minus 30 m) below the sea
level. It was a geographical furore as even the most progressive
theorists of the physical geography had never supposed that such a
depression can be found at the heart of the highest mountains of the
planet. And that’s true as even the nearest mountains surrounding the
Turpan Depression such as the Tavan Bogd Uul covered with the eternal
ice are five and a half km high. This makes Turpan absolutely different
in comparison to the Dead Sea where the true altitude of the rocks in
Judaic desert and Moab is no more than 300-400 m”.
By the way, during your visit to the caves and cavern
monasteries in the Flaming Mountains you will figure out how great was
the contribution of the Silk Road into the scientific and cultural
exchange of the past: the ancient Iranian system of so-called "karez”
water supply (constructed by hands) was found here. There are more than a
thousand of the underground water channels (karez system) with the
total length of 2500 km, and it really deserves praises. In fact, karez
channels are often compared to the Great Wall in terms of the scale and
Besides, here you will visit an ancient picturesque
settlement called Tuek and miraculous grottoes known as the "Bezeklik
Thousand Buddha Caves”. You will learn the history of Buddhism in
Turpan. Approximately 15-minute ride is required to get to these
grottoes from the centre of the city. They are located in the interior
of the Hoyanshan Mountain. Initially there were more than 80 grottoes
but now only 67 are left. However, it is not surprising as all the
grottoes are centuries old.
An Uyghur family will hospitably meet you in Turpan,
thus, allowing you to take a look at unique customs and traditions of
the Uyghurs and their local cuisine.
And of course this is the only place where you can
taste authentic Turpan grapes, which happen to be the symbol and the
pride of the city! Entire lifestyle of the locals is closely related
with this fruit one or the other way. Why? Well, because grapes are
grown here for more than two thousand years! Even the central street of
Turphan is a grape alley. Both traffic way and side pavements look like
green tunnels and this "vineyard” stretches for several kilometers!
Furthermore, we should mention the most typical elements of the local
architecture, which are two-storey cob constructions with tracery
decorating the second floor. These constructions function as driers,
where grape bunches are hanging on special wooden racks. Further work is
done by the dry and hot air. Dried raisins fall on the smooth loamy
floor. Now the owner sweeps them together and packs into the sacks.
These famous green sultanas from Turpan are then sold at the bazaars all
over China and abroad.
Overnight at a hotel.
Day 10. Turpan - Urumqi (200 km, 4-5 hrs.).
the breakfast at a hotel you will continue discovering Turpan. Today
you are heading towards the ruins of Jiaohe, which was a former capital
city of a once mighty and prosperous state called the Southern Gushi.
This well-preserved wattle and daub city will strike you with its size,
age, which is more than three thousand years, and its enigmatic view. It
is said that in the twilight there is such a silence here that one can
hear sinister clattering of horses" hoofs, which is a faint sound of the
past ages still remembered by the strong walls of the ancient city.
In the afternoon you will be transferred to Urumqi,
the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. Upon
arrival you will be accommodated at a cozy metropolitan hotel and after a
short rest you will start a city-tour across Urumqi. Urumqi is a city,
which attracts the interest of every visitor! The city strikes at first
sight! Skyscrapers of glass and concrete adjoin almost tumbled down
slums, the life is everywhere and its motive power is her majesty trade.
Here you won’t be able to tell if it’s a weekday or a weekend just by
looking out of the windows as there are always thousands of people in
the street! Another distinctive feature of Urumqi is almost absolute
absence of people with the backpacks, because here the backpack makes
you a potential victim of pickers. Therefore, be careful!
After the city-tour you are to visit the Big Bazaar
in Urumqi, where you can buy a lot of different things including
traditional Uyghur silk and Chinese cotton, different sorts of nuts and
dried fruits, medicinal herbs, and aromatic oils… Besides, you will be
astonished by the local colour, which is usually the source of lots of
impressions and great pictures. Surely, you will remember this
contrasting city, which is a harmonic combination of the eastern and
Overnight at a hotel in Urumqi.
Day 11. Urumqi - Kashgar (CZ6803 08:30 - 10:15).
in the morning you will be transferred to the airport. Local plane will
carry you safely to the last but not the least Chinese city of your
itinerary - Kashgar.
In the Middle Ages Kashgar was one of the most
important trade spots of the Great Silk Road; numerous caravans started
from here to the West (Ferghana Valley), to the South (Jammu and
Kashmir) and to the North (Urumqi and Turpan). In 1273 Marco Polo was
here and noted that there are Nestorian churches here. At the end of the
XIV C the oasis suffered from a heavy blow delivered by Amir Timur
invasion, as a result of which islamization of the locals was
intensified. In 1755 Kashgar came under the influence of Chinese rulers
again. But… that’s enough of history! Let’s discover the city and make
up our own opinion about it! After all, Kashgar had always been an
important link between the so-called "northern” and "southern” arteries
of the Great Silk Road!
The central part of Kashgar is a real old city
without any slightest suggestion of a regular city planning, which is
full of narrow twisted street, numerous squares used as bazaars, brick
or wattle and daub houses, and such dark and narrow back streets that
only God knows where they lead to. Here you will see the Id Kah Mosque,
which is the largest in China. It appeared here in 1442. Probably, even
more intriguing is the Mausoleum of Abakh Khoja, which is the holiest
place for the Sufis in Xinjiang. It is dated by 1640. Besides, you are
lucky to visit the Craftsmen Street, where a lot of handicraft shops are
open to make you happy with masterpieces of the local artisans.
A popular Chinese proverb says: "If you’ve been to
Xinjiang but didn’t visit Kashgar, you’ve never been to Xinjiang”. Let’s
speak about Kashgar bazaar only! Big Sunday Bazaar is a huge space
organized according to the principles of the elementary logic: the name
of the trade row allows buyer to understand what is sold here (e.g.
signs stating «Fruits», «Ironware», «Foodstuffs» make everything quite
clear). But anyway buyers get confused with the quantity and wide
variety of goods! It is difficult to figure out all the fruits you can
buy here: pomegranates, figs, grapes, melons, watermelons, peaches,
apples… There are so many merchants here that not only desks but cribs
with fruits, various trays and even a piece of cloth can serve as a
trading stand. Here you will find the famous Yangishar knives existing
for more than 200 years. It’s distinguished by a fine quality and
beautiful shape. The handle is enchased with silver or copper, decorated
with pearls, cockle-shells, etc. This is where excellent knives are
made! Well, guess, this shopping will please you very much! All the
more, you will be able to meet the locals here and watch their way of
Overnight at a hotel.
Day 12. Kashgar - Irkeshtam pass (260 km, 4 hrs.) - Yurt camp under the Lenin Peak.Early
in the morning you will leave Kashgar and head for the Irkeshtam pass,
where you set your foot on the Kyrgyz land. Present-day road towards
Irkeshtam runs just like the middle part of the ancient Great Silk Road
did. The entire route accounts for the mountain ranges of the
Pamir-Alay, which separate Central Asia and China. It’s known for
certain that the first man who passed this natural barrier in 128 BC was
Chinese envoy Zhang Qian together with his mission. Therefore, the date
of Zhang Qian mission’s arrival to the Ferghana Valley can be regarded
as the official opening of the Great Silk Road, because due to this
Chinese mission the active silk trade has begun along this
Well, now when you’ve successful passed both
Irkeshtam pass and border point the next phase of your program is
starting. You will get acquainted with the charming nature and
picturesque landscapes of Kyrgyzstan. Your travel efforts will be
rewarded as soon as you find yourself at the footsteps of the great
Kyrgyz Mountains, under the world-famous seven-thousand-meter peak - the
Lenin Peak. Don’t worry if you are quite far from alpinism as nobody is
going to make you climb this peak. Your tour was claimed to be a
cultural one, so everything is going to be done "politely”! Well, apart
from joking it must be said that here you will find yourself in a bit
unusual conditions as you are supposed to accommodate in the yurt camp
far from hotels, high-rank restaurants, marble floors and plastic
ceilings. However, still don’t worry! The service in our camp matches
the level of a good hotel with the only difference, which is a view from
So, Yurt camp under the Lenin Peak is kind of a small
town located at the altitude of 3600 meters above the sea level. Here
you will accommodate in warm and cozy national yurts with heating, all
necessary furniture and electricity. All conditions for the comfortable
rest are guaranteed! There are also an excellent bathhouse with a real
sweating-room and proper WC facilities. For your convenience staff
doctor is working in the camp. Moreover, there is a cook-house where
both traditional European and national Kyrgyz dishes will be cooked for
you. Despite the altitude and remoteness from civilization we’ve got a
telephone here, so you can call home, and (drum-roll)… we have an
Day 13. Yurt camp under the Lenin Peak.
how did you sleep after yesterday’s journey? Was it wonderful? Guess,
yes, as proper sleep is guaranteed here by the fresh air, cozy yurt, and
remoteness from any highways, crowds of people and all modern
civilization in general.
Today you will continue discovering the nature of
Kyrgyzstan and probably meet the alpinists who came here to climb the
seven-thousand-meter peak. So, don’t miss an opportunity to learn
something about people’s life in the mountains! You can feel like a real
mountain-dweller for a while.
Day 14. Transfer to Osh.
after having breakfast under the Lenin Peak you are starting towards a
Kyrgyz city called Osh. In order to get there you have to cross the
Taldyk pass. As a rule it is the most difficult pass on the way from the
yurt camp to Osh. Its altitude is 3615 meters above the sea level. Even
at the beginning of June snow is usually there. There is a
breathe-taking view of snowy mountain ridges of the Alay range from the
Taldyk pass. The above-mentioned range creates natural border of the
Ferghana Valley from the south and south-east. Therefore, try to take a
seat near the window - there is a lot to look at!
The Kyrgyz call Osh the "southern capital”. Nobody
know the exact date of its foundation, however, legends related it to
Alexander the Great and even Solomon the Prophet (also known in the East
as Suleyman). One legend tells that Suleyman was leading its army and
there was a couple of yoked oxes ahead of him and after oxes had reached
a mountain the ruler said: "Kosh!” ("Enough!”). However, this is not
the only version of the city name origin.
Osh is one of the most ancient urban centre of the
Central Asia and undoubtedly the most ancient in Kyrgyzstan.
Archeological findings prove that the city is at least about 3000-year
old. In the X C Osh was regarded as the third largest city of Ferghana,
because it was standing at the crossroad of the caravan routes
stretching from India and China to Europe. Hence, it was one of the
ancient spots along the Silk Road, the tracks of which your route is
following. Besides, Osh is one of the Muslim religious centers of the
Central Asia. A handful of legends is related to the Suleyman-Too
Mountain (the mountain is named after Suleyman the Prophet, who,
according to the legend, was able to cure all illnesses).
Overnight at a hotel.
Day 15. Osh - Ferghana.
you will have to make a long journey from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan. You
will leave Osh early in the morning and proceed to Ferghana, where your
journey across Uzbekistan starts. Today you will see the legendary
Ferghana Valley with your own eyes! After all, this is the fertile and
densely populated region where numerous caravans moving along the Silk
Road to the Mediterranean were usually sheltered!
Overnight at a hotel in Ferghana.
Day 16. Ferghana - Margilan - Ferghana.
you will see several ancient cities of the Ferghana Valley. The first
will be Margilan, the city, which remembers invasions of Alexander the
Great and the foundation of the Great Silk Road. In the X C this city
was famous far behind the borders of the Ferghana Valley with its silk
and khan-atlas and garments made of these cloths. The cloths were
exported to Egypt, Greece, Baghdad, Khorasan and Kashgar. You will have
an opportunity to see these unique fabrics as we’ve planned your visits
to the "Yodgorlik” Silk Factory and the Eastern Bazaar, where you can
purchase both lots of souvenirs and useful items.
At the end of the XV - the beginning of the XVI C
Margilan was also famous due to the following circumstance: one of Timur
Lang’s grandsons - sultan Babur - was born and raised here. He became a
ruler of Ferghana and later founded the Mughal Empire in India. In
addition, he was the founder of his own dynasty - the Baburid (note that
different sources also refer to it as the Timurids or the Mughal
dynasty) - who were ruling till the middle of the XIX C. You will surely
have a lot of pleasant memories of this city as being the travelers’
shelter for ages it is still full of verdure! The architectural complex
Kaftarlik (XVIII C) will make you believe that you decision to come here
was not a mistake as you are about to see the mosque with the unique
paintings and mysterious minarets.
Then you will be taken back to Ferghana to continue your tour there.
Overnight at a hotel.
Day 17. Ferghana - Rishtan - Kokand - Tashkent (310 km, 5 hrs.).
you will continue discovering the Ferghana Valley and, first of all,
head for Rishtan and then another famous city of the valley called
Kokand. Rishtan is famous all around Uzbekistan and abroad with its
numerous workshops, where unique pottery is produced. Azure pottery of
Rishtan is a wonderful national tradition, which remained till the
present. During your visits to several workshops you’ll see how pottery
is made by the famous craftsmen putting their whole soul into the
process. The dabs of Rishtan are world-famous because of their unique
technology of the ceramics manufacture and unusual decoration of the
After that you’ll continue your transfer to Tashkent.
However, there is another one attraction to discover while you are
still in the Ferghana Valley - Kokand. This city won’t leave you
indifferent as not long ago (at the end of the XIX - the beginning of
the XX C) Kokand was the second largest city of the Ferghana Valley! In
the period of active land trade along the Great Silk Road Kokand, as
recorded in Chinese chronicles dated back to the X C, was famous with
its handicrafts. During the period of its existence Kokand was ruled by
29 khans, the most famous of which is probably the last one called
Khudayar Khan (1845 - 1876). Four times he was deprived of the throne
and each time he managed to come back to power.
An old eastern proverb says: "New ruler - new coin”.
However, in the case of Kokand governors it must be changed as follows:
"New ruler - new palace”. For the rich history of Kokand the palace of
Khudayar Khan , which is still well-preserved, was the seventh residence
of the rulers for just a century and a half. This magnificent complex
was built by the architect called Mir Ubaydullo in 1871. The best
artisans from different corners of the Ferghana Valley were decorating
it. The palace, surrounded by the carved stone wall, consisted of 7
smaller courtyards and 119 rooms. There was an Arabic inscription above
the main gates stating: "Syed Muhammad Khudayar Khan the Great”. Now
there is a regional museum in the former palace building.
bygone days Kokand was a large centre of the religion development. In
the years of prosperity there were thirty five madrassas and hundred
mosques in the city. Unfortunately, most of them are devastated either
by time, earthquakes or the Soviet authorities. The largest religious
centre of the city was the Norbutabi madrasah built at the end of the
XVIII C. After 1991 this madrasah was opened again and now more than
eighty students study there. It is also worth to see the Juma mosque
erected in the beginning of the XIX C. The iwan’s covering leans on 98
carved pillars made of a solid nettle tree. Unique ceiling of the mosque
is made of the wooden panels "vassa”, covered with elegant frescos and
laid athwart the ornamented cross-beams. A minaret rises in front of the
mosque and it is seen from everywhere in the city. And as you see the
Mausoleum of Modari Khan you will find out a life story of a poetess
Nadira executed by order of the Amir of Bukhara and it will make you
sad. This necropolis was built in the memory of hers!
After all the excursions you will finally reach Tashkent, where you will be able to relax in a hotel room.
Day 18. Tashkent.
you will see Tashkent - one of the oldest cities in Central Asia. You
will be able to appreciate its modern beauty and ancient majesty.
Tashkent is the capital of Uzbekistan, the fourth
largest city in CIS with a huge population of about 2,3 million of
people. The city is conditionally divided into two parts - the Old and
the New city. The names are self-explanatory: in the Old city you will
find mausoleums, madrassas and an authentic eastern bazaar, whereas in
the New one there are modern monuments, buildings, squares, and parks.
These two contrasting faces of the city peacefully co-exist and,
moreover, successfully supplement each other. In fact, this distinctive
feature of Tashkent conveys the characteristic, which is general for the
entire Uzbek state: that is, harmonious combination of the ancient
traditions and modern trends.
We will start from the attractions of the Old city:
Barak Khan Madrasah is a splendid monument of the XVI C located in the
very heart of the Old city - the Hast Imam Square - and is surrounded by
the ancient wattle and daub houses. In the past the Spiritual
Administration of the Muslims of Central Asia headed by the mufti was
lodged in the madrasah. In addition, there is a huge library of eastern
manuscripts here. The world-known the Uthman Qur"an is kept here in a
special room. This manuscript was written in the middle of the VII C and
is the source of the sacred book of the Islam - the Qur’an. It consists
of 353 large-sized parchment pages, which were kept in the treasuries
of caliphs for centuries (in Medina, Damascus and Baghdad). In Timur
Lang’s time the Uthman Qur"an was brought from Baghdad to Uzbekistan and
then (in the XIX C) is has visited St.-Petersburg, where Russian
scientists proved its authenticity. Later it came back to the Central
Asia via Ufa and now it is kept here. The Mausoleum of Yunus Khan is a
monumental construction built in the XV C in the honour of one of the
Tashkent rulers. The building is quite well-preserved.
The Mazar of
Kafal-Al-Shashi (sacred Sufi tomb, XVI C). Kafal-Al-Shashi was a
missionary, a preacher of shafiitism. He was also a Sufi poet. He died
in the X C and his tomb, reconstructed in the XVI C, has become a
popular Muslim pilgrimage site.
The Kukeldash Madrasah (XVI C) is
situated not far from the eastern bazaar Chor-Su. The madrasah is
functioning. Many Muslim students live and study there. There are towers
from the both sides of the facade, and muezzins used to call the
believers for prayer ("namaz” or Mohammedan prayer) from there.
Afterwards we’ve planned the New city tour:
first destination is the Museum of Applied Arts. Then we’ll proceed to
the Istiklol Square, which is the main square of the country. All public
national holidays are celebrated here. Recently its design was expanded
with an immense arch, which is illuminated from beneath by small lights
fixed into the ground. Those lights fill the surroundings with a cosmic
Then we are supposed to have a fifteen-minute walk from the Independence Square to the Uzbek State Opera and Ballet Theatre.
we’ll proceed to the Nations’ Friendship Square, which is the second
largest square of the city. It is also often used as a venue of the
national holidays’ celebration. Here is also a concert hall of the same
name, where the concerts of both local and foreign stars are held.
recommend you getting to all the above-mentioned spots by the
underground. It is the coolest transport in hot summer weather.
«Tashkent underground is the most beautiful!!!» - it is a frequent
phrase of both city guests and its dwellers. That’s true as each
underground station is uniquely designed. And here is where you’ll find
the second distinctive feature of both Tashkent and Uzbekistan, which is
the combination of the eastern and western styles. Guess, you liked the
stations, didn’t you? However, you are not allowed to take pictures in
This is how your day in the Uzbek capital is planned.
A night in the hotel will become a perfect addition to a day full of
the eastern spirit.
Day 19. Tashkent - Samarkand (330 km, 5-6 hrs.).
breakfast you will start towards the oldest and probably the most
famous Central Asian city – Samarkand, which was also known as Afrasiyab
and Maracanda for some time. Guess, you’ve heard about this ancient
city more than once. Samarkand was one of the major destinations of the
Great Silk Road. This is a city-museum, a city that was a heart of the
caravan trade. Amazingly, but Samarkand, which saw a lot, has managed to
keep the spirit of the Asian Middle Ages. In 1220 Genghis Khan almost
totally demolished the city. However, in another 150 year, during the
rule of Timur Lang, Samarkand became a well-known capital of a vast
empire. As for the trade, carpets weaved in Samarkand were highly
There is the Hazrat-Khyzr Mosque on the hill at the
city entrance. An impressive view of the ancient Necropolis
Shah-i-Zinda, local bazaar and distant mountains opens from that hill.
The Hazrat-Khyzr Mosque, which is quite an old construction, was totally
demolished by the hordes of Genghis Khan as well as many other objects
in Samarkand. However, it was reconstructed in the XIX C.
Overnight at a hotel.
Day 20. Samarkand.
entire day will be devoted to Samarkand and who knows maybe this city,
recognized as the heart of the Great Silk Road, will lift the veil of
mystery from its secrets. You are starting your quest after breakfast.
Are you ready? Yeah? Then let’s go!
>First of all you will see the most impressive
square in the entire Central Asia - the Registan Square (XV - XVII C)
situated in the centre of Samarkand. The word "Registan” means "sandy
spot”. The Registan appeared as the centre of the trade and handicrafts
at the crossing of six roads outstretched from the city gates. Right
here, in the Registan, merchants coming with the camelcades were selling
their goods and purchasing local ones. The square is encircled with
three majestic buildings: the Madrasah of Ulugh Bek (1417 - 1420), the
Sher-Dor Madrasah (1619 - 1636), and the Tilya-Kori Madrasah (1647 -
In 1417 Ulugh Bek (the grandson of famous Timur Lang)
started the construction of the madrasah bearing his name. In 1420
construction process was finished and the square became the centre of
the science. Initially, more than a hundred students were living and
studying there. The Madrasah of Ulugh Bek was considered as the higher
educational institution that time. Therefore, one may conclude that it
was an eastern medieval university.
In the XVII C two more buildings were erected in the
Registan: the Sher-Dor and the Tilya-Kori Madrassas. They are remarkably
large and luxuriously designed. The Sher-Dor Madrasah («Lions Gate»)
with the facade depicting fantastic catlike animals and chamois is a
regular reflection of the Madrasah of Ulugh Bek. It had been under
construction for almost 17 years. Its construction was initiated by the
ruler of Samarkand called Yalangtush Bakhodur. Ten year after the
Sher-Dor had been finished he ordered to lay foundation of the
Tilya-Kori Madrasah, which completes the ensemble from the north. The
name of the madrasah is literally translated as "decorated with gold”.
Except its main educative function this madrasah was also used as the
main mosque of Samarkand. The Registan is still considered to be the
central city square.
that you will visit the Rukhabad necropolis. As the legend states the
hair of the Islamic Prophet Mohammad (XV C) are kept here. Furthermore,
you can head for the Bibi-Khanym Mosque (XV C), which was built
according to a special order by the best 200 architects from all over
the Timur Lang’s empire, 500 workers and 95 Indian elephants. Another
option is to see the Ulugh Beg Observatory (also the XV C) where you
find a unique astronomic construction - the sextant.
You can also take a look of the architectural
ensemble Shah-i-Zinda (XII - XV CC), which has got its name from the
legend about the cousin of Muhammad the Prophet called Kusam ibn Abbas,
who was buried here. The name of the ensemble literally means "King
Alive”. The legend tells that Kusam ibn Abbas came to Samarkand together
with the Arab conquerors in the VII C to preach Islam and was beheaded
for his beliefs. However, he was such a strong believer that he managed
to take his head split and went down to a deep well where he is
supposedly residing now. The remains of the Timur Lang’s courtiers also
lie here in Shah-i-Zinda.
Overnight at a hotel.
Day 21. Samarkand - Bukhara (300 km, 4-5 hrs.).
in the morning you are starting to Bukhara. En route you will be able
to appreciate majesty of the Kyzyl-Kum desert still keeping the tracks
of the camelcades, which were once moving slowly along the Great Silk
Road. «Bukhara-i sharif», «Noble», «Sacred» - these are only some of the
epithets, which were used to describe this ancient city. One of the
legends tells that the founder of Bukhara was called Siyavash and he was
a son of an Iranian Shakh. Zoroastrians of Bukhara worshipped the place
of his death and traditionally during the spring holiday Nowruz each
man was slaughtering a cock at the eastern gates called Guriyan
(Hay-sellers" Gate), where Siyavash is said to be executed. During the
rule of the Samanid Bukhara was their capital city and at the same time
the greatest city of the entire Islamic world. In addition, it happened
to be the centre of trade between China and Western Asia. What a goods
were exported from here by the caravans! E.g. dried fruits, various
fabrics, vine, jewelry, etc. Therefore, Bukhara became kind of an
exchange place for all Asian peoples (one of its alternative names was
"The City of Merchants”). In general, this fact resulted in the proverb,
which was famous in the XIX C in Bukhara: «He keeps his eyes open just
like a Bukhara shroff». By the way, the Iranian Encyclopedia tells us
that the name of the city originated from the Sogdian «Buxarak» («Place
of Good Fortune »). Who knows, maybe this is the very reason why trade
was so brisk here?
After the tiring road you will be able to relax at a hotel in Bukhara looking forward to meet the "God’s delight” - Bukhara.
Day 22. Bukhara.
morning in a cozy Bukhara hotel will begin with... breakfast, of
course! Then you will continue exploring Bukhara. You have a 6-hour
First, you will explore the Mausoleum of the Samanid
(IX-Õ CC), which is a pearl of Central Asian architecture. It is a
family tomb of a local dynasty, which was founded by Ismail Samani. The
mausoleum is unique in various respects. For instance, according to the
canons of Islamic architecture the construction of the covered
mausoleums was prohibited. However, all evidence shows that for the
first time this rule was broken during the construction of this
mausoleum. Furthermore, as historians of the architecture state, the
building was erected according to the rules applied to the construction
of Zoroastrian fire worship temples. Thus, it was built according to the
pre-Arab religious traditions, however, in the period of wide Islam
dissemination in the Central Asia. Therefore, the Mausoleum of the
Samanid is considered as the building, which defined the trend of
various cultures synthesis and assimilation. Later original
architectural style of the Central Asia has developed based on it.
Upon leaving the Park of the Samanids don’t forget to
have a look at the Chashma-Ayub Mazar (or mausoleum) (XII C), which is
translated as "the spring of Job”. This place is the best demonstration
of the Silk Road impact onto the development of countries interconnected
by this route, including even the remotest ones. Who could even think
that here, in Central Asia, Christian legends about Biblical characters
may appear? Nevertheless, the legend tells us that Job (Ayub) was
wondering in this region in the tome of drought. Locals, exhausted by
thirst, were asking for water. Then the prophet had stroke the ground
with his stick and the next moment clear spring appeared there. It is
still accessible for the wonderers.
Today you will admire at the most ancient fortress of
Bukhara, Ark citadel (end of the III C), which vividly fits in the
local scenery, and is an impressive reinforced fort from which Bukhara
was starting long ago. Present-day appearance of the citadel correlates
with the time of last restoration of the Ark gates by Shakh Murad Khan,
known as the «sinless Amir». It is considered, that in the times of the
other governor called Nasrullah Khan, known as the «butcher Amir» for
its cruelty, leather lash, was hanging on one of the walls of the
fortress being a symbol of his aut