Grand Central Asian Tour
Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgizstan, Kazakhstan
Season: April to October
Highlights: Samarkand, Bukhara, Pamir Highway, Wakhan Corridor, Issykul lake
This fantsatic trip will show all the jewels of Central Asia. After arrival to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, we will visit the ancient cities Samarkand and Bukhara. Then we will drive to North Tajikistan, spend a night in Dushanbe and then enter Pamir mountains and drive through the legendary Wakhan Corridor along the border with Aghanistan. After that we will enter Kyrgyzstan to enjoy all the variety of mountain landscapes – rivers, lakes, high snow peaks and nomads living in yurts. The trip will end in Almaty, the old capital of Kazakhstan.
The cost includes: accommodation (double occupancy, hotels in cities, simple home stay in Pamir), private transport (4WD), mineral water bottles, English speaking guide, tickets to museums.
Day 1. Arrival to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. If we have time, we will walk around the city in the afternoon or evening. Overnight in hotel.
Day 2. Full sightseeing day in Tashkent: Old Tashkent, Hazrati Imam mosque, History Museum of Amir Timur, Minor Mosque, Kukeldash Medrese (madrasa). In the evening, we have the option to attend a performance at the academic Opera and Ballet Theater of Alisher Navoi.
Day 3. Driving to Samarkand (306 km) during 4 and half hours. After a quick lunch, we will explore this amazing medieval city:
UNESCO heritage sight – Registan square – a complex of buildings built in 1400-1600s in the center of the city.
The complex of tombs Shahi Zinda (1300-1400s).
Gur Emir mausoleum as the best exemple of Persian architecture.
Bibi Hanym mosque.
Overnight in hotel in Samarkand.
Day 4. Driving 270 km to Bukhara. Bukhara had been the capital of Bukhara kingdom. Bukhara had lost its independence in 1850s and been part of Russian Empire before it was merged into one of newly created Soviet Republics – Uzbekistan, in 1924. We will visit:
Lyab-i Houz complex in the city central square.
Bolo Hauz and Ark citadel.
We will visit a number of madrasas such as Kosh madrasa, Ulugbek Madrasa, Isteza madrasa, and the mausoleums of Saif Ad-Din Boharzi and Buyan-Kuli Khan.
If we have time, we will also visit Talipach Gates and Imam Al Bukhari memorial museum.
Overnight in hotel in Bukhara.
Day 5. Full day drive from Bukhara to Dushanbe (capital of Tajikistan). 570 km. We will cross the land border between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and see the beautiful villages on the way. Overnight in hotel in Dushanbe.
Day 6. Dushanbe – Kalaikhumb, 360 km. Altitude 1245 m.
Driving East towards Pamir through beautiful scenery. We cross Shurabad Pass of 2200 meters elevation. Stop and have an excursion to Hulbuk fortress, dated by 8th century AD, recently restored.
Overnight in a local guest house at Kalaikhumb.
Day 7. Kalaikhumb – Khorog. 250 km.
We continue driving South East while entering the beautiful rocky mountains of Pamir range. And in few hours we reach Khorog - the capital of Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) . GBAO is inhabited by Pamiri people, a number of different small ethnic groups of Eastern Iranian type. They live across all over Pamir in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Xinjiang province of China. Depending on the road condition and the wish of the tourists, we can visit Bartang valley on the way.
Overnight in a guest house in Khorog.
Day 8. Khorog – Langar. 230 km..
From the morning we drive South. After 50 km we stop at Garmchasma hot springs. And then we enter the legendary Wakhan valley/Wakhan Corridor, the Tajik half of it, shared with Afghanistan. The first stop in Wakhan will be at Ishkashim, a town on Pyanj river. This old town was split between Tajikistan and Afghanistan and still exists on both sides of the border serving as bazaar and an immigration point. After Ishkashim we turn straight East and drive for few hours along Wakhan Corridor – along the border with Afghanistan. On the way we visit remnants of forts of Kushan period (3rd century AD), as well as Buddhist stupas of the 4th c. We also stop at Bibi Fatima hot springs and take a bath there if we want.
Overnight in a guest house run by local family, in Langar. Altitude 2800 m
Day 9. Langar – Murghab, 285 km. Altitude of Murghab is 3600 m.
Today we are leaving Wakhan Valley and enter the rocky Pamir mountains. First we cross the high Kargushi Pass (4344 meters ) and then we visit Bulung Kul lake. This road - Pamir highway – was built in 1931. Lunch at Alichur village, then we pass through a village at Murghab river at the elevation of 3650 m. Overnight in Murghab guest house.
Day 10. Murghab – Kara Kul lake, 165 km.
Today we will drive up through the high pass Ak-Baital,4655 m. And the we reach Kara Kul lake at 3915 m, the highest lake in the former Soviet Union. We will stay in a simple guest house or a yurt. In the whole area around Murghab and Kara Kul, the inhabitants are nomadic Kyrgyz tribes.
Day 11.Kara Kul lake – Osh, 200 km.
We cross the border and enter Kyrgizstan, and quickly reach Osh, a small city with Soviet era buildings, on the border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, inhabited mostly by Uzbeks and Kyrgiz. Here we will enjoy the amenities of civilisation after a week in the wild mountains. Overnight in a hotel.
Day 12. Osh – Chichkan canyon, 395 km.
After days of dry rocky Pamir, we will see the greenery of the charming Chichkan canyon. A transparent clean river flows through the canyon, and lots of backpackers stay here in tents in summers. Overnight in a modern motel.
Day 13. Chichkan – Bishkek, 350 km.
All the way to Bishkek we will enjoy the view of beautiful green hills and small valleys. We reach Bishkek in the afternoon. Formerly known as Frunze, this multicultural city was founded by Russians in the 1890s and inhabited by Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, Russians, Ukranians and other small ethnic groups as Koreans, Germans, Greeks, etc. We will strall in the city center around the building of Kyrgyzstan government, built in the style of classicism. Overnight in a hotel.
Day 14. Bishkek – Karakol, 400 km.
Today we drive East. We pass the famous Issyk Kul lake, stop for a lunch there. We will enjoy the beauty of this big and warm lake surrounded by many resorts , and in the afternoon we arrive to Karakol, the fourth largest city of Kyrgizstan. Until 1992 it was called Przhevalsk, by the name of a famous Russian explorer and geographer Przhevalsky. The city stands on the East of Issyk Kul lake and its population consists of Russians and Kazakhs. The old wooden Russian Orthodox Church is in the cetner of Karakol. The city is surrounded by beautiful valleys and hills. Overnight in a hotel.
Day 15. Today we will have an excursion to the amazing Saryzhaz mountains in the very East of Kyrgizstan. It belongs to Tyan-Shan mountain range. Few nomadic tribes live here in yurts with their catle. In the evening we drive back to Karakol. Overnight in Karakol.
Day 16. Karakol to Almaty via Kegen.
We drive North East to cross the border with Kazakhstan and in 100 km reach Kegen, another beautiful town in the mountains, from where we see the high peaks of Tyan Shan. Then we turn back West and reach Almaty, the ex-capital of Kazakhstan and its largest city, in 250 km. In the evening we have a dinner at one of the wonderful restaurants of Almaty. Almaty is the cultural and economic center of the country, it has the best restaurants, hotels, hospitals and other amenities of such kind of place. It is also a very clean and modern city. In the evening we visit Christian Assumption Cathedral and the circle Park of the First President of Kazakhstan to cool down near its fontains. Overnight in hotel.
Day 17. Almaty – Charyn, 230 km.
Today we drive to Charyn canyon. You have never seen anything more beautiful than that. Red color rocks around look like intricated and designed towers, you feel like you are in a magic and surreal realm. A perfect place for photography. Overnight in hotel.
Day 18. We drive back to Almaty. And in the afternoon we walk around the city, visit Republic of Kazakhstan Art Museum, buy souvenirs, and maybe for dinner we will go to a local family. Also at some point of our stay in Almaty, we will drive to the Big Almaty lake nearby the city. Overnight in hotel in Almaty.
Day 19. Departure from the international airport of Almaty.