Abandoned ruins of Ayaz Kala fortress, Uzbekistan
Abandoned ruins of Ayaz Kala fortress, Uzbekistan

Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan: In the Footsteps of Traders

19 days From $6,980

April 17 2019

The Silk Road. A fabled name whose romantic mystique evokes images of desert caravanserais and merchant camel trains laden with precious silks and spices winding their way from China to the West – a distant era that has left a lasting imprint upon the commerce, history and religions it diffused through Central Asia.

Pride of place on our exploration of this crucible of cultural and ethnic diversity goes to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, neighboring independent republics and former Khanate states whose lavish palaces and mosques were built with wealth derived from control of the treasures flowing through these lands. Today theirs is a timeless backdrop of snow-capped mountains, empty deserts, colorful markets, grazing camels and traditionally-garbed local people – in places fascinatingly juxtaposed with a 21st century veneer.

Our journey visiting no less than five UNESCO World Heritage Sites offers many inspirational rewards in the fields of archaeology and ethnography. Edged by the Caspian Sea and dominated by the Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan is best-known for its extensive archaeological ruins at Merv and Zoroastrian Gonur Tepe. Uzbekistan boasts a plethora of striking mosques, mausoleums and madrassas, the most magnificent at the Registan, a landmark of Islamic architecture in historic Samarkand – while perhaps Central Asia’s most complete example of a medieval city awaits at Bukara, long a center for Islamic theology and scholarship.

What's included?

  •  Expert Scholar & Tour Manager
  •  Accommodation
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Local Transport
  •  Entries & Tips

Led by...

Prof. Craig Benjamin

Professor Craig Benjamin is an Associate Professor in the History Department at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, where he teaches courses in ancient Central and East Asian history, and on the Silk Roads.

Book Now $6,980
Includes deposit: $500 Single supplement: $1,090

Tour highlights:

  • Discover no fewer than 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including ancient Shahr-i Sabz (site of Tamerlaine’s 14th century palace) and the stunning historic center of Samarkand
  • Visit the impressively excavated and restored ancient fortress town of Gonur Tepe
  • Enjoy memorable Turkmenistan shopping in Ashgabad’s colorful open-air bazaar where the locals sell handicrafts, vegetables, Bukhara-style rugs, traditional costumes – in fact almost anything!
  • Wander among the architectural treasures of Uzbekistan’s atmospheric and wonderfully restored walled city of Khiva
  • Immerse yourself in the culture these fascinating countries have to offer, and revel in the opportunity to sample the local cuisine

Tour details

Dates April 17 2019 - May 05 2019
Duration 19 days
Cost $6,980
Single supplement: $1,090
Deposit: $500 , balance due by 23 January 2019
Activity Level Challenging
Tour code A19TSR

Book Now or call 866-740-5130 if you have any questions

April 17 2019: Itinerary

We arrive in Turkmenistan and transfer to our hotel, where we rest. After a lecture, we tour Ashgabat. The capital is in the center of the Akhal-Teke Oasis, surrounded on one side by the Kara-Kum Desert and on the other by the Kopet-Dag Mountains. It is home to lavish marble palaces, gold domes and beautifully manicured parkland.

All meals included

Our day begins at the Kipchak Mosque, the largest in Central Asia. We then visit the UNESCO Site of the Parthian Fortresses of Nissa, the capital of the Parthian Empire, located at important trade routes. After lunch, we visit the National Archaeological Museum, which houses a wealth of ancient drinking vessels, known as rhytons.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

We spend time in Ashgabat’s oriental bazaar, Altyn Asyr, which is known for being one of the largest markets in Central Asia. There is a tall clock tower at its heart and the extensive market sells an impressive range of goods, from Turkmen carpets to local handicrafts. We continue to Anau, where traces of habitation date back to the 4th millennium BC. Later we fly to Mary where we check into our hotel before dinner.

All meals included

This morning, we visit the archaeological site of Gonur Tepe. Dated to 3000 BC, Gonur Tepe is one of the oldest Zoroastrian civilizations. The largest ruins in the Morghab delta region are found here, with over 150 settlements dating to the early Bronze Age. Later, in Mary, we explore exhibits at the National History and Ethnology Museum.

All meals included

Today, we explore the site of ancient Merv, an amazing historical treasure-house and capital of the Parthian province of Margiana. This is one of the most important cities along the Silk Road. Among its ruins are the tomb of Sultan Sanjar and the Erk-Kala, perhaps rebuilt by Roman prisoners taken by the Parthians at the battle of Carrhae in 53 BC. Later, we fly to Ashgabat.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

We fly to Daşoguz and tour the monument-rich town of Kunya-Urgench, capital of Khorezm and a major city on the northern caravan route until 1388. We visit the remaining monuments, including Turabeg Khanym Mausoleum; Najmuddin Kubra Mausoleum, and Kutluk Timur Minaret, which, at 62 meters, is the tallest in central Asia. We then cross the border into Uzbekistan.

All meals included

This morning, we discover one of the best collections of Soviet art in the world at in the Nukus Museum. After our visit, we drive along the Amu Darya river to Khiva, stopping along the way to visit Chilpik Dakhma. This Zoroastrian tower of silence is thought to be the earliest example of the traditional funerary ritual, constructed somewhere between the 1st century BC and 1st century AD.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

We start our day by exploring Old Khiva. This was the first place in Uzbekistan to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Tash Khovli Palace, with its 18th-century harem, and the 9th-century Djuma Mosque, with its unusual wooden ceiling, are among the architectural treasures we see. We have the afternoon at leisure.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

We journey to Ayaz Kala this morning. The towering mud-brick walls of the three fortresses found here are truly a sight to behold, rising dramatically from the surrounding plains. Later, we travel by air or by train to Bukhara.

All meals included

This morning we tour the historic center of Bukhara, including the museums and mosques of the Ark Citadel and the Samanid Mausoleum. Our visits continue at the Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum; Kalyan Minaret and Mosque; Bala-Hauz Mosque; and the Lab-i Hauz Fountain, surrounded by madrassas. We end the day leisurely by browsing through Bukhara’s famous bazaars.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

We spend the morning at the ruined town of Paykent. In its heyday, it was home to a citadel with a Zoroastrian fire temple and several residential quarters. On our return to Bukhara, we stop at the memorial complex of Chor-Bakr, a 16th-century necropolis. We will also visit the tomb of Baha-ud-Din Naqshband, the 14th-century founder of the Naqshbandis, a very ancient and important Sufi order. This is a highly revered place of pilgrimage and has two lovely restored mosques as well as a simple tomb and small museum.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Our first stop today is the ancient city of Varaksha, one of the major towns of the Hephthalite civilization, and the final retreat for local kings when the Arab armies advanced. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to take in more of Bukhara and explore the local markets. This evening we will take in a show of ancient costumes at Nodir Devon Begi before enjoying dinner.

All meals included

We travel to Samarkand, stopping at Shahrisabz, known as one of the most ancient cities along the trade routes of Central Asia. Here Tamerlane, who was born in a nearby village, built the famous Ak-Sarai (White Palace) to celebrate his victory against Khorezm. At last, we arrive in Samarkand, an historic town founded in the 7th century BC and revered for its mosques and many monuments.

All meals included

Samarkand’s city monuments await and we begin with a visit to the Afrasiab Museum. We tour the Ulugh-Beg Observatory – one of the finest in the Islamic world – and later we explore the Regional Museum of Samarkand, located in an old merchant’s house. Our day ends at Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum, Tamerlane’s tomb.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

We continue our exploration of Samarkand at the Bibi-Khanum Mosque and the gorgeous lane of mosques and mausoleums known as Sha-i-Zhinda. The remainder of the day will be at leisure before an evening light show in Rajistan Square.

All meals included

We enjoy a final morning in Samarkand and visit its main attraction: Registan Square, surrounded by Ulugbek, Sher-Dor and Tilla-Kori madrasahs. We travel by train to Tashkent.

All meals included

A full day at your leisure to relax and unwind before tomorrow’s touring. There will be a final lecture before lunch to recap our tour.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

We spend the whole day in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital. Our touring begins with a walking tour in the Old Town, including Barak Khana Madrassa, Kukeldash Madrassa, and Chorsu bazaar. We end the day visiting Tashkent’s fine State Museum of History of Uzbekistan, with its outstanding collection of archaeological material, and later enjoy a farewell dinner all together.

All meals included

We transfer to the airport for our individual flights home or onward travel.

Meals include: Breakfast

April 17 2019: Additional Info

April 17 2019: Accommodation

April 17 2019: Enquiries

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