Silk Road Odyssey

STYLE Small Group
DURATION 23 Days
BETWEEN Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and Tashkent, Uzbekistan
COUNTRIES VISITED – 4 Kyrgyzstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
MAXIMUM GROUP SIZE 12
TRAVEL DATES
Contact Diesel for all departure dates and latest pricing
WHATS INCLUDED
All Accommodation All tour transportation
Meals mostly full board as listed Bottled water on tour
Entrance fees as listed Professional Tour Leader
WHATS NOT INCLUDED
Airport Transfers Airport taxes
International Flights Travel Insurance
Visas

Trip Overview

Kyrgyzstan, China, Tajikistan & Uzbekistan – This unique tour takes you on an epic cultural journey along the Old Silk Road through some of Central Asia’s most spectacular mountains, lively bazaars and ancient towns. The aim is to stick as closely as possible to the ancient trade routes even though modern borders and some rough roads do not always make this an easy thing to do! Traversing parts of Kyrgyzstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the route offers adventure and culture in equal measure. Riding horses or walking in the mountains by Son Kul Lake or the ancient caravanserai of Tash Rabat will give you a chance to witness the Tien Shan Mountains at their most beautiful. While wandering through the gargantuan sites of Samarkand or sleepy Bukhara, you will be taken back to the heyday of the Silk Road. For those with a sense of adventure, an interest in history and culture – and a good amount of energy – it is a trip you will remember for a very long time to come.


Silk Road Odyssey

his unique tour takes you on an epic cultural journey along the Old Silk Road through some of Central Asia’s most spectacular mountains, lively bazaars and ancient towns. The aim is to stick as closely as possible to the ancient trade routes even though modern borders and some rough roads do not always make this an easy thing to do! Traversing parts of Kyrgyzstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the route offers adventure and culture in equal measure. Riding horses or walking in the mountains by Son Kul Lake or the ancient caravanserai of Tash Rabat will give you a chance to witness the Tien Shan Mountains at their most beautiful. While wandering through the gargantuan sites of Samarkand or sleepy Bukhara, you will be taken back to the heyday of the Silk Road.


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Day 1: Join tour in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan)

Accommodation for this night is included due to the arrival times of our suggested flights. Those on the suggested group flight arrive in the early hours of Day 2. Asia Mountains Guesthouse or similar (no meals)

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Day 2: In Bishkek

After a morning to rest and relax, we’ll have a look around this city, one of the world’s more relaxed capitals, visiting the excellent museum and taking a wander around the bustling Osh bazaar. Asia Mountains Guesthouse or similar (B,L,D)

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Day 3: Bishkek – Son Kul

Our journey starts in earnest this morning as we begin a full day’s drive along the fertile Chuy Valley and then up through the mountains to the beautiful Son Kul Lake. Here we will stay in a yurt camp on the side of this spectacular 3,000m glacial lake and have a chance to venture out and meet the local nomads who spend their summers here. Tonight we will have a traditional Kyrgyz Nomad’s dinner replete with vodka toasts! Communal Yurts (B,L,D)

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Day 4: Son Kul


Today we’ll be free to explore this beautiful region, either on foot or on horseback (optional and payable locally). Anyone wanting to can hang out around the camp, watching the nomads go about their traditional life or watch the extraordinarily varied bird life on the lake. There might even be a game of Kok Baru (Buzkashi) to watch in the afternoon. Communal Yurts (B,L,D)
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Day 5: Son Kul – Tash Rabat

Leaving early this morning, we will spend the day driving towards the famous Silk Road Caravanserai of Tash Rabat through one of the most spectacular regions of the Tien Shan, the Mountains of Heaven. On arrival we’ll settle into our cosy yurts, usually in the company of Jergal, the caravanserai caretaker, and his delightful family. Communal Yurts (B,L,D)

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Day 6: Tash Rabat

After exploring the 11th century caravanserai today there will be a chance to either walk or ride (optional and payable locally) through these beautiful mountains. Being so peaceful and seemingly remote, it is sometimes hard to imagine that these were once major thoroughfares for Silk Road caravans. Those wanting a more laid back day can simply walk around the valley, which is lush and green, groaning with horses, yaks, sheep and the nomads who live by them. Tonight we’ll have another traditional dinner in the home of our hosts. Communal Yurts (B,L,D)

Tash Rabat

Sheltering in the lee of a black granite cliff, in what must surely be one of the prettiest valleys in the country, this ancient Silk Road caravanserai, constructed of dark stone with a huge arched entrance, domed roof and corner turrets, appears like some ancient eastern castle, a mythical outpost from some long forgotten legend. Before it, sweeping out of sight behind a sheer ridge, is a wide green valley, dotted with yurts and hundreds of animals – horses, cattle, yaks and sheep. With a friendly family to stay with in cosy, well-equipped yurts, wonderful walks and rides in the mountains around, a visit to Tash Rabat is one of the highlights of any trip to Kyrgyzstan.

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Day 7: Tash Rabat – Kashgar (China)

The distance we travel today is not so far, but expect a long day as we navigate our way through the first of the trip’s land border crossings, over the Torugart Pass into China’s western-most province – the autonomous Xinjiang region. Here we will say goodbye to our Kyrgyz team and transfer to a smart coaster bus for the journey on to Kashgar. After four nights in the mountains, this vibrant Uighur city provides a complete contrast to the Kyrgyz grasslands and our comfortable hotel also provides a welcome shower! Tian Yuan International Hotel or similar (B,L,D)

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Day 8: Kashgar

There will be ample time for personal exploration in this Silk Road city which sits today, as it has done for centuries, at a major crossroads of trade routes. We will of course see the (controversial) statue of Chairman Mao in the city centre as well as visiting the green-tiled Aba Khoja tomb in the quiet suburbs. After a traditional Uighur lunch we will have a break before heading into the old town. We will end the day by having tea on the second floor balcony of one of the old chaikhanas, watching the street market below us. Tian Yuan International Hotel or similar (B,L)

Kashgar

During the heyday of the Silk Road, Kashgar was a vitally important oasis town forming a sanctuary for travellers heading to or from the dangerous lands of the Taklamakan Desert that lie immediately to the east. But it wasn’t just from China and Europe that the travellers came. Kashgar sits at a natural junction with the ancient trade routes through the Karakoram Mountains to India and the southern seas. From here the traders also journeyed, carrying fine cloth, cashmere, spices, jade, coral, pearls and precious gems. Hence a great market sprung up. The geography hasn’t changed and though Kashgar’s importance may have waned in recent times, the bazaars – especially the famous Yakshambe Bazaar or the Sunday Market – still thrive today. At the beginning of the third millennium, however, Kashgar is a tale of two cities: that of the modern Han and the ancient Uyghur. Wide, tree-lined streets, bordered by modern stores, hotels and supermarkets that are peopled by Han migrants from the east, but look hard enough and you’ll still find glimpses of the Uyghur world, barely changed from the heady days of the old Silk Road, echoing that of the Arabian Nights.

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Day 9: Kashgar

Today we will have the chance to experience the famous Yakshambe Bazaar – the Sunday Market. In the morning we will first visit the famous animal market. Here we will spend time watching the locals trade everything from woodwork and ironware to sheep, donkeys, cattle, horses and camels before progressing onto the covered bazaar, believed to be the biggest in Central Asia. The afternoon will be free for you to spend at your leisure and you may want to hire bicycles and head off into the nearby fields to explore, before meeting up for a farewell dinner with our Kashgar guide. Tian Yuan International Hotel or similar (B,L,D)

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Day 10: Kashgar – Sary Tash (Kyrgyzstan)

An early start sees us drive out of Kashgar due west along the main artery of the Old Silk Road to the Irkishtam Pass. This is a stunning drive through an area of outstanding natural beauty, with multicoloured sedimentary sandstone flanking our route. At the Pass we will cross back into Kyrgyzstan where our Kyrgyz team will be waiting to meet us. We will then continue on towards Sary Tash along another staggering road, this time with the high Pamirs rising to the south, and stay the night with a local family either in their yurt or in their cosy house. Homestay (B,L,D)

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Day 11: Sary Tash – Osh

Weather permitting we will be able to see stunning views of snowy Lenin Peak this morning, which at 7134m is the second highest mountain in the Pamirs. After breakfast we will drive on another extraordinary road over the 3554m Tol Dek Pass (though by this stage you might be suffering from beauty fatigue!) and on into the Fergana Valley to the ancient Silk Road town of Osh. Reputed to be over 3000 years old, Osh is a place steeped in history and dominated by Solomon’s Throne which looms over the town. We will stay with our old friend, Iman Jan and his family. Homestay (B,L,D)

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Day 12: Osh – Kokand (Uzbekistan)

After breakfast we say a final goodbye to our Kyrgyz team and cross the border into Uzbekistan, where we drive through the Fergana Valley. This incredibly fertile region was the breadbasket of the Central Asian USSR and is still one of the wealthiest parts of the whole region. Our first stop today will be in the town of Margilon, centre of the still thriving silk trade in the area. Here we hope to see the entire silk-weaving process from cocoon to end product. We will also visit nearby Rishton, renowned for its blue and green ceramics. We continue to Kokand to spend the night. Khudayarkhan Hotel or similar (B,L,D)

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Day 13: Kokand – Khodjent (Tajikistan)

Most traffic these days now leaves the Fergana Valley via a new route to Tashkent. However, we plan to stick as close as possible to the original Silk Road route by following the famous Syr Darya River into Tajikistan. After a picnic lunch by the beautiful Kairakum reservoir, we continue to the Silk Road town of Khodjent, which once played host to Alexander the Great’s armies. We check in to our homestay and have dinner in the shady courtyard, prepared by our hospitable host Hussein. Homestay (B,L,D)

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Day 14: Khodjent – Fan Mountains

After a look around Khodjent we will continue on one of the most spectacular days of the trip as we drive over the Shakristan Pass (3378m) to arrive in the Fan Mountains, an area of outstanding natural beauty lying to south of the Zarafshan River. Homestay (B,L,D)

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Day 15: In Fan Mountains

We’ll have a full day to explore the famed alpine scenery of this rarely visited part of Central Asia. Abounding in deep blue lakes and inhabited in the summer months by Tajik pastoralists, the area is still relatively undiscovered and allows for a fascinating insight into this gem of a country. Homestay (B,L,D)

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Day 16: Fan Mountains – Dushanbe

Heading south, we plan to arrive in Tajikistan’s relaxed capital by midafternoon. The rest of the day will be free to stroll along Rudaki, the main street or just to relax and enjoy a few home comforts. Avesto Hotel or similar (B,L,D)

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Day 17: Dushanbe - Termez (Uzbekistan) - Tashkent

Leaving Dushanbe this morning we make our final border crossing of the trip as we head once more into Uzbekistan. We will drive on to Termez, a city whose ancient heart dates back to the 4 th Century BC. Built on the banks of the Amu-Darya River, the old city was located at the intersection of many Great Silk Road routes and has a long, rich history. There will be time this afternoon to visit the Archaeological Museum, Fayaz Tepa Buddhist Complex, Kirk Kiz ruins and the Sultan Saodat Complex, before we take an evening flight to Tashkent to spend the night. City Palace Hotel or similar (B,L,D)

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Day 18: Tashkent – Samarkand

Early this morning we take a train ride to the most famous of all Silk Road cities, Samarkand. We have the rest of the day in this amazing town, wandering through the gargantuan sights and visiting Guri Amir (Tamerlane’s tomb), Bibi Khanym mosque, Shah-i-Zindar – the street of the dead, and the town’s excellent bazaar. Of course we will also visit the Registan Square, one of Central Asia’s most iconic sights. There’ll also be some free time to explore more of this city at your leisure. Dinner will be out at a local restaurant and afterwards we will drive around to see many of the sights spectacularly floodlit at night. Malika Prime Hotel or similar (B,L,D)

Samarkand

‘All travellers who set out for Central Asia hold in their hearts the dream of reaching Samarkand.’ In the third century BC Alexander the Great took ‘the Pearl of the East’ and declared, ‘Everything I have heard about the beauty of the city is true, except that it is much more beautiful than I’d even imagined.’ In the thirteenth century the celebrated Moroccan traveller, Ibn Battuta, discovered, ‘one of the largest and most perfectly beautiful cities in the world.’ And in 1898 Lord Curzon was to write, ‘I know of nothing in the East approaching its simplicity and grandeur; and nothing in Europe which can even aspire to enter the competition.’ Even today, standing in Registan square, surrounded by exquisite fluted domes, mosaic madrassas, majestic arches and towering minarets, the romantic mind drifts easily back to a mystical time of fables, myths and legend – to the world of Omar Khayyam and his famous Ruba’iyat; to the colourful Sogdian and Samanid courts; to the slaughter streets of Ghengis Khan and Tamerlane’s renaissance; to the lands through which Marco Polo, Xuan Zang and a thousand other great travellers passed. Over the centuries, nowhere has symbolised the romance of the east more than Samarkand.

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Day 19: Samarkand – Bukhara:

After breakfast we’ll drive along the Royal Road to Bukhara, stopping during the 4-hour journey to look at the remains of an old caravanserai and to enjoy lunch. On arrival in Bukhara we’ll check into our guesthouse superbly located in the Labi Hauz region, the 17th century pool and eating area. There will be time this afternoon to familiarise ourselves with the town’s mellow streets and alleyways followed by some free time before dinner by the Labi Hauz. Sasha & Sons Guesthouse or similar (B,L,D)

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Day 20: Bukhara:

We have all morning for sightseeing today. We will start at the Ismaili Samani mausoleum; continue via the Jama Majid (or the mosque of forty pillars) to the Ark where Connolly and Stoddard – two luckless British officers – met their deaths while playing the Great Game. From here we will visit (and climb if you wish) the Kolan Minaret and the beautiful mosques and madrassas that lie beneath it. En route there is silk weaving, knife making and metal engraving. After lunch we will have the remainder of the day free for shopping and generally relaxing in this most characterful of the old Silk Road towns. Sasha & Sons Guesthouse or similar (B,L)

Bukhara

There is an ancient saying in Central Asia – ‘Samarkand is the beauty of the earth, but Bukhara is the beauty of the spirit’. During the heyday of the Silk Road, Bukhara became so rich from trade that it boasted 365 mosques, one for every day of the year. Lying at a strategically important crossroad between Herat, Kabul, Merv and Samarkand, Bukhara has played a leading role in the colourful history of the region. Home to the Kolan Minaret, once the tallest tower in the Islamic realm (and variously used to call the faithful to prayer, as a beacon to guide travellers in from the desert and, more notoriously, as a means of execution) the famous Arc and beautiful Labi Hauz, here in Bukhara you will find the true beauty and serenity of urban Central Asia.

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Day 21: Bukhara – Khiva

Today we’ll take our last major drive of the trip across the desert towards Khiva. En route we’ll cross the famous Amu-Darya River (Oxus) before checking in to our hotel in the heart of this UNESCO protected old town. This evening there will be time to take a first wander around the quiet streets of this wonderfully preserved Silk Road city. Khiva Madrassa or similar (B,L,D)

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Day 22: Khiva – Tashkent

There’ll be ample time to soak up the atmosphere of Khiva today. We’ll visit some of the most colourful and sumptuous sites, including the Kukhna Arc and the Mohammed Khan Madrassa. In addition there’ll be the opportunity to climb up the Kalta Minor Minaret, explore the Jama Majid Mosque with its amazing wooden pillars and the Alloquli Khan Madrassa, bazaar and caravanserai before transferring to the airport for an evening flight to Tashkent. City Palace Hotel or similar (B,L,D)

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Day 23: Tour ends in Tashkent

Today those taking the suggested group flights will depart early in the morning before breakfast. For those that have made alternative arrangements, the tour will finish after breakfast this morning. (B)


Tour Highlights:

  • The Silk Road Caravanserai of Tash Rabat
  • Visiting with the nomads at Son Kul
  • The Kashgar Sunday Market
  • Travelling the Fergana Valley into Tajikistan
  • The stunning sites of Samarkand, Khiva & Bukhara

Tour Dossier Notes

Climate – The weather conditions can be extremely varied on this tour. In the mountains of Kyrgyzstan you will often be travelling at heights in excess of 3000m and so even in the middle of summer it can turn bitter with snow falling; at the same time mercury in the thermometers of Bukhara can be nudging 40 degrees.

Is this trip for me? – It may sound obvious but these tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. The team at Diesel Adventures can provide the details and expertise you need to help you choose the right trip for you.

Airport transfers– Not included but can be arranged. If you’re booking flights yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers.

Accommodation -As an overall ethos, wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night. This can obviously vary dramatically from country to country and from trip to trip. On this particular trip whilst in Kyrgyzstan we will be in small hotels with Western style bathrooms, and traditional yurts and homestays with communal toilets and limited washing facilities. The yurts have beds, but both here and in the homestay it is often necessary to share with up to 6 people. In Tajikistan we mostly stay in homestays with local families, until we reach the capital and its Soviet-style hotel! In Kashgar we stay in a good quality hotel and once we reach Uzbekistan, the hotels we stay in are again more comfortable. Please note that the accommodation mentioned in the itinerary is intended as a guide only and is always subject to availability.

Transport –  On this tour we will use minibuses in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and coasters/ buses in Uzbekistan and China. We will also take two internal flights and a train in Uzbekistan.

Guides – Full services of a Tour Leader with local guides and drivers.

Meals – In most cases a “Full Board” Meal plan as detailed in the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner) with the majority of meals being taken in local restaurants where viable. Plus bottled drinking water as required

Entrance fees – Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, we can arrange if possible and these would be at your own expense.

Visas – We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then can request for this to be arranged for you. If you need any advice with visas just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as CIBT can assist.

Airport taxes – If there are any departure taxes to pay that are not included within the cost of your ticket, these are at your expense.


Please note that there is more detailed tour dossiers available specific to each departure date, contact our Sales team and we would be happy to send these to you