Classic Uzbekistan: Minarets and Madrassahs

11 Days
2020 Dates Available
  • Kalyan Minaret – Bukhara
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  • Ayz yurt camp 2
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  • Ayaz Qala
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  • Juma Mosque – Khiva
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  • Ichan Kala pan – Khiva
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  • Kalyan Complex – Bukhara
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  • Bukhara – Front of the Ark_1024x768
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  • Ayz Qala 5
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  • Shakhi Zinda – Samarkand
  • Registan – Samarkand
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  • Kalyan Minaret 2 – Bukhara

Fixed Departures: see dates tab above for departures.

A small-group, luxury tour taking-in the very best Uzbekistan has to offer.

Uzbekistan has featured on many ‘Where to Visit in 2019’ lists – and for good reason. This beguiling land at the heart of the ancient Silk Road is a nation of sumptuous architecture, fascinating history, dazzling arts and welcoming people.

This thoughtfully designed eleven-day itinerary give you the chance to not only be dazzled by some of the most famous sights of the Silk Road, but also get under the skin of this intriguing post-Soviet nation – to eat with local families, meet artists, learn how to cook the national dish and hear expert tales of Timur, Genghis Khan, the Great Game and more.

You’ll wander the dusty alleyways of Khiva, the UNESCO-listed desert citadel; be awed by the turquoise domes of Samarkand and Bukhara; clamber amongst the ruins of ancient desert fortresses; ride camels; haggle in bazaars; see exclusive dance performances; meet famous Uzbek artists and fashion designers; eat vibrant Central Asian food and follow in the footsteps of Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, Joanna Lumley and more.

*Please note that Uzbekistan has been visa-free for UK nationals (and citizens of 44 other countries, including Australia and New Zealand) since 1 February 2019*
DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION The trip will depart from and end at Tashkent’s Islam Karimov International Airport
DEPARTURE TIME Please ensure you arrive in good time for our scheduled departure from Tashkent
  • All accommodation with NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENT CHARGES
  • All meals
  • Local airport transfers
  • All land travel costs (high-speed train and air-conditioned minibus)
  • All museum entrance costs
  • A number of bespoke, exclusive experiences
  • Flight from Tashkent to Khiva (Urgench)
  • A professional local guiding team with English speaking local guides.
  • Fresh filtered water + a Water 2 Go water filtration bottle, in order to reduce plastic waste
  • Professional route planning and logistics, backed by risk assessments, emergency procedures and satellite communications (where necessary).We don’t take risks lightly and we plan for all eventualities, believing it is better to have prepared and not require a procedure than not to plan at all.
  • International Flights to and from Tashkent – we can book these on your behalf under our ATOL Licence
  • Guide gratuities
  • Personal spending money for alcohol or souvenirs
  • Your personal travel insurance including medi-evac
  • Your Uzbek visa (most nationalities no longer require a visa, but for those that do, see our visa information here)

The price includes all entrances, an expert English-speaking local guide, accommodation in high-quality hotels, all meals, one internal flight, train tickets, travel in an air-conditioned minibus and high-speed train plus a number of exclusive, bespoke experiences. It does not include international flights – please ask if you would like us to book your flights as part of an ATOL-protected package. There are no single supplements.

Classic Uzbekistan – Minarets and Madrassahs
Minimum number 4 guests. Maximum number 10 guests.


Day 1: Friday, Fly to Uzbekistan

If you are flying from London then we recommend the direct Uzbekistan Airways flight, departing from Heathrow at 21.35 and arriving in Tashkent at 08.25.


Day 2: Saturday, Tashkent

We will meet you at Tashkent airport and transfer you to your 4* hotel in Tashkent city centre. After a late breakfast at the hotel and some time to rest, we’ll reconvene for lunch, then spend the afternoon exploring some of the sights of Tashkent, Central Asia’s largest city. We’ll visit the Barak-Khan Madrassah complex in the old city to see the world’s oldest Koran, take a ride on the stunning Soviet Metro, wander around the fascinating Applied Arts Museum and visit Independence Square, with its famous statue of Amir Timur, the ‘conqueror of worlds.’ For those who wish, we’ll then go out to supper and take in a performance at the Alisher Navoi theatre.


Day 3: Sunday, Tashkent to Khiva

It’s an early start this morning in order to catch the 07.25 flight from Tashkent to Khiva. After a one hour flight, and a 45 minute transfer by road, we’ll reach Khiva, one of the most famous desert citadels on the Silk Road, and have the rest of the day to explore the UNESCO-listed old city – the Ichan Qala. Wandering through its dusty alleys, you’ll get a very good sense of this historic place – its brutal slave trading past, its madrassahs and minarets, its fabulous arts and crafts. Among the sights we’ll be seeing today are the Juma Mosque (with its wonderful carved wood pillars); the Tosh Hauvli palace, also known as the Khan’s harem, and the Kuhna Ark – the Khiva rulers’ own fortress and residence, first built in the 12th century. The handicrafts in Khiva are exceptional, and you will no doubt also spend some time gazing at the many fabulous shops and street stalls. Tonight we’ll be eating with a local family, and will also have a rather special private dance performance.


Day 4: Monday, Khiva and Ayaz Kala

After breakfast we’ll drive for two hours into the Kyzl Kum desert to visit some of the incredible 2500 year old ‘Golden Ring of Khorezm’ fortresses that once guarded passing Silk Road caravans from raiding Turkmen tribes. Featured in Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road TV series, these fantastic ruins rise out of the desert like mighty crowns of sand and give a real sense of the wealth that once flowed through here. Having clambered up to one of the main fortresses, Ayaz Kala, we’ll have lunch in a desert yurt camp. For those who wish, there’ll be a chance to ride a shaggy Bactrian camel, one of the very ones that featured in Joanna’s series. We’ll be back in Khiva by late afternoon, in time for some R&R (or shopping!) before supper at a rooftop restaurant.


Day 5: Tuesday, Khiva to Bukhara

After breakfast at our hotel we’ll hit the road south to Bukhara, one of the jewels of the Silk Road. It’s a seven hour drive south across the red sands of the Kyzl Kum desert, and we’ll stop on the way for a BBQ at a roadside tea house. We’ll reach Bukhara by early evening, in time to check in to our delightful boutique hotel, relax for a few hours and then have supper at a charming nearby restaurant.


Day 6: Wednesday, Bukhara

Bukhara! For centuries it had glimmered remote in the Western consciousness: the most secretive and fanatical of the great caravan-cities, shored up in its desert fastness against time and change. To either side of it the Silk Road had withered away, so that by the 19th century the town had folded its battlements around its people in self-immolated barbarism, and receded into fable.” Colin Thubron, Shadow of the Silk Road

For many, this atmospheric city is the highlight of their Silk Road journey, a place where the walls seem to echo with whispers of Genghis Khan, the Sogdians, Timur, Chinese silk traders, The Great Game and more. Since there’s so much to see in Bukhara, we don’t want to rush, so today we have the whole day in this splendid city. Prepare yourself for a feast of mosques, minarets and madrassas. As well as seeing the classic sights (Ishmael Samani Mausoleum, Bolo Hauz mosque, the Kalon minaret, the Ark fortress) we’ll also be learning about the Bukharan Jews, having a private dance performance and enjoying a Silk Road tea ceremony at a characterful old chaikana, with a chance to sample some rather delicious sweets and treats. Supper will be with a local family in a beautiful old Bukharan merchant’s house.


Day 7: Thursday, Bukhara

We have another day in the fantastic city of Bukhara today, starting with a visit to the Summer Palace of the last Emirs of Bukhara, known by the poetic name Sitora-i Mokhi -Khossa, or ‘Star like the Moon’. Named after one of the Emirs’ favourite wife, who died in childbirth, the lavish palace was completed in 1917 and is a fusion of Oriental, Russian and European styles, set in lovely rose gardens. From here we’ll drive a few km to visit the shrine of the much revered Sufi poet and theologian Sayf ad-din Boharzi. After lunch you’ll have the opportunity to relax or explore Bukhara by yourself, before we all meet again for supper at a rooftop restaurant (weather permitting!).


Day 8: Friday, Bukhara to Samarkand

Today we’ll be leaving wonderful Bukhara to take the ‘Golden Road to Samarkand’ – arguably the most fabled of all the ancient Silk Road cities. It’s a four hour drive but we’ll be stopping in  the town of Gijduvan to meet a family of master ceramicists and learn about their highly skilled art. Prepare to spend the rest of the trip coddling your new Uzbek bowls! Following lunch with a local family we’ll drive on to Samarkand and check in to our boutique hotel. The early evening will be spent getting to know Samarkand’s famous Registan Square and its dazzling turquoise-domed Timurid architecture. You’ll soon see why this city was feted by Marco Polo, Xuanzang, Ibn Battuta, Lord Curzon, Joanna Lumley and so many more. After supper, we’ll be visiting the workshop of a well-known Uzbek artist and fashion designer for an exclusive talk on Uzbek fashion and textiles.


Day 9: Saturday, Samarkand

Samarkand certainly isn’t somewhere you want to rush away from, so today we have the whole day to see the wonders of Timur’s former capital, the heartland of the ancient Silk Road. Among the things we’ll marvel at will be the stunning Shakhi Zindar necropolis, Ulug Beg’s observatory, Timur’s Tomb (where the mighty conqueror lies under the largest slab of jade on earth) and the famous Sogdian frescoes of Afrasiab. Supper will be with a local family, and will involve learning how to cook the Uzbek national dish, pilav.


Day 10: Sunday, Samarkand and Urgut

Today we’ll be visiting the nearby village of *Urgut, host to arguably the best market in the country. Taking place on Sundays, this is an absolute feast for the senses, and a chance to meet and haggle with artisans from not only Uzbekistan, but across the border in Tajikistan. The real attraction here is the hand-embroidered fabrics – some made locally, some dating to the pre-Soviet era. Not many tourists make it to this market, and it’s a wonderful chance to see the real hustle and bustle of Uzbek life. To learn more about these gorgeous textiles, we’ll be having lunch here with a local family of embroiderers. Before heading back to Samarkand we’ll visit an astonishing 1000-year old Chinor tree: 16 metres in girth, the tree has a room built inside it and a long association with local mystics and dervishes. Back in Samarkand, we’ll be joined for supper by a local historian, who will tell us more about this city’s remarkable past.

*Of course, if you’d prefer to relax and have more time to explore Samarkand, then you are free to do so.


Day 11: Monday, Samarkand to Tashkent

This morning we’ll visit a fascinating local silk carpet factory, where we’ll learn about process-of silk-carpet production – from a single silk cocoon right through to the finished masterpiece. Afterwards, we’ll have a final lunch in Samarkand, some free time to buy the last souvenirs, and then catch the 16.00 high-speed Afrasiab train to Tashkent. We’ll be in Tashkent in time for cocktails at our 4* hotel, followed by a final celebratory supper at one of the city’s best restaurants.


Day 12: Tuesday, Tashkent and Home

Our final day today! If you are catching the 16.00 Uzbek Airways flight to London (which arrives at Heathrow at 20.00) we’ll have time to explore more of Tashkent this morning – including a visit to the Fine Arts museum in the company of a local art historian. We’ll then have a last lunch and make sure you are at the airport in time for your flight home.
Tour Start Date End Date Price
Minarets and Madrassahs 2019 18/10/2019 29/10/2019 £2,695.00 Sold Out
Minarets and Madrassahs 2020 09/10/2020 20/10/2020 £2,830.00 Taking Bookings

What does the price include?

The price includes all entrance fees to museums, an expert English-speaking local guide, accommodation in high-quality hotels, all meals, one internal flight, train tickets, travel in an air-conditioned minibus and a number of exclusive, bespoke experiences (dance, talks, fashion shows, ceramics class, tea ceremony etc). It does not include international flights, alcohol or your own personal travel insurance.

Where will we be staying?

We’ll be staying in a mix of places – from four star hotels in Tashkent to stylish, boutique hotels in Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand. You will always have en-suite bathrooms and, if you are a single traveller, your own room.

What size of group will it be?

Our group sizes are always small, allowing for an intimate experience of the cultures we meet along our path. On this trip we won’t have more than ten guests, plus the local guides and drivers. We usually find groups are made of like-minded people, both male and female, from a wide age range.

Who will be guiding this trip?

This trip will be guided by one of our excellent English-speaking Uzbek guides. You will also be joined at various points by historian, artists and ethnographers – each one of them adding to the in-depth, expert-led nature of this carefully designed itinerary.

What will the weather be like?

It’s autumn so Uzbekistan will still be warm – around 20 degrees during the day and a little cooler at night. But have no fear, we will supply you with a detailed packing list after you’ve signed up.

I’m a solo traveller – is this for me?

Yes. More than 85% of our expedition clients travel alone as part of our group. We don’t charge single supplements to solo travellers – see below.

Do you charge single supplements – I can’t see them in your information?

No. We don’t believe that solo travellers should be penalised with extra charges except where this is unavoidable.  It goes against our ethos, so the price quoted is for both single and twin-travellers.

What kit do I need to bring?

We will provide you with an information pack after signing up to this trip, and this will detail any particular equipment we think either necessary or useful.

What vehicles will we be travelling in?

We will be travelling in a well-maintained minibus.

How much are flights?

This is a moving feast! It depends on where you are travelling from and how you want to get there. If you take the direct Uzbek Airways flights from London to Tashkent, it’s about £400 return. We also use the Turkish Airlines flights which hop via Istanbul for about the same price.

What will the food be like?

Varied – the ‘stans are a region known for meaty delicacies so you can expect tasty shashlik almost anywhere if this is your thing. But it’s not all bad news for veggies as the salads in Central Asia are fantastic. Bread, plov, tomatoes, cucumbers, dill and vodka all feature heavily!

Will I have to share a room?

No, not if you are a single traveller and request a room to yourself.

How fit do I need to be?

Not very – although there is some walking in each city we visit, how much you walk is largely up to you. There is always the option to do your own thing, or relax at the hotel for a few hours instead.

Do you perform proper risk management on your expeditions?

Yes. We are members of TRIP – the Travel Risk and Incident Prevention Group – and perform detailed country risk assessments prior to departure, in line with the ISO 31000 international standard for risk assessment. We also maintain close contact with the relevant Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice for countries we plan to visit, in addition to making use of the Australian Smart Traveller assessment tool, and the US State Department’s OSAC service. Beyond this, we have a full set of risk management and disaster contingency plans for each expedition. For final back up we also use the services of Remote Medical Support that allows us to have a UK expedition doctor on the end of a telephone line wherever we may be.  We really don’t mess around when it comes to safety.

I can’t do your dates but love the sound of your expedition – can you be flexible?

Yes. We offer set group dates for many of our expeditions, but we can organise and deliver bespoke expeditions to groups and individuals to suit your itinerary and budget. More information is available on our Tailor Made tours page.

Is it a guaranteed departure?

No – we do need to reach a minimum number of guests to make this viable. For this trip, we need a minimum of 4 guests. When you express interest in this trip we will send you a deposit invoice to hold your place. This is refundable according to our terms and conditions if we do not reach the minimum numbers. We recommend that you do not book your flights or other arrangements until we have communicated that the expedition is definitely departing as planned and will aim to do this in order to give you at least 3 months prior to the scheduled departure in which to make your travel arrangements.

Is this really for me?

If you love adventure, new places, friendly people, wild landscapes, history and culture then yes!