In Joanna Lumley’s Footsteps: Uzbekistan & Kyrgyzstan

16 Days
Places still available in September 2020
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Have you watched Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road series on ITV and fallen in love with Central Asia?

Are you itching to follow in her footsteps across these remote lands at the heart of the ancient Silk Road?

Then join us on this culture-laden adventure across the fabulous countries of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan!

In sixteen epic days, we’ll take you from the breath-taking Uzbek cities of Khiva, Samarkand and Bukhara to the snow-streaked peaks of Kyrgyzstan’s ‘Heavenly Mountains’. You’ll wander amongst the turquoise domes of legendary Silk Road cities, explore medieval Caravanserais, sleep in yurts under star-spangled skies and dip your toes (or more!) into azure mountain lakes. You’ll break bread with nomads, stand on mountaintops with Kyrgyz eagle hunters, watch artists at work and experience the smells, sights and flavours of some of the world’s best bazaars.

The trip has been designed by one of our directors, Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent, an award-winning adventurer, travel writer and TV producer. Antonia produced the Central Asian leg of Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road series, spending a year researching and designing Joanna’s journey and travelling across these countries with Joanna and the crew. Thanks to this, this journey gives you a completely unique opportunity to follow directly in Joanna’s footsteps: to travel to the places featured in the series, meet the people she met, stay in the same hotels and yurt camps and much more. No other company can give you this experience.

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION The trip will depart from Tashkent’s Islam Karimov International Airport and end at Bishkek’s Manas International Airport
DEPARTURE TIME Please ensure you arrive in good time for our scheduled departure from Tashkent
  • Accommodation on a twin-shared basis throughout
  • All meals
  • Local airport transfers
  • All land travel costs
  • Flight from Tashkent to Bishkek
  • Professional, knowledeable and courteous 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, satellite communications (where necessary) and medical support. 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. We also carry a very well stocked First Aid and Trauma medical kit and have been First Aid and Trauma trained by the excellent team at Crux Medical.
  • International Flights to Tashkent and from Bishkek – we can organise these for you as part of the package – please advise us if you need this.
  • Guide gratuities
  • Personal spending money for alcohol or souvenirs
  • Your personal travel insurance including medi-evac
  • Your Uzbek visa

Immersive, personal and unique – this is a trip that will get you under the skin of these stunning post-Soviet nations and leave you wanting more.

Follow the Silk Road in Joanna Lumley’s Footsteps : Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan
We offer two departures of this trip in 2020 – see dates tab above for individual dates.


Day 1: Arrive in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Most flights arrive in the (very) early hours of the morning so 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 visit Independence Square, with its famous statue of Amir Timur, the ‘conqueror of worlds.’


Day 2: 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, you’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 wooden 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. Accommodation is in a charming hotel in the Old City.


Day 3: Khiva to 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. You’ll be in the same hotel tonight.


Day 4: 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 5: 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 and having supper with a local family in a beautiful old Bukharan merchant’s house. Your hotel will be a lovely family-run boutique hotel in the heart of the Old City.


Day 6: Bukhara to Samarkand

You’ll have the morning in Bukhara and then, after lunch, take the (4.5 hour) ‘Golden Road to Samarkand’ – arguably the most fabled of all the ancient Silk Road cities – via the town of Gijduvan, a place famous for its ceramicists. Prepare to spend the rest of the trip coddling your new Uzbek bowls! The afternoon and early evening will be spent getting to know Samarkand 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. Tonight and tomorrow night will be in a small hotel, formerly a Jewish merchant’s house, where Joanna and the crew stayed.


Day 7: Samarkand

You have a whole glorious day exploring Samarkand, the former capital of Sogdiana, the heartland of the Silk Road. As well as going to the main sites, such as Gur Emir (Timur’s tomb), the Afrasiab Museum (home to the Sogdian frescoes featured in the series) and the stunning Shakhi Zindar complex, you’ll also meet the bread makers featured in Joanna’s series.


Day 8: Samarkand

Travel shouldn’t be an endurance test – so today is a day off to do exactly as you wish: shop till you drop, drink tea in bed all day, read, wander the back streets of Samarkand, gorge on plov, re-visit your favourite sights. After a day off you will hopefully feel rested, re-charged and ready for the second half of your adventure.


Day 9: Samarkand to Tashkent

After a morning and most of the afternoon exploring more of Samarkand, you’ll take the 17.30 high-speed Afrasiab train to Tashkent. This takes two hours. This evening will be spent in the same 4* hotel in the city centre.


Day 10: Tashkent to Bishkek

It’s an early start today to take the morning Uzbek Airways flight to Bishkek, in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.  Our Kyrgyz team will meet you at the airport and take you to your stylist city centre hotel. After a few hours rest you’ll spend the afternoon exploring Bishkek, one of our favourite Central Asian cities. You’ll take in the main sites (Ala-Too Square, the Lenin statue, the Changing of the Guard, National Museum of Fine Arts) and do some serious shopping at Osh Bazaar, home of the world’s finest felt slippers!


Day 11: Bishkek to Bokonbaevo

You head east into the wilds of Kyrgyzstan today, to the southern shore of gorgeous Lake Issyk-Kul. Meaning ‘warm lake’ in the Kyrgyz language, it’s the second largest saline lake in the world after the Caspian Sea and was a major artery of the Silk Road. On the way you’ll stop at the Burana Tower – all that remains of Balasagun, an 8th century Uighur settlement that was once seen as the centre of the world. Tonight you’ll be in a beautiful (en-suite) yurt camp beside the lake, surrounded by the glistening peaks of the Tien Shan. This is the same camp Joanna stayed in, where she showed viewers around her yurt.


Day 12: Bokonbaevo

This is such a special place we don’t want to rush off just yet. If you wish, you can simply lounge in a hammock under the apple trees and get lost in the view (or a good book). Or you can dip your toes in the gin-clear waters of the lake. But you’ll also be venturing into the nearby mountains to meet the family of eagle hunters featured in Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road, and learn a little about this ancient Central Asian art. This evening you will have a wonderful private music show by a local family of musicians. Tonight you’ll be in the same yurt camp.


Day 13: Bokonbaevo to Tash Rabat

It’s a four-hour drive across fantastic mountains to the 15th century Silk Road caravanserai of Tash Rabat, a mysterious hulk of a building nestled in the mountains near the Chinese border. After exploring the Caravanserai we’ll be spending the night in a wonderful, family-run yurt camp beside a gurgling river. There can’t be many more places on earth where the stars shine quite so brightly.  The yurt camp here does not have en-suit facilities, just simple long-drop loos.


Day 14: Tash Rabat to Naryn

We start heading back to Bishkek today, via the town of Naryn. You’ll stop in the town of At Bashi to meet some yak herders on the way and learn a little about this ancient, nomadic way of life. Lunch will be with this family, and you’ll have the chance to try some local specialities. Tonight will be in a comfortable hotel, with hot showers and proper loos, in the small town of Naryn.


Day 15: Naryn to Bishkek

It’s a 5.5-hour drive back to Bishkek today, through more gorgeous scenery. You’ll arrive by early afternoon and have a celebratory dinner in Bishkek.  Accommodation will be in the same hotel in the centre. Some may have flights this evening, whilst many will be departing tomorrow morning. Either way, we will get you out to Manas Aiport near Bishkek in good time for check-in.


Day 16: Fly home from Bishkek

We’ll take you to the airport for your flight and wish you on your merry way.

Tour Start Date End Date Price
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in Joanna Lumley's Footsteps MAY 2020 30/05/2020 13/06/2020 £3,850.00 Sold Out
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in Joanna Lumley's Footsteps AUGUST 2020 28/08/2020 12/09/2020 £3,850.00 Taking Bookings
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in Joanna Lumley's Footsteps May 2021 29/05/2021 12/06/2021 £3,980.00 Taking Bookings
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in Joanna Lumley's Footsteps Sept 2021 28/08/2021 12/09/2021 £3,980.00 Taking Bookings

Where will we be staying?

We’ll be staying in a mix of places – from four and five star hotels in Tashkent and Bishkek, to stylish, boutique hotels in Bukhara and Samarkand and wonderful, family-run yurt camps in the wilds of Kyrgyzstan. You won’t always have access to hot showers, but the wilderness and views will more than make up for it.

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.

How is this different to other ‘Silk Road’ expeditions I’ve seen?

We have been living, breathing, reading, researching and travelling the Silk Road for the past five years and  – with this trip – are in the unique position that one of our directors, Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent, was the producer on Joanna Lumley’s ITV Silk Road series. Antonia, who is an award-winning travel writer as well as a TV producer and expedition leader, spent a year researching and designing Joanna’s route – the people she’d meet, the stories she’d tell, the places she’d visit – and then travelling across these countries with Joanna and the crew. This expedition gives you a completely unique opportunity to follow in Joanna’s footsteps: to travel to the places you’ve seen in the series, meet the people she met, stay in the same yurt camps and much more. No other company can give you this experience.

What will the weather be like?

It’ll be hot in Uzbekistan, and slightly cooler in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Expect up to 32 degrees in Uzbekistan, but down to around fifteen degrees at night in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. 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.  It goes against our ethos, so unless totally unavoidable or astronomically expensive,  all costs are included in the expedition price. Please note that in most of the yurt camps we are staying in, single rooms are simply not available.

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?

In Uzbekistan we will travel by foot, minibus and train. In Kyrgyzstan we will travel in a comfortable VW Multivan, or similar.

How much are flights?

This is a moving feast! It depends on where you are travelling from and how you want to get there. From London, it’s around £350 one way to Tashkent, and around £300 to Bishkek. We can offer flight inclusive packages also though. And the internal flight from Tashkent to Bishkek is included in the tour price. Again, we’ll send you an information pack containing all the information you need when you book your place.

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 unless you are travelling as a couple when we will assume you want to share with your partner!

How fit do I need to be?

Not very – although there are options to horse-ride, swim and trek, you can also opt to simply relax or travel in one of the vehicles instead. There is some amount of walking in Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent and Bishkek, but again, how much you do or don’t do is up to you. This isn’t a boot camp, it’s your holiday.

Will I be affected by altitude?

Altitude can affect different people in different ways. It can also affect the same person in different ways from trip to trip. We will be spending a handful of days above 3000 metres in Kyrgyzstan. If you feel that you might suffer from altitude sickness, or have history of it, you should consider discussing this with your doctor prior to booking and travel. Diamox and other similar prescription drugs are available to ease symptoms, but the key way to address any onset of altitude sickness is to descend. Luckily, from anywhere particularly high, descent is possible rapidly thanks to our vehicles. Simple precautions and awareness go a long way.

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 and are expedition first aid trained by Crux Medical. 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. And we always carry a satellite phone. 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?

As with all of our trips we need to reach a minimum number of guests to make this viable. For this trip, we need a minimum of 5 guests. When you express interest in this expedition, 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 it good value for money?

We are very proud of the routes we design and the way in which we travel them. We don’t cut corners and we plan meticulously. We are a small company that treats every guest as our friend and you won’t find that kind of service in many places. 85% of our customers have re-booked to travel again with us and some of them come on a trip every year. We also do annual expedition and remote medicine training and pay for 24/7 remote medical assistance cover. We employ professional military-grade risk assessments and plan for every possible negative scenario whilst hoping that none ever come to pass. We take our obligations to you and your safety very seriously and this all does cost money. We think the price offered is keen, but add the extra measures outlined above and we think the price represents great value for an experience you won’t find elsewhere. This trip is also being led by one of our directors, Antonia, an expert on the region.

Is this really for me?

If you love adventure, new places, friendly people, wild landscapes, history and culture then yes! However, if you’re the sort of person who is going to be worried about the lack of flush loos in a mountain yurt camp, might complain that the road to Tash Rabat is too bumpy (it isn’t!) or frets about Wi-Fi availability, then this probably isn’t your bag.