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Tour operates: May till October
No. of days: 18 nights 19 days
Destinations:  Tashkent – Samarkand – Bukhara – Mary – Ashgabat – Mashad – Isfahan – Tehran
Transport: Private air conditioned transport
Accommodations: All comfortable class accommodation with private facilities
Guides: Fully escorted by our experienced local English speaking guide
Tour starting point: Tashkent Ending point: Tehran
Guaranteed departure: Daily- Minimum 2 people required

Day 1 – Join trip in Tashkent

There are no activities planned for today as our flight-inclusive customers will be arriving in the early hours of the morning on Day 2.

Day 2 – Free morning, afternoon tour of the Uzbek capital

Our tour begins in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital and one of Central Asia’s most vibrant cities. Occupying a prime spot on the central Eurasian trading routes, Tashkent grew to be one of the most important stops on the caravan routes across Central Asia. It grew under the auspices of the Mongols, Tamerlane and the Shaybanids, before finally falling to the Russians during the 19th century. A massive earthquake destroyed much of the city in 1966, affording its Russian overlords the chance to resurrect a ‘perfect’ soviet city from the ruins. Parts of the old city do remain though and we shall explore something of it later this afternoon, visiting the 16th century Kukeldash and Barak Khan Madrassahs, as well as the Kaffal Shashi Memorial and the Khasty Imam Mosque, said to house the world’s oldest copy of the Quran. A visit to the Chorsu Bazaar affords us the opportunity to take a look at local artisans at work, before moving on to some of the city’s more modern monuments, including the Mustakillik Square (Independence Square), the Navoi Theatre (named after the renowned Uzbek poet) and the Earthquake Monument.

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 3 – Drive to Samarkand, discover Registan Square

This morning we transfer to the train station for our modern high-speed train to Samarkand. Stormed by Alexander the Great and reduced to ashes by Genghis Khan, Samarkand was, nevertheless, transformed into one of the world’s most glittering cities in the 14th century by Tamerlane, who made it his capital. Today it is still generously endowed with some glorious monuments to its golden era, their blue domes towering above the city skyline, and this afternoon we will take some time to explore some of its wealth of treasures. Most of the city’s more lavish monuments date to the time of Tamerlane and his direct descendants, including the exceptional Registan, the focal point of the city and one of Central Asia’s most magnificent settings; a majestic square formed on 3 sides by huge blue tiled madrassahs (ancient centres of religious learning). We will also visit the Gur Emir Mausoleum, a somewhat modest structure that nonetheless contains the graves of not only Tamerlane himself, but also two of his sons and two grandsons.

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 4 – Morning exploration of Samarkand; free afternoon

A city tour this morning introduces us to the Ulug-Beg Observatory and the Shah-i-Zinda, one of the cities oldest and most sacred buildings, with its double row of jewel-like mausoleums that are said to contain the grave of Qusam ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Mohammed. It was in Samarkand that Ulug-Beg, the great medieval astronomer, built the gigantic sextant that enabled him to calculate the length of a year to within just 10 seconds and the remnants of his 15th century astrolabe, which measured an impressive 30m, still remain on the outskirts of the old city. The third visit of the morning will be to the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, constructed by Tamerlane’s Chinese wife and once one of the grandest mosques in the entire Islamic world, with a gateway that measured an impressive 35m in height. The rest of the day has then been left free to explore more of this exquisite city at your leisure, perhaps re-visiting Registan Square, or enjoying an excursion to the site of Afrosiab and Marakanda, where you will find the excavations of early Samarkand. Siob Bazaar presents us with one of Samarkand’s liveliest settings, an eclectic mix of sound and colour that harks back to the days of the great caravans that plied these ancient trading routes.

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 5 – Pass old caravanserais en route to Bokhara, afternoon orientation walk

Leaving Samarkand early this morning we head west, towards the fabled city of Bokhara, stopping en route at Rabat-i-Malik caravanserai and G’idjuvon pottery workshop. Bokhara was home to the poets Firdausa and Rudaki and is still considered by some to be the ‘Bastion of Islam’. The town has been fortunate to retain much of its Uzbek character, with more than 140 unique
monuments littered amongst its streets and alleyways, and this afternoon we will enjoy a walking tour of the city, taking in many of its highlights. We will visit the beautiful blue tiled Ulugbek Madrassah and Mghoki Arrar Mosque, the Kalyan minaret, or the ‘Tower of Death’, from which prisoners were once hurled to their death on market-days. Our afternoon will also take in bath houses, arcades and caravanserai of the Taqi Telpak Furushon area and the Lyab-I Hauz, a magnificent architectural centrepiece that dates from the 16th and 17th centuries and contains the largest madrasah in the city (the Kukeldash).

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 6 – In Bokhara, visit Ark Citadel, Emir’s Palace and Bolo Hauz Mosque

This morning we take a drive out of the city to visit the Emir’s Palace, the Royal Ark (fortress) and the photogenic Char Minar Mosque. Also known as the ‘Palace of Moon-like Stars, the Palace contains the famous White Hall, a structure that took the Emir’s 30 architects two years to construct. We also visit the Ismael Samani Mausoleum, dating from the 9th century and considered to be one of the most revered architectural sights in the whole of Central Asia. Built as the final resting place of Smael Samani, the founder of the last Persian dynasty to rule in the region, the Samanids, it harks back to the city’s golden age, when it was the intellectual centre of the Islamic world. After our sightseeing, the rest of the day is free to return to the city, to explore further the narrow, twisting alleyways of Bokhara’s old quarter, where the windows of mud-baked houses, following tradition, face only towards the inner courtyards.

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 7 – Cross border into Turkmenistan, drive across the Karakum desert to Mary

This morning we drive to the Uzbek/Turkmenistan border at Farab and, after completing the immigration formalities, cross into eastern Turkmenistan. Please be advised that this process could take anything up to 2 hours and you will be required to walk the 1.5 km between the two border posts to meet our Turkmenistan vehicle (porters are usuallyavailable to help with luggage, although they will require payment for their services). From here we head first for Turkmenabat on the banks of the Amudarya, the mighty river that was known to the Greeks of antiquity as the Oxus. Stopping here for lunch we will then continue south, crossing the Karakum Desert towards our final destination for the day, the town of Mary, our gateway to the ruins of ancient Merv.

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 8 – Full day exploring the ancient city of Merv

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, considered to have once been one of the great cities of Central Asia, the remains of ancient Merv lie scattered across some 100sq km. Lying along the great trading routes of the Silk Road the city prospered under the Sassanians and the Seljuq Turks, becoming a cultural melting for Christian, Buddhist, Zoroastrian and finally Muslim cultures. At its height, during the 11th and 12th centuries the city was known as Marv-i-shah-jahan (Merv, Queen of the World) and, after Baghdad, was considered the finest city in all Islam. In 1221 its greatness came crashing to earth with the arrival of the Mongol armies of Genghis Khan when, after refusing to pay tribute to the great Mongol warlord, the city and its entire population of nearly 1 million people was put to the sword (it was believed that the Mongol soldiers were ordered to personally behead between 300-400 people each). Returning to Mary for lunch we will then spend the afternoon exploring the Mary Museum of History, a rich repository of some of the finest relics rescued from Merv itself, along with an excellent collection of Turkmen carpets and household objects that span a period of some 5000 years.

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 9 – Drive to Ashgabat, stopping via Kaka Oasis

Turning west this morning we take in the distant peaks of the Kopet Dag as we follow the route that runs close to the Iranian border. Our destination is the city of Ashgabat, a once prosperous frontier town along the Trans-Caspian railway that was completely destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1948, only to rise from its ashes and rubble to become the capital of an independent Turkmenistan in 1991. The city then became the personal project of President Niyazov, who set about forming it in his own unique image, renaming the streets and changing the face of the city on an almost daily basis as he approved the destruction of its suburbs to make way for a number of controversial planning projects. Our journey to the capital will take us the better part of the day, as we travel via the Kaka. Some 100km east of Ashgabat we will also stop to view the fortress of Abiverd, the remains of a now long vanished medieval city that once enjoyed a reputation for its superb handicrafts, some samples of which can still be seen littered across the site in the form of broken shards of exquisite pottery.

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 10 – Discover Ashgabat city, visiting Nissa Fortress and the Oriental bazaar

Today we have an opportunity to explore this most remarkable of cities with a tour that will take in some of the highlights of both the Soviet and Niyazov reigns. We take in Independence Park where we will see the Independence Monument, a large structure designed to resemble traditional Turkmen hats. We will also pay a visit to the Turkmenistan National Museum of History, a rich cache of some 150,000 objects and artefacts that date back to Neolithic times and the Bronze Age era of the Margiana civilisation. On the outskirts of the city lies our final visit of the day, the once mighty fortress of Nissa, founded in the 3rd century BC as the capital of the 1st Parthian Empire, whose walls and towers (43 in total) protected the royal palace, Zoroastrian temples and the power and prestige of successive ruling dynasties until its eventual destruction at the hands of the Mongols in the 13th century. We will also spend some of our time at the Oriental Bazaar nearby and have the time to soak up the atmosphere of this bustling place.

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 11 – Morning visit to Kow Ata underground lake; afternoon in Ashgabat

After breakfast this morning we will drive out of the city towards the underground lake at Kow Ata and enter a subterranean world that lies in the shadow of the Kopet Dag Mountains. Located some 65m underground, the clear waters of this naturally heated lake (which remains at a constant 33-36 degrees centigrade all year round) lie within a hidden sulphurous chamber that is reached by a descending staircase. After visiting the lake we head next for Geokdeke, where we stop at the Arkadesh stud farm located on the southern edge of the Karakum Desert. The village itself was the site of the last valiant stand by the fiercely independent Tekke against the Russian, a final heroic effort that saw some 15,000 Turkmen die at the hands of the tsarist invaders. Today it is home to some of the finest stock of Akhalteke horses in the country, a breed that the Chinese named ‘divine’. During the course of the day we will stop at two of the largest mosques in Turkmenistan, The first, the Geokdepe Mosque, is located on the site of the once great fortress that finally fell to the Russians in 1881, whilst the second, the Spiritual Mosque of Turkmenbashi, is the final resting place of the country’s first president. Returning to Ashgabat late afternoon, there may be time for personal exploration; the Russian Bazaar is certainly worthwhile.

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 12 – Cross the Turkmen/Iranian border and continue onto Mashad

Departing Ashgabat this morning we head for the Iranian border at Gaudan, situated in the mountains at 1700m, where we will need to complete the usual formalities (which can take up to 2 hours) and female customers will need to change into suitable Islamic dress before crossing through the Iranian checkpoint at Bajigiran. Meeting up with our Iranian guide we then head southeast, towards the holy city of Mashhad, stopping en route for lunch and arriving in this sacred Shia city later this afternoon. Entering Iran we see our first signs of Persian history and culture, but more importantly we finally meet the Iranian people, some of the most friendly and hospitable in the world.

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 13 – Holy Shrine of Emam Reza; overnight train to Isfahan

Today we will explore Iran’s most important Shia site, Astan-e Ghods-e Razavi, the Holy Shrine of the Emam Reza, along with the surrounding buildings of the scared precincts. Considered to be one of Islam’s most awe inspiring monuments, the shrine and its accompanying buildings lie within the confines of a walled island in the centre of Mashhad itself. This spectacular enclave is filled with mosques and museums, madrassahs and courtyards and although the shrine itself is off-limits to non-Muslims, there are many other parts of the area that can be explored. The shrine itself has fallen victim to destruction over the years and its current form dates only from the 17th century, but its impressive golden dome and towering minarets present a fitting tribute to the Shia’s holy of holies. The nearby 15th century Great Mosque is considered to be one of the finest examples of Timurid architecture in the country; the remarkable complex also houses a number of excellent museums containing a wealth of Islamic treasures. Our sightseeing this afternoon will include the town of Tus, once the site of the regional capital and birthplace of the famous Iranian poet, Ferdosi, whose tomb is said to lie on the exact spot of his death. Another visit will be made to the nearby 14th century mausoleum of Boqh-e-ye Hordokieh. This evening we board the overnight train to Isfahan.

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 14 – Free time in Isfahan

Our train arrives in Isfahan mid-morning and we transfer to our hotel to freshen up. Isfahan, one of the most beautiful cities in Iran and arguably the Middle East, gained prevalence when Shah Abbas moved his capital here, endowing the city with lavish monuments. “Isfahan is half the world” was the phrase used to describe the city at the time and is still valid now. The afternoon is free to explore the city, for those that like to shop, the Isfahan Grand Bazaar stretches for 4km, a winding mass of sellers, buyers, spices, trinkets and humanity going about their everyday life. It is also just a great place to wander and immerse yourself in friendly Iranian culture, eating the local speciality of byriani for lunch, very different to its Indian namesake but equally satisfying. During our stay in Isfahan there will also be an opportunity to attend Zukhaneh, a strength and wrestling evening that is central to Iranian culture. It really is a must see during your time your stay here.

Included Meals : None

Day 15 – In Isfahan, exploring Cheheltum Palace and Imam Square

Today’s tour focuses on exploring this incredible city; first of all we will visit Chehel Sotun Palace, whose name, Forty Columns, was inspired by the twenty slender wooden columns supporting the entrance pavilion, which, when reflected in the waters of the fountain, are said to appear to be forty. We then head to Imam Square, one of the largest city squares in the world and where we will spend the rest of the day. There will be the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere of the local people heading to the square to meet and picnic. The square is surrounded by important historical buildings including the Shah Mosque which is regarded as the masterpiece of Persian architecture; Ali Qapu Palace where royal spectators on the balcony could watch polo in the square below; Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque and you can get into Isfahan Grand Bazaar on the northern side. This evening there is the possibility of stroll along the river to See-o-Sipol Bridge.

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 16 – Free in Isfahan, optional visit to Armenian Quarter

Today is a free day in Isfahan and there is a lot to see for the adventurous. The Masjed-e Jame mosque is a UNESCO listed building and can be found by walking through the Grand Bazaar until you reach this archaeological treasure which dates back to the 10th century. The Armenian Quarter is well worth a visit, housing the 400 year old Vank Cathedral, a beautiful building featuring huge depictions of the Creation, Expulsion and the Killing of Abel. The Armenian (known locally as the Jolfa) quarter is also a trendy area for young Isfahanis to go and hang out in the evening in some of the local coffee houses; so is a great place for people watching. For those with an eye for carpets, Isfahan is world renowned as the centre of carpet making and trading and it is easy to spend the afternoon bartering your savings on a masterpiece.

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 17 – Drive to Tehran, afternoon orientation

This morning we depart early and drive to Tehran (approx 7hrs). We will stop at Kashan on the way for a short comfort stop before continuing our journey to Tehran. On arrival we will transfer to our hotel for a two-night stay in the Iranian capital. Tehran has been Iran’s capital for some two centuries and its streets are a vibrant mix of traditional culture and modern vibrancy, making it an ideal setting to contrast its rich history with its cosmopolitan future. This evening we will tour the local area, our guide will find the best chicken kebab in Tehran, or Dize, another local speciality which is both a soup and a chicken stew!

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 18 – Morning discovering Golestan Palace, free afternoon in the capital

This morning we will take a tour of the city, visiting the Golestan Palace which dates from the reign of Karim Khan Zand and contains an impressive array of halls and throne rooms that are filled with European and Persian designs, ornate displays of Qajar artwork and sumptuous furnishings, all set within a beautiful garden complex. We will visit the National Museum and Emam Reza, where we can learn of Persia’s 2,500-year history; the museums house a rich collection of artefacts, including some from the ancient sites of Persepolis and Shush, and contains a number of superb exhibits that chart the 600 years of Arab rule up until the 13th century.

Included Meals : Breakfast

Day 19 – Trip ends in Tehran

Today our adventure ends after breakfast in the capital.

Included Meals : Breakfast

No details found.

  • Letter of invitation
  • Registration in Ashgabat city
  • Tent stay in Darwaza – 1 night
  • Transportation throughout the tour
  • Escort English speaking guide service
  • Meals: BBQ Dinner & BF at Gas Crater
  • 1,5 L water per person per day
  • International flights
  • Cost of Turkmen visa & border fees
  • Payment for photo and video
  • Tips for guide and driver
  • Medical insurance
  • Meals: L, D
  • Services not shown in the program

 

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    Group Size: 10 pax
    price: $ 0 /Person

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