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The wonders of the Silk Road
The Silk Road was one of the most important trade routes in
history. Connecting the east to the west along a series of perilous
paths, it allowed merchants and travellers to trade silk, spices,
perfume, porcelain, precious metals and more.
'Throughout history, the Silk Road helped spread all manner of foods, inventions and cultures across Asia and Europe,' says Joanna Lumley, who travelled along it last year for her wonderful ITV series Joanna Lumley's Silk Road Adventure.
But if there's one country that defines the Silk Road more than
any other it's Uzbekistan, home to many of the ancient trading
route's greatest architectural and cultural wonders. On this
exclusive 11-day tour, readers will explore the highlights of this
little-known corner of the world and enjoy some wonderful added
experiences. Like Joanna, you'll visit the 2,500-year-old fortress
ruins of Ayaz Kala on the edge of the Kyzylkum desert; dusty Khiva
with its impressive walled citadel; Tashkent, Uzbekistan's vibrant
capital and finally Samarkand, 'the Pearl of the East', which
Alexander the Great said was 'more beautiful than I'd even
This is an up-and-coming destination, which has only recently opened up to tourists, so we've partnered with one of the best specialists in the area to take you there. Wild Frontiers offers small-group tours to some of the world's most remote countries and you'll be travelling in a group of between just six and 18 like-minded readers. Plus, we've scheduled it in late autumn, the best time to travel if you want fine sunny days. You can also be reassured that Wild Frontiers' expert guides - who will accompany you throughout - are the most experienced in the region.
Joanna Lumley said her journey on the Silk Road was one of her most 'adventurous and exotic yet', and this extraordinary tour promises to deliver the same sense of wonder and excitement for you.
Ancient cities of the Silk Road
Still-thriving silk trade
Bread making and wine tasting
- Wild Frontiers tour leader with local guides and drivers.
- All meals as detailed in the itinerary.
- All transport as detailed in the itinerary, including one domestic flight.
- All accommodation.
- All entrance fees as per itinerary.
Day1Tour starts in TashkentTashkent, Uzbekistan
The tour begins at mid-morning in Tashkent, the vibrant and exciting capital of Uzbekistan, and once the epicentre of the old Central Asian trading routes, which won its importance under the Mongols and the Shabanids, before finally being absorbed by the expansionist policies of the Russian empire during the 19th century. The city was demolished by a devistating earthquake in the 1960s and then was reinvented by the Kremlin as an exemplary socialist city.
Explore Tashkent this afternoon, touring its highlights such as the Khast Imam Complex - home to the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre - and the Chorsu Bazaar, a vast open-air market found in the heart of the old part of the city.
Day2Tashkent - FerganaFergana, Uzbekistan
This morning you'll travel east by rail, towards the Fergana Valley. This region is incredibly fertile, and thus was the breadbasket of the Central Asian USSR. It remains today one of the wealthiest areas in the region. Stop off first at Kokand, home to impressive sights such as the Norbutabiy Madrasah religious school. This city once served as the heart of a thriving silk emirate. You'll also make a visit to nearby Rishton, renowned for its blue and green family-owned ceramic ceramics studio, before continuing on to Fergana where you'll spend the night.
Day3Margilan Silk FactoryMargilan, Uzbekistan
Visit the local bazaar after breakfast this morning, soaking up the Fergana way of life, before travelling to nearby Magilan, centre of the still thriving local silk trade. Here you will witness and learn about the entire silk weaving process - from cocoon to end product. From this experience you'll receive an insight as to how this tiny thread wove cities onto a map of wealth and trade.
Later, you'll travel by car over the Kamchik Pass and into the scenic Quarama Mountains, on your way back to Tashkent.
Day4Khorzem Fortress of Ayaz KalaAyaz Kala, Uzbekistan
Take an early flight this morning to Urgench. From here you'll head to the ancient Khorzem Fortress of Ayaz Kala. The defensive walls built as part of a longer chain to keep out desert nomads on marauding raids from 4th century BC to 7th century AD, sit on the edge of the Kyzylkum Desert. The haunting remains in fact show that the structure formed three fortresses in one edfice.
After lunch you'll continue to Khiva where you'll have time to walk around this Silk Road city in the romantic light the late afternoon.
Day5KhivaKhiva , Uzbekistan
Khiva is one of the oldest cities of ancient Khorzem, and is considered a gem of eastern architecture. Archaeological records can trace this city's origins back to the 4th or 5th century BC. Spend the day exploring some of its over 50 monuments: admire its madrasahs (ancient religious universities) and museums and wander through the narrow streets of the Ichan Kala (inner city).
This evening you'll have the privilege of being invited into a family home for a masterclass in Central Asian bread-making.
Day6Khiva - BukharaBukhara, Uzbekistan
Departing Khiva this morning, you'll take the old Silk Road again, heading for Bukhara, whose historic centre is described by UNESCO as the most complete example of a medieval city in Central Asia. Upon arrival this afternoon, take a late stroll through the 2000-year-old city which is home to some 140 architectural monuments. After seeing some of the sights you'll enjoy a dinner in Khiva.
Bukhara is considered as Central Asia's holiest city, with an architectural legacy that spans a thousand years. A centre of trade, culture and scholarship for centuries, under the Samanids the city became a major intellectual centre of the Islamic world. Today you'll be able to visit some of its highlights, taking in the imposing Ark of Bukhara, the Kunya Ark Complex and the Samanids Mausoleum, the Friday Mosque and Lab-i Hauz, home to the 16th century Kukeldash Madrasah, the largest in the city.
A cultural excursion will take you to a carpet embroidery workshop where you'll see how these fantastic Central Asian patterns are brought to life. You'll also get to visit a local family-owned restaurant where you'll learn about the subtleties and spices that make Central Asian cuisine so unique.
Day8Bukhara - SamarkandSamarkand, Uzbekistan
Explore the last bits of Bukhara before we head south-east to Samarkand. Alexander the Great was famously moved by the beauty of this city which Tamerlane made the capital of his empire. Marco Polo is also said to have lavished Samarkand with praise. It is one of the oldest inhabited cities on the planet and once possessed some of the world's finest centres of learning, influenced by the city's central location along the old trading routes between China and the west. We aim to arrive by evening at the Registan ('sandy place' or 'desert' in Persian), where three magnificent madrassahs overlook the famous Registan square.
Day9Silk paper factory and wine tasting in SamarkandSamarkand, Uzbekistan
Today you can continue to take in the ancient sites of Samarkand, paying a visit to the Gur Emir Mausoleum, the final resting place of Tamerlane, the founder of the Timurid Empire. We'll also visit the Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis and the magnificent Bibi-Khanym Mosque, which dates back to the 15th-century and as hailed as one of the most impressive mosques in the Islamic world. Explore the bustling Siyob Bazaar before taking a trip to a traditional factory to learn about silk paper making, once again witnessing the whole production from start to finish. Roam the city at leisure this afternoon and this evening enjoy a special wine-tasting at the Khovreno Winery. This part of the world has been making wine for centuries.
Day10Meros Paper FactorySamarkand, Uzbekistan
Make the most of your final morning exploring this fascinating city, taking a visit to the Meros Paper Factory and shopping for detailed local handicrafts. Travel this afternoon back to Tashkent, taking in the scenery before your final meal.
Day11Tour ends in TashkentTashkent, Uzbekistan
This morning is free for you to further explore the capital of Tashkent, before those flying back today are transferred to the airport for their flights home.
Sasha & Sons
Constructed in the national style, Sasha & Sons was a 16th-century Jewish merchant’s house now renovated into a boutique hotel.
Located in the heart of Bukhara and within walking distance from ancient Labi-Hauz complex, the family run hotel is decorated with art pieces and wall paintings reminiscent of the 18th century, hand-made by well-known craftsmen and painters from Uzbekistan. Walk through the quiet, inner courtyard and up the ornate stairs to your room. There are twenty comfortable guest rooms in total. Each room has the telephone, air-conditioner, mini bar and satellite television. On top of its own restaurant and bar, refreshments are served in the properties small garden and courtyard.
Malika Prime Hotel
One of the best locations in Samarkand, just by the Gur Emir Mausoleum and within walking distance of Registan Square
Built in traditional style, this charming hotel is an ideal place to stay in Samarkand. The marble entrance and stairs lead up to a huge terrace which serves as a summer restaurant and bar where you can enjoy a drink and magnificent views of the blue domes of Samarkand. There is also an air-conditioned restaurant downstairs. The twenty two en suite rooms are quite small but spotlessly clean, with wooden floors and air-conditioning.
Asia Ferghana Hotel
Comfortable hotel with a range of amenities
Ideally located downtown, just 10 minutes from the airport and close to the city's administrative offices, this three-star property offers guests 57 air conditioned rooms and suites that come complete with private bathrooms and satellite TVs. The hotel also provides the facilities of a swimming pool and sauna, along with an open air restaurant that serves a range of local and European dishes.
Orient Star Hotel
Contained inside the 19th-century Mukhamed Aminkhan Madrassah
The Orient Star enjoys a faultless location within the walls of Ichan Qala, the medieval citadel in the heart of Khiva. Only a short walk from the city's mosques, madrassas, palaces and hammams, the building used to be the biggest operational madrassah of the city and held up to 250 students. The traditional building now features sixty simply decorated but comfortable and clean en suite rooms. Once cells of the students who studied here, each room is a historical and architectural adventure. The restaurant and bar, situated in another madrasah next to the hotel, offers Uzbek meals and local wine.
City Palace Hotel
Well-equipped hotel in the heart of Uzbekistan's capital
A recent renovation and the unique interior design mixing eastern and western styles makes City Palace Hotel a stylish, smart treat to stay in. In the heart of Tashkent, you couldn't be more well-connected. Facilities include a wonderful summer terrace, a pool, jaccuzzi, Turkish and Finnish saunas and several restaurants and bars.