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Village near the Trans-Ili Alatau Mountain rainge
© Alexander Serzhantov / Unsplash

Classic Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan & Kazakhstan

Visitors can use this itinerary to see a wide range of attractions in Central Asia, from stunning scenery in national parks to important cultural sites in the cities.

This exceptional 13-day itinerary is brought to you by Wild Frontiers.

OVERVIEW

Lying at the geographic and cultural heart of Central Asia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan stretch from the shores of the Caspian Sea to the western edge of China, spanning a wealth of landscapes, peoples and traditions. Home to the Turkic tribes of old, their cities and mountains, even to this day, are pervaded with the magic and romance of the ancient Silk Road.

Tashkent provides the starting point for this incredible odyssey, providing a gateway onto the medieval city of Khiva and then through the barren Kyzylkum Desert to Bukhara and Samarkand, where you get a chance to explore the mosques and mausoleums of Bukhara and enjoy the Islamic majesty of the stunning Registan Square in Samarkand before flying on to the Kyrgyzstan capital, Bishkek.

A full day in the Ala Archa Canyon and a swim in the warm waters of Lake Issy Kul is then followed by a wander through the fascinating backstreets of Karakol, before heading into the Chon Kemin Valley for an overnight stay in the rural village of Ashu. The journey’s end then sees you amongst the mountains and museums of the Kazakh city of Almaty.

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • Explore the many mosques and mausoleums of Bukhara, Uzbekistan
  • See the blue tiles of the immense and inspiring Registan Square in Samarkand
  • Swim in the warm Lake Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan
  • Stay in a rural village guesthouse in Ashu in the Chon Kemin Valley of Kyrgyzstan
  • Visit the former capital of Kazakhstan, Almaty

DAY 1: ARRIVE TASHKENT

Arrive in Tashkent and transfer to your hotel. In the afternoon embark on a city tour of modern Tashkent. Begin with the central square Amir Timur Maydoni, dominated by a statue of Tamerlaine on horseback and the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre, designed by the architect responsible for Lenin's tomb. Also visit the Applied Arts Museum and the extensive Chorsu Bazaar. As you wander through the streets, you will discover many of its madrassahs, mausoleums and mosques dating back to the 16th and 17th century.

People taking a stroll through a Tashkent park © Farhodjon Chinberdiev / Unsplash
People taking a stroll through a Tashkent park © Farhodjon Chinberdiev / Unsplash

DAY 2: TASHKENT - URGENCH - KHIVA

Fly to Urgench and then it's just a short drive to Khiva. On arrival explore Khiva on foot, a unique walled, oasis town, preserved in its entirety since medieval times. You will visit the "Kunya Ark" or old citadel which was the Emir's residence with its magnificent summer mosque and harem. Also see the Juma Mosque with its 200 individually carved wooden pillars and the Tash Khauli Palace.

DAY 3: KHIVA - BUKHARA

A long drive today (7-8 hours) though the barren Kyzyl Kum or red desert to the magical city of Bukhara.

Enjoy traditional activities while exploring Uzbekistan's most legendary cities © Curioso.Photography / Shutterstock
Enjoy traditional activities while exploring Uzbekistan's most legendary cities © Curioso.Photography / Shutterstock

DAY 4: BUKHARA

A full day's tour through the narrow streets of old Bukhara. Visit the Ark Citadel, former residence of the Emirs of Bukhara. Continue to Bolo-Khauz Mosque and Kalyan Square with its great minaret and the Ismael Samani Mausoleum dating from the 10th century. Spend some time wandering the old trading domes, now home to many handicraft stalls.

Lyabi-Khauz Square © saiko3p / Shutterstock
Lyabi-Khauz Square © saiko3p / Shutterstock

DAY 5: BUKHARA

This morning visit the summer palace of Bukhara’s last Emir, just outside the city. It is an eclectic mix of Oriental and European design and contains a good collection of suanes (Uzbek traditional embroidery) and Chinese porcelain brought to Bukhara by camel caravan in the 19th century. Next, see Lyabi-Khauz Square surrounded by madrassahs and crowded tea houses.

Climb up a vantage point to enjoy a beautiful sunset over Bukhara © Mehmet0 / Shutterstock
Climb up a vantage point to enjoy a beautiful sunset over Bukhara © Mehmet0 / Shutterstock

DAY 6: BUKHARA - SAMARKAND

This morning free time for leisure. In the afternoon, transfer to the train station and take the Afrosiyob or Sharq train to Samarkand. The journey takes just under 2 hours and 30 mins and you will pass through countryside before approaching the suburbs of Samarkand. You will be able to purchase light refreshments en route. Be met at the station and transferred to your hotel.

DAY 7: SAMARKAND

Enjoy a full day guided tour of Samarkand including Registan Square, the highlight of the trip, surrounded on three sides by blue tiled madrassahs. It is a masterpiece of Islamic architecture and no picture can convey the magnificence of this square. Continue to Tamerlaine's tomb, Ulukbek's Observatory, the Shahi-Zinda mausoleum complex and the Bibi Khanum Mosque built in honour of Tamerlaine's wife. Around the mosque there is a buzzing local market.

Registan Square Samarkand © Snowscat / Unsplash
Registan Square Samarkand © Snowscat / Unsplash

DAY 8: SAMARKAND - TASHKENT

This morning is left free for you to explore Samarkand at your own pace. This afternoon, take the train to Tashkent. Transfer to the railway station and board the train at 18:00 to Tashkent. Your tourist class seat will be reserved for you, the journey takes two hours 10 minutes, so you should arrive at 20:10. On arrival you will be transferred to your hotel.

DAY 9: TASHKENT - BISHKEK (KYRGYZSTAN)

Fly to Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, splendidly set against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains. Enjoy a guided sightseeing tour of the city including the main square and State National History museum and stroll around Bishkek's Osh Bazaar.

DAY 10: BISHKEK

Full day visit to Ala Archa Canyon, part of the Ala Archa National Park. Take a walk up into the mountains for amazing views over the park. Your mountain guide will lead you on various walking routes at your own pace through forests fragrant with pine and juniper. Ala Archa is a favourite place for the citizens of Bishkek, who like to take walks amidst unspoilt nature and relax by a waterfall.

Mountain Valley views Bishkek © Vigor Poodo / Unsplash
Mountain Valley views Bishkek © Vigor Poodo / Unsplash

DAY 11: BISHKEK - LAKE ISSYK KUL - KARAKOL

Take a trip out to Lake Issyk Kul or “warm lake”. It is the second largest mountain lake in the world after Lake Titicaca in South America. Measuring 182km long by 58km wide, the lake is heated from below by volcanic activity and never freezes even in the depths of winter. There's time to have lunch and a walk by the lake before continuing to Karakol, a sleepy provincial town with a Russian flavour, sandwiched between the lake and the imposing Tien Shan Mountains.

DAY 12: KARAKOL - CHON KEMIN VALLEY

Explore the backstreets of Karakol, full of Russian style cottages shaded by white poplars and see the wooden Holy Trinity Cathedral built in 1895 and the Chinese Dungan Mosque. Later on, drive to Ashu village in the Chon Kemin Valley near the Kazakh border, and meet your host family in your guesthouse house accommodation.

DAY 13: CHON KEMIN VALLEY - ALMATY (KAZAKHSTAN)

There is time this morning to explore this rural village, which is full of farms and fields growing various crops. Drive on to Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city.

Almaty village in mountain valley © Alexander Serzhantov / Unsplash
Almaty village in mountain valley © Alexander Serzhantov / Unsplash

DAY 14: ALMATY

In the morning take a sightseeing tour of Almaty visiting Republic Square with the former Presidential Palace and Independence Monument, Panfilov Park, Zenkov Russian Cathedral, built entirely of wood in 1904 without the use of any nails, and the colourful St Nicholas's Cathedral. This afternoon is at leisure.

This exceptional itinerary is brought to you by Wild Frontiers. CHALLENGING PERCEPTIONS, INSPIRING CONNECTIONS

Wild Frontiers is an award-winning adventure travel company, founded in 1998 by travel writer Jonny Bealby. We specialise in stylish and original small group tours and tailor-made holidays worldwide.

They are firm believers that travelling is all about the experience and it’s in the details – the places you stay, the transport and route that gets you there, and the people you meet along the way – that make the trip; we therefore specialise in drawing on our own extensive local knowledge and array of contacts to give our clients the very best experience possible.