Epic Tour Of 5 Stans Through Central Asia
Central Asia's five 'Stans consist of spectacular mountains, deserts, and valleys home to ancient towns, fabled trade routes, and oases of modern cities. The best time to travel is during the spring and autumn when the weather is mild and comfortable.
The Heart of the Silk Road tour will take you on a journey that weaves through the historic heart of the Silk Road, where nomadic lifestyles, stunning landscapes, and friendly locals await. With comfortable accommodations, delicious local cuisine, and seamless travel arrangements, this trip is the ultimate trip of a lifetime.
Dates or length of Journey: 21-day/ 20-night Central Asia
DAY 01: Arrival in Almaty
DAY 02: Almaty – Altyn Emel Natural Park
DAY 03: Altyn Emel – Charyn Canyon – Karkara
DAY 04: Karkara – Karakol – Jeti Oguz – Karakol
DAY 05: Karakol – Cholpon Ata – Chon Kemin
DAY 06: Chon Kemin – Bishkek – Tashkent
DAY 07: Tashkent
DAY 08: Tashkent – Khujand
DAY 09: Khujand – Dushanbe
DAY 10: Dushanbe – Iskanderkul – Penjikent
DAY 11: Penjikent – Seven Lakes – Penjikent
DAY 12: Penjikent – Samarkand
DAY 13: Samarkand
DAY 14: Samarkand – Bukhara
DAY 15: Bukhara
DAY 16: Bukhara – Khiva
DAY 17: Khiva
DAY 18: Khiva – Dashoguz – Darwaza
DAY 19: Darwaza – Ashgabat
DAY 20: Ashgabat
DAY 21: Departure from Ashgabat
Keep scrolling for the full Itinerary...
Uzbekistan - Explore the bustling bazaars, detailed mosaics, gilded mausoleums, and towering minarets of the ancient Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva.
Kazakhstan – Wander through heavenly landscapes of windswept steppes, arid deserts, and deep multi-colored canyons full of weathered rock formations.
Kyrgyzstan – Soviet-style buildings, spacious markets, semi-nomadic shepherds, colorful mosques, and high-mountain lakes – combined with a night in a traditional yurt!
Tajikistan – Drive over mountain passes and through spectacular landscapes to find traditional communities. Hike through the Zarafshan Valley to discover seven lakes of different colors.
Turkmenistan – Marvel at rare Akhal-Teke desert horses and visit the 'Door to Hell' where flames fueled by seeping natural gas have been burning for decades.
Day 1. Arrival in Almaty
Welcome to Kazakhstan!
Arrival in Almaty, meet & greet at the airport and transfer to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time, early check-in and late breakfast are available before you start exploring the city.
We’ll visit Panfilov’s Park with Zenkov’s Orthodox Cathedral, the Great Patriotic War Memorial, and the Museum of Kazakh Folk Musical Instruments. Continue with the Green Bazaar and also visit the Independence Monument at Republic Square and Kok Tobe Hill.
Almaty is also known as the city of apple trees. Its mild climate encourages a wide range of apple trees to flourish and is the genetic home of many varieties of apples.
Overnight in Almaty
Day 2. Almaty – Altyn Emel Natural Park (6-7h)
After breakfast, drive to Altyn Emel National Park – an area with steppes and semi-desert featuring rich wildlife, wandering dunes, and rock carvings.
Arrival at Bashi Village. Enjoy a local lunch before starting your excursion to the Singing Dunes (40 min driving time).
Overnight in Bashi Village
Day 3. Altyn Emel Natural Park – Charyn Canyon – Karkara (5-6h)
In the morning we’ll drive to Charyn Canyon.
The canyon follows the Charyn River for about 50 kilometers. The walls of the canyon reach up to 300 meters at some point and the colors range from red to brown, yellow, and black. It's a geologist's dream come true with sedimentary rocks that are about twelve million years old.
Visit the most beautiful place of Charyn Canyon – Castles Valley.
Lunch en route.
After hiking the canyon we’ll drive to the border with Kyrgyzstan. And after all, the formalities are done, we will reach the Karkara Yurt Camp in the evening, where we will enjoy our dinner.
Welcome to Kyrgyzstan! - The country is a jewel and an insider tip for every traveler who is looking for authenticity and adventure. Soviet-style buildings, spacious markets, and colorful mosques await you in Bishkek. While outside of the capital you will discover high-mountain lakes and plateaus where horses graze, snow-capped peaks, and alpine forests.
Overnight in Karkara in yurts with private facilities
Day 4. Karkara – Karakol – Jeti Oguz – Karakol (3-4h)
In the morning we’ll continue our way to the city of Karakol. En route, we will visit the Prjevalski Memorial Complex.
Upon your arrival in Karakol, have lunch in a local cafe.
After lunch, we’ll head to Jety Oguz Canyon to see the famous “Broken Heart” and the Seven Bulls Rocks - one of the most famous landmarks of Kyrgyzstan, made up of several impressive natural sandstone formations. It is featured in many poems and paintings, as well as music videos.
Return to Karakol and visit the Dungan Mosque and the Orthodox Cathedral.
Overnight in Karakol
Day 5. Karakol – Cholpon Ata – Chon Kemin Valley (5-6h)
Continue your trip along the northern shore of Issyk Kul Lake.
We will first reach the town of Cholpon Ata for an excursion to the famous Petroglyphs site. The petroglyph museum is a real stone garden known throughout the world for its singularity and its stone drawings. There are around 5,000 stones on the 42-ha territory.
The theme of the drawings is very broad and reflects religious beliefs and ideas about the world among ancient people. Here you can find images of wild and domestic animals, birds and people, geometric symbols and signs, images of the faces of deities, as well as many indescribable drawings.
Lunch in a local café.
We continue our journey and drive to Balykchy, the Boom Canyon and reach Chon Kemin Valley. It is a beautiful area with lots of hiking opportunities, horse riding (extra payment), swimming in the pool, and taking many photos. Dinner at the guesthouse.
Overnight in Chon Kemin Valley
Day 6. Chon Kemin Valley – Bishkek – Tashkent
We will drive another two hours until we reach Bishkek. En route, visit the Burana Tower (UNESCO site).
After lunch we’ll have a short city tour in Bishkek:
Visit Central Square Ala-Too, see the Kurmanzhan Datka Monument, the Old Square with the Parliament House, and Lenin’s Monument. We will observe the local life in the famous Oak Park and pass through the Fine Art Gallery under the clear sky. We continue walking to the Opera and Ballet House and reach Victory Square dedicated to the victims of WWII.
After our excursions in Bishkek, transfer to the airport for the evening flight to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan (Mon, Thu – evening flight, Sat – afternoon flight, the program is subject to change according to flight schedule).
Welcome to Uzbekistan! - A Central Asian nation and former Soviet republic, landlocked Uzbekistan is the proud home to spellbinding architecture and ancient cities that have been overlooked for many years.
Its centuries-long history under Persian rule and as a key stop on the Silk Road left a rich cultural and architectural legacy, made all the more fascinating by the country’s time as an enclave of the Soviet Union.
Upon arrival, meet the local team and transfer to the hotel. The remaining time of the evening at leisure.
Overnight in Tashkent
Day 7. Tashkent
Today we’ll have a full day in Tashkent, which we will use for a bit of touring, but also to take a rest after the previous driving days. Morning at leisure.
Tashkent, a charming mish mash of austere Soviet-style buildings and classical Russian architecture, has a long history of 2,200 years and has been the capital of Uzbekistan since 1930.
We’ll go on a half-day city tour in the afternoon, starting by exploring the narrow winding streets of the Old Town. This area is home to Barakkhan Madrasah, Tillya Shaykh Mosque, Kaffal Shashi Mausoleum, and the Library of Islamic Literature.
Under a giant dome, we’ll find a delightful slice of city life in the traditional Chor-Su Bazaar. It’s also a great place to buy souvenirs, watch Uzbek bread baking, and taste many national dishes in between the numerous food rows.
In the modern part of the city, we’ll visit Mustakillik Square. We’ll even take a ride on the vibrant, arty Tashkent Metro. The tour of Tashkent ends at Amir Temur Square, established on the intersection of two ancient trade roads in the heart of the city.
Overnight in Tashkent
Day 8. Tashkent – Khujand (3h)
After breakfast, we will drive to the Uzbek-Tajik border and deal with the border crossing formalities before entering Tajikistan.
Meet your team and drive to Khujand, the second-largest city in Tajikistan. We will visit the Museum of Khujand, the Arbob Palace, the biggest “Tea House”, the Central Mosque, and the Panjshanbe Bazaar.
Overnight in Khujand
Day 9. Khujand – Dushanbe (5h)
Today we continue our journey and drive via the Shahriston and Anzob passes and the tunnel of Istiklol to Dushanbe. The road leads over beautiful mountain passes and you will have many photo stops on the way.
In Dushanbe, we will visit Rudaki Park, the National Library, the White House, the Parliament, the National Flag, the Central Museum, the Gurminj Museum, and the Asian Bazaar.
Overnight in Dushanbe
Day 10. Dushanbe – Iskanderkul – Penjikent (6h)
After breakfast, depart for Iskanderkul Lake (2.255 m. a. s. l.), located in the Fann Mountains. The road leads through the Anzob pass (3.372 m) with amazing panorama views.
Today we can also see the biggest waterfall in Tajikistan known as “Niagara of Fann Mountains”.
Lunch in a local café.
Continue to Penjikent, the ruins of this ancient city were found only during the last century. Today tourists can see the remains of dwelling houses and office buildings, the citadel with the palace, the house of craftsmen, and the fire worshiper’s church.
Overnight in Penjikent
Day 11. Penjikent – Seven Lakes – Penjikent (6h)
After breakfast, drive to the must-see place of the Zarafshan Valley – Seven Lakes. They are one of Central Asia's most popular hiking areas. Lunch is on the way in a cafe.
Then, you will have time for a short hiking tour. The road leads along a gorge where 7 lakes are located. They are situated at different altitudes and have different colors.
In the late afternoon drive back to Penjikent and the remaining time of the evening at leisure.
Overnight in Penjikent
Day 12. Penjikent – Samarkand (2h)
After breakfast, drive to the border and enter Uzbekistan again, where your Uzbek team will await you. Together you will proceed to Samarkand. No name is as evocative of the Silk Road as Samarkand, which lies at the crossroads of the silk trading route through Europe and Asia.
Enjoy lunch and take a rest at the hotel before we will visit the world-famous Registan Square and the Mausoleum of Amir Temur.
Overnight in Samarkand
Day 13. Samarkand
After it revolted against its Mongol rulers (1365), Samarkand became the capital of the empire of Timur (Tamerlane), who made the city the most important economic and cultural center in Central Asia.
Enjoy a full day of sightseeing in Samarkand including the Bibi Khanim Mosque, the Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis, the Ulugbek Observatory, and the Tombstone of Saint Daniyar – the restored tomb of the Old Testament prophet Daniyar (Daniel).
Overnight in Samarkand
Day 14. Samarkand – Bukhara
Transfer to the train station in the morning for your onward journey to Bukhara (09:50 am – 11:17 am).
Bukhara is an oasis city, located right in the middle of the desert. Once located on the Great Silk Road, Bukhara is one of the oldest cities in the world – its history exceeds 2.500 years.
Upon arrival, we will visit the Mausoleum of Samanids, the Bolo Hauz Mosque, the Ark Citadel, the Ulugbek and the Allakulikhan Madrasa, the Poi Kalon Complex, and Lyabi Hauz Square.
Overnight in Bukhara
Day 15. Bukhara
We will explore the surroundings of Bukhara and visit the Chor Minor Mosque, Sitorai Mokhi Khosa – the summer residence of the last Emir of Bukhara, Chor Bakr Necropolis – city of the dead and the Baghautdin Nakhshbandi Mausoleum – the center of Sufism.
Enjoy a dinner with a family of a local artisan – a master of oriental miniature.
Overnight in Bukhara
Day 16. Bukhara – Khiva (7h)
Today is a long driving day to Khiva. The distance is about 465 km and the driving time is approximately seven hours. However, don't let the long distance from Bukhara to Khiva put you off visiting.
Khiva is essentially an open-air museum. In fact, there are over 50 historical sites in its tiny Old Town. It's no wonder that it is Central Asia's very first UNESCO World Heritage City! As one of the dreamiest places on earth, Khiva resembles an ancient sandcastle town.
Lunch in a café on the way.
Overnight in Khiva
Day 17. Khiva
As one of the ancient cities situated along the Silk Roads, Khiva has been a center of education, science, and culture, and served as a cradle of civilizations spanning millennia. Enjoy a full day of explorations in Khiva, including the Islam Khoja complex, Kalta-minor, the Kunya-Ark Citadel, Muhammad Amin-khan Madrasah, the Sayid Allauddin Mausoleum, Shergazi-Khan Madrasah, and the Tash-Khovli Palace.
Overnight in Khiva
Day 18. Khiva – Dashoguz – Darwaza
Drive approximately one and a half hours to the border and proceed to Turkmenistan. Our local team will await you.
Drive to Darwaza (6h), a Gas Crater, also known as the "Door to Hell". While drilling in 1971, Soviet geologists tapped into a cavern filled with natural gas. The ground beneath the drilling rig collapsed, leaving a large hole with a diameter of 60 m and 20 m deep. To avoid poisonous gas discharge, it was decided to burn it off. Geologists had hoped the fire would use all the fuel in a matter of days, but the gas is still burning today.
In the evening, watch the spectacular and fascinating view of the gas crater.
Overnight in yurts/tents near Darwaza
Day 19. Darwaza – Ashgabat (5h)
Picnic-style breakfast and proceed on your journey to Ashgabat. Transfer to the hotel and enjoy some free time.
Later that day drive to the hippodrome to see the national pride of the Turkmen people – Akhalteke horses. Per superstition, every sick person who touches an Akhalteke horse will get well soon.
Overnight in Ashgabat
Day 20. Ashgabat
Ashgabat is the capital of Turkmenistan. It’s known for its white marble buildings and grandiose national monuments. The city holds the Guinness Book of Records title for the most white marble on Earth. As per the record, the city has 543 white marble buildings covering an area of 4.5 million square meters (with no one living in them).
Enjoy a city tour in Ashgabat including the Nissa Fortress and the Turkmenbashy Ruhy Mosque in Kipchak.
Overnight in Ashgabat
Day 21. Departure from Ashgabat
Time at leisure until your transfer to the airport for your onward flight. End of services.
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