14 - Day tour to the Highlights of Uzbekistan and the deserts of Turkmenistan. This is our Eco-adventure-programme covering some classic and some entirely new routings in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. You will have time to stroll around the ancient cities of the Silk Road on your own and to join your group for fabulous trekking in the canyons and deserts of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Coming in through Tashkent you will cross over 2,000 km overland from the nut-tree forests of the Nuratau mountain ridge in Uzbekistan, across the dunes and nomad settlements of the Karakum.
Arrival to Tashkent late in the evening. Transfer your hotel.
A morning tour of Tashkent's most prominent historical and cultural monuments includes exploration of the old city, Khazret Imam Square from the 16th century that houses the Kaffal Shashi Mausoleum, the Barak Khan Madrasah, the Namazogkh Mosque. We also visit "Chorsu" square, which was once a place for trade. The Square houses three very important monuments: the Kukeldash Madrasah, the Jammi Mosque and the Chorsu Bazaar. In the afternoon we head off for Samarkand.
Today is our day to enjoy the wonder that is Samarkand which was known as "Rome of the Orient" and was flourishing as early as the Roman and Babylonian times. Our morning tour starts off with Registan Square - a medieval times bazaar square and center of trade and cultural life. Next we visit Ulugbek Madrasah, once the central University in Central Asia built by Ulugbek the grandson of Tamerlane; the 17th Century Shir-Dor Madrasah and the gold painted Tillya-Kari mosque. An opportunity to mingle with local folks for tea at the Bibi Khanum Mosque, built by Tamerlane after his 1399 victorious Indian campaign. Our afternoon tour includes the Gur Emir Mausoleum where Amir Timur rests followed by the Ulugbek's Observatory. It is here that Ulugbek completed the famous "Table of Stars". The rest of the day we spend in Afrosiab, the old Samaarkand, where Central Asians are at their best.
Day 4 - 5
On the 4th day we will continue towards the Nuratau Mountains around which you will be trekking and ride a camel We will trek up the mountain through the Nature Reserve whose main purpose is the protection of Nut-tree forests and the Svertsov's urial. The nearby Aidarkul Lake is the result of a floodwater in 1969 that was drained into the previous salt-lake. On day 5 we continue to Bukhara.
Bukhara was the home of Royal rulers for over a millennium. Our exploration starts with the Ark Citadel which is as old as Bukhara itself, followed by the Bolo-Khauz Mosque. We then tour the famous Kalon Minaret, Kalon Mosque and Mir-I-Arab Madrasah. Built in 1127, Kalon Minaret is the defining symbol of Bukhara exquisite not only for its magnificence, but also for the ornamental brickwork. We also explore some of the many Bazaars, city's trading covered cupolas of the 15th-16th centuries. Built at the junction of caravan route, they were specialized trade centers with moneychangers, hats sellers, jewelers and silk sellers, among the most popular ones. The heart of Bukhara is Lyabi-Khauz Ensemble. The Ensemble shows how the Bukharan architectural traditions remain alive. A busy afternoon starts off with the Samanid's Mausoleum followed by Chashma Ayub built in the 12th century. We end up to discover the monument called Chor Minor with its Indian designed four-domed minarets.
Day 7 - 8
We spend the next morning in the village before returning to the main road on the next Day to return to AshgabatTugay forest, Kune Urgench-Turkmenistan On our 10th day in Uzbekistan we travel on a pontoon bridge across the Amudarya into Turkmenistan, where we continue along the river towards the ancient cities in the north of its canal delta. Our first stop after the border are the Tugay forests of the Amudarya Nature Reserve where we will trek though a unique riverside landscape of dunes and savannah-like Tugay-forest. The area is the habitat of the endangered Bukharan deer whose population has dropped under twenty after heavy flooding in 1998. Local environmental NGO's are currently conducting a relocation project for the remaining animals into recent canal Tugay forests north of Mary. After visiting the ancient Caravansaray of Daya Khatyn we continue on the asphalt road north with a beautiful view of the river-lands. Stopping for a picnic with the pilgrims in the holy shade of the Dargan Ata fortress we will continue along the Uzbek border where travelling highly sensible border territory we will feel very strongly the impact of the new borders of the former Soviet Union. We should reach the ancient Capital of the region, Konye-Urgench by the evening where with donkey carts and mulberry-tree-laned streets we will encounter a very strong sense of tradition in this Yomud tribe region with a strong Uzbek influence.
Day 9 - 11
Karakum Desert adventure-Ashgabat From Konye-Urgench we will start our 3-day crossing of the Karakum desert. After spending the first night near Darwaza Oasis we will leave the asphalt road by truck / 4WD into the central desert areas covering about 250 km off-road track cut into pieces by the sharp peaks of the dunes. This is the toughest part of the trip through some of the most isolated and natural nomad villages in the country. We will cross Uzboy, the former bed of the Amudarya, which like an endless salt-lake is separating the entirely different plates of northern and southern Karakum. We spend the night with the nomads in the flat roof settlement of Damla, where almost the entire life is centred around the yurt during summer. On the third day we continue off road south towards Ashgabat, returning onto the asphalt near the oasis of Erbent.
Day 12 - 13
Being really exhausted from the trip, we will relax 2 days in this unique city-Ashgabat, visiting the silk-makers in a small village nearby and of course the colourful Tolkuchka bazaar, the Must of Ashgabat.
Day - 14