Imposing ancient tile work, Sher-Dor Madrasah, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Itinerary: Silk Roads - Silk Roads to Samarkand

14 May to 11 June 2020

Discover the lands of Transoxiana, where the cities of Tashkent, Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand hold magnificent blue-glazed tiled mosques, madrassas, intact streetscapes and people in traditional attire. Thoughts of these dazzling towns evoke images of turquoise domes blazing in the sun, marvellous arched walls of glazed tiles, mystical dervishes, and serpentine desert caravans.

There’s plenty to witness in the local life of the bazaars, or indulge your interests in streets and courtyards festooned with colourful carpets, textiles, pottery and handicrafts. Many of these destinations have, until recently, been shut off from the outside world. This is one of our most extraordinary Journeys.

On this Journey you will:

• Cross China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
• Gaze in awe at the Terra Cotta Army and Horses
• Wonder at the easternmost beginning of the Great Silk Road at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda
• Encounter a living Tibetan monastic city in remote China
• Visit the extreme western end of the Great Wall
• Explore the Mogao Buddhist Caves at Dunhuang; a truly magnificent cultural repository
• Mingle in the ‘Sunday Market’ at Kashgar
• Cross the ‘most beautiful mountain pass in the world’
• Experience the nomadic lifestyle of the Kyrgyz peoples
• See the ancient tradition of hunting with magnificent Golden Eagles
• Discover the perfectly preserved desert city of Kiva, ‘the jewel in Uzbekistan’s crown’
• Follow the Silk Road through amazing Bukhara, Samarkand and the Fergana Valley
• Encounter craftspeople, music and dance of Central Asia

Is this trip right for you?

‘Silk Roads to Samarkand’ is an active tour. It requires a good level of fitness, as it is physically more demanding. It may involve optional hiking, and some travel to remote, high altitude areas where tourist facilities are less developed. There is walking over rough and uneven ground in a few places. The more difficult aspects of this itinerary involve one area of high altitude driving over the Torugart Pass at 3,750m and some long driving distances.

It is our intention to adhere to the day-to-day itinerary as printed; however, the order of events or sightseeing may change as we look to improve our tours or as local conditions dictate. In these circumstances, we will make the best possible arrangements whilst maintaining the integrity of your trip. The flights between Urumqi and Kashgar are operated on a loop system, meaning one plane will fly up and down several times a day. Unfortunately, this means that any delays are passed on to all later flights and flight departure times are extremely subject to change! We will contact the airport to check the situation during the day and keep you informed of any changes.

Our Hotels:

We understand that travel isn't all about a fleeting glimpse of popular mass tourist spots, or staying at luxury hotels, but is also about time, space, privacy and those special destinations and moments that turn your holiday into a truly magical experience. Silk Roads to Samarkand is a tour for everyone wanting to see the essence of China and Central Asia, but also including destinations on roads less travelled and exploring new horizons rarely encountered. This adventurous tour uses 3, 4 and 5 star hotels and a couple of basic accommodations called ‘home stays’ in local people’s homes or guest houses in Kyrgyzstan. These turned out to be highlights of last year’s Journey, which incidentally, was a “sell-out”.

Participants should note that the order of visits and activities described may be modified to accommodate changes in flight schedules, special access to museums and crafts and ethnic peoples, the pathways chosen by our experienced and knowledgeable local guides, local road conditions and unexpected contingencies such as festivals, street processions or religious ceremonies and village customs.


Daily Breakfasts in our hotels and other meals are indicated as B (Breakfast), L (Lunch), D (Dinner).

Sumtuous meal, Uzbekistan
Download detailed printable itinerary: Silk Roads - Silk Roads to Samarkand - PDF format

Proposed Itinerary:

Day 1: 14 May 2020

Fly this morning directly from Adelaide (or your capital city) with China Southern Airlines CZ664 at 10:00 am, arriving in Guangzhou where you change flights to arrive in Xi’an at 10:20 pm.

We have arrived at the Eastern–most starting point of the Ancient Silk Road. The empire spread from the shores of the Mediterranean to the China Sea, and to India in the south. Along the fabled Silk Roads travelled European, Arab and Chinese merchants trading the exquisite products of China’s civilization. But not only were the luxurious silks, textiles and porcelains exported, so too were its scientific technologies which were well in advance of anything in the ‘West’. From the time of Marco Polo until the late eighteenth century, China was the greatest economy in the world, renowned for its stability and wealth; its cosmopolitan civilization and advanced technologies: so much so that it was held in awe by the nation-states of Europe. When Marco returned from his travels in 1295 he described a place of mythic wealth, beauty and harmony.

Please note: Hotels are indicative and subject to change

Accommodation: Bell Tower Hotel

Day 2: 15 May 2020, Xi'an, B/L/D

Visit the famed Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses, one of the most spectacular archaeological finds of all time. It is speculated that many buried treasures and sacrificial objects had accompanied the emperor in his entombment were intended to serve him in his afterlife. Archaeologists have established beyond doubt that these artefacts were associated with the Qin Dynasty (211-206 BC)

Tomb Warrior Statues, Qin Dynasty, China

After lunch visit another great UNESCO World Heritage site, the ‘Big Wild Goose Pagoda” Originally built in 652 during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), it functioned as a repository for Buddhist materials that were brought from India by the Chinese Buddhist scholar, Xuanzang. Xuanzang started off from Chang'an (the ancient name for Xi’an), walking along the Silk Road and through deserts and mountains, finally arriving in India, the cradle of Buddhism. Enduring 17 years and traversing 100 countries, he obtained Buddha images, 657 kinds of sutras, (sacred texts) and several relics of the Buddha. He supervised the building of a pagoda inside the temple precincts. With the support of royalty, he invited 50 scholars into the temple to translate the Sanskrit sutras into Chinese. The result was 1,335 volumes, which heralded a new era in the history of translation. Based on the journey to India, he also wrote a book entitled 'Pilgrimage to the West', to which scholars attach great importance. (Remember the story of “Monkey”?).

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, Southern Xian, Shaanxi Province, China

This evening we will be welcomed to The Great Silk Road by experiencing a dumpling banquet and attending the Tang Dynasty Show. The Tang Dynasty is regarded as the most progressive and prosperous era in the days of Imperial China, and its music and dance symbolize the glory and beauty of Chinese civilization.There are over 100 artists performing in a colorful spectacle of traditional music and dance.

Day 3: 16 May 2020, High Speed train to Lanzhou, B/L/D

Take the high-speed train to Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province and an important ancient city on the Silk Road because it is at the entrance of a lowland valley called the Hexi Corridor. On either side of this 1000 kilometre long passage, there are high mountains, deserts and plateaus that blocked travel to the north and south. For about 1,600 years between the Chinese empires and kingdoms in the Far East and the empires and kingdoms to the west, the quickest and safest overland route north of the Himalayan mountains passed through here, as we will on route to Linxia. Time this afternoon to visit the Museum, Yellow River Park, Water Wheel Garden and the White Pagoda Hill.

Accommodation: Legend Hotel

Day 4: 17 May 2020, Boat trip to Bing Ling Temple, afternoon drive to Xiahe, B/L/D

This morning we drive to Liujiaxia Lake and board a boat to cruise between spectacular karst mountainous peaks to reach the little known ‘Thousand Buddha Caves’ at Bingling, which display a magnificent collection of Buddhist murals and sculpture carved from the living rock. These caves are a cultural treasure of the Silk Road, second only to Dunhuang.

Thousand Buddha Caves, Bingling, China

After lunch cross the scenic Jishi Mountain Pass into what was once the Amdo region of ancient Tibet. Here is a remote and hidden land, a tantalizing goal, connected to Lhasa in the south west and Mongolia to the north: a strategic intersection of two major Asian cultures.

Accommodation: Labrang Civil Aviation Hotel

Day 5: 18 May 2020, Labrang Monastery, B/L/D

In its time of splendour, Labrang was an important staging post on the Silk Road. Here you will explore its great monastery - home to the largest population of monks outside of what remains of Tibet. First founded in 1709, it housed several thousand monks. Labrang was also a gathering point for numerous annual religious festivals and was the seat of a Tibetan power base that strove to maintain regional autonomy through the shifting alliances and bloody conflicts that took place between 1700 and 1950.

Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, Labrang, Xiahe, Gansu, China

Labrang Monastery, Xiahe, Gansu, China

Don’t miss visiting the Vairocana Chapel which contains some superb old lacquered clay statues of the Five Dhyani Buddhas. The subtlety and gracefulness of expression revealed through the craftsmanship of these figures is truly exceptional. Of particular note is the spectacular Maitreya Chapel which is several stories high and houses one single enormous image of Maitreya which reaches to the roof. The figure is coated with gold and impresses not just by its sheer size but also by the delicacy of the workmanship and sublimity of its facial expression.

Maitreya, Vairocana Chapel, Xiahe, Gansu, China

In the afternoon drive to Lanzhou and take the comfortable overnight train to Jiayuguan.

Accommodation: Soft Sleeper

Day 6: 19 May 2020, Jiayuguan - Dunhuang, B/L/D

Jiayu Pass ("the First and Greatest Pass under Heaven") is not only the western starting point of the Ming Great Wall, but also a vital pass on the ancient Silk Road. Visit the fortress, which is incorporated into the wall and beautifully restored, standing magnificently against the barren desert and close to the towering mountains to the south and desert hills to the north. Here the cultures of the Silk Road travellers and the Great Wall intersect and join. In the Ming Dynasty the Pass was a vital area for defence against attack from the northwest. In the Gobi Desert, Jiayuguan's Great Wall is not like other famous sections near Beijing, which are built with grey bricks and big stone slabs. This section is mainly built with loess, soil tamped together in layers, making the wall very solid.

Jiayuguan Pass, western starting point of the Great Wall of China, Built during Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

In the afternoon, drive through stunning desert landscapes to a point of vital strategic and logistical importance, on a crossroads of two major trade routes within the Silk Road network. Lying in an oasis at the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, Dunhuang was one of the first trading cities encountered by merchants arriving in China from the west.

Accommodation: Dunhuang Hotel

Day 7: 20 May 2020, Dunhuang, B/L/D

Mogao Grottos, Dunhuang, Gansu, China

Be prepared for one of the great highlights of the Silk Road when we encounter the remarkable Mogao Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Carved into the cliffs, the caves comprise the largest, most richly endowed, and longest used treasure house of Buddhist art in the world. The tracks of thousands of Buddhist pilgrims throughout the ages converge in one spot in the deserts of western China. Though shifting sands erase evidence of their footsteps, hundreds of caves painstakingly carved into the sides of barren cliffs hold proof of their devotion. Here, murals dancing with mineral colours mirror life-like stucco sculptures of the Buddha and other deities, all within a collection of nearly 500 caves begun in 366 AD.

Mogao Grottoes, Samira Bouaou, Dunhuang, Gansu, China

The Mogao Caves illustrate not only the religious importance of Dunhuang however, but also its significance as a centre of cultural and commercial exchange. One of the caves contained 40,000 scrolls, a depository of documents that is of enormous value in understanding the cultural diversity of this Silk Road city. The earliest text is dated to 405 AD, whilst the latest dates to 1002 AD. They provide a picture of Dunhuang as a vibrant hub of Silk Road trade and give an indication of the range of goods that were exchanged in the city. According to these documents, a large number of imports arrived from as far away as north-east Europe. Interestingly, the scrolls that mention merchant caravans are usually written in Sogdian, Uighur, or Turco-Sogdian, indicating that they were produced by the foreign traders in the city. In addition to Buddhist texts, Zoroastrian, Manichean, Eastern Christian, Daoist, and Jewish documents can be found in this collection, suggesting that communities of many different religions lived side by side in the city. The range of imported goods included brocade and silk from Persia, metal-ware, fragrances, incense and a variety of precious stones, such as lapis lazuli (from north eastern Afghanistan), agate (from India), amber (from north east Europe), coral (from the ocean) and pearl (usually from Sri Lanka).

Day 8: 21 May 2020, Mogao Caves, bullet train to Turpan, B/L/D

This morning we visit the ‘Singing Sand Dunes”, and Crescent Moon Lake where you may ride a camel into the dunes. In the late afternoon we take the high-speed train to Turpan.

Singing Sand Dunes, Mingsha Shan Desert, Dunhuang, Gansu, China

Crescent Moon Lake, Mingsha Shan Desert, Dunhuang, Gansu, China

Three camels, Flaming Mountains, Xinjiang, China

Accommodation: Huozhou Hotel

Day 9: 22 May 2020, Turpan, B/L/D

Turpan has long been the centre of a fertile oasis with water provided by its underground canal system delivering water to the city and the verdant fields. At Gaochang we will see the extensive ruins of an ancient walled trading city. On the north-east rim of the Taklamakan Desert are the Flaming Mountains, perhaps named for their striking gullies that have been eroded into the red sandstone bedrock, resembling a flame. Here lies the Bezeklik ‘Thousand Buddha Caves’, which between the 6th and 14th centuries formed part of a Buddhist monastery. After lunch drive out to Jiaohe, an ancient city located on a high platform above two rivers. The most visually rewarding of all the sites around Turpan. Then coach to Urumqi.

Ancient Gaochang Ruins, Turpan, China

Accommodation: Grand Mercure Hotel

Day 10: 23 May 2020, Urumqi, B/L/D

Towers of Grand Bazaar, Urumqi, China

In Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi’s high-rise apartments form a modern skyline that will soon dash any thoughts of spotting wandering camels and ancient caravanserais. The vast majority of its inhabitants are now Han Chinese, and the city is one of the least typical of Xinjiang, though glimpses of the distant past can be had everywhere. We tour the Hongshan Park, Autonomous Region Museum and the Grand Bazaar before flying to Kashgar in the late afternoon.

Accommodation: Radison BluHotel

Day 11: 24 May 2020, Kashgar, B/L/D

The former British Consulate was the home for 26 years of the most famous of British India’s representatives in Kashgar. Sir George Macartney and his wife hosted some of the most prominent Silk Road travellers, including Sir Aurel Stein (who purchased thousands of the Mogao scrolls which are now in the British Museum). Though the old city is gradually being razed by local authorities to make way for modern development, Kashgar retains much of its ancient charm.This morning we visit the famed Kashgar Sunday Markets. Here, goods and livestock have been traded for more than 2000 years. The scene today is still a riot of colour, sounds and smells as animals, carts and vehicles traverse this vast site, an integral trading centre as it was in its Silk Road heyday.

Mosque of an ancient kingdom, Kashgar, Xinjiang, Uygur autonomous region, China

Following lunch in a local Uyghur restaurant we will explore the narrow winding streets of the historic town. Here we will visit the Id Kah Mosque, the largest in China and the Abakh Hoja Tomb. Then it’s on to the handicrafts area where you will see pots being hammered, wood craftsmen at work and traditional musical instruments being made.

Accommodation: Radison BluHotel

Day 12: 25 May 2020, Torugart Pass into Kyrgyzstan, Tash Rabat to Naryn, B/L/D

Today we drive to the highest paved border crossing in the world and considered one of the world’s most beautiful highways, once the most important Pass along the Great Silk Road leading from China to Western Asia, the Torugart Pass at around 3700m elevation.(the Pre-Departure Bulletin will provide information about any potential altitude issues). The views are "spectacularly amazing", with the Tian Shan and Pamir mountain ranges covered with permanent snow and glaciers and small hills with early spring pastures. After the formalities of the border crossing we meet our Kyrgyz guide and driver. Then we drive to the 14th century Tash Rabat Caravanserai on the Great Silk Road. The building is unique. After this visit you will drive to Naryn, a small town in the middle of the gorge by the river. We are in a different world! (Lunch today will be a ‘lunch box’ as there are no facilities near the border crossing).

Tash Rabat Caravanserai, Kyrgystan

Accommodation: Khan Tengri Hotel

Day 13: 26 May 2020, Naryn - Kochkor - Cholpon Aty/Issyk Kul (280 km), B/L/D

Lake Ala-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

The road winds through an amazing gorge and over a mountain pass that is 3030 meters high to arrive in Kochkor village. Here you will spend some time with a family that will show you the way their beautiful felt carpets are produced. Also, you will visit a small handicraft museum there. Continue drive to Cholpon-Aty along the North shore of the lake. Visit Cholpon-Aty Petroglyphs site, the temple in the open air of Scythian and Hung sun civilizations in 9-8 centuries BC. Later visit local ethnography museum.

Issyk Kul, Kyrgystan

Accommodation: 3 Crowns or Kapriz 3 star

Day 14: 27 May 2020, Cholpon Aty - Karakol (130 km), B/L/D

After breakfast drive to Karakol city. On the way visit the N.M. Prjevalskiy museum, the outstanding Russian explorer of Central Asia, and stop near the burial mounds of the Scythians. Upon arrival in Karakol you will visit the Dungan mosque, built in Chinese style without using a single metal nail. This will be followed by a visit to an old wooden Orthodox Church.

Accommodation: Hotel Green Yard or Karagat 3 star

Day 15: 28 May 2020, Karakol - Jety Oguz - Chon Kemin valley (350 km), B/L/D

After breakfast start the drive to Chon Kemin valley along the South shore of Issyk Kul lake. Visit Jeti Oguz Gorge. It’s famous for its red rock formations called the ‘Seven Bulls’. Also, you will see there the ‘Broken Heart Mountain’. We will make many photo stops there and we may drive to the top of a mountain to see a panoramic view of the gorge! Also, you will go for a short walk in the “Fairy Tale” red Canyon.

The Seven bulls rock formation, Jety-Oguz, Kyrgystan

Continue drive and stop in Bokonbaeva village, where lunch will be served in the house of a local Golden Eagle-Hunter. You will witness their amazing bond and skills.

Be amazed at the Golden Eagle Hunter’s stories. Click here

Bokonbaeva village, Golden Eagle Hunter, Kyrgystan

Drive to Chon Kemin valley. It is a perfect place where you can see the real life of Kyrgyz people. Chon-Kemin is a unique natural reserve where the natural landscapes are preserved almost in a virgin state. The glaciers are neighboring with green coniferous forests and steppe. The valley is protected with ranges from three sides lies at the height from 1400 to 2800 m above sea level. Chon-Kemin is a paradise for fans of ‘extreme tourism’ and lovers of travelling in spectacular places. Upon arrival, taking some time to discover the village.

Accommodation: Ashu Guest House (basic facilities)

Karakul Lake, Xinjiang, China

Beautiful Valley, Kyrgystan

Tien Shan mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Day 16: 29 May 2020, Cholpon Ata - Burana Tower - Bishkek, B/L/D (in family home)

After breakfast start the drive to Bishkek along the northern shore of the lake. On the way you will encounter the 11th-12th AD caravan town ruins of Balasagun, once an important centre of trade and commerce on the Silk Road. This place was mentioned in the early Chinese texts as the city is said to have been founded by the Sogdians, thus enabling us to trace the history back to 2nd/3rd century AD. The Buddhist monasteries and rock drawings found in the Chui valley testify the town was of great importance. On the way, we will make a short break to give you the opportunity to visit ancient stone inscriptions (dating back to 800 B.C.). Then we will visit the Burana Tower, a minaret from the 11th century which indicated to Great Silk Road travellers that there was a city nearby in which to rest. Nearby you will see an open air museum of Balbans (stone warriors). After an interesting excursion you will transfer to the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. The second half of the day is dedicated to a guided Bishkek City Tour. The tour includes the Pobeda Square (Victory Square), Duboviy Park (Oak Park), central Ala-Too Square, Old Square, National Philharmonic and many others places of interest. A traditional dinner awaits.

Accommodation: Hotel Discovery or Garden 3 star

Day 17: 30 May 2020, Bishkek - Osh - Rishtan, B/L/D

Fly today to Osh before crossing the border into Uzbekistan’s Fergana Valley. The Ferghana Valley is one of the most beautiful areas of Uzbekistan surrounded by the Tien Shan mountains and traversedby the waters of the Syr Darya and Naryn rivers.

Upon arrival visit Sulaiman Mount and drive to the Dustlik border post. Meet with Uzbek guide and drive to Margilan, a famous silk producing city in Central Asia. You have a chance to join the old process of silk production and learn from the masters about the unique colors and patterns derived from Chinese and Persian art.

Accommodation: Asia Fergana 4 star

Day 18: 31 May 2020, Fergana Valley, B/L boxes

In Rishtan visit a workshop of a famous master-ceramist where travellers have an opportunity to get acquainted with local ceramic goods production and even participate in the process. Then it’s on to Kokand, one of the most ancient cities of Uzbekistan. The first written records about the city called Hukande or Havokande were found in the chronicles of the 10th century. The town was an important trade centre on the Silk Road and in the 13th century, like most Central Asian cities, was destroyed by the Mongols.

The ‘Pearl of Kokand’ is the palace of the last ruler, Khudoyar Khan. The magnificent palace complex, built in 1871, is of staggering grandeur. It was constructed in the traditions of Central Asian architecture with high portal in the middle, decorated with a large entrance arch and four minarets.

Later we take the fast train to Tashkent. Train #59, 16:53 – 20:45

Accommodation: Wydham 4 star

Day 19: 1 June 2020, Tashkent - Nukus, B/L

Mosque, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Morning sightseeing of Tashkent then transfer to Tashkent Domestic Airport and fly to Nukus. Please note: Flight times are subject to change.

Accommodation: Jipek Joli 3 star

Day 20: 2 June, 2020, Nukus, Ayazkala, Toprakkala, Khiva, B/L

This morning we visit the Savitskiy State Museum. In the 1990s, when Western journalists and diplomats first happened upon the museum, it seemed like the beginning of an art-world fairy tale. Hanging in crude frames were vivid, saturated works that ran the gamut of early-20th-century styles, from Fauvism and Expressionism to Futurism and Constructivism. The Savitsky collection promised to fill in a missing chapter of art history, chronicling mostly forgotten Soviet artists who were exploring new directions before the early 1930s, when the Stalin regime condemned “decadent bourgeois art” in favour of idealized paintings of factory and farmworkers.

Some of the artists complied; some were locked up as dissidents; their work winding up in attics and storerooms. It might have remained there except for Mr. Savitsky, who persuaded their families to entrust him with the canvases and carried them back in massive rolls to Nukus, the city he made his home after visiting it as part of an archaeological expedition. As recognized by experts and world mass media, this museum has one of the top art collections in Central Asia and the second biggest and most significant collection of Russian Avant-garde in the world.

After the visit, follow the ancient caravan route to Khiva, the ‘museum city under the sky’. (190 km, 2.5 hrs.) en route visiting the Ayazkala and Toprakala desert fortresses. The towering mud-brick walls of these fortresses rise dramatically from the surrounding plains. They were built on the edge of the desert at different points between the fourth century B.C. and the seventh century A.D. as a means of protection from nomadic raids. Within the forts are the remains of palaces and traces of the local agricultural population have been found in the surrounding areas. Abandoned for 1,300 years, the fortresses were rediscovered in the 1940s. On arrival, transfer to your hotel, the “Orient Star”, located in the ‘inner city’ and occupying a building of a former madrassa. In the past, 250 students resided and studied here up until the beginning of the 20th century.

Accommodation: Orient Star Khiva 3 star

Day 21: 3 June 2020, Kiva, B/L

Kiva is considered the most intact and homogenous townscapes of the Islamic world. No modern intrusions spoil the timeless fabric within a rectangle of crenelated and turreted ramparts. Most of the buildings date between the 16th to the 19th -centuries and is a city famous for its handicraft masters. On every corner you will encounter highly skilled wood and stone carvers, (most still dressed in traditional attire) metal chasers and jewellers. Khiva’s hand woven carpets and hand embroidery, "suzani", are world renowned and abound in the maze of ancient alleyways and byways in the small city confines.

Kalta Minor Minaret, Khiva, Uzbekistan

Southern Entrance Gate in the ancient city wall of Ichan Kala. Khiva, Uzbekistan

The whole day is dedicated to slowly-paced walking around Khiva, exploring its historical centre with splendid edifices such as the 12th century Ichan Kala Minaret, (a UNESCO World Heritage Site,) and the Kalta Minor. You will walk through the Citadel, or Kunya Ark, which is the central fortress, then on to the Madrasah Muhammad Rahimkhan nearby, and the Madrasah and Minaret Islam-Khodja. Through ancient streets passing people in traditional attire you continue to visit the Palace of Tosh-Hovli which has been preserved intact with its ornate gates, majolica, wood and marble carving, and painted ceilings. Thence to the Mausoleum of Pahlavan Mahmud, where it’s vibrantly coloured turquoise tiled interiors reach a peak of opulence. After lunch in a local house, you will visit the stunning Friday Mosque: a forest of carved wooden columns with some dating to the 10th century, then wander through the Tash Hauli Palace, whose harem quarters constitute one of the most beautiful secular spaces in Central Asia.

Day 22: 4 June 2020, Khiva - Bukhara, B/L

Free morning before taking the High-Speed train (#50, 08:45 - 14:48. If the timetable changes in 2020 we will drive). The 340 kilometre journey through the Kyzyl-Kum desert along the ancient Silk Route (camel trains, donkey drawn carts, and all manner of transport can still be seen), starts in an unspoilt landscape of green fields, plentiful blooming fruit and nut trees surrounding adobe farmsteads, while the central section is undulating desert, specked with tufty shrubs which are briefly green in the spring. You will pass the meandering Oxus, the mighty river crossed by Alexander the Great in 329 BC. Reach Bukhara and transfer to your hotel which is ideally located in the historical centre of the city, which is an unique ‘open air’ museum; a UNESCO World Heritage site

Accommodation: Toki Zargaron 3 star

Day 23: 5 June 2020, Bukhara, B/L

View of the Poi Kalyan complex from Ark fortress, Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Sacred Bukhara is one of the most esteemed cities in Islamic civilization. In the ‘Middle Ages’ it was the site of profound teachings by prominent religious figures, and there was a saying: “If anywhere in the world the light comes from above, in Bukhara, it streams out of the earth”. However, in 1220, Genghis Khan ensured that (with notable exceptions including the Kalon Minaret, at 48 metres then the tallest in the world), little of Bukhara’s first golden age remains, but of the second, in the 15th and 16th centuries, there survives much magnificent architecture, lavishly embellished. This city is renowned for its exquisite blue tiling and golden brickwork and it is here in Bukhara where Uzbek and Turkistan cultures come alive.

Miri Arab Madrassa, Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Kalon Minaret, Bukhara, Uzbekistan

This morning's walk takes in the 4th century Citadel Ark –the formidable fortress of the Khans and the Zidan, their infamous prison, which protected the city in one form or another from as long ago as the 4th century, the Bolo-Khauz Mosque, the Ismael Samani Mausoleum, (the tomb of representatives of the Samani dynasty at the end of the 9th century), the Chashmayi Ayub Mausoleum, Nodir Devanbeghi Madrasah, and the beautiful Lyabi-Khauz Ensemble.

Ark Citadel, Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Bolo Hauz Mosque, Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Ismail Samanid Mausoleum, Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Why not walk a few minutes from your hotel to take tea in the shade of ancient mulberry trees around the Lyabi-Hauz (“brim of a pool”), one of the most popular destinations for residents of Bukhara and visitors alike. For over 400 years Bukhara water carriers would fill their leather skins with the clear water and perhaps refreshed themselves at one of the many chaikana, or tea pavilions which still abound in this stunning location.

In the early evening, why not enjoy the ancient Hammam ‘Turkish’ steam baths and saunas, that are still functioning from Silk Route times offering visitors a range of massages, all under the marble domes and arches? The architecture is worth the visit alone.

Day 24: 6 June 2020, Bukhara - Samarkand, B/L

Today’s sightseeing includes the Poyi Kalon Ensemble (Pedestal of the Great), the religious heart of sacred Bukhara which consists of the 12th century Kalon Minaret and the vast Kalon Mosque with a capacity of 10,000, the Miri Arab Madrasah, the Ulugbek Madrasah (1417), Abdulaziz Khan Madrasah, the 12th century Magoki-Attori Mosque and the Kosh-Madrasah Ensemble. You will be spellbound by an extremely important element in medieval Bukharan urban life, the market area, which is the vital throbbing heart of all the desert cities on the Silk Route. Without the commerce which passed along that route, Bukhara and its sister cities would never have survived or flourished. Rulers invested great sums in the provision of covered market areas, warehousing and shelter for merchants and their animals, hammams (steam baths) and the like. The revenue from the markets enabled them to enrich the city with its now World-Heritage monuments. You will visit the covered trading domes collectively known as the Coumpol Bazaar (16th century) with individual trading points such as the Saraffon (the Dome of Moneychangers), Toki-Telpak Furushon (the Dome of Cap makers), Toki Zargaron (the Dome of jewellers) and Tim Abdullakhan (the Centre of silk). After lunch at a local restaurant you will explore other attractions all within a short walking distance of the hotel-especially the Coumpol Bazaar and its hundreds of glittering jewellery barrows, embroidery shops, the famed Central Asian carpets, antique shops, ceramics stands, and many other attractive products. The great trading domes were often managed by Jewish traders and there remain two extant and functioning Synagogues in the old city.

Vivid oriental market with various spices, Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Domes of Coumpol Bazaar, Bukhara, Uzbekistan

In the afternoon transfer to the Station to take the Fast Afrosiab train departing at 15:52 arriving in Samarkand at 17:31

Accommodation: Asia Samarkand 4 star

Day 25: 7 June 2020, Samarkand, B/L

The oasis of Samarkand was, according to legend, founded more than 5,000 years ago by King Afrosiyab. Its documented history dates from 329 BC when Alexander the Great found the city to be “more beautiful and majestic than I could have imagined”. Ancient Arab manuscripts refer to Samarkand as the “Gem of the East”. The city is one of the most ancient in the world, not only can it claim to be ancient, but also to be the only large city in the world to have been fought over by three of the greatest generals; Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan and Timur. The city is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site.

You will visit the Registan, which became the central city square in the 14th century. Six major avenues crossed the square (and still do), but in the early days each street was famous for trading centres in such goods as silver-ware, textiles, ceramics, jewellery and the like. At the confluence, huge trading domes (similar to those you have seen in Bukhara) were built. In 1889 Lord Curzon declared the Registan as being ‘the noblest public square in the world,’ bounded on three sides by magnificent madrassas of the 15th and 17th centuries. Later your visits will include the Gur Emir Mausoleum, (burial place of Tamerlane) and the Afrosiyab Museum.

Registan Square, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Gur Emir Mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Sher-Dor Madrasah, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Intriciate Mosaic work, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Intriciate Mosaic details of the Madrasas at the Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

The Shah-i-Zinda at the Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

In the late afternoon drive to “El Merosi” where you will enjoy a performance which engages historical dance and music and will provide unique insights into the customs and traditions of the region from ancient times to the present. The scenes demonstrate the lives of the Uzbek peoples in past and present contexts and the beautiful costumes reveal its rich textile heritage.

Day 26: 8 June 2020, Samarkand - Tashkent, B/L boxed

Drive out of the city to visit to the Silk Paper Factory at Koni Ghil village where you may see the process of preparing of the silk paper and goods being kept from generation to generation. Afternoon excursion to Mausoleum of the Prophet Daniel. Transfer to the station this afternoon to take the high speed Afrosiyab train to Tashkent, departing at 17:00 and arriving at 19:10.

Accommodation: Wydham 4 star

Day 27: 9 June 2020, Tashkent - Urumqi, B/L

After breakfast check out and depart for a city tour which will encompass the modern part of the city, visiting the Monument of Courage, Underground Rail Stations, ‘Russian Market’, Alisher Navoi Theatre Square, Museum of Applied Arts, and the city fountains then transfer to the airport to fly to Urumqi, HY507 18:20-23:45. Transfer to an hotel close to the airport.

Accommodation: Tianyuan Hotel

Day 28: 10 June 2020, Urumqi, B

Free morning then transfer to the airport for the China Southern Flight CZ6883 departing at 1250. Transfer to the International Departures in Guangzhou and fly overnight to Australia.

Sunset Urumqi, China

Day 29: 11 June 2020, Arrival in Australia

Arrival in Australia this morning


Price per person twin share (Land only): AUD 8890.00
Single Supplement: AUD 1520.00
Airfares from Adelaide: approx. AUD 1300.00


• All domestic flights in China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
• Accommodation in mentioned hotels on DOUBLE / TWIN per person sharing basis
• Breakfast at the hotels; lunches and dinners as per the program
• Services of A/C comfortable transport with professional driver as per program
• Bottled mineral water during the tour
• High Speed train Kokand to Tashkent
• High-Speed train from Bukhara to Samarkand/Samarkand to Tashkent
• Entrance fees to the abovementioned sights as per the program (except photo and video charges, where applicable)
• Tour Escort/Manger from Adelaide subject to 10 travellers
• English-speaking guides in China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan


• International Airfares from your capital city
• Chinese double entry visa
• Extra meals and Beverages
• Photo and video charges
• Tips and gratuities
• Personal expenses
• Any services not included in the above itinerary
• Travel Insurance (compulsory)

Sharon Evans
Owner / Manager
helloworld Marion Westfield Mall Level 2
Westfield Marion
Oaklands Park SA 5046
Telephone: (08) 8358 1949
E-mail: Sharon

Prices may fluctuate due to changes in charges, taxes and currency. Prices and flights are correct at time of preparing this program and are subject to availability at time of booking. Special conditions and seasonal surcharges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of travel. Flight times are subject to change by the airline. Please visit or ring 1300 139 281 for information on current Government traveladvice.


On International Flight tickets

• Please refer to the fare conditions on the fare class you have purchased

On Land package cost

• Between 64-31 Days: 65 % of land cost
• Between 30-16 Days: 75 % of land cost
• Between 15-04 Days: 90 % of land cost
• Within 3 days-No show: 100% of land cost

For further information, don’t hesitate to contact Zen Oriental Journeys by emailing Lee Grafton or ring 0401 123 347


Bookings will be processed in order of receipt. Any bookings after this date will be accepted subject to visa processing, flight availability, land content and room availability. Such booking must be paid in full after confirmation of your acceptance in the tour. Special conditions and additional charges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of booking.

Costs associated with the Asia In-Country Study Tours can be tax deductible. Educators may be able to claim their study tour expenses under a number of tax deduction categories which include: self-education expenses; excursions, school trips and camps if these trips have an educational benefit and are related to the curriculum or extra-curriculum activities of the school; acquisition of teaching aids used for curriculum development and teaching programs. Participants must contact their tax advisor or visit the Australian Tax Office website to confirm eligibility.

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