Centuries of Silk Road wealth built Uzbekistan into an exotic land of ancient cities filled with domes, minarets and intricate Islamic tile work, and the atmospheric madrasas and mosques of Bukhara and Samarkand rank among the most glorious of all Central Asia. This is also where Islam collided with communism: the capital of Tashkent grew to be one of the largest cities in the Soviet Union, with predictable results. Entirely surrounded by the Central Asian "Stans," the land ranges from flat, arid plains, to the Fergana valley spread with cotton to eastern mountain peaks that attract mountaineers and backcountry skiers. Unfortunately it has also become known for an environmental catastrophe: the gradual disappearance of the Aral Sea due to rampant overuse dating from Soviet times.
Since opening up to travellers, China and its northwestern neighbours don’t seem quite as out-there a destination to some people – but they’re clearly not looking in the right places. This comprehensive 26-day journey from Beijing to Tashkent is one of those experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime. Picking up in the Chinese capital, you’ll visit the Uyghur province of Xinjiang, learning about the food, culture and history of this minority group. Then, we’ll leave China behind and venture into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to retrace part of the route that helped build empires: The Silk Road. From stunning snow-capped mountains to arid deserts, experience a side of Asia you’d never be able to manage on your own in a way that you’ll barely believe is real.
Highlights: Wander along the Great Wall, stare down the Terracotta Warriors, ride a camel through sand dunes, bargain at Kashgar's Sunday bazaar, stay in yurt with a Kyrgyz family, marvel at the sights in Bukhara and Samarkand.
Uzbekistan Discovered (AUUK)
From the remarkable mosques and architecture of Tashkent to the ancient capital of Khiva, follow the legendary Silk Road through the exotic best of Uzbekistan. Indulge in steamy marble hammams, roam the twisting lanes of ancient bazaars and explore the monuments and minarets of Samarkand. Your CEO will lead the way, taking care of the hassles and leaving you free to explore a land rich in culture and history. For a great taste of enigmatic Uzbekistan, this 12-day adventure serves up only the best.
Highlights: Discover ancient cities of the Silk Road, sip hot drinks in tiny Khiva teahouses, bargain at colourful bazaars, admire the fountains and madrassas of the Registan, stay in a traditional yurt.