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Nur-Sultan (Astana) to Tashkent


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Day 1: Nur-Sultan (Astana)

Welcome to Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm in the hotel lobby. Please look for a note in the lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be checking your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details ready for your leader. Recently renamed Nur-Sultan in honour of the long serving first president, the city was purpose built to become th capital city of Kazakhstan in 1997. Similar to Washington D.C. in the US or Canberra in Australia, Nur-Sultan is a planned city with the Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa as its master mind. Now, Nur-Sultan is one of the most vibrant cities in Central Asia. If you arrive early, take the time explore and admire the futuristic city skyline. Join your leader in the evening for an included local dinner tonight.

Day 2: Nur-Sultan (Astana)

This morning, head off on a city tour with your leader and see some of the most impressive designs of this ambitious new city. Visit Nur-Astana Mosque, built in 2005 - with it's capacity of 5000 worshippers inside and an additional 2000 outside it is one of the largest mosques in Central Asia. Then you'll stop at Palace of Peace & Reconciliation, a pyramid shaped conference hall that's considered to be Astana's symbolic center. You'll also visit the President's Culture Center which houses an array of exhibits that tell of the past, present and future of Kazakhstan, and of course, as its name suggests, the many achievements of it's President. The rest of the day is free to spend as you wish.

Day 3: Baikonur

Today, take an early morning flight from Nur-Sultan to Kyzyl Orda (approx. 1.5 hrs) and from here you'll head to one of the most unique destinations on this trip, Baikonur (approx. 3.5 hrs). Located on the desert steppe of Kazakhstan, Baikonur has been leased to the Russian Federation until 2050. The town was originally constructed to service a huge space base that dispatches astronauts and supplies (and during the Soviet Union, cosmonauts) to the International Space Station. Firstly named Zarya (Russian for sunrise) it was renamed Baikonur by Russian president Boris Yeltsin in 1995. We will have some free time this afternoon and evening before our in depth tour of the sights tomorrow.

Day 4: Baikonur

Get ready for a full day of exploration today. Visit the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the world’s first and largest operational spaceport. Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite, was launched from here. Stop in at the nearby museum where you’ll see a range of space artifacts, and check out the cottage once occupied by Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human to ever venture into outer space.

Day 5: Turkistan

Today is another travelling day, this time by train. Drive back to Kyzyl Orda and from there it's around 7 hours to the next destination: Turkistan. Grab some snacks, sit back and relax as the epic landscape rushes by. Located in southern Kazakhstan, the city of Turkistan contains more historical relics and cultural sites than any other place in the country. Your train will arrive in the late afternoon. We'll visit the main attraction of the Yasaui Mausoleum tomorrow morning, but you'll have the option to see it illuminated at night today.

Day 6: Turkistan - Shymkent/Overnight train

Head out on a city tour this morning, the highlight of which is a visit to the Kozha Akhmed Yasaui Mausoleum, Kazakhstan’s most iconic building. The blue and while-tiled Mausoleum is the final resting place of a great Turkic holy man and Sufi. Built by Tamerlane, it is said that three visits here are equal to one visit to Mecca. As it is a religious site, we recommend that women wear a headscarf when entering. In the surrounds you'll find a rose garden, other monuments, an archeological museum and a mosque, which are all included in the entry ticket. Continue the journey to Shymkent (approx. 4 hours) by private vehicle, stopping at the ancient settlement of Otrar on the way. It was first excavated in 1969 and has a history dating back to the first century AD. Remnants of palaces, mosques and bathhouses can still be seen today. It is also where Genghis Khan's army is said to have fought heroically (though unsuccessfully) when the Mongols first invaded Central Asia. There'll be some time to spend in Shymkent before boarding the overnight train (approx 11 hours) to Almaty.

Day 7: Altyn-Emel National Park

Arrive in Almaty, grab some breakfast and drive the 240 km (approx 3.5 hours) out of town to the spectacular Altyn-Emel National Park, where you will spend the next two days exploring. This is the largest national reserve in the country and preserves many rare plants and animals, including zheyran (goitred gazelles), argali sheep and kulan (wild donkeys), which you may be lucky enough to spot during your time here. The program may vary depending on the weather and season. Taigak Gorge houses the Kyzyl Lauyz Petroglyphs where you can make out ancient Tibetan inscriptions of the words 'Om Mani Padme Om', as well as images of hunting, farming and celebrations.There are also the Besshatyr Burial Mounds, which date from the sixth century BC when this area was a shrine of the ancient Saks people. Tonight you'll stay in a simple guesthouse within the national park where lunch and dinner is included.

Day 8: Altyn-Emel National Park - Almaty

Explore the sights not visited yesterday, of which the best-known is the Singing Barkhan, a sand dune extending 3km and up to 120m high. It gets its name from the way the fine sand hums in windy weather and the view from the top gives a great panorama of the surrounding Djungarian Alatau, Sogety, Boguty and other mountains. In dry, windy weather, the sand dune's song can be heard up to a few kilometres away. These mountains have revealed preserved remains of prehistoric animals including giant rhinos, crocodiles and turtles, and many compare the huge, conical mountains to the man-made Egyptian pyramids. Return to Almaty tonight after a full day in the park.

Day 9: Almaty

Today embark on a full-day guided city tour of Almaty. The development and wealth you’ll see on display as you walk the streets comes from the country's main export – oil. Kazakhstan is one of the world's top five oil-producing nations in the world. Visit Central Square and the colourful Zenkoff Cathedral in historic Panfilov Park, dedicated to the 28 guardsmen who died defending Moscow against German tanks in WWII. Check out the fascinating Museum of Kazakh Musical Instruments and the State Historical Museum, which features a great collection of ancient relics. Finally, summit Kok Tobe Hill for great views over the city before returning to the hotel after a long but fulfilling day.

Day 10: Almaty - KAZ/KGZ Border Crossing - Karakol

Today before saying goodbye to Kazakhstan, stop at spectacular Charyn Canyon (approx 4 hours drive). The colorful formations of different shapes and sizes are no less impressive than the Grand Canyon in the US, (though it's much smaller!). Continue to the border and enter the mountainous nation of Kyrgyzstan. Tonight you'll stay in the peaceful town of Karakol.

Day 11: Karakol

This mainly Russian town was officially founded on 1st of July in 1869 by the military. At this time the town already had a lage population of military officers, explorers from the Russian Geographical society, merchants and artisans. The town’s Soviet name was Przhevalsk after the Great Russian explorer of Central Asia and China, Nikolai Przhevalsky. His last expedition ended here and he is buried on the lakeshore near Karakol. Stroll along Karakol's streets spotting Russian-style "gingerbread" houses. Visit the Dungan Mosque, Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, a local market and the Przhevalsky Museum. After lunch, drive for about 1 hour for a hike (approx. 2 hours) in the picturesque Jety Oguz Valley, aka Seven Bull Valley. Your leader will guide you through the forest to a waterfall (with jaw dropping panaromic views). Return to Karakol for the night.

Day 12: Bishkek

Today is a full day's drive to Bishkek along the northern shore of Issyk Kul - the second largest alpine lake in the world after lake Titicaca in South America. The views are lovely along the way, especially seeing Issyk Kul surrounded by snow capped mountains. On the way, you'll stop at Cholpan Ata, visit a petroglyphs site and take a short boar ride onto the lake to enjoy its sheer size and scale. Arrive in Bishkek in the late afternoon.

Day 13: Bishkek

Take a trip down memory lane today with a city tour showcasing the country's fascinating history. The centre of the city is Ala-too Square, which was known as Lenin Square in Soviet times. Lenin used to stand in his concrete overcoat in the middle of this square, proudly gesturing towards the mountains. A great place  for a wander is Dubovy (Oak) Park, where you'll find a few open-air cafes. The century-old oaks here and all along Freedom Avenue make Bishkek one of the greenest cities in Central Asia. In the afternoon, you'll have some free time to further explore Bishkek. Quite the contrast to the relaxed quiet streets, square and parks in the city center, Osh Market is noisy, crowded, and a perfect peek into local life. You'll find all kinds of things on sale here from spices and fruits to clothes and carpets. Get together with your travel mates and enjoy an optional final dinner together tonight to celebrate a great journey through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Day 14: Bishkek

Enjoy a couple of free days in Bishkek after a packed journey from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan. Since this is a combo trip, your group leader and group composition may change today. There will be a group meeting at 6pm and your leader will brief you on the 2nd part of this adventure. During the day, maybe visit some of the museums in town like the State Museum of Fine Arts or Frunze House Museum. Or maybe take a day trip out into the mountains and enjoy some fresh air and a good hike with great view. Ala Archa and Alamedin valley are the most popular and easiest to get too. A day tour with transfer, picnic lunch and guide would cost around 100 USD depending on how many people are doing the tour. Your tour leader will be able to help you organize it. This is also a really good chance to get some laundry done, rest up and have some downtime before hitting the road again.

Day 15: Bishkek

Take a trip down memory lane today with a city tour showcasing the country's fascinating history. The centre of the city is Ala-too Square, which was known as Lenin Square in Soviet times. Lenin used to stand in his concrete overcoat in the middle of this square, proudly gesturing towards the mountains. A great place  for a wander is Dubovy (Oak) Park, where you'll find a few open-air cafes. The century-old oaks here and all along Freedom Avenue make Bishkek one of the greenest cities in Central Asia. In the afternoon, you'll have some free time to further explore Bishkek. Quite the contrast to the relaxed quiet streets, square and parks in the city center, Osh Market is noisy, crowded, and a perfect peek into local life. You'll find all kinds of things on sale here from spices and fruits to clothes and carpets. Get together with your travel mates and enjoy an optional final dinner together tonight to celebrate a great journey through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Day 16: Don Aryk - Issyk Kul - Kochkor

Drive 60 km to the 11th-century Burana tower, an ancient minaret from the Silk Road period. In the nearby village of Don Aryk, visit a local home. Reflecting the important role horses have played in the traditional Kyrgyz nomadic life style, the country is famous for at least four types of horse games such as odarysh or wrestling, tiyin-enish, where riders try to pick up coins at full gallop and kok buru or buzkashi, a type of goat-snatching polo. We'll take the chance here to watch the how the locals play some of these horse sports here and enjoy a tasty lunch with the family. Continue to Issyk Kul lake – the second largest alpine lake in the world. This beauty is one of the biggest natural water reservoirs in the world, at 170 km long and 70 km wide. A combination of extreme depth, thermal activity and mild salinity means the lake never freezes. Next, continue to Kochkor. Explore a small local market in the centre of the village, and, depending on our arrival time, a local co-op that provides training for local women in traditional handicrafts.

Day 17: Son-Kol

Make the 130 km drive to Son-Köl, one of the largest lakes in the country. This beautiful alpine lake is considered a sacred place for many Kyrgyz people as well as one of the best summer pastures for nomadic herders. In the middle of the summer, you'll see nomadic herdsmen and their families watching over goats, sheep, and horses. Enjoy exploring your surroundings for the rest of the day. There are many beautiful lake trails to hike along. Alternatively you may be able to visit some ancient petroglyphs in the local area, or visit a nomad camp for a first-hand look at nomadic life. Simply sit and take in this beautiful corner of the world. Tonight we stay in yurts set up along the lake shore. Made of felt and tarpaulins on a round frame, yurts are the traditional dwellings of the Kyrgyz people. Sleeping arrangements are on a multi-share, mixed-gender basis with mattresses on the floor. It can get very chilly in the evenings, so there's a stove for heating and plenty of blankets. There are no bathroom facilities inside the yurts, so outdoor toilets are to be expected. Those daring enough for an invigorating morning splash can use the lake nearby. All meals are included during our stay here.

Day 18: Kyzyl-Oi

Today you travel along gravel roads to the tiny village of Kyzyl-Oi squeezed between the mountains. On our way, we will pass large coal deposits and travel along the Kökömeren river which feeds into the Syr Darya - one the major rivers of Central Asia that used to fill the Aral Sea. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the banks of the river in the shade of the trees and use your free time to explore the village once we arrive. 

Day 19: Suusamyr Valley - Chychkan - Kok-Bel

A full day of driving though big, beautiful landscapes today. As the roads in Kyrgyzstan see little regular maintenance, even short distances on a map can take hours. The road crosses the Suusamyr Valley – a high steppe plateau situated at around 2,200 metres above sea level. The mountainous, lush surroundings are often photogenically dotted with yurts. We then follow the Chychkan river that cuts through the Tien Shan range. Stop here for a while and soak up the amazing scenery. You will arrive at tonight's accommodation in Kok-Bel sometime in the early evening. 

Day 20: Osh

After breakfast, get ready for another all-day journey to the second-largest city in Kyrgystan – Osh. Located in the Fergana Valley in the south of the country, Osh is often referred to as the 'Capital of the South'. With a history that dates to the 500 BC. Stop en route at Uzgen, an ancient trading town and handicrafts center on the Silk Road. Although much of the ancient city has been destroyed, a minaret and three mosques that have survived to this day remain important examples of medieval Central Asian architecture.

Day 21: Osh

Rise and shine for a visit to the only World Heritage Site in Kyrgystan – Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain, also known as Solomon's Throne. For centuries Silk Road travellers have sought out the mountain's caves and their petroglyphs in the belief that they would be blessed with longevity. Visit the National Historical & Archaeological Museum Complex. In the afternoon, enjoy some free time. Perhaps visit the Jayma Bazaar, where you might pick up an interesting souvenir or two. Or maybe take a self-guided tour of the remnants of Osh's soviet past with a walk to the giant Lenin statue in the city square. The many murals praising the Soviet Union also give an idea of just how deeply these ties went.

Day 22: KGZ/UZB border crossing - Andijan - Tashkent

This morning we drive to Kyrgyz – Uzbek border which is just outside of the city. After passing through the border (approx. 1-2 hours), we meet farewell our Kyrgyz guide, meet our new Uzbek guide and transfer to Andijan. From here we take a local train to Tashkent (approx. 5.5 hrs). Arrive at our Tashkent hotel in the evening.

Day 23: Tashkent

Begin your introduction to Uzbekistan by exploring the capital today. Our sightseeing today in Tashkent will include a visit to State History Museum, the Abdul Khasim Medrassah with its hujra cells used as metalwork craft workshops to produce jewellery and other goods, and the Khast Imom Complex. After lunch, lose yourself in the exciting Chorsu Bazaar, browsing traditional wooden cradles, handmade musical instruments, and the extensive vegetable and spice markets.

Day 24: Samarkand

Transfer to the station for the high speed train to fabled Samarkand (approx 2 hours). This city is located at the very centre of the ancient Silk Road. Enjoy some free time in the city on arrival, saving some of the key sights for our tour tomorrow. Maybe inspect the remains of the remarkable medieval observatory developed by Ulug Beg, Tamerlane's (Amir Timur) brilliant astronomer grandson. These days, only half of the below-ground semi-circular track can be seen, but there is an the excellent small museum close by. Or visit the Afrosiab Museum with its fine collection of treasures unearthed from the site, including world famous 10th century frescoes.

Day 25: Samarkand

Be blown away by the sights you'll take in today. First, the great central square of Samarkand, the Registan. Then, Guri-Amir, where Tamerlane is buried, and finally the enormous Bibi-Khanum Mosque. Then we drive to Konigil village in the outskirts of the city for a special lunch with a family who have been making paper by traditional methods as long as they can remember. After lunch we'll learn about this unique way of paper making from mulberry. Returning to Samarkand, visit the impressive Shak-i-Zinda ensemble of mausoleums. This unusual necropolis has monuments from the 14th and 15th centuries, reflecting the development of the monumental art and architecture of the Timurid dynasty and is photo worthy at every turn. 

Day 26: Samarkand - Shahrisabz - Bukhara

Continue tracing the Silk Road towards Bukhara. One of the most important portions of this ancient route connects these two major cities of the area and takes us through the town of Shahrisabz - the home town of revered national hero Tamerlane. Sadly, Shakhrisabz has recently lost much of its authentic flavour through over enthusiastic restoration works. We make a stop here, visiting the legendery Ak Saray Palace, Dor-ut Tilovat Memorial Complex, Dorus Saodat Complex and Kok-Gumbaz Mosque. Then we'll continue to Bukhara where we we stay for the night.

Day 27: Bukhara

Today, we'll enjoy a full day of sightseeing in beautiful Bukhara. First, you'll visit the lovely Sitora-i Mohi Khosa, once the summer residence of the last Emir. Designed by Russian architects, it has lavish interiors decorated with traditional filigree plaster, mirrored surfaces and delicate floral wall paintings by local artisans. Then to the peaceful 16th century Chor Bakr necropolis, where you'll enjoy the simplicity of the Khonako-Medressa  & Mosque complex that is typical of Bukharian style. In the afternoon, visit the Ark Fortress and Kalon Mosque, the symb of Bukhara, then to one of Central Asia's oldest and most exquisite structures, the 10th century Ismail Samani Mausoleum, whose superb decorative brickwork has survived 1,000 years of rugged history. From here it is only a short distance to the Lyabi-Haus area. After dinner, there's time to wander the small craft studios tucked into the ancient nearby madrassas and trading domes.

Day 28: Gijduvan - Bukhara

Historically, Gijduvan was one of the caravan stops on the way to Bukhara. Ulugbek, the famous astronomer ruler of Samarkand and grandson of Tamerlane, built a medrassah here, just next to the grave of a Sufi saint. The town gained further fame as a centre of glazed pottery production. Visit the private studio of a local ceramic artist, meet the family and watch them at work. Later you can have some free time to explore this small town. For lunch we recommend the juicy kebabs of Gijduvan that are famous throughout Uzbekistan. On your way back, stop to see a minaret from the late 12th century in Vobkent.

Day 29: Tashkent

Enjoy some free time for your own optional sightseeing in Bukhara. In the afternoon, take a fast train back to Tashkent followed by an optional farewell dinner with your fellow travellers.

Day 30: Tashkent

There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.

Start date - End date Trip Status Price
14/APR/2021 - 13/MAY/2021 FS DGAU$9610
(single supplement $2205)
19/MAY/2021 - 17/JUN/2021 FS DGAU$9610
(single supplement $2205)
08/SEP/2021 - 07/OCT/2021 FS DGAU$9610
(single supplement $2205)
15/SEP/2021 - 14/OCT/2021 FS DGAU$9610
(single supplement $2205)
22/SEP/2021 - 21/OCT/2021 FS DGAU$9610
(single supplement $2205)