Travel beyond the headlines and discover a world of culture, fascinating Persian ruins and famously welcoming local people.. Uzbekistan is covered mostly by the arid Kyzyl Kumdesert in the central regions and by striking mountain ranges in the north. The music in Uzbekistan is similar to Persian classical music, and makes use of lutes, drums and jingles to create poetic love songs. This. soundtrack adds to the endless reasons as to why Uzbekistan is an awe-inspiring country to visit.. Tehran boasts art galleries and restaurants galore – perfect for trying Iranian specialities such as the national dish, Ghormeh Sabzi, made with curried vegetables and served with Tadik (crunchy rice).
Exploratory Trip Warning – this is a new trip for us!
Please note that all or part of this trip is a brand new itinerary, and could be going through completely new areas for Dragoman. This is what we call a New or Exploratory trip, and it means that all the passengers on these trips for the first season are the route’s pioneers! However, while we have thoroughly researched all aspects of this new route and put the itinerary together with the best of intentions, please note that your crew will be finding a lot of information out for us on the ground, will be playing a lot of things by ear, and may alter the itinerary slightly in places where it becomes necessary. Most trips will have slight or significant changes made to them after this first season, and frankly we would be very surprised if an Exploratory trip was to run perfectly to the published itinerary. Usually we find that this is rarely a problem but rather an exciting feature, that there are much more pleasant surprises in store than unpleasant ones, and these Exploratory trips are a fantastic opportunity to shape the trip as a group. However, the warning is sincere and these trips must be viewed as Exploratory – if this concerns you or you would rather stick to a tried-and-tested itinerary, then we recommend that you wait a year or two until we have this itinerary perfected following operating it many times, or of course to consider one of the more established trips in our extensive portfolio.
Border Information: if joining in Tashkent, you will most likely enter Uzbekistan at Tashkent International Airport (IATA code: TAS).
There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting.
We will then have a free afternoon to explore the Uzbek capital of Tashkent.
Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Tashkent before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Tashkent.
In Tashkent we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.
*Important note - any tobacco products are practically illegal in Turkmenistan, so please do not bring them or use them in Turkmenistan. Also please do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*
Hotel for the night: Grand Orzu Hotel
Grand Orzu Hotel
27 Makhmud Tarobi Street
Tel - +998 71 120 88 77
Visit the delightful traditional farmer's market at the Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent's Old Town : Free
See the grand 16th-century Kukeldash Madrassa and the city's principal Juma Mosque in the Old Town : Free
Visit the religious centre of Tashkent at Hast Imam Square and see the Uthman Koran, believed to be the world's oldest extant copy of the Koran : USD 5
Whilst the historic cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva still retain much of the atmosphere of the ancient Khanates, Tashkent is very definitely a Soviet city, because old Tashkent was largely destroyed by a series of earthquakes and Soviet planners. Having said that, it is still a great place to visit - the city has a clean, modern feel and there is some unusal contemporary architecture here, which makes it an interesting contrast to many other places along the Silk Road.
Today our journey begins with a drive to the fascinating ancient city of Samarkand, where we will stay for the next 3 nights.
In Samarkand we will stay in a good hotel on the outskirts of town.
Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).
A city brimming with history, Samarkand became famous in the 14th Century CE as the birthplace of the warlord Timur and the capital of his Sultanate. Thanks to its cemtral location along the Silk Road, the town originally grew propserous as a crossroads between East and West, creating a melting pot of different cultures and traditions whose influences are still very much apparent today. Samarkand is perhaps the most romantic and evocative of the Silk Road cities, and is crowned by the decorative domes and minarets of the many beautiful buildings here. The must-sees include the iconic Registan Square (the central focus of the city and home to a group of impressively decorated madrassas), Guri Amir and the Shah-i-Zinda mausoleum.
" Day 3 to 4"
Today we will have a guided tour of the incredible historic city of Samarkand and the surrounding area, including the Registan, Ulug Beg Observatory, BibiKhanym Mosque and Shah-I-Zinda.
On our second day, we will have a free day to further explore the beautiful city and its surroundings.
Explore the stunning green city of Shahrisabz, the centre of folk art in Uzbekistan and the birthplace of the medieval warlord Timur : USD 20
Wander through the markets and carpet vendors of Samarkand, and marvel at the intricate craftsmanship of the local carpet weavers : Free
Learn about the area's scientific heritage with a visit to the 15th-century Ulug Beg Observatory, once the finest observatory in the Islamic world : Included in Kitty
Visit the Guri-Amir Mausoleum, the final resting place of the Turko-Mongol conqueror Timur : Included in Kitty
Explore the stunning plaza of The Registan, a world-famous and iconic symbol of Central Asia : Included in Kitty
Discover the ruins of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, once one of the largest mosques in the world and the jewel in Timur's empire : Included in Kitty
See the beautiful and moving ancient mausoleum of Shah-I-Zinda : Included in Kitty
Today we will drive into the Kyzylkhum Desert near the town of Nurata. In the afternoon we will have the opportunity to take a swim in Lake Ajdar Kul and head out on an optional camel ride into the desert!
In the Kyzylkhum Desert we will stay in a desert yurt camp.
Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.
Spend the night in nomadic yurts out in the the Kyzylkum Desert : Included in Kitty
Take a short camel ride around the sand dunes of the Kyzylkhum Desert : UZS 5000
Today we will drive to the beautiful city of Bukhara, where will spend the next 3 nights. Our drive will take us via the desert town of Nurata, which we will have a brief stop.
In Bukhara we will stay in a comfortable local hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 4-6 hours.
Bukhara is an atmospheric city with an incredible history and a wonderful heritage - exploring the streets, you really get the feeling that this is how Central Asia was before Soviet domination. Bukhara was once a very powerful Khanate, controlling most of Turkmenistan and the surrounding area. Many of the buildings here are spectacular and very well-preserved, particularly the Ark Fortress, Ismail Samanid Mausoleum and the famous Kalyan Minaret (also known as the Death Tower). The government has invested a considerable amount of money into the city in order to preserve the architecture here.
" Day 7 to 8 "
Today we will have a guided tour of Bukhara and the surrounding area, including the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Kalon Mosque, Zindon Prison and the Ark Fortress.
On our second day here, we will have a free day to further explore this incredible historic city and its surroundings.
Explore the city's oldest Islamic monument, the 10th-century mausoleum of Ismail Samanid, the founder of the Samanid Dynasty : Included in Kitty
Discover the ruins of the ancient 5th-century fortress of the Bukhara Ark : Included in Kitty
Explore the colossal Kalon Mosque and Minaret, which has survived without restoration for 850 years and impressed Genghis Khan so much that he ordered the building to be spared : Included in Kitty
Visit the magnificent 16th-century architectural ensemble surrounding the Lyab-i Hauz ponds, once the city's principal source of water : Included in Kitty
See the Indian-style Char Minar Minarets, four towers nestled in a maze of alleyways in downtown Bukhara : Free
Visit the gruesome museum at the old prison of Zindon : UZS 4500
Watch an entertaining evening puppet show, featuring many local Uzbek and Tajik poems and songs : USD 5
" Day 9 to 10 "
Today we have a full day drive to the incredible historic town of Khiva.
Estimated Drive Time - 8-10 hours.
On the next day, we have a guided tour of the ancient city of Khiva during the morning. In the afternoon we will have plenty of free time to further explore this wonderfully preserved Khanate town.
In Khiva we will stay in a comfortable hotel.
See the beautiful turquoise Kalta Minor Minaret, one of the iconic symbols of Khiva : Included in Kitty
Visit the Mohammed Rakhim Khan Madrassa, a museum dedicated to the Khan that surrendered to the Russians in 1873 : Included in Kitty
Explore the incredibly photogenic blue palace of Tash Khovli in Khiva : Included in Kitty
Learn all about the Khoezm culture and handicrafts at the Islam Hodja Madrassa, Khiva's newest monument : Included in Kitty
Explore the incredible Juma Mosque and the 12th century fortress of the Kukhna Ark : Included in Kitty
Visit the mausoleum of Pahlavon Mohammed, the legendary 14th-century poet, philosopher, wrestler, and patron saint of Khiva : Included in Kitty
The small historic town of Khiva in Uzbekistan was once the capital of the Khwarezmid Empire, one of Central Asia's most powerful states in the 12th Century CE until they were invaded by Genghis Khan in 1220 CE. Khiva once again rose to prominence as the centre of the Khanate of Khia between 1500 CE and 1924, when the area was fully incorporated into the Soviet Union. The city's long history is fascinating, and fortunately much of the magnificent architecture has been incredibly well preserved. The ancient walls that used to provide sanctuary for the travellers on the Silk Road are intact, as is the old town that the walls were built to protect. Many of the buildings are beautifully decorated in classic turquoise tiles. As well as exploring the streets of the old city, you should make sure you visit the Kukhna Ark and Juma Mosque, Pakhlovan Mahmus Mausoleum and Islam Hodja Madrassa.
Border Information: Exit Uzbekistan at Nijazov, enter Turkmenistan at Shovot.
This morning we will drive across the border into Turkmenistan, visit the markets in the border town of Dashoguz, and explore the Kunye Urgench ruins to wards the end of the day.
We will wild camp in the deserts near Kunye Urgench tonight.
Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.
Explore the ancient ruined city of Kunye Urgench, once one of the most splendid cities in Central Asia until it was ransacked by Timur and abandoned : Included in Kitty
About Kunye Urgench:
Kunye Urgench is one of Turkmenistan's most important historic sites, and was once a major city along the Silk Road. Situated on the shores of the Amu Daria River, the area has been settled since the 5th-Century BCE and came to prominence under the rule of the Persian Khwarezem Empire in the 11th Century CE. The city managed to flourish even after Genghis Khan's invasion of 1221, only being finally destroyed and abandoned after an attack by the warlord Timur in 1373. Timur did a very thorough job in demolishing the city, there are still plenty of old ruined buildings from the 11th-14th centuries dotted around, including a mosque, mausoleum and the towering 60-metre-high Kutlug-Timur minaret, the highest in Central Asia.
Today we continue south through the Karakum Desert. We will have an included side trip to the amazing flaming Darvaza Gas Crater (also known as the 'Door to Hell'!).
We will wild camp in the deserts near Darvaza Crater tonight.
Estimated Drive Time - 5-7 hours.
See the bizarre and incredible burning gas crater at Darvasa, popularly known as the 'Door to Hell' : Included in Kitty
Darvaza is a tiny settlement in the Karakum Desert of Turkmenistan, which is the location of one of the world's more unusual highlights - the flaming Darvasa Gas Crater, sometimes dramatically called 'The Door to Hell'. The crater formed as a result of an industrial accident - Soviet oil prospectors started drilling in 1971 expecting to find oil, and when only gas was found underneath the ground collapsed to form the crater. Worried about the gas released into the air, they deliberately set the crater on fire to burn off the excess, expecting this to only last a few weeks - however the natural gas supply turned out to be much more plentiful, and it's been burning away ever since!
The crater is truly a breathtaking sight, especially at night - it's about the size of a football pitch and ablaze with fire, truly looking like the entrance to the underworld!
Today we will complete our drive to the interesting capital of Ashgabat, usually arriving mid-afternoon.
In Ashgabat we will stay in a decent quality local hotel.
Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours
Ashgabat is a unique modern city that has been extensively rebuilt since the country gained independence in 1991. Little is left of the original Russian Imperial city as most of it was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1948, and today the city centre is a bizarre mix of futuristic and outrageous public buildings that are an extraordinary sight - these include many ornate marble buildings and extravagant golden statues of the president. Ashgabat's Sunday Market is famous along the whole Silk Road - this wonderful market stretches for hundreds of acres into the desert. Carpets, camels, clothes, pigs, jewellery, goats, cars, chickens, hats and ex-Soviet military paraphernalia are readily available.
Today we will have an included tour of the city of Ashgabat using local minibuses. In the afternoon we have the option of visiting the famous Ashgabat Sunday Market.
Learn about the history and culture of Turkmenistan at the huge National Museum in Ashgabat : USD 10
Explore, shop, and haggle at the vast Altyn Asyr Sunday Bazaar : Included in Kitty
Explore the unique and bizarre Turkmen capital of Ashgabat on a guided tour of the city : Included in Kitty
Today we will arrange to obtain our Iran visas at the Iranian Consulate in
Ashgabat for all members of the group - please note that citizens of the UK,
USA and Canada will need to attend the Consulate in person along with your
trip leader so that they can take fingerprints as part of the application.
The rest of the day is free to further explore Ashgabat.
Activity Approximate Cost
Learn about the history and culture of
Turkmenistan at the huge National Museum in
Ashgabat USD 10
Visit the huge Turkmenbashi Ruhy mosque on
the outskirts of Ashgabat, built in 2004 as the
mausoleum of Saparmurat Niyazov, the first
president of Turkmenistan after the fall of the
Soviet Union Free
See a myriad of incredible and impressive hand-
woven carpets in the Ashgabat Carpet Museum
(if open) USD 10