The Silk Road: Marco Polo & Golden Cities of Central Asia - 2018

Ashgabat • Khiva • Bukhara • Samarkand • Tashkent
  • The Silk Road: Marco Polo & Golden Cities of Central Asia
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Almaty, Kazakhstan

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Travel in the footsteps of the great explorer Marco Polo as you make your way along the world’s original “information superhighway”: the Silk Road. This part of the world was once the ultimate cultural crossroads: a terrestrial connection between Asia and Europe that helped transform the world. It was home to legendary emperors, Sufi saints, and conquering hordes. Today, you can experience what Marco Polo did as you venture to some of the Silk Road’s most well-known cities and villages on a Vantage-exclusive itinerary that offers the best value in deluxe travel, guaranteed. 

This thoroughfare of trade – of goods, cultures, and ideas – was in fact a network of routes originally established by the Han Dynasty in China. This unique itinerary takes you to the highlights of the routes (as well as some off-the-beaten-path gems) in modern-day Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.  Each day on this captivating adventure brings new experiences: see the sun set over the UNESCO-listed town of Khiva, admire the ancient Turkmen Akhal-Teke breed of horses at a local farm, discover the archeological trove of Nisa, visit the grave of Tamerlane, discover the erstwhile capital of the Great Timur Empire, and much more. 

Traveling on this ancient trade route, you can almost hear the echoes of the past. Join us and experience the Silk Road for yourself.

Ashgabat to Tashkent

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DAY 1:

Fly overnight to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Your overnight flight will land in Turkmenistan on Day 2.

DAY 2:

In transit to Turkmenistan

We'll arrive late tonight to Turkmenistan. If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, a Vantage representative will meet you and arrange transfer to your centrally located hotel.

DAY 3:

Revisiting the Parthian Empire in Nisa

After a late breakfast at the hotel, we'll begin our explorations of Turkmenistan with a visit to a memorable UNESCO World Heritage Site: Nisa. Once the capital of the Parthian Empire – which ruled this region thousands of years ago – this once-great city was revealed by archaeologists. We’ll tour this remarkably well-preserved site, which includes a ceremonial hall, treasure house, and residences. Cultural Discovery: Savor a Welcome Dinner this evening, with an included folk show.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 4:

Discover ancient Uzbek horses, then roam Ashgabat at night

Today we’ll head to Ashgabat for a comprehensive city tour. As we travel through the Turkmen capital, the history of the city and country will unfold in the form of landmarks: the Park of Independence, Ruhnama statue, Earthquake Monument, Palace Square, Arch of Neutrality, and the Ertogrulgazy Mosque, which is the largest mosque in Central Asia. 

Later, we’ll leave the city streets behind and head out to a horse farm to see a unique and ancient equine: the Turkmen Akhal-Teke. This breed can be traced back 5,000 years, and is intricately connected to the Turkmen identity – so much so, in fact, that it graces the country’s national emblem. We’ll get to see these majestic creatures and even get a chance to ride one. After an included dinner, set off on an exciting night tour of Ashgabat, discovering this historic city under the lights.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 5:

Crossing the Uzbek border with a lecture on the Silk Road

Our discovery of this unique part of the world continues today, we fly to Tashauz and cross over the border into Khiva, Uzbekistan. Throughout our journey, we’ll enhance our experiences with background information on the areas we explore – today, we’ll learn more about the country during a lecture entitled “Silk Road & the Glory of Uzbekistan's world heritage cities."

One of the world’s only doubly landlocked countries (which is a landlocked country that is surrounded by landlocked countries), Uzbekistan has developed a culture all its own through the centuries. Khiva offers a superb glimpse into the country’s past. It retains the aura of an ancient Silk Road town, which we’ll experience this evening when we watch the setting sun paint the old city of Khiva, once visited by hordes of nomads and traders.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 6:

Khiva: Madrassas, mausoleums, mosques, and more

We’ll explore more of Khiva’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This well-preserved area features an astounding 60 architectural monuments: everything from madrassas to mausoleums and mosques. We’ll also get to visit to Isfandiyar Palace, the lavishly decorated summer palace of the Emir built in the early 20th century. Cultural Discoveries: We’ll stop by a local handicrafts center that features woodcarving, embroidery, and carpet weaving. Unforgettable Moment: Then, get to know some of the locals at a lunch at the home of Lady Zarafshan with folk dancing — a Vantage Exclusive.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 7:

Orientation walk around the city-museum of Bukhara

This morning, you’ll transfer by coach to Bukhara, enjoying a boxed lunch on the way. Bukhara is Central Asia’s most sacred city, and we’ll begin to become acquainted with its history and allure on an orientation walk. We’ll explore the Lyabi-Hauz area of town, the central component of which is a pool that was built here in the 17th century (the name itself means “shore of pool”). We’ll discover some of the religious diversity here as we visit an old synagogue in the Jewish quarter of town as well as a madrassa at the square. Dinner is on your own this evening. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 8:

Bustling bazaars and folk music in sacred Bukhara

Explore Bukhara in depth today, as we embark on a city tour. This was a hub of spiritual and intellectual growth as far back as the eighth century until it was destroyed by Genghis Khan in the 13th century. It rose to prominence once again, becoming the capital of the Burhara Khanate but remained at the center of regional upheaval in the centuries, with many different armies taking control of it. The result is a captivating mix of impressive architecture. 

We’ll visit the Samanids Mausoleum — considered a masterpiece of Central Asian architectural design — as well as the Chashma-Ayub shrine and the Fortress Ark, a fortified residence of the emirs. Cultural Discoveries: Visit the bustling bazaars of Bukhara, which are housed in the restored “trading domes” that date from the 14th to the 17th centuries. Here, we experience the pulse of modern life while surrounded by fascinating remnants of the past. Unforgettable Moment: Later, we’ll savor some tea and conversation at a local tea house, followed by an Vantage-exclusive musical performance by a well-known Uzbek folk singer. You'll also get the unique opportunity to visit a puppetry museum and take in a show there. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 9:

Tour a politician’s former home and learn about suzani

We see yet another side of Bukhara today, as we explore the home of one of the city’s famous residents: politician Fayzulla Khodjaev. Now a museum, the home is a fine example of the Bukharian architectural style of the late 19th century, and our visit will provide insight into the life of Khodjaev and the spirit of his times.

Unforgettable Moment: We’ll continue our domestic discoveries in the home of Toshev Rakhmon. Mr. Rakhmon is a master of suzani, a type of embroidery that is unique to this part of the world (the name comes from the Persian word suzan, which means needle). We’ll enjoy a demonstration of Mr. Rakhmon’s artistry – an exclusive for Vantage travelers.

After lunch, you’ll have the afternoon and evening at leisure. Or you can choose to join our optional tour to the Bakhoutdin Nakshbandi Complex, tomb of the leader of Sufism. This is a famous pilgrimage site for Muslims; in fact, some refer to it as the Mecca of Central Asia.  Dinner is included as part of this optional tour.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch
Optional Tour: Bakhoutdin Nakshbandi Complex & Chor Minor

Bakhoutdin Nakshbandi Complex & Chor Minor

  • Approximate Cost: $59 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 4.5 hours
  • Location: Bukhara, Uzbekistan
  • When: 3:30pm to 8:00pm

Visit one of Islam’s most sacred sites on this optional tour.  As the burial place of one of Sufism’s leaders, Nakshbandi, this site is regularly visited by Muslim pilgrims from around the world. You’ll enjoy a leisurely walk through the complex, learning about this luminary of the Muslim faith as well as getting a primer on the times in which he lived. You’ll also gain insight into Sufism itself, which is a mystical sect of Islam. On this captivating optional tour, you’ll also visit Chor Minor, a colorful madrassa, before enjoying an included dinner.

DAY 10:

Ride by train to the ancient and mythical Samarkand

We’ll visit the Mokhi Khosa, a grand summer palace of the emir, before transferring to the train station for your ride to Samarkand. Your ride will take you through the beautiful scenery of this country, the landscape largely unchanged from when explorers and traders once roamed the land. You’ll arrive in Samarkand and transfer to your hotel. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 11:

Tour Samarkand and join a family for a home-hosted dinner

This Central Asian city has existed since the fourth century BC (when it was conquered by Alexander the Great), but it was Tamerlane that made it the capital of his vast empire. While this region was hidden behind the Russia’s Iron Curtain for decades, it has roots in a variety of Middle Eastern and Central Asian cultures. Many of the places you’ll visit today, including the Gur-Emir Mausoleum, Registan Square, and three separate madrassas, reflects the deep Persian influence in this region: colorful, intricate designs, massive domes, and traditional minarets. Your first stop will be at the tomb of the city’s most famous resident: Tamerlane, the 14th-century nomad emperor who was one of the most successful conquerors of all time. Tamerlane (which is a derivation of Timur the Lame) was interred here along with his descendants after he died in 1405. Dinner is at the hotel this evening. Cultural Discovery: To learn more about Samarkand, join us for a lecture on Tamerlane (Timur) & and his most mythical Silk Road city. 

In the afternoon, we’ll discover the Ulugbek Observatory (named for Tamerlane’s great-grandson, who built it in the 15th century), and the Afrosiab Museum, which highlights the city’s history back to Alexander the Great. You'll also get to visit a local silk carpet factory. Cultural Discovery: We’ll join a local family for a home-hosted dinner, featuring a delectable local dish demonstrated by a chef.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 12:

A day at leisure, or embark on an optional tour to Tamerlane’s birthplace

Our days have been filled with discoveries, so we’ll have a day at leisure to relax or set off to explore independently. Or join an optional tour to Shakhrisabze, the birthplace of Tamerlane. The legendary founder of the Timurid Empire, Tamerlane’s palace – the ruins of which we’ll explore on this tour – was a masterpiece of medieval architecture. We’ll also visit the tomb of his favorite son, Dzhahongir. Savor an included lunch on the tour before returning back to the city. After dinner at the hotel, we'll depart for an evening show of historical costume performance at the local theater.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner
Optional Tour: Shakhrisabze, Birthplace of Tamerlane

Shakhrisabze, Birthplace of Tamerlane

  • Approximate Cost: $85 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 8 hours
  • Location: Samarkand, Uzbekistan
  • When: 9:00am to 5:00pm

Visit the hometown of Tamerlane – one of the world’s greatest conquerors – on this optional tour.  You’ll visit the ruins of his palace, an impressive remnant of medieval eastern architecture, as well as the tomb of his son Dzhahongir and a memorial complex dedicated to the founder of Sufism. This tour offers a unique insight into one of the most important figures in the history of Central Asia as well as a glimpse of the region’s religious heritage. Lunch is included.

DAY 13:

Explore Siab bazaar and travel to Tashkent by train

You’ll begin another day of discovery here by exploring the Bibi Khanum mosque. Cultural Discovery: Later, we’ll wander through the Siab bazaar, a colorful farmers’ market, to experience a slice of everyday life here in the city. This region is known for its carpets, so we’ll also drop in at a silk carpet factory to see the artisans in action. We'l then visit even more grand tributes to Samarkand's storied past: the Shakhi-Zinda (“Living King”) Mausoleums and St. Daniel’s Tomb. 

After wrapping up our extensive explorations of this famed Silk Road city, we’ll venture to Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, by train. Dinner is on your own this evening as we settle into yet another fascinating Central Asian city.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 14:

Embark on an exciting tour of Tashkent, the epicenter of modern Uzbek life

Become acquainted with the epicenter of modern Uzbek culture, its capital city is teeming with historic landmarks, museums, and distinctive neighborhoods. Our full-day tour will take us to the Old Quarter, Independence Square, Khasty-Imam square and more. Cultural Discovery: We’ll stop by the Museum of Applied Arts, which was built by local craftsmen in the 1930s. Thought it was constructed during the era of Soviet hegemony, the building and its contents reflect many facets of Uzbek artistry, architecture, and culture. We’ll also immerse ourselves in the flow of everyday life here as we take a ride on the Metro train. This subterranean system is renowned for its aesthetic beauty, and we’ll admire it as we travel beneath the city with the locals. Cultural Discovery: Later, we join a local family – the Fakhimovs – at their ceramics studio. World-famous master of ceramics Akbar Rakhimov founded this studio and it has been in the family ever since. We’ll admire the handiwork and learn about the family’s artistry at their private museum (a Vantage exclusive). Our Farewell Dinner will be at a local restaurant this evening.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 15:

Return home

Today, transfer to the airport for your flight home or explore yet another fascinating destination on your extension to Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Included Meals:


Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or regional expert.

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Journey The Silk Road: Marco Polo & Golden Cities of Central Asia On the Silk Road in Central Asia
Price without Air* $0 $5,339 Save $1,480 per couple, plus deluxe accommodations!
Trip Length 0 days 20 days Enjoy the most comprehensive itinerary at a convenient length!
Accommodations Enjoy a selection of deluxe and moderate-deluxe centrally located accommodations with satellite TVs, mini bars, and A/C All first-class hotels, with 1-, 2-, and 3-night stays Enjoy on-site restaurants with local delicacies, gym facilities, pools, and more, all within walking distance of main attractions!
Singles Reduced-cost Single Supplement on select dates Additional single costs starting from $815 Most & best single-friendly prices! Plus, FREE Single Supplements on Extensions - a value of up to $199!
Exclusive Features Home-hosted dinner; a carpet-making workshop; visit a family-owned ceramics studio; visit the home of an embroiderer; visit the summer palace of the emir Mokhi Khosa Share tea with a ceramics master; enjoy an archaeological lecture and site visit; witness a folk performance in Bishkek Per day, the MOST Cultural Experiences!
Extend Your Value Enjoy Almaty, Kazakhstan from $250 a day! None listed Extensions allow you to extend the value of your Discovery!
Meals 31 meals 50 meals THE MOST MEALS
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