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The Silk Road: Marco Polo & Golden Cities of Central Asia - 2019

Ashgabat • Khiva • Bukhara • Samarkand • Tashkent
Moderate Deluxe
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“I did not tell half of what I saw, for I knew that I would not be believed.” These were the words of the great explorer Marco Polo in describing his Far East travels. You’ll certainly see some unbelievable things on this Central Asia adventure that takes you along a path that changed the world: the Silk Road.

Travel in the footsteps of one of the world’s greatest explorers — and visit 4 different UNESCO World Heritage Sites — as you make your way along the route that was a “worldwide web” before such a concept existed. You’ll enjoy a whopping 18 included features, including visiting mosque and museum in Samarkand, touring Bukhara, Central Asia's holiest city, exploring the Old Quarter of Tashkent, and much more. Plus, there are a wealth of Cultural Discoveries (18 in total), which include enjoying a home-hosted lunch with a folk performance at a local’s house, listen to a well-known local singer Saodat G’ulomova perform songs, sampling teas at a local tea house . . . each day brings captivating new experiences.

This distinctive, in-depth itinerary takes you to the highlights of the routes (as well as some off-the-beaten-path gems) in modern-day Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. You’ll get up close and personal at the ultimate cultural crossroads and, if you’re traveling solo, you can enjoy free and reduced-price Single Supplements. Travel back in time on this Vantage-exclusive Central Asia itinerary and experience the best value in deluxe adventure travel, guaranteed.

What memories will you bring home on this adventure? Check out our photography page for inspiration, tips and tricks, and more. Explore now!

Ashgabat to Tashkent

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DAY 1:

Fly overnight to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Your overnight flight will land in Turkmenistan on Day 2.

Please note: Arrive to your destination or home rested and refreshed! Convenient gateway city stopover options mean you can break up longer flights easily — just ask our Flight Experts for assistance.

DAY 2:

Arrive in 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, then a city tour of Ashgabat

You'll arrive early this morning and check into your hotel. Following a brief rest and late breakfast, 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:

Explore Ashgabat by day and by night and see some of the region’s famed horses

This morning, 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.

After lunch, 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. 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. Cultural Discovery: 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 surrounded by other landlocked countries), Uzbekistan has developed a culture all its own over the centuries. Khiva offers a superb glimpse into the country’s past. Dinner is at a local restaurant this evening.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 6:

Khiva: Madrassas, mausoleums, mosques, and sunset views

We’ll explore more of Khiva’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring an astounding 60 architectural monuments: everything from madrassas to mausoleums and mosques. Cultural Discoveries: We’ll stop by a local handicrafts center that features wood carving, 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. Dinner tonight will be at a local restaurant.

This city still 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 7:

Orientation walk around the city-museum of Bukhara

This morning, you’ll transfer to Bukhara. This 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 Lyab-i 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.

Please note: For the best pacing, travelers on the 3/18, 4/22, 5/6, 10/7, 10/14, and 11/4 departures will transfer to Bukhara by train and enjoy dinner at the hotel. Travelers on the 3/25, 4/15, 5/20, 6/3, 6/10, 9/9, 9/16, 9/23, and 9/30 departures will fly to Bukhara and enjoy lunch at the hotel.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

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.

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 teahouse, followed by a 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, followed by lunch.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & 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 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:

Soak up the scenery on a train ride to 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. Cultural Discovery: Your train 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, enjoy a home-hosted dinner, and embark on a night tour

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). 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. In the evening, you can join a night time panoramic tour in Samarkand, getting to see this fascinating city under the lights.

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 Shakhrisabz, 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. Dinner is at the hotel this evening.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner
Optional Tour: Shakhrisabz, Birthplace of Tamerlane

Shakhrisabz, Birthplace of Tamerlane

  • Approximate Cost:
  • Approximate Time: 8 hours
  • Location: Samarkand, Uzbekistan
  • When: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
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:

Samarkand continues to dazzle us before we 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'll then visit another grand tribute to Samarkand's storied past: the Shakhi-Zinda (“Living King”) Mausoleums.

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 — Tashkent, 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, Khast Imam square and more. Cultural Discovery: We’ll stop by the Museum of Applied Arts, which was built by local craftsmen in the 1930s. Though 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 Rakhimovs — 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.

Please note: Arrive to your destination or home rested and refreshed! Convenient gateway city stopover options mean you can break up longer flights easily — just ask our Flight Experts for assistance.

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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The Silk Road: Marco Polo & Golden Cities of Central Asia - 2019

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