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The Silk Road: Marco Polo & Golden Cities of Central Asia - 2020

Ashgabat • Khiva • Bukhara • Samarkand • Tashkent
  • DISCOVER KHIVA'S HISTORIC CENTER, A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
  • GET A GLIMPSE OF TRADITIONAL CERAMIC-MAKING DURING A VISIT TO A WORLD-FAMOUS MASTER'S STUDIO
  • REVISITING THE PARTHIAN EMPIRE IN NISA
  • EXPLORE THE ANCIENT AND MYTHICAL SAMARKAND
  • TOUR BUKHARA, CENTRAL ASIA'S HOLIEST CITY AND A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
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  • $319
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  • 15
    DAYS
  • 35
    TOURS
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Almaty, Kazakhstan

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There is something exhilarating about exploring the road less traveled . . . especially when that road used to be the most to be the most important one in the world. On this Vantage-exclusive itinerary through the captivating countries of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, you’ll discover the erstwhile “crossroads of the world” — the legendary Silk Road.

This off-the-beaten-path adventure is chock-full of discoveries: 36 included features and Cultural Discoveries, and four UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You’ll marvel at the bazaars and shrines of Bukhara, Central Asia’s sacred city. Explore history-rich Khiva, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to a fascinating array of madrassas, mausoleums, and palaces. Discover Samarkand, which was once the capital of Tamerlane’s empire.

You’ll also get a behind-the-scenes look at the culture here, when you enjoy a home-hosted lunch with a folk performance at a local’s home, listen to a well-known folk singer perform songs during a special performance, enjoy local refreshments at a teahouse, and more. This is a true immersion in part of the world a relative few have visited — think of the stories you’ll have to tell!

Optional tours allow you to visit the birthplace of Tamerlane and one of Islam’s most sacred sites, plus you can add another stamp to your passport by adding the extension to Almaty, Kazakhstan. If you’re traveling solo, you can enjoy free and reduced-price Single Supplements. Join us and uncover the many treasures of Central Asia on this Vantage-exclusive itinerary.

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.

DAY 2:

In flight

Continue your flight to Turkmenistan, dreaming of the unique adventure to come. 

DAY 3:

A day at leisure in Ashgabat, followed by a Welcome Dinner and a night tour

After arriving in Ashgabat, you’ll have a day at leisure to relax and unwind after your travels. A late breakfast is included, after which you can enjoy your day as you wish. Should you wish to kick start your explorations, your Adventure Leader can provide suggestions for places to check out. Cultural Discovery: This evening, savor a Welcome Dinner along with a folk show to introduce you to the culture of this region. After dinner, we’ll set off on an exciting night tour of Ashgabat, discovering this historic city under the lights. (Note: This is a great time to have your camera handy — the photography opportunities are excellent.)

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 4:

Explore Ashgabat on a city tour and discover the treasures of UNESCO-listed Nisa

Today, we’ll explore Ashgabat on a comprehensive city tour in the light of day. 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.

Then, you’re off to explore 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.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 5:

Visit a local horse farm to see the iconic Turkmen Akhal-Teke horses

This morning after breakfast, we’ll 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. Your afternoon is at leisure, and dinner is at the hotel tonight.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 6:

Cross into Uzbekistan and learn more about this region during a lecture

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. 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, which retains the aura of an ancient Silk Road town once visited by hordes of nomads and traders. Cultural Discovery: Today, we’ll learn more about this country during a lecture entitled “Silk Road & the Glory of Uzbekistan's World Heritage Cities." Dinner is included this evening.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 7:

Khiva: Madrassas, mausoleums, mosques, and more

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. This is a spectacular introduction to this ancient city and allows you to get a sense of this city’s fascinating story.

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. After delving into the sights and immersing ourselves in the culture here, we’ll enjoy a panoramic view, at sunset, from the West Gate Tower. It’s the perfect coda to a remarkable day.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 8:

Travel to Bukhara and embark on an orientation walk

This morning, you’ll drive 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. Dinner is on your own this evening.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 9:

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 throughout 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.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 10:

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. You’ll also have an opportunity to the Bakhoutdin Nakshbandi Complex & Chor Minor — one of Islam’s most sacred sites in this region — on an optional tour that includes dinner.

Included Meals:

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

Bakhoutdin Naqshbandi Complex & Chor Minor

  • Approximate Cost:
  • Approximate Time: 4.5 hours
  • Location: Bukhara, Uzbekistan
  • When: 3:30 pm to 8:00 pm
Visit one of Islam’s most sacred sites on this optional tour.  As the burial place of one of Sufism’s leaders, Naqshbandi, 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 11:

Ride by train to ancient and mythical Samarkand

We’ll visit the Mokhi Khosa, a grand summer palace of the emir, and enjoy lunch before transferring to the train station for your journey 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 12:

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, reflect 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 13:

Day at leisure, or 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. Belonging to 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 14:

Experience more of Samarkand before traveling 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 an even more grand tribute to Samarkand's storied past at the Shakhi-Zinda (“Living King”) Mausoleum complex. 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 15:

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. 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 the hotel's restaurant this evening.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 16:

Return home

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

Included Meals:

Breakfast

Post-Trip Extension

Almaty, Kazakhstan

FROM: $1499 PER PERSON | 4 DAYS | $375 PER DAY

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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