Trip Type : Group Tour
Bukhara Samarkand NEW The Stans of Central Asia: Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan Trip
NEW The Stans of Central Asia: Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan tour

NEW The Stans of Central Asia: Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan

Travel Style: You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level: Minimal walking. Motor vehicles for all major parts of trip. Wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Most cruises. Very Easy
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
16 days
From: $ 5,995 $ 375 / day
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  • Enjoy an exclusive glimpse into the archives of the Savitsky Museum
  • Visit the opulent 18th-century Bolo Hauz Mosque and the Chashma Ayub Mausoleum
  • Visit with a local ceramic master and learn about the centuries-old traditions of this ancient art form.
  • Exploring Samarkand, one of the oldest cities in the world
  • Including by the troops of Alexander the Great, the Arab Caliphate, and Genghis Khan.

Short Description

Explore two of Central Asia’s most famous Stans—Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan—and uncover the rich legacy of the Silk Road on our NEW 2017 adventure. And if take our trip extensions, you’ll be able to explore all five of the Stans—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan—making this a truly epic journey through one of the most ancient and mysterious corners of the globe.

Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Trip Type Group Tour
Off the beaten track trips will stretch your comfort zone. They don't always feature tourist highlights, but dive deeper into local life and culture.
Itinerary Focus Off the Beaten Path
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value - 3 star
Flights & Transport Only ground transport
Start City Ashgabat
End City Tashkent


Uzbekistan Turkmenistan

Cities & Attractions

Bukhara Samarkand


Culture History Nature

No Single Supplement
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Trip Includes

  • All land transportation and 1 internal flight
  • Accommodations for 14 nights
  • 18 small group activities
  • Services of 2 local O.A.T. Trip Leaders, 1 in Turkmenistan and 1 in Uzbekistan
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers, and luggage porters
  • 5% Frequent Traveler Credit toward your next O.A.T. trip—an average of $250

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Depart U.S.
You depart the U.S. for your flight to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, via Istanbul, Turkey. The particulars of your arrival overseas will be detailed with your flight itinerary and airline tickets.

Arrive in Istanbul, Turkey • Fly to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Today you’ll arrive in Istanbul, where you’ll meet your connecting flight to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Depending on your flight schedule, you’ll arrive late on Day 2 or very early on Day 3. Travelers who took our pre-trip to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan will arrive in Ashgabat late at night or early the next morning.

Explore Ashgabat
Meals included: B L D Accommodations: Grand Turkmen Hotel or similar

After a late breakfast and briefing with our Trip Leader, set off on a walking tour of Turkmenistan’s capital, a white-marbled oasis rising from the edge of the Kara Kum Desert. Modern Ashgabat (“city of love” in Arabic) has an ancient and colorful past. First there was Konjikala, a wine-growing village from the second century BC. Leveled by an earthquake a hundred years later, it was reborn as Nisa, capital of the Parthian Empire. Over time, the region was captured by Mongols, ruled by Persia, and taken over by Russia. In 1948, another earthquake leveled the city and killed more than 100,000 people. Rebuilt in the Soviet style, Ashgabat underwent another transformation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today’s Ashgabat is a glimmering city of golden-domed palaces, neon-lit monuments, manicured gardens—and the highest concentration of white Italian marble buildings in the world!

Our late morning discoveries include a visit to the sprawling Independence Park to view its eclectic mix of historical monuments and lavish fountains. The park’s highlight is Independence Monument, a towering flag holder surrounded by cascading waterfalls and bronze statues of book-brandishing Turkmen along its base. We’ll also see the Earthquake Memorial and the impressive Akhal-Teke horse monument—a fountain statue of ten Turkmen horses at the center of the Turkmenistan coat of arms.

After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll drive to the village of Gypjak, home to Central Asia’s largest mosque. The massive golden-domed structure is also the final resting place of Niyazov, the strange dictator who ruled the country as Turkmenbashi (leader of the Turkmen) until his death in 2006. We return to Ashgabat for time to relax, then we’ll gather for dinner as a group at our hotel.

Ashgabat • Visit Akhal-Teke horse farm
Meals included: B L D Accommodations: Grand Turkmen Hotel or similar

After breakfast, we’ll stop at the opulent Ertugrul Ghazi Mosque, which honors the founder of the Ottoman Empire. Then, after spending time mingling with the locals at one of the city's sprawling bazaars, we’ll head to an Akhal-Teke horse farm to view the beautiful golden stallions that are considered the pride of Turkmenistan. We’ll have lunch here and meet with the farm’s owner, who can enlighten us on the importance of one of the oldest equine breeds in existence and the country’s national emblem. Renowned for the beautiful metallic sheen to their coats, Akhal-Teke horses were once used by tribesmen of Turkmenistan for raiding and were selectively bred for speed, endurance, and agility.

We’ll have the rest of the afternoon at leisure in Ashgabat. This evening, our Welcome Dinner will be accompanied by Turkmen folk entertainment at a local restaurant.

Ashgabat • Fly to Tashauz • Khiva, Uzbekistan
Meals included: B L D Accommodations: Asia Khiva Hotel or similar

After breakfast, we board a flight over the vast, sun-scorched sands of the Kara Kum Desert (Central Asia’s hottest desert) to the oasis town of Tashauz. Known as Daşoguz, or “Stone Spring,” in Turkmen, Tashauz was a prominent stop along the Silk Road because of its underground spring. Today, Tashauz is a modern, Soviet-designed city with exquisite museums and monuments. If time permits, we’ll also take a drive to visit the remains of the ancient Silk Road city of Yzmukshir.

After enjoying lunch in one of the bustling street restaurants of Tashauz, we’ll travel to the border of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Our Trip Leader will assist us through customs as we make for Khiva. This evening, we’ll gather for dinner at our hotel’s restaurant.

Explore Khiva
Meals included: B L Accommodations: Asia Khiva Hotel or similar

After breakfast, we’ll set off on a full-day walking tour of Khiva. Legend says that the ancient Silk Road oasis of Khiva was founded at the place where Shem, son of Noah, discovered water in the desert, and that the city got its name from Shem’s joyful shout, “Hey va!” at the discovery. Today, Khiva is as much a living museum as it is a modern, thriving city. We’ll spend the day exploring the sites of the city’s meticulously preserved Old Town. Known as Ichon Qala or Inner City, this UNESCO World Heritage Site exists today much as it did when travelers on the Silk Road visited centuries ago—sweeping, dun-colored walls, a towering main gate, bustling thoroughfares, and crowds of weary wayfarers await us. We’ll visit Tash Hauli Palace, which resembles a fortress with high battlements, towers, and fortified gates, but was once the home of the reigning khan, Ala Kuli. The sprawling inner courtyard and open-air throne room of the palace are awash in intricate blue and white tile work that stands in stark contrast to the earthen palate of the buildings.

Other discoveries include the rebuilt 9th-century Dzhuma Mosque, and the original residence of the khans, Kunya Ark. Considered a city within a city, Kunya Ark included the khan's mosque, residence, reception hall, arsenal, harem, and more. And we will visit the most important aspect of the town, the ancient well of Khievak—for without the water that Shem rejoiced over, Khiva could not have been possible. Our walking tour continues after lunch in a local restaurant.

This evening, dinner is on your own in Khiva, and our Trip Leader can provide you with a few interesting dining suggestions.

Khiva • Visit Nukus & Savitsky Museum • Home-Hosted Lunch
Meals included: B L D Accommodations: Asia Khiva Hotel or similar

After breakfast, we'll journey to Nukus, capital of the autonomous Karakalpakstan Republic. Due to its remote location near the Aral Sea, Nukus was a ‘closed city’ during the Soviet era, when the Red Army researched and developed chemical warfare weapons. Upon arrival, we’ll visit the Savitsky Museum, also known as the State Art Museum of the Republic of Karakalpakstan. The museum represents the life work of Russian painter and collector Igor Savitsky, whose legacy includes thousands of ancient to modern artistic treasures, along with the world’s second largest collection of Russian avant-garde art, which he kept hidden from the watchful eyes of the KGB in this remote desert location.

We’ll visit a private home to enjoy lunch with a Karakalpak family and hear a performance by a traditional Karakalpak throat singer. After lunch, enjoy an exclusive glimpse into the archives of the Savitsky Museum, including paintings unavailable to the public and works under restoration. On our drive back, we’ll make a brief stop at the ruins of a Zoroastrian temple, one of the many ancient sanctuaries and fortresses lost to the sands of the Kyzyl Kum Desert.

Dinner is at a local restaurant in Khiva this evening.

Khiva • Overland to Bukhara
Meals included: B L D Accommodations: Amelia Boutique Hotel or similar

Today we experience the Silk Road the way centuries of merchants did, as we spend the day traveling across the Kyzyl Kum Desert on our way to Bukhara. Following the same route that camel caravans traversed, we’ll drive across the majestic terrain of cascading sand dunes and flat, uninhabited plains.

The Silk Road was as much an exchange of cultural values as it was an exchange of goods. Gold, saffron, vegetables, and wine came from the west, while ceramics, cinnamon, bronze, and silk made their way from the east. Along with these precious commodities came the spread of religions and customs, many of which are still practiced in the region today. We’ll stop for lunch at a small village and enjoy a brief respite from the road at a local tea house. We’ll arrive in Bukhara in the evening, and gather for dinner at our hotel’s restaurant.

Explore Bukhara
Meals included: B L D Accommodations: Amelia Boutique Hotel or similar

After breakfast, we embark on a full-day tour of Bukhara. Like Khiva, Bukhara was a prominent destination along the Silk Road that grew wealthy on the trade that passed through. We’ll visit the opulent 18th-century Bolo Hauz Mosque and the Chashma Ayub Mausoleum, the legendary spring brought forth by the prophet Job upon striking the ground with his staff. And we’ll set off on foot through Old Town, exploring the many mosques, mausoleums, and blue-domed minarets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site—which still bears scars of a 13th-century invasion by Genghis Khan. Our discoveries also include the Ark Citadel, the city’s ancient fortress. During the 19th century, the British and Russian empires fought for dominance of Central Asia—a strategic rivalry called “The Great Game”—and one of the most famous moments in this struggle centered at the Citadel and its connected prison. It was here that two British officers, Charles Stoddart and Arthur Connolly (the one who coined the phrase “The Great Game”), were held in a vermin infested pit for two years before being publicly beheaded and buried under the square outside the main gate.

We’ll have lunch at a local restaurant at Lyab-i-Khauz, an ensemble of madrassahs and historical buildings built around a quiet plaza in the shade of mulberry trees, often frequented by tea-sipping, chess-playing Uzbek locals. Afterward, we’ll spend time at Bukhara’s famous domed bazaars, a series of ancient arcades occupied by money changers, hat makers, rug merchants, jewelry vendors, and more. We’ll also stop at a 16th-century synagogue to learn about Bukhara’s unique and lengthy Jewish heritage, and visit a local puppet maker’s shop and learn about the ancient art of constructing a marionette. Then, we’ll enjoy dinner with entertainment at a local restaurant in the heart of Bukhara.

DAY 10
Bukhara • Discover Vobkent
Meals included: B L D Accommodations: Amelia Boutique Hotel or similar

After breakfast, we’ll visit Vobkent, a village situated about a dozen miles north of Bukhara distinguished by its 127-foot-high minaret. Completed in 1199 and visible for miles around, the minaret served as a beacon for caravans and travelers approaching from the north—and was surely spotted by the invading Genghis Khan and his Mongolian hordes, yet left unharmed. After some time exploring the ancient streets of Vobkent, we’ll get a real taste of local culture and hospitality when some village families join us for lunch. We return to Bukhara for some time at leisure before gathering together for dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

DAY 11
Bukhara • Visit Gijduvan • Overland to Samarkand
Meals included: B L D Accommodations: Malika Classic Hotel or similar

After breakfast, we begin our journey to Samarkand, stopping en route in the village of Gijduvan. Known for its production of exquisite pottery, we visit with a local ceramic master and learn about the centuries-old traditions of this ancient art form. Afterwards, we’ll tour a museum dedicated to ceramic manufacturing in the region and shop the wares at a stunning showroom housing vibrant plates, bowls, and vases.

We’ll arrive in Samarkand in the afternoon. After checking into our hotel, we’ll gather at Registan Square. Located in the heart of the city, Registan Square was host to public executions, royal proclamations, and a sprawling bazaar. Today, the expansive space is used for holiday celebrations and important public events. Fringed on three sides by ornate madrassahs (educational centers), the space is a vibrant meeting point for residents of Samarkand, and at night, illuminated by floodlights, the delicate tiling and mosaic work are a glittering spectacle. Then, we’ll stop at a home bakery to try our hand at making Samarkand bread—and learn why the fragrant round loaves baked in clay ovens here are legendary throughout Uzbekistan. After some time to refresh at our hotel, we’ll gather together for dinner at a local restaurant.

DAY 12
Explore Samarkand • Home-Hosted Dinner
Meals included: B D Accommodations: Malika Classic Hotel or similar

Today is devoted to exploring Samarkand, one of the oldest cities in the world. Established during the middle of the first century BC, Samarkand—like many Silk Road cities—was conquered and claimed a number of times, including by the troops of Alexander the Great, the Arab Caliphate, and Genghis Khan. Our discoveries will include Shah-i-Zinda, a towering necropolis where a cousin of the prophet Muhammad is buried. At the Gur Emir, the mausoleum of conqueror Tamerlane and his descendants, we’ll see the architectural components that inspired the Taj Mahal. And we’ll stroll through the expansive courtyard of marble flagstone at the Bibi-Khanum Mosque—a structure that legend says was a gift to Tamerlane by one of his wives. We’ll also have time to explore the Siab Bazaar, where fruit and vegetables grown from the rich soil of the Zarafshan Valley are sold in a colorful market.

After lunch on your own, we’ll visit Ulug-Bek’s Observatory, one of the most advanced observatories of the ancient world. The three-story structure positioned atop a sweeping plateau just outside of Samarkand was used by Ulug-Bek (a grandson of Tamerlane) to catalog the stars and map out the sun, moon, and planets. He also calculated the length of a year, accurate to within a minute of the calendar we use today. Then, we’ll visit a silk carpet factory to see the production process of silk worm harvesting, dying, and weaving before returning to our hotel.

This evening, we’ll learn what modern-day life is like in this ancient city when we’re welcomed into the home of a local Uzbek family for dinner.

DAY 13
Samarkand • Visit Shakhrisabze
Meals included: B L Accommodations: Malika Classic Hotel or similar

After breakfast, we’ll journey to Shakhrisabze, birthplace of Tamerlane, the most influential military leader of the Mongol Empire. Along the way, we’ll stop at a local village to meet with members of a family whose matriarch received a “Mother Heroine” award, an honorary Soviet title given to mothers bearing 10 or more children.

Upon arrival in Shakhrisabze, we’ll visit the huge portals of Ak-Sarai, the remains of Tamerlane’s magnificent summer palace. Then, after an included lunch at a small family-run restaurant, we’ll begin our walking tour of the ancient city. Our discoveries include the towering blue domed Kok Gumbas Mosque, and the Dorus Siadat complex, a mausoleum of whitewashed walls built as a burial site for Tamerlane’s beloved son Jahangir who died in a horse riding accident. Legend says that the fearsome ruler was so distraught over his son’s death that upon his passing he vowed never to smile again.

We return to Samarkand and dinner is on your own this evening.

DAY 14
Samarkand • Journey to Tashkent
Meals included: B L Accommodations: Lotte City Hotel or similar

After breakfast, we journey to Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital. One of the oldest cities in Central Asia, rock paintings in the neighboring Chaktal Mountains reveal that humans have inhabited the region surrounding Tashkent since as early as 2000 B.C. A fascinating blend of modern buildings side-by-side with a maze of winding streets and mud-walled homes, Tashkent represents one of the most famous Silk Road cities.

Upon arrival in Tashkent, we’ll have lunch at a local restaurant. Then, an afternoon tour begins at Independence Square, which represents a symbol of freedom for the Uzbekistan people who declared their independence from Russia in 1991. We’ll also see the Courage Monument, erected to honor the rebuilding efforts—and the strength and resilience of the Tashkent people—after a catastrophic 9.0 earthquake struck the city in 1966. The square is also home to the Shahid Memorial Complex, a blue domed rotunda and fountain that pays tribute to the innocent shahid (martyrs) who were killed during Stalin’s purges.

Then, we’ll stop at the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theater, the largest theater in Central and Southeast Asia. Named after the famous Uzbekistan poet, Alisher Navoi, the halls and foyer are decorated with murals depicting plots from the writer’s poems. Dinner is on your own this evening.

DAY 15
Explore Tashkent
Meals included: B D Accommodations: Lotte City Hotel or similar

After breakfast, our discoveries in Tashkent continue with a visit to Abul Kasim Madrasah, a historical monument that has become a center for local artists and craftsmen. We’ll also get to wander through Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent’s famous green-domed market featuring acres of spices, produce, and traditional crafts. Then, we’ll hop on the metro to learn about the sweep of regional history at the History Museum of the People of Uzbekistan, followed by lunch on your own at the famous Central Asian Plov Center, a series of eateries specializing in plov, the savory Uzbek national dish made of rice, meat, and spices.

We’ll have time to rest this afternoon before gathering to celebrate our Silk Road adventure during a festive Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

DAY 16
Fly to U.S. or begin post-trip extension
Meals included: B
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight to the U.S. via Istanbul. Or, begin post-trip extension to Tajikistan: Dushanbe & Khujand.


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Price Per Day: $ 375 per day
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Flights & Transport

Only ground transport

  • Travel on city streets, paved and unpaved roads, with several walking tours along uneven streets
  • We drive overland in an air-conditioned coach

Group Size:

Standard Group

Maximum Number of People in Group: 18


Grand Turkmen Hotel
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Grand Turkmen Hotel is conveniently located near Ashgabat's Independence Monument and the National Museum. Hotel amenities include a restaurant, four bars, sauna, outdoor pool, and fitness center. There are 120 air-conditioned rooms, each with satellite TV, minibar, Internet access, and private bath with hairdryer.

Asia Khiva Hotel
Khiva, Uzbekistan

The Asia Khiva Hotel is close to Khiva’s historic Old Town, with a view of the city walls, and offers a swimming pool, spa, sauna, and restaurant and bar onsite. The 98 modern rooms include air conditioning, satellite TV, and a private bathroom.

Amelia Boutique Hotel
Bukhara, Uzbekistan

The Amelia Hotel is located in a 19th century home in the center of old Bukhara. Each of the 12 rooms is decorated with a different theme and offers air conditioning, a minibar, wireless Internet, and a modern private bathroom with hair dryer and toiletries.

Malika Classic Hotel
Samarkand, Uzbekistan

The Malika Classic Hotel is in the center of Samarkand, a short drive from the Shah-I Zinda and Gur-e Amir Complex, with an onsite bar and restaurant, business center, and gift shop. The hotel and its courtyard are decorated with traditional Uzbek carving and furniture. Each of the 26 rooms offers air conditioning, room service, satellite TV, minibar, and private bathroom.

Lotte City Hotel Tashkent Palace
Tashkent, Uzbekistan

The Tashkent Palace Hotel is situated near the center of Tashkent, close to the Amir Temur Square and the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. Along with a rooftop restaurant, piano bar, and gym facilities, there are 232 air-conditioned rooms at the hotel, each with telephone, satellite TV, and private bath with shower and hair dryer.

Trip ID#:


Meals Included:

  • 35 meals—daily breakfast, 11 lunches, and 10 dinners (including 2 Home-Hosted Dinners)

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