Dusted in eye-popping cobalts, cyans and sapphires, Uzbekistan has an incredible tangle of history to unravel and hidden sites to uncover.
From its former Persian rule and key location along the famed Silk Road, to which is owes much of its grand architecture and culture, to a short period under Soviet rule, this jumble of traditions is a treasure trove waiting to be cracked open. We veer you through Uzbekistan’s great sites, mingle with their nomads and cross into the autonomous Karakalpakstan Republic – a lesser known region often over shadowed by the other ‘stans’. Karakalpakstan was once a rich delta feeding from the Aral Sea, part of the Silk Road and also a place of great Islamic learning. Now it barely survives. Almost completely deserted, the small republic provides a fascinating experience to the well healed traveller showcasing how regions can go from prosperous to destructed.
Wind back through Uzbekistan as you stay in hidden villages, live with locals and embrace the stunning scenery. Spend an evening under the stars in a yurt, deep in the Kyzyl Kum desert where the night sky will be one of the clearest and most spectacular star gazing experiences you may ever have.
Travel by land over the border to Tajikistan, the land of mountains, dotted with sapphire lakes and snow capped peaks. Stone villages scatter through the valleys, urging you to explore this landscape of sheer beauty. Travelling through Tajikistan is not easy. Roads are poor, hot water is a rarity and the locals are only just starting to warm to travellers. A destination that offers a true glimpse to a rare and remote way of life, Tajikistan’s serene beauty will not disappoint.
Welcome to Uzbekistan! Upon arrival in Tashkent airport, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is yours at leisure. Uzbekistan is the proud home to a spellbinding infusion of architecture and ancient cities, all deeply intertwined with the bloody, fascinating history of the Silk Road.
Overnight Miran Hotel or similar
After breakfast, meet your guide and depart for sightseeing in Tashkent. Visit the wonderful complex Khast Imam, located in the old part of the city which has been the biggest centre of Islamic culture in Uzbekistan for thousand of years. Continuing on, you will also visit Kukeldash madrasah, the largest madrasah and one of the most famous historical monuments of Tashkent. You will also have the opportunity to explore a local bazaar, Chorsu. This bazaar is one of the largest and most popular in the capital. Covered by seven domes tiled with coloured ceramic designs, mingle amongst the longest as they bargain and barter amongst themselves. Local farmers come from far and wide to sell products of their own production. Let your senses take over as you inhale the aromas of different eastern spices, vegetables and fruits.
Later this afternoon, transfer to the airport for your flight to Nukus. Nukus is the sixth-largest city in Uzbekistan, and the capital of the autonomous Karakalpakstan Republic. Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. (B)
Overnight Jipek Joli or similar
After breakfast, drive to Muynak where you will have a look at the former port now home to abandoned ships wedged into their final destination – the sand. This area is also known as the ‘Cemetery of Ships’.
Today’s lunch is with a local family. Enjoy learning about their local way of life as you share lunch with them, and in turn tell them about your lifestyle. This is sure to be an eye opening experience as your two worlds come together.
On your way back to Nukus, stop at Mizdakhan, a complex of historical monuments located on three hills and a plane between them. The flat top of the west hill is crowned with the ruins of Gyaur-Kala Fortress, built in the 4th century BC which you will also visit. (B,L)
Overnight Jipek Joli or similar
Depart early this morning as you drive towards Khiva. On the way visit Ayaz kala, an archaeological site housing the mud brick walls of three fortresses, and Toprak kala, an ancient settlement of an outstanding monument of culture of Khoresm from the 1-6th centuries A.D. Khiva is a city of approximately 50,000 people located in the Xorazm Region of Uzbekistan. According to archaeological data, the city was established in the beginning of the Christian era. It is the former capital of Khwarezmia and the Khanate of Khiva.
Explore the main sights and attractions of Khiva. Visit the Ichan Qala complex, an old town retaining more than 50 historic monuments and 250 old houses, dating primarily from the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. The most spectacular features of the Ichan Qala complex are its crenellated brick walls and four gates, one at each side of the rectangular fortress. This has recently become a UNESCO heritage site. Another highlight of your city tour includes visiting the Pakhlavan Mahmud, which is the holiest site in Khiva. It is the shrine of Khiva’s patron saint, Pakhlavan Mahmud, who was a fur hat maker and a famous poet of Khiva, and the dynastic burial complex of the Khiva Khans. Pakhlavan Mahmud was also a superb wrestler, winning every single of his wrestling matches as well as the hearts of the Khiva citizens who built a modest mausoleum for him on the site of his furrier workshop. (B)
Overnight Asia Khiva Hotel or similar
This morning you will transfer to the airport in Urgench for your flight to Bukhara. Spend the day exploring the fascinating city of Bukhara. Enjoy a city tour which takes you around the old city of Bukhara. Bukhara was a prominent stop on the Silk Road trade route between the East and the West, and a major medieval centre for Islamic theology and culture. It still contains hundreds of well-preserved mosques, madrassas bazaars and caravanserais, dating largely from the 9th to the 17th centuries.
Explore the sites of Chashmai-Ayub mausoleum, the Poyi-Kalon complex, Miri-Arab madrasah, Lyabi-Hauz complex, Samanids mausoleum, Nadir Devonbegi madrasah, Chor-Minor minarets and the Ark Citadel – this citadel is where ancient Bukhara once started. At the end of your city tour, transfer to your hotel for check in. (B)
Overnight Omar Khayam or similar
This morning you will transfer to Gijduvan, where one of the most popular ceramic schools is located. Here you will visit the Museum of Ceramics and learn about the importance of this traditional in local life.
Continue to Nurata town to visit the local mosque, Chashma, which has a spring water with holy water.
Continue driving out through the stunning rolling landscape towards your yurt camp in the Kyzyl Kum desert, which is the 16th largest desert in the world. Its name means Red Sand in Turkic languages. Once you have checked into your yurt, it is time to head off for an afternoon camel ride before enjoying some free time. Once the sun has set, enjoy dinner around the camp fire with your local hosts serenading you with traditional folk songs beneath the stars. (B,D)
Overnight in a Yurt
After a breakfast, visit Aydarkul desert lake, a turquoise, crystal clear lake and one of the most beautiful places in Uzbekistan. If the weather permits, you may like to take a swim! Enjoy a picnic on the shore of the lake taking in the tranquil setting before you transfer to the village of Asraf, where you will become fully immersed in the life of the locals. Local people build themselves houses of small stones, rocks and clay. They plant and collect fruits and vegetables to cook for their meals which are all cooked in the open-fire oven. Each family has a few head of livestock and poultry, which provide eggs, milk, meat and wool. Whilst with your host family, enjoy a masterclass to learn how to bake Uzbek bread. (L,D)
Overnight in a local guesthouse
Awake to embrace the lifestyle of the local villagers once more and embrace the purity of the neighbourhood. After lunch, you will transfer to Samarkand. Samarkand is a fascinating city in Uzbekistan known for its mosques and mausoleums. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. This afternoon, explore the main attractions in Samarkand including the Registan, which is a plaza bordered by 3 ornate, majolica-covered madrassas dating to the 15th and 17th centuries. You also have the chance to explore Gur Emir, the towering tomb of Timur (Tamerlane), founder of the Timurid Empire. Other points of interest include visiting the Shakhizinda, which is a necropolis in the north-eastern part of Samarkand and Bibikhanum Mosque which is one of the most important monuments of Samarkand. (B,L)
Overnight Diyora Hotel or similar
This morning, you will drive to the village of Tersak (approx 45 km). Upon arrival, you will be welcomed by a local family who will join you for tea and oriental dried fruits. Walk through this quaint village and discover the beautiful mountain landscapes of the region. This is a great chance to observe the everyday life of the people and witness their time frozen traditions. Continue to the Tachta Karacha mountain pass (approx 25 km). From here, you have a panoramic view of the snow-covered Pamir Altay chain. Hike through the ‘Devil Valley’, which takes its name from the unusual rock formations. Legend has it that the sorcerers and witches held their sacrificial ceremonies here. The locals believe that there is ground energy here, which makes the milk of all the cows that pass through the area even better. After your walk, continue to Shakhrisabz (approx 25 km). Transfer to the railway station for your train back to Tashkent. Enjoy dinner on arrival. (B,D)
Overnight Miran Hotel or similar
Today you will travel to the Oybek border point (140km, approx. 2 hours) and then on to Khudjand. This will take approximately 4-6 hours depending on how long it takes to cross the border. Khudjand was formerly known as Khodjend or Khodzhent until 1936 and Leninabad until 1991, is the second largest city of Tajikistan and the capital of the northernmost province of Tajikistan, now called Sughd. Khudjand is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia, dating back about 2,500 years. It is situated on the Syr Darya at the mouth of the Fergana Valley and was a major city along the ancient Silk Road. Today, you will visit the biggest bazaar- Panjshanbe, mausoleum of Sheikh Muslihiddin, the complex of Kamoli Khujandi, and the Tajik sea. Lunch today is in a local restaurant. (B,L,D)
Overnight Khujand Deluxe Hotel or similar
Travel today from Khudjand to Iskanderkul which will take approximately 4 hours. Iskanderkul is a mountain lake of glacial origin in Tajikistan’s Sughd Province. It lies at an altitude of 2,195 metres on the northern slopes of the Gissar Range in the Fann Mountains. Today you will also see Niagara Fanns – waterfall from which water falls from 35m. Zmeinoe Lake is beautiful as well and you will also spend time here. This evening, enjoy a homestay in Saratog village. Take an evening walking tour through the village. (B,L,D)
2 nights Local Guesthouse
Spend the day exploring and walking through the breathtaking Fann Mountains. The Fann Mountains are part of the western Pamir-Alay mountain system and are primarily located in Tajikistan’s Sughd Province between the Zarafshan Range to the north and the Gissary Range to the south. This is definitely a once in a lifetime experience that you will not forget! Today you will hike Alexander the Great Mountain. (B,L,D)
Transfer from Iskanderkul Lake to Dushanbe which will take approximately 3 hours. Dushanbe, on the Varzob River, is the capital of Tajikistan. The remainder of the day is at leisure. (B,L,D)
2 nights Gostinitsa “Meridian” or similar
In the morning, visit the Hissar Fortress which is part of the Hissar complex, one of the main Tajikistan highlights. What remains today is a portion of the wall and the gate towers, which are representative of the 18th and 19th century style. The area has been inhabited since antiquity and features an 8th century mosque, but it was the emirs who inhabited the fortress and the Silk Route traders that made Gissar a center of commerce and learning .You will also have an opportunity today to visit Old Medressa (Madrasai Kuhna) (16-17 century), Madrasai Nav (17-18 century) and the Caravan Saray as well. Later on you will have the opportunity to visit the Museum of National Antiquities with exhibits primarily from Tajikistan’s pre-Islamic civilizations: the Greek, Bactrian, Buddhist, Hindu, and Zoroastrian periods. The most notable piece in the museum is the largest, fifteen-hundred-year-old reclining Buddha statue. Later, enjoy strolling around the big Ismoili Somoni Monument – the forefather of Tajik nation, founded in the Main Square and Rudaki Park in the centre of city as well. Try the taste of Tajik tea and hot bread in public teahouses – called Choikhona – most of which are decorated in traditional, colourful Tajik style. Lunch today is in a traditional India restaurant and following lunch, you will explore the ancient oriental bazaar and some craft workshops. Dinner this evening is at a restaurant named ‘Kishmish’ with ethnic music and performances. (B,L,D)
Today following breakfast, the day is yours at leisure until it is time to transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.