The 5 Stan-s - Follow in the footsteps of Genghis Khan

The 5 Stan-s - Follow in the footsteps of Genghis Khan 1980 , 21 Days

Follow in the footsteps of Genghis Khan as you delve into the vast deserts, rolling steppe, fertile valleys and majestic mountains that form the backdrop to the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Amongst this varied landscape you will see traditional villages, ancient towns and modern cities which tell stories of advancing Greek and Persian armies, marauding Mongolian hordes, traders selling their wares along the Silk Road, philosophers, astronomers, Communist experiments and post-Soviet eccentrics.

This epic trip through the heart of Central Asia will take you to intrinsically tiled ancient mosques, alpine lakes bordered by yurt camps, grand monuments, rural villages, colourful markets and the famous Darvaza gas crater - the flaming “Gates to Hell”.

Chon-Kemin Valley - picturesque high-mountain natural complex in Kyrgyzstan
Isskyk Kul - "the pearl of Kyrgyzstan" and second largest mountain lake in the world
Charyn Canyon (Kazakhstan) - often compared to the Grand Canyon because of its impressive colorful rock formations
Iskanderkul Lake (Tajikistan) - one of the most exquisite lakes in all of the former Soviet Union nations
♦ Khast Imam Complex (Uzbekistan) - containing the ancient holy Quran of Caliph Osman
 Kyzylkum Desert - literally translated as "Red Sands Desert" - the 15th biggest in the world
Darvaza gas crater - also knows as "The Doors to Hell", one of the most fascinating sights in Tukmenistan
Ancient historical cities
Beautifully-tiled mosques and madrasas

View Route Map

Day 1: Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan)
Arrive Bishkek. After hotel check-in our guide will take us on a city tour in the charming capital of Kyrgyzstan, the greenest city in Central Asia. Our sightseeing program in Bishkek includes stops at the Oak Park, Central Square Ala – Too, The Philharmonic Hall and the Victory Square. -/-/-

Day 2: Bishkek - Burana - Chon Kemin Valley
Early start from Bishkek heading East and after 80 km we arrive at our first stop - Burana Tower. We continue driving further into the mountains to a guesthouse in the beautiful Chon-Kemin Valley, where we will have lunch upon arrival. In the afternoon you can have a walk in the village, observe the life of the local people, or optionally go for a short horse riding tour into the surrounding hills. Dinner and overnight in the guesthouse. B/L/D

Day 3: Chon Kemin - Issyk Kul lake (270km, 6h)
After breakfast we drive to Issyk Kul - the “Pearl of Kyrgyzstan”. On the way, we stop in Kochkor to see how traditional felt carpets are made. Shortly after Kochkor we arrive at Issyk Kul and drive along the southern shore to the “Skazka” or “Fairytale” canyon. The canyon derived its name from its bizarre landscape with fabulous formations from rocks. From there it is just a few more minutes’ drive to lake Issyk Kul- the second-largest mountain lake in the world, after Titicaca. Located at an altitude of 1600m, it is a slightly saline lake with no outlet, surrounded completely by the Tien Shan Mountains. Just 200 meters away from the lake, there is a nice yurt camp which will be the place for our overnight stay (up to 4 people in a yurt, shared bathroom facilities). B/-/D

Day 4: Issyk Kul Lkae - Jety Oguz - Karakol - Tepke (ca. 150km, 4-5h)
We continue to the East along the southern shore of Issyk Kul towards the town of Karakol. On the way to Karakol, we drive into the side valley of Jety Oguz, famous for its two red rock formations called “Seven Bulls” and “The Broken Heart”. In Karakol, we will have a short sightseeing tour, including the Dungan Mosque, built in 1904 with no metal nails, the wooden Russian Orthodox Church which has been standing since 1869 and the small historical Museum of Karakol. B/-/D

Day 5: Karakol (Kyrgyzstan) - Charyn Canyon (Kazakhstan) - Almaty (400km, 7-8h)
Today we cross the mountains into Kazakhstan and drive to Almaty, former capital and biggest city of Kazakhstan. The road is long and partly not in a very good condition, bust about half-way, we will stop to see one of the most famous natural sights of Kazakhstan – Charyn Canyon. The canyon is often compared to the Grand Canyon, although it is much smaller in size with a total length of 80-90 kilometers. The part of the canyon we will visit is known as “Valley of Castles” for its unusual rock formations. Arrive Almaty late in the afternoon. B/-/-

Day 6: Almaty
Almaty is the largest city of Central Asia’s richest country, Kazakhstan. Until 1997 it was the country’s capital and today it still remains the country’s business and educational center. Roads are wide and tree-lined and there are good views of the Zailisky Ala-Too mountains that form a backdrop to the city. The name Almaty means “the place with apples” and it is believed that this is where apples originated from.
We will visit Panfilov Park to see the most famous sight of Almaty, Zenkov Cathedral. It was built in 1904 without a single metal nail and is one of the world’s tallest wooden buildings. In the same Park is the impressive Soviet Glory Memorial. . Adjacent to the park is the Museum of Musical Instruments. On display are many traditional instruments from the region. In the afternoon, we drive half an hour up to Medeo ice skating rink and take a cable car to enjoy a nice view at the top of Shymbulak skiing area.  B/-/-

Day 7: Almaty (Kazakhstan) - Dushanbe (Tajikistan) | City Tour
After breakfast transfer to Almaty Airport to catch Air Astana flight to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. Originally, Dushanbe was a small village around a market that took place every Monday – even the “Dushanbe” translated from Persian means Monday. It was during the Soviet Union that it became the industrial center of Tajikistan.
We will meet your Tajik guide, transfer to the hotel for check-in and then we will have a walk to the Botanical Garden. our sightseeing will include visit to the Ismail Samani Statue and the Rudaki park, dedicated to the great Persian poet Rudaki, who also lived during Samanid time in the 9th century. B/-/-

Day 8: Dushanbe - Iskander Kul - Penjikent (290km, 7h), Fann Mountains & Pamir highway Tour
Today after an early breakfast we drive to Iskanderkul Lake, named after Alexander the Great. Triangular in shape, it is considered one of the most exquisite lakes in all of the former Soviet Union nations, nestled in the Fan Mountains on 2,200m altitude. On the delightful route we will get to enjoy the rugged mountains scenery. We then take a short hike to a nearby waterfall, also called the Niagara Falls of the Fan Mountains.
We then continue driving for another four hours to reach the town of Penjikent. B/-/-

Day 9: Seven Lakes Day Trip (optional)
Today we take a bumpy ride into the Fan mountains, to explore the area of the “Seven Lakes”. The mountain valley is not far from Penjikent, but due to the terrible road condition this trip takes a full day. From the sixth lake there there is a short and easy hike of about two hours (both ways) to the seventh and highest lake Hazorchashma. Back to Penjikent for overnight. B/L/-

Day 10: Penjikent - Istarafshan - Khujand (270km, 6h-7h)
From Penjikent we drive up North to Istarafshan first and then to Khujand. The road to Istaravshan is very scenic, crossing Shahriston Pass. Istarafshan was founded by Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC and recently celebrated its 2500th anniversary. The Timurids of the 14th century called the city Ura-Tube. Today, Istarafshan is well known in Tajikistan for its blacksmiths, hand-crafting knives of high quality. We will visit the workshops of the blacksmiths near the entrance of the market. From Istarafshan it is another one and a half hours drive to Khujand - the second largest city of Tajikistan. B/-/-

Day 11: Khujand
Khujand is situated in the Fergana Valley on the Syr Darya river. It is another ancient city with history dating back to Cyrus the Great of Persia and Alexander the Great. Today it is the second largest city in Tajikistan with Tajikistan’s biggest market – Panjshanbe Bazaar. The city tour of Khujand includes the bazaar and the adjacent Maslihaddin Mosque, the historical Museum of Khujand, and Arbob palace. B/-/-

Day 12: Khujand (Tajikistan) - Tashkent (Uzbekistan) (180km, 4h)
Drive to Oybek border point between Khujand (Tajikistan) and Tashkent (Uzbekistan). Here we meet our Uzbek driver and take a bus for a 2 hour drive to reach Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan and largest city in Central Asia. The city tour includes a visit to the Old City area of Tashkent. Here we will find the Khast Imаm Complex which contains ancient holy Quran of Caliph Osman. Experience the bustling crowds of traders at Chor-Su Bazaar before taking a ride on the city’s famous Soviet-era metro system which like Moscow’s features some of the most ornately decorated stations in the world. Exit at Amir Temur Square Station to view the statue of the great conqueror and next to it, the grand Independence Square. We complete the city tour of Tashkent with a visit to the Applied Arts Museum. B/-/-

Day 13: Tashkent - Samarkand (270km, ca. 2h)
After early breakfast we have a transfer to the railway station to take high-speed Afrosiyob train to Samarkand. The trip takes about two hours. In the afternoon we begin our exploration of this fascinating city and former capital of Timurid Empire. We start the city tour with a visit of Siyob Bazaar and the impressive Bibi Khanum Mosque right next to it. Then you get to see Samarkand’s and Uzbekistan’s most famous landmark, the spectacular Registan Square. The focal point of ancient Samarkand is framed by three beautiful madrassas – Ulugbek, Sherdor and Tillya Kori. We finish the sightseeing today with a visit of Gur-Emir mausoleum, where Timur is buried. B/-/-

Day 14: Samarkand - Bukhara (train, ca.1.5 h)
On our second day we start the tour just outside the city - in the village Koni Ghil to explore the traditional way of making Samarkand paper from mulberry. When we come back to the city, we will visit Ulugbek’s observatory - once the biggest research center of Central Asia. Ulugbek was decades ahead of the West with its observations of the solar system and the earth and we will learn more about his story in this prestigious setting. Our next stop is Shah-i-Zinda, the necropolis where family members of Timur are buried. In the afternoon we will visit Afrasiyab Museum. Evening high-speed train to Bukhara and after 1,5 hours we arrive Bukhara for overnight. B/-/-

Day 15: Bukhara
Even the very name Bukhara conjures up images of the exotic Orient. For centuries, it was an important trading post and academic center. The Old Town has been well preserved and is crammed full of minarets, mosques, and madrassas. Its once notorious canals and pools, the source of many epidemics, have now been drained but the most famous, Lyabi-Hauz, is still there, an oasis shaded by mulberry trees in the heart of the city. Among the highlights of the walking tour in the Old Town of Bukhara are Kalon Complex, Ark Fortress, Bolo Hauz Mosque, Chiobs Mausoleum with the spring, local market, Museum of the Samanids and in the evening - the Synagogue and the puppet workshop. B/-/-

Day 16: Bukhara - Khiva (480 km, 8-9h driving)
A long day driving through the Kyzylkum desert. At the end of this arduous drive, the reward will be Khiva, where we will arrive in the evening. B/-/-

Day 17: Khiva
After breakfast we will have a walking tour of the city. Khiva is bursting with historical sites – and today we will get a chance to see the walled inner-city section of Khiva called Ichan Kala. This old section of town preserves more than fifty historic monuments and hundreds of old houses dating back hundreds of years. The entire citadel is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As we walk through the enormous city gates, we will be confronted by the glistening Islamic beacon, the Kalta-minor Minaret. Delve deep into the town on a guided tour that embraces all of the city sites, and includes an ascent of the Islam Khodja Minaret, the highest minaret in Khiva. B/-/-

Day 18: Khiva (Uzbekistan) - Kunya Urgench (Turkmenistan) - Darvaza Gas Crater (400km, 7-8h)
We head to the Turkmenistan border point Shavat-Dashoguz (60 km, 1 h.). We need to be at the border at 9:00 AM when it opens and go through formalities on both checkpoints. Cross 1.5 km neutral zone (minibus available for ca. 1 USD). With our invitation letter we will be able to get our Turkmenistan visa against 100 USD (banknotes should be in nice condition, not wrinkled or torn, to be accepted). On the Turkmenistan side of the border, we meet our Turkmen guide and driver and transfer to Kunya Urgench (100 km, 2 h.). Visit mausoleums of Turebek Khanym, Sultan Tekesh, Sultan Il Arslan, Najmad-din-Kubra, Sultan Ali. Discover the Kutlug Timur Minaret and Kyrk Molla hill. In the afternoon drive to Darwaza gas crater located in the middle of Karakym desert (270 km, 4-5 h.). Set up the camp. Enjoy a delicious fire-cooked meal for dinner near the burning gas crater. Overnight in tents (wild camping). B/-/D

Day 19: Darvaza - Ashgabat (280km, 5h)
On the way to Ashgabat we visit Erbent desert community. We arrive Ashgabat and after check-in at the hotel and having some rest we go for a short sightseeing tour (3-4 hrs) in Ashgabat – the capital of Turkmenistan which has experienced a boom of “Marble Architecture” for the past 25 years. The tour includes a visit of the National Museum of History, the Arch of Neutrality, and the newly built Independence Park. End the tour at Terrace restaurant (7th floor) with dinner and a nice view of the Independence Park and buildings around. B/-/-

Day 20: Ashgabat - Goekdepe - Ashgabat (250km, 5h)
Today we have another busy day. After breakfast, we will drive to the beautiful Old Nisa fortress (UNESCO World Heritage site) – the earliest of Parthian Empire capitals, which is located in an atmospheric area on an irregular pentagon hill, at the foot of the Kopet-Dag Mountains. 14 hectares in size, the fort accommodates two semi-excavated complexes of Parthian period (III c. BC – III c. AD) - structures, designated as royal residence and temple complex. From Nisa fortress, we will continue to the Spiritual Mosque, one of the biggest mosques in Central Asia. Then drive back to Ashgabat, stopping en-route at National Memorial Complex “Halk Hakydasy” with WWII and the 1948 earthquake victims memorials. Before returning to Ashgabat we visit a farm in Geokdepe (50 km west of Ashgabat), where the famous Turkmen Akhal Teke horses are bred. B/-/-

Day 21: Departure

Click here for important pre-departure information 

Price Includes:
16 nights in standard 2** and 3*** hotels - rooms with private facilities
1 night in a homestay (shared accommodation/up to 6 people in a room)
1 night in a guesthouse (shared bathroom facilities)
1 night in a yurt (shared accommodation/up to 4 people in a yurt)
1 night in a tent (wild camping)
all meals according to the itinerary (B-breakfast
airport transfers on day 1 and 21 (there is an additional charge for transfers on different dates pre- or post-tour
it's not possible to arrange transfers to/from other places than airport-scheduled hotel-airport)
all transport and train tickets Tashkent - Samarkand - Bukhara
local English speaking guides and Penguin tour leader (at min.8 participants)

Not Included:
International flights
entrance fees
personal expenses
drinks and meals not mentioned
flight ticket Almaty-Dushanbe (ca. 130-150 EUR/to be confirmed upon request)

Additional Services:
One-day tour to Seven Lakes: 70 EUR


The 5 Stan-s - Follow in the footsteps of Genghis Khan (Rated 4.74 / 5 Based on 124 Reviews.)
1980 EUR
21 Days
Single Supplement
390 EUR
2230 EUR
21 Days
Single Supplement
390 EUR
Guaranteed departure
A single-room supplement is possible only in hotel accommodation (accommodation is always shared in homestays and yurts)
2230 EUR
21 Days
Single Supplement
390 EUR
Guaranteed departure
A single-room supplement is possible only in hotel accommodation (accommodation is always shared in homestays and yurts)
2230 EUR
21 Days
Single Supplement
390 EUR
Guaranteed departure
A single-room supplement is possible only in hotel accommodation (accommodation is always shared in homestays and yurts)
2230 EUR
21 Days
Single Supplement
390 EUR
Guaranteed departure
A single-room supplement is possible only in hotel accommodation (accommodation is always shared in homestays and yurts)

Currency fluctuations might cause correction of price at any time.

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