The 4 Stans - Central Asia In-depth

 “The Silk Road” is a term that conjures up fairytale-like images of long camel caravans travelling through bare deserts, of brave adventurers and merchants bargaining in exotic oriental markets. This network of routes, which stretched about 11 000 km (7 000 miles) and connected the East and the West, is a milestone in the development of the modern world and the connections between those regions and has a long history from a phenomenon with a great economic and cultural impact that it was back in the day to one of the most sought-after travel experiences that it is today. This epic trip takes you to four countries that were once the heart of the Silk Road – Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, where you will get to see intricately tiled ancient mosques, alpine lakes bordered by yurt camps, grand monuments, rural villages and colorful markets.

♦ Isskyk Kul - "the pearl of Kyrgyzstan" and second largest mountain lake in the world
♦ Iskanderkul Lake (Tajikistan) - one of the most exquisite lakes in all of the former Soviet Union nations
♦ Khiva - The inner town, or Itchan Kala, is encircled by brick walls, whose foundations are believed to be laid in the 10th century
♦ Bukhara - The town boasting more than 140 architectural monuments
♦ Samarkand - one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world (about 2,500 years old), prospering from its location on the trade route between China and Europe (Silk Road)


Day 1. Arrival in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan)
Arrival in Bishkek. Free time -/-/-

Day 2. Bishkek city tour + Ala-Archa gorge
Today 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. In the afternoon, we will take a tour to the picturesque Ala-Archa gorge. B/-/-

Day 3. 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 4. Chon Kemin – Kochkor – Sonkul
Еarly morning we drive to Sonkul lake through  beautiful mountain passes. We will stop for picnic along the way in some nice spot and arrive in time for dinner at the camp. Overnight in a yurtcamp (up to 4 people in a yurt). B/-/D

Day 5. Sonkul – Issyk-Kul
After breakfast we drive to Issyk Kul – the “Pearl of Kyrgyzstan”. On the way we will stop in Kochkor see the traditional felt show. Shortly after Kochkor we arrive at Issyk Kul. At arrival see the eagle hunting show, dinner and overnight in a yurtcamp. (4 people in a yurt, shared bathroom facilities May be 2 people in a yurt depending on availability).B/-/D

Day 6. Issyk-Kul- Karakol
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 Barskoon, it was one the favorite places to stay of a first Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin. Here we will do a short trek to the waterfall, have some free time for coffee and picnic before proceeding to another side valley -  Jety Oguz, famous for its seven red rock formations called “Seven Bulls” and “The Broken Heart”. Afterwards, we continue our drive to Karakol. Upon arrival, we 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. In the evening optionally we can enjoy a traditional Kyrgyz folk show in the guesthouse. Overnight in a guesthouse B/-/D

Day 7. 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 8. Almaty (Kazakhstan)
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 9. 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 10. Dushanbe – Iskander Kul – Penjikent (290km, 7h), Fann Mountains
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 11. 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/ - /-

Day 12. Penjikent – Samarkand (Uzbekistan)
After breakfast we are heading to the border with Uzbekistan. Departure time 09:30 We will cross at the Djartepa border point. On the way there we will visit the ruins of the ancient city of Sarazm, dating back to the 4th millennium BC which is included in the UNESCO world heritage list. After we cross the border, we have another 60km. before reaching Samarkand, where we will spend the night. B/-/-

Day 13. Samarkand –Bukhara
Sightseeing in Samarkand: the famous Registan Square with the three beautifully decorated madrassahs, the Bibi Khanum Mosque, the Gur-Emir Mausoleum, the Shah-i-Zinda necropolis, Ulugbek observatory.  Evening bullet train to Bukhara (21h00-22h40). Overnight in Bukhara. B/-/-

Day 14. Bukhara
Today is dedicated to exploring Bukhara’s highlights. Even the very name Bukhara conjures up images of the exotic Orient. For centuries, it was an important trading 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 оthers. B/-

Day 15. Bukhara – Khiva
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 16. Khiva - Tashkent
After breakfast we start our tour of Khiva. 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. We will delve 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. In the late afternoon we are heading to the railway station to take the overnight train to Tashkent (shared 4-bed sleeping compartment). B/-/-

Day 17. Tashkent
After a short break, we begin our tour of Tashkent. We will visit some of the highlights of the city - the Khast Imаm Complex which contains ancient holy Quran of Caliph Osman, the busy Chor-Su Bazaar, the grand Independence Square. We will also take 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. B/-/-

Day 18. Departure
Transfer to the airport for departure. B/-/-

Price Includes:
12 nights in standard 2** and 3*** hotels (rooms with private facilities)
1 night in homestay (shared accommodation (might be up to 6 people)/ shared bathroom facilities)
1 night in guest house
2 nights in yurt camps (shared 4-people yurts,shared bathroom facilities)
1 night on an overnight train (4-bed shared sleeping compartments)
all meals according to the itinerary (B-breakfast,L -lunch,D-dinner)
airport transfers on days 1 and 18
all ground transport according to the itinerary
bullet train Samarkand - Bukhara
local English-speaking guides
tour leader from Penguin Travel (at min. 8 people)
single room supplement is possible only in hotel accommodation

Not Included:
international flights
entrance fees
personal expenses
drinks and meals not mentioned
flight ticket Almaty-Dushanbe (ca. 150 EUR)

Additional Services:
One-day tour to Seven Lakes: 70 EUR
Supplement for 2-bed yurts and train compartment: on request and depending on availability


The 4 Stans - Central Asia In-depth (Rated 4.92 / 5 Based on 56 Reviews.)
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