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Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan Secrets Tour - 1 863.42

Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are two of our favourite destinations. In the ‘Secrets tour’, we will explore some of the sites that are even more off the beaten track. We’ll see a truly amazing mix of Silk Road and Soviet histories as we explore both the main attractions and some of the more unique sites in these two fascinating Central Asian republics.

In Uzbekistan, we will explore the biggest working solar furnace in the world and ride some roller coasters at Tashkentland. We will also peer into one of the least visited places on earth, the Tajik enclave of Sarvan, as we explore the hidden gem that is the Fergana Valley.

In Turkmenistan, we’ll be the only tourists exploring Konye Urgench, a UNESCO world heritage site, and the former capital Khwarezm, a part of the Achaemenid Empire. We will, of course, visit the amazing and truly spectacular ‘Gates of Hell’, camping there overnight, and finally finishing in Ashgabat. We might even ditch the tour bus and catch a regular public bus to see some of the sites of Ashgabat.

This tour is great for those who want to explore these amazing countries a little bit more in depth or for returners.

Day 1 – Monday 22nd May

  • You'll have plenty more opportunities to try plov, but there's no better welcome to Uzbekistan than lunch at the Plov Centre. This gigantic hall, decorated as if for a wedding in the 1980's, is set up for large numbers of people to eat plov in. Mixed and cooked just outside by an army of Uzbek women, it is some pretty good plov, but more than that, it is an exceptionally unique experience.
  • Visit Tashkent Land, Central Asia's answer to Disneyland. With it's faded welcome sign, crumbling gift shop, and creaky rides, this is definitely a step back in time. Most tourists don't make it to this gem of Soviet infrastructure, but we just can't resist it. cIf you're really game, you can try out the “Boomerang” roller coaster, or if you'd like something a bit more relaxing, you can take a ride on the “African tour”, a boat trip through the jungleland.
  • Go to Tashkent TV Tower for fabulous views of the city.

Day 2 – Tuesday 23rd May

  • Our first stop will be the 'Museum of Railway Techniques'. This outdoor museum is full of all sorts of old locomotives, and they don't mind us climbing all over them. We can even take a little train ride around the train museum. You don't have to be a train lover to enjoy this charming museum.
  • We'll go into the Bunyodkor Stadium, the home ground of the much loved Tashkent-based Bunyodkor FC, and the pride of the Uzbek sporting world.
  • Away from the grand avenues, we'll explore the narrow lanes and mud brick houses and madrassahs of the old town, before visiting the huge Chorsu Bazaar, an incredible open-air complex which attracts people from all over Uzbekistan where we'll stop for lunch.
  • Leaving Tashkent, we'll drive to Parkent district where we've been granted permission to visit the largest solar furnace in the world.
  • On the way back to Tashkent, we'll make a stop at Khamkor Winery, one of the best wineries in Uzbekistan.
  • Dinner in a local restaurant.
  • Overnight at the Uzbekistan Hotel.

Day 3 – Wednesday 24th May

  • Set off from Tashkent and drive to the Fergana Valley. Once known as the “Golden Valley”, this picturesque oasis is famous for its cotton and silk production.
  • On the way, we'll visit Kokand City, Khudoyorkhan Madrassah, and the place where the famous Rishtan ceramics originated.
  • Arrive in Fergana.
  • Dinner and overnight in Fergana.

Day 4 – Thursday 25th May

  • Driving through the Fergana Valley, we'll visit Margilan silk weaving factory.
  • Arrive at the border control between Uzbekistan and the small Tajik enclave of Sarvan. With a population of around 150 people, this 14km x 600m stretch of land, although surrounded completely by Uzbekistan, is in fact part of Tajikistan. Following the break up of the Soviet Union, the now independent Central Asian states were forced to draw borders that hadn't previously existed in such a manner, and as a result, several enclaves and exclaves appeared around the Uzbek/Tajik/Krygyz border. Going to these enclaves is generally very difficult for locals and foreigners alike, and the roads are often completely blocked off due to political tensions.
  • Return to Tashkent.

Day 5 – Friday 26th May

  • Drive to Samarqand by bus.
  • Once known as the “Pearl of the Muslim World”, Samarqand is a city synonymous with the Silk Road, full of towering minarets, shimmering domes, and home to a splendid technicolour bazaar, which you will have time to wander around and discover for yourself.
  • Free time in the afternoon.
  • Wine tasting at the Khovrenko Winery, a small local wine factory with adjoining museum (admission not included).
  • Dinner at a local restaurant (included in the tour cost).

Day 6 – Saturday 27th May

  • The highlight of your tour around Samarqand is likely to be the famous and spectacular Registan Square, which is flanked by three beautifully decorated, sparkling blue mosaic madrassas. Once the city's commercial centre, Registan Square is modern Samarkand's centre piece and a pride of the Silk Road.
  • We'll also pay visits to Biki Khanum Mosque, Siyab Bazaar, and the Afrasiyab Museum – a museum dedicated to the history of Samarqand, especially since the time of Alexander the Great's Conquest.
  • Visit Romanenko Fashion Show House, a place that is difficult to describe. This small suburban house has been transformed into a completely unique textile workshop where thirty men and women redesign ancient Central Asian clothing into colourful, modern designs.
  • Free time in the evening.

Day 7 – Sunday 28th May

  • Drive to Bukhara, known as the “Holy City”, crossing the river Amu Darya and the Kizilkum Desert.
  • Explore the main sites of Bukhara in the afternoon.
  • We'll visit the Samanid Dynasty Mausoleum, Lyabi Hauz Square, Bolo-Hauz Mosque, the elegant blue-tiled Ulughbek Madrassa (Islamic school), the summer palace of Bukhara's last Emir and much more.
  • On your way in and out of town, you won't be able to miss a huge structure that looks like a giant ark. Known as the Ancient Ark Fortress, this was the Palace of Bukhara's Emirs, and parts of it are still open for us to visit.
  • Folklore Show in Nodir Devon Begi Madrassah in the evening.
  • Spend the night Bukhara.

Day 8 – Monday 29th May

  • Drive to Khiva.
  • During our tour of Khiva, we’ll visit the Kunya Ark, Kalta minor, Muhammad Aminkhan and Muhammad Rahimkhan medrassas, Juma mosque and Minaret, Islam Khodja minaret, Tash Hauli palace, and others.
  • After dinner, we'll take a short walk outside the old city walls to an amusement park where you can go on some rides if you like.

Day 9 – Tuesday 30th May

  • Cross the border into Turkmenistan.
  • Visit Konye Urgench.
  • Traverse the sand dunes of the Karakum Desert to get to Darvaza.
  • Watch the sunset over the fiery crater and experience dusk turn to dark at this breathtaking site.
  • Set up tents near the Gates of Hell and camp near the fiery crater.
  • Campfire dinner (included in the tour cost).

Day 10 – Wednesday 31st May

  • Drive towards Ashgabat, stopping at Erbent on the way, one of the few nomadic villages still left in Central Asia.
  • Visit two other craters – one full of mud, one full of water.
  • Passing Ashgabat, we'll visit Kipchak to see the resplendent Turkmenbashy Mosque, where Turkmenbashy is buried beside his mother, father, and two brothers in their white marble mausoleum.
  • Continue on to Nisa, a UNESCO site, which was once the capital of the Parthian Empire.
  • Our final stop for the day will be Kow Ata, in the outskirts of Ashgabat. This natural underground thermal spring is said to have many medical attributes, but is also used by locals as a swimming hole and makes for a very fun and relaxing swim. After a dusty night in the desert, there will be nothing more refreshing.
  • After a revitalising swim in the lake, we'll enjoy lunch at one of the shashlik restaurants just outside the entrance to the cave.
  • Refreshed and revitalised, we'll continue to Ashgabat.
  • Free time in the evening.

Day 11 – Thursday 1st June

  • Driving tour of Ashgabat's main sites, including Independence Park and Independence Monument, the Monument to the Constitution, the Arch of Neutrality, Lenin Park, Ertogrul Ghazi Mosque, and the Alem Centre, which is the complex that is home to the Wheel of Enlightenment, the largest indoor ferris wheel. And YES, for just $1, you can even take a ride!
  • If the food court at the Alem Centre's open, we'll have lunch there; however, it is often closed, in which case we'll go to the Russian Bazaar. Either way, lunch will cost around $1 - 3.
  • Visit the university bookshop where you can find books written by and about the president of Ashgabat and Turkmenistan in English. They also have postcards and posters, and if you're lucky, they might even have a copy of the Ruhnama, the book written by Turkmenbashy.
  • Visit Anau on the eastern outskirts of Ashgabat, and see the remains of Anau Fortress and Sheikh Jemaladdin Mosque, which was destroyed in the 1948 earthquake.
  • Night tour of Ashgabat. With the white marble buildings lit up by brightly coloured neon lights, Ashgabat is a truly spectacular place after dark.
  • We'll make a stop at the Palace of Happiness in the foothills of the Kopetdag Mountains, from where you can get a fantastic panorama of the whole city.
  • And another stop at the Altyn Asyr Sowda Merkezi, a new shopping centre in Independence Park which is in the shape of a pyramid, and the outside of which is covered in fountains and colourful lights. We'll enjoy dinner at the Minara restaurant on the fifth floor, from which you'll get 360-degree views of the city lights, whilst enjoying a nice cold draught beer.

Day 12 – Friday 2nd June

  • End of tour.
  • Transfers to the airport according to your flight times.

Price Inclusive of:

  • LOI and registration in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan
  • All transport according to the itinerary
  • Local English speaking guide
  • Western YPT guide
  • Accommodation according to itinerary in twin/double share
  • Entrance fees to all sites outlined on the itinerary
  • Breakfast every day
  • Dinner on Day 5

Price Exclusive of:

  • Travel arrangements to Tashkent at the start of the tour, and from Ashgabat at the end of the tour
  • Visas for Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan
  • Meals other than those stipulated (allow up to $10 per meal)
  • Drinks at meals
  • Single supplement for accommodation ($195)
  • Tips for guides (not obligatory, and up to your personal discretion)
  • Any other personal expenses such as souvenirs

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