Registan Ensemble

The Silk Road

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Traveller ratings
4.2 / 5 from 12 reviews >
Trip code: 
AXF
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Culture & Discovery Holidays
Min age:
16
Group size:
4–16

Explore the best of Silk Road in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

For centuries great caravans of merchants made their way through deserts, across steppes and over mountains, creating trade routes between the great civilisations of the Mediterranean and China. Art and religion spread both East and West and grand cities with impressive architecture sprouted alongside nomadic tribes of eagle-hunters. Follow in the footsteps of Marco Polo and uncover the natural and cultural treasures of Central Asia on this two week trip through Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan taking in some of the Silk Road’s best sites, from Bukhara and Samarkand to the Tien Shan Mountains.

Highlights

  • Samarkand and Bukhara : two of the greatest cities on the Silk Road
  • Almaty with its leafy streets and cafe culture
  • Kyrgyzstan’s spectacular mountain scenery
  • Issyk Kul Lake

Key information

  • Accommodation in en suite standard hotels with one night in a yurt and one night on a sleeper train
  • 14 breakfasts and 3 dinners included
  • Fast paced itinerary
  • Travel by minibus or car-caravan and train
  • Experience local culture and nature

What's included

  • All accommodation
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout (2 separate leaders)
  • All breakfasts and 3 dinners
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
  • Arrival & departure transfers

What's not included

  • Travel Insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request)
  • Visas or vaccinations

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Start Tashkent; city tour.

    Those on the group flights arrive early this morning.

    In the afternoon we will start our sightseeing of this Central Asian capital. This will include visiting Independence Square flanked by public buildings and water fountains and also the Old City with its mausoleums and bazaar. Tashkent was largely destroyed by earthquakes in the 60's and was rebuilt in true Soviet style with pleasant leafy boulevards and lots of fountains to keep the heat down in summer. There are some very interesting museums as well as mosques.
    Hotel Arian Plaza or similar, Comfortable Hotel

  • Day 2

    Morning train to Samarkand, visit Registan Square and other sites of the city

    We catch the morning fast train to Samarkand arriving mid-morning. We spend the rest of today and tomorrow morning exploring Samarkand.

    Samarkand is steeped in history, dating back 2,500 years and impacted by such figures as Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, who made it the capital of his empire in the 14th Century. Its central position on the Silk Road meant that it was an important stop on the route from Istanbul to Peking (now Beijing). At its heart is the grand Registan Square flanked by the three grand madrasahs of Ulughbeg (15th C), Sherdor (17th C) and Tilya Qori (17th C).

    Over the next day and a half we visit the grand square as well as the Gur Emir Mausoleum, burial place of Tamerlane, his sons and his grandson, Ulughbek. The Ulugbek Observatory built in 1420 by Tamerlane’s grandson who was not just a ruler but also a well-known astronomer. We move on to the oversized Bibi Khanum Mosque and Shakhi Zinda – the ‘Living King’ necropolis – with its series of mausoleums dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Our final visit is to the exotic Siab Bazaar with its fresh and dried fruit and nuts and other local food produce. The leader may shift the order the sites are visited.
    Dilshoda Hotel or similar, Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 3

    Explore Samarkand's Necropolis and Ulugbek's Observatory; transfer to Bukhara.

    This morning we continue our visit of Samarkands many sites. In the afternoon we drive to Bukhara, the best preserved of the Silk Road cities we visit.
    Aist Hotel or similar, Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Explore Bukhara's many historical sites.

    We spend two full days exploring Bukhara. The best preserved mediaeval city in Central Asia, this UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back over 2,000 years. Our city tour takes us to the Lyabi Khauz complex, built in the 16th and 17th centuries, this is the site of the oldest pool of its kind in Central Asia. The pool is surrounded by madrasahs and a khanaka (lodging house for travelling Sufis) including the largest madrasah in Bukhara, the 15th century Kukeldash Madrasah.

    We continue on to the Poi-Kalyan religious complex with its 48m Kalyan minaret dating back to the 12th century and the symbol of Bukhara; the large Kalyan Mosque (15th century) with its galleries topped by 288 domes; and the only active madrasah in the city, Bukhara Miri-Arab (16th century). Next is the Samanid Mausoleum, the oldest piece of Islamic architecture in Central Asia and burial site of the 10th Century Emir, Ismail Samani. Finally we visit the Ark, a 5th century citadel and the oldest building in Bukhara.
    Aist Hotel or similar, Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Another day exploring Bukhara before catching the late afternoon train to Tashkent.

    We continue our exploration of the sites of Bukhara.

    Later this afternoon we will catch the fast train back to Tashkent arriving in the capital in the evening. The train leaves Bukhara at 15:52 and arrives in Tashkent at 19:40.
    Hotel Arian Plaza

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Cross into Kazakhstan; visit Otrar and Arystanbab Mausoleum; on to Turkestan.

    We travel the short distance to the Kazakh border a mere 30kms away. Here we say goodbye to our Uzbek leader and hello to our leader for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

    Our first stop in Kazakhstan are the ruins of the town of Otrar. This once great silk road town was an important hub on the east-west trade route and is believed to have led to Genghis Khan’s invasion of Central Asia after a local ruler robbed the great Khan.

    We continue to the nearby Arystanbab Mausoleum. Though rebuilt a number of times, the original mausoleum was first built over 800 years ago over the tomb of the teacher Arystanbab said to be a contemporary of the Prophet Mohamed who lived for an extra 400 years.

    Our final destination for the day is the city of Turkestan.
    Yassi Hotel or Similar, Basic Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Visit the ruins of Sauran and the Silk Road sites of Turkestan, on to Shymkent for overnight train to Almaty.

    Our first visit today is the site of what was once one of the greatest cities along this section of the Silk Road, Sauran. Dating back to around the 13th Century, the city is one of the few to have survived the Mongolian onslaught which destroyed nearby Otrar. It later became capital to the Mongol White Horde as well as a military fortress under Tamerlane. Today the ruins have been partially excavated and partially left in their natural state.

    Returning to Turkestan we visit the city’s Silk Road era sites including Kazakhstan’s greatest historical site – the Kozha Akhmed Yasaui Mausoleum built by Tamerlane in the 14th C.

    We later drive to Shymkent to catch the overnight train to Almaty.
    Overnight Train

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    Full day exploring Almaty.

    Arriving early we have the whole day to explore Almaty with its backdrop of the Tien Shan mountains. With leafy streets and café culture, the former Kazakh capital has a distinctly European feel. We visit a number of sites such Zhenkov Cathedral, made entirely of wood and without the use of nails.
    Hotel Otrar or Similar, Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 9

    Day trip to Issyk and Turgen Gorge.

    We spend today exploring the countryside around Almaty. We first head for Issyk Lake (not to be confused with Issyk Kul Lake in Kyrgyzstan which we visit later on the trip). Set amidst thick forests and pastures with wild flowers, this alpine lake is located at 1,760m above sea level within the Issyk Gorge. From here we continue to Turgen Gorge known for its beautiful natural scenery and waterfalls, some as tall as 40m. After a day spent exploring part of the Ile-Alatau region we return to Almaty for the night.
    Hotel Otrar or Similar, Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    Almaty to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan; afternoon visit Bishkek.

    Heading for the border we soon find ourselves in our third and final country: Kyrgyzstan. The mountainous country was completely closed to outsiders during the Soviet Union era but has since opened up to flaunt its spectacular natural beauty and lingering nomadic culture. Our first stop, however, is Kyrgyzstan’s modern capital city, Bishkek.

    This afternoon we spend some time visiting the city’s main sites taking in Ala Too Square, Parliament House, the White House, the change of the guard, the State History Museum, the Lenin Statue and the Manas Monument.
    Hotel Asia Mountains or similar, Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 11

    Issyk Kul and Djety Oguyz Gorge where we overnight in a yurt camp.

    We continue our journey through the Tien Shan Mountains and head towards Issyk Kul Lake. The second largest salt lake in the world, after the Caspian Sea (and fast becoming the largest as the Caspian Sea recedes), it measures 70km by 180km and is almost 700m at its deepest point. Its name translates as Hot Lake and was given as, even in the depths of winter and despite being just above 1,600m, it never freezes. The area around the lake is a mixture of forest and meadow with a backdrop of towering mountains and glaciers.

    We drive along the southern shore of Issyk Kul before arriving at Jety Oguz Gorge where we will spend the night in a traditional yurt.

    Yurts are semi-permanent tents used by many nomadic people of Central Asia. The camp we stay at is made up of 6 sleeping yurts (each accommodating 4 to 5 people of the same gender) and one communal/dining yurt. There is a shower and two flush-toilets but hot water for washing has to be requested specifically. There is also a generator for electricity for 3 hours in the evening. Spending a night in a yurt camp is a fantastic experience and a small insight into a way of life which has gone on for centuries.
    Yurt

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 12

    Morning hike (3hrs); to Karakol.

    Jety Oguz translates as the Valley of Seven Bulls named after the distinct seven red-coloured rocks found in the gorge. We can learn about the local legends behind the name as we go on a 3 to 4-hour hike through the gorge, either walking along the river or going to a nearby waterfall. We should have the option of attending a Golden eagle hunting demonstration before moving on (this depends on whether the Golden eagle hunter is available).

    From here it’s a relatively short drive to the town of Karakol on the eastern side of Issyk Kul. A ski resort in winter, Karakol is a quaint town of cottages and shady avenues. We visit the Dungan Mosque, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Victory Park as part of a short tour. Tonight we enjoy a home cooked meal at a local Uygur or Dungan family.
    Green Yard Hotel or similar, standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 13

    Cholpon Ata on the northern shore of Issyk Kul Lake, burial mounds and petroglyphs. mounds and petroglyphs.

    We start with a visit of the Przhevalsky Museum dedicated to the travels and geographical studies of Russian scientist and geographer Nicolay Przhevalsky whose expeditions explored much of Central and East Asia.

    We then continue around the lake along the north shore, passing Scythian burial mounds, towards Cholpon Ata. We explore the nearby petroglyphs which are between 4,000 and 1,400 years old. The rest of the day is spent relaxing on the beach or wandering around town. There is also the option of doing a boat trip.
    Karven Club Resort or similar, Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 14

    Travel through the Boon Gorge, and visit the Burana tower before returning to Bishkek.

    We leave the lake behind and head toward the capital Bishkek. En route we cross the Boom Gorge. Boom ominously means ‘evil spirit’ and early travellers, in the 19th Century found the journey arduous and fraught with setbacks. Our next stop is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Burama Tower, an 11th century minaret and the first of its kind in Central Asia.

    We eventually arrive back in Bishkek for our final night.
    Asia Mountains Hotel or similar, Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 15

    End Bishkek.

    The trip ends this morning in Bishkek. Those on the group flights will be transferred to the airport for their flight back to London arriving later today.

    Meals included: Breakfast

Essential Info

Visas

Visa Kazakhstan

A number of countries including the UK, USA, Australia, Germany, Belgium and France can enter Kazakhstan for up to 15 days without a visa. This agreement is valid until the 31 December 2017 and will be under review after that. Other nationalities, including Canadian, require a visa which can be obtained in advance.

Kyrgyzstan

British, most European and most other nationalities, including Australians, New Zealanders, Americans and Canadians do not require visas for visits of under 60 days. All other nationalities should contact the nearest Kyrgyzstan Embassy if in doubt.

Uzbekistan

All clients require a visa for Uzbekistan. Clients from the UK, USA, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Spain and Switzerland no longer need an authorisation letter first to obtain a visa. Should you need an authorisation letter please contact Exodus at least 8 weeks before departure as we can arrange this for you through our local operator. For further information see http://www.exodus.co.uk/assets/travelink/Uzbekistan.pdf

Vaccinations

Kazakhstan

No vaccinations are compulsory, but vaccination against typhoid, polio, tetanus, hepatitis A and Diptheria are recommended.

Kyrgyzstan

No vaccinations are compulsory, but vaccination against typhoid, polio, tetanus, hepatitis A and Diptheria are recommended. The risk of Malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or Travel Clinic for advice.

Uzbekistan

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Hepatitis A. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

Eating and Drinking

Common dishes in the region include shish-kebabs and plov which you’ll probably see plenty of. The kebabs can be from different meats including lamb and beef whilst plov is a rice based dish (variants elsewhere are known as pilaf or pilau rice). Another main food is bread, especially in Uzbekistan where it is baked and sold everywhere. There are normally a couple opportunities to try home-cooked meals. Tea is also plentiful, both black and green and is drunk with most meals as well as throughout the day. Please note that vegetarian food choices may be rather limited. If you are strictly vegetarian or have any specialist dietary requirements please notify us well in advance. In the region the availability of certain specialised products for restricted diets, e.g. gluten-free or dairy-free, is minimal or non-existent and we strongly recommend you bring these specialised dietary items from home.

Weather

These areas of Central Asia have long, extremely hot summers, but the winters are very cold. The July and August departures may be rather hot in the lowlands with afternoon temperatures often reaching 35ºC and beyond. Other trips are planned for Spring and Autumn when the temperature should not be below 5ºC at night and may be up to 25-30ºC during the day. In the highlands of Kyrgyzstan temperatures are generally cooler. Sunny weather with clear blue skies should be experienced but there can be some rain in Spring and Autumn. Occasionally periods of unexpectedly hot or cold weather can be experienced.

Samarkand

Samarkand

Is this trip for you?

This is a fairly fast paced trip with long days and early starts in order to make the most of the areas we visit within two weeks. We spend two nights in Bukhara and two nights in Almaty, everywhere else we only spend one night. The roads are generally asphalted but there are some dirt road sections. We also use an overnight train. Most accommodation is modest but clean, mostly with private facilities. Tourist services and facilities can be patchy and erratic and tolerance and flexibility are required but the rewards are an insight into local life and a discovery of a beautiful and fascinating part of the world. Temperatures can vary greatly depending on time of year, time of day and location from very hot to fairly cold.

Accommodation

Hotel, Yurt and Sleeper Train

12 nights Standard Hotel, 1 night Yurt, 1 night sleeper train Most of the trip we stay in standard hotels, generally 2-star level with en suite bathrooms. One night is spent on an overnight train. On the train from Shymkent to Almaty we use 2nd class carriages which are made up of 4-berth cabins. These cabins are comfortable though don’t expect the Orient Express. Train-travel has long been a popular way of travelling around the ex-Soviet Union and this is a great experience and insight into a different side of Kazakh life. We also spend one night in a traditional yurt camp in the Jety Oguz gorge in Kyrgyzstan. Yurts are traditional housing of nomadic tribes across Central Asia and are generally quite cosy. The camp has 6 sleeping yurts, each normally shared between 4 and 5 people of the same gender and there are two toilets and one shower. Single supplements don’t apply to the night on the sleeper train or the night in the yurt camp.

Expert Blog Entries

The mountains will always draw us back to this majestic country: and now, with the return of a very special trip, the

  • Reviewed September 2016
    Barry Cooper

    The Silk Road

    I will review just the Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan elements of this tour as the schedule has been changed for 2017 omitting China but introducing Kazakhstan. I am sorry that the China element of the tour has been replaced because the visit to Kashgar at the time of the Kobban Festival was memorable. It is a tradition that every family should sacrifice a sheep at this Festival and there were sheep everywhere and the Sunday Cattle Market was a highlight of the tour with the donkeys.sheep, cattle, goats camels and dzos for sale. The advantage of not visiting China is that you will not be a victim of the rudeness and contempt shown towards you by the Chinese Border Guards although the Immigration Staff could not have been more friendly and helpful

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Each of the three countries had their own highlights:- Uzbekistan the magnificent of the architecture in Samarkand and Bukhara. The buildings although much restored owing to the numerous earthquakes were unforgettable in their grandeur. China The Kashgar Sunday Cattle Market and the Sunday afternoon when I went out alone to walk through old Kashgar and experience the place at my own speed Kyrgyzstan the mountains of Tien Shen.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The three Tour Leaders were excellent Dilshod in Uzbekistan aw excellent with a very thorough knowledge of the many sites we visited Saddiq in China was also excellent. He was a Uyghur and therefore had excellent knowledge of the local customs particularly at the time of the Kobban Festival Alexander in Kyrgyzstan was also excellent with again a full knowledge of the places we visited and also very patient as he watched us being delayed at the Chinese Crossing point at Torugart Pass.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is a very busy trip as has been mentioned and could be more hectic in the future as there will not be the three days in Kashgar to catch your breath and get the washing done! It is a trip which should be considered if you would wish to visit Samarkand and Bukhara and experience the little know beauty of Kyrgyzstan. The visit to Kazakhstan next year will put a whole new dimension on the trip and I am not sure that it will be a beneficial change. It was really three trips in one, Uzbekistan for its Buildings, China for the atmosphere and Kyrgyzstan for the landscape.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The Uzbek authorities are very drug aware and you should take great care in taking medicines through the Border Crossings. If you are taking prescribed medicines make sure that you have a copy prescription. They are also wary of religious books and I was questioned for carrying a copy of the New Testament in my suitcase.
  • Reviewed September 2016
    Janet D

    silk ROAD trip

    A varied and inspiring (but arduous) journey through Central Asia, from the magnificent mosques and mausoleums of Uzbekistan, to the bleak but beautiful mountain and steppe landscape of Kyrgyzstan, this trip delivered what it promised.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Tash Rabat was stunning - the unresolved history of the monument itself (monastery or caravanserai?), the awe-inspiring location, and the great box lunch we had there (best picnic location ever!). Samarkand and Bukhara do not disappoint - the vast edifices ordered by Timur are stunning (although the nature of the earthquake history means that most have been restored in some way), and there were few other visitors about when we went.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We had four leaders on our tour. Our leader in Uzbekistan and the leader for the second Kyrgyzstan leg were both brilliant. Hugely knowledgeable and experienced. Realised we were interested in good local food, and found us some great roadside local restaurants. The leader in China was knowledgeable and helpful in navigating the immense bureaucracy of China in general and Xinjiang in particular. Only the first Kyrgyzstan leader was a bit average (and she was leader for a day only anyway).

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Temperature: even when it is 40 degrees in Bukhara, border crossings at 3,000m+ mean a lot of standing about on two of the days, and in much lower temperatures (those border crossing / mountain passes are too remote to feature in most online weather reports), so be prepared, and don't rely alone on the online weather forecast for any of the cities en route - have a few extra layers to hand and something for your feet. Irkeshtam - the walk across the border crossing at Irkeshtam (mentioned in the Trip Notes- Day 7) - we reckoned it was around 6km in total by fellow-traveller's GPS, the first 500m+ are uphill, all with your luggage, AND (here's the rub...) this is all just after your arrival at 3,000m+. So although you can take it slowly, you need to be realistic, and expect to get a bit puffed - over 3,000m is enough to have an effect.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    There is a great deal of driving on this trip. And then there is more driving. The distances are huge. Even the fittest of us were pretty achy after so long sitting in a bus on so many days. But the Tien Shan mountains in those restricted border areas are stunning, and I can't imagine there are many other ways to see them. So I don't regret it. But if this trip appeals to you, do understand how much time there is on the road. The arduousness referred to above comprises all the road-time, and the hours and hours dealing with the bureaucracy. Land border crossings are often this way, I know, but it wears you down. Be prepared. I have sworn* never to complain about Heathrow again!! *fingers crossed behind back ;-) I am sorry that Exodus Trip notes don't go in for suggested background reading like they once did - members of our group had been reading Peter Hopkirk (either The Great Game, or Foreign Devils on the Silk Road) for a bit of the 19th century history of the region.
  • Reviewed August 2016
    John Daly

    Simmering the soul on the silk road

    There's never a dull moment in this full-on, activity packed, classic road and rail journey. Squeezing three contrasting countries into just 15 days is something of a challenge and it requires stamina, energy, good humour and an open mind to get the most out of it. With just five in the group, this felt like a private trip and the intensity and space certainly benefitted an excellent itinerary. Uzbekistan has the monuments, China provides the counterpoint and nomadic Kyrgyzstan oozes impossibly beautiful mountain and lakeland vistas. Throw-in the Russian influences and the echoes of Ginghis Khan, Tamerlane, Alexander the Great and Marco Polo and you have an intriguing concoction.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Bukhara is one of those rare places where you feel instantly at home, despite never having been there before. Beware, you may well be very tempted to stay there for quite some time. There really is something quite mystical about it. The Kashgar animal market was the highlight in China and the ever-present snow-capped Kyrgyz hinterland slow-simmered the soul. There's something for everyone. Fabulous.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Each country had its own, local leader. The Uzbek and Kyrgyz leaders were uniformly excellent with an infectious enthusiasm and love of their countries. The Chinese (Uigur) guide was rather less impressive.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for some long travelling days, frequent hotel changes and some very onerous border crossings. The reward is an experience that will lodge in your mind for quite some time.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This was my first experience of Exodus.
  • Reviewed July 2016
    Michael Costello

    The Silk Road

    As mentioned in the trip notes and supported by previous reviews the 15 day tour, while not physically strenuous, is a fast-paced journey through rapidly changing scenery, temperatures (and local currencies) as well as numerous border crossings that may test your patience, altitude-fitness (and luggage durability). However, the early starts and long days on the road are quickly forgotten when you view the imposing turquoise-domed mosques and mausoleums of Uzbekistan, the isolation and stunning mountain landscapes of Kyrgyzstan and the fascinating millennia-old cultures across the Uyghur region of western China. Every day there are many highlights – too many to list – and you will really appreciate the hundreds (or more?) stunning photos that will constantly remind you of your time on the Silk Road.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    On reflection, three moments of inspiration come to mind but the ‘common thread’ is imagining you are an ancient Silk Road traveller at these places. On route from Samarkand to Bukhara we visited an unremarkable and crumbling C11th caravanserai and the adjacent C14th water reservoir. The very long journeys to/from Kashgar (Kashi) revealed a barren and inhospitable alpine landscape that would have provided physical challenges to any traveller. Finally, a diversion on route from Torugart Pass to Naryn took us to the imposing fortifications of Tash Rabat in the windswept mountains. At these locations you don’t expect to be touched … but you are. (Tip: If the group leader suggests an interesting place or activity, which may incur additional cost, then just do it. You won’t be back in these parts for a very long time!)

    What did you think of your group leader?

    In my opinion our three group leaders – Dilshod (Uzbek), Alexandr (Kyrgyz) and Mohammed (Uyghur) – were terrific. All speaking English fluently, as well as multiple local languages, I found they knew their history, hotels, landmarks and restaurants very well. My snapshot – Dilshod’s ‘cotton fields’ narrative was memorable, Mohammed’s choice of the former British Consulate for dinner was brilliant and Alexandr’s use of tablet technology really was C21st-touring. Each appreciated when ‘photo stops’ (toilet breaks) were required, helpful at all times, especially when acting as the local currency exchange. Last, but not least, the coach drivers in each country were friendly, dependable and deserve to be rewarded at the end of their shift. (Tip: If you like ‘white-knuckle’ rides then sit in the front seat of a taxi on its way to Fergana Valley!)

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    As mentioned above and elsewhere, the two-week trip is exhausting enough changing hotels every day (except Kashgar) but if you plan additional weeks before and/or after (as I did) then fatigue may become a factor unless you are reasonably fit. In addition, the summer temperatures in Uzbekistan and China can make touring uncomfortable and you will get sunburn without a hat or sunscreen. On the flip side, bring a sweater and/or rain jacket because it can get very cool and wet when visiting the yurt, even in summer. (Tip: For non-UK passport holders, get the China visa early because the Uzbek ‘letter of invitation’ and subsequent visa application may take longer and cost more than you expect)

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This information is for any traveller who has a special diet for medical reasons. As an insulin-dependent diabetic used to low-GI foods, zero-sugar drinks and a strict eating regime I would recommend forgetting about this for two weeks, be more flexible and use common sense. You won’t find a suitable soft drink anywhere but green/black tea is served at every meal and you will drink litres of water each day whilst touring. You can choose to have lunch or not but it’s great to try different cuisines as part of the central Asian cultural experience. Ditto for dinner. My BGL levels were often 20+ but after only one week at home the levels are back to normal. (Tip: Enjoy the trip and don’t stress!)
  • Reviewed July 2016
    Ros D'Albert

    The Silk Road

    This was a trip of complete contrasts with vast distances covered and no time to rest. The three countries visited are all very different and we were able to taste highlights of history, landscapes, and noodles in all of them. The beautiful renovated mosques and mausoleums that we visited in Uzbekistan contrasted with the open spaces and natural beauty of Kyrgystan (Uzbekistan equally beautiful but we spent more time there in the towns) and Kashgar, a bustling, crowded city was different again.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Visiting the caravanserai and imagining how it must have appeared to the Silk Road travellers as it came into view across the desert was a highlight for me, as well as the beauty of the Russian Orthodox Church in Karakol. The first glimpse of Issy Kul was also wonderful

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The three leaders were all excellent, and could not have been more knowledgable and helpful in every way. Dilshod in Uzbekistan, Mohammed in China and Alexandr in Kyrgygstan went well above and beyond their duties to ensure that everyone in the group was happy and well looked after, always smiling despite the constant requests for toilet stops!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be aware that the constant moving on, staying in most places for one night only, until the relief of three nights in one place in Kashgar, can be extremely tiring, and the effects of the heat in Uzbekistan shouldn't be underestimated. Put perfume on a tissue to inhale while going to the loo when out and about, and take loo paper! Don't stress about the time it takes to leave Uzbekistan and enter China - never has my passport been examined and re-examined so thoroughly and by so many people.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I had a brilliant, if exhausting, holiday. In general the food wasn't very exciting, but the meal with the Dungan family in Karakol was great, as were the meals in Kashgar. The overnight train was fun and really comfortable, as was the cosy bed in the yurt - much more like camping than when I had stayed in a yurt/ger on a previous Exodus trip. The only way this trip could be less tiring would be if we could have stayed more than one night in some places, but this would mean the trip was much longer, or that parts of it would have to be left out and every place was really worth visiting, so tiring it has to be. Plenty of time to rest when you're back at work.
  • Reviewed September 2015
    Steve Fernbank

    The Silk Road in September

    Overall a fantastic trip but not a relaxing one. Each country is different from the others and it feels like three holidays in one. Early starts and long journeys made for arduous travelling at times and the border crossing into China was a pain, but spectacular scenery and reasonably regular stops made it interesting and nearly every day had highlights to look forward to. The hotels were comfortable and the food was better and more varied that we were led to believe from reading previous reviews. I'd score it 9 out of 10 overall.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Lots of great moments to choose from. The ceramic mosaics and architecture of Bukhara's mosques and mausoleums are every bit as impressive as the gallery photos. All are within easy walking distance of each other which made for an enjoyable ambling day although another night in Bukhara would be worth considering as there is so much to see. Samarkand equally remarkable visually but driving distance between each site. The livestock market in Kashgar was a real spectacle and in itself justified the trials of the border crossing; great for people-watching, comparing hat and beard styles, watching deals being done. Animal lovers may find it uncomfortable seeing rows of sheep tethered by the neck, interlocked like the front row of a particularly long and shaggy scrum. There were camels, yaks, donkeys, goats with horns like Chopper handlebars, sheep-wrestling, It had a bit of everything. Sparcely populated landscape dotted with yurts and yaks with snow-capped mountain backdrop and fascinating cemeteries makes Kyrgyzstan very easy on the eye. Good fun on the overnight train back to Tashkent with Klara the bolshy 'barmaid' knocking off the bottletops to our beers on the edge of the tables and shouting friendly (?) abuse.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The three leaders, Dilshod in Uzbekistan, Musa in Kashgar and Alexander in Kyrgyzstan, were excellent. A storm in Istanbul meant the group missed the connecting flight hence we set off to Samarkand a day late but Dilshod skilfully rearranged the schedule to put us back on track as soon as practically possible although inevitably our tour of Samarkand was more of a dash than originally planned. All were knowledgable, efficient, organised and enthusiastic. They also seemed to have contacts to smooth the way when the going got tricky which meant, for example, that the Chinese customs officials were persuaded somehow by Musa and associates to delay their lunch break until after we had been processed. The hour and a half this saved meant we had the extra time needed to spend an hour at Tash Rabat caravansarai in a stunning valley half an hour drive off the main drag and still get to Naryn before dark.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The border crossing into China is painfully slow. Nothing much to be done but stay patient. Checks at four separate venues are made. These are handled at snail pace with repeated passport checks by multitudes of officials some of whom check you are queuing in a straight line and ask questions such as 'Do you have ebola?' In all it took 5 1/2 hours to get into China. Some long driving days although time passes pretty quickly, particularly in Kyrgyzstan, where the scenery is so stunning. If you do climb the minaret in Registan Square, Samarkand be warned although you get a good view of the tiger mosaic on the facade opposite that is pretty much all you will see from the restricted rooftop. Not really worth the 15 min wait (only 2 at a time allowed) or the fee. Beds were pretty hard in most hotels. Bring immodium !

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The morning visit to Tashkent's Haza Mosque complex felt like overkill after feasting on two days of architectural wonders at Bukhara and Samarkand. We all felt a bit domed out. The three hours in Tashkent after the sleeper train might be better spent at Chorsu market or something less cultural for a bit of variety. The trip presumably is designed to fit into a fortnight to accommodate travelling at weekends but a day or two extra would allow a bit of much needed chill time. $100 goes a long way in each of the three countries. Excluding gifts and souvenirs you will be hard pushed to spend more than $400 in the whole trip. Late- September climate was perfect; rain-free, blue skies, 25 to 30 deg C dry heat by day and the trees and bushes turning to autumn colours.
  • Reviewed September 2015
    Gillian Mathieson

    The Silk Road

    An interesting but very tiring trip. Moving to a new place every day, with long drives between definitely took its toll over the fortnight, not helped by the fact the whole group got ill on leaving Uzbekistan. In addition, those joining the trip using the flights booked by Exodus didn't get their luggage in Tashkent until we passed through there again on our return from Bukhara. Our trip missed out Kashgar because of the Chinese closing the border to celebrate the end of WW2 which was a real disappointment but the alternative, extra days in Kyrgyzstan, was well thought out.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The visit to the carpet warehouse in Bukhara and the silk factory in Margilan. The colours, patterns and craftsmanship needed to produce the carpets and textiles was inspiring. The visit to the Rishtan pottery was in the same vein. The scenery in Kyrgyzstan was beautiful and the people very friendly and welcoming.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We had two leaders. Nazim in Uzbekistan was very knowledgeable on history but didn't seem to put the safety of the group as a top priority. Our leader in Kyrgyzstan was Sasha and he was great. Knowledgeable on the history of the area but also interested in the wild aspects of his country. Sasha was very patient with us, particularly as he had to deal with the fall out of our post Uzbekistan tummy upsets.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure and take enough stuff in your hand luggage to cover 3-4 days in case your main luggage doesn't arrive with you. Don't expect your luggage to be couriered to you if it is delayed. Take your own toilet paper - the local stuff can be very rough. Be prepared for tummy upsets. Food is not a highlight of the trip and there are few concessions to vegetarians. The best meal we had was in Karakol with the Dungan family.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is a new trip and that there will likely be changes in the future (hopefully). Travel within Uzbekistan could have been improved by using trains, or even flying to Bukhara and starting the trip there. The journey from Tashkent west was uncomfortable (because of the quality of the roads) and boring scenery wise. It would have been nice to have a couple of days in one place in both the countries we visited.
  • Reviewed September 2015
    Barbara Prynn

    The Silk Road

    I enjoyed the holiday very much, and the other people in the group were all interesting and pleasant to be with. The sights and terrain we travelled among were beautiful, interesting and the majority of the guides we had were helpful and able to answer our questions about what we were looking at. However, the trip was exhausting. Moving on every night except for the three nights in Kashgar, and travelling nearly every day for several hours, made the trip hard going. I would suggest that a future trip should be structured differently. I would suggest that it should begin in Tashkent, then going to Samarkhand and Bukhara, and then back to Tashkent. From there to fly to Bishkek and do the trip in the reverse order that we did it to Kashgar, and fly from there to Beijing. I would suggest also that there should be an option to spend time in Beijing, and the structure should include two days in several of the places in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. This would make the trip a bit longer, but more enjoyable and give participants more time to absorb what they see and experience.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I can't really answer this question, except to say that I found the scenery in Kyrgyzstan absolutely breath taking, and that although I very much enjoyed seeing the mosques and mausoleums in Uzbekistan which are of course outstanding, I enjoyed the time we spent in Kyrgyzstan, the most.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We had four group leaders. The first, in Uzbekistan, was helpful, knowledgeable, interesting, informative and very pleasant. The second, in Osh, had clearly been drafted in at the last minute, and knew little about the area, didn't speak the local language, and seemed rather out of her depth, while at the same time being very pleasant and helpful. The guide in Kashgar was informative about the Chinese/Uighur relationship in the city, and took us to interesting places in and around there. However it did rather seem that his mind was sometimes on other business rather than on us. The guide for northern Kyrgystan was charming, knowledgeable, understood our needs, and was accommodating in regard to our interests and most informative about the places he took us to.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If the structure of the trip remains as it is, I would warn people about how tiring the constant travelling is. Also if the itinerary remains the same, they should be warned about the awfullness of the border crossings.
  • Reviewed August 2015
    Keith Urro

    The Silk Road

    A very long trip taking in three countries each with their own different way of life. From the hot Uzbekistan where the mosques and mausoleums were stunning, through China with its bustling livestock market to the spectacular mountainous Kyrgyzstan.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The livestock market at Kashgar. This was a busy, bustling, hot, dusty occasion with many types of livestock being bargained for. The transportation of animals was basic to say the least and probably not acceptable by our standards. However, this is life as it is in these parts. Completely absorbing and full of interesting faces and characters

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We had a different leader for each country. The Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan leaders were excellent. They were knowledgeable, courteous and friendly. They enhanced their leg of the trip. However, the Chinese leader was very disappointing. He never really made the effort to be part of the group preferring to eat away from us. He was nearly always late and even forgot the immigration papers for our exit from China. He only wanted to give the group thirty minutes at Kashgar (a highlight of the trip) until we persuaded him to add an an hour to that. This was the worst leader I have experienced my my twelve years travelling with Exodus.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for long delays at the Chinese boarder controls. It's frustrating but it's how they do things, so be patient. The food can be plain, lots of meat and a little monotonous, but once again that's how they eat in this part of the world.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The experience is worth the long travelling days. There is so much to see and absorb. Go with an open mind and take in a very different way of life
  • Reviewed August 2015
    Neill Butler

    In the footsteps of Tamerlane

    This is a full on trip across three countries and at times travelling through mountainous areas on fairly rough roads. As a result this isn't the holiday to take if your looking for relaxation but the pay off is an amazing contrast of stunning ancient buildings, breathtaking scenery and mixing with people who have had limited contact with western europeans. At times we were being photographed as much as the locals! The tour really does take you back through the centuries to the time of Tamerlane and even earlier. The soviet restoration of some sites has been done incredibly well and we felt welcome in all of the mosques and mausoleums we visited

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The ancient mosques and mausoleums in all three countries The Tien Shan mountains that towered above us with their snow capped peaks despite the rolling green hills and heat below The old town of kashgar with the locals working in trades that took you back to victorian times The friendly people wherever we went Sleeping in a Yurt up in the mountains

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We had three group leaders. The first, Nazim, in Uzbekistan was very knowledgable and helped set the context of the history of the region that proved valuable for the whole tour The guide in China was pretty poor, absent a lot of the time or late. We have fed back our views to Exodus so hopefully you won't experience the same. Alexander in Kygyzstan was the best of the three, again incredibly knowledgable having studied history for his degree, and nothing was too much trouble for him. He also joined us for the meals in locals houses which made things easier and meant that we could find out a lot more about our hosts

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    - dont change money at an official outlet in Uzbek, you will get twice the rate from local changers. Ask your guide. Also take only dollars including some 50s and 100s, the brochure says small denominations but banks in Kyrg wouldnt accept these - we had a real problem with the drivers for the Fergana valley section who frankly were dangerous. Again we have alerted Exodus to this but if you have a similar problem insist that your guide intervenes - the food become monotonous after a while as its heavily meat and rice based, when you get to china switch to the chinese food which is similar to chinese in the uk - take a basin plug, few hotels had them - be prepred for big delays at the chinese border, they aren't geared up for tourists coming in via this route and are very process driven including going off for breaks when you are waiting for clearance. Also the toilets at the border rank as the worst in the world so make sure your guide in Kyrg stops just beforehand!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We were on only the third of this trip to be run by Exodus hence the couple of glitches mentioned above. Don't let these put you off, its an incredible trip across countries that are rarely visited by tourists

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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