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Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

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  • Reviewed October 2019

    A varied tour of beautiful buildings and scenery.

    A very busy, varied tour. Most of the hotels were of a good standard with one or two not so good. The Hotel Asia Mountains 1 has been mentioned in a review already - take ear plugs so that you drown out the trains.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The beautiful mosques and madrassas in Uzbekistan and the stunning scenery in Kyrgyzstan, the golden eagle demonstration, Issyk Kul lake and the boat ride. The two 'family' meals were absolutely outstanding with delicious food and LOTS of it.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Both leaders were excellent in different ways. Takhir Sadullaev in Uzbekistan has many years experience as a tour guide and was very informative with a sense of humour. He was most conscientious about 'guarding' our belongings on the sleeper train when we went to the restaurant car. Aziz Umetaliev who joined us in Kazakhstan and guided us in Kyrgyzstan was also knowledgeable (with one or two gaps in his knowledge) but made up for it with his very likeable personality. Aziz and Uri (not the right spelling) our driver decorated the bus with balloons for the first travellers birthday and left them up for my birthday a few days later. Uri was a very careful, helpful and friendly driver even though he had very limited English.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be patient in restaurants as the service can be slow and erratic with (for example) rice to accompany a meal coming out a long time before the main dish and wine being served when some people had already eaten their meal. Meals tend to come in dribs and drabs again with some people having finished as others were just being served. As this was the last trip this year places had run down their stocks and often we couldn't get the wine or drinks that we wanted. Take a torch for the yurt and something warm to wear as it was cold in the morning. I found the trip notes a bit confusing about which currency to take, you only need to take US dollars. Both guides advised how much to change as we arrived in a new country which was very helpful.
  • Reviewed September 2019
    John Chapman

    A couple of tips

    Previous reviews have covered most things and are worth reading.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    See above.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    See above.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you are buying drinks for the yurt take the opportunity to buy them for the homestay meal at the same time, alternatively turn right on leaving the Green Yard hotel and in 300yds there is a small shop. I would also advise buying drinks at the supermarket to take to the lakeside resort.
  • Reviewed September 2019
    Peter Stocker

    Marvellous Islamic architecture.

    The visits to Samarkand and Bukhara were the principal things I wanted to see apart from Khiva which I did on my own before the main trip. Exodus booked the flights for me and I booked the hotel in Khiva myself.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I would have to say Khiva although it was not part of the standard trip. I also particularly enjoyed Samarkand, Bukhara and the overnight stay in the yurt camp amidst beautiful Alpine scenery.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We had two leaders, the one for Uzbekistan was very experienced and everything was very efficient. The guide for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan was less experienced but coped well.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Unless Exodus decide to include it, spend a couple of nights in Khiva first, it's very compact and traffic free and there is a lot to see. You don't need a guide just a guide book.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I think it would be far better to omit Kazakhstan altogether as there is very little to see that is worth travelling so far to see. The time saved could better be spent going to Khiva. So I would say go to Uzbekistan for the architectural interest and Kyrgyzstan for the scenery.
  • Reviewed August 2019
    Rouna Ali

    Rouna's Silk Road

    This is a truly spectacular once in a lifetime trip which I will never forget. I would never have been able to travel to such and so many places in the time available if it weren't for Exodus. The contrast between the three 'Stans' Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan is infinitely fascinating. The hot deserts, magnificent Muslim architecture, Madrashahs, Mausoleums, Markets and magnanimous hearts of the people of Uzbekistan to the epic mountains, rivers, lakes, forests and awesome pride and grace of the people of Kyrgyzstan (especially the Eagle Hunters which is only one of many highlights on this trip).

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    1. Registan Square in Samarkand in my view is more beautiful and epic than the Taj Mahal. 2. During the Eagle hunting demonstration in Kyrgyzstan I almost cried as the eagle flew above and swooped down in front of me to catch the coyote skin!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Both group leaders (one for Uzbekistan) and (one for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) did their very best for us and Ali bent over backwards to help me in Bukhara when I had a bout of 'Bukhara belly' :0

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You might laugh but I regret not taking small bottles of salt and pepper and chilli sauce with me because the food will cause you problems. Take plenty of Immodium and Dioralyte. In Uzbekistan especially they try to put on the menu what Westerners will like and I did not like it at all. Sometimes the food ingredients were really old, not cooked properly or under hygienic conditions and tasted extremely bland. It can take forever to sort out the bill if you eat in a large group. Before you travel I would look at the trip notes and where the hotels are then do your own pre-trip research using google maps and trip advisor to see where all the good restaurants are near to these hotels.
  • Reviewed July 2019
    John Atherton

    Silk Road cities and sublime scenery

    Cities tend not to be high on my list of places to visit but I was surprised by the many parks and green spaces offsetting the large buildings and wide roads in all the cities visited. Of course the amazing architecture of the mosques, madrassas, minarets, mausoleums, museums and markets were impressive and interesting – with a wealth of information from both our tour leaders and local guides, all of whom spoke excellent English. The train journeys and the brief ride on the Metro in Tashkent made pleasant changes to the coach travel. Good to see family groups enjoying the warm evenings in pedestrianised streets and squares, parks, local cafes and bars, etc. No litter, no noisy groups of youths, just a nice atmosphere. Though the planned overnight train ride to Kazakhstan didn’t happen owing to international cancellation at little notice, the replacement coach was large and comfortable. In the morning traffic to Almaty many more upmarket cars were on the roads, after very few in Uzbekistan. The short drive out of Almaty with the walk up to the waterfall was a welcome change from the city streets. Then the long drive into the Kyrgyzstan countryside was literally a breath of fresh air; with the vast lake, snow-capped mountains, rushing rivers, flower-strewn meadows and leisurely walks. Not forgetting the impressive golden eagle demonstration. I would have preferred more than one night at the Yurt shores of Lake Camp. A couple of days later, an afternoon swim at the “seaside” on the Issyk Kul Lake was refreshing. Inevitable long road journeys were offset by ever changing views, excellent driving, mainly good roads and frequent stops.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The Kyrgyzstan countryside and the happy atmosphere in the city pedestrian areas throughout.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Both Dillshod and Ermek were excellent, knowledgeable and considerate. Different personalities, Dillshod the more experienced.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Drink the local draught beer - it's good and inexpensive. Lots of religious buildings so long trousers/skirt and covered shoulders often expected. Most public conveniences incur a small cost for women and for men, be aware of your currency note value!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    All hotels were clean and comfortable (with good quality loo paper)!
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Sabina Latif

    Minarets, mosques, mausoleums to mountains

    This was a fantastic trip with a real mix of architecture, landscapes and cultures. Lovely tour guides and drivers to help and support. I was astonished by the sheer scale and intricacies of the buildings in Uzbekistan which contrasted with the beautiful snow capped mountains in Kyrgyzstan. My personal highlights were the overnight train and yurt camp experience!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the sheer scale and stamina of the mosques, mausoleums and madrassahs in Uzbekistan including Registan Square.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We had 2 group leaders, one for Uzbekistan (Dilshod) and another for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (Ermeg). Both were great but in different ways. Dilshod was warm and kind and made us laugh, he was very knowledgeable. He did however give us too much information and it would be better if he slowed down and gave bite size chunks. Ermeg was so open and honest with us and shared his knowledge with us at a really good pace with the right amount of info.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It is very hot in certain towns in June and July!... there are two hotels with pools so pack your swimming costume... you will need a torch for the yurt camp... take Tupperware or food bags as we have a lot of picnic lunches and most of the hotel breakfasts were really good buffets!
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Helen Faulls

    The Silk Road

    How special it was to be in the heart of Asia; a world we hear so little of but which is so steeped in history and the cross roads for so many different nationalities. The home of such legendary figure as Timur and Ginghis Khan. The trip explores the wealth of mosques, madrassas, mausoleums, minarets in Uzbekistan and after a brief visit to Kazakhstan (during a curfew due to demonstrations after elections) we journeyed to Kyrgyzstan. Although a poor country it is endowed with the most stunning mountain ranges and the world’s second biggest alpine lake. The elegance of Uzbeki women and the imposing use of space around all the official buildings in the major towns, as well as the spring flowers in the meadows, the bedding roses at Issy Kol and the vastness of the landscape are abiding memories. The brief stroll In the mountains was another rushed lost opportunity. I question the night in the yurt. It was just uncomfortable camping and again no interaction with the hosts. I did laugh at a few hip replacements, pacemakers, westerners’ long legs sprawled across the floor trying to eat. A full day’s walking in the mountains would have been more rewarding. Also scrambling in to a rather apologetic waterfall was also a waste of time. The itinerary was far too tight. Long days were spent in the coach and on a train. We would leave early and not arrive in the next hotel until early evening. Most of the hotels were in the suburbs and combined with the lack of time we had no opportunity to interact with a local people. The area has a wealth of talent in embroidery, weaving, silk work, felt work, and other handicrafts which we had no opportunity to explore in a leisurely manner. This was a huge disappointment both for our own shopping and also the lack of opportunity to support the women who do most of this work. My head is still out there and my reading about the area will continue. I will be back.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Just being in Samarkand and Bukhara.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We had two guides. One for Uzbekistan, one for the rest of the trip. Very different but both brilliant, knowledgeable, kind and thoughtful. Ermek from Kyrgyzstan is a very exceptional young man. I would also like to give a mention to Maxime our driver for the second half of the trip He was kind, thoughtful, mucked in as part of the team and certainly knew how to drive with the utmost consideration for both his passengers and the bus on some appalling roads. In spite of no English.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Yes! We arrived at 3 am and left at 3 am. This is no way to begin and end hard travel. Book your own flights and allow at least an extra day at the start to acclimatise. Take a fold up nylon shopping bag to avoid endless plastic when buying lunches etc. I was horrified to see plastic bags dumped by Morrison’s had turned up in a Bishkek store.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Exodus needs to work more closely with its subcontractors to develop a better itinerary. Less driving, more time to explore and interact with locals. More picnics, lunches too long and heavy. More time to explore crafts. People do not need to take plastic bottles from the hotels all the time! Water is provided
  • Reviewed June 2019
    H B

    Excellent and varied whistle-stop tour of Central Asia

    Great two weeks in Central Asia. The first week was in Uzbekistan and more focused on the history of the Silk Road and the gorgeous architecture in the three cities of Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara whilst during the second half in Almaty and Kyrgyzstan we learnt more about traditional & modern culture, history from different eras and got a taste of the alpine climates in the gorges and beautiful Issyk-Kol lake

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Hard to say given that we saw so much and there was so much variety! Watching a golden eagle train for the hunting season was pretty spectacular. Also we were in Bukhara during the annual Silk and Spice Festival so the city was heaving with Uzbek people and tourists alike experiencing national music, fashion, dance and goods sold all over the streets - it was an incredibly fortuitous addition to an already fascinating place

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Two great group leaders in Dilshod and Ermek; as other people have commented they are quite different personalities but they both made me feel relaxed and well supported throughout the trip with their welcoming and helpful attitudes, conscientiousness and knowledge. Ermek's thoughtful reflections about Kyrgyz culture and Dilshod's tales of growing up in Uzbekistan as a former Soviet state were both very engaging. I don't know how they keep up the energy to help us have such a good time for weeks on end!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Most of the hotels didn't have lifts; the hotel staff and tour guides were very happy to help with carrying luggage but we also needed to load the trains with our suitcases ourselves so it would be worth making sure you're able to lift your luggage without too much difficulty. Furthermore most of the souvenir opportunities were in Uzbekistan so this means anything you buy (that you haven't shipped home) you'll need to carry for the remainder of your trip. Don't think you need to bother with bringing a whole loo roll as the toilet paper at its worst felt like bandage wrap but certainly wasn't rough! Tissues may be more worthwhile as not all public loos had toilet paper. Also be aware that almost all the public toilets had only squat loos, and these weren't always in good condition. You will need clothes for both warm and cold weather as well as rain - I brought something for all these weathers and ended up wearing everything in my suitcase!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    A few suggestions: 1 - given that people might want to do souvenir shopping, and that there are more opportunities for this in Uzbekistan (with the trip being more focused on Silk Road centre points during this part of the tour) maybe it might be worth doing Uzbekistan second rather than 1st to save the carrying the gifts around for the remaining two weeks? 2 - a free day during the trip might be nice if possible to allow people to choose their own activities to do or rest; perhaps this could be in Almaty or Cholpon-Ata? While the hike to Bear Waterfall and Issyk Lake were enjoyable activities I think this is the day I would replace with a free day 3 - the trip notes were slightly outdated; I know our guide has submitted an updated version so think it will be helpful for prospective travellers once this has been filtered down to the website to guide people's expectations further 4 - in both parts of the trip the lunches were sit-down meals; apart from the fact these were normally proper meals (which didn't really feel like we needed) they did take up at least 1.5 hours from the afternoon. I wonder whether it would be better to do more packed lunches and then a group meal in the evening? As per a lot of the other reviews I would say you aren't doing this holiday for Kazakhstan; but I did like Almaty and certainly enjoyed the overnight sleeper train to get there from Tashkent All in all though I had an absolutely fantastic time and I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone wanting a taste of the Silk Road and/or an introduction to Central Asia
  • Reviewed September 2018
    Nicola Peers

    a trip along the silk road

    This was a busy trip through three very contrasting countries. Almost a surfeit of historical monuments in Uzbekistan, just a glimpse of Kazakhstan and then the natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan. Some long bus drives but with plenty of "photo stops" and the drives are a great way to appreciate the scenery and see a little of local life along the way. The food was fine, and it was fairly easy to avoid meat, with plenty of delicious salads and pumpkin manti (a type of dumpling) usually available. Also some lovely soups, but often with unexpected chunks of lamb or beef. I did also enjoy the plov and the kebabs, as well as the fresh bread. The people were mostly friendly, welcoming and curious - we encountered no problems.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Kyrgyzstan - especially the yurt stay and the walk, but also the sheep, cattle and horses with their herders on horseback, coming down from their summer pastures.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    For me, both Dilshod and Ermek were great leaders, despite their very different pesonalities.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take a small towel for the yurt stay, and reasonable walking shoes. Do your shopping in Bukhara as there aren't many other opportunities. Learn a few words of Russian - it is spoken in all three countries and English isn't widely understood. Be able to carry your luggage a short distance - some of the hotel rooms are upstairs (no lifts) and also you have to carry it across the Kazakhstan - Kyrgyzstan border.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    It was a privilege to visit these countries at this time - go before the tourist industry develops too much!
  • Reviewed September 2018
    Peter & Pamela Ackerman

    Outstanding Trip

    We have been on a number of Exodus trips and without doubt this is one of the best we have undertaken. Uzbekistan is a stunning country with wonderful buildings and monuments and incredibly friendly and polite people. Our guide was the best guide we have had on an Exodus trip, he was so enthusiastic about his country you could not fail to enjoy your time there. Kazakhstan could really be missed from the trip with the time saved being spent in the other two countries, we just saw lots of open plains and a big busy city in Almaty. Kyrgyzstan is a stunningly beautiful country with wonderful scenery. Some days involved long drives and perhaps driving all the way around Issyk Kul may be a little excessive but you get great views of the snow capped mountains and have the opportunity to stop at various sites along the way. The food overall was very good though the service in all three countries is very slow, haphazard and random. Whilst the dominant religion in each of the countries is Islam they are open to western culture and dress and therefore provided you offer the usual respect in mosques etc. there is no issue regarding the suitability of clothing

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The Eagle hunter in Kyrgyzstan Registan Square in Samarkand The people of Uzbekistan

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader in Uzbekistan was outstanding

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If possible only take a rucksack with your overnight gear to the yurt.