5 Stans Central Asia Tour- FST18
Number of Days: 30
The Five Stan’stour includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan - the home to great steppes, magical deserts, fertile valleys and some of the highest mountains in the world. The scenery is breath-taking and remarkably varied, with green/blue glacial lakes, saw-toothed mountains, red rock formations, sparkling rivers and rolling hills. These lands produced great scholars and conquerors, and were a 19th and 20th century geopolitical chess board on which the ‘Great Game’ was played out between Britain and Russia. Until recently shut to the outside world and shrouded in legend and mystery, the combination of the 5 Stan’s makes an extraordinary journey of discovery.
Tour commences Guangzhou
Tour Fitness Level: Active
Arrive Guangzhou and transfer to our hotel.
Accom: Pullman Airport Hotel, Guangzhou, China
Day 2:Guangzhou – Almaty (B)
Depart Guangzhou for Almaty (via Urumqi). On arrival in Almaty we transfer to our hotel.
Accom: Almaty, Kazakhstan or similar.
Day 3: Almaty (BLD)
Situated in the shadows of the Tian Shan Mountains, Almaty is the cultural and commercial hub of Kazakhstan. Literally meaning ‘rich with apples’ the former capital - known as the ‘Garden City’ for its large areas of gardens, majestic firs and spruce of the TianShan Mountains. Today we explore this beautiful city before moving to the outskirts to view the magnificent panorama of Almaty.
Day 4:Almaty – Chon Kemin Valley (Kyrgyzstan) (BLD)
This morning we leave Almaty and soon begin to see the high peaks of the Tian Shan Mountains. Crossing the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border at Black River, we then follow the Chuy River, and, skirting briefly back into Kazakhstan, we reach the turnoff that will take us around the back of the mountains into the serene valley of Chon Kemin.
Accom: Ashu Guesthouse, Chon Kemin valley
Day 5: Chon Kemin Valley (BLD)
This morning we explore the Chon Kemin valley, which is flanked by snow-capped mountains on both sides. The entire valley was formerly a collective farm and much of the Soviet rural atmosphere remains as we are transported back in time. During our walk meet friendly and inquisitive locals and be treated to a fantastic exhibition of horsemanship by the skillful Kyrgyz horsemen. In the afternoon we board a craft for two hours of exhilarating fun on the fast flowing Chon Kemin River. Passing through canyons and gorges we disembark at the basin.
6 May: Chon Kemin – Karakol (BLD)
After breakfast we depart for Karakol and soon begin to skirt the north shore of Issyk Kul Lake. The second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea, Issyk Kul is virtually a basin within the Tian Shan Mountains. A combination of vast depth, salinity and underground thermal activity ensures the lake never freezes. Issyk Kul is also the second largest alpine lake in the world after Lake Titicaca. We take a boat ride on the lake before we continue around the north shore to the Cossack outpost of Karakol.
Accom: Hotel Tagaytay, Karakol or similar.
Day 7: Karakol – Jeti Oguz – Karakol (BLD)
Today we travel to nearby Jeti Oguz. Here inside the canyon there are extraordinary formations of red sandstone cliffs known as the ‘seven bulls’. We continue into the Valley of Flowers before reaching the magnificent Oguz valley glacier, and in this pristine environment we enjoy a BBQ lunch before heading back to Karakol.
Day 8:Karakol (BLD)
After breakfast we start to explore the town of Karakol. Formerly known as Przewalski, after one of the most intrepid explorers of the 19th century, Karakol today is a pretty Russian town filled with quaint cottages shaded by rows of huge poplar trees. We visit the fascinating memorial of Nikolai Przewalski, which charts his various expeditions, including the one to the steppes of central Asia in which he discovered a wild horse that was subsequently named after him – Przewalski’s horse. An animal rehabilitation centre in Karakol currently has two of these very rare horses and we visit the centre before walking through Karakol itself.
Day 9: Karakol – Bishkek (BLD)
This morning we drive Issyk Kul Lake south shore. Ringed by the snow-capped mountains of Tian Shan, the south part of the lake is a very different landscape and at times the road skirts the shoreline of the lake. We continue to Bishkek, the green tree-lined capital of Kyrgyzstan. We do a city walking tour then check into our hotel.
Accom: Park Hotel, Bishkek or similar.
Day 10: Bishkek (BLD)
After breakfast we commence a walking tour of the city seeing some of Bishkek's interesting sights including Ala Too Square, the State History Museum, Oak and Victory Parks. The afternoon is at leisure giving you the chance to explore more of this czarist planned city; laid on a grid with wide boulevards flanked by irrigation canals and large trees.
Day 11:Dushanbe – Dushanbe (BLD)
After breakfast we transfer to Bishkek's Mana's airport for our flight to Dunshanbe. Once we have arrived in Dunshanbe, we explore the city- Tajikistan, like Turkmenistan, can be considered one of the last explored frontiers in the world. Totally unspoilt by tourism, this delightful country is home to a warm and open-hearted populace. Dunshabe's original settlement dates back more than three thousand years, but the last decase has seen a huge transformation. Modern Dunshanbe is a veritable 'garden city', with its wide boulevards and sleepy back streets lined with towering plantain and popular. Many large parks are scattered throughout the city, watered by a network of canals and channels.
Day 12:Dushanbe –Hissar- Dushanbe (BLD)|
Today we head 30km out of Dushanbe to the fortress town of Hissar which lies on a wide mountain-fringed plain. Due to its strategic location and commanding views along the valley, the fortress was attacked numerous times in its long history, by such notables as Alexandra the Great, Ghenghis Khan and Tamerlane. In more recent times it was a stronghold of the Islamic guerrilla fighters known as Basmachi. The Basmachi fought a guerilla war against Soviet rule in Central Asia from 1917 and 1924, when the Red Army eventually besieged the fortress. On our return to Dunshanbe, the rest the day is at leisure.
Day 13:Dushanbe – Iskander Kul Lake (BLD)
After breakfast we travel by 4WD into the Fann Mountains. We follow the Varzob River through Dushanbe’s most affluent neighbourhoods before ascending into stunning landscapes. We then enter the Anzob tunnel, an extraordinary 5.5km tube through the mountains which leads us towards Iskander Kul Lake. Skirting the lake we come to Sary Tag village, located beneath rugged mountain peaks punctuated by glaciers, and perched amongst some of the most beautiful vistas in the world. After lunch with a local family we walk along the Karakol river gorge back to Iskander Kul Lake where we check into our lakeside chalets.Accom: Iskander Kul Turbaza or similar.
Day 14: Iskander Kul Lake – Khujand (BLD)
After breakfast we take a short walk along the river to a beautiful waterfall that tumbles into a ravine soon after the river leaves Iskander Kul Lake. We then drive north through spectacular landscapes, climbing above the Zerafshan valley. The road then plunges into the Shahrston tunnel. Built by the Chinese and opened in November 2012, this 5km tunnel is one of the greatest engineering feats in the world. Then we descend to the fertile Fergana valley lined with orchards and cotton fields, as we continue on to Khujand. Accom: Sogd Hotel, Khujand or similar.
Day 15: Khujand – Tashkent (BLD)
Khujand is Tajikistan’s second largest city. It was founded 2,300 years ago and was the easternmost outpost of Alexander the Great. This morning we immerse ourselves in the labyrinth of the Khujand bazaar. In the afternoon we make the short journey to the Tajik-Uzbek border at Oybek. After customs and immigration formalities we make the two hour journey to the Uzbek capital of Tashkent.Accom: Tashkent Palace, Tashkent or similar.
Day 16:Tashkent (BLD)
Today we explore Tashkent, renowned for its fountains, parks and tree-lined streets. Tashkent was named the cultural capital of the Islamic world as the city is home to numerous historic mosques and Islamic locations of interest. It houses the earliest written Koran.
Day 17:Tashkent – Samarkand (BLD)
This morning we leave Tashkent on the high-speed Afrosiab train for Samarkand (2 hour journey). Nowhere is more evocative of the Silk Road than Samarkand. This fabled city fired the imagination of writers and poets worldwide. On arrival we explore the old town - full of Uzbeks, Georgians, Tajiks, Russians and other central Asian nationalities.
Accom: Hotel Grand Samarkand or similar.
Day 18:Samarkand (BLD)
This city of fables and legends is perhaps the most exotic on the Silk Road. Known as the ‘Rome of the Orient’, Samarkand was already a flourishing city when Rome and Babylon were founded. The great Tamerlane was determined to make the city the most beautiful and magnificent in the world. Today’s highlights include breath-taking Registan Square, where the finest collection of buildings in Asia dominates the most public place in Samarkand. Intricate tile-work and fluted cobalt tile domes provide a spectacular vista. In a wonderful day of sightseeing we also visit Tamerlane’s mausoleum, the observatory of Ulugbek and the Shahi-Zinda Necropolis or similar.
Day 19:Samarkand (BLD)
Today's highlights include breathtaking Registan Square, where the finest collection of buildings in Asia dominates the most public place in Samarkand. Intricate tile-work and ;fluted cobalt tile domes provide a spectacular vista. In a wonderful day of sightseeing we also visit Tamerlane's mausoleum, the observatory of Ulugbek and the Shahi-Zinda Necropolis.
Day 20: Samarkand – Bukhara (BLD)
This morning we make our way to Bukhara. On arrival visit the Fayzulla Khodjaev house in the old part of the city. It belonged to Fayzulla Khojaev’s father, Ubaydullokhoja, a rich merchant who traded in karakul pelt in Russia, Germany and other countries. Fayzulla Khodjaev’s house is a wonderful example of 19th century residential architecture.
Accom: Minarai Kolon, Bukhara or similar.
Day 21: Bukhara (BLD)
Today we explore Bukhara where, a thousand years ago, a thriving slave trade was conducted. This city is a treasure chest of ancient monuments. See the Ark Fortress, the crumbling city wall and superb Samanid Mausoleum, dating from the 9th century. Walk the narrow streets of the old city to the splendid covered bazaar and meet the colourful locals.
Day 22: Bukhara (BLD)
Surrounded by the vast expanse of the Kyzyl Kum Desert, Bukhara still retains the atmosphere of an ancient Silk Road city. Today we further explore this amazing settlement, strolling through its warren of narrow medieval streets to discover historic sites such as the 16th century trading domes, the beautifully decorated Bolo Hauz and Kalyon mosques, and the Labi Hauz pond, where old men in traditional dress while away the afternoon drinking tea and playing chess.
Day 23: Bukhara – Khiva (BLD)
Early this morning we begin our 450-km drive across the Kyzyl Kum Desert. En-route we may spot wild camels, and eagles soaring high above the sand dunes. On arrival in Khiva we check into our hotel. Accom: Orient Star, Khiva or similar.
Day 24: Khiva (BLD)
The city of Khiva has retained its exotic medieval oriental town image thanks to the old city, - Ichan-Kala. All of Khiva’s famous architectural monuments are here including the Kunya-Ark Citadel and the Tosh-Khovli Palace, residence of the Khan and preserved intact along with its ornate gates. The silhouettes of Ichan-Kala’s towering minarets, hemmed in by flat-roofed houses surrounded by the powerful clay walls of the fortress - a typical Central Asian feudal city.
Day 25: Khiva – Dashoguz – Darvaza (BLD)
Today we drive to the Uzbek–Turkmen border at Shavat. After crossing we continue to Dashoguz to visit the fort. This afternoon we depart for Darvaza, transferring to 4WD vehicles for the final leg of the journey to the one of the most extraordinary sights in the world: theDarvaza gas crater.The area is rich in natural gas, and, whilst drilling in 1971, Soviet geologists tapped into a cavern filled with gas. The ground beneath the drilling rig collapsed, leaving a large hole with a diameter of 80 metres. To avoid poisonous gas discharge it was decided the best solution was to burn it off. Geologists believed at the time that the fire would burn all of the gas in days. 44 years later the crater still burns. Locals call it “The Door to Hell”.
Accom: Darvaza or similar.
Day 26:Darvaza – Ashgabat (BLD)
After breakfast drive to Ashgabat and check into the hotel. Rest of day at leisure.
Accom: Grand Turkmen, Ashgabat or similar.
Day 27: Ashgabat (BLD)
Today we visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Nissa. This was the capital of the Parthian Empire and existed more than 2000 years ago. Then continue to a farm where we have lunch with the locals. In the afternoon we visit the Turkmenbashi Mausoleum.
Day 28: Ashgabat (BLD)
After breakfast we have a city tour of Ashgabat. After lunch explore more of the gleaming golden-domed capital. It’s a ’stan’ like no other. This evening transfer to airport for onward flights.
Day 29: Ashgabat – Guangzhou
Depart Ashgabat for Guangzhou (via Urumqi) then connect with onward flights home, or other as requested.
Includes: B =breakfast, L = lunch, D = Welcome and other dinners – as per final itinerary.Depart Ashgabat China Southern CZ 6016, 00.45Arrive Guangzhou (via Urumqi) 14.25Then connect with onward flight home, or elsewhere as requested.
For this tour we’ve included just about everything possible:
All flights between Auckland and Kazakhstan/Turkmenistan
All internal flights while on tour
Transfers and ground transportation
Meals as per itinerary
Tour leader and Expert local guides throughout
All entrance fees for specified sightseeing
Visas and courier fees
- $17995 (twin share per person). Single supplement + $4250