Central Asia: A Grand Tour for Solo Travellers

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22 days, from £4948
Saga
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Description

Follow the Silk Route through three countries

This adventure to the Central Asian Steppe and legendary Tien Shan Mountains strips away the enigma of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, revealing a land of stunning alpine scenery and mysterious ancient kingdoms. See modern cities tinged with the remnants of Russian rule, discover snow-crested mountains, lush valleys and otherwordly gorges, explore dusty ruins and follow the Silk Route into the heart of Uzbekistan. Here you explore the ancient cities of Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent where towering minarets, glazed arches and gleaming turquoise domes etch the skyline, and travel across a landscape little changed since the days of Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great.

Including...

20
nights in hotels 1 aboard a train and 1 in flight

57
meals: 22 breakfasts, 15 lunches and 20 dinners - Optional travel insurance and additional cancellation rights, or a reduction if not required
- VIP door-to-door travel service
- Return flights and transfers
- Saga tour manager
- Welcome drink reception
- Porterage at all hotels
- Tourist visa

Excursions and visits
- City tours of old and new Astana
- City tour of Bishkek
- Visit to Ala-Archa National Park
- Shopping at Osh Bazaar
- Ruined city of Balasagun
- Visit to the petroglyphs of Cholpon-Ata
- Tour of Karakol
- Djety-Oguz Gorge
- Barskoon Gorge and Skazka Canyon
- Charyn Canyon
- City tour of Almaty
- Funicular ride to the alpine resort of Shymbaluk
- Shymkent city tour
- Ancient Sayram and Aksu Canyon
- Otrar and the Arystan Bab Mausoleum
- Turkistan and the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi
- Walking tour of historic Khiva
- Medieval Bukhara guided tour
- Baha-ud-Din Naqshband's mausoleum visit
- Visit Samarkand's Museum of Afrosiyab
- See Tamerlane's tomb in Samarkand
- Visit to the ancient Timurid centre of Shakhrisabz
- Sightseeing tour of Tashkent.

Itinerary


 Day 1 UK-Astana

After taking Saga's included UK VIP door-to-door travel service to the airport, fly overnight to Astana, Kazakhstan's capital.
Astana Kazakhstan Asia


 Day 2 UK-Astana

Arrive in Astana and Spend two nights at Hotel Kaz Zhol (4Q). After checking in to the hotel you'll be taken on a tour of the old part of the city, which dates from the era of the Russian Empire. Look forward to a welcome dinner at a local restaurant complete with wine and entertainment. B, L, D


 Day 3 Astana

The city of Astana, in a similar way to Washington, DC, was purpose built to be the capital of Kazakhstan. Today's included tour will show you the city's modern side of dazzling skyscrapers - some designed by British architect Norman Foster - and cutting-edge government buildings and allow you to see the unique skyline from the Ishim river. Keep an eye out for the Nur-Astana Mosque with its brilliant white walls and golden domes. You'll also pay a visit to the National Museum, which covers the history of Kazakhstan from ancient times to present day through unique and innovative exhibits. B, L, D


 Day 4 Astana-Bishkek

Fly to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan set against the backdrop of the Tien Shan mountains. Explore the city on an included tour before heading out to Ala-Archa National Park to witness its staggering alpine beauty - towering mountain peaks are crowned with snow, dense pine forests are divided by glacial rivers and colourful wild flowers adorn valley slopes. Return to the city to visit Osh Bazaar, one of the busiest markets in Bishkent. Stay overnight at the Ambassador Hotel (4Q). B, L, D


 Day 5 Bishkek to Issyk-Kul

Begin the journey to Issyk-Kul Lake, stopping en route at the ruins of Balasagun, once ruled by the Sogdian people and later by the Kara-Khanid Khanate, or kingdom. See the Burana Tower, an important marker along the Silk Road, and a collection of ancient headstones dating from 500 BC. Later on visit a local household to learn about traditional felt making. Stay overnight at Karven Four Seasons (3Q+) or Karven Issyk-Kul (3Q+). B, L, D


 Day 6 Issyk-Kul to Karakol

See the petroglyphs of Cholpon-Ata, ancient rock carvings depicting local wildlife and hunting scenes - some of which date from the Bronze Age. Tour the town of Karakol and see the Dungan Mosque, which resembles a Chinese Temple, and the distinctive Orthodox church built almost entirely from wood. After this you'll visit Djety-Oguz Gorge where vast rocky outcrops rise above the forest. Spend two nights at the Green Yard guest house (3Q). B, L, D


 Day 7 Barskoon Gorge and Skazka Canyon

This morning enjoy a walk in the Barskoon Gorge, between the steep slopes of the valley and up to the top of the Cup of Manas waterfall. Then, after a picnic lunch, head to Skazka Canyon, otherwise known as Fairy Tale Canyon because of its unusual rock formations - which resemble anything from the Great Wall of China to a hippo! B, L, D


 Day 8 Karakol-Bishkek-Almaty

After a scenic drive through Boom Gorge to Bishkek, fly to Almaty in Kazakhstan and spend the next two nights at the Rixos Hotel (4Q+). B, L, D


 Day 9 Charyn Canyon

Today you visit the gaping chasm of Charyn Canyon and descend into it for a walk between the sheer rocky walls. Thousands of years of weathering have left the canyon with a number of bizarre rock formations. B, L, D


 Day 10 Almaty

Explore Almaty's Soviet-influenced old quarter and see the Ascension Cathedral, built entirely from wood without the use of a single nail, and visit the Kazakh Museum of Folk Musical Instruments. Then ride a funicular into the mountains to the alpine resort of Shymbaluk, before returning to Almaty to visit the Central State Museum and the Grand Theatre. This evening you head to Kok-Tobe Park, the highest point in the city, for amazing views over Almaty. Catch the overnight train to Shymkent. B, L, D
Almaty Kazakhstan Asia


 Day 11 Shymkent, Sayram and the Canyon of Aksu

A tour of Shymkent reveals the archaeological museum before a visit to the ancient town of Sayram which lies on the Silk Route. Later you visit Aksu Canyon, characterised by caves and sharp outcrops. Stay two nights at the Shymkent Hotel (4Q). B, L, D


 Day 12 Otrar and Turkistan

Pay a visit to the abandoned city of Otrar, once an important Silk Route stopover, and then see the great mausoleum and mosque of Arystan Bab. In the city of Turkistan you visit the stunning Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, a revered Turkic poet and holy man. Ultimately unfinished, it's a glorious picture of artful tile work, imposing masonry and bright turquoise domes. B, L, D


 Day 13 Shymkent-Tashkent

Transfer to Tashkent in Uzbekistan and spend the night at Hotel Lotte Palace (4Q). B


 Day 14 Tashkent-Urgench-Khiva

Transfer to Khiva for two nights at the Asia Khiva (3Q) or a similar hotel. On some departures you'll stay overnight in Tashkent and spend just one night in Khiva. B, D


 Day 15 Khiva

Today's included morning walking tour will reveal Khiva's inner fortress, Itchan Kala, an architectural treasure trove of carefully restored mud-walled monuments. Highlights include the Ismail Khodja Mausoleum, the 16th-century Kunya-Ark Castle and 19th-century Muhammed Amin Khan Madrassah. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and dinner with a folk show at the 19th-century Kibla Tozabog, the summer residence of the Khiva Khans. Between November and March this will be at an alternative venue in the afternoon. B, L, D


 Day 16 Khiva to Bukhara

A long day's journey will take you across the Kyzyl-Kum or Red Desert, a route that once took camel caravans laden down with silk, spices and other exotic goods a month to make. You'll pause en route for a packed lunch before continuing to Bukhara, where you stay three nights at the Asia Bukhara (3Q) or a similar hotel.B, L, D


 Day 17 Bukhara

A centre of trade and education for more than 2,000 years, Bukhara is the best example of a medieval city in Central Asia. Seek out its key sights on an included three-quarter day walking tour of its old town, including the 10th-century Samanids Mausoleum. Later this afternoon, perhaps visit the 15th to 16th-century domed bazaars where merchants still ply their trade. Look forward to an included dinner at a local guest house, with a class on Bukharian cuisine. B, D


 Day 18 Bukhara

Journey beyond the heart of the city today to the magnificent 16th to 19th-century Naqshbandi Mausoleum, built for the founder of the Naqshbandi Sufi order, on an included morning tour. Beautiful blue-glazed tiles adorn the facade of this domed, multi-arched masterpiece. Also visit the summer residence of the last Emir of Bukhara, Sitorai-Mokhi-Hossa, a reminder of Uzbekistan's era of Russian rule. After an embroidery masterclass, enjoy lunch in a guest house, then this evening stroll through the atmospheric streets of Bukhara to a local restaurant for an included dinner and a folk and fashion show. B, L, D


 Day 19 Bukhara to Samarkand

After breakfast, relax on a morning 'Sharq' express train to Samarkand where you stay two nights at the Grand Samarkand (4Q) or a similar hotel. This afternoon, join an included visit to the Afrosiyab Museum before dinner at a local restaurant. B, D


 Day 20 Samarkand

Admire the colourful mosaics, blue domes and lofty arches of Registan Square on today's included tour. This grand plaza is bordered on three sides by a group of splendid structures spanning the 14th to 16th centuries, built by the Timurid dynasty. Afterwards enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. B, D


 Day 21 Shakhrisabz and Samarkand to Tashkent

This morning, travel through the Tahta-karacha Pass to Shakhrisabz to discover 14th to 15th-century Timurid mosques, mausoleums and the ruined gateway of Ak-Saray Palace. Enjoy a taste of local cuisine during an included lunch at a guest house before returning to Samarkand for the two-hour Afrosiab high-speed train journey to Tashkent. Stay two nights at Lotte City Palace (4Q) or a similar hotel. B, L, D


 Day 22 Tashkent

Explore modern Tashkent on an included sightseeing tour, and visit the Museum of History, the Museum of Applied Art and the Khast-Imam complex. This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. B, D


 Day 23 Tashkent-UK

Enjoy the morning at leisure before your return flight to the UK and your included UK door-to-door travel service home. B