HomeToursAsia Tours 〉Kazakhstan

Nur-Sultan (Astana) to Tashkent


Beginning in the futuristic cityscapes of Nur-Sultan (until recently, Astana), join us on this exploration from mighty Kazakhstan to mountainous Kyrgyzstan and history packed Uzbekistan. From the remote moonscape of Boszhira Vallley to the ancient city of Turkistan and the Silk Road ruins of Sayram and Otrar, the sights along the way are unlike anywhere else on earth. Take in the tranquil landscape of Son-Kol Lake, see Solomon's Throne in historic Osh, and get your fill of mosques and museums in Samarkand and Bukhara. Abounding with ancient culture, divine natural beauty and intriguing relics this is a journey that will leave you eager to discover more of Central Asia.

30 days, from

$5,920

per person

GROUP SIZE

12 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

3
Trip code: KFSKC
Style: Original
Theme: Explorer
Print itinerary

Details

Countries Visited:  Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan
Accommodation: Hotel (20 nights), Overnight Train (1 night), Homestay/Guesthouse (6 nights), Yurt (2 nights)
Transportation: Private vehicle , Plane , Train , High Speed Train , Metro , Overnight Sleeper Train , 4X4 Jeep
Meals: 8 dinners, 29 breakfasts
Group size: Minimum 1, Max 12

  • Central Asia is a fascinating and unique mix of ancient Silk Road culture, Soviet influence and striving to redefine nations post independence. Geographically and for a time historically, it is the real centre of Asia

  • The much-photographed Registan in Samarkand is one of the true pinnacles of Islamic architecture. You'll be wowed by the scale, grandeur and beauty of the monuments to iconic figures such as Tamerlane and the Persian influenced madressas, mosques and mausoleums.

  • Kyrgyzstan's mountains are its monuments and its majesty. The landscapes here will stay with you long after the journey is over.

  • Surround yourself with the surreal landscapes of the 'wild west' of Kazkhstan at Boszhira Valley, and visit Grand Canyon's "little brother", Charyn Canyon.

  • Marvel at the beautiful Song Kol Lake, where in mid-summer you may see flocks of sheep, goats and herds of horses watched over by nomadic herdsmen and their families. Stay overnight in a yurt lakeside and live like the locals have for centuries in these portable, felt lined traditional tents.

  • Experience for yourself the legend that is Central Asian hospitality – there's really nothing like being welcomed into a local home or yurt for a meal, chatting with stall holders at bazaars or simply marvelling at the sights alongside locals

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Nur-Sultan (Astana)

Welcome to Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm in the hotel lobby. Recently renamed Nur-Sultan in honour of the long serving first president, the city was purpose built to become th capital city of Kazakhstan in 1997. Similar to Washington D.C. in the United States or Canberra in Australia, Nur-Sultan is a planned city with the Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa as its master mind. Now, Nur-Sultan is one of the most vibrant cities in Central Asia. If you arrive early, take the time explore and admire the futuristic city skyline. Join your leader in the evening for an included local dinner tonight.

Day 2: Nur-Sultan (Astana)

This morning, head off on a city tour with your leader and see some of the most impressive designs of this ambitious new city. Visit Nur-Astana Mosque, built in 2005 – with its capacity of 5000 worshippers inside and an additional 2000 outside it is one of the largest mosques in Central Asia. Then you'll stop at Palace of Peace & Reconciliation, a pyramid shaped conference hall that's considered to be Astana's symbolic center. You'll also visit the President's Culture Center which houses an array of exhibits that tell of the past, present and future of Kazakhstan, and of course, as its name suggests, the many achievements of it's President. The rest of the day is free to spend as you wish.

Day 3: Jana Ozon

Get ready for an early morning for a flight to Ak Tau – a city on the Caspian shore. Arrive in the mid-morning and take the chance to get acquainted with the city and do some final shopping before venturing into the ‘outback’ of Kazakhstan. Continue the journey to Jana Ozen (approximately 2.5 hours), crossing Karagie, one of the world’s deepest depressions. Continue to a clifftop top that provides incredible views over the area. Arrive in Jana Ozon, the oil industry center of Kazakhstan, where you’ll be settled for tonight.

Day 4: Boszhira Valley

Gear up for a full day exploring the Boszhira Valley, a truly otherworldly landscape made up of moon-like terrain. Hop in your jeep and cross oil fields before reaching Kyzyl Suu mazar, a holy grave from the 19th century. Then, drive through waste salt lakes before climbing up the East Karatau range, from where you can see the Chalky Mountains of East Ak Tau far in the distance. You can also see Bakty mountain, as depicted on the 1000 KZT banknote. From here, approach the foothills and take a short hike, admiring panoramic views of the unique snow-white rocky outcrops that fall into the Caspi depression with a 15km long cliff. Enjoy a well-deserved picnic lunch on the bottom of the chalky canyon. Continue to the Ustyurt Plateau, a clay desert punctuated with salt marshes and limestone karsts. Finally, continue to your last stop of the day – Kogez Yurt camp.

Day 5: Ak Tau

Start the day with a drive north to Airakty Shumanai Valley, known among locals as the valley of castles. From here, drive on to Mount Sherkala, famed for its fascinating dome shape. Torysh, the Valley of Balls, is your next stop – another natural miracle made up of spherical rock formations. Next up, head to Shakpak Ata, and underground mosque and necropolis from the 10th to the 13th century. Located at the cross-roads of the ancient Silk Road, this rock-hewn mosque is shaped like a cross and features prayer rooms, columns and ancient drawings. Settle into your hotel in Ak Tau in the evening.

Day 6: Turkistan

This morning, board your flight to Shymkent and then continue to Turkistan. Grab some snacks, sit back and relax as the epic landscape rushes by. Located in southern Kazakhstan, the city of Turkistan contains more historical relics and cultural sites than any other place in the country. You will arrive in the late afternoon. You’ll visit the main attraction of the Yasaui Mausoleum tomorrow morning, but you'll have the option to see it illuminated at night today. Tonight, you’ll also visit the new Caravan Serai, a complex recently built to model ancient Silk Road trade centres, giving visitors a taste of what life here was once like.

Day 7: Shymkent/Overnight train

Head out on a city tour this morning, the highlight of which is a visit to the Kozha Akhmed Yasaui Mausoleum, Kazakhstan’s most iconic building. The blue and while-tiled Mausoleum is the final resting place of a great Turkic holy man and Sufi. Built by Tamerlane, it is said that three visits here are equal to one visit to Mecca. As it is a religious site, we recommend that women wear a headscarf when entering. In the surrounds you'll find a rose garden, other monuments, an archeological museum and a mosque, which are all included in the entry ticket. Continue the journey to Shymkent (approximately 4 hours) by private vehicle, stopping at the ancient settlement of Otrar on the way. It was first excavated in 1969 and has a history dating back to the first century AD. Remnants of palaces, mosques and bathhouses can still be seen today. It is also where Genghis Khan's army is said to have fought heroically (though unsuccessfully) when the Mongols first invaded Central Asia. There'll be some time to spend in Shymkent before boarding the overnight train (approximately 11 hours) to Almaty.

Day 8: Almaty

Hop off the train early this morning and head straight to your hotel to drop off your luggage and make use of shared rooms to refresh – you’ll be able to check in later in the day. Then embark on a full-day guided city tour of Almaty. The development and wealth you’ll see on display as you walk the streets comes from the country's main export – oil. Kazakhstan is one of the world's top five oil-producing nations in the world. Visit Central Square and the colourful Zenkoff Cathedral in historic Panfilov Park, dedicated to the 28 guardsmen who died defending Moscow against German tanks in WWII. Check out the fascinating Museum of Kazakh Musical Instruments and the State Historical Museum, which features a great collection of ancient relics. Finally, summit Kok Tobe Hill for great views over the city before returning to the hotel after a long but fulfilling day.

Day 9: Almaty

Today, get out of Almaty and enjoy a day trip to Lake Issyk and Turgen Gorge. Stop at Issyk Museum, dedicated to Scythian culture. Continue to Ile-Alatau National Park, where the peaceful mountain-clad Lake Issyk is situated. After some time here, carry on to Turgen Gorge, where a short hike will bring you to a 20-metre waterfall. Don’t pass up on the chance of having lunch at a trout farm here. Return to Almaty in the afternoon.

Day 10: Almaty – KAZ/KGZ Border Crossing – Karakol

Today before saying goodbye to Kazakhstan, stop at spectacular Charyn Canyon (approximately 4 hours' drive). The colorful formations of different shapes and sizes are no less impressive than the Grand Canyon in the United States, (though it's much smaller!). Continue to the border and enter the mountainous nation of Kyrgyzstan. Tonight you'll stay in the peaceful town of Karakol.

Day 11: Karakol

This mainly Russian town was officially founded on 1st of July in 1869 by the military. At this time the town already had a large population of military officers, explorers from the Russian Geographical society, merchants and artisans. The town’s Soviet name was Przhevalsk after the Great Russian explorer of Central Asia and China, Nikolai Przhevalsky. His last expedition ended here and he is buried on the lakeshore near Karakol. Stroll along Karakol's streets spotting Russian-style 'gingerbread' houses. Visit the Dungan Mosque, Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, a local market and the Przhevalsky Museum. After lunch, drive for about 1 hour for a hike (approx. 2 hours) in the picturesque Jety Oguz Valley, aka Seven Bull Valley. Your leader will guide you through the forest to a waterfall (with jaw-dropping panoramic views). Return to Karakol for the night.

Day 12: Bishkek

Today is a full day's drive to Bishkek along the northern shore of Issyk Kul – the second largest alpine lake in the world after lake Titicaca in South America. The views are lovely along the way, especially seeing Issyk Kul surrounded by snow capped mountains. On the way, you'll stop at Cholpan Ata, visit a petroglyph's site and take a short boar ride onto the lake to enjoy its sheer size and scale. Arrive in Bishkek in the late afternoon.

Day 13: Bishkek

Take a trip down memory lane today with a city tour showcasing the country's fascinating history. The centre of the city is Ala-too Square, which was known as Lenin Square in Soviet times. Lenin used to stand in his concrete overcoat in the middle of this square, proudly gesturing towards the mountains. A great place  for a wander is Dubovy (Oak) Park, where you'll find a few open-air cafes. The century-old oaks here and all along Freedom Avenue make Bishkek one of the greenest cities in Central Asia. In the afternoon, you'll have some free time to further explore Bishkek. Quite the contrast to the relaxed quiet streets, square and parks in the city center, Osh Market is noisy, crowded, and a perfect peek into local life. You'll find all kinds of things on sale here from spices and fruits to clothes and carpets. Get together with your travel mates and enjoy an optional dinner together tonight to celebrate a great journey through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Day 14: Bishkek

Today is a free day to explore Bishkek. Perhaps take a leisurely wander through this relaxed city full of wide streets, trees and parklands, and a palpable Soviet past. The State Museum of Fine Arts is the city's premiere museum and TSUM Department Store in the city centre is renowned for having the best range of Kyrgyz souvenirs for shopping. This evening, there will be a meeting at 6 pm to welcome any new travellers joining you on the next stage of your adventure. Why not get together after the meeting for an optional group dinner.

Day 15: Bishkek

Embark on city tour that showcases the various stages of Bishkek’s history. Visit the severe Ala-Too Square, once known as Lenin Square, and learn about the towering statue depicting folkloric hero Manas. Continue to Dubovy Park, and wander among the open-air cafes before strolling between the century-old oaks along Freedom Avenue. In the afternoon, you'll have some free time to further explore Bishkek. Quite the contrast to the relaxed quiet streets, square and parks in the city centre, Osh Market is noisy, crowded, and a perfect peek into local life. You'll find all kinds of things on sale here, from spices and fruits to clothes and carpets.

Day 16: Don Aryk – Issyk-Kul Lake – Kochkor

Drive 60 kilometres to the 11th-century Burana Tower, a minaret that is the most visible remnant of the ancient city Balasagun. Continue to the nearby village of Don Aryk and visit a local home. Learn a little about the important role horses have played in the traditional Kyrgyz nomadic lifestyle and watch some displays of horsemanship, before eating a tasty lunch with your hosts. Continue to Issyk-Kul Lake, the second-largest alpine lake in the world. At 170-kilometres-long and 70-kilometres-wide, his beauty is a real sight to behold. Next up is the village of Kochkor. Explore a small local market in the centre of town and, depending on our arrival time, a local co-op that provides training for women in crafting traditional handicrafts to make an income.

Day 17: Song-Kol Lake (3016 metres)

Drive 130 kilometres to Song-Kol Lake, another alpine stunner that is considered a sacred place to many Kyrgyz people, as well as one of the best summer pastures for nomadic herders. The landscape will change depending on the season but is sure to be beautiful no matter when you travel. In the summer you might see nomadic herdsmen and their families watching over goats, sheep, and horses. Enjoy exploring your surroundings for the rest of the day, maybe hiking one of the many trails. Tonight, fall asleep in yurts set up along the shore. Made of felt and tarpaulins on a round frame, yurts are the traditional dwellings of the Kyrgyz people. Tomorrow, those daring enough for an invigorating morning splash can use the lake to wash off the sleep.

Day 18: Kyzyl-Oi

Travel along gravel roads to the tiny village of Kyzyl-Oi, which is squeezed between mountains. On the way, pass large coal deposits and travel along the Kokomeren River, which feeds into the Syr Darya. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the banks of the river in the shade of the trees and use your free time to explore the village on arrival.

Day 19: Suusamyr Valley – Chychkan – Kok-Bel

Get ready for a full-day of driving though big, beautiful landscapes. As the roads in Kyrgyzstan see little regular maintenance, even short distances on a map can take hours. The road crosses the Suusamyr Valley – a high steppe plateau situated at around 2200 metres above sea level. The mountainous surroundings are often dotted with yurts. Continue along the Chychkan River that cuts through the Tien Shan mountain range. Stop here for a while and soak up the amazing scenery. Arrive at tonight's accommodation in Kok-Bel sometime in the early evening.

Day 20: Osh

After breakfast, get ready for another all-day journey to Osh, the second-largest city in Kyrgystan. Stop en route at Uzgen, an ancient trading town and handicrafts centre along the Silk Road. Although much of the ancient city has been destroyed, a minaret and three mosques that have survived remain important examples of medieval Central Asian architecture. Continue to Osh. Located in the Fergana Valley in the south of the country, Osh is often referred to as the 'Capital of the South' and is the oldest city in the country.

Day 21: Osh

Rise and shine for a visit to the only World Heritage site in Kyrgystan, the Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain, also known as Solomon's Throne. For centuries Silk Road travellers have sought out the mountain's caves and their petroglyphs in the belief that they would be blessed with longevity or healthy children. Visit the National Historical and Archaeological Museum Complex. In the afternoon, enjoy some free time in Osh. Perhaps visit the Jayma Bazaar, where you might pick up an interesting souvenir or two. Or maybe take a self-guided tour of the remnants of Osh's soviet past with a walk to the giant Lenin statue in the city square.

Day 22: Border crossing – Andijan – Tashkent

This morning, drive to Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, which is just outside of the city. After passing through the border control (approximately 1–2 hours), farewell and thank your Kyrgyz guide and meet your new Uzbek guide. Transfer to Andijan and board a local train to Tashkent (approximately 5.5 hours). The train is a great place to meet locals, so don’t be surprised if people want to chat to the chet ellik (foreigner). Arrive in the evening and check into the hotel.

Day 23: Tashkent

Begin your introduction to Uzbekistan by exploring the capital on a sightseeing tour. Visit the State History Museum, which shows exhibits and collections spanning the countries 5000-year history. Continue to the Abdul Khasim Medrassah, where craftspeople operate in many small ‘cells’, making jewellery and other things. Finally, stop by the Khast Imom complex, a restored series of religious buildings (including a mosque) and a library containing an ancient Qur’an, parts of which have been dated to the ninth century. After lunch, lose yourself in the exciting Chorsu Bazaar, browsing traditional wooden cradles, handmade musical instruments, and the extensive vegetable and spice markets.

Day 24: Samarkand

Transfer to the station for the high-speed train to fabled Samarkand (approximately 2 hours). This city is located at the very centre of the ancient Silk Road. Enjoy some free time in the city on arrival, saving some of the key sights for the tour tomorrow. Maybe inspect the remains of the remarkable medieval observatory developed by Ulug Beg, an astronomer and grandson of nomadic conqueror and Timurid emperor Tamerlane (Amir Timur). Today, only half of the below-ground semicircle track can be seen, but there is a small museum close by that gives some context. Or perhaps visit the Afrosiab Museum of Samarkand, the main attraction of which is a tenth-century mural.

Day 25: Samarkand

Enjoy a tour of Samarkand. First up is the central square called the Registan, which features mosques and mausoleums that are true pinnacles of Islamic architecture. Continue to Guri-Amir, where Tamerlane is buried, and then the enormous Bibi-Khanum Mosque. Following the tour, drive to Konigil, a village on the edge of the city. Here, visit a local family for lunch, then join them in their traditional paper mill to learn how they make the material from mulberry. Return to Samarkand and visit Shak-i-Zinda, a necropolis that features a series of gleaming blue-tiled mausoleums. This sacred site has monuments from the 14th–19th century, reflecting the development of the monumental art and architecture of the Timurid dynasty onwards. It is photo worthy at every turn, just remember to be respectful as pilgrims visit the complex.

Day 26: Bukhara

Travel from Samarkand to Bukhara by train this morning (approx 2 hours). Located on the ancient Silk Road, Bukhara was an important regional and world hub for many, many years and has a long, fascinating history featuring invasions by both Genghis Khan and the Soviet Red Army. Explore this fascinating city with your tour leader on an orientation walk after arrival.

Day 27: Bukhara

Enjoy a full day of sightseeing in beautiful Bukhara. First visit the Sitorai Mohi Khosa, once the summer residence of the last Emir. Designed by Russian architects, it has interiors decorated with traditional filigree plaster, mirrored surfaces and delicate floral wall paintings by local artisans. Continue to the 16th-century Chor-Bakr necropolis, where not many tourists venture. Walk through the madrasa and mosque complex. In the afternoon, visit the Ark Fortress and Kalon Mosque, the symbol of Bukhara. Continue to one of Central Asia's oldest and most exquisite structures, the tenth-century Ismail Samani Mausoleum, the superb decorative brickwork of which has survived 1000 years of rugged history. Head to the Lyabi-Haus area, a busy 17th-century plaza with hundreds-years-old trees, for dinner. Later, there is time to wander the small craft studios tucked into the nearby madrasas and trading domes.

Day 28: Gijduvan – Bukhara

Travel to Gijduvan, historically a caravan stop on the way to Bukhara. Ulugbek, the famous astronomer and grandson of Tamerlane, built a madrasa here next to the grave of a Sufi saint. The town gained further fame as a centre of glazed pottery production. Visit the private studio of a local ceramic artist, meet the family and watch them at work. Later you have some free time to explore this small town. For lunch we recommend the juicy local kebabs that are famous throughout Uzbekistan. On your way back to Bukhara, stop to see a minaret from the late 12th century in Vobkent.

Day 29: Tashkent

Enjoy some free time for your own optional sightseeing in Bukhara. In the afternoon, take a fast train back to Tashkent followed by an optional dinner with your fellow travellers.

Day 30: Tashkent

There are no activities planned today and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time after check out.

30 days, from $5,920

to book call 1-844-205-6226


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