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Visit the most magnificent cities of the ancient Silk Road with Islamic expert Diana Driscoll. These include Uzbekistan’s second largest city, Samarkand, built by the infamous 14th-century Emperor Tamerlane; the medieval city of Bukhara, with its dazzling blue mosaic domes; the jadegreen city of Khiva; and Nukus, which once protected the Russian avant-garde art collection of archaeologist and artist, Igor Savitsky from the Soviets.
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Board the overnight flight from London (regional connections available) to Tashkent with Uzbekistan Airways. (N)
Arrive in Tashkent and transfer to the Miran Hotel (or similar) for a rest. After an introductory lecture and welcome lunch, take a city tour to see the highlights of Tashkent, including Kukeldash mosque, Muyie Mubarak library and Tillya Sheikh mosque. In the afternoon, fly to Nukus and overnight at Hotel Jipek Joli (or similar). (B, L)
Morning tour of the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art, which houses the collection of Igor Savitsky, who secreted away thousands of Russian avant-garde and post avant-garde paintings during the Stalinist Soviet period. Besides this rare and extensive collection of art (second only to St Petersburg), he also collected thousands of Uzbek artefacts, textiles and jewellery. Tour the museum with a local specialist. En route to Khiva, stop at Chilpak to see the fourth-century Zoroastrian Tower of Silence. Stay for 2 nights at Orient Star Khiva (or similar). (B, D)
Full-day tour of the old walled city of Khiva, capital of Khorezm between the 16th and 20th centuries, and one of the most remote of the Silk Road cities. Visits include the Kunya Ark (old fortress), the original residence of the Khiva khans; the beautifully decorated Tash Hauli (stone palace); the Friday Mosque; and madrasas (theological colleges), which now house museum collections. Also visit a Unesco silk carpet workshop. (B)
Full-day drive to Bukhara (7-8 hours), through the Kyzylkum desert stopping at the Amu Darya river, known as the Oxus river in the ancient world. Stay at Emir Hotel (or similar) for 4 nights. (B, L)
Take a full-day walking tour of Bukhara, visiting the Persian Samanid brick mausoleum, the Chashmai Ayub, known as Job’s Well, and the Bolo Hauz mosque. Visit the trade domes, madrasas and traditional Bukharan bazaars. Continue to the Poi-Kalyan complex, which includes the towering Kalyan minaret and the twin-domed Miri-Arab madrasa. (B)
Visit the architectural ensemble around the Lyab i-Hauz pool, fed by the waters of the royal canal. Continue to the Chor Minor, a curious four-towered gatehouse, and the Sitora-i Mokhi-Khosa, the summer palace of the last emir of Bukhara. Then visit the Fayzulla Khodjaev Museum, set in the house of a wealthy Bukhara merchant showing aspects of life in the early 20th century. Continue to the Balyand neighbourhood mosque, a jewel of 16th-century architecture, and the imposing ark fortress of the Bukhara emirs. Walk down the narrow streets of historic Bukhara to the old Jewish quarter. See one of the city’s hidden gems, the Jewish synagogue, which houses a collection of ancient torahs dating back approximately 600 years. (B)
Drive along the royal road to the 11th-century Rabat i-Malik caravanserai (a trading route stop-off). Continue to Gijduvan, renowned for its traditional ceramics, and see Abd-alKhalyk Gijduvani mazar. Return to Bukhara via Vabkent to see the minaret commissioned in the 12th century by one of the rulers of Bukhara. (B, L)
Drive to Shahrisabz, birthplace of Tamerlane, where he built an enormous palace, of which part of the beautifully ornamented audience chamber remains. Drive alongside the Zerafshan mountains to Samarkand for a 2-night stay at the Emir Khan Hotel (or similar). (B)
Drive to the ancient deserted site of Afrosiyob on the outskirts of Samarkand, where a settlement once thrived until it was destroyed by Tamerlane. Archaeological finds are housed in the Afrosiyob History Museum. Continue to the observatory of Ulug Beg, Tamerlane’s astronomer grandson, and see the Bibi Khanum mosque, built by Tamerlane for his favourite wife. End the day at the magnificent Gur Emir mausoleum where Tamerlane is buried beneath the Timurid fluted blue domes. (B)
Visit Registan Square, framed by three brilliantly ornamented madrasas, and see the Shah-i-Zinda necropolis. Visit the Amir Timur gate in Djizak . Drive to Tashkent. After a farewell dinner, overnight at the Miran Hotel (or similar). (B, D)
This morning, visit the Museum of Applied Arts in a former Russian diplomat's residence. In the afternoon, transfer to the airport for a flight to London. (B)
As per itinerary – B: Breakfast, L: Lunch, D: Dinner, N: No meals.
A collection of expert accompanied tours focusing on creativity in its many forms. All tours are open to everyone and can be viewed here.
This tour is fully escorted throughout by the lecturer, as well as an experienced local guide.
This tour is based in 4-star accommodation. Please visit our website to see details of the hotels.
The tour involves some long drives and requires a good level of fitness as there is walking over rough terrain and up some high, uneven steps. There are also some long road journeys.
Please note that the exclusive and individual nature of private visits means that they are subject to confirmation nearer the time of departure. Mosques, private houses and other buildings often have fluid opening times. If any visits have to be rearranged, please be assured that we will seek alternatives of equal interest.
This tour can be booked / reserved online by clicking on one of the coloured links below.
UZA2019: 10 Nights
There were many inspirational moments on this tour, but reaching the 40th step to the Shah-I-Zinda necropolis in Samarkand was perhaps the best moment. A street of mausoleums, burial sites for some members of Timur's family - it is a feast for the eyes - especially refreshing after the formality of the Registan. Here the patterns, drawn from different parts of Timur's empire and boldly juxtaposed, seem infinite, lively and confident; and the colours are gloriously vivid. To see the tiling for the first time was spine-tingling; and the rest of the street lived up to the initial promise. A truly memorable experience.Dr Mary McGrail
Our first evening in Khiva was magical. We walked by ourselves in the almost deserted streets of the old city and felt transported in another world, with the beautiful mosques and madrassas rising in the dying light. There were many amazing moments during the group visits but I would pick the climb to the Zoroastrian tower of silence near Nukus, looking at the great Oxus river and thinking of the flow and ebb of the ancient civilisations and cultures that were built and destroyed over the centuries in this now forgotten heart of Central Asia.Dr Mireille Levy
Bukhara is largely built of brown mud-brick, and as a result is perhaps visually less...
The ancient city of Khiva lies around 450km north-west of Bukhara, and only around 40k...
Samarkand is one of the world's oldest cities, located in the very centre of Uzbekistan...
Although little remains of Tashkent’s history, there has been a settlement on this site,...