Journey Along the Silk Road: Uzbekistan
Discover the ‘Jewel of Central Asia’, a land of ancient oasis citadels with their distinctive turquoise-tiled minarets, mosques and madrassahs and a rich tradition of arts and crafts.
Uzbekistan was the crossroads of the Silk Road, the ancient trade route that connected China with the Mediterranean. For over two millennia it has absorbed diverse influences, among them Greek, Persian, Turkic, Russian and Chinese cultures, as well as Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Nestorian Christianity and Islam.
In the capital Tashkent, discover the modern energy of Uzbekistan. Explore the archaeological legacy of the conquering general Timur (Tamerlane) in the romantic cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand which are still crowned with dazzling tiled mosques. Visit Nukus and Timur’s birthplace, Shakhrisabz, meeting village artisans along the way.
Discover a long tradition of arts and crafts, including the intricately embroidered suzani (tribal textiles), exquisite silk ikat weavings, hand-woven silk carpets, miniature paintings, tribal jewellery and distinctive ceramic ware.
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This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
In the morning, depart from Sydney on Asiana Airlines to Seoul (flight included in tour price).
Arrive in Seoul in the late afternoon. Dinner and overnight in the hotel at Seoul Airport.
(L-in flight, D)
After a morning at leisure and lunch at the hotel, fly from Seoul to Tashkent in the afternoon on Asiana Airlines (flight included in tour price). After immigration and customs formalities on arrival in Tashkent, transfer to the hotel.
(BL D-in flight)
After a welcome briefing and talk by Joyce, enjoy a full-day tour of Tashkent. Visit the Chorsu Bazaar, the centre of daily life in the heart of old town, which comprises a unique complex of trade halls crowned with interrelated domes. The bazaar sells everything from exotic dried fruits to fresh herbs, handmade cheeses, freshly-slaughtered meat and colourful handicrafts.
Afterwards, explore the impressive Tashkent Metro, which opened in 1977 in honour of 60th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Each station has its own unique architectural features made of semi-precious materials including marble, granite, glass, ceramics and carved alabaster.
Drive to Amir Timur Square, with its imposing statue of Uzbekistan’s post-Soviet hero, Timur (Tamerlane). Continue past Independence Square, the largest city square in any of the former-Soviet countries.
Enjoy lunch with the locals at a popular restaurant specialising in plov (slow-cooked rice with meat, onion and carrots), the Uzbek national dish.
After lunch, visit the Museum of Applied Arts, with its vast collection of Uzbek traditional crafts. The museum is housed in the former residence of Russian diplomat A.A. Polovtsev, which was built at the end of 19th century in the Uzbek national style.
The evening is at leisure.
Following an early breakfast, transfer to Tashkent Airport for a flight to Nukus (flight included in tour price). On arrival in Nukus, transfer to hotel for check-in.
In the afternoon, drive to the Igor Savitsky Museum (Karalpak Museum). This remarkable museum, opened in 1966, is located in the most remote region of Uzbekistan and houses an enormous collection, including antiquities from Khorezm traditional Karakalpak folk art, Uzbek fine art and, uniquely, the largest collection of Russian avant-garde in the world after the Russian Museum in St Petersburg.
After lunch, there is free time to further explore the Savitsky Museum at your own pace.
Check out from the hotel in the morning and travel to Khiva. Along the way, see the remains of a Zoroastrian Tower of Silence (Chilpak Kala), and visit the archaeological sites of Toprak Kala, the 3rd century AD capital of ancient Khorezm, and Ayaz Kala, with its three mud-brick fortresses dating from the 4th century BC to the 7th century AD. Abandoned for 1,300 years, the Kalas (fortresses) were rediscovered in the 1940s by the Russian archaeologist S.P. Tolstov.
Arrive in Khiva in the late afternoon and check in to the hotel. Dinner is at a local restaurant.
After a morning talk by Joyce, enjoy a full-day walking tour of Khiva, an ‘open air museum’ consisting of the Dichan Kala outer town and the Ichan Kala inner town, which are protected by a 2.2 km-long sloping brick wall, the foundations of which were laid in the 10th century. Visit Kunya Ark Citadel, residence of Khivan Khans founded in 1680s with further buildings added in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the 19th century Kalta Minar or Short Minaret.
Visit the Djuma Mosque, the main hall of which has over 200 wooden columns, the earlier ones decorated in Kufic and Naskh inscriptions, the later in the typical Khivan floral-vegetative pattern. Then explore the majestic Pahlavan Mahmud Mausoleum, with its dazzling turquoise dome.
After lunch, visit the Islam Khodja Complex, consisting of the city’s smallest madrassah and tallest minaret, ringed with stripes of lustrous blue tiles. Visit the oldest architectural structure in Khiva, the 14th century Sheikh Said Allauddin Mausoleum.
Watch the sunset from the city wall before dinner at a local restaurant.
Deepen your acquaintance with Khiva on a morning visit to the bustling local bazaar and the 19th century Tash Hauli Palace and Harem, the main palace of the Khivan Khans. With its ceramic tiles, carved marble and painted wood, the Palace is the most striking example of architectural decoration in the city.
Enjoy lunch and a tea ceremony at the National House Zaynab, renowned for its generous Central Asian hospitality.
The remainder of the afternoon and evening are at leisure to continue your exploration of Khiva at your own pace.
After breakfast, check out from the hotel and travel to the sacred city of Bukhara where its historic centre boasts more than 100 Islamic monuments and museums. Along the way, travel across the Kyzyl Kum red sand desert, stopping for a barbecue lunch at a chai khana (tea-house).
In the late afternoon, check in to the hotel in Bukhara, centrally located in the Old Town, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.
Enjoy a morning talk by Joyce, and then set out for a full-day tour of Bukhara, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed city which has long been a centre of trade, scholarship, culture and religion. Begin with the perfectly proportioned Samanid Ismail Mausoleum, with its exquisitely patterned brickwork, and then visit the nearby Chashma Ayub Shrine. Visit the magnificent archaeological complex, the Ark Citadel, rebuilt after its sacking by the Red Army in 1920, and the 18th century Bolokhauz Mosque. Continue to the Kaylan Minaret, the main symbol of city.
After lunch, stroll through the central square, Lyabi-Hauz, built around a large pool. Visit the 10th century Magoki-Attori Mosque, built over an ancient Zoroastrian fire temple, and the Ulubek Madrassah and the Abdulaziz Khan Madrassah, constructed on the Persian model with a large courtyard, divided by four iwans (open-sided arched halls).
In the late afternoon, enjoy tea and oriental sweets in a teahouse before returning to the hotel.
In the morning, visit the old European-style Summer Palace, once the sumptuous residence of the Bukhara Emirs, built in the second half of the 19th century. Today the palace houses a museum of decorative arts. Continue to the Bahauddin Nakshbandi Memorial Complex, one of the most important pilgrimage sites of Bukhara, centred on the mausoleum of the famous Sufi philosopher Bahauddin Naqshbandi.
Visit the grave of local Sufi sheikh, poet and theologian Saif ed-Din al-Boharsi (1190-1261), who famously converted Khan Berke of the Mongol Golden Horde to Islam. Nearby is the 14th century Mausoleum of Boharsi’s pupil, Bayan Qulï Khan.
Return to Bukhara for free time to explore the old bazaars. In the evening, enjoy dinner followed by a traditional Bukhara folk performance.
In the morning, check out from the hotel and travel along the ancient Royal Road to Samarkand. Along the way, see an impressive portal, the only remnant of the Rabat-i-Malik, a royal caravanserai. Visits the Sarmish-Say Gorge in the Karatau Mountain Range and see remarkable petroglyphs depicting hunting scenes and rituals. Between 4,000 and 6,000 years old, there are more than 4,000 such petroglyphs and pictographs scattered along the gorge.
Enjoy lunch en route, and then continue to the ancient city of Samarkand. Conquered by three of history’s greatest generals – Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Amir Timur – under the last of these, Samarkand became the glittering capital of a vast empire.
Begin the day with a talk by Joyce, and then visit the spectacular Registan Square, framed by three madrassahs whose soaring entrance portals display the distinctive Timurid style: the 15th century Ulugh Beg Madrasah, and the 17th century Tilya-Kori Madrasah and Sher-Dor Madrasah. Visit the partial ruins of the gigantic early-15th century Amir Timur Mosque (Bibi-Khanyum Mosque).
After lunch, explore the expansive territory of the Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis, with rows of richly decorated mausoleums built during the 14th and 15th centuries for members of the Timurid Dynasty. The main mausoleum is said to be the grave of the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin, Kusama ibn Abbas. According to legend, Kusam came to preach the new faith of Islam in Samarkand in 640, where he was beheaded by the Zoroastrian rulers; unperturbed by his own decapitation, Kusam picked up his head and retired to the Garden of Paradise, where he still lives. During Mediaeval times, a pilgrimage to the grave of ‘The Living King’ was equated to making the hajj to Mecca.
In the morning, drive in small cars over the mountains to Shakhrisabz, Timur’s birthplace and the second capital of the Timurid Empire after Samarkand. Visit the remains of the grand 14th-15th century Ak Sarai Palace built by Timur, the Dor as-Siadat burial complex, which includes a mausoleum for Timur’s sons Jahangir and Umar Sheikh, and the Amir Timur crypt. Continue to the Kuk Gumbaz Mosque, with its elegant turquoise domes it is an outstanding example of the Khorezm architectural style.
Enjoy lunch in Shakhrisabz. Late afternoon return to Samarkand.
Morning visit to the 14th century Gur-Emir Mausoleum with its exquisite ribbed dome decorated in brilliant azure tiles. Originally built for Timur’s grandson, it inadvertently became Timur’s own resting place (instead of Shakhrisabz, as Timur had intended).
Continue to the Observatory built for Timur’s grandson, the astronomer-emir Ulugh Beg (Central Asia’s version of the ‘philosopher-king’). Built in the 1420s, it was considered one of the finest observatories in the Islamic world, but was only rediscovered in 1908.
Drive to Afrosiab, the most ancient part of Samarkand, to visit the Afrosiab Museum, which features the remarkable mid-7th century mural the ‘Ambassadors’ Painting’, a rare example of Sogdian art discovered only in 1965.
Dinner tonight is accompanied by a traditional music performance.
Enjoy a morning at leisure, and then in the afternoon transfer to Samarkand Railway Station for the high-speed train, Afrosiab, to Tashkent (included in tour price).
Check in to the hotel in Tashkent, followed by dinner.
Spend the morning exploring the charming sector of Old Tashkent. Visit the State Art Museum of Uzbekistan, which houses an excellent collection of Uzbek and Russian paintings, as well as textiles, jewellery, wood carvings and ceramics.
After lunch, the remainder of the afternoon is at leisure.
In the evening, transfer to Tashkent Airport and for an Asiana Airlines flight to Seoul (flight included in tour price).
Overnight in flight.
Arrive in Seoul in the morning and transfer to the hotel.
In the afternoon, explore the city of Seoul. Pass the unique City Hall where a glass tsunami structure folds around a modernist building and visit the Gyeongbok Palace, home to Korean kings since 1395. Walk through Bukchon, a traditional residential area with a history spanning 600 years, to the main street of Insa-dong, where vendors sell antiques, ceramics and artworks.
Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant in the evening.
(B-in flight, D)
Spend the morning visiting two of Korea’s major art destinations. Begin with the National Museum of Korea, the flagship museum of Korean history and art, and the country’s largest museum. Then visit the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, which exhibits both traditional and modern works of art by Korean and international artists.
Enjoy a special farewell lunch with Joyce and fellow travellers, and then transfer to the Seoul Airport for a flight to Sydney on Asiana Airlines (flight included in tour price).
Overnight in flight.
(BL, D-in flight)
Arrive at Sydney Airport in the morning, where tour arrangements conclude.
International airfare payment (120 days prior)
Reduction without international airfare and Seoul stopovers
– AUD 2,000
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
12 July 2019
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.
Please note that a good level of fitness and a sense of adventure are required for this tour. The tour includes the exploration of remote areas of Uzbekistan with basic tourist infrastructure.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa to Uzbekistan for stays of less than 30 days.
Tour price includes
- Economy Class flights Sydney – Seoul – Tashkent – Seoul – Sydney on Asiana Airlines (23KG luggage allowance) #
- Accommodation in centrally located hotels (best available) with breakfast daily (B)
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure in Tashkent
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure in Seoul if travelling on group flights
- Economy Class flight from Tashkent to Nukus incl. taxes (20 KG luggage allowance)
- Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
- Ticket on high-speed railway from Samarkand to Tashkent
- Transportation on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Lectures and talks with your tour leader, Joyce Morgan
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
# Payment for flights required 120 days prior to departure
Tour price does not include
- Items of a personal nature, including telephone calls, laundry, taxis etc.
- Airport porterage
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Seoul – Best Western Premier Incheon ****
Tashkent – Lotte City Hotel Tashkent Palace ****
Nukus – Jipek Joli hotel ***
Khiva – Khiva Palace Hotel ***
Bukhara – Minorai-Kalon ***
Samarkand – Asia Samarkand ****
Seoul – Courtyard by Marriott Namdaemun ****
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.