Expert-Led Group Tour

Central Asia group tour - Five Stans

Departing 28th August - 11th September 2020

17 days

from £4,995pp
  • Experience the highlights of all five of the Central Asian Stans
  • Explore the city of Almaty, former capital of Kazakhstan
  • Discover the world of intrigue that was the Great Game
  • Visit the colourful bazaars and architectural wonders of Samarkand and Bukhara

Travelling through Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, this is a journey full of remarkable contrasts to a region that is still largely undiscovered and explored. Each 'stan' is quite different both in its physical geography, each has its own character, and this tour will allow you to discover this. Mountains and markets, sights and sounds, people and personal encounters make this journey a mosaic of experiences.

Central Asia is an important crossroads of trading routes. Begin in Bishkek, settled in the shadows of the imposing Tien Shan Mountains. Continue into Almaty, Kazakhstan's trading and cultural hub. From here, fly to Dushanbe, situated on the Varzob River, is the capital of Tajikistan, also visit Khujand, one of the oldest cities in Central Asia. Next, cross into Uzbekistan, with its stunning architecture and hospitable people, this is sure to be a highlight of your journey. Finish the trip in Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, known for its white marble buildings and magnificent national monuments.

Why should I join this Central Asia group tour?

Our group tour to Central Asia has been created to allow you to see the highlights of each of the five countries visited. For the geographer, this region offers everything from congregations of mountains, steppe grasslands and deserts. There will also be the opportunity to meet the local nomadic peoples, who call this region home.

In addition, you will be accompanied throughout by group tour expert, Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi who is a Research Associate in the Department of the History of Art at SOAS, University of London. She has been leading group tours over central Asia, India, Pakistan and Lebanon for over three years and will be a great addition to this group tour.

Is this group tour suitable for solo travellers?

Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group in faraway places does provide security and peace of mind. We handle all of the arrangements for you and there will be a local tour guide on hand throughout to provide advice and help if needed, as well as the expertise of a tour expert.

If you are willing to share, we will always do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex so that you do not have to pay for a single room.

If you would prefer the privacy of your own room and would like this guaranteed, then the single room price supplement will apply.

What is the accommodation like in Central Asia?

Accommodation will vary along the route. There are a couple of smaller guesthouses, with private bathrooms, through to larger more sophisticated 4-star hotels in the major towns and cities.

What is the food like in Central Asia?

Meals will vary throughout and will include western-style breakfasts and local cuisine in all countries for lunch and dinner. Therefore, you will not need to worry about the 'extreme' dishes you may have read about.

What are the roads like in Central Asia?

Generally, good tarmac roads throughout but there may be times where roads are slightly bumpy.

Is there a dress code in Central Asia?

No, there is no dress code for any of the countries visited. You should be prepared for possible colder weather when crossing the mountains. You should dress for comfort taking some additional clothes so these can be layered. Good, worn-in shoes are advised.

Can I extend my stay in Central Asia?

Yes, this can easily be arranged at the end or the beginning of the tour. Private travel arrangements with a car and driver will be provided and a private guide arranged for sightseeing. Speak to one of our experts for possible suggestions on what extensions would complement this tour.



Departing on:
  • 26th August 2020

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

STARTFINISHPrice Excluding Flights £Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour ExpertStatus 
26th Aug 2020 11th Sep 2020 £ 4,995 £ 785 £ 550 Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • Accompanied by Dr. Mehreen Chida-Razvi throughout
  • Accompanied by English speaking local guides
  • Airport transfers
  • All accommodation as detailed in the itinerary
  • All meals mentioned in the itinerary
  • Entrance fees to sites visited
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers and porters
  • International flights
  • Transport as detailed in the itinerary

what is excluded

  • Drinks with meals
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas for each country visited, however, we can help to arrange these

TO ALLOW FLEXIBILITY, OUR GROUP TOURS DO NOT INCLUDE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS AS STANDARD. WE CAN ARRANGE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS ON YOUR BEHALF AND THE ABOVE IS AN INDICATION OF COST, BASED ON RETURN FLIGHTS DEPARTING FROM LONDON. ALL INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS FROM THE UK ARE ATOL PROTECTED.

Itinerary at a glance

Collapse all
Day 1

Remainder of day at leisure.


Welcome dinner included today.


You will be staying at Plaza Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 2

Morning city tour of Bishkek
Explore Bishkek and some of the various monuments that dot the city. These include the Victory Monument that celebrates the defeat of Nazi Germany and the huge Ala-Too Square, where Bishkek's immense 'White House' is located. There will also be a visit to the Parliament House and time to stroll in the Green Bazaar, an ideal place to find Kyrgyz traditional clothing, hats and boots.

The capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, was built on a grid system with many tree-lined streets. This approach to city planning has made central Bishkek a pleasant area to explore, with wide boulevards and impressive architecture.

Unusually low and surprisingly flat for the capital of such a mountainous country, Bishkek is 800 metres above sea level. Almost constantly visible from the streets are the snowy peaks of the Kyrgyz Ala-Too range, which surround the city.

Drive from Bishkek to Cholpan Ata (Road Journey)


Visit Burana Tower
In the afternoon, enroute to Cholpan Ata, stop to see the conically shaped, 13th Century Burana Tower. The tower was originally 45 metres high, however several earthquakes have caused significant damage to the structure, and it is now only 25 metres high. There is a small building on the site that contains historical information as well as artefacts found at the site and in the surrounding region.

Continue to Cholpan Ata, a town on the north shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, a journey time of around four hours.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Karven Four Seasons Resort, bed and breakfast

Day 3

Morning visit to see Cholpan-Ata's Petroglyphs
After breakfast, visit the region's renowned petroglyphs. Littering a boulder field, these ancient carvings are said to date back as far as the sixth century BC. Mainly depicting scenes related to hunting, the petroglyphs show animals that are now rarely spotted, such as wolves, long-horned ibex and snow leopards. Return to Bishkek in the afternoon. The remainder of the day is at leisure.

Drive from Cholpan Ata to Bishkek (Road Journey)


Bishkek
On arrival back into Bishkek in the late afternoon, the remainder of the day is at leisure.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Plaza Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 4

Border crossing between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan
Today will involve a border crossing between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Depart this morning and travel to Almaty, the border between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, a journey time of around five hours. Cross the border where your Kazakhstan local guide will be waiting to meet you to drive to Almaty.

Drive from Bishkek to Almaty (Road Journey)


Almaty arrival
After a full day of travel, on arrival in Almaty, the remainder of the day is at leisure.

Almaty was the former capital of Kazakhstan before it was moved to Astana in 1997. It has many fine 19th century buildings and remains the country's business and educational centre. Roads are wide and tree-lined and there are good views of the Zaiysky Ala-Too mountains that form a back drop to the city.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Grand Voyage Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 5

An Afternoon Tour of the City
Following breakfast, take a tour of Almaty. Visits in the city will include Panfilov Park to see the Zenkov Cathedral; built in 1904 without a single nail, it is one of the world's tallest wooden buildings. Nearby is the Glory Memorial, a tribute to 28 men from Almaty who served under General Ivan Panfilov. Continue to the Central Mosque through the famous Green bazaar before later going up to Kok Tobe Hill for a panoramic view of the city.

Return to your hotel where the remainder of the day is at leisure.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Grand Voyage Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 6

Day trip to Charyn Canyon
Depart early for a full day trip to Charyn Canyon. Located in the Charyn National Park, Charyn Canyon is around a three-hour drive from Almaty and stretches for over 150 kilometres along the Charyn River. Red sandstone cliffs have been forged into imposing formations, offering dramatic landscapes and breath-taking views.

Return to Almaty in the late afternoon.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Grand Voyage Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 7

Fly Almaty to Dushanbe


Explore Dushanbe and Hissor Fort
After lunch, travel outside the capital to see Hissor Fort, formerly capital of Eastern Bukhara province. The site has two madrasas, one of which is now an ethnographic museum. Travel through the city will include an overview of the capital and a visit to the Museum of National Antiquities. The exhibits in this museum are mostly from Tajikistan's pre-Islamic civilisations. The centre piece is the 19-metre reclining Buddha in Nirvana. Since the tragic destruction of the Bamiyan statues in Afghanistan, this is the largest Buddha in Central Asia.

The capital of Tajikistan is located in the Hissor Valley and has a history that can be traced back more than 3,000 years. In more recent times, a notable point in Dushanbe's history was when Said Alimhon, the last of the Bukhara emirs took refuge in the city, only to be driven out by the Bolsheviks. Dushanbe became the capital of the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922 but since its humble beginnings of a few houses it has grown into a sizable city.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Taj Palace - Dushanbe, bed and breakfast

Day 8

Drive from Dushanbe to Khujand (Road Journey)


Half day city tour of Khujand
See the earthen ramparts of the medieval citadel and the Museum of Archaeology located in the renovated eastern gate houses. Also see the mosque of Sheikh Mouslehiddin and the Panjshanbe Market.

Khujand is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia dating back to the 7th century BC. It was an important city on the Silk Route and today is an important industrial, scientific and cultural centre, lying on a flat tract of land adjacent to the Syr-Darya River surrounded by mountains.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Sugd Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 9

Border crossing between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
Today will involve a border crossing between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Depart this morning and travel to Oibek, the border between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, a journey time of around two hours. Cross the border where your Uzbekistan local guide will be waiting to meet you to drive to Tashkent.

Drive from Khujand to Oibek (Road Journey)

Drive from Oibek to Tashkent (Road Journey)


Although often referred to as a Silk Road city, little remains of Tashkent's old town. A 1966 earthquake and earlier modernisation work did irreparable damage to the city's architectural heritage.

Despite this, some treasures remain and modern Tashkent is a pleasant, green and open place. Dotted with monuments, parks and retaining an impressive feel, the city has undergone a successful reinvention.


The Journey from Oibek to Tashkent should take around three hours.


Visit the Museum of Applied Arts and Chorsu bazaar
This afternoon, visit the Museum of Applied Arts which dates back to 1927, when the first exhibition of artworks by artists of Uzbekistan was held here. The museum lists over 7,000 samples of applied arts, including handmade embroidery, skull-caps (tyubeteika), jewellery, carpets and other examples of craftsmanship from the beginning of the 19th century to the present day.

Afterwards, discover Tashkent's spectacular metro, central Asia's first underground transport system which boasts some of the most ornate stations in the world. Take a train to the Chorsu bazaar and walk through the various market stalls, offering everything from ceramics to freshly baked bread.

Continue to your hotel.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Miran International Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 10

Transfer to the railway station.

Travel from Tashkent to Samarkand (Rail Journey)


Samarkand is one of the world's most ancient and fabled cities. Inextricably linked with the great Silk Road, Samarkand was a famous trading city and has at various times been the capital of many a kingdom. Since 2001, it has been designated by UNESCO as one of their World Heritage Sites, and labelled 'Samarkand - Crossroads of Cultures'.


Samarkand full day city tour
You will be met on arrival at the train station and transferred for a sightseeing tour of some of Samarkand's highlights. Explore the beautiful Shah-i-Zinda, before continuing to Ulugh Beg's Observatory and the Shah-I-Zinda Ensemble, which is a narrow street containing many mausolea including the tomb of Kazi Zade Rumi who was Ulug Beg's teacher. Also visit the nearby Afrosiab museum which has the famous 7th century Sogdian frescoes of a bridal procession.

After the city tour, transfer to your hotel.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Sultan Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 11

A Full Day of Sightseeing
Wander the vast Registan Square, arguably the most spectacular architectural ensemble in Central Asia. Surrounded by three beautifully restored Madrasas, it was built by the famous 15th century astronomer and Timurid ruler, Ulugh Beg. The square was originally used for public gatherings, which ranged from public executions to royal decrees.

Continue to visit the Gur Emir, Tamerlane's Tomb and the Ulugh Bek Observatory, built by Ulugh Beg (Tamerlane's grandson) in the 15th century. The Shah-I-Zinda Ensemble is a narrow street which contains many mausolea including, it is believed, the tomb of Kazi Zade Rumi who was Ulug Beg's teacher. The Bibi Khanym Mosque built by Tamerlane between 1399-1404 suffered from being built too quickly and from an earthquake in the 18th century. However, it has recently been restored. The colourful bazaar is located nearby, and one can buy nuts, dried and fresh fruit, spices, honey and a multitude of other goods.


Evening folk show
In the evening, transfer to a local folk show with traditional Uzbek music and dancing.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Sultan Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 12

Transfer to the railway station.

Travel from Samarkand to Bukhara (Rail Journey)


The former capital and a centre of Islamic learning, Bukhara has over 300 mosques. This, along with the city's 80 madrasas, led to its reputation as the holiest city in Central Asia. Now renowned for its architecture, it was the beauty of Bukhara's Kalon Minaret that stopped Genghis Khan in his tracks. Unfortunately, his sense of awe failed to stop him razing the rest of the city to the ground. In the 18th and 19th centuries Bukhara again returned to prominence, as it became one of the most important pawns in 'The Great Game' being waged between Russia and Britain.


Bukhara afternoon city tour
On arrival in Bukhara, visit Lyab-i-Khauz, meaning 'ensemble near the pool'. Bukhara's most spectacular and oldest square comprises of the Kukeldash Madrasa, the Nadir Devanbagi Madrasa and the Nadir Devanbagi Mosque.

Afterwards, visit the Poi Kalon Minaret and mosque and the living Madrassah of Miri Arab before seeing the Ulug Beg Madrasas.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Minzifa Boutique Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 13

Full Day Sightseeing including the Ark Citadel and Bolo Hauz Mosque
After breakfast, travel just outside town to visit the Sitora-i-Mokhikhosa, the summer residence of the former emir of Bukhara. Here a unique mixture of traditional Russian style architecture mixed with local oriental traditions can be seen. There is a selective Suzani collection as well as other artefacts. Also visit the house museum of Faizullah Khodjaev, a rich Bukhara merchant who was condemned to death by Stalin in 1938. He was the rebellious leader of Uzbeks in Soviet times. Continue to the Ark Citadel. Once the fortified home of the rulers of Bukhara and still imposing in its appearance, the Ark Citadel now houses a museum. After examining the relics within, head to the Bolo Hauz mosque, which stands opposite the Ark. Famous for its intricately carved porch with its brightly painted ceiling and slender wooden columns, the mosque was originally constructed as a royal place of worship. Next, visit the Bayan-Quli Khan and Saif ed-Din Boharsi mausoleums. Built in the 13th and 14th century, these were constructed by followers of Sufism, a form of Islamic mysticism. Inside there is an excellent collection of 18th century costumes, whilst the harem contains a superb display of hand-embroidered 'suzanis'. In the afternoon, visit Sitarah-i Mah-i Khassah and the Baha al-Din Sufi Centre. Textile and craft activities are practised in the old town and you can observe suzani embroidery, gold embroidery, jewellery making, silk and carpet weaving. There will then be free time to continue exploring at your leisure.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Minzifa Boutique Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 14

Border crossing between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan
Today will involve a border crossing between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Depart your hotel in the morning and travel to Turkmenabat, the border between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, a journey time of around three hours. Cross the border where your Turkmenistan local guide will be waiting to meet you to drive to Mary.

Drive from Bukhara to Turkmenabat (Road Journey)

Drive from Turkmenabat to Mary (Road Journey)


The Journey from Turkmenbat to Mary should take around four hours.


Mary arrival
After a full day of travel arrive in Mary, the remainder of the day is free.

The modern successor to the ancient city of Merv, Russian forces' capture of Mary in 1884 lead to British tabloids coining the phrase 'Mervousness', due to British fears about Russia's imperial ambitions.

An oasis in the Karakum desert, Merv played a key role in the development of the Silk Road, even surviving being ransacked by the Mongol Hordes in the 13th century.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Mary Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 15

Sightseeing tour of Merv and Mary
Located 30 minutes' drive from Mary, Merv covers an area of 130 square kilometres. Once known as the pearl of the East, between the 8th and 13th centuries, Merv was the second city of Islam after Baghdad, before it fell victim to the most horrific slaughter by the Mongols. As no new town was ever built on top of the original, the site continued to expand westwards and now comprises the ruins of several different cities. Little has been excavated and there is much debate as to each settlement's real period of existence.

Return to Mary in the afternoon.

Fly Mary to Ashgabat


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Nusay Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 16

Sightseeing tour of Ashgabat
In the morning, explore Ashgabat's sites on a city tour, which reveals how quickly the city is developing. Modern buildings fringe the older architecture in the centre of town and wide boulevards radiate out to the suburbs. Visits will include the Carpet Museum and the new National Museum of History and Ethnography.Topped with a deep blue dome and standing against the backdrop of the Kopetdag, the impressive National Museum of History and Ethnography epitomises the architecture of post-independence Ashgabat. Step inside and discover a wide range of exclusive ancient artefacts from the different historical and archaeological sites of Turkmenistan, including Old Nisa and Ancient Merv. Housing eight permanent exhibitions in eight large halls, each of the halls revolves around a different theme.

Devastated by a 1948 earthquake, Turkmenistan's capital was originally rebuilt as a bland Soviet city. Following independence and the emergence of Saparmurat Niyazov (who lost his mother in the earthquake) as president, restoring the grandeur of Ashgabat became a priority.

Now a glittering example of hydro-carbon funded architecture, what Ashgabat lacks in history, it makes up with a stunning array of marble-clad palaces, ministries, hotels and residential areas.


Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.


You will be staying at Nusay Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 17

Day at leisure in Ashgabat

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Tour Expert

Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi

Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi
Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi is a Research Associate in the Department of the History of Art at SOAS, University of London, and an Assistant Editor for the International Journal of Islamic Architecture. She earned her BSc and BA from the University of Florida, Gainesville, before moving to London where she completed an MA in Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and a second MA and a PhD in the History of Art & Archaeology from SOAS. She specializes in the history of Islamic art, architecture and material culture in the early modern era, with a particular emphasis on the Persianate regions of Mughal South Asia, Iran and Central Asia. Her primary research examines the history of architecture and the built environment and cross- cultural and artistic interactions between Europe and the Persianate world. Mehreen has lectured extensively on Islamic and Indo-Islamic Art at SOAS, the Courtauld Institute of Art, the University of Oxford, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and Sotheby’s Institute of Art for over a decade, and for the past 3 years has been an expert lecturer on cultural tours to Central Asia, Iran, India, Pakistan and Lebanon. She has published on seventeenth-century Mughal architecture and painting, Mughal-Persianate relations, European views of the Mughal Empire, and the social responsibility of architecture. She has shared her expertise with a wider audience through her participation in and consultation for documentaries on the Taj Mahal, programming on BBC World Service Radio and BBC2.

We are very excited for Mehreen to accompany our Five Stans tour.
Enquire about this Expert Led tour:
Speak to a Kazakhstan holiday expert:

Group Size:

Min 6 / Max 15

Tour Expert:

Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi

Departure Date (S):

  • 26th August 2020

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