27 Days | 22 Aug – 17 Sep, 2024. $AU9,763 joining in Almaty, end in Tashkent. Bookings coming in. Places available.

Our small group journey begins in Kazakhstan, through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, then to the Silk Road towns found in Uzbekistan. Our journey celebrates the famous textile and other crafts fostered by the crossroads of the famous Silk Road, sitting between Western China and the Caspian Sea. Absorb the textiles, crafts, history, cuisine and architecture.

Uzbekistan

Program Overview

Over centuries, numerous ethnic and cultural groups settled in Central Asia in millenia past, creating a unique centre of culture and crafts. Time-honoured explorers and conquerors such as Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Amir Timur (Tamerlane) made their mark. More recent adventurous activity was played out by Russia and Britain during the ‘Great Game’.

The romance of times past manifests itself in the names of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva, all places we spend time at. While these cities are famous, many smaller locations were just as important, developing craft skills to trade with the Silk Road caravans.Today, many of these ancient settlements continue there skills, which we shall explore.

We immerse into the varied and always fascinating grand monuments, major historical sites, museums and workshops, and delve into ancient arts and crafts of Uzbekistan. We plan to visit famous craft masters practising woodblock printing, embroidery, silk carpets, weaving and dyeing ikat and silk, wood carving, metalwork, and more. Bazaars and souks, stocked with ‘Silk Road’ items from fruits to spices, gold and gems, fabrics, rugs, livery, and even camels, await our inquisitive eyes. These same eyes will be stunned by the exquisite mosaics and Islamic influences found on gateways, mosques, palaces and more.

Accommodation has been selected for its character, service and location and ranges from 3* to 4*, along with a night in a yurt, where we are entertained and welcomed as special guests. We include all breakfasts. Home-cooked regional dinners and lunches are always appreciated.

Exposure to traditional craft skills, our workshops, excellent guide, comprehensive itinerary, and the charming hospitality of Central Asia people, combine to make this a very special journey. Recovering from the Soviet era, the region can be likened to desert flowers bursting in the desert. It is time for us to discover its beauty and character embodied in their cultural skills and traditions.

Dates and Cost

27 Days | 22 Aug-17 Sep, 2024 | $AU9,763 or $US6,142 approx. per person twin share. From Almaty to Tashkent. Minimum of 08 guests, maximum of 15.

Highlights

  • Visit World Heritage sites and towns
  • Be impressed by ancient buildings and palaces, along with Russian era extravaganzas
  • Visit extraordinary Soviet era metro stations
  • Explore excellent and eccentric museums and galleries
  • Experience numerous craft ateliers such as paper, ceramics, silks, ikat, wood and metal working.
  • Meet artisans at their workshops and ateliers
  • Travel in comfortable vehicles
  • Experience Central Asian hospitality at our selection of smaller hotels, and one-night yurt stay
  • Participate in cooking experiences
  • Discover the everyday life as you wander souks, villages, and small towns
  • Indulge in decent home-cooked traditional meals
  • Be charmed by our guides, drivers and locals found throughout this friendly region.

Itinerary: 27 days travelling through four Central Asian Silk Road countries.

Day 1-2: Thu & Fri, 22-23 Aug: Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Thursday is our arrival day, and guests will be met and transferred to our accommodation. No specific activities are planned, allowing you to check-in to your hotel, unpack, rest, and explore the local surrounds.

We will gather for a welcome dinner tonight and meet our local Guide and fellow travellers.

Embroidered Fabric

Friday, we begin with visits to local important sites, followed by the Musical Instruments Museum, and the Central State Museum for carpets, textiles, and more. Also call into fabric stores and the Green Bazaar.

Weather permitting, we take the cable car to Shymbulak, at 2,200 m, for a grand view of the Tien Shan mountains and Almaty city.

Day 3-7: Sat, 24 Aug to Wed, 28 Aug: Almaty, Kazakhstan to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Our first day exposes us to fabulous scenery reminiscent of the Grand Canyon. We cross the border to find even more stunning scenery, ending with dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight at Karakol.

On Sunday we visit the enormous and colourful livestock market. Apart from animals, there are time-honoured craft items, such as leather, wool, cotton, and fibre pieces catering to livestock husbandry, and rural lifestyle. After lunch we visit some of the wonderful historic buildings and places.

Monday, we travel to Tamga village and visit a needle felting workshop, followed by a unique cooking class. Possible to spend the night in traditional yurts located on the shores of Issyk (Warm Water) Lake. Dungan ethnic group cooking class for lunch, and dinner at our Russian family guesthouse.

Tuesday learn how a yurt is made, followed by a felt making workshop. Dinner at our guesthouse.

Bishkek, the capital is our destination today via a 9th century castle sie. A busy day with a wonderful inspection of shyrdak collection, a fashion designer studio, and master class of silk.

Day 8: Thu 29 Aug: Bishkek to Fergana Valley.

Early start for flight to the border town of Osh, the oldest city in Uzbekistan. Visit ‘must-see’ sites, the 2000 year-old Osh Bazaar, and a stunning Lenin Statue.

We say goodbye to our Kyrgyz crew and cross into Uzbekistan to overnight in Margilan, the focus of Fergana Valley, and their famous silk ikat.

Day 9-11: Fri-Sun, 30 Aug-01 Sep: Margilan and Kokand.

Yodgorlik factory, and Rishtan ceramics are true highlights, amid a busy time. Both celebrate centuries of expertise forming the basis of their local economies, as stops on the Silk Road. Margilan silk surpassed silk from China for centuries, and Rishtan ceramics replicate their celebrated style, traded from Turkey to China. We participate in silk dyeing, and visit workshops of silk, wool, and ceramics. There is excellent shopping at the main bazaar. But, don’t forget we see expansive scenery and delicate architecture.

Day 12: Mon, 02 Sep: Uzbekistan to Tajikistan.

Our main activity this morning is crossing to Tajikistan. We visit a textile workshop, and a Master class , along with a textile training centre.

Day 13-14: Tue-Wed, 03-04 Sep: Tajik to Samarkand.

Tajik is the ‘forgotten’ Stan, but holds its own fibre skills and techniques. We see this in wool carpets in particular. Tajik is also known for its Russian influenced built history, markets, and scenery. We cross back into Uzbekistan at Samarkand.

Day 15-17: Thu-Sat, 05-07 Samarkand.

We will find small stalls offering fabrics and other craft items, such as hats, shoes, and decorative item.
Small fabric vendor

Samarkand’s history is forged by the principal forces of history – Alexander the Great, cultural and learning infusion by the Arabs, and destruction by Genghis Khan. In the 14th and 15th centuries Samarkand was Emperor Timur’s Empire’ capital, and nurtured Samarkand to its peak.

Like many locations, Samarkand was an important stop on the Silk Road, fostering exotic products in its bazaars, its scholars, artisans, along with construction of significant monuments and buildings which we visit during our busy stay. We visit monuments, ruins, the famed Registan complex, the Samarkand bazaar, Bibi Hanum.

We include various workshops and studios, such as a designer who works with new and antique silk ikat fabrics and woodblocks, the complete process of natural-dyed silk carpets, along with exquisite tile mosaic work.

Skull caps

A day trip via the scenic Zeravshan range takes us to the birthplace of Amir Timur, a World Heritage site to see his palace, mosque, and stunning mosaic tile work. The area is also famous for its distinctive embroidery style.

Next day, fine tune your bargaining skills at Uzbekistan’s largest continuous market. A vibrant bazaar complete with vintage textiles, jewellery, hats, traditional shoes and more. We also discover earth-hued Urgut ceramics and beautiful silk embroidery pieces with traditional Urgut motifs. Returning to Samarkand we stop at a UNESCO project showcasing ancient paper making skills. Here, we see water mills and traditional techniques replicating the paper making skills of the past.

Young women sewing

Day 18-20: Sun to Tue, 08-10 Sep: Travel to Bukhara

On our way, we call into one of the top ten embrioidery centres, and a ceramics museum.

Bukhara is a time-warp city reflecting the intellectual scholarship demonstrated by architectural treasures, museums, caravanserais, souks, and crafts such as wood block prints, silk and carpets, and embroidery. Bargains in antiques can be found.

We also busy meeting suzani artisans at our hands-on workshop, a Master class on gold embriodery, another on Bukhara carpets, and classic Central Asian calligraphy. We also are treated with an Uzbek/Bukhara fashion show of traditional costumes.

Woman knitting

Bukhara has many wonderful historic sights

Bukhara Options:

  • Hammam’s, or public baths, are a centuries old tradition and Bukhara has one of the oldest still in service. Separate sections based on gender. Hammam’s are more than a ‘bath’ – after a scrub, you soak in tubs, and massaged. (About US$25) . Enjoy an ancient puppet theatre performance (about US$8)

Day 21-24: Wed to Sat, 11-14 Oct: Bukhara to Khiva

Crossing the Kyzylkum Desert and the Amu Darya river, known as the Oxus in ancient times to arrive at mud-walled Khiva. The desert-scape is mesmerising with vast steppes hosting shepherds and their flocks, small villages, military outposts, and interesting vegetation.

‘Ichan Kala’, the earlier name for Khiva, and a UNESCO World Heritage site, is packed with history and delightful long-standing structures. We spend much time discovering the varied attractions, ateliers, markets, and participating in workshops.

Just one impressive mosque

Khiva’s position on the Silk Route made it a centre for trade in all manner of goods, including slaves. It was also the desire of numerous rulers, some ruthless, others odd. Today, Khiva’s intact status (thanks to previous Soviet policies), makes it a most attractive destination. The small old town is packed with interesting buildings and wonderful craft studios and ideal for walking, discovering weathered wood carved doors, magnificent tile work and exploring Khiva’s superb mosques, palaces, and Madrassa’s. There are great silk carpet shops to entice you, too.

Khiva Options:

A thrilling, traditional rope walking performance in the courtyard of the Muhammad Rakhim Khan by the Jabborov family.

A roof-top dinner in Khiva enjoying sunset views over the magnificent domes.

Day 24: Sat, 14 Sep: Khiva to Tashkent.

Free day to catch up on your visitation in Khiva.

Transfer to Urgench airport for evening flight to Tashkent. Met at Tashkent airport and transferred to our hotel for three nights.

Day 25-26: Sun-Mon, 15-16 Sep: Tashkent

Over two days we include a visit to the Museum of Applied Arts, with its worthy collection of suzani, ceramics, carved wood, metal work, as well as carpets, ikat and tribal costumes, located in the palace of the Tsarist diplomat Polovtsev, an authority of Oriental architecture and decorative patterns, who invited local master artisans to decorate his private mansion.

Tashkent was remarkably rebuilt following the devastating 1966 earthquake, rebuilding and repairing the ancient structures almost perfectly, while improving the citizen’s urban aesthetic with wide boulevards, gardens and parks, and solid and spacious social housing. It is a city of contrasts.

Our last day offers an optional visit to the Museum of Victims of Repression, dedicated to the suffering of Uzbeks during the Russian and Soviet periods. Many exhibits draw on information culled from the former KGB archives.

We can also visit the Barak-Khan Madrassah complex in the old city to see the impressive and world’s oldest Koran. Of course, there is a substantial bazaar for last minute shopping. Farewell dinner.

Day 27: Tue, 17 Sep: Depart Uzbekistan

Free time until transfer to airport for flight home. End of services.

Journey Price Includes:

  • Hotel accommodation in Double or Twin room. Single supplement AUD1,372 TBC.
  • Breakfast daily in the 3 star hotels, plus 1 lunch and 4 dinners
  • Daily water provided in the bus
  • Master classes
  • Entrance tickets to the sites, mausoleums and museums as per program
  • Local flight Bishkek to Osh, and Khiva to Tashkent
  • Local and professional English-speaking guide throughout the journey
  • Services of Christine Pearson from Intentionally Different Travel as Tour Concierge
  • Group pick up from airport on arrival and drop off to airport at the end of the tour. Individual, ‘other day’, transfers may be at extra cost.
  • Transport from Day 01 till Day 27
  • Comprehensive information dossier

Exclusions:

  • International air-ticket to Almaty and from Tashkent
  • Early check in or late check out (early check in before 6.00 AM 100 % room rate, after 6.00 AM 50% room rate, late check out by 6.00PM 50 % and late check out after 6.00PM, 100% room rate.
  • Tipping guides and driver
  • Travel insurance, which is mandatory. (Check your complimentary credit card insurance).
  • Phone, internet, communication costs
  • Alcohol and other drinks.

Hotel Selection for our Journey

Our selection criteria include central location, charm, cleanliness, cultural integrity, uniqueness, and standard of service. All rooms have private western-style bathrooms and comfortable beds. Our yurt stay is a little different, but comfortable and charming.

Currency and Price

Price is given in Australian dollars as most guests originate from Australia. Due to fluctuations in the AUD to USD exchange rate, being the currency our partners work with. Should this rate alter beyond our expectations we may make a correction to our price. Contact us if you prefer to pay in US dollars.

Road Travel

We use comfortable air-con vehicles and endeavour to provide more seats than guests. Road conditions vary and some are in good condition while others may be similar to those found in remote regions of Australia.

International Air Travel

There are convenient flights in Almaty and out of Tashkent which allow a stop enroute. We don’t include international flights due to the variety of choice, frequent flyer preferences, and class of travel. Our air fare guru will assist in arranging a suitable ticket for you.

Our Style

We aim to excel when it comes to personal attention and relevant information. This includes information on where to dine, where to purchase textiles and other products, explanations on ethnic minorities and their craft practice along with answers to the myriad of other questions our guests pose.

Apart from good and relevant information, and excellent hands-on experiences, we include attractive accommodation, good sightseeing opportunities, plenty of ‘getting-to-meet-the-locals’ encounters and of course, great dining opportunities from restaurants to quaint local cafes. We don’t hold your hand all the way so there are ‘free time’ periods to allow you to rest, explore on your own, or simply visit a café for a coffee.

Past guests have found our ‘style’ very much to their liking and we trust you will also.

Should you join this program?

Firstly, if you enjoy crafts and textiles you should join. However, as there is much more included in the program, others with a general interest in Central Asian history and culture would also enjoy this tour. There is opportunity for short to medium walks throughout, so a reasonable level of fitness is an advantage. While this is not an ‘outdoor/adventure’ trip, a ‘sense of adventure’ is required for the trip.

Additional Travel or Optional Add-On

Extra nights can be reserved, either pre or post‐tour, or at your en-route stopover point, but you MUST advise us well in advance. If you would like to continue to Europe or other destinations please let us know, so we can assist to develop an individual travel program for you. We have designed exciting itineraries for our clients throughout the region for many years.

Reservations

Contact us or email robert@intenttravel.com.au with any questions you may have.

To secure your place, please email your intention to join our ‘Four Stans’ Journey. You will then receive a reservation form to complete. Your option is held for seven days secured by receipt of a non-refundable deposit of $750 per person. Deposit is refunded if minimum numbers are not reached.

“The Paperwork”

Your deposit will be acknowledged. We keep you informed as to the status of bookings and advise you when minimum numbers are reached. Then, we send you a confirmation kit and invoice. Final payment is due 60-days prior departure. When our group is complete and after final payment, travel documents will be sent out. Then it is only a short time before your wonderful journey begins!

Your Acclaimed Tour Concierge: Christine Pearson

Christine Pearson

“For me, travel is in my soul”. With over 45 years of constant travel to more than 70 countries, Christine knows what to pack, how to negotiate, care for ill guests, find that elusive local café, and has friends throughout the world. Christine, and her husband Robert Fletcher, created Intentionally Different Travel with the aim of developing less usual travel journeys to more unusual destinations. Christine’s professional and personal interests in crafts, particularly textiles, ceramics, jewellery and folk art (she has a BVA from ANU), focusses her explorations, and keen to share her knowledge and insights with her guests.

Christine, together with our local Guides and Driver, ensure a smooth trip and are available to assist each Guest with individual interests. Christine is skilled at finding new places, back lanes to interesting markets, discovering the quirky café as well as scanning every shopping opportunity for those unique crafty items that reflect the culture of the places visited.