Arrive to Tehran.
On arrival, we are welcomed to Tehran, the pearl of Persia. After checking into our hotel, we enjoy a leisurely evening and rest up, before our formal itinerary of exploring this country rich in history and culture begins.
Full day tour starts off with a visit to the Carpet Museum, housing an excellent collection of Iranian hand woven carpets, followed by the Museum of Reza Abbasi. This museum, named after the most famous miniaturist in the Safavid era, was opened in 1977. It exhibits artifacts dating back to prehistoric, ancient and Islamic periods and is particularly rich in Islamic calligraphy.
Next is a visit to the Crown Jewels Museum after which we visit the Archaeological Museum with its fine collection including a stone capital of a winged lion from Susa and a 6th century BC audience hall relief of Darius the Great from the Treasury at Persepolis. The museum has items dating back from the Sumerian Period (4500 BC) to contemporary times. (B, D)
Morning visit the Glass and Ceramic Museum, Golestan Palace, the Ethonological Museum and Sa’dabad Palace.
Late afternoon transfer to the airport for our flight to Shiraz, traditionally known as the city of Roses and Nightingales.
Shiraz is the beautiful capital of the Province of Fars. Our visit today will include the Eram Garden, the tombs of Saadi and Hafiz – two of the most well-known Persian poets.
Nasirol-Molk Mosque, Afif-Abad Garden, Narenjistan Museum and the traditional Vakil bazaar. (B, D)
Morning excursion to Persepolis, literally meaning the capital of Persia, which lies 60 kms / 37 miles north of Shiraz. Persepolis is the last and ultimate expression of the ancient Middle East. Construction began by Darius the Great (521 – 468 B.C.) as the focus of the mighty Achemenian Empire nearly 2500 years ago. Our next stop is Naqsh-e-Rustam – tomb of the famous Rustam.
Late evening transfer to the airport for our flight to Esfahan, another highlight city. Legend has it that Esfahan was founded in the time of Tahmourass or Keykavous. During the Safavid Era (16th and 17th Century A.D.), Esfahan was an extraordinary city of Gardens and Palaces.
Full day tour of this magnificent city includes Hasht Behesht Palace (built in 1680 AD during the rule of Suleiman II).
The Armenian Vank Church, Friday Mosque and the famous bridges of Esfahan. (B, D)
Today visit includes Imam Square (Naqsh-e- Jahan) with its Sheikh Lotfollah and Imam Mosques, Aliqapu Palace, Chehel Sutoon Palace (40 pillars) which was built by Shah Abbas as a hall of audience.
Later we visit the most famous hustling and bustling bazaar in Iran. (B, D)
This morning we are transferred to the airport for our flight to the holy city of Mashhad via Tehran.
All roads in Mashhad lead to the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza and this evening our tour starts with a visit to the courtyard of the shrine (open only to Muslims), followed by the pilgrim’s bazaar.
Our fascinating tour of Iran comes to an end today as we cross another frontier, this time to Turkmenistan.
Today we enjoy a complete sightseeing tour of the capital city of Turkmenistan. We visit the Talkuchka Sunday Bazaar, also known as the Turkmen’s Carpet Bazaar; the famous archaeological site of Nisa, which served as the winter capital of the Parthian rulers and the National Museum of History and Ethnography.
Our last stop is the Carpet Museum, one of the best in Central Asia. The carpets and designs come from the Tekke, Yamud, Sarik and Chodor famous tribes. (B, D)
Today we explore Merv, the oldest and most completely preserved of the oasis cities along the Silk Route in Central Asia. The remains of this wide oasis span four thousand years of human history and a number of monuments are visible, particularly from the last two millennia. Merv is often mentioned as Margiana by classical writers and was part of the Achaemenian Empire in 6th Century BC, until the invasion by Alexander the Great. In the Islamic era it was known as the ‘Mother of the cities’, when it flourished as an important town on the Great Silk Road until its destruction by the Mongols. (B, D)
Morning transfer to the airport for the flight to Tashauz. Meet & drive to Urgench via Kunya-Urgench, the former capital of Khorezmia, that flourished under the Achaemenid rule in 6th century BC and was subsequently wrested away from the last of the Persian rulers, the Sasanids, by the invading armies of the Arabs. Later powerful Turkic tribes who were converted to Islam took reins of the Kingdom and under whose rule the city flourished when great scholars of the Muslim attended the court of Khorezmshahs. A powerful and merciless invasion of the Mongolid hordes put an end to the ruling dynasty.
Today we explore the World Heritage Site at Khiva, a city where time has stood still in the age of the Arabian Nights. Our visit starts with the main site of Itchan Kala followed by Kalta Minor, the Kunya Ark, the Rakhimkhon Madrassah, the Mausoleum of Pakhlavan Makhmud, the Friday Mosque and the Tashauli Palace and Harem.
To complete this extraordinary day, we climb the Khodja Minaret to take in the amazing fairy tale panorama. (B, D)
Our drive to Bukhara is through the arid setting of the Kyzyl Kum Desert. Along the way we stop for some refreshments and observe how humans have survived over the centuries in this unforgiving landscape.
One of the grandest of Uzbek centers, Bukhara is an open museum with many mosques, madrassahs and a grand minaret. We spend the day visiting some of the finest examples of Islamic Architecture in the world, where exquisite tile and mosaic work complements the beautiful brickwork; it is no wonder this city is a World Heritage Site. Our visit includes the Lab-e-Khauz Complex with the Nadirkhon Devanbegi Madrassah, the Mogak Attari Mosque and the Poi Kalon Minaret. We also visit the Madrassahs of Aziz Khan and the Ulugbek Ark Fortress, the residence cum army headquarters of the Bukharan Emirs that houses an interesting collection of objects from those days and the Mausoleum of Ismail Samanid, which features some of the best 10th century brickwork, with a marked Persian influence.
We conclude the day with a visit to Sitora-i-Mokhikhosa, the Summer Residence of the former Emirs of Bukhara. (B, D)
This morning we start off with a visit to a local family run ceramic factory in Gijduvan then continue onto Samarkand.
Today we enjoy a day excursion to visit the World Heritage Site of Shakhrisabz, hometown of Tamerlane. This historic centre contains a collection of exceptional monuments and ancient quarters which bear witness to centuries of vibrant history, particularly to the period of its climax in the 15th century under the empire of Tamerlane.
We try to visit the famous Urgut Market. (B, D)
The historic town of Samarkand, recently declared a World Heritage Site, was and is a crossroads and melting pot of the world’s cultures. Founded in the 7th century BC as ancient Afrosiab, Samarkand had its most significant development in the Timurid period from the 14th to the 15th centuries. Our tour takes us to the major monuments and includes the Registan Mosque and the adjoining madrassas, Bibi-Khanum Mosque, the Shakhi-Zinda compound and the Gur-Emir Ensemble, as well as Ulugh-Beg’s Observatory.
Our afternoon tour also includes the Afrosiab Museum, located on the site of ancient Afrosiab, and the Historical Museum of Uzbek Culture and Art, which houses the wooden coffin of Tamerlane and a large copy of the Koran. (B, D)
Today we attempt to cross into TAJIKISTAN. This may prove to be difficult as the border crossing is subject to rules that keep on changing, one of the notorious features of daily life in Central Asia. Our objective is to the see the site of the ancient city of Sogdiana at Penjikent.
Should the border crossing not be possible then we will continue on to Tashkent.
Our visit of Tashkent entails the old part of the city, the Kafelsashi Mausoleum, the Barak Khana, the Tila Shaikh Mosque and Archives, followed by the Chorsu Bazar, Kukeldesh Madrassah, the Friendship Square and the Navoi Theatre.
In the afternoon we will have time to visit the History Museum of Uzbekistan and the Museum of Fine Arts. The evening is free, with an opportunity to see a local opera or ballet. (B, D)
We arrive at Bishkek after a short flight from Tashkent. Our tour of the Krgyz capital starts with the History Museum famous for its collection of Bolshevik Revolution artifacts. This is followed by a visit to Frunze’s House, named after the Soviet General Michael Frunze who won Central Asia for the Blosheviks in the Civil War.
Next stop is the Burana Tower Archaeological Museum, which is situated on the site of a caravan town dating to the 10th Century AD. We arrive to Issyk-Kul in the evening.
The scene surrounding Issyk-Kul Lake is enchanting in its surreal beauty. It is surrounded by high mountains, with 134 rivers flowing into the lake and traditional yurts dotting the landscape, this truly is a picturesque landscape. Our tour includes a visit to the Preshevalsky Museum, dedicated to the memory of Nikolai Michailovich Preshevalsky, an enthusiastic explorer accredited for his excellent works on flora and fauna of the Issyk-Kul region. He was also known for breeding a tiny horse in the steppes of Tibet, which later came to be known as the Preshevalsky Horse.
This afternoon we have time for leisure to enjoy the beautiful scenery around Issikul Lake. There are lots of water sports as well as spa activities one can take advantage of. (B, D)
Driving through the heart of the Zailiysky Steppes, with their wide greens filled with beautiful poppy fields we head off to another stan. This time it is Kazakhstan, one of the largest countries in the world.
Today we enjoy a full day tour of Almaty, including a visit to the Zhenkov’s Cathedral, an extraordinary Russian Orthodox Church built of wood after which we take a walk through beautiful Panfilov Park. Later we visit the Central State Museum, which exhibits more than 40 different musical instruments. Even today in remote villages, music is part of a Kazakh’s way of life.
The evening is free for us to enjoy and shop for Central Asian souvenirs. (B, D)
Our tour comes to an end today and we bid farewell to this fascinating region. (B)
End of tour.