Baku to Almaty: Unveil Central Asia
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27 Days | 26 Nights
Dates: September 29 – October 25
Countries to be visited: Azerbaijan – Turkmenistan – Uzbekistan – Kyrgyzstan – Kazakhstan
Total distance: ±3646 km
Departure & Return Locations: Baku – Almaty
Day 01: Arrive Baku (D)
Those who joins the group for the Central Asia section should arrive Baku today and will be transferred to hotel to join the group. Welcome dinner.
Day 02-03: Join the group at the Mud Volcano (B/L/D)
Due to the uncertain nature of the Caspian cargo ship sailing, we might be able to get on board but might not. If not, we will spend an extra night in Baku.
In case our ship docks and departs from Alat, a port 70-some km from Baku, we need to drive out there before dark and wait at the port’s parking lot. Stay at Central Park Hotel.
Day 04: Depart Baku, cross the Caspian (B/L/D)
Due to the uncertain nature of the Caspian cargo ship sailing, we might be able to get on board but might not. If not, we will spend an extra night in Baku. In case our ship docks and departs from Alat, a port 70-some km from Baku, we need to drive out there before dark and wait at the port’s parking lot. Stay at hotel or ship TBA.
Day 05-06: Cross the Caspian
We need to leave these days available since the arrival often gets delayed due to harbor traffic. Bring extra books to read on board, there won’t be internet available. In case we arrive Turkmenistan early, we will have an alternative route to take and drive through some amazing valleys before entering Ashgabat. On board of Caspian cargo ship.
Day 07: Arrive Turkmenbashi (B/L/D)
Our ship will arrive the Caspian harbor city, Turkmenbashi. After a long cross-border formality process, we will be able to drive into town and overnight at a local hotel. Stay at local hotel.
Day 08: Turkmenbashi – Ashgabat (driving distance: 580 km) (B/L/D)
If we arrive Turkmenbashi a day earlier, we will have time to break this long drive, visit the Yangykala Canyon and overnight somewhere near Gozli Ata. If we only arrive Turkmenbashi on October 02, then we will drive straight to the capital, Ashgabat. Arrive the city around supper time. Stay at President Hotel or Yyldyz Hotel.
Day 09: Ashgabat (B/L/D)
Today we will have a full day of sightseeing in and around Ashgabat; including a city tour, a visit to the Carpet Museum, visiting the Bakharden underground lake as well as Kipchak Mosque. Later, we will tour the Old Nisa – the remains of the Parthian kings’ residence. Continue to National museum and return Ashgabat. Stay at President Hotel or Yyldyz Hotel.
Day 10: Ashgabat (B/L/D)
One more day in Ashgabat. This morning, we will drive out to explore the mystical Nisa ruins. Nisa was an ancient city, located near modern-day Bagir village, 18 km southwest of Ashgabat. It is described by some as the first seat of central government of the Parthians. It is traditionally assumed to be founded by Arsaces I (reigned c. 250 BC–211 BC), and was reputedly the royal necropolis of the Parthian kings, although it has not been established that the fortress at Nisa was either a royal residence or a mausoleum. The fortress at Nisa was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007.
Return to Ashgabat in the afternoon, relax and walk around town. Stay at President Hotel or Yyldyz Hotel.
Day 11: Ashgabat – Darvaza (driving distance: 255 km) (B/L/D)
Morning at leisure in Ashgabat. After lunch depart for a night of camping in the Karakum Desert. Tonight there will be an amazing experience of a life time! Stay at Desert Camping.
Day 12: Darvaza – Dashoguz – Khiva, Uzbekistan (driving distance: 395 km) (B/L/D)
Drive through the desert and arrive at Dashoguz, a small town by the Uzbek border. After lunch, we will cross the border to enter Uzbekistan. Upon arrival in Khiva, check into the hotel and walk around the old city at leisure. Stay at Hotel Kheivak Malika.
Day 13: Khiva (B/L/D)
Khiva was the capital of the Khiva Khanate in the 17th century, and has still retained the exotic flavour of a medieval Oriental town. Today we will tour Ichan-Kala (the inner town), which is encircled by brick walls, whose foundations are believed to have been laid in the 10th century. Our visits will include: Mohammed Amin Khan Madrassah, Kunya Ark, Islam Khoja Madrassah and Minaret, Jummi Mosque, and Tash Hauli Palace. We will also see desert sights such as Toprak Kala and Koi Krylgan Kala. Stay at Hotel Kheivak Malika.
Day 14: Khiva – Bukhara (driving distance: 410 km) Devon Begi Hotel Bukhara
Drive to Bukhara through the KizilKum Desert. The drive can be very difficult if the new road is not yet ready. En route we stop to see the Amudarya River, known to many western explorers as the Oxus River. Local fish restaurant for lunch. We will arrive at Bukhara in the late afternoon. In the evening we will see a folk performance in Nadir Devanbegi Madrassah. Stay at Devon Begi Hotel Bukhara.
Day 15: Bukhara (B/L/D)
Bukhara is the only city in Central Asia where the flavour of the East has been preserved intact. It is a town-museum with about 140 architectural monuments dating back to the Middle Ages. Today our excursion in Bukhara includes visits to the mausoleum of Ismail Samani, a masterpiece of classical Eastern architecture, and the Poi Kalon Ensemble with its 50 meter-tall minaret decorated with unique patterns, towering over the centre of ancient Bukhara. In evening we will have dinner in a local traditional style restaurant. Stay at Devon Begi Hotel Bukhara.
Day 16: Bukhara – Samarkand (driving distance: 280 km) (B/L/D)
After breakfast we will start our trip to Samarkand, arriving in the afternoon where we will have lunch and some leisure time. Stay at Hotel Sultan.
Day 17: Samarkand (B/L/D)
Samarkand was once known as the Garden of the Universe. It reached the height of its glory during the reign of Tamerlane who cherished the dream to make his capital the most beautiful city in the world. Today we will have a city tour of Samarkand including the famous Registan, Bibi Khanum Mosque, Shah-i-Zinda Ensemble, Ulugbek Observatory (15th century), and Chupan Ata (1440s). Later we will visit Khoja Abdi Darun, Khoja Abdi Birun and Ishrat Khana Mausoleums, and the famous Samarkand carpet factory. Stay at Hotel Sultan.
Day 18: Samarkand – Tashkent (driving distance: 310 km) (B/L/D)
In the morning we will start out for the capital, Tashkent. Upon arrival, check into the hotel and rest. Leisure time in the afternoon. Stay at Tashkent Palace Hotel.
Day 19: Tashkent – Ferghana Valley – Osh (driving distance: 426 km) (B/L/D)
Today we will start early in the morning heading towards Eastern Uzbekistan: the famous Ferghana Valley. The road from Tashkent to Ferghana Valley is a bit challenging, crossing many mountain passes on the way. We will arrive in Andijan for lunch.
In the afternoon drive to the Kyrgyz border and continue to Osh, the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan; reputed to be about 3000 years old. There are several legends about the origin of the city, including claims that it was founded by Solomon or Alexander the Great. Even if such a grand personage did not establish Osh, its position at a crossroads along the ancient trading routes that became known as the Silk Road almost guaranteed that it would become a major settlement.
Excursion to Osh Bazaar, one of the biggest bazaars in Central Asia, stretching for about one kilometre along the river. Visit holy mount Suleiman-Too (Solomon’s Throne). According to legend this mount appeared after King Solomon rested here. For Central Asian Muslims, “Taht-I-Suleiman” is the 3rd most sacred place after Mecca and Medina. At the top there is a 16th century mosque and a museum. Stay at Sunrise Hotel.
Day 20: Osh – Arslanbob (driving distance 208 km) (B/L/D)
This morning, drive to Arslanbob to spend the night in a village. Arslanbob is an amazing mountain range with scenic forest area. It is said that the Arslanbob woodland has the largest walnut grove on earth. If weather permits, we will take a light trek into the gorge and view waterfalls. Stay at Local home stay.
Day 21: Arslanbob – Chichkan Valley (driving distance: 335 km)
Drive to the Chichkan Valley. Following the Ferghana Valley the road climbs through spectacular mountains and follows the Naryn River. We will overnight in the valley at a mountain lodge near the river. Stay at Oson Lodge.
Day 22: Chichkan Valley – Kochkorka (driving distance: 260 km) (B/L/D)
Today the drive becomes challenging after 155 km of paved road. The route takes us through some of the alpine mountains and meadows of Kyrgyzstan. Along the way we will get a chance to meet Kyrgyz shepherds, and learn about their paths and their nomadic life. Drop in at a local nomadic yurta for tea. In the afternoon, arrive the village of Kochkorka and stay at a local B&B-style accommodation. Enjoy a Kyrgyz dinner and folk show. Stay at Family home.
Day 23: Local village – Bishkek (driving distance: 190 km) (B/L/D)
Today we will drive to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Stay at a centrally located hotel in Bishkek, we will have an opportunity for doing laundry and checking emails etc. Stay Hotel Asia Mountains.
Day 24: Bishkek (B/L/D)
At leisure in Bishkek. Afternoon city sightseeing. Stay at Hotel Asia Mountains.
Day 25: Bishkek – Almaty, Kazakhstan (driving distance: 230 km) (B/L/D)
Today we will leave Kyrgyzstan, crossing the border post and entering Kazakhstan. Arrive Almaty in early afternoon. Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan, and was the capital of the country until 1997. That’s when Astana took over as the capital of the country—although obviously, Almaty is still a huge economic and cultural hub. Upon arrival, check into hotel. Stay at Mercure Almaty City Center.
Day 26: Almaty (B/L/D)
Full day sightseeing in Almaty includes visiting the Central State Museum, where thousands of historic Kazakh artifacts are on desplay. In the center is Panfilov Park, home to the bright-yellow towers of Zenkov Cathedral, a tsarist-era Russian Orthodox church. Stay at Mercure Almaty City Center.
Day 27: Depart Almaty
Depart Bishkek for home city.