Uzbekistan Explorer Trip Notes
Trip code: GCUE
Trip valid from: 01/01/2012
Trip valid until: 30/06/2013
Trip length: 11 days
Trip starts in: Tashkent
Trip ends in: Tashkent
Maximum group size: 16
- Chorsu Bazaar Of Tashkent - One Of The Largest And Oldest Farmers' Markets In Central Asia
- Central Asia’s Holiest City - UNESCO World Heritage-listed Bukhara
- Sample Uzbekistan's National Dish 'plov'
- Sentab Village - Guesthouse Stay In A UN Development Program Project In The Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biosphere Reserve
- UNESCO World Heritage-listed 5th Century BC Samarkand - The Crossroads Of Cultures, Religions, Peoples And Languages
- The Chashma Beneath The Fortress Of Alexander The Great In Nurata
The treasured heartland of Central Asia, Uzbekistan offers an exotic mix of rich culture, grand architecture and sweeping landscape, all without the tourist hordes. Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva are three fabled cities that glitter like jewels, offering sublime blue domes, medrassah mosaics, labyrinthine bazaars and a genuine, relaxed hospitality perfected over millennia of Silk Road travelling. This land of myth, legend and ornate minarets rolls out a splendid countryside too – relax by the streams and walnut groves of Sentab and perhaps explore mountain trails with villagers, overlooking pristine lakes and forbidding desert. This landlocked gem is an extraordinary experience.
TashkentToday is an arrival day and no activities are planned, so you may arrive at any time. In the evening you meet your tour guide and the other group members for a pre-tour briefing. This is generally followed by an optional group dinner at a local restaurant. The national dish is ‘plov’, a mixture of rice, vegetables and bits of meat. It is something we are going to see a lot of on our journey! On Day 2, we enjoy a city tour on foot and by metro – taxis are optional and at your own expense. With most of its historic buildings flattened in an earthquake in 1966, the Tashkent we see today is a fine example of Soviet-era architecture and city planning. As the capital of Uzbekistan, this surprisingly green city contains many interesting examples of 1960s architectural styles and enjoys a cosmopolitan mix of cuisines and influences. The ancient heart of the city still beats in the shady squares and vibrant markets of the Old Town. Families still live in communities of courtyards and imams from the small medressas and mosques still call the faithful to prayer. Next to the Old Town and under the green dome of Chorsu Bazaar lies a farmers market that is one of the largest and oldest in central Asia. It is also a great place to buy Uzbek souvenirs including the ubiquitous skull caps. On a hill behind the bazaar is the 16th century Kulkedash Medressa – an Islamic school that sits beside the 15th century Juma (Friday) Mosque. Amir Timur Square is the main square in town and used to contain a statue of Karl Marx, but he has been replaced by a statue of Uzbekistan’s 14th century national hero, Timur, on horse-back. Tashkent’s metro system reveals to us some strikingly beautiful stations but please note that you are not permitted to take photos in the subway. If you would like to explore futher, then the Museum of the Applied Arts is a lovely place to wile away an afternoon. Alternatively, the Bara-Khon Medressa is the headquarters of the Sunni Muslim religion in the region and has interesting mosaics and Arabic calligraphy that dates back to the late 16th century. (B)
SamarkandWe take a public express bus to Samarkand and enjoy free time in the afternoon to explore this city. Samarkand is a city that evokes the romance of the Silk Road perhaps more than any other. From its foundation in the 5th century BC, this crossroads of cultures, religions, peoples and languages has been a centre of artisans and traders as well as the prize for many a conquering army. Alexander the Great stormed its walls in 329 BC and many other rulers chose to make it their capital in the centuries that followed. Even the Soviet occupiers declared it the original capital of the Uzbek SSR in 1924, although it only kept that honour for four years! We take a half day walking city tour on Day 4 and the following day is free to explore the city. One highlight of our trip will certainly be standing on the iconic Registan Square with the three medressas (Ulugbek, Sher Dor and Tilla-Kari) towering over us. Close to the Registan is the Bibi-Khanym Mosque built by Timur and often compared to the Taj Mahal, as it was built as a grand and timeless symbol of a man's love for his wife. This mosque overlooks the busy and colourful Siob Bazaar, where photographers will delight in taking photos of the many bustling stalls and huge array of produce, as well as encounter friendly greetings from the local traders. Perhaps a visit to the local bazaar where you can sample delicious fresh produce or you might like to return to the many stalls nestled in the Registan Ensemble to find that perfect souvenir. (3B)
SentabWe take a break from the deserts and architecture, and spend two nights in a tiny village in the Nurata Mountains. We travel in smaller vehicles to navigate the narrow local roads as we climb into the mountains to reach Sentab and transfer to donkey carts for the final stage of the journey. Here, as part of a UN Development Program project, local families have established small private guesthouses and welcome visitors to their homes. As our hosts are ethnic Tajiks, this is a unique opportunity to hear another regional language, eat delicious home-cooked local specialities, and see the day-to-day life of the village. Accommodation is in the traditional style - the group will sleep on mattresses in communal rooms usually (but not required to be) divided by gender. Please bring a towel and you may also like to pack a lightweight sleeping sheet (although bedding is provided). The bathroom facilities are also basic, but manageable - with very simple shower and toilet arrangements. Such things are minor inconveniences however as we lounge on ‘tapchan’ (day beds) under the walnut trees, with the sound of the stream running nearby, and an once-in-a-lifetime cultural exchange unfolds. This is the perfect place to relax, or for those wanting to stretch their legs there are numerous local walking trails nearby which our hosts will be happy to show us. We have 2 days to relax, and you may wish to pack a swimming costume to take advantage of local springs. (2B, 2L, 2D)
Sentab - Nurata - BukharaWe continue to Bukhara via the small town of Nurata, site of Alexander the Great's Fortress. Formerly known as Nur and founded in the 3rd century BC by Alexander the Great. This ancient town was once regarded as the frontier between the cultivated lands and the steppes, and the ruins of Alexander’s hilltop citadel stand testament to its ancient history. The city was also an important Muslim place of pilgrimage, reaching its peak in the 10th century AD as devotees flocked to its many significant graves and memorials. We arrive in the holy city of Bukhara and enjoy some free time to absorb its ambience. Trading domes near here still offer an intriguing and colourful array of goods including embroideries, jewellery, spices, handicrafts and all manner of Silk Road treasures. This is the place to test your haggling skills, as well as share a joke or two with friendly local merchants. This is truly a magical place and it is sure to cast its spell on us too! (B, L)
BukharaA UNESCO World Heritage-listed site, Bukhara is widely regarded as Central Asia’s holiest city. With many monuments dating from the 8th to the 18th century AD, there is a vast span of history and architecture to uncover and the meticulous restoration of many of the mosaic and majolica decorations give us a true sense of how these buildings looked in their original glory. With more than one hundred officially preserved monuments, there is a lot to see. We have a half day walking sightseeing tour here as well as a free day to explore the city. We start by visiting the ruins of the Ark Fortress. Dating back to the 5th century AD, it is the ancient heart of the city and the scene of several gruesome events. Opposite the fortress is the Bolo-Khauz Mosque, which dates back to 1718 and was the emirs’ official place of worship. We continue to the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, resting place of the founder of the Saminid Dynasty, the imposing Poikalon complex (comprising the Kalon Minaret, Kalon Mosque and Mir-i-Arab Medressa) and Ulugbek and Abdul Aziz Khan Medressa. Sitorai Mohi Hosa means Star and Garnet Garden and was the summer palace of the last emir. Its opulence is also reflected by its combination of local and European influences in its designs and furnishings. The halls are richly decorated with carpets and paintings. Char Minar is a unique structure with four minarets – one on each corner. It was built in 1807 by Turkmen merchant, Khalif Niyazkul. The twilight hours lend themselves to wandering the areas around the Lyabi-Hauz Pool, a central gathering place you can enjoy a traditional ‘chaikhana’ (tea-house) style dinner (optional). All manner of things can be found on sale in the covered bazaars. There are three of these trading domes left and we wander through Taqi-Sarrafon, Taqi-Telpak Furushon and Taqi-Zargaron in search of bargains and experiencing the spirit of trade which has driven this region since the halcyon days of the Silk Road era. In the midst of these bazaars is the Maghoki-Attar, reputed to be the oldest mosque in central Asia. (2B)
Bukhara - TashkentOur adventure in Uzbekistan is almost complete as we leave Bukhara by express train to return to the capital. The trip ends on arrival at Tashkent station. (B)
Itinerary VariationWhile the information presented here details our planned itinerary, including routes taken, activities included, accommodation and meeting times, please accept that unforseen changes may occur. We are constantly on the lookout to improve our program and further enhance your experience. Naturally, we will keep you up to date with any last minute amendments to your tour.
About The Imaginative Traveller
Our aim has always been to provide exceptional travel experiences. We believe that adventure travel should be stimulating, and that it should give you an authentic experience of a place. We want our travellers to relish the amazing diversity of countries and cultures the world has to offer. Our focus is on innovation, not imitation.
Obsessed with quality
One of our strengths has been our obsession with quality. We've always believed that our commitment to you doesn't end as soon as you've paid for your holiday. On the contrary, it is just beginning. Whilst most operators simply get a local company to handle the day to day operation of their tours, we do it all ourselves. We have managers for each of our key destinations around the world and all our small groups are escorted by our own leaders. Our local teams include guides, drivers, administration staff and contacts in the local community who help us ensure that our adventures are active and involving.
For comparability, all prices in this dossier are quoted in one currency. We use the US Dollar since that is familiar to most. However, once on tour you will need to pay for all goods and services in the local currency. See your Country Dossier for details of exchange rates.
Whether you’re taking in man’s greatest works at places like Petra or Angkor Wat, experiencing grand set-pieces like the Trans-Mongolian Railway or trying your hand at regional specialities like tango in Buenos Aires, getting to grips with local cultures is what travel’s all about. A few tips from a guide and a sense of adventure are pretty much all you need. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get the lowdown on high Tibet among Lhasa’s magisterial temples; follow up Delhi’s eye-popping bustle with a fix of its fiery food; and mix manic markets and Incan masterpieces in Peru.
Local tour guide, local site guides, transport, sightseeing and entrance fees.
Departure taxes, departure transfer, visas, insurance, other meals, drinks, optional additional tours or activities during free time, tips and items of a personal nature.
10 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners
8 nights Hotels/guesthouses,2 nights Homestay
Single room supplementMost of our travellers like the thought of travelling with a few like-minded souls. There are NO compulsory single supplements on most tours as we simply arrange twin shared accommodation for you and another tour member of the same sex. But don't worry if that doesn't appeal. We do understand there are times when you just want a bit of privacy and 'me' time so we are more than happy to arrange a private room upon request when you book.
Donkey or Cow cart,Private bus,Public bus,Train
bedding provided (sleeping bags not needed)The itinerary and supplementary information has been compiled with care and provided in good faith. However it may be subject to change, and does not form part of a contract between the client and The Imaginative Traveller.
Responsible Travel - Travellers' Guidelines
At Imaginative Traveller we love helping our clients experience the beauty and cultures of the destinations we visit. However, hand in hand with this we have always been aware that we have a responsibility to minimise any negative impacts that tourism can bring.
Responsible Travel is twofold. It’s about taking people to the places they want to go in a safe and responsible manner but also about respecting and maintaining the natural and often delicate balance of the destination. Economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, but should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment.
- It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit.
- We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.
- Whilst it is our aim to show destinations and cultures in a positive light, we do not believe in papering over the cracks or shielding visitors from the realities of life. This does not mean, however, that we condone or endorse certain situations or regimes that may be in place.
Our guidelines are meant not as rigid instructions but rather as suggestions to make our holidays more enjoyable – for everybody. As cultural and environmental sensitivities vary from country to country more specific guidelines can be found in our individual country and trip dossiers.
Before you depart try to spend some time familiarising yourself with the destination you will be travelling to – their culture and customs. The country dossiers on our website offer detailed information about all the regions we visit. They also include some useful phrases in the local language for you to use on your trip! A few words of the local language can open up many more opportunities for you to interact with the people you will meet.
Although it is tempting to give out pens, sweets and money to people begging, and particularly tempting to give to children, we feel that this encourages a begging mentality and has a long-term negative impact on communities. If someone begging earns more than someone in the same community who works this can discourage local employment. If children regularly bring home money it may discourage their parents from sending them to school. It is of course your own personal choice but you could consider giving to registered charities or contributing to our Responsible Travel fund instead. Money donated through our fund to our worldwide projects is matched pound for pound by Imaginative Traveller and used to help local grassroots projects.
Always ask permission to photograph local people and respect their decision if they would prefer not to have their picture taken.
Respect local dress codes, especially at religious sites. Our tour leaders are always on hand to give you advice about this.
In many of the countries we visit you might see examples of animal cruelty (for example dancing bears, performing monkeys and snake charmers). Please do not take photographs of this or offer money as it encourages the activity.
Respect the environment you are in. It sounds obvious but do not throw litter, take it with you or use rubbish bins! You may see locals throwing rubbish on the street but do not follow their example!
When shopping in countries where haggling is the norm – enjoy it and only pay what you feel is a fair price for the goods you are purchasing. However, remember that the shopkeeper does have to make a living so do stop once you have reached a price you are happy with. Bargaining should be fun but always remember that a small amount can mean much more to the vendor than to you.
Endeavor to take home souvenirs made locally; the money you spend can be very important to the local communities. However, do use your common sense and don’t buy anything that you think might be made out of endangered animals or plants.
To help keep as much money as possible in the host country - try to eat in locally owned restaurants and order local drinks and produce rather than international brands.
In hotels do be conscious of how much water you are using. Many of the areas we visit regularly have shortages; try not to have hour long showers! Don’t leave lights, air conditioners or fans on when you leave the room – you wouldn’t at home!
Respect the environment you are in, especially when in national parks or reserves. Pay attention to rules about keeping on paths, keeping a distance from animals and not removing any of the natural habitat.
Relax and immerse yourself in the differences of the culture you are in – you’ll be back home in the familiar soon enough (and wishing you were still on holiday!). These cultural differences are part of what makes your experience special.
If you would like to offset the carbon dioxide that will be produced on your flights you can do this on our website (on our Responsible travel page). We work with climatecare, who will reduce the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that you produce in another part of the World through their emission reduction projects. These projects are low carbon efficient technologies in developing countries and not only serve to reduce emissions but also help to spread the adoption of low carbon technologies and improve the quality of life for local communities. Details of climatecare’s projects can be found on their website.
If you would like to contribute to our Worldwide projects, helping communities all over the World, you can also do this on our website or with a sales consultant. Please refer to our responsible travel page on the website for details of our current projects. Any donation you make will be matched £ for £ by Imaginative Traveller (up to a maximum of £1000).
Have a great trip!
Please do let us know if you have any comments about responsible travel at firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Imaginative Traveller & Gecko's Adventures This trip is operated by our partner company, Gecko's Adventures. Gecko's is an Australia based company with more than 10 years experience in adventure travel and they share our ethos for offering unique holiday adventures. As this is a code shared departure you can expect there to be both Imaginative Traveller and Gecko's travellers on your trip.
Last updated: 08/03/2012