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The Five Stans of the Silk Road

From £4149 for 23 days
Trip Overview
Vast deserts, rolling steppe, fertile valleys and majestic mountains form the backdrop to the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia which are commonly known as the five Stans. Amongst this changing and varied landscape are traditional villages, ancient towns and modern cities which tell a tale of advancing Greek and Persian armies, marauding Mongolian hordes, traders selling their wares along the Silk Road, philosophers, astronomers, Communist experiments and post-Soviet eccentrics. Journey past giant burning gas pits, intrinsically tiled mosques, alpine lakes bordered by yurt camps, grand monuments, rural villages and colourful markets on this epic trip through the heart of Central Asia.
Essential Info
Starts: Start Ashgabat
Ends: End Almaty
Ages: Min 16
Theme: Discovery, Expedition
Trip Code: EAXK
Activity Level:     
Countries visited: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan
What's Included


All breakfasts, 3 lunches and 8 dinners included Common dishes in the region include shish-kebabs and /plov /(rice usually with mutton, onions, carrots, spices, raisins, peas) which you’ll probably see plenty of


23 days land only / flight inclusive Travel by minibus


Trip Highlights

•    ‘Door to Hell’ giant burning gas pit in Turkmenistan

•    Islamic architecture and  ruins along the great Silk Road

•    Villages and lakes of the Fann and Tien Shan Mountains

•    Post Soviet grand monuments

•    History of traders, preachers and invaders

Dates & Availability
Start date
End date
Departing: 19th Aug 2021
Returning: 10th Sep 2021
Fully Booked
Departing: 21st Aug 2021
Returning: 12th Sep 2021
Limited Availability
2 spaces
Departing: 4th Jun 2022
Returning: 26th Jun 2022
Availability: Good
Departing: 11th Jun 2022
Returning: 3rd Jul 2022
Availability: Good
Departing: 18th Jun 2022
Returning: 10th Jul 2022
Availability: Good
Departing: 25th Jun 2022
Returning: 17th Jul 2022
Availability: Good
Departing: 2nd Jul 2022
Returning: 24th Jul 2022
Availability: Good
Departing: 9th Jul 2022
Returning: 31st Jul 2022
Availability: Good
Departing: 16th Jul 2022
Returning: 7th Aug 2022
Availability: Good
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Itinerary & Notes
Arrive at Ashgabat at any time. The group flights usually arrive very late at night (i.e. around 2am on day 2). Please note that it is obligatory by Turkmen law for tourists to have an arrival transfer arranged by the inviting party (as per your LOI/visa) from Ashgabat airport. For anyone not joining the group transfer, Exodus offers free arrival transfers for any flight, provided you have supplied your flight details in advance - please see the 'joining' section of the Trip Notes for more information. *Hotel Ak Altyn or similar*
   Print Trip Notes
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A busy and varied trip covering five countries, encompassing a wealth of culture and history, and some amazing scenery.
This is my 17th trip with Exodus and this has been one of the best so far, if not the best. There is so much to see, though there is quite a lot of travelling to enable this to happen. However the scenery, mostly deserts and mountains, are delightful. The accommodation ranged from the sublime (A Sheraton!) to the plain and simple, homestays, which gave us an even better chance to interact with local people. If you have the time to do this trip, do it, the scenery is stunning and the history of this region is the history of the civilised world. Brilliant!
An incredible journey across a region that has not always been easy to visit.The trip encompasses grand landscapes, huge distances and wonderful opportunities to learn much from the local guides. Bek in Uzbekistan and Aibek in Kyrgyzstan/ Kazakhstan particularly endeared themselves to the group, bringing knowledge, consideration and enthusiasm to the task. The trip endeavours to give wide and varied experiences and "gets off the worn track" with inclusions such as Termes, Uzbekistan near the Afghanistan border.
This is a really fascinating, busy, exhausting and quite unique trip across 5 countries in just over 3 weeks. Go with an open mind and you will enjoy the most amazing experiences, see incredible sights, meet really lovely people and learn so much.
A great trip covering a wide range of experiences - from Turkmenistan [Ashgabat with its somewhat bizarre architecture (the Wedding Palace being a particularly good, if that's the right word, example) and the welcoming wedding parties at the Arch of Neutrality; the ancient ruins at Nisa and Merv; and the burning pit at Darvaza among particularly memorable sights - all in the presence of a great local guide Jabar]; through Uzbekistan [with spectacular sights and sites at Bukhara, Samarkand and Shahrisabz together with the ruins of one of Alexander the Great's fortresses by the River Oxus all with the guide, Bek, who is probably the best guide on any tour I've been on]; Tajikistan [wonderful journey through the mountains to the gorgeous Iskanderkul Lake]; back into Uzbekistan [to learn about ceramics and the mechanics, and smell (boiling silkworm cocoons), of the silk industry; Kyrgyzstan [marvellous mountain scenery, great homestays, and lovely yurt camp (though be prepared for all weathers in one day - from bright sun to hail and lightning in a matter of minutes)]; and a brief stay in Kazakhstan [could have stayed longer and got to see more of Almaty, etc]. Suzie, the British guide who accompanied the trip throughout was wonderful and made everything easy for us - without her it would have been a lot more difficult. Food was ok to very good (the meal at the family house in Samarkand and the meals at the homestays being favourites), but was very limited for the vegetarians generally. Hotels were good to excellent and the transport was fine, though the air-conditioning on the minibuses in Kyrgyzstan didn't cope with the high temperatures.
This was a trip full of variety and dramatic scenery, from the surreal Ashgabat, the amazing Darvaza crater, the beautiful mosques and madrasahs of Samarkand and Bukhara to the truly majestic and ever changing scenery of the Kyrgyzstan mountains. Each of the 5 countries had its own unique character. There are some long journeys but they are full of continuing interest with lots of worthwhile stops on route. 99% of the accommodation was very comfortable, spacious and spotlessly clean.
A great holiday with plenty of superb sites and stunning scenery. One reason for calling this the Silk Road was that silk was used to pay people. It started with the Chinese needing horses to fight the nomads from the north. By 53BC, Rome was spending half its silver production on silk and other products from the Silk Roads. Rome also had to introduce modesty legislation because of the number of people wearing only silk. Whilst Julius Caesar was invading Britain in 53BC, his friend Marcus Crassus was leading another Roman army to defeat by Persia, in an empire that stretched from modern day Iran to Afghanistan and north to Merv. 10,000 Roman captives were sold at the Merv slave market to the Chinese, to fight on their northern border against marauding nomadic tribes. The ruins of three cities can be seen at Merv, in southern modern day Turkmenistan. The first was built by Cyrus the Great when he created the first Persian Empire. Next to it is the remains of the city built by Alexander the Great and next to that the remains of the city built after the Arab invasion, which was destroyed by the armies of Genghis Khan 1221 AD, with up to a million people being massacred. Alexander is a hero in Turkmen, after he freed them from Persian rule. In Uzbekistan, Timor is the hero, as he rose from hired sword to ruler of a vast empire, stretching from the Chinese border to Egypt, destroying many armies on the way. He made Samarqand his capital and made it one of the greatest cities. In Tajikistan, it is Cyrus the Great who is remembered, partly because he was murdered there. In Osh, Kyrgyzstan, it is Babur, great great grandson of Timor and founder of the Indian Mughal dynasty who is remembered. Although it is Manus who is the local hero.
If you want to leave the west behind until the last city on this incredible journey, then welcome to the former Soviet States that make up the silk road. This trip has everything, religion, wildlife, nomad living and amazing countryside and mountains. Forget McDonalds and Burger King, at times you won't even get social media!
If you want to leave the west behind until the last city on this incredible journey, then welcome to the former Soviet States that make up the silk road. This trip has everything, religion, wildlife, nomad living and amazing countryside and mountains. Forget McDonalds and Burger King, at times you won't even get social media!
If you want to see classic Silk Road architecture then go to Uzbekistan. If you want to see amazing mountain scenery then go to Kyrgyzstan. If you want to see both of the above plus three other countries in Central Asia, whilst experiencing a wide range of 'best of' activites plus a few off the beaten track sights, all crammed into three hectic weeks, then the Five Stans trip is the one for you. My expectations were high, but this trip surpassed them.
This amazing trip was like several holidays rolled into one. From the surreal weirdness of Ashghabat and Darvaza, through ancient archaeological sites to the stunning monuments in Bukhara and Samarkand, through the desert to the Afghan border then up into beautiful mountains, lakes, rivers and nomad camps, before descending back down to the modern post-Soviet cities… every day there was something new and wonderful to see.
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