A Journey Throughout the Golden Road

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan

September 29-October 23, 2017

Detailed Itinerary
All itineraries subject to slight changes and will contain many “extras.”
Please contact Baraka Journeys for most current itinerary
Day 1 Friday, September 29, 2017
Depart your US Gateway on Lufthansa.

Day 2 Saturday, September 30
Arrive in Astana, Kazakhstan at 11:00 pm. Proceed through the border and customs. No visa is necessary.  Meet your tour operator Sergei, and transfer to your hotel. (1st of 2 nights).

Day 3 Sunday, October 1
At 10 am, after breakfast we will explore the newly built capital of Kazakhstan with its distinctive, ultra contemporary architecture; including the Bayterek Tower, the Pyramid and Palace of Independence.  We will observe a delightful lighted model of the city of Astana that fills an entire room.  After lunch, continue to see the President’s Cultural Center, and time permitting, the Museum of Modern Art.  In light of the long flight from the US, we will finish early today, to rest before dinner.  (2nd of 2 nights).

Day 4 Monday, October 2
8:30 am transfer to the airport for a short flight to Almaty at 10:15.  Lunch at Samal restaurant in the mountains.  Visit Medeo – the ice skating rink at the highest elevation in the world.  On the way back to downtown we will visit the History Museum and the National square. Dinner in a Chinese restaurant. Don’t forget how close to China you are, while in Almaty!  Hyatt Rahat Palace Hotel.  (1 night).

Day 5 Tuesday, October 3
At 9:00 am begin a sightseeing tour of Almaty including the most interesting sites, including 28 Panfilov’s Guardsmen Park and the Zenkoff Cathedral (which is the second tallest entirely wooden building in the world).  At the Museum of National Instruments enjoy a performance.  At 3:00 Transfer to the airport for a 5:00 flight to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.  Dinner and overnight at the Damas Hotel.  (1st of 2 nights).

Day 6 Wednesday, October 4
In the morning visit a Children's Music and Craft Center.  See a charming musical performance and crafts made by children.  Continue a sightseeing tour of Bishkek visiting such attractions as Ala-Too Square, the Russian Orthodox church, and the Fine Arts Museum.  At dinner, enjoy a Fashion Show arranged by students of a local Fashion Institute with a musical performance and a brief but dramatic recitation by a Manaschi (a person who has memorized the entire national Epic).  Damas Hotel.  (2nd of 2 nights). 

Day 7 Thursday, October 5
9:00 am depart for Lake Issyk Kul (240 km).  This lake, at (4,824 feet above sea level), is the second largest mountain lake in the world.  On the way, stop in Tamchy village to visit our friend Baktygul Asanalieva.  You will be given a detailed demonstration on the making of shydraks, (felt carpets with sewn-in patterns), and ala kiyiz (pressed felt carpets). Lunch will be in a yurt with her family.  See ancient petroglyphs in Cholpon Ata.  Continue to the Avrora Plus Hotel for dinner and overnight.  (1 night).

Day 8 Friday, October 6
This morning, depart on a drive to Karakol, the furthest eastern outpost of the former USSR in Central Asia.  On the way visit the Prezhevalsky Museum, dedicated to that daring Russian explorer of the 19th century.  In Karakol stroll along calm and picturesque streets to see “Gingerbread Cottage” houses.  Visit a lively local market, the unique Dungan Mosque, as well as the Holy Trinity Cathedral.  Lunch.  Dinner and overnight at the Green Yard Guest House.  (1st of 2 nights).

Day 9 Saturday, October 7
Our final destination today is Kemin.  On the way, stop in Kyzyl Tuu, a small village on the shore of the lake known for its yurt work shops.  Experience a visit to one of them.  Continue to Kochkor – a small village on the way to China.  Here we visit a co-op that involves local women into the craft industry by providing necessary education in craft making, marketing etc., so they can support their families during winter months.  Lunch at the co-op.  Continue to Kemin.  In the evening help to make Nan (bread) in a tandoor (a clay oven).  Dinner and overnight at the Kemin-Ashu Guesthouse.  (1 night).

Day 10 Sunday, October 8
In the morning we will learn from locals how to assemble a yurt and finalize our knowledge about this traditional dwelling of nomads.  Drive 30 km to the Burana tower and an ancient settlement dated to 11th century.  Sightseeing.  From here take a short drive to the nearby village of Don Aryk to see exciting horse games played by young men of the local village.  This demonstration reflects the important role horses have played in the traditional Kyrgyz nomadic life style,  Kyrgyzstan is famous for at least four types of horse games such as odarysh or wrestling, tiyin-enish, where riders try to pick up coins at full gallop and kobber or buzkashi, a type of goat-snatching polo.  Continue to Bishkek.  Visit Aiday Asangulova’s felt and silk workshop; she is a local master who produces her own line of national cloth.  Time permitting, drive to the outskirts of Bishkek for easy walking in a national park.  Dinner and a performance in a Russian restaurant and overnight at the Damas Hotel.

Day 11 Monday, October 9
6:30 am departure to the airport for a very brief 8:00 am flight to Osh.  Experience sightseeing around Osh visiting the local market.  Enjoy lunch with a local Uzbek family living in Kyrgyzstan.  Following lunch, drive 15 km to the Kyrgyz Uzbek border, called Dustlik.  After border formalities, continue to Ferghana (a drive of several hours) for dinner and overnight at Club 777.

Day 12 Tuesday, October 10
After a morning visiting a lively and colorful silk production and “ikat” weaving factory in Marghilan, depart by road to Kokand, capital of the Kokand Khanate the 18th and 19th century capital of the Khanate of the same name. Visit the museum in the palace of the last Khan. Visit a well respected potter of the famous Rishton school and enjoy and demonstration of his are and lunch in his home. In the afternoon take a long mountain pass drive to the modern city and capital, Tashkent where you will arrive just in time for dinner and overnight at the Tashkent Palace Hotel.  (lst of 2 nights).

Day 13 Wednesday, October 11
Sightseeing in Tashkent, the capitol of Uzbekistan, will include the blue domed Chor-Su market (to see unusual cradles, handmade musical instruments and the fruit and vegetable market).  Visit the Applied Art Museum, housed in a breathtaking diplomatic residence built in Uzbek style in 1907.  Time permitting, visit the State Art Museum or the Museum of History, the Telashaya Mosque and Barak-Khan Madrasah. Visit the Madrasah Abdul Khasim near the Friendship Palace. This madrassah is the main workshop and learning center for many of the Tashkent traditional craftsmen of exquisite arts. Visit the spectacular, gorgeous and immaculate, underground, built by the Soviets.  Dinner and overnight at the Tashkent Palace Hotel.  (2nd of 2 nights).

Day 14 Thursday, October 12
In the late morning continue by road to Samarkand, possibly stopping for typical regional lunch at Gzhizak, the geographical site called "Tamerlane's Gate."  Samarkand was founded at the same time as Babylon, almost 2500 years ago and was called the “Pearl of the Moslem World”.  There is evidence, however, of human habitation there dating back more than 10,000 years!  Samarkand has been conquered by some of the most famous people of history – Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, who made it his capital and named it the “Center of the Universe".  The culture of Samarkand was developed and mixed with the cultures of Iran, India, Persia and Mongolia, and beginning as the central part of the Silk Road, with influences from China, the Middle East and Europe. Its period of greatest glory was during the height of the trade on the Silk Road from the 2nd century until the 16th century. Dinner and overnight at the Malika Hotel or similar (1st of 3 nights).

Day 15 & 16 Friday and Saturday, October 13 and 14
9:00 will be devoted to sightseeing in Samarkand the long-fabled but very real, major silk road hub city.  Visit the Observatory of Ulug Bek the grandson of Tamerlane, who developed this best observatory in the medieval world. Here are the remains of the original giant sextant, calibrated in minutes and degrees, decorated with signs of the Zodiac, and aligned with the meridians of the earth. See the Shakhi-Sinda Ensemble of Mausoleums.  This unusual necropolis has monuments of the 14th and 15th centuries, reflecting the development of the monumental art and architecture of the Timurid (Tamerlane’s) dynasty. After ascending the "Stairway to Heaven", come to the two most beautiful tombs in the complex, dedicated to the three most important women in Tamerlane's life. The architecture is stunning, and the remarkable tile-work adds to the beauty.

A Samarkand visit is not complete until you see the great central square of the city, the Registan. Here, where all the radial streets of the city met, the ruler’s decrees were proclaimed, justice was done, and trading was carried out. See the magnificent 15th-17th century tile decorated brick buildings—the Madrassahs of Ulugbek, Shir-Dor and Tilly-Akhari.  The opulent interior of the Tilly-Akhari Madrasah is breathtaking in its beauty, with the blue tile-work illuminated by the sun reflecting off the pure gold of much of the walls and ceilings.  Also visit the Bibi Khanym Mosque, purported to have been built as a gift to Tamerlane by his Chinese main wife.  Others claim it may have been built by Tamerlane himself to be grander than anything else of its time.  While severely damaged by time, the elements and earthquakes, enough has been restored to show that not only was it a huge structure, but one that showed a delicate ornamentation that added to its beauty.  Visit the spectacular Gur-Emir Mausoleum, the central part of a major architectural complex erected by Tamerlane in honor of his grandson. Tamerlane himself is buried here, along with other important people of the time. 
For textile enthusiasts, you will enjoy seeing the “Suzanae” (needlework) masterpieces when we take a morning visit to the unique Urgut Market near Tajikistan.  Later, time permitting take a drive to the actual site of the ancient city of Afrosiab.  See the exquisite decorations of the 19th century mosque of Khodja Nisbatdor or the Khodja Abdi Darun complex, consisting of a 12th century mausoleum, and a 19th century mosque surrounding a large pool.  You will have free time to enjoy the shops and the workshops of the local craftsmen.  Dinner and overnight at the Malika Hotel.  (2nd and 3rd of 3 nights).
Day 17, 18 & 19 Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, October 15, 16 and 17
The next three days will be devoted to enjoying the cultural and historical monuments of the Bukhara oasis of Soghdiana dating back 2300 years.  Having once been conquered by Alexander the Great, Bukhara itself was once ruled by the Kushan Empire.  When the Samanids came into control however, they created a large feudal state, with Bukhara as its capital.  It was part of what came to be called the “Golden Road”, the meeting point of the northern and southern branches of the Great Silk Road.  By the 10th Century it was a great center for commerce, religion and culture.  In Sanskrit, Bukhara means "Monastery", and in the Medieval Moslem East, it was known as "the noble and glorious stronghold of the faith." Bukhara gives you a feeling of being transported through time into the past.  With more than 140 architectural monuments dating back to the Middle Ages, its entire historic city center is an open-air museum. 

Included will be a visit to the visit the oldest monument, the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, dating from the early 10th century.  Built by one of the rulers of the Samanid Dynasty, this building is made of baked bricks laid out so that the ornamentation is never the same when the light shines on it. It is considered to be one of the finest achievements of early medieval architecture and is revered by locals who circumnavigate it, invoking wishes.
We will see the remains of the ancient walls of the city, originally built in the 9th century.  We will visit The Ark (a word which translates to mean Citadel).  This 2000 year old fortress of the Emirs of Bukhara, had blocked the entry of many invading armies, until it fell to the Communist forces. This citadel has now been converted into a museum. and gives us a good picture of life in the late 18th and 19th centuries.  Nearby is the famous old city jail. In front of the Citadel, is the Bolo Khauz Mosque, originally built in the 17th Century.  Visit the Poi-Kalyan Complex, the heart and focal point of all Bukhara.  This medieval masterpiece is known the world over, its majestic Kalyan Minaret etched against the sky of the city.  The adjoining Kalayan Mosque dates from the 15th century, and is the largest in Bukhara.  Visit the Kukeldash Madrasah, the largest ancient one still standing in all of Central Asia.
In Bukhara, you'll have an opportunity to visit a heartwarming social service project such as a school for the hearing impaired.
Visit the Magoki-Attari Mosque, dating from the 12th century, noted for the complex geometric patterns executed in brick and enhanced by ceramic ornamentation.  The Ulug Bek Madrassah is the earliest surviving Madrassah, dating from 1417, when it began functioning as a Moslem religious school.  On the entrance doors is the carved inscription: "It is the obligation of every Moslem man to strive to attain knowledge."
Travel about 20 kilometers outside the city to visit the summer palace of the last Emir of Bukhara, who ruled until 1920, and then fled the Communist Revolution into Afghanistan.  The Sitorai-Moskhi-Khosa Palace Complex was built in the 19th century.  It has elaborate stucco interior decorations, huge banquet halls, and a large collection of costumes, silver and china.  There is the residence too, of the harem, said to have numbered up to 400!  
Time permitting continue westward and you will see a massive brown dome, which at the time of its construction in the 17th century, was the largest in the world, and once was the center of a thriving sect of dervishes.   This complex is known as Bakha ad-Din Nakshbandi.  Since the fall of the Soviet regime, it is again a busy Islamic religious center.
Back in Bukhara, see the beautiful pool of Lyab-i-Khauz.  Here are huge ancient plane trees that shade two wonderful buildings from 1620, the Nadir Divanbegi Madrasah and Khanaga, the latter now an exhibition hall and a place to buy artifacts of Bukhara.  There will be a lovely evening program during our Bukhara stay, including folk music and other artistic expression.  Overnight in the Salom Inn Bed and Breakfast.  (3 nights).

Day 20 and 21 Thursday, October 18 and 19
After breakfast, take a very long drive through the Kyzyl-Kum desert along a well-travelled route on the Silk Road.   Along the way you may see herds of camel or meet nomadic people living in yurts.   Have a picnic lunch en route before arriving at the open air museum city of Khiva located in the Khoresm oasis, for dinner and overnight.

While the Khorezm Khanate was famous in the 4th century B.C., the actual date of origin of Khiva is lost in the mists of time.  Some archeologists believe it was founded about the time of the birth of Christ, and was named after the ancient Well of Kvivak, said to have been discovered by Shem, the son of Noah.  The remains of that ancient well are in the old city, and we are likely to see many newlyweds who come here to drink its blessed water.  In the 10th century, the region was the home of many great intellectuals including Abu Ali Ibn Sina (Avicenna).  It was the center of a major agricultural civilization, whose armies routed the Roman regions of Marcus Crassus.  Its power derived from sitting astride the great caravan routes from East to West, and in the 16th century, it became the capital of the Khoresm State.

In Khiva visit the old walled inner city of Ichan-Kala.  The silhouettes of its towering minarets, hemmed in by flat-roofed clay built houses, and surrounded by the powerful walls of the fortress, retain the exotic image of a Central Asian feudal city.  Visit the 10th century Djuma Mosque, with its 218 ornately carved wood columns.  Against the blue sky, see the mysterious forms of the Palace Ensembles of Kunya-Ark and Tash Khauli, the Arab Mukhammad Madrasah and the Shirgani-Khan Madrasah.  The incomplete Kaltaminar from 1855, was intended to be the tallest minaret in the Moslem world.  Even in its unfinished state, it is 26 meters tall.  In three of the historical madrassahs of the city, there are museums dedicated to ancient medicine, history and natural history.  The rich decorative arts of the region, such as carpets, hand embroidery and household utensils are also showcased, giving an accurate picture of the ancient way of life of Khiva.  We will visit what time permits.  Khiva has the largest number of minarets of any city in Central Asia.  Late afternoon drive to Nukus (3 hours), the capitol of Karakalpakstan, and home to the exceptional Savitsky Museum.  Dinner and overnight in Nukus at Jipek Joly Hotel.  (1 night).

Day 22 Friday, October 20
Morning visit to the exceptional Savitsky Museum.  Long isolated from Moscow, this museum contains an ethnographic collection of Karakalpak costumes, jewelry, yurt furniture and trappings as stunning as its fascinating collection of both avant-garde and Soviet realism artworks of the 1920s and 1930s.  Artists of the period executed thousands of works which were acquired for the museum by the philanthropic Igor Savitsky (1915-1984).  After lunch, drive to the Uzbek-Turkmen border (Khodjeyly-check point) for passport and border crossing formalities.  Continue by bus to the Turkmen city of Dashaguz for a flight to the capitol city of Ashkabad.  Dinner and overnight at the Nisa Hotel. (1st of 3 nights).

Day 23 & 24 Saturday and Sunday, October 21 and 22
Ashkabad is surrounded by the Kara Kum (Black Sand) Desert and the Kopet Dag mountains.  It is a handsome, extravagant, new city, built of white marble with gold trim.  You will be fascinated learning about the country’s late President Niyazov “Turkmenbashy” and the vision he had for the Turkmen people since the fall of the Soviet Union until his death in 2006.    The current president continues the master plan.  For the remaining days in this country and city, you will visit  the site of ancient Nisa, dating to the Parthians in the 3rd c. BC.  Nisa is located at the foot of the mountains which divide Turkmenistan from Iran. In the History Museum see a unique collection of carved 1st and 2nd century B.C. ivory drinking horns from Nisa.  This museum also houses a superb collection of local costumes (so very different from what you will have seen in the rest of Central Asia).  Another museum you will may visit is the Textile and Carpet Museum.  You will be taken out to the countryside to see some glorious Akhal Tekke horses.  Enjoy a farewell dinner party with a special folklore program.  Overnight again at the Nisa Hotel.  (2nd and 3rd of 3 nights).

Day 25 Monday, October 23
Early morning departure by air from Ashkabad to Frankfurt for continuation to other US destinations.