4Stans and along Caspian Sea
Turkmenistan – Kirgyzstan – Uzbekistan – Turkmenistan – Azerbaijan
Duration: Days:19, Nights:18
Best time to travel: April–October
Day 1: Almaty – Turkestan
Transfer to railway station – departure to Turkestan. Overnight in the train.
Day 2: Turkestan – Shymkent
Arrival to Turkestan.Visiting of Azret-Sultan historical - architectural complex - Khodja Akhmed Yassayu mausoleum, Turkestan town necropolis, oriental baths and underground mosque. In the evening visiting to “night bazaar”. Overnight in Turkestan hotel
Day 3: Shymkent - Turkestan –Almaty
Early in the morning transfer to Shymkent. On the way visiting of Arystan-Bab(Khoja Akhmed Yassayu's teacher's mausoleum) and Otrar town excavations. Arrival to Shymkent. The rest of the day excursion to Sayram village: “Ibragim-Ata” mausoleum of Khoja Akhmed Yassaui's father; “Kharashash-Ana” mausoleum of Khoja Akhmed Yassaui's mother; Middle ages minaret. After lunch continue excursion to Kemekalgan village - so called “forgiving sins “Adam&Eve” cliffs”, stone made statues of animals, water from healing strings. In the evening transfer to Shymkent railway station. Train back to Almaty. Overnight in the train.
Day 4: Almaty–Bishkek (240 km, 4 hrs)
After breakfast depart Almaty and drive to Bishkek (250 km, 4 hours) via a newly built highway, see the natural landscapes on the way and Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan border crossing. Arrive Bishkek in the afternoon, check in to the hotel. Afternoon sightseeing Bishkek: typical soviet-style architecture such as Philharmonia – concert hall, government building, Monument dedicated to World War II, and also modern monuments pointing out the traditional Kyrgyz culture such as Monument of Manas, Monument of Independence. Bishkek is known as one of the greenest cities in Central Asia, due to its countless parks and alleys. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 5: Bishkek-Grigorevka Gorge–Cholpon Ata-Issyk Kul
In the morning depart Bishkek and drive to Issyk Kul lake (250 km, 3,5 – 4 hours). Arrival to the lake, drive to Grigorevka gorge (60 km, 1,5-2 hours) full of lush green Alpine meadows and fur trees, easy hike in the gorge. Transfer back to Cholpon Ata where you will be able to visit Petroglyphs or Open Air Museum, sometimes referred as a Stone Garden. Transfer to a hotel or guest house on the Norther shore of the lake. Overnight.
Day 6: Issyk Kul-Bishkek
Breakfast at the hotel. Return to Bishkek. On the way visit Burana Tower. It is 11th century minaret, and one of the first buildings of such type in Central Asia. Arrive Bishkek, check in to the guest house or hotel. Overnight.
Day 7: Bishkek-Tashkent (1,5 hrs flight)
Morning flight to Tashkent. Arrival to Tashkent, transfer to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 8: Tashkent-Samarkand (300 km, 2 hrs 10 minutes)
At 07:00 driver will transfer you from hotel to Railway Station. Fast-speed train “Afrosiyob” departs Tashkent at 08.00 and arrives in Samarkand at 10:10. Your guide and driver will meet you at train station to begin sightseeing program in Samarkand. Visit spectacular Registan Square, remains of Bibi Khahum mosque, Ulugbek observatory, Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis and Gur Emir Mausoleum, authentic shrine of Tamerlane. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 9: Samarkand
In the morning head outside of the city to explore Afrosyiob museum, once a heart of ancient Samarkand and nowadays a unique archeological site. Then visit the tomb of Saint Daniel and drive to mausoleum of Muslim scholar Imam Al Bukhari– a pilgrimage place for Muslims (25 km, 30 min). Return to Samarkand and free time at your leisure to explore this wonderful city.
Day 10: Samarkand-Shakhrisabz-Bukhara (90 km, 1,5 hrs + 290 km, 4hrs)
In the morning depart Samarkand and drive to Bukhara via Shakhrisabz. Arrive to Shakhrisabz, visit remains of Ak-Saray Palace, Kok-Gumbaz Mosque, Khazrati Imom Ensemble. After sightseeing Shakhrisabz continue driving to Bukhara. Arrive Bukhara, check in to the hotel.
Day 11: Bukhara
Enjoy a walking sightseeing tour with a guide in Old City. The starting point sightseeing tour is Lyabi Hauz complex, continue to Magoki-Attori mosque, trade domes, Kalon Ensemble and Miri-Arab madrasah, Ulugbek and Abdulazizkhan madrasah, Ark Fortress, Ismail Samani and Chashma-Ayub mausoleum. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 12: Bukhara
Start the second day with a visit to summer palace of Bukhara Emirs Sitorai-Mokhikhosa, unique site combining Oriental and Russian architecture. Continue to Bakhoutdin Naqshbandi mausoleum and Chor-Bakr necropolis. Enjoy free time in the afternoon. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 13: Bukhara-Mary (380 km, 6 hrs)
In the morning transfer to Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan border point (100 km, 1 and a half hours). Customs and passport control on both sides, between two border posts cross 1 mile long neutrality zone. After passing Turkmenistan border post meet Turkmenistan guide. Transfer to Mary via Turkmenabat. Arrive Mary, check in to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 14: Mary-Merv-Ashgabat (40 minute flight)
Sightseeing tour to Ancient Merv (30 minutes drive from Mary). Sightseeing Merv historical park: Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum, Large and Small Gyz Gala, Erk Kala, Gyaur Gala, medieval fortresses– “Kesk” and others. Return to Mary. Lunch. Visit Mary historical Museum. Late in the afternoon flight to Ashgabat. Arrive Ashgabat, overnight at the hotel.
Day 15: Ashgabat
After breakfast sightseeing Ashgabat: center of Ashgabat with Arch of Neutrality and magnificent marble buildings, archeological site Nisa, National Museum of History & Ethnography, Ertogrul Gazi Mosque & Turkmenbashy Spiritual Mosque, statue of the first President of Turkmenistan. Overnight at the hotel. Night flight to Azerbaijan, Baku.
Day 16. Baku
Arrival to Baku airport. Transfer to your Hotel. Short rest. Start the walking tour in Old City (Icheri Sheher) 14:00 p.m. See the highlights of historical Old City including the Palace of the Shirvans (the most striking example of the medieval palace structures in Azerbaijan, dating to the middle of 15th century); Maiden's Tower (the ancient, eight storey fortress originally built as a fire beacon); visit Dzhuma Mosque, numerous antiques and carpet shops. After finishing this 2-3 hours walking tour you will be guided to the Naberezhny park and have a stroll along Baku Boulevard, the second largest in the Europe. 30-40 minute cruise along the Baku Bay will be arranged in the public sea tram. Martyr's Cemetery, located on the higher slopes of the city's west-end, opens an amazing panorama over the Baku city and the Bay of Baku. After cruise dinner can be arranged in one of the local restaurants with tasty national food. Return to hotel. Overnight.
Day 17. Greater Baku
The second day will be spent primarily within the Greater Baku, where you will be taken to main sites on the Absheron Peninsula Breakfast. Leaving hotel at 09:00 a.m. and heading to Ateshgah - the Fire Worshippers' Temple is located in the village of Surakhany. It was built on land where natural gas burned eternally by Zoroastrian believers who travelled from the province of Multan in India to worship. These ancient fires are believed to have given Azerbaijan its name, which is thought by some researchers to mean the 'Land of Fires'. Also this day you will visit well preserved ancient castles of Absheron Peninsula dated XII-XIII AD and located farther out on the Absheron Peninsula. There are several fine medieval castles - one each at Amirajan and Nardaran and two at Mardakyany - apparently built for defence by the Shirvan shahs in the 14th century.Back to the center of Baku. Free time
Day 18. Greater Baku
On the third day you will visit the Gobustan reserve. Gobustan is an open-air museum littered with Neolithic rock drawings. Just 65km south of Baku, Gobustan has some 4000 inscriptions that go back 12,000 years (with some 2000 year old Latin graffiti to boot). Stone Age folks sporting loin cloths pose hunt and boogie down. Their dances are thought to have been accompanied by the melodious strains of the Gaval-Dashy (Tambourine Stone) - a rock that has a deep, resonating tone when struck. The well-preserved sketches display ancient populations travelling on reed boats; men hunt antelope and wild bulls, women dance. The famed Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl returned many times to Azerbaijan between 1961 and his death in 2002 to study the site, which he argued to be evidence that modern-day Scandinavians migrated north through the Caucasus in prehistoric times. He found similarities in the drawings to those found in Scandinavia, particularly some in Alta, Norway. According to Icelandic Sagas, written in the 13 th century, the Norse God Odin (Wotan) migrated from the Caucasus in the first century AD. You will also have a chance to visit quite a unique site where 300 of the planet's estimated 700 mud volcanoes sit Gobustan, Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea. Many geologists as well as locals and international mud tourists trek to such places as the Firuz Crater, Gobustan, Salyan and end up happily covered in mud which is thought to have medicinal qualities. In 2001 one mud volcano 15 kilometers from Baku made world headlines when it suddenly started spewing flames 15 meters high. Unfortunately, the mud volcanoes area has been recently declared a National Park with restricted access, though sporadic visits seems feasible as there is no security. Besides, hardly anyone would have a patience to literally guard tons of mud. But visit there definitely worth a visit as it's one of the rarest things one can find on Earth. On the way back visit Bibi Heybat Mosque. The BibiHeybat Mosque is a historical mosque in Baku, Azerbaijan. The existing structure, built in the 1990's, is recreation of the mosque with the same name built in the 13th century by Shirvanshah Farrukhzad II Ibn Ahsitan II, which was completely destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1936. The BibiHeybat Mosque includes the tomb of Ukeyma Khanum (a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad), and today is the spiritual center for the Muslims of the region and one of the major monuments of Islamic architecture in Azerbaijan.
Day 19. Baku
Transfer to airport