Central Asia: A Grand Tour

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Overview

This adventure to the Central Asian Steppe and legendary Tien Shan Mountains strips away the enigma of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, revealing a land of stunning alpine scenery and mysterious ancient kingdoms. See modern cities tinged with the remnants of Russian rule, discover snow-crested mountains, lush valleys and otherwordly gorges, explore dusty ruins and follow the Silk Route into the heart of Uzbekistan. Here you explore the ancient cities of Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent where towering minarets, glazed arches and gleaming turquoise domes etch the skyline, and travel across a landscape little changed since the days of Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great.

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Itinerary

After taking your included VIP door-to-door travel service to the airport, fly overnight to Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan’s capital.

Arrive early in Almaty and transfer to the 4-star Hotel Novotel Almaty City Centre (3Q) (or similar) where you’ll stay for two nights. B, L, D

Accommodation Name: Hotel Novotel Almaty City Centre

Start your day with a visit to Kazakh ethno village where you can learn about the history, traditions and culture of the Kazakh people. After being greeted with a traditional ‘Shashu’ ritual, look forward to a programme of events offering insight into the customs and way of life of Kazakh society, including an introduction to the yurt.

This afternoon enjoy a tour of Almaty city, pausing at the Green Bazaar. A short walk away lies Panfilov Park – dedicated to a group of 28 soldiers, known as the Panfilov Heroes, who died defending Moscow from the Nazi invasion. Your tour concludes at Koktobe Park, the highest point in the city, where a ride on the cable car to a viewing point offers far-reaching views of the city. B, L, D

Accommodation Name: Hotel Novotel Almaty City Centre

Embark on a long journey of 255 miles to Karakol, which will take seven hours. Pause en route for a jeep tour of the mighty Charyn Canyon which sits within the Charyn State National Park. The Canyon is up to 300 metres deep and its massive and irregular red sandstone faces have given rise to it being compared with America’s Grand Canyon, but on a smaller scale.

Cross the border and continue to the town of Karakol where you will stay for the next two nights at one of the following hotels: the 4-star Karagat Hotel (2Q+), the 3-star Green Yard Hotel (2Q+), or the 4-star Amir Hotel (2Q). B, L, D

Accommodation Name: Karagat Hotel

Tour the town of Karakol and see the Dungan Mosque and the distinctive Orthodox church. During today you can also look forward to seeing a demonstration of traditional eagle hunting. After your excursion return to your hotel, before enjoying dinner at a local house this evening. B, L, D

Accommodation Name: Karagat Hotel

After breakfast set off for Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan - a journey of 249 miles which will take approximately seven hours.

Look forward to travelling via the north coast of Issyk-Kul Lake – the second largest mountain lake in the world. From here you’ll head for Cholpon-Ata city where you can enjoy lunch and a visit to the Ethnographic Museum and the Petroglyphs of Cholpon-Ata – the boulders here are illustrated with scenes of hunting, rituals and animals, particularly the horned ibex.

Stroll amongst these ancient stones before continuing your journey to Bishkek where you will arrive early evening. Spend the next two nights at either the 4-star Ambassador (4Q), Plaza (4Q) or Jannat Hotel (4Q), enjoying dinner at a local restaurant this evening. B, L, D

Accommodation Name: Ambassador Hotel

This morning enjoy a tour of Bishkek city when you’ll take in the history museum, the central square of Ala Too, Victory Square, Osh Bazaar, and more. Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant.

This afternoon join an excursion to Ala Archa National Park situated in the Tien Shan mountains not far from the city. This scenic national park covers some 75 square miles and is home to towering peaks, forests, gorges and rivers. Enjoy an easy hike in the park taking in the beautiful mountain scenery before returning to Bishkek and dinner this evening in a local restaurant. B, L, D

Accommodation Name: Ambassador Hotel

Today’s long transfer will take approximately eight hours, covering 311 miles, as you cross the border back into Kazakhstan. Pause at the Aisha-bib and Bib Khanum mausoleums. They relate to the tragic story of Aisha who, despite being prohibited from marrying her lover Shakhmakhmud, rode out to be united with him, only to be bitten by a snake and die before they met. The legend has it that he built the mausoleum for her, never married and went on to become a wise ruler.

Afterwards continue to Shymkent where you will stay for the next three nights at the 4-star Aidana Plaza Hotel (3Q). B, L, D

Accommodation Name: Aidana Plaza Hotel

Shymkent is one of Kazakhstan’s most modern and dynamic cities with a blend of Russian, Kazakh and Uzbek influences giving it a unique identity. Look forward to a tour of this fascinating city today, during which you’ll visit the Archaeological Museum with its well laid out collections of artefacts and displays, the Green Market with its colourful displays, impressive Central Square, Memory Alley and the Museum of Political Repression, which tells the story of Soviet oppression in the country and commemorated the first decade of the country’s independence.

Dinner is at a local restaurant tonight. B, L, D

Accommodation Name: Aidana Plaza Hotel

Today visit Turkestan city, pausing en route to visit the ancient site of the Oasis of Otrar. Located nearby is the 14th-century Arystan Bab Mausoleum, built over the 12th century grave of Arystan Baba, the teacher of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi whose mausoleum you will visit later today.

Continue to Turkestan for lunch in a local restaurant, followed by a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, a 12th century Sufi master. Admire the inner spaces, domes and decoration of this fascinating building before starting your return drive to Shymkent, enjoying dinner at a local restaurant. B, L, D

Accommodation Name: Aidana Plaza Hotel

After breakfast journey south, crossing the border into Uzbekistan. Continue to Tashkent where you will stay two nights at the 4-star Wyndham Hotel (4Q), Lotte City Hotel (4Q), or the Ramada Hotel (4Q). B, L, D

Accommodation Name: Wyndham Hotel

Enjoy a sightseeing tour revealing some of the highlights of the capital of Uzbekistan.

Visit the Museum of Applied Art and the Khast-Imam complex, which encompasses several grand edifices, including the 17th-century Muyi Muborak madrasa where the famous 7th-century Quran of Caliph Uthman is kept. You’ll also explore the Chor-Su Bazaar, and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant this evening. B, D

Accommodation Name: Wyndham Hotel

After an early breakfast at your hotel, transfer to the airport. Fly to Urgench then make the short drive to Khiva. Today’s walking tour reveals Khiva's inner fortress, Itchan Kala, an architectural treasure trove of carefully restored mud-walled monuments. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and dinner with a folk show at the 19th-century Kibla Tozabog. Between November and March this will be at an alternative venue in the afternoon.

Stay overnight at the 3-star Asia Khiva or Malika Khiva (3Q). B, L, D

Accommodation Name: Asia Khiva

A long day's journey will cover 277 miles and take approximately eight hours as you across the Kyzyl-Kum or Red Desert, a route that once took camel caravans laden down with silk, spices and other exotic goods a month to make.

You'll pause en route for a packed lunch before continuing to Bukhara, where you stay three nights at the 3-star Asia Bukhara (3Q), Devon Begi (3Q) or Omar Khayam (3Q). B, L, D

Accommodation Name: Asia Bukhara

A centre of trade and education for more than 2,000 years, Bukhara is the best example of a medieval city in Central Asia. Seek out its key sights on an included three-quarter day walking tour of its old town, including the 10th-century Samanids Mausoleum.

Later this afternoon, perhaps visit the 15th to 16th-century domed bazaars where merchants still ply their trade. Look forward to an included dinner at a local guest house, with a class on Bukharian cuisine. B, D

Accommodation Name: Asia Bukhara

Journey beyond the heart of the city today to the magnificent 16th to 19th-century Naqshbandi Mausoleum, built for the founder of the Naqshbandi Sufi order, on an included morning tour. Beautiful blue-glazed tiles adorn the facade of this domed, multi-arched masterpiece. Also visit the summer residence of the last Emir of Bukhara, Sitorai-Mokhi-Hossa, a reminder of Uzbekistan's era of Russian rule.

This evening stroll through the atmospheric streets of Bukhara to a local restaurant for an included dinner and a folk and fashion show. B, L, D

Accommodation Name: Asia Bukhara

After breakfast, take a bus ride to Samarkand where you stay two nights at the4-star Grand Samarkand (3Q), Emir Khan (3Q) or Asia Samarkand (3Q).

This afternoon, join an included visit to the Afrosiyab Museum before dinner at a local restaurant. B, D

Accommodation Name: Grand Samarkand

Admire the colourful mosaics, blue domes and lofty arches of Registan Square on today's included tour. This grand plaza is bordered on three sides by a group of splendid structures spanning the 14th to 16th centuries, built by the Timurid dynasty. Afterwards enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. B, D

Accommodation Name: Grand Samarkand

This morning, travel through the Tahta-karacha Pass to Shakhrisabz to discover 14th to 15th-century Timurid mosques, mausoleums and the ruined gateway of Ak-Saray Palace. Enjoy a taste of local cuisine during an included lunch at a guest house before returning to Samarkand for the two-hour Afrosiab high-speed train journey to Tashkent.

Stay two nights at the 4-star Lotte City Palace (4Q), Wyndham Tashkent (4Q) or Ramada Tashkent (4Q). B, L, D

Accommodation Name: Lotte City Palace

Explore modern Tashkent on an included sightseeing tour, and visit the Museum of History, the Museum of Applied Art and the Khast-Imam complex.

This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. B, D

Accommodation Name: Lotte City Palace

Enjoy the morning at leisure before your return flight to the UK and your included door-to-door travel service home. B

Accommodation Name: Lotte City Palace

What's Included

Hands shaking Included travel insurance

Bed19 nights in hotels and 1 in flight

Dinner plate50 meals: 20 breakfasts (B), 12 lunches (L) and 18 dinners (D)

PersonSaga tour manager

Plus…

  • Return flights and transfers
  • Porterage at all hotels

MapIncluded excursions and visits

  • Visit to Kazakh ethno village
  • Almaty city tour
  • Charyn Canyon
  • Tour of Karakol
  • Visit to the petroglyphs of Cholpon-Ata
  • City tour of Bishkek
  • Visit to Ala-Archa National Park
  • Aisha-bib and Bib Khanum mausoleums
  • Shymkent city tour
  • Turkistan and the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi
  • Walking tour of historic Khiva
  • Medieval Bukhara guided tour
  • Baha-ud-Din Naqshband's mausoleum visit
  • Visit Samarkand's Museum of Afrosiyab
  • Guided tour of Samarkand
  • Visit to the ancient Timurid centre of Shakhrisabz
  • Sightseeing tour of Tashkent

HeadphonesUse of audio headsets on guided tours

Dates

Touring with Saga Holidays

Saga Holidays have been creating holidays exclusively for over 50s for more than 60 years, with incredible destinations, memorable experiences and fantastic value at the heart of what they do.

Every holiday has been meticulously planned by their expert team, who are passionate about finding new exciting destinations and creating holidays full of unforgettable experiences that are tailored just to you. They also continually fine-tune their holidays from the feedback they receive from previous guests, to make sure every holiday upholds their high standards.

They visit over 150 countries and islands – from well-known destinations such as Portugal and Canada, to more unusual places such as Uzbekistan and Burma. Whether you want to venture as far afield as New Zealand, or stay closer to home on the charming coast of Cornwall, they can take you there.
Choose to ‘Stay & Explore’ from one unique base, or embark on an escorted tour and discover the world and travel by road, rail or sea on their exclusive itineraries, which visit all the major sites in the company of an experienced Saga Tour Manager.

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tour details

This tour is operated by Saga Holidays

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