Buddha, Dunhuang, Gansu, China China

Itinerary: Journey Along the Great Silk Road

10 May to 7 June 2018

Discover the lands of Transoxiania, where the cities of Tashkent, Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand hold magnificent blue-glazed tiled mosques, madrassas, intact streetscapes and people in traditional attire. Thoughts of these dazzling towns evoke images of turquoise domes blazing in the sun, marvellous arched walls of glazed tiles, mystical dervishes, and serpentine desert caravans and of renowned scholars.

There’s plenty to witness in the local life of the bazaars, or indulge your interests in streets and courtyards festooned with colourful carpets, textiles, pottery and handicrafts. Many of these destinations have, until recently, been shut off from the outside world. This is one of our most extraordinary Journeys.

On this Journey you will:

• Cross China, Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan
• Gaze in awe at the Terra Cotta Army and Horses
• Wonder at the easternmost beginning of the Great Silk Road at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda
• Encounter a living Tibetan monastic city in remote China
• Visit the extreme western end of the Great Wall
• Explore the Mogao Buddhist Caves at Dunhuang; a truly magnificent cultural repository
• Mingle in the ‘Sunday Market’ at Kashgar
• Cross the ‘most beautiful mountain pass in the world’
• Experience the nomadic lifestyle of the Kyrgyz peoples
• See the ancient tradition of hunting with magnificent Golden Eagles
• Discover the perfectly preserved desert city of Kiva, ‘the jewel in Uzbekistn’s crown’
• Follow the Silk Road through amazing Bukhara, Samarkand and the Fergana Valley
• Encounter craftspeople, music and dance of Central Asia

Our Hotels:

We understand that travel isn't all about a fleeting glimpse of popular mass tourist spots, or staying at luxury hotels, but is also about time, space, privacy and those special destinations and moments that turn your holiday into a truly magical experience. Journey along the Great Silk Road is a tour for everyone wanting to see the essence of China and Central Asia, but also including destinations on roads less travelled and exploring new horizons rarely encountered.

Participants should note that the order of visits and activities described may be modified to accommodate changes in flight schedules, special access to museums and craftspeople, the pathways chosen by our experienced and knowledgeable local guides, local road conditions and unexpected contingencies.

Meals:

Meals included in the tour price are indicated in the itinerary as per B (breakfast), L (lunch), and D (dinner).

Itinerary:

Day 1: 10 May 2018

Fly this morning directly from Adelaide (or your capital city) with China Southern Airlines CZ 664 at 11:00 am, arriving in Guangzhou where you change flights to arrive in Xi’an at 10:20 pm.

We have arrived at the Eastern–most starting point of the ancient Silk Road. The empire spread from the shores of the Mediterranean to the China Sea, and to India in the south. Along the fabled Silk Roads travelled European, Arab and Chinese merchants trading the exquisite products of China’s civilization. But not only were the luxurious silks, textiles and porcelains exported, so too were its scientific technologies which were well in advance of anything in the ‘West’. From the time of Marco Polo until the late eighteenth century, China was the greatest economy in the world, renowned for its stability and wealth; its cosmopolitan civilization and advanced technologies: so much so that it was held in awe by the nation-states of Europe. When Marco returned from his travels in 1295 he described a place of mythic wealth, beauty and harmony.

Day 2: 11 May 2018, Xi’an

Visit the famed Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses, one of the most spectacular archaeological finds of all time. It is speculated that many buried treasures and sacrificial objects had accompanied the emperor in his entombment intended to serve him in his afterlife. A group of peasants uncovered some pottery while digging for a well nearby the royal tomb in 1974. It caught the attention of archaeologists immediately. They came to Xi’an in droves to study and to extend the excavations. They had established beyond doubt that these artefacts were associated with the Qin Dynasty (211-206 BC).

After lunch visit another great UNESCO World Heritage site, the ‘Big Wild Goose Pagoda” Originally built in 652 during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), it functioned as a repository for Buddhist materials that were taken from India by the Chinese Buddhist scholar, Xuanzang. Xuanzang started off from Chang'an (the ancient name for Xi’an), walking along the Silk Road and through deserts and mountains, finally arriving in India, the cradle of Buddhism. Enduring 17 years and traversing 100 countries, he obtained Buddha images, 657 kinds of sutras, (sacred texts) and several relics of the Buddha. He supervised the building of a pagoda inside the temple precincts. With the support of royalty, he asked 50 scholars into the temple to translate the Sanskrit sutras into Chinese. The result was 1,335 volumes, which heralded a new era in the history of translation. Based on the journey to India, he also wrote a book entitled 'Pilgrimage to the West' in the Tang Dynasty, to which scholars attach great importance. (Remember the story of “Monkey”?).

This evening we will be welcomed to The Great Silk Road Journey by having dinner and attending the Tang Dynasty Show. The Tang Dynasty is regarded as the most progressive and prosperous era in the days of Imperial China, and its music and dance symbolize the glory and beauty of Chinese civilization.There are over 100 artists for a performance with a colorful spectacle of traditional music and dance.

Giant Wild Goose Buddhist Pagoda and Terracotta Warriors, southern Xian, Shaanxi province, China

Day 3: 12 May 2018, Fly to Lanzhou, transfer to Linxia

Depending upon our flight time, there may be time this morning to wander through the Muslim Quarter which covers several blocks inhabited by over 20,000 Muslims. The buildings on both sides of the street are modelled on the styles of both the Ming (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasties (1644-1911) and the area abounds in small restaurants and food stalls.

Fly today to Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province and an important ancient city on the Silk Road because it is at the entrance of a lowland valley called the Hexi Corridor. On either side of this 1000 kilometre longpassage, there are high mountains, deserts and plateaus that blocked travel to the north and south. For about 1,600 years after 100 BC, between the Chinese empires and kingdoms in the Far East and the empires and kingdoms to the west, the quickest and safest overland route north of the Himalayan mountains passed through here, as we will on route to Linxia.

Day 4: 13 May 2018, Boat trip to Bing Ling Temple, afternoon drive to Xiahe

This morning we drive to Liujiaxia Lake and board a boat to cruise between spectacular karst mountainous peaks to reach the little known ‘Thousand Buddha Caves’ at Bingling, which display a magnificent collection of Buddhist murals and sculpture carved from the living rock. These caves are a cultural treasure of the Silk Road, second only to Dunhuang.

After lunch cross the scenic Jishi Mountain Pass into what was once the Amdo region of ancient Tibet. Here is a remote and hidden land, a tantalizing goal, connected to Lhasa in the south west and Mongolia to the north: a strategic intersection of two major Asian cultures.

Day 5: 14 May 2018, Labrang Monastery

In its time of splendour, Labrang was an important staging post on this section of the Silk Road. Here you will explore its great monastery - home to the largest population of monks outside of what remains of Tibet. First founded in 1709, it housed several thousand monks. Labrang was also a gathering point for numerous annual religious festivals and was the seat of a Tibetan power base that strove to maintain regional autonomy through the shifting alliances and bloody conflicts that took place between 1700 and 1950.

Don’t miss visiting the Vairocana Chapel which contains some superb old lacquered clay statues of the Five Dhyani Buddhas. The subtlety and gracefulness of expression revealed through the craftsmanship of these figures is truly exceptional. Of particular note is the spectacular Maitreya Chapel which is several stories high and houses one single enormous image of Maitreya which reaches to the roof. The figure is coated with gold and impresses not just by its sheer size but also by the delicacy of the workmanship and sublimity of its facial expression.

In the afternoon drive to Lanzhou and take the comfortable overnight train to Jiayuguan

Labrang Monastery, Xiahe, Gansu, China

Day 6: 15 May 2018, Jiayuguan

Jiayuguan (Jiayu Pass "the First and Greatest Pass under Heaven") is not only the western starting point of the Ming Great Wall, but also a vital pass on the ancient Silk Road. Here the cultures of the Silk Road travellers and the Great Wall intersect and join. In the Ming Dynasty the Pass was a vital area for defence against attack from the northwest. In the Gobi Desert, Jiayuguan's Great Wall is not like other famous sections near Beijing, which are built with grey bricks and big stone slabs. This section is mainly built with loess, soil tamped together in layers, making the wall very solid.

Visit the fortress which is incorporated into the wall and beautifully restored, standing magnificently against the barren desert and close to the towering mountains to the south and desert hills to the north.

Great Wall of China, Jiayuguan Pass. Western starting point of whole Great Wall on the Silk Route. Built Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

Day 7: 16 May 2018, Jiayuguan - Dunhuang

Drive through stunning desert landscapes to a point of vital strategic and logistical importance, on a crossroads of two major trade routes within the Silk Road network. Lying in an oasis at the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, Dunhuang was one of the first trading cities encountered by merchants arriving in China from the west. It was also an ancient site of Buddhist religious activity, and was a popular destination for pilgrims, as well as acting as a garrison town protecting the region.

Day 8: 17 May 2018, Mogao Caves, bullet train to Turpan

Be prepared for one of the great highlights of the Silk Road when we encounter the remarkable Mogao Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Carved into the cliffs, the caves comprise the largest, most richly endowed, and longest used treasure house of Buddhist art in the world. The tracks of thousands of Buddhist pilgrims throughout the ages converge in one spot in the deserts of western China. Though shifting sands erase evidence of their footsteps, hundreds of caves painstakingly carved into the sides of barren cliffs hold proof of their devotion. Here, murals dancing with mineral colours mirror lifelike stucco sculptures of the Buddha and other deities all within a collection of nearly 500 caves begun in 366 AD.

The Mogao Caves illustrate not only the religious importance of Dunhuang however, but also its significance as a centre of cultural and commercial exchange. One of the caves contained 40,000 scrolls, a depositary of documents that is of enormous value in understanding the cultural diversity of this Silk Road city. The earliest text is dated to 405 AD, whilst the latest dates to 1002 AD. They provide a picture of Dunhuang as a vibrant hub of Silk Road trade, and give an indication of the range of goods that were exchanged in the city. According to these documents, a large number of imports arrived from as far away as north-east Europe. Interestingly, the scrolls that mention merchant caravans are usually written in Sogdian, Uighur, or Turco-Sogdian, indicating that they were produced by the foreign traders in the city. In addition to Buddhist texts, Zoroastrian, Manichean, Eastern Christian, Daoist, and Jewish documents can be found in this collection, suggesting that communities of many different religions lived side by side in the city. The range of imported goods included brocade and silk from Persia, metal-ware, fragrances, incense and a variety of precious stones, such as lapis lazuli (from north eastern Afghanistan), agate (from India), amber (from north east Europe), coral (from the ocean) and pearl (usually from Sri Lanka).

Day 9: 18 May 2018, Turpan

Turpan has long been the centre of a fertile oasis with water provided by its underground canal system delivering water to the city and the verdant fields. At Gaochang we will see the extensive ruins of an ancient walled trading city. On the north-east rim of the Taklamakan Desert are the Flaming Mountains, perhaps named for their striking gullies that have been eroded into the red sandstone bedrock, resembling a flame.. Here lies the Bezeklik ‘Thousand Buddha Caves’, which between the 6th and 14th centuries formed part of a Buddhist monastery. After lunch drive out to Jiaohe, an ancient city located on a high platform above two rivers. The most visually rewarding of all the sites around Turpan.

Ancient Gaochang Ruins of Turpan, China

Day 10: 19 May 2018, Urumqi

In Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi’s high-rise apartments form a modern skyline that will soon dash any thoughts of spotting wandering camels and ancient caravanserais. The vast majority of its inhabitants are Han Chinese, and the city is one of the least typical of Xinjiang, though glimpses of the distant Tian Shan mountains provide a taste of the extraordinary landscapes awaiting you on Monday. We have a short tour before flying to Kashgar in the late afternoon.

Day 11: 20 May 2018, Kashgar

The former British Consulate was the home for 26 years of the most famous of British India’s representatives in Kashgar; Sir George Macartney and his wife hosted some of the most prominent Silk Road travellers, including Sir Aurel Stein (who purchased thousands of the Mogao scrolls which are now in the British Museum). Though the old city is gradually being razed by local authorities to make way for modern development, Kashgar retains much of its ancient charm.This morning we visit the famed Kashgar Sunday Markets. Here, goods and livestock have been traded for more than 2000 years. The scene today is still a riot of colour, sounds and smells as animals, carts and vehicles traverse this vast site, an integral trading centre as it was in its Silk Road heyday.

Following lunch in a local Uyghur restaurant we will explore the narrow winding streets of the historic town. Here we will visit the Id Kah Mosque, the largest in China. Then it’s on to the handicrafts area where you will see pots being hammered, wood craftsmen at work and traditional musical instruments being made.

Day 12: 21 May 2018, Cross the Torugart Pass into Kyrgyzstan, Tash Rabat to Naryn

Today we drive to the highest paved border crossing in the world and considered one of the world’s most beautiful highways, once the most important Pass along the Great Silk Road leading from China to Western Asia, the Torugart Pass at around 3700m elevation. The views are "spectacularly amazing", with the Tian Shan and Pamir mountain ranges covered with permanent snow and glaciers and small hills with early spring pastures. After the formalities of the border crossing we meet our Kyrgyz guide and driver. Then we drive to the 14th century Tash Rabat Caravanserai on the Great Silk Road. The building is unique. After this visit you will drive to Naryn, a small town in the middle of the gorge by the river. We are in a different world! Night is in a delightful guesthouse.

Tien Shan mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Day 13: 22 May 2018, Naryn – Kochkor – Issyk Kul – Tamga

In the morning you will drive to Kochkor village. The road will wind through an amazing gorge and over a mountain pass that is 3000 meters high. In Kochkor village you will spend some time with a family that will show you the way their national felt carpets are produced. Also you will visit a small handicraft museum there. Then we will have a break in Bokonbaeva village, where lunch will be served in the house of a local Golden Eagle-Hunter and witness their amazing bond and skills. Also you will go for a short walk in the “Fairy Tale” red Canyon. Dinner and night is in Tamga guesthouse.

Be amazed at the Golden Eagle Hunter’s stories. Click here

Golden Eagle Hunter, Bokonbaeva village, Kyrgystan

Day 14: 23 May 2018, Tamga –Barskaun Gorge – Jeti Oguz – Karakol

Today we will drive along the southern shore of Issy Kul Lake to Jeti Oguz Gorge. It’s famous for its red rock formations called the ‘Seven Bulls’ – Jeti Oguz. Also you will see there the ‘Broken Heart Mountain’. We will make many photos there and we may drive to the top of a mountain to see a panoramic view of the gorge! On the way we will drive through Barskaun Gorge to a beautiful waterfall. Then we continue our way to Karakol. Here you will visit the Dungan mosque, built in Chinese style without using a single metal nail. This will be followed by a visit to an old wooden Orthodox Church. Night is in a guesthouse.

Day 15: 24 May 2018, Karakol - Cholpon Ata

An early departure from the hotel to head to Issyk Kul Lake’s northern shore. It is the biggest mountain lake in Central Asia and also the favorite place for swimming in the summer time. In the afternoon you will visit a small local museum that has examples of handicrafts, musical instruments, and many artifacts. Your dinner and night is in a hotel.

Landscapes of Uzbekistan

Day 16: 25 May 2018, Cholpon Ata – Burana Tower – Bishkek

After breakfast start the drive to Bishkek along the northern shore of the lake. On the way you will encounter the 11th-12th AD caravan town ruins of Balasagun, once an important centre of trade and commerce on the Silk Road. This place was mentioned in the early Chinese texts as the city is said to have been founded by the Sogdians, thus enabling us to trace the history back to 2nd/3rd century AD. The Buddhist monasteries and rock drawings found in the Chui valley testify the town was of great importance. On the way, we will make a short break to give you the opportunity to visit ancient stone inscriptions (dating back to 800 B.C.). Then we will visit the Burana Tower, a minaret from the 11th century which indicated to Great Silk Road travellers that there was a city nearby in which to rest. Nearby you will see an open air museum of Balbans (stone warriors). After an interesting excursion you will transfer to the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. The second half of the day is dedicated to a guided Bishkek City Tour. The tour includes the Pobeda Square (Victory Square), Duboviy Park (Oak Park), central Ala-Too Square, Old Square, National Philharmonic and many others places of interest. A traditional dinner awaits.

Day 17: 26 May 2018, Bishkek – Osh - Rishtan, B/L/D

Fly today to Osh before crossing the border into Uzbekistan’s Fergana Valley via the Dustlik border post. The Fergana Valley is one of the most beautiful areas of Uzbekistan surrounded by the Tien Shan mountains and traversed by the waters of the Syr Darya and Naryn rivers.

Friendship of Nations Palace, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Day 18: 27 May 2018, Fergana Valley, B/L boxes

In Rishtan visit a workshop of a famous master-ceramist where travellers have an opportunity to get acquainted with local ceramic goods production and even participate in the process. Then it’s on to Kokand, one of the most ancient cities of Uzbekistan. The first written records about the city called Hukande or Havokande were found in the chronicles of the 10th century. The town was an important trade centre on the Silk Road and in the 13th century, like most Central Asian cities, was destroyed by the Mongols.

The ‘Pearl of Kokand’ is the palace of the last ruler, Khudoyar Khan. The magnificent palace complex, built in 1871, is of staggering grandeur. It was constructed in the traditions of Central Asian architecture with high portal in the middle, decorated with a large entrance arch and four minarets.

Later we take the fast train to Tashkent.

Day 19: 28 May 2018, Tashkent - Nukus, B/L

Morning sightseeing of Tashkent then transfer to Tashkent Domestic Airport and fly to Nukus.

Khiva, Uzbekistan, UNESCO World Heritage

Day 20: 29 May 2018, Nukus - Ayazkala - Toprakkala - Khiva, B/L

This morning we visit the Savitskiy State Museum. In the 1990's, when Western journalists and diplomats first happened upon the museum, it seemed like the beginning of an art-world fairy tale. Hanging in crude frames were vivid, saturated works that ran the gamut of early-20th-century styles, from Fauvism and Expressionism to Futurism and Constructivism. The Savitsky collection promised to fill in a missing chapter of art history, chronicling mostly forgotten Soviet artists who were exploring new directions before the early 1930's, when the Stalin regime condemned “decadent bourgeois art” in favour of idealized paintings of factory and farmworkers.

Some of the artists complied; some were locked up as dissidents; their work winding up in attics and storerooms. It might have remained there except for Mr. Savitsky, who persuaded their families to entrust him with the canvases and carried them back in massive rolls to Nukus, the city he made his home after visiting it as part of an archaeological expedition. As recognized by experts and world mass media, this museum has one of the top art collections in Central Asia and the second biggest and most significant collection of Russian Avant-garde in the world.

After the visit, drive to Khiva (190 km, 2.5 hrs.) en route visiting the Ayazkala and Toprakala desert fortresses. Located in the Khwarezm region of Central Asia, the towering mud-brick walls of these fortresses rise dramatically from the surrounding plains. They were built on the edge of the desert at different points between the fourth century B.C. and the seventh century A.D. as a means of protection from nomadic raids. Within the forts are the remains of palaces and traces of the local agricultural population have been found in the surrounding areas. Abandoned for 1,300 years, the fortresses were rediscovered in the 1940s. On arrival, transfer to your hotel, the “Orient Star”, located in the ‘inner city’ and occupying a building of a former madrassa. In the past, 250 students resided and studied here up until the beginning of the 20th century. Walk to dinner at local city restaurant.

Day 21: 30 May 2018, Kiva, B/L

Kiva is considered the most intact and homogenous townscapes of the Islamic world. No modern intrusions spoil the timeless fabric within a rectangle of crenelated and turreted ramparts. Most of the buildings date between the 16th to the 19th -century and is a city famous for its handicraft masters. On every corner you will encounter highly skilled wood and stone carvers, (most still dressed in traditional attire) metal chasers and jewellers. Khiva’s hand woven carpets and hand embroidery, "suzani", are world renowned and abound in the maze of ancient alleyways and byways in the small city confines.

The whole day is dedicated to slowly-paced walking around Khiva, exploring its historical centre with splendid edifices such as the 12th century Ichan Kala Minaret, (a UNESCO World Heritage Site,) and the Kalta Minor. You will walk through the Citadel, or Kunya Ark, which is the central fortress, then on to the Madrasah Muhammad Rahimkhan nearby, and the Madrasah and Minaret Islam-Khodja. Through ancient streets passing people in traditional attire you continue to visit the Palace of Tosh-Hovli which has been preserved intact with its ornate gates, majolica, wood and marble carving, and painted ceilings. Thence to the Mausoleum of Pahlavan Mahmud, where it’s vibrantly coloured turquoise tiled interiors reach a peak of opulence. After lunch in a local house, you will visit the stunning Friday Mosque: a forest of carved wooden columns with some dating to the 10th century, then wander through the Tash Hauli Palace, whose harem quarters constitute one of the most beautiful secular spaces in Central Asia.

Mir-I-Arab Madrassa, Bukhara (Buxoro), Central Asia's holiest city, Uzbekistan

Day 22: 31 May 2018, Kiva - Bukhara, B/L

The 340 kilometre journey through the Kyzyl-Kum desert along the ancient Silk Route (camel trains, donkey drawn carts, and all manner of transport can still be seen), starts and finishes in an unspoilt landscape of green fields, plentiful blooming fruit and nut trees surrounding adobe farmsteads, while the central section is undulating desert, specked with tufty shrubs which are briefly green in the spring. You will stop for a vista of the meandering Oxus, the mighty river crossed by Alexander the Great in 329 BC. Reach Bukhara in time for a walk before dinner. Your hotel is ideally located in the historical centre of the city, which is an unique ‘open air’ museum; a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Day 23: 1 June 2018, Bukhara, B/L

Sacred Bukhara is one of the most esteemed cities in Islamic civilization. In the ‘Middle Ages’ it was the site of profound teachings by prominent religious figures, and there was a saying: “If anywhere in the world the light comes from above, in Bukhara, it streams out of the earth”. However, in 1220, Genghis Khan ensured that (with notable exceptions including the Kalon Minaret, at 48 metres then the tallest in the world), little of Bukhara’s first golden age remains, but of the second, in the 15th and 16th centuries, there survives much magnificent architecture, lavishly embellished. This city is renowned for its exquisite blue tiling and golden brickwork and it is here in Bukhara where Uzbek and Turkistan cultures come alive.

This morning's walk takes in the 4th century Citadel Ark –the formidable fortress of the Khans and the Zidan, their infamous prison, which protected the city in one form or another from as long ago as the 4th century, the Bolo-Khauz Mosque, the Ismael Samani Mausoleum, (the tomb of representatives of the Samani dynasty at the end of the 9th century), the Chashmayi Ayub Mausoleum, Nodir Devanbeghi Madrasah, and the beautiful Lyabi-Khauz Ensemble. Why not take tea in the shade of ancient mulberry trees around the Lyabi-Hauz (“brim of a pool”), one of the most popular destinations for residents of Bukhara and visitors alike. For over 400 years Bukhara water carriers would fill their leather skins with the clear water and perhaps refreshed themselves at one of the many chaikana, or tea pavilions which still abound in this stunning location.

In the early evening, why not enjoy the ancient Hammam ‘Turkish’ steam baths and saunas, that are still functioning from Silk Route times offering a visitors range of massages, all under the marble domes and arches? (There are separate buildings for men and women). The architecture is worth the visit alone.

Why not take tea or dinner in the shade of ancient mulberry trees around the Lyabi-Hauz (“brim of a pool”), one of the most popular destinations for residents of Bukhara and visitors alike. For over 400 years Bukhara water carriers would fill their leather skins with the clear water and perhaps refreshed themselves at one of the many chaikana, or tea pavilions which still abound in this stunning location.

Architectural details of the Registan, Samarkand, Uzbektistan

The Registan, ancient city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Day 24: 2 June 2018, Bukhara - Samarkand, B/L

Today’s sightseeing includes the Poyi Kalon Ensemble (Pedestal of the Great), the religious heart of sacred Bukhara which consists of the 12th century Kalon Minaret and the vast Kalon Mosque with a capacity of 10,000, the Miri Arab Madrasah, the Ulugbek Madrasah (1417), Abdulaziz Khan Madrasah, the 12th century Magoki-Attori Mosque and the Kosh-Madrasah Ensemble. You will be spellbound by an extremely important element in medieval Bukharan urban life, the market area, which is the vital throbbing heart of all the desert cities on the Silk Route. Without the commerce which passed along that route, Bukhara and its sister cities would never have survived or flourished. Rulers invested great sums in the provision of covered market areas, warehousing and shelter for merchants and their animals, hammams (steam baths) and the like. The revenue from the markets enabled them to enrich the city with its now World-Heritage monuments. You will visit the covered trading domes collectively known as the Coumpol Bazaar (16th century) with individual trading points such as the Saraffon (the Dome of Moneychangers), Toki-Telpak Furushon (the Dome of Cap makers), Toki Zargaron (the Dome of jewellers) and Tim Abdullakhan (the Centre of silk). After lunch at a local restaurant you will explore other attractions all within a short walking distance of the hotel-especially the Coumpol Bazaar and its hundreds of glittering jewellery barrows, embroidery shops, the famed Central Asian carpets, antique shops, ceramics stands, and many other attractive products. The great trading domes were often managed by Jewish traders and there remain two extant and functioning Synagogues in the old city.

In the afternoon transfer to the Station to take the Fast Afrosiab train departing at 15:21 arriving in Samarkand at 16:55.

Day 25: 3 June 2018, Samarkand, B/L

The oasis of Samarkand was, according to legend, founded more than 5,000 years ago by King Afrosiyab. Its documented history dates from 329 BC when Alexander the Great found the city to be “more beautiful and majestic than I could have imagined”. Ancient Arab manuscripts refer to Samarkand as the “Gem of the East”. The city is one of the most ancient in the world, situated deep in Central Asia in the oasis of the Zarafsahn River. Not only can it claim to be ancient, but also to be the only large city in the world to have been fought over by three of the greatest generals; Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan and Timur. The city is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site.

You will visit the Registan, which became the central city square in the 14th century. Six major avenues crossed the square (and still do), but in the early days each street was famous for trading centres in such goods as silver-ware, textiles, ceramics, jewellery and the like. At the confluence, huge trading domes (similar to those you have seen in Bukhara) were built. In 1889 Lord Curzon declared the Registan as being ‘the noblest public square in the world,’ bounded on three sides by magnificent madrassas of the 15th and 17th centuries. These are the Ulugbek, Cher Dor and Tillya-Kori madrassas with magnificently glazed and tile-decorated facades. Later your visits will include the Gur Emir Mausoleum, (burial place of Tamerlane) and the Afrosiyab Museum.

In the late afternoon drive to “El Merosi” where you will enjoy a performance which engages historical dance and music, and will provide unique insights into the customs and traditions of the region from ancient times to the present. The scenes demonstrate the lives of the Uzbek peoples in past and present contexts and the beautiful costumes reveal its rich textile heritage.

ancient islamic glazed tiles, Uzbekistan

Day 26: 4 June 2018, Samarkand – Tashkent, B/L boxes

Transfer to the station this morning to take the high speed’ Sharq’ train to Tashkent, departing at 10:35 and arriving at 13:15.

Day 27: 05 June 2018, Tashkent - Urumqi, B/L

After breakfast check out and depart for a city tour which will encompass the modern part of the city, visiting the Independence Square, Amir Timur Statue, Memorial to the World War II Victims, Monument of Courage, Alisher Navoi Theatre Square, Museum of Applied Arts, Catholic Church, Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre Square, and the city fountains then transfer to the airport to fly to Urumqi, departing at 1715 arriving at 2240. Transfer to an hotel.

Day 28: 06 June 2018, Urumqi, B

Free morning then transfer to the airport for the China Southern Flight CZ6883 departing at 12:50. Transfer to the International Departures in Guangzhou and fly overnight to Australia.

Day 29: 07 June 2018, Arrival in Australia

Arrival in Australia this morning, bringing an end to this Journey 'Along the Great Silk Road'.

Pricing:

Anticipated price per person twin share (Land only): AUD 8150.00
Single Supplement: AUD 1344.00
Airfares from Australia: AUD 1399.00

COST INCLUSIONS:

• International flights from Adelaide to Urumqi and return from Tashkent
• International Flight Bishkek to Tashkent
• Domestic flight from Tashkent to Nukus
• Accommodation in mentioned hotels on DOUBLE / TWIN per person sharing basis
• Breakfast at the hotels; lunches and dinners as per the program
• Services of A/C comfortable transport with professional driver as per program
• Bottled mineral water during the tour
• High-speed AFROSIYOB train economy-class tickets from Bukhara to Samarkand/Samarkand to Tashkent
• Entrance fees to above mentioned sights as per program (except photo and video charges, where applicable)
• Tour Escort/Manger from Adelaide
• Tashkent Airport arrival assistance
• English-speaking escort guides in China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
• Uzbekistan visa application support

COST EXCLUSIONS:

• Uzbekistan visa cost (about USD 20.00)
• Extra meals and Beverages
• Photo and video charges
• Tips and gratuities
• Personal expenses
• Any services not included in the above itinerary
• Travel Insurance (compulsory)

Prices may fluctuate due to changes in charges, taxes and currency. Prices and flights are correct at time of preparing this program and are subject to availability at time of booking. Special conditions and seasonal surcharges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of travel. Flight times are subject to change by the airline. Please visit http://www.smartraveller.gov.au or ring 1300 139 281 for information on current Government traveladvice.

CANCELLATION POLICY:

On International Flight tickets

• Please refer to your conditions of ticketing

On land package cost

• Between 64-31 Days: 65 % of land cost
• Between 30-16 Days: 75 % of land cost
• Between 15-1 Days: 100 % of land cost

For further information, don’t hesitate to contact Zen Oriental Journeys by emailing Lee Grafton or ring 0401 123 347

FULLY BOOKED - SOLD OUT

Bookings will be processed in order of receipt. Any bookings after this date will be accepted subject to visa processing, flight availability, land content and room availability. Such booking must be paid in full after confirmation of your acceptance in the tour. Special conditions and additional charges to airfares and package prices may apply depending on date of booking.

Costs associated with the Asia In-Country Study Tours can be tax deductible. Educators may be able to claim their study tour expenses under a number of tax deduction categories which include: self-education expenses; excursions, school trips and camps if these trips have an educational benefit and are related to the curriculum or extra-curriculum activities of the school; acquisition of teaching aids used for curriculum development and teaching programs. Participants must contact their tax advisor or visit the Australian Tax Office website to confirm eligibility.

 
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