Embark on an eastern adventure to the exotic cities of Uzbekistan, a historic crossroads on the Great Silk Route’s path across Central Asia. 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 deserts little changed since the days of Genghis Khan, the mighty khanate states and the Soviet Union.Check dates and availability
Kelly Lewis is the founder of Damesly and a women’s travel industry maven. Her greatest passion in life is helping women to travel the world and meet one another so that they may discover their own personal power and capabilities. She’s based in Portland, OR.
Today you’ll arrive to Uzbekistan! After customs formalities, you’ll meet your driver and guide in the arrival hall and transfer directly to the hotel for check-in and rest.
With a population of over 3 million people, Tashkent is the largest city in Central Asia. The city’s history dates back to the first century BC. A major caravan crossroads, it was taken by Arabs in the 8th century and by Genghis Khan in the 13th century and Tamerlane feasted here in the 14th. The Russian Empire arrived in the 19th century, and Uzbekistan was not an independent country again until the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. In a major earthquake in 1966, the entire city was destroyed and rebuilt.
Today, Tashkent is a curious blend of Islamic and Soviet influences, and home to some excellent museums. Following breakfast, we set out for an introduction to the city. Nowhere is better than starting the day at the earthquake Monument of Courage. Flattened by a devastating earthquake in 1966, the city was reinvented by the Kremlin to represent the very epitome of the socialist ideal. Then we’ll drive out to Barak Khan Madrassah, a historical building that has become a centre for local artists and craftsmen.
We’ll also get to see Islam’s most holy relic, the world’s oldest Koran, and visit Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent’s famous green-domed market featuring acres of spices, produce, and traditional crafts. After lunch, we’ll enjoy a walk to Independence Square, which represents a symbol of freedom for the Uzbekistan people who declared their independence from Russia in 1991. We will have an introduction to the national hero – Tamerlane, in the square of Amir Temur and see the Alisher Navoi Theatre from outside.
Tashkent metro stations are among the most beautiful in the world. Leading Uzbek architects and artists designed the stations, and each is an original work of art, devoted to a certain theme. To see for ourselves, we ride the metro a few stops. Before enjoying the dinner meet Muhayo Alieva – the founder of Bibi Hanum Fashion house in Tashkent. Bibi Hanum™ is a socially responsible enterprise that creates garments and accessories using traditional hand-woven silk cotton ikat fibre. Founded by Muhayo Alieva its mission is to provide economic opportunities for women while preserving Uzbekistan’s rich cultural and ethnographic heritage.
Meals: lunch, dinner
Today we need to get up very early to take a domestic flight to Urgench, departing at 07:25. After arriving in the town, we drive to Khiva and start our sightseeing of this open-air museum. Khiva is full of amazing architecture – and today we will get a chance to see them all.
We will visit the walled inner-city section of Khiva called Ichan-Kala. This historic town preserves more than sixty historic monuments and hundreds of old houses dating back hundreds of years.
As you walk through the massive city gates, you are met by the gleaming Islamic architecture, the Kalta Minaret. Explore the town on a guided tour that covers all of the city sites. Enjoy broad views of Old Khiva on the top of Ak Sheikh baba observatory platform.
We will enjoy the evening’s meal by the minaret of a local madrassa, with the local life unfolding in front of our eyes.
Meals: B, L, D
After breakfast, we check out from the hotel and continue our journey with a road trip. Our journey through 16th largest desert on the planet today, will take us to Bukhara.
During the ride, we will enjoy some scenic Central Asian steppes, watch how waters of the once-mighty Oxus is half-heartedly penetrating towards the sullen Aral Sea. We will also have a panoramic view from the side of the modern Silk Road Highways.
After arrival in Bukhara, our guide will take us to the old quarter of Bukhara and visit the backstreets to meet the local community.
Bukhara was a key trading post on the Silk Road. This UNESCO enlisted city has many zigzagged backstreets, bustling bazaars and historical monuments. Many call it “Bukhoroi Shareef”, that translates as Holy Bukhara for having hundreds of mosques and lots of mausoleums. The city has seen various dynasties battling for the influence as it has always stood as a centre of trade, culture, and scholarship.
Meals: B, L, D
Today we visit the Ismail Somoni Mouseleum – a 10-century unique monument, where more than sixteen styles of brickwork adorn the face of this cubic memorial. Chashma Ayub Mausoleum – is a pilgrimage site for the locals, and is a unique place where locals believe prophet Job visited.
We then will visit Boloi Havuz Mosque – a functioning central mosque of Bukhara. Across from the mosque, we visit Ark Citadel. It is the original fortress of Bukhara and likely dates back two thousand years or more. After lunch, we visit Poikalon Complex – the highlight of the city that includes the Kalon Mosque and Minaret, and the Mir-i-Arab Madrassah surrounds an open plaza teeming with merchants and local vendors.
During the day we will arrange for Hammam experience in one of the old Bukharian hammams. You will be guided into the hammam by an assistant where you will then sit in a heated room for 20 minutes till your tissues open, start the self-cleaning process and breathe. The vapors will clean your lungs and sinuses. You will be guided into the heated marble platform where you will receive Oriental Massage for the next 30 minutes.
Please, do not be worried if the masseur steps on you, this is how proper Bukhara massage is performed. We will have some free time before regrouping for dinner in the evening.
Meals: B, L, D
Begin this morning at Labi-Havuz Plaza, located in the heart of the old town. The plaza is at the centre of Bukhara’s old town and is a place to meet friends, to eat, to drink, and to relax in the shade for locals.
Today we will explore the surroundings with a visit to the local master’s house. Rahman – who is the fifth generation Suzani master would happily host us for a cup of tea and introduces us to the finest Suzani work of the town. Take turns to learn by making stitches, or browse the large collection of tablecloths, bedcovers, cushions, bags or wall hangers designed with Suzani stitches.
Next, we go to the famous Trading Domes of the city that once housed the best merchants of the Silk Road in them. We will visit the workshop of the blacksmith and talk to the spice vendors. In the early afternoon, you will have time for yourself to soak up the experiences and explore the city on your own.
We will then drive to the train station at 14:45 to take our train to Samarkand. Our train journey is from 15:35 to 17:00. Upon arrival in Samarkand, we would go to the hotel and have a short walk around the old Quarter of Samarkand. Dinner in the old Jewish dining room at the hotel.
Meals: B, L, D
After breakfast, we’ll start the day with the visit of Gur-Emir mausoleum, where Timur is buried. We will hear the stories from his life and how did he start the construction of Samarkand.
Then, we’ll go to Registan Square – Samarkand’s and arguably Uzbekistan’s most famous landmark. The focal point of ancient Samarkand is framed by three beautiful madrassas (religious schools) – Ulugbek, Sherdor and Tillya Kori. Next, we will stroll through the spacious courtyard of the Bibi-Khanum Mosque—a structure that legend says was a gift to Tamerlane by one of his wives. After lunch, we will have time to explore the Siab Bazaar, where fruit and vegetables grown from the rich soil of the Zarafshan Valley are sold in a colorful market. You may explore the city on your own during your free time this afternoon.
While in Bazar during the day we will learn how to shop for the best ingredients of the Palov – central dish of Uzbekistan. There are many folk parables and legends about the healing and nourishing qualities of palov. Uzbek people believe that the very name for plov – “osh-palov” contain the first letters of the names of the dish basic ingredients: onion, carrot, meat, oil, salt, water and rice. Shopping List: local zighir oil, beef or lamb, locally grown devzira rice, onions, quinces, chickpeas, whole chilli peppers, herbs and spices.
Today’s host will be Farida and her family of 6 people: 3 children, husband and mother-in-law. Your host family will lead you to the house to show the traditions of Samarkand, answer general questions about her and the life in Samarkand.
Meals: B, L, D
After breakfast, we continue to explore this fairytale city. We’ll go to Shahi Zinda in the morning, as the light of the sun would be best for photography in this tile-rich street of turquoise and blue domes. Then we’ll visit Ulgubek’s Observatory, once the biggest research centre in Central Asia.
Ulugbek was decades ahead of the West with his observations of the solar system and the earth and we will learn more about his story in this prestigious setting. Our next stop would be Konigil Paper Mill – where you may see the process of paper production from mulberry tree bark – just like in the 8th century. We then invite you to visit the workshop of two famous designers in Samarkand Lena and Valentina. Lena Ladik’s Happy Bird Gallery is located close to Registan square. Her gallery is filled with original handmade Uzbek clothing, textiles, ceramics, and artwork, it is a combination of an upscale shop, museum, and antique store. The director, Lena Ladik, is committed to supporting traditional Uzbek arts and handicrafts that incorporate natural materials, fair trade, and eclectic tastes.
Valentina Romanenko’s Art Workshop is the embodiment of the rich understanding of Samarkand masters in silk, painting and embroidery. There you can find a collection of scarves, dresses, bags and other garments made by old technologies handed down by Uzbek masters from generation to generation, watch costumed folk show and, of course, buy any dress you like.
By the time we see all these experiences it will be time to drive to the train station for the last phase of our journey – returning to Tashkent. The high-speed train leaves Samarkand at 17:30 and reaches the capital at 19:40.
After we arrive, we’ll go to a cozy restaurant to wrap up our journey together with a farewell dinner.
Meals: B, L, D
It’s departure day and we’re sad to see you go! After breakfast, we’ll begin airport transfers. After the trip ends, we’ll create a link for where we can share photos and keep in touch with one another.
We will be staying in a variety of 3 and 4-star properties. Uzbekistan tourism is still on the rise, and thus, it’s best to be understanding that Uzbek hotels are often older, and reminiscent of the Soviet era.
We work hard to stay at women-owned properties and comfortable boutique hotels, but please be advised that conveniences like gyms, pools or wifi, are not the norm.
Tour is priced for double occupancy, meaning you will share your room with one other gal from our tour.
You will fly into Tashkent (TAS). Arrive anytime on Day 1 — be advised that you are likely to lose a day in transit. So, if our tour begins on a Sunday, you may need to leave on a Friday night or Saturday morning.
Many countries do need a visa for Uzbekistan, including those from the United States.
Apply online through the Uzbekistan government website. You are no longer required to go to the embassy for a visa.
This trip will run with 4 participants, and has a maximum of 8, plus your Damesly tour leader and tour guide.