Ashgabat | Mary | Gonur Depe | Murzechyria | Damla | Derweza Gas Crater | Dashoguz | Nukus | Aral Sea | Ayaz Kala | Khiva | Bukhara | Shakhrisabz | Samarkand | Tashkent
This one-of-a-kind expedition explores the incredible story of the conquest of the Silk Road in Central Asia. From Cyrus the Great and the Persian God Kings, through to the invasion of Alexander the Great and the Seleucids, the early days of conquest saw the bloody transfer of power among the great empires of the day. Following the Arab invasions and the Islamic Golden Age, the Silk Road was almost totally destroyed by Genghis Khan and the waves of Mogul attacks, whilst the rise of Timur saw the rebuilding of this fabled trade route to its former glory.
Taking in the iconic sites of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, our expedition explores the life and times of these great conquerors and the worlds they destroyed and created. The expedition includes a 4×4 desert crossing of the remote Garagum (Karakum) Desert as well as an exploration of the rarely visited Aral Sea and a camp on its diminishing shore.
We stay in the finest hotels Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan has to offer and set up an exclusive tented camp in the fields outside the remarkable 4500-year-old city of Gonur Depe. Throughout our journey, we are joined by leading Central Asian archaeologists and academics who give us exclusive access to their dig sites and rare insight into their country’s incredible history and its connection to today.
Every Arcadia expedition provides you insider access to the most unforgettable and thought-provoking local experiences, curated exclusively by us for our travellers. Here are some of the Arcadia Exclusives on this trip:
Day 01 – Arrive Ashgabat
On arrival at Ashgabat Airport in the early hours of this morning, you are met at the arrivals gate by an Arcadia representative, who will assist you with a CIP fast track Immigration and Customs service. You will be then transferred by private vehicle to your luxury hotel, where you can rest until mid-day.
After an a la carte lunch at our hotel, we will set out to explore the extraordinary capital of Turkmenistan. Ashgabat is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the city with the most white marble on earth. We visit the Museum of Turkmen Carpets, which houses one of the largest displays of carpets in the world. Here we will see carpet weaving and learn of the stories woven into these incredible works of art. We then stroll through a park dedicated to pride of Turkmenistan – the Turkmen horse – to Gulistan Bazaar, one of the popular city markets located in the centre of Ashgabat. Close by stands one of the few remaining monuments to Lenin. Erected in 1927, it survived both the earthquake of 1948 and the fall of the Soviet Union.
We return to our hotel for a short rest before we dine at one of the city’s best restaurants for our welcome dinner and expedition briefing. After dinner, there is an optional night drive of the city for those with jetlag.
Hotel Yyldyz, Ashgabat | Meals: B,L,D
Day 02 – Ashgabat
After breakfast, we visit Turkmenbashy Ruhy Mosque, the largest mosque in Central Asia. We arrive early to catch the mesmerising site of the rising sun shining off its splendid golden domes. We then head out to explore the Parthian Fortresses of Nisa, one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sights in Turkmenistan. Here we meet our first Silk Road conqueror Arsaces I, who founded Nisa and lead the Parni people to create an empire that would eventually stretch from Turkey and Syria all the way to India.
Nisa become one of the region’s most important cities and from the mid 3rd century BCE to the 3rd century CE, this powerful empire dominated this part of the Silk Road, successfully barring Roman expansion to the east. With our guide and local archaeologist, we delve into the history of this vital communications and trading centre between east and west and its pivotal role in the empire.
After lunch we explore the fascinating National Museum of History with our guide and archaeologist to learn more about recent Turkmen history. The museum includes monuments dedicated for the Victims of the Earthquake of 1948 and the World Wars. We then return to the hotel for a siesta before dining at a popular Ashgabat restaurant.
Hotel Yyldyz, Ashgabat | Meals: B,L,D
Day 03 – Ashgabat
We enter Ashgabat’s famous Jygyldyk bazaar this morning, a riotous mix of colour and local culture where you can buy almost anything under the sun: camels, carpets, cars, carpets, aladjas, handcrafts, felts, embroidery, jewellery and acres more. The bazaar is one of the best places in the city to meet the wonderfully welcoming Turkmen people face-to-face.
For more of the real Turkmenistan, we head out to the Hippodrome to take in the marvellous spectacle of the Sunday Races. Turkmen people are ‘horse crazy’ and the sight of the crowds wildly supporting their favourite horses is an unforgettable experience. Turkmen Akhalteke Horses are thought to be the rootstock of the Arab thoroughbred, created when the invading Arab armies swept across Central Asia, who took this fine breed back with them to their homeland. We will be guided by one of Turkmenistan’s greatest horse trainers and we have a special lunch prepared.
This afternoon, we explore the imposing monuments of the city – all of which are white, gold, vast and quite extraordinary in their creation. They include The Arch of Neutrality, the Monument of Constitution Alem Culture & Entertaining Centre and the Monument of Independence which is surrounded by gigantic statues of Turkmenistan’s national heroes. We come together for sundowner drinks at the top of the cable car overlooking the city followed by dinner at a local restaurant.
Hotel Yyldyz, Ashgabat | Meals: B,L,D
Day 04 – Mary via Nadir Shah Fortress, Ulug Depe & Namazga
Today we begin our exploration of some of the most famous archaeological sites in Central Asia. In just one day we shall survey more than 6000 years of civilisation and conquest.
First is the Abiwerd Fortress, a key link on the Silk Road between Nisa and Merv until the Mongols laid it to waste during their invasion of 1221 – never to recover. We then reach Nadir Shah Gala, a vast 18th Century Fortress built during the rule of Nadir Shah, founder of the Afsharid dynasty in Iran, who conquered the Silk Road during a series of campaigns from 1740-45. Not far away is Namazga Depe, a legendary site among archaeologists that was occupied continuously from the 5th Millennium BCE until the 2nd Millennium BCE. It is remarkable not only for its size, but for the degree of cultural and urban development it experienced during the Bronze Age.
As we pass through the hamlet of Dushak, we are briefly brought back to a far more recent conflict. Here amongst the ruins of the ages unfolded a little-known chapter of WWI. Known as the Battle of Dushak, it saw a British force, bolstered by local troops, take on a combined force of Bolsheviks and Austrian POW’s battling for control of the east west railway line.
We then head for Ulug Depe, an early Bronze Age agricultural settlement currently being excavated by French archaeologist Olivier Lecomte. We have lunch with the archaeological team and then explore the site. We drive on to Mary and our hotel, the venue for tonight’s dinner.
Mary Hotel, Mary | Meals: B,L,D
Day 05 – Merv
This morning we take the short drive to Merv to explore this mesmerising World Heritage site with a Turkmen Archaeologist and an English-speaking guide. Occupied for more than 5000 years, Merv remained a great capital through a series of invasions from the time of the Achaemenid Persians all the way through to the Seljuk Sultanate, with each successive conqueror making this imposing city their capital. As late as 1200 CE, Merv was the largest city on earth, with a population of more than half a million people. Criss-crossed by canals and bridges, it was a verdant garden oasis in the middle of the Karakum desert until it was obliterated by Genghis Khan’s son and the Mongols in 1221 with an estimated 700,000 deaths.
We have lunch prepared for us at the administration office of Old Merv Historical Reserve. We then continue our explorations through the afternoon with plenty of time to stroll alone between the vast ruins and contemplate the ages of occupation and its destruction. We return to Mary and visit the United Museum, showcasing Margush and Old Merv, as well as displays of nature, ethnography and fine arts.
Mary Hotel, Mary | Meals: B,L,D
Day 06 – Gonur Depe
After breakfast we explore Mary’s bustling local bazaar, housed in a superb 19th century caravanserai. Then, accompanied by our archaeologist and guide, we head out across the Murgab River Delta to the archaeological wonder of Gonur Depe.
Agricultural settlements have existed here since the 7th Millennium BCE, however Gonur is unlike any other settlement discovered so far. Unearthed in the 1970’s, this astonishing site has been identified as an ancient centre of Zoroastrianism and is made up of two fortified palace complexes dating from 2400 to1800 BCE. Here we will gain a unique insight into early Bronze Age life, with the burial sites of kings and their horses, pots still holding foodstuffs and the hearths of individual dwellings and water systems still largely intact. Its remarkable design and battlements make Gonur a true wonder of the ancient world.
Awaiting us in Gonur is our luxury tented camp, set up amongst the ruins exclusively for our group. After exploring this magical ancient city, we return to camp for sundowners overlooking the ruins, before watching our chef preparing the traditional nomadic Turkmen meal called Ishlekli. Layers of dough are filled with lamb and spice, then cooked beneath the fire in hot sand.
Luxury Tented Camp, Gonur Depe | Meals: B,L,D
Day 07 – Karakum Desert - Murzechyrla
We explore Gonur Depe further this morning before commencing our thrilling three day crossing of the Karakum Desert. The first leg is from Gonur Depe to the settlement of Murzechyrla.
Only a few hardy communities call the Karakum Desert home, living in the handful of remote oases that run along an ancient course of the Amu Darya – the ancient River Oxus. Remarkably, parts of the desert still retain Taiga scrub and there is a possibility of seeing wild boar and gazelles while we stop for a picnic lunch. We reach Murzechyrla in the afternoon where our fly camp will be set up close to the local village. We spend the rest of the day interacting with the locals and experiencing their daily life followed by a traditional dinner.
Fly Camp, Murzechyrla | Meals: B,L,D
Day 08 – Karakum Desert - Damla
We will spend this morning with the locals in their every-day routine of milking the camels, beating and combing the wool and giving water to the animals using unusual band pumps. The more ambitious of us can go for a camel ride. The villages are also home to the elegant Tazi, the Turkmen hunting dog, which is capable of greyhound-like speed, as well as the muscular Alabay, used as guard dogs all over Turkmenistan. The people of the Karakum are also expert falconers, which they use to great effect teamed with their Tazi dogs.
After a post-lunch siesta, we continue our crossing of the Garagum Desert from Murzechyrla to Damla via Akmolla village. The people in these oases are famous for their hospitality as well as their unique culture, traditions and dress. We will have the opportunity to take part in felting, setting up a yurt, as well as observing the preparation of traditional meals. In the evening there will be a chance to learn the dutar – a long-necked two string lute.
Fly Camp, Damla | Meals: B,L,D
Day 09 – Derweza Gas Crater
We interact with the people of Damla this morning before we make the three-hour crossing to the other-worldly site of the flaming gas crater at Derweze. Identified as a potential oil field by Soviet engineers in 1971, a drilling rig was set up to tap the deposits. However the rig was constructed on top of a gas pocket which collapsed and ignited the gas, which has continued to burn ever since.
Here our fly tents are replaced by comfortable yurts and after lunch in camp you are free to walk around the crater before a barbecue dinner and folklore performance at the camp.
Yurt / tented Camp, Derweza | Meals: B,L,D
Day 10 – Dashoguz
After breakfast we make our way to Shasenem Gala, a 4th Century BCE fortress very rarely visited by outsiders. Located on the farthest southern extension of the Oxus (Amu Darya) River delta, in medieval times it was known as Suburna. It was sacked by the Mongols and again by the Timurids and abandoned to the shifting sands of the Karakum. We explore the ruins with our guide and enjoy a traditional lunch close the fortress, freshly cooked by a team arriving earlier in the morning.
After lunch, we take a leisurely drive to Dashoguz, stopping en-route to explore the ruins of Diyarbekir Fortress that dates from the 3rd Century BCE through to the 13th Century CE. Beside it is Ashyk Aydyng Pir Pilgrimage Complex, a very popular pilgrimage sight. Ashyk Aydyng Pir was thought to be the patron of lovers and musicians and it is said that there is no professional musician or singer in the country who has not made a pilgrimage to his tomb to gain his blessing.
Upon arrival in Dashoguz city, we have a well-earned rest at our hotel and dine at a local restaurant.
Dashoguz Hotel, Dashoguz | Meals: B,L,D
Day 11 – Dashoguz
This morning there is free time to relax at our hotel or take a visit to Dashoguz’s local bazaar.
After lunch, we explore the fascinating Yzmukshir Fortress. A major Silk Road fortification from Parthian times, it survived the Mongol invasion and was likely an important regional entrepot in Khorezm at the time of Kublai Khan and the Golden Horde. The entry gate, towers, massive moat and almost two kilometres of fortified walls make it one of the most impressive and alluring ancient sites in northern Turkmenistan. Fragments of ancient ceramics, as well as bronze and even silver coins, can be picked up as you explore.
Dashoguz Hotel, Dashoguz | Meals: B,L,D
Day 12 – Kunya Urgench – Nukas, Uzbekistan
We drive this morning to the site of ancient Kunya Urgench. At the height of the Achaemenid Empire, Kunya Urgench was the capital of the Khorezm region and was likely a major trade centre from far earlier. It was conquered by the Arabs in 712 and became a centre of art and leaning in the Golden Age of Islam between the 10th and 14th centuries. In 1221 it was the site of one of the bloodiest massacres in human history when the armies of Genghis Khan descend on the Oxus Delta and laid it to waist. Remarkably, it was rebuilt, only to be devastated once again in by Tamerlane in 1388.
We explore the old town, which today contains a series of fascinating monuments mainly from the 11th to 16th centuries, including a mosque, fortresses, mausoleums and a 60-metre-high minaret. The monuments testify to outstanding achievements in architecture and craftsmanship whose influence reached Iran and Afghanistan, and later the architecture of the Mogul Empire of 16th-century India.
After lunch we drive to the Kunya Urgench/Hojeyli border to cross into Uzbekistan. This ends the Turkmenistan part of the expedition and we say goodbye to our wonderful Turkmen support team. On the Uzbek side of the border we will be met by our Uzbek expedition team and transported to Hotel Karakalpak Palace where we gather tonight for dinner.
Hotel Karakalpak Palace, Nukas| Meals: B,L,D
Day 13 – Nukas
We take a break from the Conquest of the Silk Road this morning and visit the extraordinary Karakalpakstan State Art Museum. The museum houses the collection of Russian archaeologist and painter Igor Savitsky who, from 1957 onwards, hid tens of thousands of artworks from the Soviet authorities. These were pieces that were judged by the ruling powers to be at odds with the party line. The works saved by this devoted collector finally saw the light of day after Perestroika. This collection is the only one of its kind in the world, and it grows richer as more paintings are returned: almost 100,000 have now found refuge in the town archive.
We then drive a short distance to explore the 4th century BCE fortress of Gayur Kala and have a picnic lunch among the ruins with our local Uzbek archaeologist before we explore the vast Mizdakhan necropolis nearby.
Hotel Karakalpak Palace, Nukas| Meals: B,L,D
Day 14 – The Aral Sea
After breakfast, we depart by off-road jeep to the remote shores of the Aral Sea, stopping en-route in Kungrad and the Usturt Plateau before lunching beside the Sudochie Lake wetlands. We arrive at the Aral Sea in the late afternoon and have organised a special Yurt camp set up exclusively for our group, offering us a rare glimpse into what has become one of the greatest environmental tragedies on earth.
In the 1960s, the Soviet Union undertook a major water diversion project on the arid plains of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan to create a vast cotton industry. Before the project, the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya rivers flowed down from the mountains, cut northwest through the Kyzylkum Desert, and finally pooled together in the lowest part of the basin. The lake they made, the Aral Sea, was once the fourth largest in the world. Today the Aral Sea fishing fleet lies rusting in the dunes and the lake has all but disappeared.
Yurt Camp, Aral Sea Shore | Meals: B,L,D
Day 15 – Nukas
After breakfast in camp, we explore the shore further before taking a different route back to Nukas via Munyak, once the main port on the Uzbek side of the sea. Here the fishing fleet lies marooned in the sand next to the abandoned fish factory. We meet some of the inhabitants of this former seaside town and have lunch in a residents house. We return to Nukas and have dinner at the hotel.
Hotel Karakalpak Palace, Nukas| Meals: B,L,D
Day 16 – Ayaz Kala via Kazakl'i-yatkan, Toprak Kala
We head out with our local archaeologist today to explore three of Uzbekistan’s iconic archaeological sites. Firstly Kazakl’i-yatkan, occupied between the 3rd Century BCE until the 2nd Century CE, it has some of the best-preserved murals in Central Asia and was likely the fortified royal capital of the delta.
After a picnic lunch within the ruins, we visit the Kushan fortified palace of Toprak Kala – ‘the Earth Fortress’. Dating from between the 1st – 5th centuries CE, its ‘High Palace’ was a complex accommodating as many as 2500 people in hundreds of rooms across different levels. We then drive to the triple fortresses of Ayaz Kala. Built on the edge of the Kyzyl-Kum Desert as part of a defensive line against nomadic attack, they were constructed at different points between the 4th century BCE and the 7th century CE.
After exploring the sites, we stroll over to our exclusive yurt camp above the sites and make ourselves comfortable for the evening. Our evening meal will be around the campfire while we are entertained by traditional Uzbek tribal dancers.
Ayaz Kala Yurt Camp (private)| Meals: B,L,D
Day 17 – Khiva
We cross the Amy Darya (Oxus River) to Khiva and check in to our hotel inside the walls of the ancient city. After freshening up, we head out to Khiva’s Bazaar, a busy food and produce market with products from across Central Asia, that hugs the bastions of Khiva’s massive defensive wall.
After lunch we are guided through the pedestrian-only streets of Khiva with our local academic. Itchan Kala – the inner fortress of Khiva – has a history that spans over two millennia and with 54 ancient monuments and 250 dwellings, it is the greatest surviving example of Central Asian architecture. This remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Listed centre has been destroyed seven times during the conquest of the Silk Road and each time it was rebuilt. Khiva is a delight and the seemingly endless maze of streets allows you to get as lost in the ancient city as your heart desires. We return to the hotel to relax before dinning at a local restaurant.
Malika Kheivak, Khiva | Meals: B,L,D
Day 18 – Khiva
We have the whole day at leisure today to explore the wonders of Khiva.
Malika Kheivak, Khiva | Meals: B
Day 19 – Bukhara
Today is a travel day from Khiva to Bukhara. We break the drive into two with a lunch stop mid journey and a pause on the way to take in views of the ancient Oxus River. We shall arrive in Bukhara in the late afternoon with time to relax and freshen up at the hotel before we stroll down to dine in the main square at Lyabi House restaurant.
Hotel Shahriston Bukhara | Meals: B,D
Day 20 – Bukhara
AM This morning we embark on a private walking tour with our local academic to explore the intriguing sites of Bukhara. Including the Great Ark with its beautiful views of the city, the Kalon Minaret, the maze of alleys at Char Minar and the Domed Bazaars.
Choose your own adventure
PM This afternoon our travellers can choose from the following included options in Bukhara:
- Visit Shahriston Market a virtually tourist free bazaar where locals trade bling jewellery and house sized carpets
- Visiting UNESCO Carpet weaving shop to see carpet making, then the Bukhara gold embroidery factory. Followed by a private visit with miniature painting artist Davlat Burovich Toshev in his studio.
- Explore the Food Bazaar with Chef from leading restaurant and then go back to his restaurant and together cook a traditional Bukhara meal and eat it with the chef.
Hotel Shahriston Bukhara | Meals: B,L,D
Day 21 – Shakhrisabz
This morning you are free to explore the markets and historic centre of Bukhara at your leisure.
After lunch we begin the four-hour drive to Shakhrisabz, which affords us some spectacular views of the Amu Darya. Our route cuts through the expanse of the Kyzyl-Kum (Red Sand) Desert before arriving at our hotel in the late afternoon and dinner at a local restaurant.
Shakhrisabz is one of Central Asia’s oldest cities, founded more than 2,700 years ago. It was formerly known as Kesh or Kish and is believed to be the legendary city of Nautaca. Nautaca was a principal city of the Achaemenid Empire’s occupation of Sogdiana and it was here that Ptolemy captured Bessus, the Bactrian satrap who had murdered Darius Emperor of Persia. Nautaca was central to Alexander the Great’s campaigns in Central Asia through 328-27 BCE and it was where he spent the winters with his wife Roxanne. Kesh was also the birthplace of Timur (Tamerlane), founder of the Timurid Dynasty and where he builds his legendary palace the Ak-Saray.
Hotel Kish-Mish, Shakhrisabz | Meals: B,L,D
Day 22 – Samarkand
This morning we are guests at a unique event, a Kopkari tournament. Known as ‘Buzkashi’ in Afghanistan, the game is played with the body of a calf or goat and upwards of two hundred competitors try to wrestle the carcass from each other and then race away to drop it into a small circle. The game ranges across the countryside, often in and around spectators, and was the traditional practice for battle. This is the heartland of perhaps the greatest of Silk Road Conquerors. In the middle of the 14th Century, Tamerlane forged an empire that would stretch all the way to Turkey and almost consumed China. He drew much of his mounted army from the mountains around Shakhrisabz and today these games of Kopkari are as close as you will ever get to witnessing the unrivalled horsemanship of his vast hordes. We will view the game from close to our vehicles and afterwards join the champions for a traditional picnic lunch.
In the afternoon we return to Sakhrisabz to explore Tamerlane’s Ak-Saray Palace. Upon its completion in 1404 CE, it was the greatest structure in Central Asia – the entry arch alone was a staggering 22 metres wide. We then stroll across the vast central square to the Dorus-Siadat complex where two of Tamerlane’s sons are entombed. Mid-afternoon we begin the drive to Samarkand, crossing Takhta-Karacha Pass through the magnificent Zarafshan Range and witness some of Uzbekistan’s most stunning scenery. Close to the summit we stop for tea and sweets at the delightful Sharshara Tandyr-Kebab waterfall restaurant with its spectacular mountain views.
Hotel Sultan Boutique, Samarkand | Meals: B,L
Day 23 – Samarkand
Added to the World Heritage list in 2001, Samarkand is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Central Asia and has long been a central point for trade, with a citadel and strong fortifications, several centuries before it was conquered by Alexander in 329 BCE. The Greeks new it as Marakanda and after Alexander it was ruled by a succession of Iranian and Turkic rulers until the invasion of the Mongols in 1220. Tamerlane chose Samarkand as his capitol and, populating it with the great artisans and craftsmen from across the empire, he transformed it into a one of the world’s most beautiful capitals. As the birthplace of the Timurid Renaissance it became a centre for Islamic art and scholarly study and today it remains a true Archaeological Arc.
We spend the day exploring this wondrous city with our local guide. Late this afternoon we witness the thrilling spectacle of a Kurash match. Mentioned in many historical sources, Kurash is an ancient type of wrestling that originated in the territory of modern Uzbekistan and is at least three and a half thousand years old.
After a rest at the hotel, we make our way to the Registan – The Place of Sand – and explore this iconic square for the remainder of the afternoon and observe the spectacular light show.
Hotel Sultan Boutique, Samarkand | Meals: B,L,D
Day 24 – Samarkand
This morning you are free to explore more of Samarkand, wandering its ancient souks and taking in its extraordinary architecture.
Choose your own adventure
This afternoon our travellers can choose from the following included options in Samarkand:
- Cooking Experience; explore the Old City with the head chef of Karimbek Resturant as he buys for his kitchen and then back to his restaurant to show how to cook Uzbek “Pilav”, a delicacy from the time Timur.
- Explore Siob Bazaar Samarkand’s frenetic main market followed by a Wine Tasting at Hovreko Wine Factory which has been producing wines since 1868.
- Historical Carpet Tour – we visit some of the city’s most famous carpets and then to showrooms of two shops where you may decide to purchase your own carpet.
Dinner at Karimbek Resturant
Hotel Sultan Boutique, Samarkand | Meals: B,D
Day 25 – Tashkent
We have more free time today to savour in Samarkand before taking an afternoon train to Tashkent.
Upon arrival in the Uzbek capital, we are transferred to the Hyatt Regency, the best hotel in Tashkent, where we will join together for dinner.
Hyatt Regency, Tashkent | Meals: B,D
Day 26 – Tashkent
In its earl history, Tashkent owed much of its importance to the Sogdian and Turkic cultures. Following the arrival of Islam in the 8th Century, Tashkent flourished but was yet another city destroyed by Genghis Khan in the early 1200’s. The city was rebuilt and became an important stop along the Silk Road.
This morning we visit the Tamerlane Museum, where we have an exclusive private visit with the museum’s creator to learn more about this famed Mongol warlord. We then move on to the State Museum of History of Uzbekistan, where we see an impressive collection covering Uzbek archaeology, history and ethnography.
After morning tea we view the oldest Koran in existence at the Hast-Imam Square Library and Mosque. Written in the middle of the 7th Century, this ancient manuscript was originally kept in the various treasuries of the Caliphs, at times placed in Medina, Damascus and Baghdad, before Tamerlane transferred it to Tashkent.
This afternoon we explore the city’s Grand Bazaar to do some last minute shopping before returning to hotel for our sumptuous farewell dinner.
Hyatt Regency, Tashkent | Meals: B,D
Day 27 – Departure
Most flights depart in the early hours of this day. You will have a private transfer to Tashkent International Airport to make your connection.
Dr Iain Shearer FRAS
Iain is an archaeologist who has worked on sites across the Middle East, North Africa and Sudan, Central Asia, Caucasus, China, India, Pakistan, USA, Balkans, Europe and UK. Iain took his degrees at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, where he worked before being appointed The Sackler Scholar for Afghanistan and Iran at The British Museum. While working at UCL, he was asked to join the London Metropolitan Police Art & Antiques Unit Special Crime Directorate 6 as a Special Constable and is actively involved in the research and restitution of looted cultural heritage.
Iain surveyed at Madain Saleh in Saudi Arabia with an Italian Mission during the 2000’s and excavated at Jerash and Petra in Jordan. He was made a Fellow of The Royal Asiatic Society in 2008 and visiting lecturer at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland. He enjoys popularising history for a non-specialist audience leading numerous lecture tours during the last couple of decades for Oxford and Cambridge Universities, The British Museum, Art Gallery of NSW and regularly gives public lectures at institutions worldwide. Iain is the author of Lonely Planet’s Guide to Saudi Arabia and the Haj (2010), an author of Lonely Planet’s Guide to Iran (2012) and presenter of Lonely Planet & National Geographic’s “Road Less Travelled: Kazakhstan”.
With sweeping views of the extraordinary Ashgabat cityscape and Kopet Dag Mountains, this hotel has a strikingly modern teardrop shape (it also looks like an oildrop shape but it’s original meaning was “bud”, as in the start or future is coming soon with blossoming). The hotel’s stylish interior design combines luxury and comfort, while its panoramic bar is one of the best places in the city for a cocktail.
Specially erected for our group, this camp of tents and yurts will be adjacent to the archaeological site of Gonur Depe, allowing our travellers the freedom to explore the sites without having to make the six-hour return journey to hotels in Mary. We will eat under the stars and enjoy traditional cooking.
Located in the heart of the city, the Hyatt Regency is the only five-star hotel in Tashkent. The designers have balanced international style and standards with aspects of Uzbek art and craftsmanship, creating a striking, contemporary property with a strong sense of place.
- Meals as per itinerary (26 breakfasts, 22 lunches, 22 dinners) including welcome and farewell dinners
- Private airport transfers (arrival and departure)
- Fast track immigration and customs service upon arrival at Ashgabat airport
- Accommodation as stated on a twin-share basis
- Porterage at airports and hotels
- All land transport by private air-conditioned vehicle and train
- Services of an Arcadia Expedition Leader and English-speaking local guide throughout
- Sightseeing as specified including entrance fees to sites mentioned in itinerary
- Reusable responsible travel water bottle with daily drinking water provided
- Gratuities/tipping for local guides, drivers, hotel staff and restaurants for included meals
- All taxes
- Return international flights
- Passport and visa charges
- Items of a purely personal nature (i.e. telephone calls, laundry etc)
- Excess luggage
- Lunch and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in itinerary
- Travel insurance