In Joanna Lumley’s Footsteps: Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan

Code: JLSRA/UZKG
2022 and 2023 Places Available
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An Immersive Silk Road Adventure

Follow in the footsteps of Joanna Lumley on this small-group Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan tour.

Across sixteen epic days, we’ll take you from the breath-taking Uzbek cities of Khiva, Samarkand and Bukhara to the snow-streaked peaks of Kyrgyzstan’s ‘Heavenly Mountains’. On the way, you’ll get under the skin of these post-Soviet nations and learn what makes them tick.

A Luxury Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan Tour

This is no run of the mill tick-box tour. Designed to immerse you in the cultures and landscapes of these diverse countries, you’ll wander among the turquoise domes of legendary Silk Road cities, explore medieval caravanserais, sleep in yurts under star-spangled skies and dip your toes (or more) into azure mountain lakes. But this isn’t all about seeing ‘the sights’ –  this is about the people too: you’ll break bread with nomads, stand on mountaintops with Kyrgyz eagle hunters, enjoy private musical performances and haggle with traders in some of the world’s oldest bazaars.

Follow in the Footsteps of Joanna Lumley

This fantastic Silk Road Adventure trip has been designed by one of our directors, Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent, an award-winning travel writer and TV producer. Antonia produced the Central Asian leg of Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road series, spending a year researching and designing Joanna’s journey and travelling across these countries with Joanna and the crew. Thanks to her research, this Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan tour allows you to follow directly in Joanna’s footsteps: to travel to the places featured in the series, meet the people she met, stay in the same hotels and yurt camps and much more. No other company can give you this experience.

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION The trip will depart from Tashkent’s Islam Karimov International Airport and end at Bishkek’s Manas International Airport
DEPARTURE TIME Please ensure you arrive in good time for our scheduled departure from Tashkent
INCLUDED
  • Accommodation in characterful hotels and yurt camps
  • NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENT CHARGES
  • All meals and some alcohol
  • Unique experiences such as fashion shows and a morning with an eagle hunter and his family.
  • Local airport transfers
  • All land travel costs
  • Flight from Tashkent to Bishkek
  • Professional, knowledgeable and courteous English speaking local guides, all of whom are hand-picked by us.
  • Travel in VIP a/c minibus in Uzbekistan, and in top of the range Toyota 4WD (3 guests per car) in Kyrgyzstan.
  • Professional route planning and logistics, backed by risk assessments and emergency procedures. We don’t take risks lightly and we plan for all eventualities, believing it is better to have prepared and not require a procedure than not to plan at all.
NOT INCLUDED
  • International Flights to Tashkent and from Bishkek
  • Guide and driver gratuities
  • Personal spending money for alcohol or souvenirs
  • Your personal travel insurance

Client Testimonials

Here’s what a few of our 2019 and 2022 guests said about this trip.

“I think I speak for everyone when I say that we had the time of our lives.  What an experience – the organisation, the guides, and everything we did were second to none.  The guides were amazing, caring, and nothing was too much trouble. We loved them….The hospitality was out of this world…I absolutely loved my time in Central Asia.  I had no preconceptions before I went, and was astounded by what I found….So thank you for providing me with this opportunity and one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, privilege of my life.” Sara, UK (May 2022)

“It was fantastic and the three guides were marvellous! Thank you so much. Recommending you to everyone…..” Caroline, UK (June 2022)

Using a specialist company with owners who are true travellers made the trip complete. The attention to detail was superb and we were very fortunate to be in the party.” Oliver, UK (September 2019)

“The guides and drivers were all absolutely top class”. Brian, UK (September 2019)

“I can’t thank you enough for my recent journey of a lifetime. I don’t think I’ve come down from the mountains yet! I am singing the praises of both your company and the countries of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan!” Catherine, UK. (May 2019)

You don’t expect to have what feels like life changing experiences at our age, but this took us into a part of the world about which we knew very little and made us feel like real travellers, not tourists, cocooned in a little bubble.” Vivien, UK. (May 2019)

Follow the Silk Road in Joanna Lumley’s Footsteps, across the magnificent countries of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. We have multiple departures in 2022 and 2023 – p’lease check the date tab for details. No more than 10 people per group.

1

Day 1

Start Point: Home
Destination: Tashkent
Travel: Plane

Most flights arrive in the (very) early hours of the morning so we will meet you at Tashkent airport and transfer you to your 4* hotel in Tashkent city centre. After a late breakfast at the hotel and some time to rest, you’ll reconvene for lunch, then spend the afternoon exploring some of the sights of Tashkent, Central Asia’s largest city.

Some scholars believe that a Stone Tower mentioned in early accounts of travel on the Silk Road referred to this settlement (“Tashkent” means “stone castle”). This tower is said to have marked the midway point between Europe and China. Whether that’s true or not, Tashkent developed from the trade routes that once passed this way, carrying Chinese silk – as well as a cornucopia of other goods – to the West. Destroyed by Genghis Khan in 1219, it fell to the Russians in 1865, becoming the capital of Russian Turkestan.

Today you’ll see some of Tashkent, both old and new. You’ll visit the Hasti Imam complex in the old city to see the world’s oldest Koran, take a ride on the stunning Soviet Metro and walk to Independence and Amir Timur squares, the latter with the famous statue of the ‘conqueror of worlds.’ Supper will be at one of Tashkent’s best restaurants.

 

2

Day 2

Start Point: Tashkent
Destination: Khiva
Travel: Plane and foot

It’s an early start this morning in order to catch the 07.25 flight from Tashkent to Khiva. After a one hour flight, and a forty-five minute transfer by road, you’ll reach Khiva, one of the most famous desert citadels on the Silk Road, and have the rest of the day to  rest and begin to explore the UNESCO-listed old city – the Ichan Kala. Wandering through its dusty alleys, you’ll get a very good sense of this historic place – its brutal slave trading past, its madrassas and minarets, its fabulous arts and crafts. Among the sights you’ll be seeing today are the Juma Mosque (with its wonderful carved wooden pillars); the Tosh Hauvli palace, also known as the Khan’s harem, and the Kuhna Ark – the Khiva rulers’ own fortress and residence, first built in the 12th century. The handicrafts in Khiva are exceptional, and you will no doubt also spend some time gazing at the many fabulous shops and street stalls. Accommodation is in a charming family-run madrassa hotel within the walls of the Ichan Kala.

3

Day 3

Start Point: Khiva
Destination: Khiva
Travel: On foot

Today you have a whole day to explore Khiva. Among the many beautiful things you’ll be seeing is the Palace of Nurullabay, built by the last Khan of Khiva in the early 20th century and – like the Emir’s Summer Palace in Bukhara – a glitzy melange of Central Asian, Russian and European influences.

If you’re a keen photographer, the sunrises and sunsets in Khiva are rather special thanks to the dry desert climate and the warm colours of the citadel.

Lunch and supper today will be in lovely restaurants in the Old City.

4

Day 4

Start Point: Khiva
Destination: Ayaz Kala
Travel: Vehicle and On Foot
Notes: Car

After breakfast at the hotel you’ll drive for two hours into the Kyzl Kum desert to visit some of the incredible 2500 year old ‘Golden Ring of Khorezm’ fortresses that once guarded passing Silk Road caravans from raiding Turkmen tribes. Featured in Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure TV series, these fantastic ruins rise out of the desert like mighty crowns of sand and give a real sense of the wealth that once flowed through here. Having clambered up to one of the main fortresses, Ayaz Kala, you’ll  have lunch in a desert yurt camp. For those who wish, there’ll be a chance to ride a shaggy Bactrian camel, one of the very ones that featured in Joanna’s series. You’ll be back in Khiva by late afternoon, in time for some R&R (or shopping!).

Supper will be with a local family, where you’ll enjoy some traditional Khorezm dishes and a performance of Khorezmian music.

You’ll be in the same hotel tonight.

5

Day 5

Start Point: Khiva
Destination: Bukhara
Travel: Car / Train

After breakfast at your hotel, you’ll hit the road south to Bukhara, one of the jewels of the Silk Road. It’s a seven-hour drive* south across the red sands of the Kyzl Kum desert, and you’ll stop on the way for a BBQ at a roadside tea house. You’ll reach Bukhara by early evening, in time to check in to your delightful boutique hotel, relax for a few hours and then have supper at a nearby restaurant.

*By 2023 the long-awaited Khiva to Bukhara train line might have opened, but we won’t know this until later this year. If it is open, then you’ll be travelling on a shiny new train, a journey that will take around four hours.

6

Day 6

Start Point: Bukhara
Destination: Bukhara
Travel: Mostly on Foot

“Bukhara! For centuries it had glimmered remote in the Western consciousness: the most secretive and fanatical of the great caravan-cities, shored up in its desert fastness against time and change. To either side of it the Silk Road had withered away, so that by the 19th century the town had folded its battlements around its people in self-immolated barbarism, and receded into fable.”

Colin Thubron, Shadow of the Silk Road

For many, this atmospheric city is the highlight of their Silk Road journey, a place where the walls seem to echo with whispers of Genghis Khan, the Sogdians, Timur, Chinese silk traders, The Great Game and more. Since there’s so much to see in Bukhara, you don’t want to rush, so you’ll have the best part of two days in this splendid city. Prepare yourself for a feast of mosques, minarets and madrassas.

Among the things you will be seeing are the Ishmael Samani Mausoleum, the Bolo Hauz mosque, the Kalon minaret, the Mir-Arab Madrassa (from exterior only), the Ark fortress and Zindon (with its infamous Bug Pit), the Lyabi Hauz pool area, the trading domes and the Maghok-i-Attar mosque (the oldest mosque in Uzbekistan).

Lunch will be in a city centre restaurant.

Bukhara is also full of wonderful artistry, so as you wander around you will get to see ikat weavers, metal workers, calligraphers and embroiderers at work.

Tonight you’re having supper in an old merchant’s house.

7

Day 7

Start Point: Bukhara
Destination: Samarkand
Travel: Train, Car, Foot

You have most of today in Bukhara again, so plenty more time to enjoy the sights of this wonderful place.

After breakfast, you’ll drive twenty minutes to the Summer Palace of the last Emir of Bukhara, known by the poetic name Sitora-i Mokhi-Khossa, or ‘Star like the Moon’. Named after one of the Emirs’ favourite wives, who died in childbirth, the lavish palace was completed in 1917 and is a fusion of Oriental, Russian and European styles, set in once lovely rose gardens. It’s an atmospheric place, and some of the artistry and ceilings are incredible.

A light lunch will be beside the Lyabi Hauz pool.

You’ll then have some time to relax (or shop!) before you head for Bukhara train station in time to catch the 15.50 high-speed Afrasiab train to Samarkand. These Spanish-built, highly efficient trains make British Rail look positively backward.

In Samarkand you’ll check-in to a lovely little boutique hotel. Supper will be at the best restaurant in town.

8

Day 8

Start Point: Samarkand
Destination: Samarkand
Travel: Foot and car

Today you have a whole glorious day exploring Samarkand, the former capital of Sogdiana, the heartland of the Silk Road. As well as going to the main sites, such as Gur Emir (Timur’s tomb), the Afrasiab Museum (home to the Soghdian frescoes featured in the series) and the stunning Shakhi Zindar complex, you’ll also be experiencing everyday life here, having a very good lunch and then a private fashion show, followed by supper with the designer at her studio.  Tonight, you’ll be in the same hotel.

9

Day 9

Start Point: Samarkand
Destination: Tashkent
Travel: Vehicle, train and foot

After another amazing breakfast at the hotel you’re off to meet a family of ethnic Tajik bakers, to learn about the art of Samarkand’s famous non, or bread. Made in huge wood-fired ovens, this bread is the stuff of legend, and is still revered in Uzbek society. You’ll have tea in the courtyard of the bakers’ family home.

After more sights, and lunch, you’ll visit the Khujum Silk Carpet factory, which employs around 400 local ladies. The silk carpets made here are exported all over the world, and some are worth tens of thousands of dollars each.

At around 16.30 you’ll be transferred to Samarkand train station in time for the 17.30 Afrasiab train to Tashkent. The train takes two hours. In Tashkent, you’ll head straight for supper at the beautiful home of a good friend of ours.

Tonight will be in the same 4* hotel.

10

Day 10

Start Point: Tashkent
Destination: Bishkek
Travel: Plane, 4WD and foot

After breakfast at the hotel you’re off to visit the studio of Uzbekistan’s most famous suzani embroidery artist, to see how these fantastic works of art are designed and made. You’ll then visit Tashkent’s Chorsu bazaar, have lunch, and be transferred to the airport in time for the short flight to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Your Kyrgyz guides will meet you at the airport and take you to your stylish city centre hotel. Supper will be at a good city centre restaurant.

11

Day 11

Start Point: Bishkek
Destination: Bokonbaevo
Travel: 4WD

After breakfast at the hotel you’ll have the morning to explore Bishkek, one of our favourite Central Asian cities. You’ll take in a few of the main sites (Ala-Too Square, the Changing of the Guard, National Museum of Fine Arts) and visit the recently re-opened National History Museum, which is absolutely fantastic.

After lunch, you’ll head east into the wilds of Kyrgyzstan, to the southern shore of gorgeous Lake Issyk-Kul. Meaning ‘warm lake’ in the Kyrgyz language, it’s the second largest saline lake in the world after the Caspian Sea and was a major artery of the Silk Road. On the way you’ll stop at the Burana Tower – all that remains of Balasagun, an 8th century Uighur settlement that was once seen as the centre of the world. Tonight you’ll be in a beautiful private yurt camp beside the lake, surrounded by the glistening peaks of the Tien Shan. The yurt camp here does have en-suite facilities.

12

Day 12

Start Point: Bokonbaevo
Destination: Bokonbaevo
Travel: Foot

This is such a special place we don’t want to rush off just yet. If you wish, you can simply lounge in a hammock under the apple trees and get lost in the view (or a good book). Or you can dip your toes in the gin-clear waters of the lake. But you’ll also be venturing into the nearby mountains to meet the family of eagle hunters featured in Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road, and learn a little about this ancient Central Asian art. This evening you will have a wonderful private music show by a breathtakingly talented local family of musicians. Tonight you’ll be in the same yurt camp.

13

Day 13

Start Point: Bokonbaevo
Destination: Tash Rabat
Travel: 4WD

It’s a four-hour drive across fantastic mountains to the 15th century Silk Road caravanserai of Tash Rabat, a mysterious hulk of a building nestled in the mountains near the Chinese border. After exploring the caravanserai we’ll be spending the night in a wonderful, family-run yurt camp beside a gurgling river. There can’t be many more places on earth where the stars shine quite so brightly. There’s also the chance to either go walking or horse riding here for those who wish.  The yurt camp here does not have en-suite facilities, but it does have western loos.

14

Day 14

Start Point: Tash Rabat
Destination: Naryn
Travel: 4WD

We start heading back to Bishkek today, via the town of Naryn. On the way you’ll stop stop in the town of Kochkor to meet a  well-known local artist and learn about shyrdak, traditional Kyrgyz felt work. Lunch will be in the garden at the artist’s house, where you’ll have the chance to try some local specialities. Tonight will be in a comfortable hotel, with hot showers and proper loos, in the small town of Naryn.

15

Day 15

Start Point: Naryn
Destination: Bishkek
Travel: 4WD

It’s a five and a half hour drive back to Bishkek today, through more gorgeous scenery. You’ll arrive by early afternoon and have a celebratory dinner in Bishkek.  Accommodation will be in the same stylish hotel in the centre.

16

Day 16

Start Point: Bishkek
Destination: Home
Travel: Plane

We’ll take you to the airport for your flight and wish you on your merry way.

Tour Start Date End Date Price
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in Joanna Lumley's Footsteps August 2022 27/08/2022 11/09/2022 £4,190.00 Taking Bookings
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in Joanna Lumley's Footsteps September 2022 10/09/2022 25/09/2022 £4,190.00 Taking Bookings
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in Joanna Lumley's Footsteps June 2023 27/05/2023 11/06/2023 £4,320.00 Taking Bookings
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in Joanna Lumley's Footsteps August 2023 26/08/2023 10/09/2023 £4,320.00 Taking Bookings

Where will we be staying?

We’ll be staying in a mix of places – from four star hotels in Tashkent and Bishkek, to stylish, boutique hotels in Bukhara and Samarkand and wonderful, family-run yurt camps in the wilds of Kyrgyzstan. In the yurt camps, you won’t always have access to hot showers or western loos, but the wilderness and views will more than make up for it. In the detailed Traveller Briefing Pack you receive before you travel, we will be very clear about the facilities in each place you stay. However, if you are someone who can’t deal with a lack of en-suite for a night, or faints at the thought of a squat loo, then this probably isn’t the trip for you.

What size of group will it be?

Our group sizes are always small, allowing for an intimate experience of the cultures we meet along our path. On this trip we won’t have more than ten guests, plus the local guides and drivers. We usually find groups are made of like-minded people, both male and female, from a wide age range. Many of our guests become firm friends with us and each other, and travel together with us again, and again…

What will the weather be like?

Depending on which dates you sign up for, it’ll likely be hot in Uzbekistan, and slightly cooler in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Expect up to 35 degrees in Uzbekistan, but down to as low as five degrees at night in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. But have no fear, we will supply you with a detailed packing list after you’ve signed up.

I’m a solo traveller – is this for me?

Yes. More than 85 per cent of our expedition clients travel alone as part of our group. We don’t charge single supplements to solo travellers – see below.

Do you charge single supplements – I can’t see them in your information?

No. We don’t believe that solo travellers should be penalised with extra charges.  It goes against our ethos, so unless totally unavoidable or astronomically expensive,  all costs are included in the expedition price. Please note that in some of the yurt camps we are staying in, single rooms are simply not available.

What kit do I need to bring?

We will provide you with an information pack after signing up to this trip, and this will detail any particular equipment we think either necessary or useful.

What vehicles will we be travelling in?

In Uzbekistan we will travel by foot, minibus and high-speed train. In Kyrgyzstan we will travel in top of the range 4WD Toyota Land Cruisers, with a maximum of three guests per car.

How much are flights?

This is a moving feast! It depends on where you are travelling from and how you want to get there. From London, it’s around £350 one way to Tashkent, and around £300 to Bishkek. We can offer flight inclusive packages also though. And the internal flight from Tashkent to Bishkek is included in the tour price. Again, we’ll send you an information pack containing all the information you need when you book your place.

What will the food be like?

Food in both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan is very good – a hearty, healthy, tasty mix of fresh fruit and salads, meat, plov (the classic Central Asian rice and meat dish) and wonderful bread. If you’re a vegetarian (or even a vegan) you’ll find plenty to eat, we can assure you.

Will I have to share a room?

The only time you may have to share a room is in one of the yurt camps we stay in, where  – if we have a lot of single travellers – two or three single travellers may have to share one yurt. This rarely happens though and on all other occasions you will have your own room.

How fit do I need to be?

Not very – although there are options to ride horses, swim and walk, you can also opt to simply relax or travel in one of the vehicles instead. However, there are some fairly long days walking in the cities, so you do need to be happy to be on your feet for two to three hours at a time. But this isn’t a boot camp, it’s your holiday, so if you’d prefer to repair to the hotel for a Negroni, then that’s up to you.

Will I be affected by altitude?

Altitude can affect different people in different ways. It can also affect the same person in different ways from trip to trip. We will be spending a handful of days above 3000 metres in Kyrgyzstan. If you feel that you might suffer from altitude sickness, or have history of it, you should consider discussing this with your doctor prior to booking and travel. Diamox and other similar prescription drugs are available to ease symptoms, but the key way to address any onset of altitude sickness is to descend. Luckily, from anywhere particularly high, descent is possible rapidly thanks to our vehicles. Simple precautions and awareness go a long way.

Do you perform proper risk management on your expeditions?

Yes. We are members of TRIP – the Travel Risk and Incident Prevention Group – and perform detailed country risk assessments prior to departure, in line with the ISO 31000 international standard for risk assessment. We also maintain close contact with the relevant Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice for countries we plan to visit, in addition to making use of the Australian Smart Traveller assessment tool, and the US State Department’s OSAC service. Beyond this, we have a full set of risk management and disaster contingency plans for each expedition and are expedition first aid trained by Crux Medical. For final back up we also use the services of Remote Medical Support that allows us to have a UK expedition doctor on the end of a telephone line wherever we may be. And we always carry a satellite phone. We really don’t mess around when it comes to safety.

I can’t do your dates but love the sound of your expedition – can you be flexible?

Yes. We offer set group dates for many of our expeditions, but we can organise and deliver bespoke expeditions to groups and individuals to suit your itinerary and budget. More information is available on our Tailor-Made tours page.

Is it a guaranteed departure?

As with all of our trips we need to reach a minimum number of guests to make this viable. For this trip, we need a minimum of 5 guests. When you express interest in this expedition, we will send you a deposit invoice to hold your place. This is refundable according to our terms and conditions if we do not reach the minimum numbers. We recommend that you do not book your flights or other arrangements until we have communicated that the expedition is definitely departing as planned and will aim to do this in order to give you at least three months prior to the scheduled departure in which to make your travel arrangements.

Why should I book with Silk Road Adventures?

We are a small company who pride ourselves on going a great deal of extra miles in order to put together creative, immersive itineraries which truly get under the skin of these wonderful countries. We don’t follow the crowds and we always strive to do things differently. We’re also a company that’s founded and run by people who have spent years living and working in this region, and who are passionate about sniffing out the best guides, hotels, restaurants and hidden valleys for you to experience.

We never want to be the biggest travel company, but we do want to be the best. We treat every guest as a friend and strive to give them the very best experience possible. As a result, a high percentage of our customers have booked to travel with us again, with some of them coming on a trip every year.

Your safety is vital: we also do annual expedition and remote medicine training and pay for 24/7 remote medical assistance cover. We employ professional military-grade risk assessments and plan for every possible negative scenario whilst hoping that none ever come to pass.

Is this really for me?

If you love adventure, new places, friendly people, wild landscapes, history and culture then yes, this is for you. However, if you’re the sort of person who is going to be worried about the lack of flush loos in a mountain yurt camp, might complain that the road to Tash Rabat is too bumpy (it isn’t!) or frets about Wi-Fi availability, then this probably isn’t your bag.

 

Enquire

From£4,190.00

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