The Definitive Silk Road Tour
This thrilling, two-month tailor-made Silk Road tour will take you from the buzz of downtown Tbilisi to the to the balmy shores of Iran’s Gulf of Hormuz. Along the way, you will encounter the snow-streaked peaks of Kyrgyzstan’s ‘Heavenly Mountains’, the arid deserts of Iran’s Dasht-e-Lut and the breath-taking cities of Samarkand and Bukhara.
With everything from high-altitude to high-culture, this bespoke itinerary has been designed to stretch the imagination and really get under the skin of these diverse Silk Road nations.
This is a sample itinerary, designed to give you an idea of the sort of Silk Road odyssey we can design. These ambitious trips are our specialty – and your chance to feel like a modern day Marco Polo.
Visit Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia
On this superlative Silk Road odyssey you’ll wander among the turquoise domes of legendary Silk Road cities, explore medieval caravanserais, sleep in yurts under star-spangled skies and sip drinks beside azure mountain lakes. You’ll break bread with nomads, stand on mountaintops with Kyrgyz eagle hunters, watch master boat builders at work and experience the smells, sights and flavours of some of the world’s best bazaars. This Silk Road tour will also give you the time and freedom to swim in high-altitude lakes and hike in some the most breath-taking landscapes on earth.
Of course, as this is a tailor-made Silk Road tour, you can choose which countries you visit, what you see and how long you’d like to travel for. This sample itinerary just gives you an idea of the sort of thing we can arrange.
Inspired by Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure
This classic Silk Road tour was inspired by the work of our director Antonia, who produced Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure. The many months of painstaking research that Antonia undertook to produce the show have informed this tour, from where you will eat to which caravanserai to visit.
|DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION||Dushanbe (Tajikistan) / Tbilisi (Georgia)|
|DEPARTURE TIME||Please ensure you arrive in good time for all flights|
- All accommodation
- Meals as required
- Local airport transfers
- All land travel costs (high-speed train, cars)
- All museum entrance costs
- A number of bespoke, exclusive experiences
- A professional local guiding team with English-speaking local guides.
- Fresh filtered water + a Water 2 Go water filtration bottle, in order to reduce plastic waste
- Professional route planning and logistics, backed by risk assessments, emergency procedures and satellite communications (where necessary).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.
- International Flights – we can book these on your behalf under our ATOL Licence
- Guide gratuities
- Personal spending money for alcohol or souvenirs
- Your personal travel insurance including medi-evac
- Any visas you require. We can help arrange these for you if you’d prefer.
A Team of Silk Road Itinerary Specialists
However you want to see this fascinating part of the world, we can craft a tailor-made adventure that fulfills all your Silk Road dreams. This trip is just one example of the bespoke adventures that we put together for our guests. Whether you want to follow this exact itinerary, introduce a few more countries or just visit Uzbekistan, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Everyone likes to travel differently and we start building these highly-personalized itineraries by arranging a meeting or a telephone call with you. Here, we’ll find out what sort of hotels you like, which travel experiences you’ve loved (and which you haven’t), whether you have a niche interest in Soviet Brutalist architecture, what time you like to eat supper and whether you’re the sort of person who loves relaxing with a bottle of red and a good book, or yomping up snow-streaked peaks. We’ll then get to work designing a bespoke itinerary that matches your expectations, altering and crafting it until you’re 100 per cent happy.
You’ll have direct contact with a member of the Silk Road Adventures team throughout and we pride ourselves on offering a highly-personal service.
Start Point: Home Destination: Dushanbe, Tajikistan Travel: Flight
You’ll fly into Dushanbe, the capital of tiny Tajikistan. This is often via Istanbul, Almaty or Dubai. Many flights to Dushanbe arrive at the rather anti-social hour of 03.30.
Arrival in Tajikistan
Start Point: Dushanbe Destination: Dushanbe
Upon arrival in the early hours of the morning, you’ll pass through VIP arrivals and be transferred to your 5* city centre hotel.
This hotel is home from home for us when in Dushanbe. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy more rustic accommodation later in this trip, but for now you can enjoy the rooftop pool, some great food and the urban offerings of the Tajik capital.
Unless you request it, we won’t provide a guide today, as you’ll probably want to relax into the trip and besides, Dushanbe is a compact and very safe city to wander around. The hotel is on the main street bisecting the city and you can easily walk, hop on a passing trolley-bus or take a $2 taxi anywhere.
To the Afghan border
Start Point: Dushanbe Destination: Kala-i-Khumb Travel: 4WD
After breakfast your English-speaking driver-guide will collect you in a top-spec Toyota Land Cruiser, and you’ll begin your journey towards the Pamirs. If you would like a guide, as well as a driver, then of course we can arrange this too.
The road today is mostly excellent, and will take you through a range of landscapes, before you start to climb into the mountains that this country is rightly famous for. After lunch, Afghanistan will appear on your right and be a constant companion for days to come. Unless you decide you want to go to Afghanistan, the plan is to keep the river (the Amu Darya, or Oxus of ancient times) to your right. If it appears on your left, something has gone wrong…
Tonight will be spent at either a cosy local guest house in the border town of Kala-i-Khumb, or a 4* hotel – whichever you prefer.
South, ever South
Start Point: Kala-i-Khumb Destination: Khorog Travel: 4WD
You’ve about five hours to drive today, so we’d suggest an early-ish start to get up to the ruins of the Kala, or fortress, known as Karon city, before continuing on the rough road towards Khorog. The ancient site of the city was, according to many archaeologists, the birthplace of polo and has been described as a potential Machu Picchu of Central Asia. Whatever you think, the views are wonderful and the artefacts that have been found there are very interesting indeed.
From here the road continues for 150 km, following the Amu Darya – or Pyanj, as this section is called – to the regional capital of Khorog, a pretty mountain town. Here you’ll be staying in a good hotel in the centre.
Supper will be at an excellent Indian restaurant that serves the best curry for hundreds of miles.
Into the Wakhan Corridor
Start Point: Khorog Destination: Yamchun Travel: 4WD Notes: Tonight's altitude is 3000 m
After breakfast at the hotel and a visit to the colourful local bazaar you’ll hit the road south towards the wonderful Wakhan Corridor. After a trip to a famous hot springs, you’ll continue south into the Wakhan, at which point you’ll be surrounded by the white peaks of the Pamirs and the Hindu Kush.
After lunch with a family in the border town of Ishkashim, you’ll drive on to tonight’s homestay, a simple but charming place beside the ruins of a 2000 year old Zoroastrian fortress. With the best hot spring in Central Asia a few metres up the hill, you’ll be toasty warm when you settle in for a cool beer or a green tea. The views from here are outstanding, and you can spend the evening watching the sun sink behind the snow-crowned peaks of Pakistan’s Hindu Kush, just 20 miles south of here.
And did we mention the stars?
Start Point: Yamchun Destination: Langar Travel: 4WD
Since there’s so much to see in the Wakhan Corridor, there is no need to rush anywhere today. Maybe a warm bath in the springs to start your day, and then a stroll to one of our favourite places in the world – the ruins of the 2000 year old Yamchun Fortress. The view (and the walk to the ruins) will quite literally take your breath away.
From here you’ll head east along the corridor, with the Pyanj River to your right, stopping at a fascinating little ethological museum, a magnificent Buddhist stupa, an old Zoroastrian shrine and some ancient petroglyphs.
This evening you’ll be staying in a gorgeous homestay by the banks of the Pyanj, where you’ll enjoy comfy beds, hot showers, delicious home cooking and the chance to relax in their orchard. This is what travel here is all about.
Up and away
Start Point: Langar Destination: Bash Gumbez Travel: 4WD Notes: Crossing a 4300 m pass
Today, after breakfast at your homestay, you head out of the Wakhan Corridor and up and over the spectacular 4300 m Khargush Pass.
After the Pass, you’ll head into the heart of the Pamir National Park to a hot spring by the shore of Yashilkul Lake. After the spring you can try a dip in the lake – this is cold water swimming par excellence – surrounded by the Alichur and South Alichur ranges, snow leopard territory. You will see giant golden marmots and may be lucky enough to spot a wolf in the distance.
After a swim (if you dare!) and a warm soak, you’ll continue on through Alichur, a windswept settlement on the lunar-like Murghab Plateau. Tonight, you’ll stay at a yurt camp at Bash Gumbez – around 3600 m above sea level. The landscape here is magnificently wild, and from the yurt you can watch yak calves cavorting in the sun.
Tonight you’ll sleep in a toasty-warm yurt and be cooked for by your welcoming ethnic Kyrgyz hosts. Expect basic facilities, lots of lovely yak butter and yoghurt and a real experience of life lived in one of the coldest places in the world (in winter, it can get as low as – 68 C° here). The stars here can be about as clear as you’ll find anywhere in the world – a true delight that makes you realise why the Soviets built observatories up here.
The Murghab Plateau
Start Point: Bash Gumbez Destination: Murghab Travel: 4WD Notes: Tonight's altitude is 3600 m
Waking up in the middle of the high-altitude plateau, you can accompany the herders rounding up or letting their yaks loose, or just stroll up to the nearest peak. Then you’ll have the option to visit meteor craters and abandoned Soviet observatories and take a hike to overlook the Great Pamir range in China – just over the border from here. The imposing massifs of Kongur and Mustagh Ata rule the eastern horizon. This is one of the most remote places in the world and you’ll see the landscape where the Great Game between Imperial Russia and Great Britain was played out a century and more ago.
Tonight, you’ll stay with a divine family in their very comfortable guest house in the frontier town of Murghab. Rest well as tomorrow, you will enter Kyrgyzstan.
Start Point: Murghab Destination: Osh Travel: 4WD
It’ll be an early start today as you’ll be climbing out of Murghab over the mighty Ak Baital pass – 4,695 metres – and past the cerulean blue expanse of Karakol Lake, where the World’s highest regatta is held. From here you’ll head over another pass where the Tajikistan border formalities take place, and down the other side to where you’ll enter Kyrgyzstan and meet your new Kyrgyz driver and guide.
The landscape changes instantly – green plains, horses and yurts everywhere. Look back and you’ll see the great white wall you’ve just come through. Speeding north on good roads, you’ll twist and turn through glorious scenery to the ancient city of Osh – the second city of Kyrgyzstan. You’ll arrive around sunset and check into your hotel.
The hotel is a hangover from the Soviet days and was an Intourist hotel. We love this old dinosaur, and with half-decent rooms and a good location (with pool!), it is a place with real character. There are ‘smarter’hotels but they lack character and tend to smell of cigarettes, so this is a favourite of ours. Your driver / guide will take you to a great place for supper, where you’ll get good food, wine and beer that’ll make your heart skip after the more frugal food of the High Pamirs.
Start Point: Osh Destination: Osh
Today is a day for exploring Osh, one of the oldest cities on the Silk Road, dating back over 3,000 years. You can wander around the bazaar, visit local museums, sample the famous local samsa and climb up Suleiman Too – a mountain in the middle of the city where Emperor Babur apparently had the idea to set forth and found the mighty Mughal Empire.
You’ve all day to explore, relax and recharge in Osh and tonight will be in the same hotel.
Start Point: Osh Destination: Chychkan Travel: 4WD
A relatively early start today, but no real rush as you are heading just a couple of hundred km’s to Lake Toktogul. The route is very interesting as it follows the Naryn River Valley, and gets pretty spectacular the nearer to Toktogul you get.
At Chychkan you’ll stay in a place with cabins in the woods and lovely rushing clear mountain streams. Plenty of time to get out into the forests for a hike for as long as you’d like here.
Into the green beyond
Start Point: Chychkan Destination: Son Kul Travel: 4WD, foot, horse - if you like
Today you’ll head north over the Ala Bel pass into spectacular mountains, then east through the verdant Suusamyr valley towards Son Kul Lake. Here you’ll stay in a comfortable yurt camp on the southern shore, amidst wild mountains, herds of horses and the icy blue expanse of the mountain lake.
You can go for walks, ride horses, swim in what will be pretty chilly water, or just relax and enjoy the wide-open spaces of this special place.
Start Point: Son Kul Destination: Bokonbaevo Travel: 4WD
Rolling down from the high plateaus, by lunchtime you’ll arrive at the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, the second largest mountain lake in the world. Here, you’ll be staying at a charming shore-side yurt camp, surrounded by the glistening peaks of the Tien Shian.
This afternoon is yours to relax, swim in the lake, walk or just read a book in a hammock under an apple tree.
Supper will be at the yurt camp.
Start Point: Bokonbaevo Destination: Bokonbaevo Travel: 4WD, foot and optional horse
Today, after breakfast, we’ll organise for you to go out and visit an eagle-hunting family, stroll into the hills with them and have a demonstration of their craft. This is a special day with wonderful people and spectacular views over Lake Issyk Kul.
Again, this afternoon is yours to spend as you wish – hiking in the nearby Fairy Canyons, visiting an unusual modern art museum or swimming in the gin-clear lake.
Tonight you’ll be in the same yurt camp.
Start Point: Bokonbaevo Destination: Bishkek Travel: 4WD
Leaving the wilds behind you, today you’ll take a skein of the old Silk Road route west towards Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. On the way you’ll visit the Burana Tower, all that remains of the once powerful city of Balasagun.
You’ll arrive in Bishkek in the afternoon and will be here tonight and tomorrow night, so plenty of time to explore one of our favourite capital cities.
Tonight you’ll be staying in a very good hotel in the centre of the city, and supper will be at an excellent Georgian restaurant.
Start Point: Bishkek Destination: Bishkek
You have all day to explore this interesting city – either with or without a local guide. Surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Ala Too ranges, this is a leafy city of tree-lined avenues, cafés, culture, museums and bazaars.
You can take in the main sites (Ala-Too Square, the Lenin statue, the Changing of the Guard, National Museum of Fine Arts) and do some serious shopping at Osh Bazaar, home of the world’s finest felt slippers! Or you can spend time simply having a massage in one of the city’s excellent spas.
We can also arrange a variety of bespoke activities here, from visiting the local bazaar with a well-known chef, to a tour of the city’s Soviet murals, or a behind-the-scenes look at the Opera & Ballet theatre.
This evening, if you fancy it, you can have a scrub and massage at a local hammam.
Tonight you’re in the same hotel.
Start Point: Bishkek Destination: Tashkent Travel: 2 hour flight
You’ll hop between two capital cities today as you fly from Bishkek to Tashkent, the capital of neighbouring Uzbekistan. Depending on schedules, this might be a direct flight or a hop via Astana in Kazakhstan.
When you arrive in Tashkent, Central Asia’s biggest city, we’ll transfer you to your city centre hotel. This can be anything from the 5* Hyatt Regency, to a simpler 3* hotel with a pool. It depends on your tastes and budget.
Start Point: Tashkent Destination: Tashkent
This is a worthwhile city to explore, so you’ve a whole day here to soak in the sights. We’ll organise a local guide for the whole day, but you can decide to do your own thing whenever you like. While it isn’t a city like other Silk Road splendours you’ll see, Tashkent is an ancient place steeped in history. Sadly, much of it was flattened by an earthquake in 1966. The Soviet rulers at the time decided this was an opportunity to build a model city and immense wealth was lavished on the construction.
Among the things you’ll do today are visit the Hasti-Imam complex in the old city to see the world’s oldest Koran, take a ride on the stunning Soviet Metro (built after 1966) wander around the fascinating Applied Arts Museum and visit Amir Timur Square, with its impressive statue of the ‘conqueror of worlds.’ If you wish, tonight you can take in a performance at the Alisher Navoi theatre.
Tonight you’ll be in the same hotel.
The Golden Road to Samarkand
Start Point: Tashkent Destination: Samarkand Travel: Train, 2 hours
You’ll leave Tashkent by train this morning, taking just two hours by ultra-efficient high-speed rail to the city of Samarkand. Both Samarkand and Bukhara are the high-tide marks of Islamic architecture, and they will stun you with their beauty.
The afternoon will be spent getting to know Samarkand’s famous Registan Square and its dazzling turquoise-domed Timurid architecture. You’ll soon see why this city was feted by Marco Polo, Xuanzang, Ibn Battuta, Lord Curzon, Joanna Lumley and so many more.
Tonight you’ll be in a charming, family run hotel in an old Jewish merchant’s house, a few minutes walk from Registan Square.
Start Point: Samarkand Destination: Samarkand Travel: On foot and with a driver
Samarkand certainly isn’t somewhere you want to rush away from, so today we have the whole day to see the wonders of Timur’s former capital, the heartland of the ancient Silk Road. Among the things you’ll marvel at will be the stunning Shakhi Zindar necropolis, Timur’s Tomb (where the mighty conqueror was buried under the largest slab of jade on earth) and the famous Soghdian frescoes of Afrasiab.
In Samarkand – as with everywhere else – we are able to arrange a number of bespoke, exclusive experiences, depending on your interests. These range from seeing private fashion shows, to meeting bakers, art restorers and famous woodcarvers. You name it, we can arrange it.
Tonight you’ll be in the same hotel.
Start Point: Samarkand Destination: Bukhara Travel: Train, 2 hours.
After a final wonderful breakfast at your hotel, we’ll transfer you to the train station for your high-speed train journey to Bukhara. Formerly one of the two great Khanates, or kingdoms, of this region, its architectural influence spread across the Islamic world – you’ll recognise the same squinches, porticoes and arches across Iran and the Caucasus.
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 Soghdians, 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 spend a few days here. Prepare yourself for a feast of mosques, minarets and madrassas. As well as seeing the classic sights (Ishmael Samani Mausoleum, Bolo Hauz mosque, the Kalon minaret, the Ark fortress) we can also arrange for you to meet artists, eat with local families and – in early summer – meet silk farmers.
You’ll be staying in a characterful hotel in the atmospheric town centre.
Start Point: Bukhara Destination: Bukhara Travel: On foot
Today you have another day in the fantastic city of Bukhara, starting with a visit to the Summer Palace of the last Emirs of Bukhara, known by the poetic name Sitora-i Mokhi -Khossa, or ‘Star like the Moon’. Named after one of the Emirs’ favourite wife, who died in childbirth, the lavish palace was completed in 1917 and is a fusion of Oriental, Russian and European styles, set in lovely rose gardens.
From here it’s a few km to visit the shrine of the much revered Sufi poet and theologian Sayf ad-din Boharzi. After lunch you’ll have the opportunity to relax or explore Bukhara by yourself. The shopping here is out of this world – don’t forget to leave room in your suitcase for all the beautiful things you buy here.
Tonight is at the same hotel.
Start Point: Bukhara Destination: Tashkent Travel: Train, 5 hours
You’ll have this morning to soak up more of Bukhara before your afternoon train to Tashkent, arriving into Tashkent in time for supper.
Tonight you will be in your choice of hotel in Tashkent.
Hop to Istanbul
Start Point: Tashkent Destination: Istanbul Travel: Flight, 4 hours
Today you’ll be leaving Central Asia behind you to travel west to Istanbul.
Once you arrive we will transfer you to your city centre hotel – we will suggest some of our favourite places and you can choose which one you prefer, according to your tastes.
Start Point: Istanbul Destination: Shiraz Travel: Flight, 3.5 hours
Today you have the whole day to explore Istanbul, before we transfer you to the airport in time for the evening flight to Shiraz, in southern Iran.
Home of Hafez
Start Point: Shiraz Destination: Shiraz Travel: On Foot
It’s an early morning arrival in Shiraz, where you’ll be transferred to your 5* city centre hotel – home for today, tomorrow and the following night.
Today is a day for relaxed meandering as you get to know the city. Your guide will show you the bazaar and find you some great places to begin your exploration of Persian cuisine.
Please note that British, American and Canadian citizens are required to be accompanied by a guide at all times in Iran.
Start Point: Shiraz Destination: Shiraz Travel: On Foot
You’ve got all of today to soak up the sights of Shiraz, of which there are plenty.
Key among the places to visit are the Nasir-ol-Molk (Pink Mosque), the Vakil bazaar and mosque, the Zand-era citadel, the Quran gate, Qavam House and Gardens, Eram Gardens, Shiraz carpets and so much more.
You’ll have the option to try local food specialities such as faloodeh, torshi and karam polo, followed by dinner in a local home. You’ll then repair to your hotel before an early start tomorrow.
Start Point: Shiraz Destination: Shiraz Travel: Saloon Car
Today will be an early start! The reason? Persepolis – as with any ancient and popular site – is best seen without hordes of stampeding click-happy groups. So, your driver will take you 60 km to Persepolis bright and early so you can enjoy just a fraction more privacy in this most special of places.
Here you’ll enjoy the chance to marvel at the mind-boggling scale of the place and imagine how other travellers – including Alexander the Great, who also plundered it – must have felt on first approaching the giant flat terrace with its sky-scraping columns.
After Persepolis you’ll visit the ancient Naqsh-e-Rostam necropolis, before heading to the Eram Gardens for an afternoon visit. This wonderful house and gardens were laid out between the 12th and 14th centuries and were known as ‘the Emperor’s Gardens, or Bagh-e-Shah.
You’ll have a bite of lunch near the gardens, and then return to Shiraz for supper and a final night in your hotel.
The Persian Gulf
Start Point: Shiraz Destination: Bushehr Travel: Saloon car
Today you’ll head to Bushehr, on the southern coast of Iran. With at least five thousand years of documented history behind it, this was – and to a certain extent, still is – a major trading port for Iran, although it has fallen into a less important role after the completion of deep-water ports to the north and south. The city has some unique architecture and was heavily influenced by Portuguese style, still evident in many older buildings. The old city has a tumble-down but very warm feel to it, and you’ll find plenty of winding alleyways and balconies that make superb photos.
The old fishing port is also an interesting place to spend time watching the world at work. You’ll spend this evening at a little gem of a guest house and you’ll eat supper here.
Start Point: Bushehr Destination: Bandar e Siraf Travel: Saloon Car
Driving south down the coast, taking your time to stop where you like, you’ll head to the ancient Silk Road port town of Bandar-e-Siraf. This was a major port of antiquity, and recent archaeological finds have shown plenty of Gujarati pottery, wealthy merchant houses and the associated infrastructure of a busy maritime town. Very few tourists make it down here, and you’ll be unlikely to see many while you’re there. You’ll spend tonight at a local hotel, close to the beach. Sunset should be spectacular…
Start Point: Bandar e Siraf Destination: Bandar e Kong Travel: Saloon Car
South again on your exploration of the Persian Gulf coast. You’ll head for Bandar-e-Kong, where you’ll spend the night at a traditional (and lovely!) guest house near the beach. This town has an Afro-Indian influence and a particular culture of its own as a result.
Here, you’ll experience highly-spiced foods and have the chance to see traditional wooden ‘lenj’ boats being made in the shipyard. The skills are dying out, so this is a rare opportunity to see the craft now.
Start Point: Bandar e Kong Destination: Qeshm Travel: Saloon Car, local boat
You are heading for some relaxation for a few days, on and around the island of Qeshm. On arriving at the mainland town of Bandar Abbas, you’ll go with your car and driver over to Qeshm by boat – arriving early evening. You’ll be based at a local guest house, near Sarbili (and other) beaches in Tabl village.
Start Point: Qeshm Destination: Qeshm
Relax or explore – nowhere is far away on this island, and you can easily also visit the traditional fishing town of Laft, or take a trip to Hengam Island, or just relax under the date palms.
Start Point: Qeshm Destination: Qeshm Travel: Boat via Hormuz
Day trip over to Hormuz Island (1 hour by foot ferry). Fortresses, mangroves, cliffs, beaches and gin-clear blue waters: today will be an interesting excursion to the ‘rainbow island’. You’ll use a rickshaw for your transport and, along with your guide, be able to explore at will, as long as you are back for the afternoon ferry to Qeshm…
Start Point: Qeshm Destination: Bam Travel: Saloon Car
After all that relaxation, you’ll be ready for the next leg. Today is an early start for the ferry back to Bandar Abbas. Then on to the road for the trip to Bam, a 5-hour journey with a lunch stop en route. You’ arrive in Bam – once one of the jewels in the crown of Iran’s cultural heritage – this afternoon. An ancient city with roots stretching back at least 2,500 years and containing the world’s largest adobe building, the city was almost totally destroyed by an earthquake in 2003.
It has been painstakingly and sympathetically restored, and whilst you cannot replace what was lost, the city is still worth the trip as the contrast between the newly reconstructed parts and the rubble of the historic parts is fascinating. You’ll have time to wander the streets and sites a little before retiring to the Asia Kadeh guest house for the evening.
If you think you’d rather, you can make the short car journey to Arg e Rayen, another citadel city which avoided the fate of its sister at Bam.
The desert sunset and sunrise are pretty special in Bam.
Start Point: Bam Destination: Kerman Travel: Saloon Car
It’s a short drive to Kerman, the main city of south-eastern Iran, this morning.
Sites here include the Shah Nematollah Vali Shrine, the delightful Shazdeh Garden, the Ganjali Khan complex and baths from the Safavid era, the 2nd century Jabalieh dome, a super bazaar (one of the oldest trading centres in Iran) and much more besides. You’ll have this afternoon and tomorrow here to get the best from the city whilst staying at a great guest house.
Start Point: Kerman Destination: Kerman
You’ve today to relax, and enjoy exploring the sites, sights, smells and sounds of this “Desert City”. You’ll once again stay at your welcoming Guest House.
Start Point: Kerman Destination: Meymand Travel: Saloon Car
Today you’ll drive just over an hour to Meymand, a 12,000-year-old cave village near Kerman. You’ll have time to explore this ancient place with its unique architecture, and stay this evening at a local house. You’ll experience first-hand the generous hospitality of the Iranian people, and probably have to politely refuse yet more food being brought before you! There are hikes to be done around Meymand too, in case you feel like stretching your legs.
Start Point: Meymand Destination: Yazd Travel: Saloon Car
Today you’re heading north to the fantastic desert city of Yazd. It’s a four hour drive and when you arrive you’ll check into your 4* hotel and have the chance for some rest.
There is much to see in Yazd – the first Iranian city to have a historic centre designated as a UNESCO world heritage site.
This evening, you’ll visit the Zuhrkhane, or “House of Strength”, a place where Zoroastrian ritual, spiritual practice and wrestling meet.
Start Point: Yazd Destination: Yazd Travel: On Foot
This morning you’ll visit some key Zoroastrian sites in Yazd, including the Towers of Silence and Fire Temple. Afterwards, you’ll spend some time rootling around the Grand Bazaar, where you’ll find the famous ‘Termeh’ textiles. Even if you have never heard of these, you’ll be familiar with their paisley pattern, which originated on the Silk Road. After gorging on textiles, you then have time for baklava tasting and tea, visit the Dowlat Abad gardens and spend your evening once again at your hotel.
Start Point: Yazd Destination: Esfahan Travel: Saloon Car
It’s a four-hour drive north-west from Yazd to the fabled city of Esfahan. A jewel in the Silk Road crown of Iran, the architecture here will be somewhat familiar after your time in Uzbekistan. You are here for today and all day tomorrow, in a comfortable hotel which oozes a Shah-era level of charm.
This afternoon, you can begin to explore Isfahan on a relaxed walking tour. Suggested sights for this afternoon will be the Grand Bazaar of Isfahan, with its local artisans and handicrafts, and Vank Armenian Cathedral. This evening, you’ll have dinner in the Jofla Armenian district plus an evening stroll on one of the iconic bridges of Isfahan and on to Chahar Bagh Boulevard. Delightful.
Half the World
Start Point: Esfahan Destination: Esfahan Travel: On Foot
Today you have a full day to explore this incredible and very beautiful Silk Road city, including Naqsh-e Jahan Square, the Shah Mosque, Sheikh Mosque and Ali Qapu Palace. You’ll have time to meet some carpet sellers too for another authentic Silk Road experience, and take lunch either in a traditional place in the bazaar, or a new tea house such as Atiq O Dole – depending on time.
Following this, you’ll visit the 17th century Hasht Behasht and Chehul Sotoun pavilions – incredible parts of Isfahan that are not always on every time-pressured itinerary. Another relaxing night in your hotel will leave a lasting impression of this great city, sometimes known to its inhabitants as “half the world”.
Into the Desert
Start Point: Esfahan Destination: Matinabad Travel: Saloon Car Notes: Stop in Kashan
You’ll drive up the northern highway to the city of Kashan today; home to rose oil, scent and rosewater production for centuries.
After a stroll around the famous Fin gardens, you’ll hit the road to Matinabad, where you’ll be spending tonight in a desert Eco Camp. Here you’ll have a comfortable room and great food, in preparation for your departure into the desert tomorrow.
Adventure in the desert
Start Point: Matinabad Destination: Dasht-e-Kavir Desert Travel: 4WD
Today you’re off for a desert adventure. A well-kitted team of two 4WDs will replace your own driver and car, and take you out into the desert tonight. These local tribal people will look after you like family. A full kitchen will come along, with tables and chairs to eat comfortably.
The drivers never travel in single cars in case of one needing help from another, and out here, it’s often the lady drivers who are in charge of the driving teams – not something you normally expect in Iran. You are going to be camping somewhere where all you’ll be able to see is sand. At night, the stars are incredible and the silence is as golden as the sands.
This is an evening of chatting around the fire, relaxing and enjoying a back-to-nature experience. That said, the tents are comfortable and everything you need will be provided and set up for you.
Start Point: Desert Destination: Tehran Travel: 4WD and Saloon Car
One of your team will break camp whilst another one guides you across the dunes for an hour or so of hiking. The cars will then collect you and drive you out of the Dasht-e-Kavir desert to a meeting point where your own driver pick you up again. After a lunch stop here, you’ll head north to Iran’s capital, Tehran. Tehran is one of the most traffic-clogged cities on earth, but your driver will ensure that you get through as smoothly as you can.
Tonight you’ll be staying in a very good hotel in the city centre.
Start Point: Tehran Destination: Baku, Azerbaijan Travel: Saloon Car
Today you’ll have a whole day to explore Tehran, starting with a visit to the Niavaran Palace Complex followed by the Sa’ad Abad Palace and the Tajrish Bazaar in the afternoon. The bazaar is wonderful, and anything but a tourist experience. You’ll have time for supper at the Tabiat Nature Bridge area – nestled into the foothills of the Alborz Mountains – before your late night transfer to the airport.
It’s then goodbye to Iran, and hello Azerbaijan – with your flight to Baku departing in the very early hours of tomorrow morning. Your local guide will make sure you arrive at the airport in time, then bid you a sad farewell.
Start Point: Tehran airport Destination: Baku, Azerbaijan Travel: 1.5 hour Flight
Your short flight to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, will arrive in the very early hours of the morning. When you arrive your local driver will collect you and transfer you to your city centre hotel.
Dubbed the ‘Dubai of the Caucasus’, this is a glitzy, booming city on the shores of the oil rich Caspian Sea. There’s so much to see and experience here, but you’ll start with the Old City, a UNESCO listed walled citadel inhabited since the Paleolithic period. Walking through the ancient, winding alleys, past carpet sellers and samovars, it’s easy to forget about the modern city beyond the walls.
Tonight will be in the same boutique hotel in the Old City.
Start Point: Baku Destination: Baku Travel: On Foot or with driver
Today you’ll spend another day exploring Baku and the surrounding Absheron Peninsular. You’ll visit the incredible Carpet Museum, marvel at the famous Flame Towers, stroll around Zaha Hadid’s iconic Heydar Aliyev Centre and see the oil fields where the first mechanical oil drill was built in 1871. As well as being featured in the Bond film, The World is Not Enough, these also still fuel much of the country’s wealth.
In the afternoon you’ll head to the Absheron Peninsular to visit an unusual shrine and see the Atasgeh Fire Temple, a reminder of the Land of Fire’s Zoroastrian roots.
Tonight you’ll be in the same boutique hotel.
Start Point: Baku Destination: Basqal Travel: Saloon Car
After breakfast, you’ll leave Baku and drive a few hours west to the village of Baskal, where traditional Azerbaijani silk scarves, kelagayi, have been made for more than a thousand years. Hand-printed with designs rooted in the country’s pre-Islamic Zoroastrian traditions, these colourful scarves are said to have been worn in battle by female Scythian warriors.
After seeing how these scarves are made, you’ll have lunch with a family in the village and spend a few hours walking in the mountains.
Tonight you’ll be in a winery hotel, where you’ll have supper by a swimming pool, try their award-winning wines and gaze over the distant peaks of the lower Caucasus.
Khans and Caravanserais
Start Point: Basqal Destination: Sheki Travel: Saloon Car
A leisurely start today as you drive a few hours north-west through the pistachio and hazel orchards of this verdant region. By mid-afternoon you’ll be in the important Silk Road town of Sheki, enjoying some of its famous sweets in a medieval caravanserai.
Tonight, you’ll stay in a comfortable 4* hotel in Sheki, right beside the caravanserai.
Start Point: Sheki Destination: Sighnaghi Travel: 4WD
Sheki is a place with much to offer, so it is worthwhile having a bit more time here.
Sheki’s name and history goes back to 7th century BC, when the Scythians ruled the roost in these parts. Since then this important arts, silk and trade centre has been variously ruled by the Mongols, Ottomans, Persians and Russians, to name just a few. This morning you’ll see the legacy of one of these conquerors, the fantastically intricate UNESCO-listed 18th-century Khan Palace – a building that took two years to build and another eight to decorate. After some time to explore the town’s cobbled streets, silk shops and maybe to purchase a souvenir or two, you’ll enjoy some lunch then drive two hours west to the border with Georgia, where you’ll say goodbye to your Azerbaijani driver and guide and meet your new Georgian team, arriving near the ridge-top town of Sighnaghi by early evening. Here you’ll stay in a delightful boutique hotel in the hills just outside the town.
On the Ridge
Start Point: Sighnaghi Destination: Sighnaghi Travel: 4WD
We love the location of this town, perched on its own ridgeline with views across the gorgeous Alazani Valley. You can relax at the hotel, go walking in the beautiful neighbourhood, or pay a worthwhile visit to Bodbe Monastery to see the tomb of St. Nino – the young woman who Christianised Georgia back in the 4th century.
From here, it’s a short hop down the road to the home of a remarkable silkworm farmer. You’ll meet the worms, feed them fresh mulberry leaves and then enjoy a spectacular lunch in the garden, replete with homemade wine and chacha. This is a fascinating experience with a truly wonderful woman. Full and happy, you’ll return to your hotel, have some time to relax and then enjoy supper in a world-famous local restaurant that produces its own wine and makes absolutely gorgeous food. The menu changes every day, depending on the season and what is locally available.
Tonight you’ll be in the same hotel.
Start Point: Sighnaghi Destination: Zemo Alavani Travel: 4WD
OK, so you may have noticed something a theme in Georgia: booze. This country has the oldest recorded wine-making techniques in the world. In fact, they taught the Romans to make wine, who in turn taught the French and so on.
Today you’ll visit the stunning vineyard of a famous young wine-maker, and try some of his much talked about natural wine. Lunch will be at the vineyard – yet another delectable Georgian feast.
You’ll spend tonight at a nearby hotel, a new place with a great pool, organic food and wonderful views over the Caucasus mountains.
Start Point: Zemo Alavani Destination: Juta Travel: 4WD and on Foot
This morning it’s be an early start to head north-west to Kazbegi region. On the way, you’ll stop for lunch in a village, where you’ll eat with a lovely family, and have the chance to try some local delicacies.
After a fantastic four-hour drive through the mountains, you will arrive at a mountain homestay owned by an ecologist.
By the time you arrive it’ll be time for a wander in the area and a later afternoon and early evening to relax at the hut and enjoy the view.
The hills are alive
Start Point: Juta Destination: Juta Travel: On Foot
After breakfast, the hut will provide you with a packed lunch and you’ll spend the day trekking up towards the Chauki Pass. If you have time, you can descend on the other side to the stunning Abudelauri Lakes. These lakes are all different colours: one is colourless (green in photos, due to its surroundings) the second is blue and the last one is milky white. The length of the trek depends on the weather and your walking abilities, but can be between two to six hours.
You’ll return to the hut tonight for supper and spend another night here.
Start Point: Juta Destination: Tbilisi Travel: On foot and 4WD
After breakfast you’ll check out and drive back to Tbilisi down the Georgian Military Highway, with a short detour to see the amazing Gergeti Church on the way. The mountain views from this road are fantastic, and you’ll pass the roaring Aragvi and Tergi Rivers. On the way, you can stop and visit the beautiful 16th century Ananuri monastery complex if you wish. You will have lunch at a good village winery on the way.
You’ll arrive in Tbilisi in the early afternoon and check in to one of the best hotels in the city.
Old City, New City
Start Point: Tbilisi Destination: Tbilisi Travel: On Foot
Today it’s all about Tbilisi, Georgia’s charming, buzzy capital – a vital stop on the Silk Road and one of our favourite cities on earth. You’ll explore the atmospheric lanes of the Old City and bath-house area, ogle the array of goods on sale at the amazing Dry Bridge Bazaar and stroll up to the 4th century Persian citadel, Narikala Fortress, to enjoy panoramic views over the city. From here you can see the golden domes of Orthodox churches, the spires of Armenian cathedrals and the circular roofs of old Azeri bath houses – reminders of Tbilisi’s place at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.
After lunch at a top notch restaurant you’ll visit the fascinating National Museum. In the evening you’ll dine at yet another delicious restaurant. By this point, you’ll understand why everyone who visits Georgia raves about the food and wine.
Tonight will be at the same stylish hotel.
Start Point: Tbilisi Destination: Tbilisi Travel: On Foot
As this is a city you don’t want to rush away from, you have another day to explore it – either with or without a guide. You can visit one of the old sulphur baths in the heart of the old city and seek sights such as Metekhi church; Narikala castle; Botanical gardens; Sioni Cathedral and the historical Sololaki area. You can also visit some of the city’s up-and-coming boutiques, and see why Georgia is having a moment on the international fashion scene. Recently, this post-Soviet republic has been put on the map as a place of flourishing fashion talent, due in no small part to Balenciaga’s new creative director, Demna Gvasalia, and local brands that are quickly picking up international traction.
Lunch is up to you and supper will be at a famous city centre restaurant, well-known for their natural wine selection. As it’s your final night, we’ll arrange a special supper, where you will enjoy six types of Georgian fusion dishes from different regions, six sorts of spectacular natural wine from different regions of Georgia and six polyphonic songs – all introduced by a tamada, a Georgian toastmaster. This will be a feast to remember! Your last night is at the same delightful hotel.
All good things must come to an end
Start Point: Tbilisi Destination: Home Travel: Flight from Tbilisi
You’ll transfer 35 minutes out of Tbilisi to the airport in time for your flight home. There are direct flights to London, connections via Istanbul to London, or to other EU cities and beyond.
Why should you travel with us?
Our directors Marley and Antonia have a combined twenty years of experience travelling across the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East. Thread-by-thread, we have built an expert knowledge of the fabric of the Silk Road, from the Black Sea to the Tien Shan mountains. We know the mountain valleys, sprawling plateaus, national parks, lakes and city centres like the backs of our hands.
Our inside knowledge won’t just give you a route to follow. By putting you in touch with local people, and choosing you the best guides, we enable you to make meaningful connections with the countries that you visit.
Where will you be staying?
On this trip, you’ll be staying in everything from excellent 5* hotels to yurt camps. However, the landscapes and people with whom you stay will more than make up for any lack of amenities.
You will also be staying in at least one wilderness camp. This will be set-up for you by your guides, who will also cook for you. If you measure luxury in terms of how many stars you will actually see, then this could be the best place you’ve ever stayed.
However, as this itinerary is just a sample, and this is a Tailor-Made Silk Road tour, where you stay is ultimately up to you.
What will the weather be like?
This is a huge region with very different climates throughout the year, so we will give you specific advice on this at the time we begin to discuss your booking.
How fit do I need to be?
You will need to be relatively fit and prepared to spend some time in rough terrain in the desert. Whatever effort you put in will be repaid many times over in the form of hospitable people and fantastic food and drink. This is not an ‘active’ trip per se, but as a Tailor-Made tour we can make it as adventurous or as cushioned as you like.
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.
Do you use decent vehicles?
Yes. We will travel in top-spec 4WD or other vehicles with carefully chosen drivers.
How much are flights?
This entirely depends on where you are travelling from and how you want to get there. Again, we’ll send you an information pack containing all the information you need when you book your place. We are ATOL bonded so can easily book your flights as part of a package – please advise if you’d like us to do this.
What will the food be like?
Varied. Some countries have basic cuisine whilst others – Iran, Georgia and Turkey for example – can really push your tastebuds into overdrive.
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 where communications are at all iffy. We really don’t mess around when it comes to safety.