Uzbekistan Spring Festival

Celebrate Novruz Festival during your trip!
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A Bespoke Uzbekistan Tour

Celebrate Persian New Year with us on a specially-crafted Uzbekistan tour.

Uzbekistan is a beguiling land at the heart of the ancient Silk Road. On this adventure, you will experience sumptuous architecture, fascinating history and dazzling arts.

What’s more, its just become visa-free for UK nationals – as well as 44 other countries, including Australia and New Zealand.

Visit Uzbekistan at Novruz

 

This imaginatively designed 11-day itinerary give you the chance to not only be dazzled by some of the most famous sights of the Silk Road, but also get under the skin of this intriguing post-Soviet nation – to meet artists, celebrate the Spring Novruz festival, eat with families and walk in the little-visited mountains south of Samarkand.

You’ll wander the dusty alleyways of Khiva, the UNESCO-listed desert citadel; be awed by the turquoise domes of Samarkand and Bukhara; clamber amongst the ruins of ancient desert fortresses; haggle in bazaars; meet famous Uzbek  designers; eat vibrant Central Asian food and follow in the footsteps of Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta and more. It’s no surpise that Uzbekistan has featured on many ‘Where to Visit in 2019’ lists.

As you’ll be in Uzbekistan during the Novruz festival – also known as the Persian New Year – this immersive, culture-laden trip also incorporates a range of Novruz food and traditions; from eating sumalak and haft-sin to watching kupkari, the Central Asian version of polo. After seeing this, the Cowdray Gold Cup will never be the same again!

Inspired by Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure

 

This Uzbekistan tour has been designed by one of our directors, Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent, an award-winning adventurer, travel writer and TV producer.

Antonia produced the Central Asian leg of Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventures, spending a year researching and designing Joanna’s journey and travelling across these countries with Joanna and the crew. Thanks to this, this journey gives you a unique opportunity to follow directly in Joanna’s footsteps: to travel to the places featured in the series, stay in the hotels she stayed in and meet the people she met.

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATIONTashkent/ Tashkent
DEPARTURE TIMEPlease ensure you arrive in good time for our scheduled departure from Tashkent
INCLUDED
  • All accommodation
  • All meals
  • Internal flight from Tashkent to Khiva
  • All land travel
  • All museum entrance costs
  • A number of bespoke, exclusive experiences
  • Expert, English-speaking local guide
  • 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).
NOT INCLUDED
  • International flights to and from Tashkent
  • Guide gratuities
  • Personal spending money for alcohol or souvenirs
  • Your personal travel insurance including medi-evac

 

Minimum Group size 4 guests
Maximum Group size 10 guests

1

Day 1: Saturday 14 March 2020

Start Point: Tashkent International Airport
Destination: Tashkent
Travel: Arrive by Air

If you are flying from London then we recommend the direct Uzbekistan Airways HY202 flight, departing from Heathrow at 21.35 last night and arriving in Tashkent at 08.25 today. Or there are options with Turkish Airlines, Air Astana, Fly Dubai and more.

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 at a very good restaurant, then spend the afternoon exploring some of the sights of Tashkent, Central Asia’s largest city. You’ll visit the Barak-Khan Madrassah complex in the old city to see the world’s oldest Koran, take a ride on the stunning Soviet-era Metro, wander around the fascinating Applied Arts Museum and visit Independence Square, with its famous statue of Amir Timur, the ‘conqueror of worlds.’ Supper will be in another excellent city centre restaurant.

2

Day 2: Sunday 15 March 2020

Start Point: Tashkent
Destination: Khiva
Travel: 1 hour flight (Economy Class seat included)

It’s an early start this morning to catch the 07.25 flight from Tashkent to Urgench. 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.

After some time to rest at your hotel, the best in town, you’ll have the rest of the day to explore the UNESCO-listed old city – the Ichan Qala. Wandering through its dusty alleys you’ll get a good sense of this historic place – its brutal slave trading past, madrassas, minarets and fabulous arts and crafts. Among the sights you’ll be seeing today are the Juma Mosque (with its wonderful carved wood 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.

Tonight you’ll be eating with a local family and enjoying some special dishes from Karakalpakstan, this region of Uzbekistan.

3

Day 3: Monday 16 March 2020

Start Point: Khiva
Destination: Ayaz Kala and Khiva
Travel: On foot and by car

You’ll spend the morning exploring more of Khiva, including visiting the workshop of a famous chugirma maker – the traditional sheepskin hats worn in this region.

After an early lunch, you’ll drive 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 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, there’ll be tea in a desert yurt camp.

You’ll be back in Khiva by late afternoon, in time for some R&R (or shopping!) before supper at a local restaurant. Of course, if you’d rather spend a relaxing day in Khiva today, and not come to Ayaz Kala, then please do.

4

Day 4: Tuesday 17 March 2020

Start Point: Khiva
Destination: Bukhara
Travel: Road, 7 hours with stops en route

After breakfast at the 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 charming nearby restaurant.

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Day 5: Wednesday 18 March 2020

Start Point: Bukhara
Destination: Bukhara
Travel: On foot within the city

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 today you have the whole day in this splendid city. 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) you’ll also be learning about the Bukharan Jews, having a private dance performance and enjoying a Silk Road tea ceremony at a characterful old chaikana, with a chance to sample some delicious sweets and treats.

Tonight you’ll enjoy a special Navruz supper with a Bukharan family and have the chance to learn about the tradition of ‘Haft-sin’ – the seven dishes that should be on every Navruz table.

6

Day 6: Thursday 19 March 2020

Start Point: Bukhara
Destination: Bukhara
Travel: Foot within the city and short road transfers to local sights

Bukhara isn’t the sort of place you want to rush away from, so you have another day here. You’ll start 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.

After lunch, you’ll visit Bukhara’s fascinating Akbar House to see the private collection of embroidery, fabrics, carpets, wood carvings and books.

Supper will be at a very good restaurant in the heart of the old city.

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Day 7: Friday 20 March 2020

Start Point: Bukhara
Destination: Samarkand
Travel: Four hour drive with a stop en route

Today you’ll be leaving wonderful Bukhara to take the ‘Golden Road to Samarkand’ – arguably the most fabled of all the ancient Silk Road cities. It’s a four hour drive but you’ll be stopping in  the town of Gijduvan to meet a family of master ceramicists and learn about their highly skilled art. Prepare to spend the rest of the trip coddling your new Uzbek bowls!

Following lunch with a local family you’ll drive on to Samarkand and check in to a charming, family run boutique-style hotel in the centre of the city. The early evening 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.

After supper, you’ll be visiting the workshop of a well-known Uzbek artist and fashion designer for an exclusive talk on Uzbek fashion and textiles.

8

Day 8: Saturday 21 March 2020

Start Point: Samarkand
Destination: Samarkand
Travel: On foot and by car within the city

Today is the main day of the Novruz Festival, and Samarkand is a fantastic place to celebrate this. Navruz, celebrated on the Spring Equinox,  originated in Iran about 3000 years ago. Also known as Nowruz, the holiday is celebrated across Western Asia and Central Asia, all the way to the Black Sea and the Balkans. Although rooted in Zoroastrianism, it’s essentially a secular festival, a time when people forgive their enemies, help the poor and cleanse their houses and consciences for a good start to a new year. It’s also a time of feasting and dance.

This morning, Navruz celebrations will be in full swing in Samarkand, with  dancing, food and drink stalls and street celebrations. Although it will be quite crowded in places (with locals mainly), just wandering among all this is a lovely way to experience the atmosphere of Navruz. You will also have a chance to see some of the sites of Samarkand this morning, such as the famous Registan Square, and the Gur-e-Emir, where the mighty Timur lies interred under the largest piece of jade in the world.

Supper will be at a local restaurant, where you’ll enjoy a special Navruz menu and a talk from a local history expert about the Sogdians and Tamerlane.

9

Day 9: Sunday 22 March 2020

Start Point: Samarkand
Destination: Samarkand Region
Travel: By car and foot

This morning, after breakfast, we’ll drive to a  village near Samarkand to spend time with a family as they celebrate Novruz festival. You’ll arrive in time for the ladies to open their pots of sumalak, a Navruz dish made from germinated wheat that’s made by all the ladies of a mahalla,  or neighbourhood. It’s said that with the first taste of sumalak you should make a wish and that after this you’ll be endowed with special powers for the year to come…. You’ll then spend the day partaking in the village Navruz celebrations and having lunch with a family. This will be a  lovely chance to enjoy both the traditions and hospitality of Uzbekistan, and get a ‘behind closed doors’ insight into this ancient Zoroastrian festival.

Another tradition that happens around Navruz is kupkari, the famous Central Asian version of polo which involves a goat carcass, up to a hundred horses and some seriously impressive horsemanship. Kupkari games always happen around Navruz and, if we’re lucky, we’ll have the chance to watch one of these stunning matches today.

10

Day 10 Monday 23 March 2020

Start Point: Samarkand Region
Destination: Tashkent
Travel: 2.5 hours by high-speed train
Notes: Business Class train tickets

Today you’ll be visiting a beautiful mountain village about an hour south of Samarkand to spend a few hours walking in the mountains and having lunch with a charming family. This region was once key to the ancient Silk Road, being located directly between Bactria and Sogdiana (the old name for Samarkand). Today it’s an area of beautiful walks, caves, forests and archaeological sites.

After lunch you’ll return to Samarkand in time to catch the high-speed train to Tashkent. You’ll be in the same 4* hotel tonight, and enjoy a final supper at one of the capital’s finest restaurants.

11

Day 11: Tuesday 24 March 2020

Start Point: Tashkent
Destination: Your Home
Travel: Fly from Tashkent International Airport

After breakfast we’ll transfer you to the airport in time for your flight home. The direct Uzbekistan Airways flight departs for London Heathrow at 13.45, or there are various options with Turkish Airlines, Air Astana, Fly Dubai and more.

TourStart DateEnd DatePrice
Uzbekistan Spring Festival14/03/202024/03/2020£3,550.00Taking Bookings

What is Novruz?

Novruz – also spelt in many different ways including Nowruz, Navruz, Nouoruz. Nevruz and Nooruz – is an ancient rite dating to at least the 6th century BCE that marks new year and ushers-in spring. The festival is observed on March 21st in many countires along the Silk Road, including Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakkhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. You can read more details about the festival at the UNESCO Silk Roads Project page here.

What does the price include?

The price includes all entrance fees to museums, an expert English-speaking local guide, accommodation in high-quality hotels, all meals, one internal flight, train tickets, travel in an air-conditioned minibus and a number of exclusive, bespoke experiences (dance, talks, fashion shows, Novruz festivities etc). It does not include international flights, alcohol or your own personal travel insurance.

Where will we be staying?

We’ll be staying in a mix of places – from four star hotels in Tashkent to stylish, boutique hotels in Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand. You will always have en-suite bathrooms and, if you are a single traveller, your own room.

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.

Who will be guiding this trip?

This trip will be guided by one of our excellent English-speaking Uzbek guides. You will also be joined at various points by historians, artists and ethnographers – each one of them adding to the in-depth, expert-led nature of this carefully designed itinerary.

What will the weather be like?

It’s Spring so the temperature will still be varied  – up to 20 degrees during the day and down to as low as five degrees at night. 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 guests  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 except where this is unavoidable.  It goes against our ethos, so the price quoted is for both single and twin-travellers.

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?

You will be travelling in a well-maintained minibus.

Can you guarantee we will see a kupkari game?

The local Equestrian Federation only announce the dates of the kupkari games a few weeks before they happen, with multiple games happening in villages and towns throughout the Spring and Navruz period. As soon as the Federation announce the schedule, we will do our best to fit our itinerary around seeing a game. We have opted to do it this way than to put on a show match which would a) add a hefty wack to the trip cost and b) not be authentic.

How much are flights?

This is a moving feast! It depends on where you are travelling from and how you want to get there. If you take the direct Uzbek Airways flights from London to Tashkent, it’s about £400 return. We also use the Turkish Airlines flights which hop via Istanbul for about the same price. If you’d like us to book your flights for you, let us know. We are fully ATOL-protected and can book these as part of an ATOL-protected package.

What will the food be like?

Varied – the ‘stans are a region known for meaty delicacies so you can expect tasty shashlik almost anywhere if this is your thing. But it’s not all bad news for veggies as the salads in Central Asia are fantastic. Bread, plov, tomatoes, cucumbers, dill and vodka all feature heavily!

Will I have to share a room?

No, not if you are a single traveller and request a room to yourself.

How fit do I need to be?

Not very – although there is some walking in each city we visit, how much you walk is largely up to you. There is always the option to do your own thing, or relax at the hotel for a few hours instead. Ideally you should be able to walk for two to three hours at a time though, when exploring cities.

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. 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.  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?

No – we do need to reach a minimum number of guests to make this viable. For this trip, we need a minimum of 4 guests. When you express interest in this trip 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 3 months prior to the scheduled departure in which to make your travel arrangements.

Is this really for me?

If you love adventure, new places, friendly people, wild landscapes, history and culture then yes!

However, travelling in Central Asia – still an emerging destination – is not for everyone and at times (such as on the road from Khiva to Bukhara) the loos will not be Western-style, and there is nothing we can do about this. If you have issues with this, and are not prepared for a bit of adventure, then this trip isn’t for you.

Enquire

From£3,550.00