24 Day Silk Road & Stans Adventure

09 September, 2020

Trip price: $8280

Deposit $1200

This could be the most epic trip you go on in your life.

Each ‘Stan’ is special and unique, with distinct languages, cultural traditions and landscapes. You’ll be blown away. Add to that the magic of the Silk Road history and you’ve really got an adventure.

Our concept is simple – a small gang of like-minded women seeing the sights, cities, villages, deserts, and mountains worth seeing – and avoiding the tourist traps. We like to think of it as a full-scale invasion of friendly Australian ladies!

We’ll also make time to stop and just take it all in, and you’ll enjoy the freedom to enjoy things your way.

Highlights

Kyrgyzstan: Multiple hikes through jaw-dropping mountains scenery

Taijikistan: Cook a feast with Tajik women villagers before eating and dancing

Kazakhstan: Explore the city of Almaty and its rich heritage

Uzbekistan: Take in the highlights of the Silk Road and learn the history & stories

Turkmenistan: Previously closed to visitors, see this weird and wonderful republic for yourself

Small groups, maximum 12 spots

Trip Details

Price

$8280 AUD per person (based on twinshare)

EARLYBIRD: $7940 – book by March 17 2021

Deposit: $1200 AUD

Don’t have someone to join you? Most of our bookings are from solo travellers. We can easily match you with another group member. 

Note: there is no private supplement available for this trip.


Trip length

24 days, 23 nights


Dates

STARTS: September 09, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

ENDS: October 02, Ashgabat,. Turkmenistan

Have a group? Contact us and we can arrange a private departure!


Meeting point

Hotel Navat, Bishkek


Ending point

Hotel Nusay, Ashgabat


Group size

Maximum 12 — guaranteed departure


Participation requirements

Please see our “Is this trip right for you?” section to see the participation requirements


Included

Most meals, transportation, English-speaking trip leader, accommodation

  • All breakfasts, All lunches, 22 Dinners
  • Transportation
  • Accommodation
  • English-speaking trip leader
  • Airport pick-ups/transfers – nothing better than being met by a friendly face

Not included

  • International airfares
  • Tip kitty
  • Any visas required (Australian passport holders do not require a visa)
  • Services not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Late check-out at hotels
  • Meals and drinks not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Tips for leaders, guide and driver
  • Expenditure of personal nature
  • Personal insurance

Our accommodation

Every step of the way, we’ve sought out fun, unique accommodation wherever possible. We’ve also got a few stops in Western-style hotels for you to refresh and regroup for the next adventure.

You’ll sleep in:

  • yurt camps in the middle of the Kyrgyz mountains
  • a Tajik guesthouse
  • a 4 star Novotel in Almaty, Kazakhstan
  • a wacky 5 star hotel in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
  • in a yurt in the Turkmen desert

Not all the accommodation is exotic; in some cases the best option available to us is a very simple 3 star hotel.

Just remember that when you get off the tourist trail, that means there isn’t tourist infrastructure. We think that’s a good thing, but it’s not without its drawbacks.

 

Why Choose This Tour?

See the biggest highlights of the Silk Road and get a feel for what it was like to travel this route centuries ago

Our trip leader is one of a kind, with a passion for Tunisian history and culture.. Plus perhaps the most important bit: he knows exactly where the great food is hidden

Lots of chances to get under the tourist layer and meet real people, have genuine interactions, and eat traditional local food

Click the tabs to find out more

Itinerary

DAY 1: HELLO BISHKEK!

All amazing adventures begin somewhere. For us, that’s Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The best way to arrive is flying through Dubai; no matter when you arrive you’ll be met at the airport by a welcoming face who’ll pick you up and take you to your accommodation.

Meet the group in the hotel before heading for lunch, followed by a gentle walking tour of Bishkek city.

The group welcome dinner will be in one of our favourite local restaurants.

Yes, you’re here on the Silk Road! Your arm will be sore from pinching yourself so much.

Accommodation: Hotel Navat, Bishkek (or similar)
Included: Lunch, Dinner

DAY 2: KYRGYZ COUNTRYSIDE & CULTURE

If you want to ‘do’ Kyrgyzstan, you get out of the city as soon as possible to explore the beautiful landscapes and wonderful culture.

But first, stop off at Burana Tower, the last remnant of the historic Silk Road city of Balasagun.

This afternoon is a special treat as we meet local women who make Kyrgyz ‘Shyrdak’ felt carpets.

Learn how they’re made and you can even try your hand at making your own to take home (no added cost)!

Accommodation: Mira Guesthouse
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 3: MOUNTAIN HIKE

Kyrgyzstan is a world-class hiking destination.

Get ready to stretch your legs on a 2 day hike of moderate difficulty through Kyrgyz meadows and summer pastures. This afternoon, we’ll walk for 4 hours.

Our luggage will be carried by horses who walk with our mountain crew.

This is off the grid adventure, so be ready: the yurts of Day 3 and 4 are quite basic: 4 people per yurt, simple beds, western toilets, no showers.

However, just think about it: yurt, Kyrgyzstan, middle of nowhere, you…

Accommodation: Yurt camp
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 4: LAKE SONG KUL

Stretch your legs! It’s a 5.5 hour hike today through beautiful, otherworldly scenery. From the pass, Song-Kol is still distant, but as you traipse down the slopes, it gets larger and larger.. the mountains on the other side get higher and higher.. until finally the lake fills most of your field of view and the southern mountains tower above it. After a picnic lunch we’ll arrive in the afternoon to our yurt camp on Lake Song Kul. For those still full of beans, you can try your hand at horse riding.

Accommodation: Yurt Camp
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 5: ISSYK KUL

Bodies tingling in anticipation of a lovely hot shower tonight, we’ll hit the road today. Our desintation is ‘Issyk Kul’, a big lake known as the pearl of Kyrgyzstan. But first, a stop at the village of Kyzyl-Tuu, a yurt-making hub!

Over a tasty lunch, a local yurt builder family will share some of their secrets with us. Next stop is an exploration of Skazka Canyon (pictured above). Tonight, it’s 2 person per yurt and yep… hot showers!

Accommodation: Yurt Camp
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 6: JETY-OGUZ PASS

This morning starts with a 2 hour drive to our starting point, where we’ll get going on a memorable hike.The Jety-Oguz pass will take us through some of the most spectacular scenery in Central Asia.

Tonight, we’ll be staying at at a horse-breeding ranch. Our hosts will present the horses to us while explaining the meaning of this way of life. The accommodation is on site. Simple, but highly atmospheric.

Note: This is our final day in Kyrgyzstan. Already?

Accommodation: Reina Kanch horse ranch
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 7: CHARYN CANYON

It’s a big day of driving today as we head into Kazakhstan for a short 2 day visit.

The mountains of Kyrgyzstan will be replaced by the wide open Kazakh steppes. On the way, we’ll stop at the Charyn Canyon, pictured above (remind you of anything?)

This will make for a great lunch stop as we walk down to the river (3km) for a picnic, before getting back on the road. It’s a lot of driving – 9 hours total – so we’ve picked a comfy 4 star accommodation to welcome us to Almaty.

Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation: Novotel (4 Stars), Almaty Kazakhstan.

DAY 8: EXPLORE ALMATY

Almaty is the cultural and business capital of Kazakhstan. In the morning, we’ll take a tour of the city, visiting Panfilov Park and the unique Zenkov Cathedral (pictured above.)This is a more relaxed day and this afternoon you’ll have free time to catch up on necessities or explore.

An interesting dinner awaits, and that’s it for our time in Kazakhstan – a necessarily quick visit that enables us to do justice do the rest of the trip.

Accommodation: Novotel (4 Stars)
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 9: DUSHANBE

We enter Tajikistan this morning on our one flight of the trip (included).

A country that has been described as ‘mountains upon mountains upon mountains’, you won’t forget it quickly. Dushanbe is a treasure and also the country’s capital. With only 800,000 people, it operates at a gentle pace.

We’ll spend the afternoon checking out the National Museum of Antiquities, Rudaki Park and a few other sights on a relaxed city tour.

Accommodation: Hotel Atlas
Included: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 10: DUSHANBE

Navruz Palace was conceived of as a spectacular tea house, but the owners got carried away… and ended up with a monument to total excess. Described by one person as ‘opulence gone wild’, it’s now the Presidential Palace of Tajikistan!

The photo above doesn’t do it justice. Just know that it’s highly worthwhile.

You’ll have free time in the afternoon, so take a chance to rest and replenish, because we’ve got a big week ahead of us.

Accommodation: Hotel Atlas
Included: Breakfast, Lunch

DAY 11: ISKANDERKUL LAKE

Road trip day today!

The drive itself is a massive highlight as we wind our way through the rugged and valleys mountains of Tajikistan.

On the way, we’ll stop at Iskanderkul Lake (named for Alexander the Great) for a lunch stop and waterfall visit, before continuing on to Penjikant.

Its name translates as “the city of five villages” and it is located on the verdant Zeravshan river valley. Dating from the 5th century, it was once a thriving regional hub on the Great Silk Road and we’ll get some time to check it out.

Accommodation: Hotel Umariyon
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 12: TAJIK CULTURE

On a typical Patch Adventures trip, Day 12 means that the trip is almost over. But this expedition is just beginning because today is so much fun!

Kick things off with a visit to the local market of Penjikent (perhaps buy some snacks?) before driving a bumpy 2-3 hr drive to the Seven Lakes of the Shing Mountain Valley.

The village of Noffin is our home tonight. You can explore on foot or take a swim in the lake. Tonight, we’re going to prepare a big feast together – all hands on deck! – with some local villagers. Eat your handiwork while we enjoy a night of Tajik music and dancing.

Accommodation: Local Guesthouse, Noffin
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 13: SARAZM

Say a reluctant goodbye to Noffin as we drive up to the 6th lake for a hike. The scenery is incredible, but we decided not to include a photo as we’d like it to be a surprise.

We’ll visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sarazm (pictured above). It’s simple, but highly historic, and worth the stop.

Then, we enter Uzbekistan and a drive to Samarkand. We’ll pick up some bread from a bakery in the old town and head to a local restaurant to enjoy it with our meal.

Accommodation: Hotel Rabat, Samarkand
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 14: SAMARKAND

Samarkand, one of the most popular sites of the Silk Road. Conquered by Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan (amongst others), this key trading post is dripping with history.

Registan Square, the focal point of ancient Samarkand, is framed by three beautiful madrassas (religious schools) – Ulugbek, Sherdor and Tillya Kori. Next, stroll through the spacious courtyard of the Bibi-Khanum Mosque. We will also get time to explore the Siab Bazaar, with fruit and veges grown from the rich soil of the Zarafshan Valley.

After lunch, we will explore Shahi Zinda – the necropolis where family members of Timur are buried. Dinner is a highlight, too as we join the family of Farida Apa, a local primary school teacher. She’ll teach us how to make the local dish ‘Plov’ before we eat with her family and enjoy the evening with them.

Back in the city once more, Registan Square is resplendent in the evening and we’ll go to bed with hearts and bellies content.

Accommodation: Hotel Rabat, Samarkand
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 15: MYSTERY DAY

At Patch, we like to keep some surprises in our pocket.

That’s why today is going to be a mystery day as the group leaves the beaten path to visit some of our team’s favourite local spots outside Samarkand…

You’re going to meet some incredible people, eat amazing food and maybe even taste a drop of the local wine. It’ll be memorable. We promise.

We finish the day with a high speed train trip to Bukhara, where will spend 3 nights

Accommodation: Hotel Devon, Bukhara
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 16: BUKHARA

Bukhara is another key city on the Silk Road trade route. We have two days here.

This morning, we’ll visit famous sights such as Samanid Mausoleum – one of the most important monuments of Central Asia – and the Bolo Hauz Mosque, before stopping to have tea and lunch at a local tea-house.

In the evening we’ll meet with Makshuma Niyazova, a local historian/archeologist who received her PhD in 2007. During a short walk and dinner, she’ll explain to us the rituals and history of this ancient Silk Road city.

Accommodation: Hotel Devon, Bukhara
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 17: BUKHARA CITY TOUR

The Ark of Bukhara awaits you this morning. It’s a citadel which has been a symbol of power for more than a millennium.

The Poikalon complex, pictured above, is today’s centrepiece. Despite its religious past, the highest minaret was nicknamed the ‘Tower of Death.’ See if you can figure out why! (Hint: it’s a long way down.)

After lunch, we’ll visit a famous embroidery artist – 6th generation! – before getting free time to explore on foot. Perhaps go back to one of your favourite sites to catch another peek.

Accommodation: Hotel Devon, Bukhara
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 18: HIGH SPEED TRAIN

Take a free morning to explore or do some shopping before catching a comfortable fast train to Khiva at midday – this 5 hr journey is a relaxed way to zoom through the Uzbek countryside before arriving in the early evening to our destination.

Note: The major cities of the silk road – Samarkand, Bukhara and to a lesser extent Khiva are well within the established tourist trail; this part of the Silk Road is very popular! We’ll do our best to time our visits to avoid crowds, just be aware that we’re not going to be the only show in these towns.

Accommodation: Local guesthouse, Khiva
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 19: KHIVA EXPLORATION

Khiva, a UNESCO destination, is the favourite town of many Silk Road travellers.

Smaller in scale with 80,000 people, to this day it possesses a sense of something special in the atmosphere.

That’s despite its history: it was a local slave market hub. (A reminder that the Silk Road may be magical today, but it hides skeletons in the shadows!)

You’ll love this place; a labyrinth of alleyways and blue mosaics. We’ll explore it together.

Accommodation: Local guesthouse, Khiva
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 20: NUKUS

Today is all about Nukus, the capital of ‘Karakalpakstan’ (say that one fast), an autonomous region of Uzbekistan that has its own distinct language and culture.

It’s our last day today in Uzbekistan, and Nukus is the perfect place.

Ivor Savitsky’s legacy will be a highlight; he was a Russian who risked his life travelling the Central Asia region to collect art from banned artists. The museum named after him is host to 82,000 pieces of art! Dinner tonight is with a family of opera singers; they’ll treat us to a private performance.

The Jipek Joli hotel is very simple; along the way we have a few nights in simple accommodation like this. Don’t worry: it’s not falling apart.

Clean, simple, with friendly staff.. it’s fine.

But if you need everything precisely just ‘so’ in terms of an expensive, 5 star pillow, big breakfast buffets, hotel pool.. this is definitely not your trip!

Accommodation: Jipek Joli, Nukus
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 21: DARVAZA

Today, Day 21, we enter the last country of our journey.

Turkmenistan is a weird place, known as the ‘North Korea of Central Asia’ – and for VERY good reason.

This country is fascinating, but the atmosphere is different; you’ll find that the people are more guarded and less willing to say things that could risk them being reported.

We’ll have an incredible mini-adventure here!

After crossing the Turkmen border, we’ll head to the historical town of Konye-Urgench, and then onto the burning crater of Darvaza.

A barbecue and a few cocktails under the Milky Way at our yurt camp is just the tonic!

Accommodation: Yurt Camp
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 22: DESERT DRIVE

A desert drive is what’s on the cards as we head towards the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat.

On the way, we’ll stop at the Erbent desert community.

This little town – a mix of Yurts and basic buildings – somehow scratches out an existence as it keeps the desert at bay. It’s almost like something out of Mad Max.

From there, we head on to Ashgabat.

An afternoon tour of this weird and wonderful city will include the National Museum and Independence Park. The 5 Star Hotel Nusay will be our accommodation tonight. It fits squarely within the Ashgabat vibe.

Accommodation: Hotel Nusay, Ashgabat
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 23: ASHGABAT

Ashgabat. The vision of a series of wacky dictators, it’s full of creative, fun, unique, insane – you pick the word – architecture.

Turkmenistan is SO much more than just unusual buildings, however.

That’s why we’ll visit the UNESCO historical ruins of Nisa, and in the afternoon pay a visit to the Akhalteke horse farm in Anau, to give you a more rounded view of this country.

A special farewell dinner awaits on this, the final night of the trip.*

*Unfortunately, yes, this trip does need to end. Sadly!

Accommodation: Hotel Nusay, Ashgabat
Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 24: ASHGABAT

Kyrgyz yurts. Kazakh steppes. Tajik mountains. Uzbek history. Turkmen… mind-benders. You’ve lived it for yourself and now have dozens of stories to tell. Now you know that these aren’t just ‘the Stans’: each country has a precious culture, rich history and unique heritage.

From here you have two choices:

1/ continue on to the Iran border to join our Iran trip – cross overland and then fly to Tehran.

OR

2/ set your alarm for an early-morning Dubai flight. Either way, it’s time to say farewell to one of the most memorable trips of your lives. t

Hiking & Fitness

Hiking in Kyrgyzstan is magical, but you may be nervous about your ability. Hiking is not compulsory on this trip; those who are not feeling up to it can skip and will be taken care of… but we really wish you’d join. The hikes are of a moderate-intermediate difficulty for an experienced hiker, so you’ll need to be a highly confident walker.

That is – if you would need a steadying hand to walk down a step flight of uneven stone stairs, the hiking may be a bit much for you. It’s not as tough as the Inca Trail or the Himalayas, but it’s not easy.

This trip is sadly not appropriate for those who need to use walking aids. You need to be able to walk up and down steep slopes unaided.

You have a strong sense of balance.

Fitness

You’ll need a reasonable fitness level to participate in this trip, regardless of whether to choose to hike.

If you can walk for 4-5 hours – ie 10-14km – at a moderate pace on undulating terrain, you’ll be fine. All activities are optional, meaning that if you don’t feel like it, you can skip it but it will be impossible to enjoy this trip if you’re not able to do a walking tour that lasts for a full afternoon, for example. (better to be honest!)

The longest hiking day involves 5.5 hours of walking. It’s not a race, though, and we’ll take as long as needed. If you’re not confident with your fitness, we’d recommend doing training hikes in your local area so you come to this trip ready to rock!

Frequently Asked Questions

You need to make a deposit of $1200 to hold your spot using a Visa or Mastercard. Contact us if you want to pay via bank deposit. From there, you need to pay the final balance of the trip more than 95 days in advance. (This is not for our benefit: our suppliers require upfront payment well in advance to guarantee availability).

You can pay with Card (fees apply) or with Bank Deposit. Note: prior to the payment of your full balance, the final price may change if there is significant variation in the AUD:USD exchange rate. Please refer to the full terms and conditions.

This trip is sadly not appropriate for those who need to use walking aids. You need to be able to walk up and down steep slopes unaided.

You have a strong sense of balance.

You’ll need a reasonable fitness level to participate in this trip, regardless of whether to choose to hike.

If you can walk for 4-5 hours – ie 10-14km – at a moderate pace on undulating terrain, you’ll be fine. Hiking days will involve uphill/downhill walking, but not extreme. All activities are optional, meaning that if you don’t feel like it, you can skip it.

Airfares are not included. We recommend Flight Centre!

No – we struggled to get enough space as it is! 🙁

Don’t try to bring local money. If you want to bring cash, don’t bring AUD; USD is preferred.

Our guide will assist you to change money while on the ground. In all major cities, there are ATMs where you can easily take money out! We’ll regularly communicate with you to let you know when you’re headed into an area without much money available.

The exceptions are Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. You’ll have ample opportunity to get cash before entering these countries.

Private transport in nearly all cases.

Modern, spacious, comfortable, air-conditioned. Our hand-picked local drivers are safe, experienced, and friendly.

There’s no need to wear hijab, but we do encourage you be a bit more conservative in general. Our typical recommendation is to cover shoulders and knees. Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are more conservative than the other countries. You’ll be provided with a headscarf if you need one.

Feel free to bring your bathers, as there will be limited opportunities to be swim.

Some days do involve long stretches of driving and you need to be the kind of person who enjoys road trips. Any such necessary long drives are offset by photo stops, picnic lunches, roadside pitstops, tea/coffee breaks, and of course seeing points of interest, leg-stretching walks.

Our vehicles are comfortable, well-maintained, and not prone to breaking down.

You’re visiting the Stans at the perfect time, with warm days and cool evenings. The potential for days over 30 is real, however, so be ready with layers. Rain showers are not uncommon; please come prepared.

On the long driving days, it’s recommended to wear blouses with long sleeves and pants for your comfort. For cool mornings and evenings, we recommend you bring at least one warm jacket or sweater, and a light sweater.

Comfortable hiking shoes are fine, no need for boots. Please be ready to dress conservatively in general but on hiking days, dress how you please.

Fixed Line Internet & Wi-Fi Internet access will be available in nearly all hotels. However, in Kyrgyzstan, it’ll be restricted to larger towns and villages which you will have the opportunity to

pass through every few days. In the countryside, you’ll have little access. If you must stay in reach, speak with your guide about getting a local sim card. Turkmenistan is highly restrictive but state-owned internet cafes do exist, and do work.

Fully non-refundable deposit of $1200 to confirm your spot. Trip payment is due 95 days or more before the departure. 50% cancellation fee any cancellations 60 or more days prior. 100% cancellation fee for any cancellation closer to the trip. If we cancel, we will refund 100% of your trip payment.

 

 

 

We recommend flying through Dubai, both for arriving to Bishkek and leaving Ashgabat. If you join the Iran trip, you’ll be taken to the Iran-Turkmen border where you’ll be met by a local guide who will drive you to nearby Masshad airport to fly to Tehran. Stay in Masshad, too, if you wish. If you book both trips, your transfer cost from Ashgabat to Tehran will be included (less visa cost.)

YES! We can easily accommodate vegetarian, vegan and gluten free diets no problems, or any variation of the above. Just let us know in advance. Note: this food will be simple and may get repetitive. We cannot cater for those with severe food/gluten allergies; the risks of commingling are ever-present. We cannot cater for those with severe nut allergies. Any other medical conditions get in touch.

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