To the Heart of Silk Road
This fascinating cultural-informative tour runs across four countries of Caucasus and Central Asia: Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan - four countries of ancient culture and rich history; four countries of green valleys, snowy picks and sultry deserts, where the sunlight is bright and dazzling, where water is life itself, and where hospitable and kind people are resided. During the tour you will familiarize yourself with magnificent and breathtaking nature of Caucasus, will taste genuine Georgian vine, stop by the fairytale Palace of Sheki khans in Azerbaijan, and visit the relics and monuments of oriental architecture in Uzbekistan, the palaces of ancient rulers of Turkmenistan and many other sites. Immerse yourself in the oriental world with its unorthodox and sight captivating architecture, ancient monuments, abound antique shops and handicraft workshops. Visit the cities which are colored with bright colors of national dress and stirring and inflaming dances, and take delight in the rich cuisine of these people of original culture.
Saturday Day 1
Arrival to Tbilisi international airport. (Arrival at 16:25 TK382) Check-in at Tbilisi Hotel
Sunday Day 2
Breakfast in hotel. Walking tour 3 hours. Sites to visit: Metekhi Church (13thc) - cross-domed church. The grave of St. Shushaniki. Narikala Fortress (4thc) – main citadel of the city. Sulphur baths - a favorite place of Tbilisi citizens and foreign guests. Sioni Cathedral (6th-7thcc) - St. Nino’s Cross is preserved here. Anchiskhati (6thc) - one of the most ancient basilicas. Lunch in Café. Georgian Museum of Arts - unique collection of Georgian art works of different periods, paintings by outstanding Georgian artists of the 19 and 20th cc. (Niko Pirosmani, D. Kakabadze, L. Gudiasvili, etc.). Ancient icons, cloisonné enamel works, chased icons and jewelers are exhibited in the treasury. Mount Mtatsminda (the Holy Mountain) - architectural and artistic symbol of Tbilisi, with the church of Father David, pantheon of famous writers and public figures. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Monday Day 3
Breakfast and drive to ancient town Mtskheta. Sites to visit: Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (1010-1029) – the most significant illustration of Georgian culture, art, and architecture. Samtavro (11th-13thc) - monastery complex Jvari Church (6th –7th cc) – masterpiece of the early Medieval Period. Lunch in Mtskheta restaurant Uplistsikhe (Georgia "the lord's fortress") is an ancient rock-hewn town in eastern Georgia, some 10 kilometers east of the town of Gori. Built on a high rocky left bank of the Mtkvari River, it contains various structures dating from the Early Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages, and is notable for the unique combination of various styles of rock-cut cultures from Anatolia and Iran, as well as the co-existence of pagan and Christian architecture. The Ateni Sioni Church is an early 7th-century Georgian Orthodox church. It stands in a setting of the Tana River valley known not only for its historical monuments but also for its picturesque landscapes and wine. Sioni is a domed cruciform church with the façade furnished with carved quadrangle greenish-gray stones, rich decorated ornaments and relief. Drive back to Tbilisi and overnight.
Tuesday Day 4
Breakfast, Check-out at Tbilisi hotel and Drive to Kakheti. Sites to visit: David Gareja Monastery complex - was founded in the 6th century by David (St. David Garejeli), one of the thirteen Assyrian monks who arrived in the country at the same time. The complex includes hundreds of cells, churches, chapels, refectories and living quarters hollowed out of the rock face. Sighnaghi Town - The town is walled with the remnants of 18th-century fortifications. There are two Georgian Orthodox churches in the town itself - one dedicated to St. George and the other to St. Stephen. Lunch in Sighnaghi The Bodbe Monastery of St Nino - According to Georgian tradition, St. Nino, having witnessed the conversion of Georgians to the Christian faith, withdrew to the Bodbe gorge, where she died c. 338-340 Drive to Telavi. Check –in Chateau “Mere” Overnight in Chateau Wednesday
Breakfast and starting the tour. Sites to visit: The Ikalto monastery - was founded by Saint Zenon, one of the 13 Syrian Fathers, in the late 6th century. The Academy of Ikalto trained its students in theology, rhetoric, astronomy, philosophy, geography, geometry chanting but also more practical skills such as pottery making, metal work, viticulture and wine making and pharmacology. According to a legend the famous 12th century Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli studied there. Alaverdi Monastery (11th c) - the symbol of the blossoming of Georgian culture. It used to be the second highest church among the orthodox churches in the world. Patriarch's wine cellar is located in Alaverdi complex. Lunch in Telavi Gremi Monastery Complex - is a 16th-century architectural monument – the royal citadel and the Church of the Archangels. Gremi was the capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti in the 16th and 17th centuries. Final Dinner and wine tasting (free of charge) Dinner plan: Cutting pork in pieces spit the pieces and roast on fine from vine trees; Distributing the wine from special wine cellar "Churi" and tasting it at the place; Drinking as much wine as you can. Overnight in Chateau Thursday.
Day 6 Breakfast.
Drive to Azerbaijan border (takes hour and half). Lagodekhi – Sheki Meeting time on Georgian Azerbaijan 11:00 (Georgian time) Border formalities, transport and guide change. Drive to Sheki. Sheki is one of the most famous and ancient places of Azerbaijan. Situated 700 m (2297 ft.) above sea level like an amphitheatre surrounded by the mountains and forests of oak trees, this ancient city was long famed as a silk centre and an important stop on the Great Silk Route. There is an assumption that the name of the town goes back to the ethnonym of the Saks, who reached the territory of Azerbaijan in the 7th century BC. We'll start our Sheki tour from visiting the 18th century Khan's summer palace with magnificent frescos (calls Shebeke) and exquisite stained glass work. Sheki History museum is famous with artifacts from several periods. During the tour visiting of Shebeke Workshop, Pahlava Workshop and Carpet Workshop ( if possible) .Free Time. Overnight in Sheki.
Friday Day 7
Sheki / Kish / Lahij ( 180km / 3,5 hours on the way)
After breakfast visit the Albanian church located in Kish village. Legend says that the church was built in 78 AD, but the researchers place it a few centuries later. Then drive to famous Lahij village in Ismayilly district. Many of the 2,000 people living in Lahij are involved in ancient crafts such as engraved copper work and carpet weaving. In the mid-19th century, there were more than 200 workshops in Lahij. Traders discovered Lahij crafts many centuries ago, and sold them for high prices at bazaars in Baghdad [now Iraq], Shiraz [now Iran] and other Middle Eastern cities. Stop by a copper workshop for a impromptu lesson in ancient craftsmanship you'll get to see coppersmiths use small mallets to decorate plates, trays, jugs, goblets and pitchers, just as their ancestors have done for centuries. Free time. Overnight in Lahij.
Saturday Day 8
Lahij / Shamakhy / Baku ( 200km / 3,5 hours on the way)
After breakfast drive to Shamakhy district. Visit the town of Shemakha, Diri Baba Tomb and Yeddi Gumbez. Shemakha was the capital of Shirvan Kingdom for several centuries. Yeddi Gumbaz (The Seven Cupolas) Mausoleum is the burial place for members of the royal families of the Shirvan shahs. Continue to Baku. Arrive and check-in to the hotel. Then follows the visiting of the old city Icheri Sheher ( means Inner city). It was called the inner after the oil boom of the middle of the XIX century when the city stopped to hold in defense walls and left its limit. Several tens of the historical- architectural monuments at the same time the Shirvanshah Palace, the symbol of Baku city The Maiden Tower, the place of merchants rest Caravansary are concentrated in the Icheri Sheher, with the square of 22 hectares. Icheri Sheher is the live organism which has its own infrastructure and inhabited files. The place where 1300 families are living. In a word it is an ancient city in the modern city. Evening walk along the central streets of the city and updated fountain square, shopping. Free time. Overnight in Baku.
Sunday Day 9
Baku / Gobustan / Absheron Peninsula (total 200 km, 3,5 hours on the way)
Excursion to art- historical reserve Gobustan, where the petro glyphic drawings, barrows and housing objects have been remained which are dated from X – VIII centuries B.C. up to average centuries. The certificates of the Stone Age citizens and another periods, petro glyphic drawings, the human parking and the gravestone monuments are concentrated in Gobustan. Not far from there is *gavan chalan dash* is original tambourine-stone, like a huge flat wise plate. Rhythmical accurate motives could be taken from it by the percussion. It is considered that ritual dancing's and ceremonies were accompanied by these sounds. The visiting of Gobustan will transfer you to another world, the world of the past mankind and will let you to feel the atmosphere of the thousand-year history of this place. Visiting the temple of the fire worshippers Ateshgah and burning mountain *Yanar dag*. Ateshgah means the House of Fire, place of fire. The territory of this temple is known for unique nature phenomenon as the burning exits of the natural gas. The temple of fire is of the main places where the ancient supporters of Zoroaster religion worshipped there to the fire. In The museum complex Ateshgah you will be told about the life way Zaraustra worshippers and also about the traditions and the customs which they adhered. Excursion to Yanar Dag. You can see here nature phenomenon, incessant burning nature gas on the rock which named to the Yanar Dag reserve the burning rock. As the historians say, maybe this place gave the name “Land of Fire” to Azerbaijan. Farewell dinner. Free Time. Overnight in Baku. End of tour in Azerbaijan.
Monday Day 10
Departure to Tashkent, Uzbekistan Itinerary: Tashkent - Samarkand – Bukhara.
Arrival to Tashkent (HY 756) - the capital of Uzbekistan. Transfer to the hotel and accommodation. 16:00-19:00 Tashkent city tour. Old part of the city: City tour around Tashkent: "New Tashkent Television Tower" - the highest in Central Asia - 375 m, "Memorial to the Victims of Repression" - the memorial complex and museum, "Monument of Courage" - the epicenter of Tashkent earthquake of 1966 (1976 y). Old part of the city: the architectural complex "Khazret-Imam" incl. necropolis of imam Abu Bakr Muhammad al-Kaffal Shashi who was one of the first Muslim imams and a famous divine and poet (16th c), "Barak-khan Medressa" - built by Suyunidj-khan - the first ruler of the Uzbek dynasty of the Sheibanid's (16th c), "Tellya Sheikh Medressa" also called "Khast Imom Mosque" where Osman Quran - the world's oldest is kept (19th c), "Mui-Mubarak Medressa (19th c)", "Juma Mosque" (15-19th cc), Imam Ismail al Bukhari Islamic Institute - a two year post-medressa academy, "Hadra" square, "Kukeldash Medressa" ("Foster brother") - was built by Kukekdash - the vizier of Tashkent khans (16th c), "Jami Mosque"- the third biggest mosque in Uzbekistan, "Chorsu" - oriental bazaar, "National park", "Abdulkasim Medressa" which now is the centre for traditional arts with attractive souvenirs by local artisans (19th c). 19:00-20:00 Dinner at local restaurant. Overnight in Tashkent.
Tuesday Day 11
TASHKENT - SAMARKAND
06:30 Breakfast in hotel.
07:00 Transfer to the rail way station for departure to Samarkand.
08:00 Departure by fast train “Afrosiyob” to Samarkand.
10:30 Arrival to Samarkand and hotel accommodation.
12:00-13:00 Lunch at local restaurant
11:00-19:00 City tour: Gur Emir Mausoleum - Tamerlane’s tomb (14-15th c.) that was built for Temur's grandson Muhammad-Sultan and the tombs of three other Temurids - sons of Temur - Miranshah and Shahruh and his grandson Ulugbek, Ruhabad Mausoleum ("House of Spirit") - the legend says that under the dome there is a box with seven hairs of Prophet Muhammad (14th c.), Registan Square ("A sandy place") - the major square of Samarkand: Ulugbeg Medressa - Sheikh Khodja Akhrar and poet Djami were among outstanding graduates of the medressa (15th c.), Sher-Dor Medressa ("Having tigers") (17th c.), Tillya-Kari Medressa ("Coated by gold") - the rich gilding on the dome, walls and mihrab surpassed all other famous buildings in Central Asia (17th c.).
- Wine tasting at wine factory name of Khovrenko
- Theater of historical costumes “El Merosi”
19:00-20:00 Dinner at local restaurant Overnight in Samarkand.
Wednesday Day 12
SAMARKAND – BUKHARA
08:00 Breakfast in hotel.
09:00-12:00 City tour: The mosque named after Hazret-Hyzr - an Islamic saint and eternal wanderer. He was esteemed as giving richness and good luck in far voyages and trade (19th c.), cathedral mosque Bibi-Khanym that was named after the oldest wife of Tamerlan (14th c.), the architectural complex Shahi-Zinda (Alive king) - necropolis on the slope of the Afrosiab hill is connected with Kusam ibn Abbas - the cousin of Prophet Muhammad (11-15th c), Siab bazaar. Free time to spend at leisure. Overnight in the capital of Tamerlane's Empire. Visit a workshop for making silk paper
12:00-13:00 Lunch at local restaurant
13:00 Transfer to Bukhara (268 km., 4.5 hrs).
17:30 Arrival to Bukhara and hotel accommodation.
18:00-19:00 Visit the ancient baths “Hamam”
19:00-19:30 Visit the tea house
19:30-20:30 Dinner at local restaurant Overnigth in Bukhara.
Thursday Day 13
09:00 City tour: mausoleum of the Samanids - the most ancient brick building in Central Asia, a masterpiece of world architecture (9-10th c.), the mausoleum of Chashma Ayub that belongs to esteemed "places of trace" left by saints (14th c). The legend says that once the bible prophet Job (Ayub) visited this place. Visit to the museums of Imam Al Bukhari and "The Museum of Water". Bolo-Houz Mosque - the only monument of medieval Bukhara (beg. of 20th c), Ark - the center of Bukhara statehood (4th c BC), silk carpet shops, complex Poi Kalon ("Beneath the Great"): Kalyan Minaret - the main symbol of sacred Bukhara that symbolized authority and power of spiritual governors. (12th c), Kalyan Mosque - its area of 130 x 80 m surpasses Bibi-Khanym mosque in Samarkand, Miri Arab Madrassah - active madrassah is one of the most esteemed spiritual Islamic universities (16th c), Taki Zargaron - the dome of jewelers (15-16th cc), Ulugbeg Madrassah - one of the 3 madrassahs constructed by grandson of Tamerlan - Ulugbeg (15th c), Abdulaziz-khan Madrassah - a traditional madrassah with 2 floors of hudjras and a mosque on the central axis ( mid. of 17th c), Tim of Abdullah-Khan madrassah (1588-1590), atlas shops, Magoki-Attari Mosque - the most ancient mosque in Bukhara (12th c) is considered a masterpiece of Bukhara architecture, Khanaka and madrassah of Nadir Divan-Beghi - a massive rectangular structure that was a place for the refuge and meditation of Sufis (17th c), Kukeldash Madrassah (16th c) - one of the biggest Bukhara madrassah, Lyabi-Hauz ensemble - the largest artificial reservoir of medieval Bukhara - is very popular among travelers (14-17th cc), Chor Minor ("Four minarets") is an unusual madrassah built by Caliph Niyazkul (18th c).
19:00-20:00 Farewell dinner at madrassah Nadir Divan - Beghi Overnight in Bukhara.
Friday Day 14 BUKHARA
08:00 Breakfast in hotel.
09:00 Transfer to the Turkmen border Farab (100 km, 2 hrs)
Friday Day 14
Farab – Mary
Meet the guide at Alat / Farab border of Uzbekistan/Turkmenistan. Complete border formalities. Drive to Mary. Lunch in Turkmenabat. En-route visit Ancient Merv (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the biggest archaeological/architectural site of Central Asia. ). One of the major archaeological sites of Central Asia, Merv played an important part in the development of the Silk Road for more than 2 000 years. Within the limits of the archaeological park, which is 1200 ha, we will have a chance to observe all constituent parts of the “wandering city”. A series of adjacent cities, which can be roughly divided into the ancient (Erk Kala and Gyaur Kala), the medieval (Sultan Kala with its suburbs), and post-medieval (Abdulla-Khan Kala and Bayram-Ali-Khan Kala), appeared in the course of time as a token of the natural progress of the city from initial stages of its existence to a more advanced level. Besides remnants of the cities of Merv, we will visit the VI-IX cc. AD forts of Big and Little Kyz-Kalas, excellent examples of the so-called corrugated Koshks; the splendid XII c. mausoleums of Sultan Sanjar and Muhammed ibn-Zeyd, demonstrating exquisite Seljuk period brickwork and architectural décor. If time and enthusiasm permits, it is possible to visit several more interesting spots within the site On arrival in Mary, transfer to hotel Margush/Dayanch3* for overnight.
Saturday Day 15
Mary – Ashgabat
Morning transfer to airport for flight to Ashgabat. On arrival in Ashgabat visit Tolkuchka Sunday market (THU, SAT, SUN). Then explore the “Pearl of Central Asia”. We visit the Park of independence with its independence monument, and Neutrality Square, famous for its Arch of Neutrality topped by a rotating gold-plated statue of the first President of Turkmenistan, and Earthquake monument dedicated to the victims of the 1948 earthquake. Check in hotel. Lunch in a local restaurant. After lunch continue sightseeing, including a visit to Anau ruins and the National Carpet Museum.. Overnight at Grand Turkmen/Ak Altyn hotel 4*.
Sunday Day 16
Morning visit the fortress of Old Nisa (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the earliest residence and capital of Parthian kings. Abandoned at the end of the Parthian period, Old Nisa conveyed its functions to New Nisa, another archaeological site located a couple of kilometers to the west of it, an important medieval Silk Road city. From Old Nisa we return to Ashgabat to visit the National Museum of History and Ethnography (more than 327.000 objects on a display) exhibiting exclusive ancient artifacts from different historical & archeological sites of Turkmenistan Then we proceed to Kipchak village to visit a complex of the biggest mosque in Turkmenistan and the family mausoleum of the first President. Later on we will visit stud farm to see races of world-famous Akhal-Tekke horses. Farewell dinner. Overnight at Grand Turkmen/Ak Altyn hotel.
Monday Day 17
Morning transfer to airport for departure home. See off. End of tour.