5 Stans and Caucasus Tour
Explore the best of Central Asia on this 34 day 5 Stans and Caucasus Tour.
Route: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia.
Day 1 & 2: Departure from JFK to Almaty
Day 3: Arrive Almaty (Kazakhstan)
Welcome to Central Asia! Upon arrival to Almaty International Airport, we will meet you and transfer to hotel for rest after your flight. The rest of the day is at your leisure!!! Overnight in Almaty.
Day 4: Almaty (Kazakhstan) [B,L,D]
Breakfast at hotel. Full day of sightseeing in Almaty: visit Panfilov Park, Zenkov (wooden constructed) Cathedral, St. Nicholas Cathedral, National Musical Instruments Museum, Central State Museum, Almaty Green Bazaar, Panoramic view from Kok Tobe. Overnight in Almaty.
Day 5: Almaty – Bishkek (Kazakhstan/Kyrgyzstan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, depart Almaty and drive to Bishkek via a newly built highway. In route watch the natural landscapes. Afternoon arrival at Bishkek. Check into the hotel. In the afternoon sightseeing of Bishkek: visit Central Museum (museum is closed for reconstruction), Independence Square, Philharmonic Square, University Boulevard, and TSUM. Overnight in Bishkek.
Day 6: Bishkek – Issyk Kul Lake – Karakol (Kyrgyzstan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, you drive to Karakol town situated in the east of the lake area, at the foot of the most picturesque mountains of Tian Shan. The way passes along the south shore of Issyk Kul. Follow the way along the shore of Issyk Kul Lake until the town of Karakol. On the way stop in yurt maker’s village Kyzyl Tuu and visit yurt masters home. Visit Djety Oguz canyon on the way. Djety Oguz in Kyrgyz means “Seven Bulls”. This picturesque gorge is named so because of the red rocky sand formations covered with forests of Tien Shan Spruces. Overnight in Karakol.
Day 7: Karakol – Cholpon Ata (Kyrgyzstan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, you start city-tour in Karakol: visit the wooden Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral. It was completed in 1895 and used as an officers’ club during Soviet Times; it is now restored and in use again as a church. There is also a small section of Russian Colonial ‘gingerbread’ style residential buildings. Also, you visit a wooden mosque, built entirely without nails by Chinese Artisans between 1907 and 1910 for the local Dungans (Muslims of Chinese origin who fled China during the aftermath of the XIX Century Hui Minorities’ War). Next visit is to the Museum of Nikolay M. Prjevalskiy, the outstanding Russian Explorer of The Asian Continent. Drive to the city of Cholpon Ata, situated in the Northern shore of Issyk Kul Lake. Upon arrival to Cholpon Ata, visit a Petroglyphs site, the temple in the open air of Scythians and Hungsuns civilizations in VIII to IX Century B.C. until, III to IV Century A.D. Overnight in Cholpon Ata.
Day 8: Cholpon Ata – Bishkek – Tashkent (Kyrgyzstan/Uzbekistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast transfer back to Bishkek. In route visit Burana Tower historical complex in Tokmok District, which used to be center of Karakhanid Kingdom Culture. Lunch on the way in local restaurant or local family. Continue drive to Bishkek, Manas Airport to take flight to Tashkent. Upon arrival immigration and customs clearance. Meet outside of arrival hall. Overnight in Tashkent.
Day 9: Tashkent (Uzbekistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast we start with a full day of sightseeing in Tashkent, visit the old part of the city – Khast Imam Complex as well as possessing a rich Islamic Library with immense Osman Koran of the VII Century, Chorsu Bazaar, Kukeldash Madrasah. Afternoon visit Independence (Mustakillik) Square with governmental buildings, A. Navoi Theater Square, A. Temur Museum and Square. Overnight in Tashkent.
Day 10: Tashkent – Samarkand (Uzbekistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast we will transfer to the railway station for the bullet train AFROSIYOB to Samarkand. Upon arrival to Samarkand start tour of “Rome of the East” visiting: Registan Square, Gur Emir Mausoleum, Bibi – Khanum Mosque and Central Bazaar in Samarkand, Afrosiyob Museum, and Museum of Ulugbek Observatory, Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis. Overnight in Samarkand.
Day 11: Samarkand – Shakhrisabz – Samarkand (Uzbekistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast we transfer to Shakhrisabz, hometown of Great Tamerlane, arrival to Shakhrisabz: visit remains of Ak-Saray Palace, Kok-Gumbaz Mosque, Khazrati Imom Ensemble. After sightseeing Shakhrisabz depart back to Samarkand and visit Paper Mills. Overnight in Samarkand.
Day 12: Samarkand – Bukhara (Uzbekistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast we drive to Bukhara via Gijduvan. In route visit remains of Caravanserai and Sardoba, a water reservoir. Excursion to Gijduvan – famous pottery house. Upon arrival in Bukhara we check in to the hotel, then a sightseeing tour in Bukhara: Kalon ensemble, Madrasah Miri-Arab, Magoki-Attori Mosque, Chashma-Ayub, Madrasah Ulugbek and Abdulaziz Khan, Kosh Madrasah, Trade Domes, Lyabi Hauz Complex, Madrasah Chor – Minor. Overnight in Bukhara.
Day 13: Bukhara (Uzbekistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast we continue sightseeing in Bukhara: summer palace of Bukhara, Emirs Sitora-i-Mokhi Khosa, Necropolis Chor Bark, burial of Sheikhs and Royal family members, Complex of Baha-ud-Din Naqshband, place of locals to worship, visit Samanid Dynasty Mausoleum, Ark Fortress. Overnight in Bukhara.
Day 14: Bukhara – Turkmenabat – Mary (Uzbekistan/Turkmenistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast we depart from Bukhara and drive to the Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan border point in Farab. Border formalities on both sides, crossing the border and meeting your Turkmenistan guide. Drive to Mary via Turkmenabat and Merv (4.5 hrs.). Upon arrival, a tour of Merv which was located at the crossroads of Great Silk Road and quickly became one of most important and biggest cities of the Ancient World. Sightseeing will include: Gyz Gala and Oglan Gala, Complex of Askhabs, Gyaur Gala, Erk Gala, Soltan Gala, Soltan Sanjar Mausoleum, Ibn Zeid Mausoleum. Overnight in Mary.
Day 15: Mary – Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast we will transfer you to the airport for your flight to Ashgabat. Visit Ashgabat famous Oriental Bazaar, Hippodrome of Ashgabat, Arch of Neutrality, Presidential Square, Gulistan Bazaar, Monument of Lenin, Ertogrul Gazy Mosque, National Museum of History & Ethnography Excursion to Nisa (Visit Old Nisa Ruins), discover Kopet Dag Mountains, Turkmenbashi Spiritual Mosque. Afternoon sightseeing of Monument of Independence and Ruhnama. Overnight in Ashgabat.
Day 16: Ashgabat – Dashoguz – Kunya Urgench – Nukus (Turkmenistan/Uzbekistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, we will transfer you to the airport for flight to Dashoguz. Arrival to Dashoguz, transfer to Kunya Urgench (120 km/1.5 hrs.). Sightseeing tour in Kunya Urgench: visit Portal of Caravanserai, Mamur Minaret, II Arslan Mausoleum, Sultan Tekesh Mausoleum, Academy of Khorezm, Kutlug Timur Minaret, Turabek Hanum Mausoleum. After sightseeing, return to Dashoguz and transfer to border crossing. Border formalities on both sides. Enter Uzbekistan and drive to Nukus, in route visit the oldest Necropolis Mizda Khan and remains of Gaur Kala Fort. Overnight in Nukus.
Day 17: Nukus – Kala – Khiva (Uzbekistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast we tour in Nukus, capital of Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan, visit the Savitskiy State Museum, a collection of over 95,000 pieces including fine arts, applied Karakalpak Folk Art, and ancient art from the region of Khorezm. After lunch we drive to the ruins of Toprak Kala from the Kushan period, built in the II and III Centuries. Next, stop is Kizil Kala, a frontier fortress from the Kang Kuyi period. Last will be Ayaz Kala, the Fort of Wind, built in early A.D. Overnight in Khiva.
Day 18: Khiva – Urgench – Tashkent (Uzbekistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, a full day of sightseeing of Khiva: visit Ichan Qala Fortress – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where monuments Alla Kuli Khan Madrassah, Muhammad Amin Khan Madrasah, Kalta Minor, Pakhlavan Mahmud Mausoleum, Islam Khodja Minaret, Juma Mosque, Tosh Hovli and other monuments are located. Evening transfer to Airport in Urgench for your flight to Tashkent. Overnight in Tashkent.
Day 19: Tashkent – Khujand (Uzbekistan/Tajikistan) [B,L,D]
After early breakfast, we’ll head on to a 2-day excursion of Tajikistan. We’ll drive to the border of Oybek and after border crossing formalities, we’ll continue to the city of Khujand. Khujand – the country’s second largest city – situated in the north of Tajikistan and is one of its most ancient, founded about 2,300 years ago during the time of Alexander the Great. Standing in a favorable location in the Ferghana Valley, Khujand prospered for a long time, becoming rich and building palaces, mosques, and citadels. In the XIII Century, it was conquered and destroyed by the Genghis Khan’s Army. We’ll have a close city tour in second part of the day, and end the day with dinner at a local restaurant followed by a show program. Overnight in Khujand.
Day 20: Khujand – Tashkent (Tajikistan/Uzbekistan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, we’ll continue sightseeing in Khujand: visit ancient part of Khujand, Timur Malik Fortress, Archaeology, History Museums, and Orient Bazaar Panjshanbe – famous Panjshanbe City Market is one of the most interesting sights of Khujand. Near the market, we’ll stop by Sheikh Muslihiddin Mosque and Mausoleum, Museum of Archaeology. We’ll have lunch at the local restaurant and in the afternoon transfer back to Tashkent via the Oybek border. Overnight in Tashkent.
Day 21: Tashkent (Uzbekistan) [B]
Today enjoy a free day at leisure in Tashkent!!! It is a great opportunity to shop for last minute gifts or to relax before starting your “Best of Caucasus” tour.
Day 22: Tashkent – Baku (Uzbekistan/Azerbaijan) [B]
After breakfast we will transfer you to the Tashkent Airport for your short flight to Baku. Upon arrival, you will be met at the airport by our driver and enjoy a panoramic tour of the city on the way to your hotel. Overnight in Baku.
Day 23: Baku (Azerbaijan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, we begin our tour with a guided city tour, viewed from a height of the Upland Park, which clearly gives an idea of the contrasts and scale of the city that covers Baku Bay as a horseshoe. The town is in the shape of an amphitheater, descending to the Caspian Sea. The tour covers the central part of Baku showing of the most interesting historical and architectural sites, as well as visiting a favorite walking place for residents and guests – Baku Boulevard. Also, we will visit the “Old Town”, there are several dozen historical and architectural monuments are situated in its the territory, including the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, the symbol of Baku – Maiden Tower, places of rest and stay of medieval merchants – Caravanserai.
After lunch, we will visit to the Cultural Complex named after Heydar Aliyev, former President (Oct. 1993 to Oct. 2003). Many of those who first saw the design project of the center named after the former president, could not believe that such a project could ever come true. In fact, even in theory, the construction of a building complex with extraordinary design, looks far from being realistic. Overnight in Baku.
Day 24: Baku – Gobustan – Ateshgah – Gala – Baku (Azerbaijan) [B,L,D]
Gobustan, is a historical and an architectural reserve under the open sky with the unique cave paintings of Neolithic Times, which is 44 miles from Baku. There are more than 6,000 Petroglyphs (rock carvings) dated over 12,000 years old in Gobustan. The figures reflect the life of people in the Stone Age – hunting, recreation, dance, accompanied by the melodious sounds of “Gaval Dash” (a large rock with a deep resonant sound). Thanks to the huge rocks, there were formed many caves, which served as a refuge for ancient people and helped to survive during severe weather. Before the start of the tour to Gobustan we will visit the newly-built hi-tech museum of the same name. After lunch, we will have an excursion to the Temple of Fire Worshipers in Ateshgah.
The Temple of Fire Worshipers is ancient religious building, built on the site of natural gas output. This temple is a part of the Zoroastrian chronicles and symbolizes the cult of the Eternal Flame. In the former cells, were pilgrims from all over the world stayed, now the museum with unique exhibits is set up. Our last stop will be the Gala Village is about a 40-minutes’ drive from Baku. Earlier only few people knew about the village, but in recent years the popularity of this small village has become enormous. And the reason is simple, someone came up with a great idea to make an open-air museum at the place of the archaeological site. Entering the museum, you feel being dropped in the old days. The historic architectural monuments confirm that these places were ancient settlements of people. Overnight in Baku.
Day 25: Baku – Shamakhi – Maraza – Lahic – Sheki (Azerbaijan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, we drive to Shamakhi district. Visit the town of Shamakhi, Diri Baba Tomb and Yeddi Gumbaz. Shamakhi 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 Shirvanshahs. Visit famous Lahij Village in Ismayilli 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 XIX Century, there were more than 200 workshops in Lahij. Traders discovered Lahij crafts many centuries ago, and sold them for soaring 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 copper-smiths use small mallets to decorate plates, trays, jugs, goblets and pitchers, just as their ancestors have done for centuries. Lunch and dinner at local restaurants. Overnight in Sheki.
Day 26: Sheki (Azerbaijan) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, visit the Palace of Sheki Khans, dating back to XVIII AD, where the most outstanding and valuable monument of the XVIII Century is in Azerbaijan. Then drive to Kish Village, to visit the Albanian Church. Legend says that the church was built in 78 A.D., but the researchers place it a few centuries later. After lunch, visit the Sheki Bazaar and look at the various local handicrafts including scarves, unique boxes, a plethora of sweets, confections and local sweet bakery. Dinner and overnight in Sheki.
Day 27: Sheki – Lagodekhi – Telavi (Azerbaijan/Georgia) [B,L,D]
Arrive at the Georgia – Azerbaijan border in Lagodekhi. After border formalities meet with the guide and driver from Georgia, we will drive to Telavi – center of Kakheti Province. A visit to the Tsinandali Estate and the first winery founded by one of the famous poets and public figures Alexander Chavchavadze in XIX Century. Explore the site – garden, home museum, wine cellar, where oldest bottle of wine dates to 1814. Continue to local family, located close to the site. Taste homemade wine, master class of making churchkhela – Georgian traditional sweet, bread and lunch with the family. Drive to Telavi after lunch. Visit to Alaverdi Cathedral of XI Century and visit to the winery run by monks. Here you have a chance to have a brief introduction and lecture about the way of Georgian wine making and taste one of the best wines right from Qvevri – clay Jar. Overnight in Telavi.
Day 28: Telavi – Sighnaghi – Tbilisi (Georgia) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, drive to Sighnaghi – royal town surrounded by the defiance wall with 23 towers built by the king Erekle II in XVIII Century. The town had many gates through which Georgia was connected to Europe and Asia by various trade routes. Stroll through tiny and cozy streets of Sighnaghi and enjoy amazing view of Alazani Valley. Visit to local winery “Pheasant’s Tears” taste different types of Georgian wines and lunch, accompanied by Georgian folk singing. Drive to Tbilisi. Transfer to hotel for short rest. Evening sightseeing tour of Tbilisi – known as a capital of Georgia from the V Century, the city is extraordinary for its turbulent history, elegant and remarkable architecture, destroyed and restored through centuries but keeping entire style of the Georgian orthodox religion and traditions. Walk through the old city. Visit to Metekhi Church, dated XIII Century, Sulfur Baths, take a cable car up to Narikala Fortress, walkthrough oldest part of Tbilisi, along the Sharden and Erekle II streets. Dinner in Funicular restaurant located on the highest spot in Tbilisi, from where the view of the whole city opens. Enjoy Georgian meals and music performances. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Day 29: Tbilisi – Gori – Mtskheta – Tbilisi (Georgia) [B,L,D]
After breakfast we will drive to the Inner Kartli Province to the town of Gori – famous for being a birthplace of J. Stalin. Visit to Stalin’s Museum and house of birth in Gori. Excursion to Uplistsikhe Rock hewn known from 1st millennium B.C. – a complex of rock cut halls, temples, passage streets, wine pressers, tunnels where Hellenistic period is mixed together with early Christian Age, upper-and lower-class hierarchy dwellings. Lunch in local restaurant. After lunch we’ll drive to Mtskheta – old capital of Kartli, Iberia Kingdom known as a political and cultural center from III Century B.C. We’ll drive up to Jvari Monastery dated VI Century distinguished with harmonious proportions and representing the high achievements of early Georgian Medieval Architecture. Visit to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral – XI Century Architectural Monument. Reception in Vino Underground – here are gathered the best Georgian wines from all over Georgia. Dinner in a Georgian city restaurant. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Day 30: Tbilisi – Sadakhlo Border – Akhtala – Dilijan (Georgia/ Armenia) [B,L,D]
After breakfast, we will transfer you to the border, change guide and vehicle. Meeting at Sadakhlo in the Armenian/Georgian border at about 10:00 am and continue to the town of Akhtala. This area is famous for copper and silver mines, but your main point of attraction will be the half-ruined fortress of Akhtala which is more than 1,000 years old. Archaeological excavations have shown that the area has been occupied by human since the early Bronze Age. Lunch in a local restaurant tasting local Armenian Barbecue. Continue to Haghpat Monastery (976 A.D.), which is among the outstanding works of medieval Armenian architecture and are inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list. The complex used to be an educational center of the middle ages were most of Armenian scholars and scientists get their background education. Proceed to the resort town of Dilijan. The forested and reclusive city is home to numerous Armenian artists, composers, and filmmakers and features some traditional Armenian architecture. The Sharambeyan street in the center, has been preserved and maintained as an “old town,” complete with craftsman’s workshops, a gallery and a museum which might be interesting to explore while your leisure time in Dilijan. Overnight in Dilijan.
Day 31: Dilijan – Lake Sevan – Garni – Geghard – Yerevan (Armenia) [B,L,D]
After your nice rest in the forested area with fresh air in your lungs, you will start the tour to the high-mountainous Lake Sevan – the emerald of Armenia. It is the largest lake in Armenia and The Caucasus, and one of the largest fresh-water high-altitude lakes in the world. This huge mountain lake which takes a huge territory of Armenia’s surface area is about 1,900 meters above sea level. Sightseeing on Sevan Peninsula. Visit the Peninsula for the monastery and perfect views over the lake. Continue to Garni. Lunch at a local house in Garni where you will have opportunity to watch Armenian national bread “Lavash” baking and barbecue making process in the underground stove called “tonir”.
The citadel and pagan temple of Garni is a picturesque monument of the Hellenistic period and an impressive piece of ancient Armenian architecture. It was built in the first century A.D. by the Armenian King Tiridates and it is dedicated to a heathen god, probably to Mithra, the god of the sun whose figure stood in the depth of the sanctuary. After proclaiming Christianity as a state religion in Armenia in 301, the temple was probably used as a summer residence of the kings. Northeast of Garni, higher up the gorge of the Azat River, there is a magnificent monument of medieval Armenian architecture – Geghard Monastery inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage list. Welcome dinner in a traditional Armenian restaurant. Overnight in Yerevan.
Day 32: Yerevan City Tour – Etchmiadzin – Brandy Factory (Armenia) [B,L,D]
After breakfast we proceed to the town of Etchmiadzin which is about 12.5 miles from Yerevan is. Stop at the Ruins of Zvartnots Temple – the pearl of the VII Century Architecture (inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage list). We will see Etchmiadzin Cathedral and walk the Cathedral area (no entrance, closed for re-construction until 12/2019) and the is one of the oldest standing churches in Christendom. It was built in 303 A.D. over a pagan fire altar. The name Etchmiadzin means “descent of the Only Begotten”. It was believed to have been designated in a vision where Christ came to earth and struck the plains with a golden hammer. This landmark is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. We will then visit St. Hripsime Apostolic Church and the exhibit, which is one of the oldest churches in the country (UNESCO Site). Lunch in a local restaurant / house. Return to Yerevan to visit the famous Brandy Factory founded in 1887. During the International Exhibition in Paris in 1900, the brandy received the Grand-Prix and the legal right to be called ‘Cognac’, not ‘Brandy’. While the tours the visitors are offered to visit the museum of the factory. The bar offers tasting of various old and chateau sort of cognacs, which have mellow-velvety flavor endowed with a rich bouquet of chocolate-vanilla accents. Leisure time and farewell dinner in a traditional Armenian restaurant with live folk music. Overnight in Yerevan.
Day 33: Yerevan – Tbilisi (Armenia/Georgia) [B,L,D]
After breakfast we drive to the town of Ashtarak, visit the Church of Karmravor (VII Century). Participation in Folk Theater “Tonats Uyts”. Departure to the region of Lori. After lunch we drive to the border of Sadakhlo, crossing into Georgia. Overnight in Tbilisi.
Day 34: Departure From Tbilisi (Georgia) [B]