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23 days, 5 countries, 4 border crossings and endless UNESCO sites, this epic journey across Central Asia is designed to satisfy the wanderlust of the most intrepid traveller. Not for the faint of heart, explore the rarely visited corners of the five Stans, immersing yourself in nomadic culture and rich silk road history.
Spend a night under canvas in a traditional yurt, surrounded by dramatic gorges and the picturesque Issyk Kul Lake in Kyrgyzstan, continue to Tajikistan, a wild and forgotten corner of the globe with a fascinating history, and discover colourful bazaars, UNESCO sites and architectural gems in Uzbekistan. Travel through Central Asia on the Golden Eagle Train and marvel at the dramatic, changing landscapes of each destination.
For those who don’t have the luxury of time, all the countries in this itinerary can be visited as a standalone destination, or you can combine two or three for a memorable adventure.
Blue domed mosques and ancient silk road cities are the shining stars in Uzbekistan, offering visitors a snapshot into a time of epic trading journeys between Asia and Europe. Combine Uzbekistan with any of the other Stans for a two week adventure.
Did you know: Although not a destination thought of for its wildlife, the Nuratau Mountains Nature Reserve is a region rich in Uzbek culture, as well as being home to over 300 species of bird and the endangered, wild Argali sheep.
The spectacular landscapes of Kyrgyzstan are best admired on horseback or on foot. Snow-capped mountain peaks lead to ancient walnut forests and glaciers, giving way to open plains dotted with wild flowers, nomadic encampments and gleaming blue mountain lakes. Combine Kyrgyzstan with Uzbekistan to explore UNESCO sites and majestic scenery.
Did you know: Kyrgyzstan is home to the 2nd largest high altitude lake in the world; camp on its shores under the curved canvas of a traditional yurt beneath star packed skies.
It may be the smallest of the Central Asian countries, but there is nothing diminutive about the impact Tajikistan has on its visitors. The Pamir Highway is a byword for wild and remote, visited by only a few intrepid travellers each year. Hospitable people, lively markets and spectacular mountain landscapes have seen no significant change since the early days of the silk route. Combine Tajikistan with Kyrgyzstan and fully immerse yourself in Central Asian culture.
Did you know: Mountains cover over 90% of Tajikistan. A journey along the Pamir Highway, one of the highest altitude highways in the world, delivers 1,250 km of spectacular landscapes.
With borders recently re-opened, visitors can once again explore Turkmenistan, a country where local hospitality is the stuff of legends. Take a journey through time, combining the glittering wealth of the cities with the vastness of the Kara Kum Desert and the ancient oasis town of Merv. Turkmenistan combines perfectly with Uzbekistan for an outstanding two-week Stans trip.
Did you know: The Kara Kum Desert covers around 70% of Turkmenistan and amidst this sea of sand lies Darvaza crater; a 70 metre gas cavity that has been burning for over 40 years. A surreal site that lights up the desert sky!
The unexplored wilds of Kazakhstan sit at a crossroads of some of the world’s oldest civilisations. The north offers vast deserts and sweeping steppes, where traditional Kazakh life still thrives, whereas in the south you will see evidence of its silk road history. Combine Kazakhstan with Uzbekistan to dive deeper into the rich silk road history of Central Asia.
Did you know: Kazakhstan is the birthplace of the Tulip. In spring, the high pastures become a riot of colour as the flowers bloom against the backdrop of snow-capped peaks – a photographer’s dream.
When to travel to Central Asia
Due to the varying landscapes across the region, there can be dramatic changes in the climate. In general, the best time to visit is spring and autumn, between April and June and again from September to late October, when days are dry and temperatures warm. Visit in May to experience the Silk and Spice festival in Bukhara, or visit in September for Kokand’s Handicrafter festival, which is similar to Bukhara’s Silk and Spice festival. If you are looking to visit the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan, make sure to visit between mid-June to mid-September.