The Old Silk Road was collectively an ancient network of trade routes that were central to Cultural Interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West and East from China and India to the Mediterranean Sea. You can witness first-hand the sights, hardships, cultural diversity, and culinary delights that are unparalleled in this world.
We have also chosen a cooler autumn season for our visit to a section along this long Silk Road in Central Asia. We are making a journey from Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) to Osh and then onwards to Samarkand, Tashkent and Bukhara in Uzbekistan. You will be able to capture some of the awe-inspiring landscapes, people, and culture Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have to offer.
Photosafari has organised six journeys on the Old Silk Road in China and Central Asia on six different occasions.
We have journeyed from Xian to Hotan and Kashgar across the Taklimakan Desert from three different starting and ending points. This year in September 2020, we continued our journey from Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan to Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara in Uzbekistan.
- Brief description of the cities
Our journey on this Old Silk Road is the whole experience of the journey rather than the destination. Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia were part of USSR. USSR has since broken up and all these countries have obtained their independence and are now self-ruled.
Kyrgyz forms the majority of the 5.7 million population. The minorities are Uzbeks and Russians.
Kyrgyz are Muslims; hence, it is easy to find halal food along this journey.
Kyrgyz along the route are traditionally nomads. They move from place to place depending on the seasons and pastures. You will experience first-hand how nomads of Central Asia lives.
- Osh City
Osh is one of the oldest cities along the Old Silk Road with a history of about 3,000 years. It is a city where 250,000 people call home. Osh is a lively place with an outdoor market, Great Silk Road Bazaar. This bazaar is reputed to be the largest in Central Asia.
Osh used to serve as a centre of the Silk Trade Route from Kashgar to Central Asia through the Alay Mountains.
Uzbekistan is a landlocked country with a population of about 32 million people. It has an area of 447,400 sq km. It is bordered by Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakstan. Uzbekistan was part of the USSR. It has since obtained its independence. Majority of the people are Muslims.
Samarkand is one of the oldest inhabited cities in Central Asia. It was one of the main cities along the Silk Road and prospered during this period. The population is estimated to be about 300,000.
Samarkand became an important centre for the export of wine, dried and fresh fruits, cotton, rice, silk, and leather. The city’s industry is now based primarily on agriculture, with cotton ginning, silk spinning and weaving, fruit canning, and the production of wine, clothing, leather and footwear, and tobacco.
The Historic Centre of Bukhara, situated on the Silk Road, is more than two thousand years old. It is one of the best examples of well-preserved Islamic cities of Central Asia of the 10th to 17th centuries, with an urban fabric that has remained largely intact.
Bukhara was long an important economic and cultural center in Central Asia. The ancient Persian city served as a major center of Islamic culture for many centuries and became a major cultural center of the Caliphate in the 8th century. The historical center of Bukhara has been declared as a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Two thousand years ago, Indian spice merchants and Chinese silk-sellers passed through Tashkent’s famous bazaars. This is the meeting point on the Silk Road for those en-route to Europe. Uzbekistan, a predominantly Muslim nation, has a diverse cultural heritage, and Tashkent is cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic city, home to Uzbeks, Kazakhs, descendants of Mongol nomads, Armenians, Tajiks, and even (perhaps) green-eyed, red-haired descendants of Alexander the Great’s armies. Russians settled in the region when it was part of the Soviet Union, and Stalin’s mass relocations brought Koreans, Volga Germans, and Crimean Tatars. After the 1966 earthquake, which levelled most of central Tashkent, a wave of Soviet construction-workers arrived in the city, much of the restored buildings still retains a Soviet flavour.
Good International standard of accommodation are not easy to find along the route from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan. We will be staying in four to six person yurts in Sol Kul Lake only (traditional round tents), family homes, guesthouses on a part of the journey. All yurts are based on twin or triple sharing. There is no single person accommodation available. In the major towns, we will provide hotel accommodation where you can get your own single room if you desire. Please check the schedule of accommodation at various places.
Our main transport will be 22-seater Toyota Coasters or Mercedes Sprinters. We can only take a maximum of 10 participants on this trip so that each participant will have room for their camera equipment.
- Food and meals
Not all meals are provided. This is to allow our participants to sample local cuisine of your choice. All foods provided are halal food, as majority of the population along the Old Silk Road are Muslims. The meat of choice is mutton and if you have any problem with this meat, please bring along some canned or packaged food. Restaurant meals along the route are not expensive. Please check the itinerary for the meals you must pay on your own.
September is a good month to visit the Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the temperature here would be around 13-29 deg C in the lowlands while it will be 0-15 C in the highlands. After September, it snows heavily and some of the mountain roads will be blocked and one can be stranded for days.
- Visas Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
Malaysian, Singaporeans and other nationalities are exempted from applying for a Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan visas. We will be able to provide the necessary documents for a tourist visa if required. You will have to pay for the Visa fees.
- Flying to Bishkek and return from Tashkent
Here are some of the suggested flights from KUL to Bishkek and Tashkent to KUL.
The prices quoted are in Ringgit Malaysia. Emirates offers the most suitable flight to Bishkek. Our proposal is to fly to Bishkek on the 17th Sept and reaching Bishkek on the 18th morning.
The best flight out of Tashkent is by Uzbekistan Airlines at 11pm on 1st Oct 2020. It is a direct flight to Kuala Lumpur.
- Difficulty of trip
This is an easy to moderate trip. Our chartered bus will bring us up to the point of shooting. You only need to walk short distances to the vantage points. Some of the toilets along the way may not be up to standard.
Day 1 – 18th Sept 2020 (Arrive at Bishkek) (D)
- Pick-up from the airport
- Check in hotel (My Hotel, Bishkek)
- Welcome dinner
Day 2 – 19th Sept 2020 Bishkek to Issy-Kul (B,D)
- Bishkek City Tour
- Dordoi Bazaar – the biggest bazaar in Bishkek
- Lunch on your own
- Transfer to Issy-Kul Lake
- Visit Burana Tower
- Overnight at Issy-Kul Lake
Day 3 – 20th Sept 2020 (Issy-Kul Lake-Tamga) (B,D)
- Karakol City Tour
- Lunch with local Dungan family
- Jety-Oguz Gorge
- Dinner at café in Karakul
- Overnight in Tamga Guest House
Day 4 – 21st Sept 2020 (Karakol-Sol Kul) (B,D)
- Tamga to Skazka
- Eagle hunting demo in Bokonbaevo village.
- Lunch with local family
- Demo of national felt carpets production
- Dinner at Sol-Kul
- Overnight in yurts at Sol-Kul.
Day 5 – 22nd Sept 2020 (Son-Kul to Chychkan) (B,L,D)
- After breakfast transfer to the lake 3016 m above sea level.
- Lunch in a yurt.
- Demo of National horse games.
- Transfer to Chychkan
- Overnight in guest house
Day 6 – 23rd Sept 2020 (Chychkan-Osh transfer) (B, D)
- Long journey today
- Lunch en-route.
- Arrival in Osh, city tour if time permits
- Dinner in a café.
- Overnight at the Sunrise hotel.
Day 7 – 24th Sept 2020 (Osh-Dostuk Border Crossing) (B,D)
- Early breakfast
- Osh Market
- Meeting at the border, change of vehicles, transfer to Margilan.
- Visit Yodgorlik Silk
Said Akhmad-Khoja Madrasah.
- Transfer to the train station,
- 16:50 train to Tashkent, arrive at 21:40, transfer to the hotel.
- Overnight at the hotel in Tashkent.
Day 8 – 25th Sept 2020 (Tashkent to Samarkand) (B,D)
- Early Morning transfer to Samarkand.
- Sightseeing: visit famous Registan Square
- Overnight at the hotel in Samarkand.
Day 9 – 26th Sept 2020 (Samarkand) (B,D)
- Full day sightseeing at Shokhi Zinda Nekropole (important pilgrimage place),
- Remains of grandiose Bibi Khanum Mosque,
- Gur Emir Mausoleum (15th century),
- UlugbekObservatory, bazzar, paper mill, St. Daniil mausoleum.
- Overnight at the hotel in Samarkand.
Day 10 – 27th Sept 2020 (Samarkand to Bukhara) (B,D)
- In the morning depart Samarkand and drive to Bukhara.
- Stop on the way at Rabat-i-Malik Caravanserai.
- Continue driving to Bukhara:
- visit Nakshbandi Mausoleum,
- Sitori-Mohi Khosa palace.
- Overnight at Bukhara
Day 11 – 28th Sept 2020 (Bukhara) (B,D)
- Full day sightseeing: Ismail Samonid mausoleum (a burial place of the Samani dynasty founder Ismail Samani (10th century),
- Kalon Minaret and Poi Kalon Mosque,Miri Arab Madrassa (16th century),
- Ulugbek Madrassa (15th century) and Abdilazizkhan Madrassa (17th century),
- Magoki Attory Mosque (12th century), Lyabi House complex, Ark Fortress, Chor Minor.
- Overnight at the hotel in Bukhara
Day 12 – 29th Sept 2020 (Bukhara to Khiva) (B,D)
- In the morning depart Bukhara and drive to Khiva.
- Overland transfer from Bukhara to Khiva through Kyzylkum desert.
- Caravans on the Great Silk Road carrying porcelain and spices used the same route for hundreds of years.
- Arrive in Khiva late in the afternoon.
- Check-in to the hotel.
- Free evening in Khiva.
- Overnight at the hotel in Khiva.
Day 13 – 30th Sept 2020 (Khiva-Urgench-Tashkent) (B,D)
- Check-out from hotel.
- Itchan-Kala Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Visits to Mukhammad Aminkhan Madrasah,
- Mukhammad Rahimkhan Madrasah, Kalta-Minor,
- Juma Mosque, Tash-Khovli Palace, Pakhlavan Makhmud Mausoleum.
- Islam-Khoja minaret, the highest minaret in Uzbekistan. Enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of Old Khiva in Kunya-Ark.
- Free time in the afternoon.
- In the evening you will be transferred to Urgench airport for flight to Tashkent.
- Upon arrival transfer to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel in Tashkent.
Day 14 – 1st Oct 2020 (Tashkent) (B,D)
- Tour around Tashkent
Sightseeing: Khast Imam complex – official religious center for
Muslims in Central Asia, consists of Barak Khan Madrassa,
Shaykh Mosque – the Osman Koran, believed to be world’s oldest Koran is
the library of this Mosque, a mausoleum of Abu Bakr Kaffal Shoshi – an
- Visit Chorsu Bazaar,
- Kuledash Mosque, Barak Khan madrassah, Metro,
- Temur Square,
- Independence square.
- Sent to airport for late night flight.