Call us now on +44 (0) 208 728 2478 or email at info@silkroadtours.co.uk

Silk Road Tours

Silk Road Tours offer tailor made holidays through Central Asia, The Caucasus, Middle East and North Africa

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO TRAVEL IN CENTRAL ASIA

central asia travel

Glazed by the magic of surrounding Russia, India and China, central Asia can often be the forgotten sister of this vast continent. For those who make the oversight, they are truly missing out. Central Asia may not have the madness of China, the extremities of Russia, or the intricacy of India, but it certainly has charm, and it certainly has beauty.

A backpacker’s dream, the ‘stans’ of Central Asia offer a world of exploration that’s off the beaten track. For something wildly different to any other travel experience, let our team at Silk Road Tours take you on the journey through Central Asia’s ultimate guide.

kazakhstan

The most economically developed of the five ‘stans’, Kazakhstan is surprisingly chic. Blink for a second too long and you may think you’re walking the wide streets of Cosmopolitan Europe. Filled with coffee shops and bars, Kazakhstan’s cities are bursting with life and flavour. But for those with an adventurous bone in their body, it’s rural Kazakhstan which will steal your heart away.

WHEN TO GO

Central Asia has hot summers and cold winters, and it’s no different in eclectic Kazakhstan. Expect beautiful warm weather through the summer months with averages of 21°C in the north and 27°C in the south, and a very cold winter season with averages of -16°C in the far north and -6°C in the south.

The low season for Kazakhstan is November-March but if you want to experience a true Kazakhstan winter and its snow-covered panoramas, this really is a spectacular time to visit. Spring offers the most comfortable climate so if you’re adverse to extreme hot or cold, try the milder months of April to June.

WHAT TO DO

Capture the Bayterek Monument at Night

This must-see monument in Atana is one of the most iconic landmarks in the country. This white latticed tower is topped with a glass orb and lights up beautifully at night.

Go Hiking in the Altai Mountains

For a taste of rural Kazakhstan, head to the beautiful Altai mountains. Pristine and rich in wildlife such as bears, deers, red wolf, sable and elk, Altai and its surrounding areas are wonderful for hiking.

Picnic by Almaty Lake

Just 30 minutes from Almaty centre is the stunning and vast Almaty Lake. Situated by the Zailiysky Alteau Mountains, this is one of the most incredible spots to enjoy a traditional picnic of red caviar followed by Buarsak dough balls.

Go Skiing at Shymbulak

Ten years ago tourists would never have dreamt of a luxury skiing experience in Central Asia but today, Shymbulak is one of the up and coming resorts like many other resorts in this part of the world. For mind-blowing views and a relatively undiscovered winter sports destination, Shymbulak is a must for skiers.

AREAS TO VISIT

Visit Almaty City

Almaty is Kazakhstan’s largest city and according to many, it’s the most reminiscent of Europe. Its elegant and diverse centre offers a world away from Kazakhstan’s poorest areas. Expect this university city to be filled with young people and hip travellers – and the city’s architecture is also a notable feature.

Head to the Capital

To get a real flavour of urban living in Kazakhstan, be sure to visit the country’s capital, Atana. This futuristic city forms a baffling contrast to rural life, and its bold, extravagant architecture will have you in awe of its uber-modern metropolis.

FUN FACTS

  • Horse and mutton are widely eaten meats in Kazakhstan, and most of the country’s cuisine is inspired by nomadic cooking.
  • There are over 210 nationalities living in Kazakhstan, making it a diverse and multicultural destination to travel to.
  • Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world. But its population is only 16 million, making an average of 6 people per square kilometre.
  • The world’s first and largest space launch facility can be found here in Kazakhstan.
  • A game of ‘Chase the Bride’ takes place every year at the traditional Chabana Festival, held on the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border. This is a horseback game where the male contestant’s aim is to chase down a female rider.

IMPORTANT TRAVEL INFO

For those travelling from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, United State, United Arab Emirates, South Korea and Japan, a visa will not be required for stays of up to 15 days at a time. This exemption is from July 15th 2014 to July 15th 2015. For further info, contact Kazakhstan embassy.

kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is recognised for its stunning landscapes, one which is also incredibly varied. Snow topped mountains meet lush green pine forests, huge glaciers contrast with fresh summer meadows; this land of opposites creates a stunning natural playground for the outdoors enthusiast. Together with its nomadic charm, this country is simply one of a kind.

WHEN TO GO

Kyrgyzstan, like its Central Asia sisters, has a continental climate. In winter, temperatures can drop as low as -6°C in the south and -20°C in the highlands, making it the perfect snow sports destination. May to October is the best time to visit and June to September is the prime period for hikers.

WHAT TO DO

Winter Sports

Branded ‘the Switzerland of Asia’, Kyrgyzstan is a surprising destination for world class ski resorts. You will find a number of different resorts around Bishkek and Karakol.

Horseriding at Song Kol Lake

Take a tour of the beautiful Song Kol Lake on horseback and get a feel for life as a true Kyrgyz nomad. This fascinating lake is in stunning Tien Shan where snow-topped mountains fill the landscape.

Take the Silk Road Trek

Trek the famous Silk Road between Kyrgyzstan and China; see everything from dramatic mountains to dense forests, all against an alpine backdrop. If you would like a guided tour, take a look at our available tour options online.

AREAS TO VISIT

Bishkek

Enjoy the views of the Tien Shan Mountains from the comfort of the big city. Here you will reconnect with modern civilisation with many hotels, restaurants and bars to keep you entertained day and night.

Osh

Located in the Fergana Valley, Osh is the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan and worth a visit for its dramatic views alone. But for a big bite of culture and charm, be sure to head to the Jayma Bazaar, where the city comes to life with trade and trinkets.

FUN FACTS

  • There are 88 mountain ranges in Kyrgyzstan – that’s over 70% of the country dominated by stunning mountainscape.
  • ‘Kumis’ is the favourite national drink to be had. It is fermented horse milk which is often sold in bottles across the country.
  • The World Game of Nomads is held in Cholpon-Ata City every September and the event sees sportsmen from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikstan, Turkmenistan (and further afield) take part in competitive games.

IMPORTANT TRAVEL INFO

Travel to Kyrgyzstan may require a visa so always check before you travel. For anyone visiting Bishkek or the Oblasts Provinces (Osh, Batken or Jalal-Abad), it’s important to remember that political demonstrations can occur and you should avoid proximity if you should come across a demonstration en route.

tajikistan

Tajikistan is the land of the intrepid. As Central Asia opens up to the world and more people discover its outstanding natural beauty, it’s becoming a desired destination for anyone with an adventurous bone in their body.

WHEN TO GO

You will really experience the extremes of the seasons in Tajikistan. Lows of -13°C and highs of 40°C make up the winter-summer story in Dushanbe. But in the mountains, expect temperatures to be as low as -45°C! So for anyone visiting the mountains, be sure to pack warm clothing no matter what time of year it is.

WHAT TO DO

Go Skiing in the Fann Mountains

Although city life doesn’t always offer enough variety for travellers and expats, there’s one thing Tajikistan offers in extravagant abundance; mountains. Go skiing in the Fann Mountains and enjoy pristine wilderness and an untouched destination not yet discovered by tourists.

Take the Pamir Highway

Trek the Pamir Highway from Khorog to Osh to uncover the secreted beauty of the Pamir Mountains. Get up close to the sparsely populated surrounding region, one which houses a handful of yurts and yaks for nomadic tribes.

Discover Shakhty Cave

25 miles south of Murghab lives one of the most significant historical sites of the country. Shakhty Cave dates back to 6,500 BC and its walls are covered in spectacular ancient cave paintings which illustrate the lives of our early ancestors in the Neolithic period.

PLACES TO VISIT

Visit the Capital City

Dushanbe is the largest city in Tajikistan, and is also its capital. It offers a skyline encroached by a striking mountain view and various museums and galleries for the culture vulture too. The nightlife, although not overly extravagant in choice and variety, still pleases all tastes. This interesting city makes a great base for anyone looking to explore Tajikistan’s rural world.

FUN FACTS

  • Tajikistan was under Russian rule until 1991, so the country is still in its infancy as an independent nation – one which is still finding its identity.
  • Quratob is a national dish, made from salty cheese-soaked water which is used to saturate a flatbread, later topped with fried onions and vegetables.
  • All meals are served with ‘non’ (flatbread) as a staple, and all meals are consumed by hand from a large communal platter.
  • Tajik is the official language but Russian, Dari and Uzbek are also widen spoken.

IMPORTANT TRAVEL INFO

When it comes to hotels and accommodation in Tajikistan, the country can be lacking. But what it lacks in amenities, it certainly makes up for in scenery. Tajikistan is very much a hidden gem, still very much untouched, so a travel tip of ours is to stick to the main hotels as they are more adapted to foreign visitors.

For help in finding accommodation, please refer to our featured hotels.

turkmenistan
Turkmenistan is by far the most unknown of the ‘stans’. Travel to this nation of bizarre politics and alien landscapes and let it cast its mysterious spell over you, as it has done with travellers past. Spectacular desert sets the scene and although lesser known than its neighbouring countries, Turkmenistan is certainly one of the most memorable.

WHEN TO GO

Turkmenistan is fantastic between the months of March to June, with the most favourable weather for tourists looking for a warm but mild climate. July and August can be excruciatingly hot in the desert, with temperatures sometimes pushing the heights of 50°C.

WHAT TO DO

See the Door to Hell

The Door to Hell is a disturbingly real natural wonder of today. Located in the middle of the Karakum Desert, this flaming crater is created by natural gas. Head to Derweze Village in the Ahal Province to experience this devilish phenomenon for yourself.

Go Shopping at Tolkuchka Market

Strangely enough – or perhaps not – Turkmenistan’s Tolkuchka Market often gets the attention of renowned guidebooks and large publications. Famed for its carpets and fabrics, this market is a colourful arrest of the senses and it’s easy to see why it’s so famous with travel writers.

Walk the Serdar Health Path

A shining example of Turkmenistan’s vast open spaces, these never-ending steps in Ashgabat stretch 8 kilometres over an untouched rolling landscape. A great for anyone who appreciates an open view and fresh air.

PLACES TO VISIT

Ashgabat

With no place like it in the world, Turkmenistan’s capital city is a lavished corner of the continent, one adorned with stark white architecture and brash gold statues. The country’s twisted political past may have a part to play in today’s guarded culture but don’t let this put you off; this is as candid as it gets.

The Karakum Desert

Explore the desert of Karakum, a parched area filled with beautiful sand dunes and the ‘Door to Hell’. For tours covering Turkmenistan and the Karakum desert, take a look at our tours online.

FUN FACTS

  • Turkmenistan has made the Guinness Book of Records as the country with the largest number of white marble clad buildings in the world; 543 to be exact.
  • Turkmenistan is landlocked country covered by 80% desert.
  • Turkmen cuisine does not use spices. Instead, cottonseed oil is used in many recipes for flavour.
  • Saparmurat Niyazov was the leader of Turkmenistan until 2006 (when he died). He was an eccentric leader who did strange things such as banning men from having beards, asking citizens to have gold teeth extracted, and building a gold statue of himself to establish a personality cult.

IMPORTANT TRAVEL INFO

The visa application process is a strict one so make sure you apply in advance. Turkmenistan has been listed by Gov.uk as an area of low tourism threat. For extra safety, you should carry identification about your person wherever you go.

There are no government restrictions on where foreigners can stay. However, finding hotels isn’t always easy. For luxury accommodation, try the ‘Miracle Mile’ in the capital where you will find a strip of hotels.

uzbekistan
Stunning architecture, ancient cities and a rich history create the makeup of this nation. Uzbekistan is without a doubt Central Asia’s finest destination for sights and attractions. And with the story of the Great Silk Road behind it, Uzbekistan is simply not to be missed.

WHEN TO GO

The busiest seasons for travel are spring (March to June) and autumn (July to September) due to the mild weather. Summers are long and hot, and winters can be extremely cold.

WHAT TO DO

Go Yurt Camping

For a magical experience of the Kyzyl Kum Desert, hire a yurt in Nurata Town in the Navoiy Pronvince. With camps located close to the Aidarkul Lake, you’ll be in a prime position for hiking and exploring.

Shop in Tashkent Bazaars

Go for a spot of souvenir shopping at some of the capital city’s best markets. The famous bazaars of Tashkent really come to life with colour, whether it’s the delicious farmer’s market, the fresh fruit and veg stalls, or the fabric and clothing trade.

Go to the Opera

If you’re in dire need of some city culture, Tashkent’s Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre is as popular venue with expats as it is with locals. It’s the largest theatre of its kind in Central Asia and features a stunning design both inside and out.

PLACES TO VISIT

Visit Tashkent

Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, is at the centre of it all. A city showered with the finest architecture and monuments, there really is a lot to see. The bazaars are lively, the people friendly, and the nightlife unpredictably energetic.

FUN FACTS

  • In Uzbekistan, only men can shake hands. You cannot shake another man’s hand with your left hand and it is also custom to shake with a firm grip.
  • It is custom to greet a woman by bowing and placing your right hand over your heart.
  • Tashkent Metro Station is one of the most beautiful stations in the world; designed with marble pillars and adorned with chandeliers, there are no other train stations like it.
  • Palov is the country’s national dish – cooked with rice, chunks of meat, grated carrots and onions.

IMPORTANT TRAVEL INFO

It is advised that anyone travelling to Uzbekistan should take extra care due to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan border areas being potential danger zones for landmines. Gov.uk have also listed the country as an area with underlying threat from terrorism – so always carry identification.

But do not let this information deter you. Most visits to Uzbekistan are trouble-free as long as travellers are prepared and take extra care.

To find out more about Silk Road Tours and travels to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, please do not hesitate to make an enquiry using our contact page.

More posts

ATOL

Silk Road Tours is a company registered in England – Company Number 07531857
Registered Address 8 Oak Cottages, Green Lane, London, W7 2PE
VAT Number 151 1912 42
Travel Trust Association number Q1037