Georgia & The Stans 32

Georgia & The Stans 32

From AUD 2,580.00 + LTP: GBP 795.00
Trip Length 32 Trip Code CA - OO - GS32
Tour Group 10 - 24 Age Range 18+

Georgia & The Stans 32: Tour Information

Countries Visited: Georgia, Azerbaijan,Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan

Join this Ultimate Expedition and follow in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and Marco Polo on this groundbreaking & challenging expedition along ancient trading routes.  Discover some of the oldest cities in the world steeped in history and legend.  Cross the Caspian, the worlds largest inland Sea, visit the legendary 'Stan's' taking in the bizarre city of Ashgabat and the splendour of the Old Rajasthan in Uzbekistan. 

Days 1 to 4 - Davit Gareja

Monasteries carved in to limestone caves - optional
Wine tasting at Telavi
6th Century Ruins at Gremi (time allowing).

Days 5 to 8 - Azerbaijan

Sheki - famed for it's silk production - an important Silk Road stopping point
Baku - Azerbaijan's bustling capital
Gobustan mud volcanoes - optional.

Days 9 to 11- Ferry across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan
Kow Ata underground lake
Geok Tepe - option to visit the futuristic Mosque.

Days 12 to 16 - Ashgabat

The fascinating and slightly bizarre 'White City', fashioned out of marble.
Kara-Kum Desert - arduous days are rewarded by camping out in this barren terrain.
Darvaza Gas Craters - a result of Soviet-era gas exploration.
Kunye Ugench - see the 60mtr high minaret!.

Days 17 to 26 - Uzbekistan

Khiva - explore the ancient medressas, mausoleums and museums.
Bukhara - an important stop on the Silk Rd of old & home to over 350 mosques & 100 Islamic colleges.
Kyzylkum Desert - beauty & harshness in one.
Samarkand - as old as Babylon, view the beauty of the Registan, medressas & mosques.
Tashkent, Uzbekistan's capital.

Days 27 to 32 - Kazakhstan

Aksu-Dzhabagly Nature Reserve – green valleys, wildlife and snow capped peaks!
Time to explore this southern corner of Kazakhstan.
Kyrgyzstan
Bishkek - Free time to explore.

Days 1 to 4 Tbilisi, en-route to Azerbaijan

Please's note that our itineraries are not set in stone and can be subject to change.
Today is free to relax or take an optional excursion to Davit Gareja, quite possibly Georgia’s most remarkable ancient site.  Spilling over in to nearby Azerbaijan, the current 19 known Monasteries were made by enlarging existing limestone caves.  The area became a centre for pilgrimage in the 6th century before being destroyed by the Mongols.  It has had a varied history ever since, most recently being used as a military stronghold in the Soviet era.
From Tbilisi, en-route to Azerbaijan, we stop for wine tasting at Telavi (Khuachkara – a sweet red wine, said to be one of Stalin’s favourites, is traditionally drunk from a ram’s horn).  Time allowing, we aim to visit the impressive 6th century ruins at Gremi, and the relaxed down of Signaghi, offering fantastic views over the Alazani Valley and the Caucasus beyond.  We spend our last night in Georgia under canvas, before crossing over the border in to Azerbaijan.

Days 5 to 8 Sheki to the Caspian Sea

Once in the tiny country of Azerbaijan, we drive through a long valley to Sheki, which is famed for its silk production and was an important stop over on the silk route. Sheki is also famous for the 18th century Khan's summer palace which was built in 1762 by Hussein Khan who was also well known as a poet under his pen-name Mushtag. The two-storied building is decorated with magnificent frescos and exquisite stained glass work.

An arduous day follows down a bumpy road to the country’s capital of Baku, where we catch our first glimpse of the Caspian Sea. This is a bustling city that has made its fortune from oil, but it has a few historic sights such as the old fortress and Medieval Old Town and there is the opportunity to go on a day trip to visit the mud volcanoes at Gobustan. These small cones emit cold mud, water and gas almost continually.

Days 9 to 11 Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan

From Baku we board a ferry to take us across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan.  Our time in Baku will depend on the departure timings of the boat, which can be erratic, and will only leave when it is full!

It takes us roughly a day to a day and a half to cross the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan.  Nearly 80 % of the country is taken up by the Kara-Kum (Black Sand) Desert, and almost all the attractions lie around the fringes of the desert and in its oases.  The semi nomadic people, the Turkmen, lead an extraordinary life in this remote region and we may have the opportunity to see them and their conical homes, known as yurts, from the roadside.
First we drive through to Bakharden and the Kow Ata (Father of Caves) underground lake.  Venturing 65mtrs underground there is the opportunity to swim in the naturally heated clear water.
Camping in the wilds, we stop in Geok Tepe to visit the impressive futuristic mosque, before heading into the capital, Ashgabat, on the southern rim of the Kara-Kum Desert.

Days 12 to 16 Ashgabat to Kunye Ugench

Ashgabat, we are faced with a sea of marble and golden statues of the once President, Turkmenbashi.  This city really is like no other you will ever see!
The modern city replaced the one founded in 1881, which was destroyed in an earthquake in 1948. A visit to the Earthquake Museum will give you an insight into the devastation experienced and subsequent clean up effort in building of the new city. The sprawling Sunday market is another of Ashgabat’s major attractions, and is the best place to buy Turkmen carpets amongst livestock & household goods. Look out for the opportunity to try the staple local food whilst in Turkmenistan; plov - pronounced 'plof' - which consists of chunks of mutton, shredded yellow turnip & rice fried in a large wok.
From Ashgabat there is a gruelling desert crossing, but you will be well rewarded with camping out at night in one of the world's most remote environments.  We also pay a visit to the Gas Craters at Darvaza - a result of Soviet-era gas exploration, and an amazing sight!
Before leaving the country we stop briefly at Kunye Ugench to see the 60m high minaret.

Days 17 to 20 Uzbekistan

We cross the border to Uzbekistan.  Here we find well preserved relics from the time when Asia was a centre of empire, learning, and trade along the famous silk route. Some of its cities have abundant old architecture, mosques and minarets cloaked with the mystery of the orient dating back thousands of years. Our first stop is in Khiva, one of the most noteworthy of the cities and towns of Central Asia. It is a unique monument town, completely preserved in the cultural style of the region, and is a World Heritage Site for its historical significance. It has more minarets than any other place in Asia, and the Juma Mosque, which has an amazing 218 ornate carved wooden columns, is another of the main attractions. We will spend at least a couple of nights here to explore the ancient medressas, medinas, mausoleums and museums and soak up the unique atmosphere.
Continuing south, we bush camp out in the desert before reaching another town with much historical influence that was also on the great silk route.

Days 21 to 23 Bukhara and Kyzylkum Desert

Bukhara is situated on a sacred hill, and was founded in the 13th century BC and it is home to over 350 mosques and some 100 Islamic colleges. It's an attractive city with narrow streets, green parks and gardens and is a pleasure to wander around and there will be the opportunity for a bout of good humoured haggling in the bazaar.
The Kyzylkum Desert is about 300,000 sq km and lies between the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya rivers. This is a vast arid plain with a number of isolated bare mountains rising to 900 metres and we journey across it on our way to Samarkand, the second largest city in the country. The history of Samarkand is about 2,500 years old and it's as old as Babylon or Rome. Here we have a couple of days to explore the splendid architecture such as the 15th century Bibi-Khanum Mosque which when it was built was considered to have the largest dome in the Muslim world. Today it stands next a noisy and colourful Oriental market.  No trip here is complete without a wander around the three edifices of the Registan, once Medieval Samarkand's commercial plaza and today quite possibly the most awesome sight in Central Asia.

Days 24 to 26 Tashkent, Uzbekistan

From here we drive northwards to Tashkent, the present capital of Uzbekistan. Although the city has always been an important international transport junction, unfortunately only a small part of its architectural past is preserved - due to the demolition of many historical and religious buildings after the revolution of 1917 and a massive earthquake in 1966. Some of the older buildings of interest are the 16th century Kukeldash Medressa and the Kaffaili-Shash Mausoleum - amongst a choice of modern museums and Russian restaurants to pass the time in and keep the hunger at bay.

Days 27 to 32 Kazakhstan to Bishkek

We drive north to the border with Kazakhstan.  Aksu-Dzhabagly Nature Reserve is our main stopping point and we have 2 nights to take in the stunning scenery of green valleys, rushing rivers and snow capped peaks.  Here we stand a chance of spotting bears, ibex and golden eagles.
Kyrgyzstan is a rugged country with the Tien Shan mountain range covering approximately 95% of the whole territory. The mountaintops are perennially covered with snow and glaciers.  We cross over the border to Bishkek.

special visa requirements are required for this trip.

Local Tour Payments (LTP) or a Kitty payment, if stated is paid direct to your tour leader / crew on day 1.

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