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The Silk Road: Samarkand to Isfahan – An artistically designed tour hosted by the well-known Arabic and Islamic Studies scholar, Dr. Nargis Virani.

The Silk Road: Samarkand to Isfahan

Countries visited Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran


This unique journey traces the legendary Great Silk Road from Tashkent to Tehran. Conquerors such as Darius, Cyrus, Alexander, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane and Babur all left their marks. Travellers like Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta visited and explored this region and their writings show how impressed they were with what they saw. We follow their footsteps exploring the bazaars, marveling at the architecture and seeing monuments, meeting local folks and experiencing their age-old hospitable culture. An artistically designed tour hosted by the well-known Arabic and Islamic Studies scholar, Dr. Nargis Virani. Experienced local English speaking tour guides will guide the tour.



DAY 01 SEP 20 Depart home city for Tashkent (Flight)

Our exciting journey tracing the most interesting part of the Silk Road begins as we depart from our home city for Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. We enjoy the services of Turkish Airlines – one of the world’s leading airlines from NYC – connecting flights from other cities available.


DAY 02 SEP 21: In transit


DAY 03 SEP 22: Arrive Tashkent UZBEKISTAN

Early morning we arrive at Tashkent and after immigration and customs, we are transferred to our hotel. Rooms are pre held for immediate check in. Morning is free. Afternoon we begin our exciting Silk Road journey with a visit to the old part of Tashkent at Khast-Imom Complex where the world famous Quran of Caliph Usman has been preserved. Admire the architecture of the Madrasah of Barak-Khan, Tilla Sheikh Mosque, Mausoleum of the Saint Abu Bakr Kaffal Shashi and the Institute of Imam al-Bukhari. Explore the historical and still vibrant Chorsu Bazaar. Then we take the public transport and ride on the Tashkent Metro to the Amir Timur Square for a visit to the Independence Square and the History Museum. Evening, we enjoy our welcome dinner at the Bagizagan Restaurant renowned for its local specialities.

Overnight: Hotel Shodlik Palace, Tashkent (2 nights) (B, D)



DAY 04 SEP 23: Tashkent/Samarkand (Train: 0800/1020AM)

A deluxe daytime train to Samarkand. Samarkand is a crossroad and melting pot of the world’s cultures. Founded in the 7th Century B.C. as ancient Afrosiyab, Samarkand had its most significant development during the Timurid period in 14th to the 15th centuries. Afternoon tour of Samarkand includes visits to the Afrosiyab Museum and the Tomb of Saint Daniel. At the Koni Ghil village we explore the traditional way of making paper from mulberry. Dinner at the Old City Restaurant enjoying delicious cuisines of the historical city of Samarkand.

Overnight: Hotel Malika Prime, Samarkand (2 nights) (B, D)


DAY 05 SEP 24: Samarkand

Tamerlane’s Persian campaigns had great influence on him and he was very much impressed with Persia. He therefore brought with him the leading town planners and architects from Isfahan for the construction of his ‘Capital of the World’. His ambitious construction of spectacular buildings demonstrating his love of art and architecture is reflected in the beauty and majesty of Samarkand. Our full day tour of Samarkand starts with the spectacular Registan Square – a UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) and site of the Aga Khan Architecture Award. Next we visit the Bibi Khanum Mosque, the Siyob Bazaar and the Ulugbek Observatory. At Shakhi-Zinda the royal necropolis – a treat for art lovers to see the best of majolica and tile works in Central Asia. We continue to Gur Emir (the mausoleum of Tamerlane), culminating the day with dinner at the famous Novay Arbat Restaurant. (B, D)


DAY 06 SEP 25: Samarkand/Gijduvan/Bukhara (Road)

Continuing on the Silk Road we visit Gijduvan – a small town with a population of 20,000 but known for its artisanship. It is home to the 6th generation of potters whose pottery is known the world over. We visit Alisher Nuzrullaev’s Pottery Museum and see the artisans at work creating wonderful pieces of ceramics. Continue for a 2 nights stay at Bukhara, which was founded some 980 years before Alexander the Great. The city was once a large commercial center on the Silk Road. Evening we walk through this WHS city – the most complete example of a medieval city in Central Asia taking us back to the times of the Arabian Nights. Later proceed for dinner at the prized Old Bukhara Restaurant.

Overnight: Hotel Omar Khayyam or Minzifa, Bukhara (2 nights) (B, D)


DAY 07 SEP 26: Bukhara

Bukhara, with more than 140 architectural monuments is a “town museum” with ensembles like Poi-Kalyan, Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Ark, Lyabi-Khauz, etc. The city consists of narrow streets, green parks and gardens, historical and architectural monuments belonging to different epochs and yet located very close to each other. We spend full day exploring Bukhara. Enjoy a guided walking tour of the Old City. We visit Lyabi Hauz Ensemble, Magoki-Attori Mosque, Chor-Minor Madrasah, trade domes, Kalyan Minaret, Kalyan Mosque and Miri-Arab Madrasah, Ulugbek and Abdulazizkhan madrasahs, Ark Fortress, Bolo-Khauz Mosque, Ismail Samani and Chashma-Ayub mausoleums. Evening, we are entertained to a folk show followed by another treat as we are hosted for dinner by a famous miniaturist at his own place Here we will also see collection of his paintings as well as his studio. (B, D)



DAY 08 SEP 27: Bukhara/Khiva (Road)

Interesting scenery as we drive through the Kyzyl Kum desert lying between the Amu and the Syr Darya – often referred to as the red sands. A large part of the desert is sand massifs with sand drifts ranging from 3 to 30m in height. The Kyzyl Kum nature is very diverse and is home to the antelope-gazelle, jerboa, various kinds of marmots, the tolai hare, wolf, corsac fox, lark, jay bird, bustard, steppe eagle, owls, snakes (including venomous viper), lizards, varans and turtles. Early evening after arrival at the walled city of Khiva we stroll inside the walled city and experience the lifestyle of the dwellers. Khiva is reputed to have been founded by Shem – son of Prophet Noah.

Overnight: Hotel Malika, Khiva (2 nights) (B, D) 


DAY 09 SEP 28: Khiva

We spend our day at the majestic Ichan-Kala Fortress (WHS). A walking tour reveals the mysteries of this legendary town where time has stood still. An interesting day as we have lots of opportunities to meet and mingle with the local folks. We explore private homes, as well as see some of the famous historical Madrasahs including ones named after Mukhammad Amin Khan, Mukhammad Rahimkhan, Kalta Minor, Kunya-Ark, Jama Mosque, Toshkhovli Palace, Pakhlavan Makhmud Mausoleum, Minaret of Islom Khodja. Afternoon, we have free time – an ideal place to look out for silk, crafts, antiques, etc. Evening, we are entertained for dinner at the Yassaulbashi Madrasah Restaurant (B, D)


DAY 10 SEP 29: Khiva/Tashauz/Ashgabat (TURKMENISTAN) (Road/flight)

Short drive to the border city of Tashauz where after border formalities, we enter Turkmenistan and visit Kunya- Urgench (WHS) – an ancient city located on the crossroad of trade routes connecting China with Europe. The city reached its full flourish around the 10-12th centuries, when it was the capital of the huge and prosperous Khoremshah State. Life was bustling with bazaars full of foreign merchandise, mosques and madrasahs attracting scholars from all over the Islamic world. Later, it experienced the invasions of Genghiz Khan and Tamerlane and in the 16th Century it became deserted due to the change in the course of the Amu-Darya River. Despite these adversities many examples of unique medieval Islamic architecture are still preserved in the city. A short flight gets us to the white capital city of Ashgabat where we stay for two nights.

Dinner is at the popular Euphoria Restaurant – a pride of the Turkmens.

Overnight: Hotel Ak-Altyn/Grand Turkmen, Ashgabat (2 nights) (B, D)


DAY 11 SEP 30: Ashgabat

Founded in 1881, the capital city of Ashgabat is built in huge blocks of white marble artistically designed and cut. The Guinness Book of Records lists Ashgabat as the city with the largest number of white marble buildings; largest area of white marble; housing the world’s tallest flagpole; the largest monument of a star and many more. We start first by exploring the archaeological site of Nisa (WHS) once the winter capital of Parthian and dating back to 3rd BC. Later we see the majestic Spiritual Mosque, housing 20,000 believers in prayers. Next we visit the National Museum of History and the Arch of Neutrality. Afternoon, we drive to “Berdyev” hippodrome stables to see the famous Akhalteke horses the pride of the Turkmen nation. Continue the tour with visits of the Presidential Square, Ertogul Ghazy Mosque and the newly built Independence Park. Dinner will be at the Poytagt Restaurant known for its food and views. (B, D)




DAY 12 OCT 01: Ashgabat/Bajigran/Mashad (IRAN) (Road)

We bid farewell to Central Asia enter Iran at the road border of Bajigran. Iran is home of the Persian civilization – amongst the oldest countries in the world. Enter a whole noticeably different world with an ancient civilization. A short drive and we arrive at the sacred city of Mashad. Upon arrival we are transferred to our hotel. Evening, we visit the intriguing and illuminated site of the mosque housing the shrine of Imam Reza. Here we meet pilgrims from across Iran and the globe paying homage to the only Shiite Imam buried in Iran. Later we stroll through the maze of narrow streets of the Grand Bazaar the liveliest part of the city and recorded to have first originated during the Silk Road days.

Overnight: Ghasr Hotel, Mashad (1 night) (B, D)


DAY 13 OCT 02: Mashad/Shiraz (Road/Flight)

This morning we take an excursion and visit the ancient town of Nishapur, an important stop on the Silk Road.  The town was completely destroyed by the Mongols in the 13th Century. Today it is famous for its ceramics and pottery. We visit the lovely Safavid shrine and the Persian Gardens at Qadamgah; learn about Omar Khayyám the mathematician, astronomer and poet whose 1000 quatrains known as the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam is world famous; Kamal-al-Molk, Iran’s greatest contemporary painter whose works include “The Fortune Teller of Baghdad” and Farid al-Din Attar, the 12th Century Sufi poet and mystic who are all buried in Nishapur. Late evening flight to the city of gardens and poetry Shiraz, for a 2 nights stay.

Overnight: Pars Hotel, Shiraz (2 nights) (B, D)


DAY 14 OCT 03: Shiraz

Our day is spent exploring Shiraz where we start with a visit to the picturesque Eram Garden, famous for its cypress trees. Next we visit the tombs of Persia’s best-known poets: Saadi and Hafiz. While there, why not enjoy a cup of chai at the wonderful atmospheric traditional teahouse sitting on a floor of cushions and mingle with the locals. Our next stop takes us to the “modern” Nasirol-Molk mosque and the famous Afif-Abad Persian Garden followed by a visit to the Church of Saint Simmon the Zealot with the famed stained glass windows. Evening we are treated to a typical Shirazi dinner at the Shater Abbas/Baharan restaurant. (B, D)


DAY 15 OCT 04: Persepolis & Passagardae/Zein-o-din (Road)

We visit the historical sites of Naqsh-e-Rostam, Naqsh-e-Rajab and Persepolis*. Founded by Darius I in 518 B.C., Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire. It was built on an immense half-artificial, half-natural terrace, where the king of kings created an impressive palace complex inspired by Mesopotamian models. We continue our journey and visit the tomb of Cyrus the Great, founder of Achamenian Empire in Pasargadae*, the first dynastic capital and an exceptional testimony of the Persian civilization. Next we visit the 4000-year old Cypress tree in the city of Abarquo before continuing for an overnight stay at a traditional Caravan Serai.

Overnight: Caravan Serai, Zeinodin (1 night) (B, D)


DAY 16 OCT 05: Zein o din/Yazd/Isfahan (Road)

After a nostalgic experience of the traditional and yet very comfortable caravan serai we take a short drive to Yazd – amongst the oldest living cities in the world. A centre of the Zoroastrian faith, we visit the Fire Temple a place of worship for the Zoroastrians who believe in fire as an element of purity and life. Next we visit the Towers Of Silence. Next is a visit to the Dowlatabad garden – a Persian architectural marvel and the Jama mosque before continuing to one of the most beautiful cities in Iran, nay of the world. Such is Isfahan’s (Esfahan) grandeur that it is easy to agree with the famous 16th Century half rhyme ‘Isfahan nesf-e- jahan’ (Isfahan is half the world – in beauty). We enjoy a 3 nights stay at this enchanting city.

Overnight: Abbasi/Kowsar Hotel (3 nights) (B, D)


DAY 17 OCT 06: Isfahan

Our full day city tour includes the old bridges of Khajou and Sio-se-Pol, the Armenian Vank Cathedral as well as its museum, HashtBehesht Palace, Chehel Sotoun Palace and Meidan Emam*, known as Imam Square. The square is an impressive testimony to the level of social and cultural life in Persia during the Safavid era. I was built by Shah Abbas I the Great at the beginning of the 17th century and is bordered on all sides by monumental buildings linked by a series of two-storied arcades. Evening we enjoy dinner at the popular Shahrzaad/Bastani Restaurant. (B, D)


DAY 18 OCT 07: Isfahan

We continue our exploration of this majestic city and visit the Jameh Mosque, then return to Meidan Emam to visit the Imam Mosque, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque and Ali Qapu Palace. Afternoon is free for exploring and shopping at the old bazaar or even laze around the Imam Square and mingle with the local folks. Iranians are known to be very friendly, like to practice English and are curious about different countries and cultures.  (B, D)


DAY 19 OCT 08: Isfahan/Kashan/Tehran (Road)

We drive to the ancient village of Abyaneh and experience the village life where, it seems that the local inhabitants have been least influenced by modernity. Quite noticeable is their of use of traditional dresses. From here we continue to Kashan and visit Fin, amongst the finest of the Persian Gardens left towards the end of our Persian experience. Leaving Kashan behind we visit the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini located in a 5000 acres square in South Tehran. The site is a pilgrim center by followers of Khomeni who was responsible in leading the movement that led to the downfall of the Shah in the late 70’s. Evening we arrive to the Iranian capital city of Tehran.

Overnight: Espinas Hotel (2 nights)(B, D)


DAY 20 OCT 09: Tehran

Our morning tour of Tehran includes the Glass and Ceramic Museum and the Sa’dabad Palace followed by the Archaeological Museums. Here the fine collection includes a stone sculpture of a winged lion from Susa and a 6th Century B.C. audience hall relief of Darius the Great from the Treasury at Persepolis. The museum has items dating back from the Sumerian Period (4500 B.C.). Afternoon is free time to enjoy Tehran and shop at the bazaars. Evening, we are treated to a Persian style send off dinner at the Milad Restaurant. (B, D)





DAY 21 OCT 10: Tehran/home city (Flight)

Early morning transfer to the airport for our flight back home arriving same day.



Services Included:

  • International airfare from NYC (add-ons from other cities available)
  • Airfare within tour itinerary
  • 19 nights hotel accommodation as mentioned or similar
  • 36 meals as per the itinerary
  • Entrance fees to museums and sites included in the itinerary
  • Services of local English speaking guides
  • Letters of Invite for visas

Not included:

  • Airport taxes and airline surcharges
  • Visa fees (visas required for all three countries.
  • Tips and gratuities to tour guides and drivers

Tour Cost: US$ 6990 per person sharing room

Single Supplement $ 980


Group Size: Min 15                                Max 25




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