Central Asia

From the oasis cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Merv to vast desert landscapes, Central Asia is thrillingly otherworldly. Conjuring up the romance of the Silk Road, not to mention conquerors and explorers such as Tamerlane and Marco Polo, to many of us this huge region remains a blank on the map. Lacking the mass tourism found elsewhere in Asia, a journey here offers genuine adventure.

For over two millennia, Central Asia has attracted the world’s greatest explorers, warriors and merchants, who, seduced by the Silk Road, have plied the region’s trade routes and mountain passes. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — independent since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 — may be young but all are deeply connected to ancient folklore of the steppe, where Turks traded with Persians and nomads fought with conquerors.

This is a region ripe for exploration, from the grand historic squares of Uzbekistan, to the space-age architecture of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and the gorgeous emerald green mountain scenery of Kyrgyzstan. The High Pamirs in Tajikistan are where the most important mountain chains of Central Asia all begin or meet— the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun and the Hindu Kush — providing a stunning backdrop for adventurers.

This is also a region in flux. In cities, Soviet buildings are gradually being upgraded, and while you won’t spot statues of Lenin in Uzbekistan (they’ve been replaced by the nomadic conqueror Tamerlane) you will spot them all over Kyrgyzstan. You’ll also see the evidence of former Russian rule in the samovars (Russian kettles) and Soviet military medals for sale in the markets. The shopping is good, too. Master ikat weavers are reviving traditions, and many musicians and artists are now turning to their Islamic heritage for influence. This mix of Soviet legacy and Islam is one of the things that make this part of the world so fascinating.

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Essential Georgia & Armenia

Tbilisi, Kazbegi, Dzoraget & Yerevan

Experience the heart of Caucasus right between Europe and Asia. From the chic Tbilisi which has been coined as "Budapest of the Caucasus" to Yerevan's heart-wrenching tales of Armenian Genocide, breathtaking sceneries entertain you throughout the journey. Drive through towering mountains, unravel Stalin's history, step into rock-cut churches and...

Best for: Culture, History, Off the beaten track

Gourmet Caucasus: Origins of Wine & Black Caviar

Baku, Shaki, Tsinandali, Tbilisi & Yerevan

Journey across the mighty Caucasus mountain ranges into the birthplace of the world's first wine civilization and into the Caspian Sea, known as the home of the rarest and most expensive black caviars. Along the way, picturesque sceneries of mountains and quaint monasteries will keep your thirst for adventure quenched.

Best for: Culture, History, Off the beaten track

Best of Kazakhstan

Astana, Shymkent, Almaty & Altyn Emel

Discover the many facets of Kazakhstan, from the futuristic billion-dollar metropolis of Astana, ethno-village Sofievka, Silk Road heritage of Southern Kazakhstan and finally the charming Almaty province with a wealth of natural landscapes: singing sand dunes, azure alpine lakes, rugged canyon and surreal red-and-white mountains.

Best for: Culture, History, Off the beaten track

Orient Silk Road Express Train

Ashgabat, Nisa, Merv, Bukhara, Khiva, Samarkand, Shahrisabz, Tashkent, Turkestan & Almaty

Unravel the very best of Silk Road's cultural sites in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in the comfort of your train. End off by basking in the natural beauty of Almaty Province with turquoise lakes and rugged canyon. Exact itinerary may slightly differ depending on your departure dates.

Best for: Off the beaten track, History, Culture

Walk Tajikistan

Dushanbe, Nofin, Artuch Alp, Fann Mountains, Khujand, Iskanderkul & Dushanbe

Adventurous trekkers who brave the Fann Mountains will be thrillingly rewarded with soaring landscapes of layered mountain panoramas and azure alpine lakes. Key Silk Road cities of Tajikistan will also be visited for a dose of cultural insight into this truly off-the-beaten nation.

Best for: Culture, Off the beaten track, Trekking, Adventure

Silk Road in Style by Golden Eagle Luxury Train

Almaty, Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Merv, Ashgabat, Darvaza, Khiva, Volgograd & Moscow

Traverse from the Kazakh metropolitan of Almaty through legendary Silk Road cities of Uzbekistan, the eccentric nation of Turkmenistan with burning Darvaza crater, and ending with Russia's iconic sights. Exact itinerary may slightly differ depending on your departure dates.

Best for: Culture, History, Off the beaten track, Rail

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