Uzbekistan Turkmenistan & Iran
Type: Discovery Tour
Duration: 19 Days
Best Time to Travel: May – October
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Uzbekistan Turkmenistan & Iran - Itinerary
Meet upon arrival and transfer to the hotel.
An afternoon sightseeing tour of Tashkent. The country’s capital and largest city with over 2.3 million people, Tashkent is characterised by the mixture of modern and traditional buildings. The city has wide straight avenues, parks and fountains, elegant European architecture and Soviet era concrete blocks. We visit the Old City with its Hast Iman complex and the Tila Shaikh Mosque. Next we go to the covered Chorsu Bazaar, the imposing Friendship Square, the Navoi Theatre and Applied Arts Museum.
Tashkent – Samarkand
After breakfast we take the train to Samarkand (8 – 10.10am).
Sightseeing tour of Samarkand. Samarkand was at the heart of the Silk Road where ideas as well as commerce were traded. The scale and beauty of its numerous monuments are truly breath-taking. We start at the Registan at the heart of the old city. This huge public square flanked on three sides by Madrassas with huge portals is a sight to behold.
Today is a full day’s guided sightseeing of old Samarkand. We re-visit the Registan at the heart of the old city. Next we venture to the giant Bibi Khanum Mosque initiated by Timur and the Shahi Zinda necropolis.
After lunch we visit the Afrosiab Museum and Ulugbek’s Observatory followed by Gur Emir, Timur’s mausoleum considered by many to be the architectural highpoint in Samarkand.
Samarkand - Bukhara
We depart Samarkand for Bukhara (408km). Along the way we stop at Shakre Sabz, the birthplace of Tamerlane (Timur as he is known in Uzbekistan). This tyrannical conqueror founded a kingdom which stretched from Eastern Turkey to Pakistan, referring to himself as the Sword of Islam. We walk around the ruins of his former palace Ak Saroy and other historic monuments.
Later afternoon we arrive in Bukhara and check in to our hotel.
Located on the Silk Road Bukhara has been a centre for trade, learning, culture and religion. At one time it was the intellectual epicentre of the Muslim world. It can trace its roots back 2,500 years and is rightly proud of its many mosques and madrassas. This morning we explore some of the old city’s best known sites including the towering 45m high Kalon Minaret and the Ulugbek Madrassah and Lyabi Hauz, one of the city’s few remaining ‘hauz’ or ponds. The Lyab-i Hauz survived because it is the centrepiece of a magnificent architectural ensemble, created during the 16th and 17th centuries. The Lyab-i Hauz ensemble, surrounding the pond on three sides, consists of the Kukeldash Madrasah, the largest in the city and of two religious edifices built by Nadir Divan-Beghi - a khanaka (a lodging-house for itinerant Sufis) and a madrasah.
We explore Bolo Khauz – the Emir’s mosque located opposite the Ark Fortress and dating back to the 17th century and also go inside the Ark. Our finish visit is to the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, one of the oldest monuments in Bukhara dating back to the 10th century. Return to hotel.
We have an excursion to Sitora-I-Mokhikhosa, the summer residence of the last emir of Bukhara with its impressive collection of gifts from Russian Tzars including chandeliers, cut glass mirrors and China ware. This is followed by visiting the shrine of revered Sufi saint Bakhauddin Nakshbandi, often referred to as the ‘Palace of Miracles’.
Free time to explore the covered markets of Bukhara.
Bukhara – Merv (Mary) - Ashgabat
This morning we head for the Turkmenistan border where you will be assisted with the customs formalities. Once in Turkmenistan you will have a new guide and car / bus. After completing the border formalities we proceed to Merv, one of the major archaeological sites of Central Asia. Merv played an important part in the development of the Silk Road for more than 2,000 years.
At present day Mary we visit the Regional Museum containing archaeological finds dating back to 3,000 BC from both Ancient Merv and older Bronze Age sites in the area.
Mary - Ashgabat
Drive to the airport and fly to Ashgabat and our hotel.We have a morning sightseeing tour of the capital. Begin with a visit to the Park of Independence and Neutrality Square with its bizarre Arch of Neutrality topped with a rotating gold-plated statue of the first President of Turkmenistan. From here we drive to Nissa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the earliest capital of the Parthian Empire. Later visit the National Museum of History with artefacts from some of Turkmenistan’s ancient sites including Nisa and Merv.
Visit the Turkmenbashi Mausoleum and mosque dedicated to the country’s former despotic leader Saparmurat Niyazov who passed away in 2006.
Ashgabat - Mashhad
After breakfast we drive to the Turkmenistan – Iran border before continuing on to Mashhad, Iran’s holiest and second largest city. Its centre point is Imam Reza’s Shrine which receives over 20 million Shi’ite pilgrims each year. Mashhad, formerly known as Sanabad, was a village stop for trade caravans heading to Turkmenistan. But in the ninth century, the eighth Shi'ite Imam Ali Bin Moosa Al Reza, the great grandson of Imam Ali who was the cousin and son in law of the Prophet Mohammad was poisoned by the caliph of the time. Imam Reza was buried in Mashhad, and his shrine became one of the holiest sites to the Shi'ite Muslims after the Holy Kaaba in Saudi Arabia and Karbala in Iraq.
10 Mashhad - Shiraz
Transfer to the airport for the morning flight to Shiraz. Shiraz was was one of the most important cities in the medieval Islamic world and was the Iranian capital during the Zand dynasty (1747–79), when many of its most beautiful buildings were built or restored. A city of poets, Shiraz is home to the tombs of Hafez and Sa’di, both major pilgrimage sites for Iranians. It’s also home to splendid gardens and exquisite mosques. Upon arrival we have a city tour which includes the splendid Nasirol Molk Mosque – known by many as the Pink mosque due to beautiful pink tiles used in the mosque’s interior.
The sightseeing continues with the Vakil Complex containing the city’s ancient trading district with its traditional bazaar as well as baths and mosque all dating back to the Zandieh Dynasty in the second half of the 19th century. Late we explore the tomb of the renowned Persian poet Hafez.
Today we have a full day excursion to the ruins of ancient Persepolis. Highlights include the site of the Persian Palace, the royal necropolis and the superb Nagshe Rustam bas relief. Founded by Darius I in 518 BC, 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. The importance and quality of the monumental ruins make it a unique archaeological site
Return to Shiraz late afternoon.
Shiraz – Pasargadae - Yazd
We depart Shiraz early for Yazd (440km). En route we stop at Pasargadae, the capital of Cyrus the Great. Pasargadae was the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire, founded by Cyrus II the Great, in Pars, homeland of the Persians, in the 6th century BC. Its palaces, gardens and the mausoleum of Cyrus are outstanding examples of the first phase of royal Achaemenid art and architecture and exceptional testimonies of Persian civilization.
Arrive in Yazd in the later afternoon and retire to our hotel.
We explore Yazd – a desert city ringed by mountains. It is a charming city of narrow, winding lanes and wind towers or ‘badgirs’ designed to create natural ventilation in buildings. Originally settled 5,000 years ago, Yazd has an interesting mix of people, 10% of whom are Zoroastrian. An elegant Ateshkadeh or fire temple near the city centre shelters an eternal flame, said to have been burning for over 2,000 years. This morning we visit the Fire Temple and Mir Chakmaq mosque as well as the Dolatabad Gardens. Later we can visit a carpet making workshop followed by viewing the ‘tower of silence’ (no longer in use) just outside the city.
Yazd – Nain - Isfahan
Depart Yazd for Isfahan (315km). We break up the journey with a visit to the ancient city of Nain. Unique to Nain is one of the most outstanding monuments in all of Iran: the Jame Mosque, one of the first four mosques built in Iran after the Arab invasion. We also get to see a Pirnia traditional house, the Old Bazaar and a Rigareh, an ancient qanat-based watermill. In addition Nain is also famous for high-quality carpets and home-made pastry (copachoo).
We arrive in Isfahan in the late afternoon / early evening.
Isfahan is Iran’s top tourist destination for good reason. Its profusion of tree-lined boulevards, Persian gardens and important Islamic buildings gives it a visual appeal unmatched by any other Iranian city and the many artisans working here underpin its reputation as a living museum of traditional culture. We have a full day’s sightseeing of Isfahan and highlights include the Nagshe Jahan or Iman Square containing the exquisite Jame mosque, Shaikh Lotfullah mosque and Aliqapu Palace. We also explore the bazaar. In the afternoon we visit the Armenian Vank Church and the Hasht Behesht Palace.
Isfahan – Natanz – Kashan – Tehran
After breakfast we leave Isfahan for the capital Tehran. We have a couple of interesting stops along the way. The first is at Natanz which contains an elegant mosque which was once a fire temple. We continue to Kashan, a charming oasis city which in the Seljuk Period of the 11th and 12 centuries was famous for its textiles, pottery and tiles. Today the town is more widely known as a major centre for the production of rose water, which is sold at outlets around the main tourist attractions and at dedicated stores in the bazaar.
Late afternoon we arrive in Tehran. If time allows we will visit Iman Khomeini’s Mausoleum.
Visit the excellent National Archaeological Museum which houses a rich and vast collection of artefacts from Iran’s most important ancient sites including Persepolis, Sush and Hasalu.
Visit the Golestan Palace. The lavish Golestan Palace is a masterpiece of the Qajar era, embodying the successful integration of earlier Persian crafts and architecture with Western influences. The walled Palace, one of the oldest groups of buildings in Teheran, became the seat of government of the Qajar family, which came into power in 1779 and made Teheran the capital of the country. Built around a garden featuring pools as well as planted areas, the Palace’s most characteristic features and rich ornaments date from the 19th century. The palace now contains the Crown Jewels Museum.
Transfer to IKA International Airport for your onward flight.
- Room accommodation in twin share
- Private transportation by car/ minivan
- Experienced English speaking Uzbek and Turkmen guides
- Drinking water in car / minivan
- Daily breakfast and meals as mentioned in itinerary
- Train Tashkent – Samarkand on ‘Afrosiyob’ train
- Regional Flights: Mary – Ashgabat / Mashhad – Shiraz
- Entrance and sightseeing fees as mentioned in the itinerary
- Turkmenistan Invitation Letter, Entry Pass, Registration
- Iran Visa Confirmation Code
- Airport arrival and departure transfers
What's Not Included?
- International Flights
- Drinks during meals
- Optional tours
- Uzbekistan,Turkmenistan and Iran visas
- Any personal expenses such as laundry, hotel phone etc
- Tips and gratuities
- Tashkent – Hotel City Palace
- Samarkand – Hotel Grand Samarkan
- Bukhara – Hotel Komil 40
- Mary – Hotel Mary
- Ashgabat – Hotel Grand Turkmen
- Mashhad – Hotel Almas
- Shiraz – Hotel Setaregan
- Yazd – Lab-e-Khangagh Historic Hotel
- Isfahan – Hotel Aseman
- Tehran - Hotel Kowsar