The ultimate central asian odyssey
Kazakhstan – Kyrgyzstan – Tajikistan – Uzbekistan
This tour is offered on a regular monthly basis from March through May. Let us know your desired departure month by clicking on the learn-more button below: we will match your preferences with the next relevant scheduled group departure. If you are still unsure about your desired departure date, then simply tell us a period or a season of the year and we will provide you a range of scheduled group departures: just pick up yours!
Our scheduled group departures don't suit your plans? If you are travelling with more than 4 friends, you can set your own departure date: we will arrange a bespoke tour just for you for the same price per person advertised below. If you are travelling solo or with less than four companions, we will then organise a slightly more expensive tailored tour according to your time schedule and specific geographical preferences.
The following itinerary refers to our most popular route in Central Asia. This immense land, a very Soviet version of the Wild West, greets its temerarious guests with a cornucopia of natural, historical and cultural wonders. In case you are interested in a particularly remote area, unusual activity and/or off-the-beaten-path attraction within Central Asia or if you are just looking for an hit-and-run visit to say Samarkand or Almaty (or whichever else city or village), we will easily meet your needs with a unique tour individually designed according to your preferences. Thanks to our deep knowledge of the territory and longstanding collaboration with independent local tour operators we are, indeed, able to offer you a wide range of tailored routes and bespoke itineraries across and beyond the white vastnesses of Soviet Central Asia. We also regularly cater for ethnologists, historians and documentarists alike interested in conducting field research in the region. Get in touch for more info on our private tours to Soviet Central Asia!
Day 1/2/3 - Kazakhstan: Almaty Region
In the morning you will meet our tour guide in the lobby of the designated hotel (exact hotel address and meeting time will be communicated well in advance per email; private airport pickup and shuttle service available for a small additional fee).
Introductory briefing about the region, the route and the set of rules to observe while travelling in post-Soviet Central Asia.
Over the course of the next three days, we will explore Almaty, the former capital of Soviet Kazakhstan and arguably one of the prettiest cities in Central Asia.
Our sightseeing will be, of course, mainly focussed on the cultural, architectural and artistic heritage of Soviet Kazakhstan (mosaics, architectures, monuments, memorials, bazaars, and backstreet attractions), but we will also find the time to enjoy more recent urban features (independent art venues and lively night life) and admire the breathtaking landscapes and scenic mountain roads surrounding the city.
Meals and overnights in Almaty.
Day 4/5 - Kyrgyzstan: Bishkek
We'll leave Almaty early in the morning and head to Kazakhstan’s little brother: the unbelievably gorgeous republic of Kyrgyzstan.
After the pretty straightforward border formalities we'll drive to Bishkek, the national capital.
We will devote two entire days to the architectural and cultural exploration of Bishkek, visiting both the heavily Russified downtown, full of nostalgia and Soviet-era buildings, and the highly photogenic bazaars enlivening the archetypically Central Asian outskirts.
Architectural highlights will include: Museum of Fine Arts, State Circus, Lenin Library, National Museum, Wedding Palace, Zhyrgal Bathhouse, Frunze Museum, Sport Palace, National Radio Headquarter and a vast plethora of Soviet apartment blocs, socialist-realist mosaics and modernist shapes.
Meals and overnights in Bishkek.
Day 6 - Kyrgyzstan: Issyk-kul
Today we'll head to the Soviet-wide famous Issyk-kul lake, Kyrgyzstan’s own answer to a missing ocean.
En route to the lake we’ll stop at the quintessentially Soviet town of Tokmok, a little-visited urban construct with plenty of socialist architectures and memorials awaiting to be re-discovered by USSR-geeks like us.
Travelling along the northern shore of the lake, we will then visit melancholic Soviet-era resort villages (such as Balykchy and Chong-Sary-Oy) and traditional lakeside hamlets (like dusty Sary Kamish) before eventually reaching the loud and colourful party town Cholpon-Ata, the Kyrgyz Cancun (more like Blackpool in the Lancashire, to be honest).
Dinner and overnight in Cholpon-Ata.
Day 7/8 - Kyrgyzstan: Karakol
In the morning we’ll continue our drive along the northern shore of the Issyk-Kul and head to the market town of Karakol.
We’ll spend two days exploring both Karakol (bustling bazaars, Soviet architectures, old churches and bright-coloured mosques) and the surrounding areas, home to staggering natural sights, remote villages and semi-abandoned Soviet mining towns such as Enilchek.
Meals and overnights in Karakol.
Day 9 - Kyrgyzstan: Kochkor
Early in the morning we'll travel west skirting the southern shore of the Issyk-Kul and head for the traditional mountain town of Kochkor.
Besides the routine pauses for food, toilet and random landscape pictures, we'll break the journey to visit both the impressive Soviet memorials at Kyzyl Suu and Ottuk and the rough-and-ready and yet extremely atmospheric towns of Barksoon and Bokonboyevo as well as the surreal post-Soviet remnants of Aalam Ordo, the cultural and spiritual capital that never was.
Once in Kochkor we’ll spend the rest of the day walking around the dusty alleys and decaying concrete of this pleasant Soviet little town nestled in a majestic setting of high mountains and green pastures.
Dinner and overnight in Kochkor.
Day 10 - Kyrgyzstan: Naryn
After a lazy and rejuvenating morning in Kochkor, we'll head south for Naryn.
The road from Kochkor to Naryn is one of the most beautiful in the entire country and we will allow us plenty of time for photo stops and rural sightseeings.
In Naryn we will then visit the usual fair share of Soviet-era leftovers and newly built mosques and tour the chaotic bazaar full of Chinese goods.
Dinner and overnight in Naryn.
Day 11 - Kyrgyzstan: Osh
We’ll leave Naryn early in the morning for the longest drive of our journey following westwards the course of the Naryn river to the junction town of Kazarman.
The vistas here are breathtaking (albeit characterised by a barren landscape of arid foothills and deserted villages) and we will halt more than once to admire the endless vastness all around us.
Being this a Soviet-themed tour, we will also look for more hidden Soviet-era gems (bus stops, mosaics, memorials) lurking in the shadow of time.
We'll then leave the wild Kyrgyz hinterlands and turn south to the urban chaos of Osh, the country’s second biggest city, where we’ll arrive just in time for dinner.
Dinner and overnight in Osh.
Day 12 - Tajikistan: Khujand
We'll spend the entire morning touring Osh and its main sights such as the unmissable Statue of Lenin, the towering Solomon's Throne, the exotic Grand Bazaar and the grandiose Central Mosque.
We will then head west to Northern Tajikistan travelling through the Kyrgyz section of the notorious Fergana Valley, a large fertile dale spreading across three ‘stans and characterised by extreme ethic diversity and problematic border disputes.
The current international frontiers within the valley are, in fact, the unwished-for and yet foreseeable long-term side effect of Stalin’s divide-and-rule policy over Soviet Central Asia: home to three titular ethnicities (Kyrgyz, Tajiks and Uzbeks) as well as to several minorities (Russians, Jews, Turks, Roma), the water-rich Fergana Valley is now a rumbling cauldron of geopolitical tensions and inter-ethnic violence.
A visible trace of the post-Soviet troubles is the large number of territorial enclaves and exclaves dotting the jigsawed territory of the valley: on our way to the Tajik border we’ll actually pass by two of them, namely Sokh and Shakhimardan, both belonging to neighbouring Uzbekistan.
In the afternoon, after the pretty straightforward border formalities and a quick stop at the hectic frontier town of Isfara, we'll eventually reach Khujand, formerly known as Leninabad, the second-largest city in Tajikistan.
Dinner and overnight in Khujand.
Day 13 - Tajikistan: Khujand
We’ll devote the entire the day to the city’s architectural and monumental heritage: concrete apartment blocks, Soviet modernist gems, WWII memorials, Soviet mosaics and bass-reliefs, Stalinist grandeur, photogenic bazaars, ancient fortresses and mausoleums and the largest Lenin statue in Central Asia (now sadly ostracised to a barren field in the outskirts).
In the afternoon we’ll head out of town to visit the former closed cities of Buston and Ghafurov (once known as Chkalovsk and Sovietabad) and hit the beach at the Kayrakkum Reservoir, a Soviet-era artificial lake where locals like flock to in oder to escape the summer heat.
Dinner and overnight in Khujand.
Day 14 - Tajikistan: Dushanbe
Today we'll head south towards Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.
En route to Dushanbe we’ll first stop in Istaravshan to admire the gargantuan Lenin monument overlooking the city’s water reservoir and then in the picturesque village of Ayni, once home to one of the largest Soviet military bases in Central Asia.
From Ayni our path will lead us through the Anzob Tunnel, aka the Tunnel of Death,
In the afternoon we will eventually reach Dushanbe and enjoy a carefree walk through downtown before splurging in one of the many newly-built upmarket restaurants for dinner.
Overnight in Dushanbe.
DAY 15 - Tajikistan: Obigarm
After a grand Tajik breakfast at our hotel, we will spend the entire day thoroughly touring both the main Soviet wonders and the pre-Soviet sights in Dushanbe.
Highlights will include: Concert Palace, State Circus, Old Chaikhana, Mevlana Mosque, National Theatre, City Library, Green Bazaar, Ministry of Economic Development, Cable Car Station and a surprisingly vast amount of well-preserved Soviet mosaics and modernist architectures.
In the later afternoon we’ll then head for the Soviet resort town of Obigarm, home to a colossal modernist sanatorium nestled in an awe-inspiring setting of high mountains and forested slopes.
Dinner and overnight in Obigarm.
Day 16 - Tajikistan: Qurgonteppa
We’ll leave Obigarm in the late morning and spend the day exploring the little-visited flatlands of Southern Tajikistan.
During the good old Soviet times, Southern Tajikistan saw dramatic agricultural and industrial developments through collectivisation of the land and modernisation of the means of production.
The modernisation process included, however, also a more or less forcible resettlement of mountain peoples to the lowlands, a controversial policy sadly resulting in social and cultural tensions that later lead to violent clashes during the dark years of the Civil War (1992-1997).
Travelling through a sun-drenched landscape of endless cotton fields and abandoned factories, we’ll visit some truly melancholic and almost deserted southern Tajik towns such as Nurek, Danghara and Sarband before eventually reaching the regional capital of Qurgonteppa for the night.
Dinner and overnight in Qurgonteppa.
Day 17 - Uzbekistan: Termez
We'll leave Qurgonteppa in the early morning hours and head for neighbouring Uzbekistan via the remote Khatynrabat border post.
On our way to the border we’ll stop at the little frontier town of Shahrtuz to visit a bright-shining Lenin statue recently restored thanks to the money collected by the local mosque: a unique case in the entire former USSR.
After completing the border formalities, we will proceed towards Termez, a large Uzbek town famous for being the getaway to visit Northern Afghanistan.
No need to beat around the bush: Termez is a rather dull city with little to see or do, and the main reason to stop here is to break the long haul to Bukhara or visit neighbouring Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan.
And yet, even in sleepy Termez, we will be able to find many a trace of bygone glories such as the impressive Friendship Bridge across the Amu Darya: the 816-m long rail-and-motor bridge was built by the Soviets in 1981 in the heat of the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan; in 1989, after nine extenuating years of conflict, the last Soviet troops triumphantly withdrew from Afghanistan crossing this very bridge.
Dinner and overnight in Termez.
Northern Afghanistan: if you are up for a short incursion into Afghan territory, we can arrange a 3-day-2-night add-on tour to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, home to the world-famous Blue Mosque, as well as historical tour to the ancient town of Balkh, the legendary capital of Bactriana. Get in touch to learn more about our bespoke journeys to Afghanistan!
Day 18 - Uzbekistan: Bukhara
Long-driving day to Bukhara across the semi-arid Qashqadaryo river basin.
We’ll stop for lunch in the industrial town of Qarshi and, after a quick Soviet tour around the centre, we’ll continue towards Bukhara, arguably the most beautiful pre-Soviet city in the entire country.
We’ll spend the rest of the day visiting Old Bukhara and its many wonders: spectacular ancient mosques, mausoleums, and synagogues, antique necropolis, dusty backstreets, crumbling houses and a marvellous wrought-iron water tower from the early Soviet years.
Dinner and overnight in Bukhara.
DAY 19/20 - Uzbekistan: Samarkand
In the morning we’ll continue our walking tour around Old Bukhara and then we’ll move east towards Samarkand, a city that really needs no introduction.
We’ll devote two days to Samarkand visiting both its world-famous ancient sights and the omnipresent remainders of the Tsarist and Soviet domination.
The latter is, of course, the most interesting part for USSR-fanatics like us: Soviet mosaics, modernist architecture and massive apartment blocks.
Meals and overnights in Samarkand.
DAY 21/22 - Uzbekistan: Tashkent
In the morning we’ll transfer to Tashkent, the national capital, and spend the last two days of our journey losing ourselves among the many Soviet-era gems of what was once the fourth-largest city in the entire USSR.
Highlights of our visit will include: Hotel Uzbekistan, State Museum, Olympic Museum, Palace of Arts, Chorsu Bazaar, Friendship Palace, Wedding Palace, House of Cinematography, State Circus, Public Radio Building and a plethora of residential towers and apartment blocks boasting fine examples of Soviet-era mosaics and decorative patters.
Time permitting, we’ll also make a short excursion out of town to visit the impressive solar furnace in Parkent: built by the Soviets (of course) in 1981, the furnace is the largest in Asia and uses a colossal system of 10700 curved mirrors acting as a parabolic reflector to reach temperatures of up to 3500 degrees Celsius, which can be employed to generate electricity or even to melt steel.
Meals and overnights in Tashkent.
DAY 23 - Flight back home or transfer to further destinations
After enjoying a last Uzbek-style breakfast together we'll take care of your transfer to the airport/train station of choice.
For those flying out: transfer to Tashkent International Airport for your flight back home.
For those wishing to take the train/bus to reach further destinations: transfer to the local train/bus station.
End of the tour.
4 to 9 participants: 3550 € per person
Are you interested in only one segment of this trip?
Please contact us for individual quotes and further details.
The price includes: double/twin room accommodation (breakfast included; single supplement: 18 euro/night), private transport in the region (jeep or minivan), entrance fees to the attractions listed in the itinerary, guiding and translation service.
The price does not include: international flights and any other flight not explicitly included in the tour price and itinerary, meals, drinks and tips, transport to and from the airport of arrival/departure (35 euros/ride), visas if required, entrance to attractions not listed in the itinerary, insurance.
The route of this tour has been carefully designed after several research trips in the region. It is, however, always possible to slightly modify the itinerary according to the needs and the suggestions of the participants. Our motto is flexibility.
Please note: It’s advisable to arrive in Almaty one day before the actual tour begins. You should notice, however, that you’ll have to take care of your accommodation for any day and night preceding the actual start date of the tour. Without any additional charge we will reserve a room for you at our hotel of choice and you’ll be able to pay for it by cash or credit card once you check-in. If your flight lands on the same day as the tour begins and you prefer to rest a bit before going out sightseeing, you will then meet your tour guide and the rest of the group at the designated hotel in the late afternoon.