Ten reasons why you should travel to the Silk Road in Central Asia now
We are seeing a new trend in adventure travel - travellers are booking well in advance of their vacation, sometimes more than a year ahead of time. And no where is that more so than in Central Asia. With a limited travel season and with the area increasing dramatically in popularity, now is the time to book your trip to Central Asia. Here are the top ten reasons why you should book your tour of Central Asia now.
1) 2019 is almost sold out
Being close to Afghanistan, the other 5 Stans (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan) have been shunned for many years by travellers. But with much of the Middle East in turmoil, people are waking up to the incredible cultures, historic monuments and landscapes that can be found in Central Asia, a safe alternative to the Middle East. This is why many tours are sold out well into 2019.
2) See the cities of the Silk Road
Uzbekistan is home to Central Asia's three most important ancient cities: Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. Samarkand is a city of beautifully tiled mausoleums, bustling bazaars and a long rich history. Mosques, madrasahs and minarets, along with an enormous fortress and the remnants of a market complex are scattered around sacred Bukhara. Walking into the mud-walled inner city of Khiva meanwhile is like being transferred to a bygone era.
3) Visa are much easier to get
Canadians no longer need visa for Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan if staying less than 60 or 30 days respectively. For Uzbekistan and Tajikistan you can now get an e-visa. In some cases you still need a letter of invitation but we arrange those for you as part of your booking with us.
4) Stay with a nomad family in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is a land of stunning mountains and rolling summer pastures, is home to welcoming nomads who have developed a great system of home (yurt) stays. Use them as a base for some wonderful hikes and horseback rides. In Uzbekistan's Kyzylkum desert you can spend the night sleeping in yurts, take a camel ride in the desert, and enjoy an evening campfire and local music.
5) Contrasting capitals
Uzbekistan's capital of Tashkent is a fascinating jumble of contradictions, part Soviet capital, with wide, tree-lined streets, grand statues and shopping malls, and part sleepy Uzbek town. Turkmenistan's new capital of Ashgabat, famous for its marble palaces, golden domes, fountains and vast park lands is like Pyongyang meet Vegas. Tajikistan's Dushanbe, a pretty town built around parks, lakes and fountains is arguably Central Asia's best-looking capital. In Kazakhstan's Astana meanwhile, a building frenzy fed by the oil industry is seeing the skyline grow more fantastical every year. Finally, oft-forgotten Bishkek is a city of many hidden delights in the form of culinary treats, arts and nightlife.
6) Discover ancient ruins
UNESCO-protected Merv in Turkmenistan was once known as Queen of the World and stood alongside such major cities as Damascus, Cairo and Baghdad as a major centre of religious study. These days you can visit the ruins consisting of walled towns that spread across 1200 hectares, some dating back more than 2 millennia. Also in Turkmenistan is the ancient Persian-era fortress of Nisa. As the capital of the Parthian Empire it controlled the area from Iraq to Pakistan 2000 years ago. The ruins of Nisa were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
7) Explore the great outdoors
Hike or ride a horse in Kyrgyzstan's beautiful Ala-Archa Valley or along the shores of its stunning lakes. Trek Tajikistan's Pamir Mountains, a rugged and remote wilderness of jagged ridges, alpine lakes and snow capped peaks. Explore Uzbekistan's ancient Silk Road cities and deserts by bike or cycle with horses across the grasslands of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
8) Visit the Gates of Hell
In the 1970's Soviet engineers drilling for gas saw their equipment collapse as a crater opened up. They set it alight in the mistaken belief that it would burn off in weeks. Almost 50 years later, the Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan are still burning.
9) Marvel at stunning mountains
Tajikistan's main draw are the stunning Pamir Mountains, where the Pamir Highway snakes across high-altitude plateaus, studded with lakes and the occasional yurt. Just to the north, the Fan Mountains offer great trekking while on its slopes Lake Iskander-Kul offers a lovely spot to hang out. The Tian Shan Mountains provide a stunning landscape of eternal snows and alpine meadows.
10) It is safe and diverse
While you should use normal precautions when travelling, Central Asia is by and large a safe region to visit. With its hospitality, great food, ancient monuments, diverse cultures and incredible landscapes it is a great region to explore.