Join us, camera in hand on a unique journey of photographic exploration along the ancient Silk Road trade route. Little needs to be said about the wonderous historical sites, the dramatic landscapes and welcoming people that have captivated travelers for centuries in this part of the world. Leading this expedition will be renowned ethnographic photographer, Alison Wright, who specializes in personalized photographic journeys to remote locations with an emphasis on documenting indigenous cultures and people.
Working together with Alison, we have created a specialized itinerary for intrepid travelers with an adventurous spirit. The group size is limited to 12 travelers to allow maximum flexibility for spontaneous photo opportunities. An interest in photography is recommended but any level of photographer is welcome, from owning a Smart phone to a professional camera. A great story teller, attentive teacher, Alison willingly shares her skills as a professional photographer.
Please be aware that this is an expedition tour, not a photography workshop, as we will be on the move daily, capturing as much imagery as possible, while always chasing the best light. If you are looking for an intimate travel experience and taking a deeper dive into a cultural experience, then this is an itinerary that you will definitely want to explore.
Sept. 16 - Sept. 29, 2021
$8,900 Per Person
$7,800 Per Person
$355 Per Person
$725 Per Person
INCLUSIONS & EXCLUSIONS + span>
Inclusions & Exclusions
LAND PRICE INCLUDES:
All ground transportation and express train fare, as described in the itinerary;
Train transportation by fast day trains, economy class: Tashkent-Samarkand and Samarkand-Bukhara
Transfers upon arrival and departure
All accommodations based on double or twin occupancy
Breakfast every day, lunches & dinners as noted in itinerary;
Bottled/filtered water throughout the trip and soft drinks at meals;
All excursions, entrance fees, and visits as described in itinerary;
Two Covid-19 PCR tests as required for entry into Uzbekistan and return to the USA
All gratuities to local staff (local guide, drivers, hotel staff, restaurants)
Extensive pre-departure Travel Guide, reading list, important information about your trip, and luggage tags;
Bilingual Nomadic Expeditions local guides throughout your stay
Full time photography assistance by professional photographer Alison Wright
LAND PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE:
International airfare; Internal Asia Airfare is quoted separately and is subject to change by airlines;
Lunches and dinners unless listed in the above itinerary;
En route stop-overs and hotels;
Excess baggage charges (on flights) and airport taxes;
Items of a personal nature such as alcoholic beverages, laundry, mail, phone calls, faxes, etc.;
Tips/gratuity to tour leader;
Trip cancellation, travel delays, or baggage insurance;
Charges incurred as a result of delays beyond the control of Nomadic Expeditions.
Alison Wright, an acclaimed photographer and visual anthropologist, travels to all regions of the globe photographing indigenous cultures and people while covering issues concerning the human condition. She is a recipient of the Dorothea Lange Award in Documentary Photography, a two-time winner of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award, and an Explorers Club Fellow. She was awarded “The Most Compelling Woman in the Travel Industry, 2014” by Premier Traveler magazine and was named a National Geographic Traveler of the Year as someone who travels “with a sense of passion and purpose.”
She has published ten books including her latest, “Human Tribe,” a series of global portraits celebrating our diversity and visual tapestry of humanity. Alison has been published in numerous magazines including National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, National Geographic Adventure, Outside, Islands and Smithsonian.
Welcome to Kyrgyzstan! Arrive Bishkek early in the morning, where you are met and transferred to the centrally located hotel for early check-in. Balance of the morning is at your leisure to rest after the long flight. Early afternoon have an ‘orientation meeting” followed by your first ‘photography excursion.”
On clear days the snowcapped peaks of the Ala Too mountain range dominate the skyline (image below). Though wide boulevards have now replaced the heavily forested rest stop on the Silk Road of ancient times, the residents still take pride in the city’s trees.
View the marble exterior of the imposing neoclassical House of Parliament building – also known as Kyrgystan’s White House. Built in 1985, this presidential seven-story building was the site of the 2005 Tulip Revolution that led to the resignation of then-President Aska Akayev.
The most notable site of Bishkek is the Manas Monument in the Ala too Square, built to honor the main heroes of Kyrgyz epic “Manas.” The complex was built in 1981 in front of the Philharmonic building in dedication to the main heroes of the Kyrgyz epic, “Manas.” The center of the composition consists of Manas riding a horse and killing a dragon. Below Manas are his wife, Kanykei, and his sage, Bakai. Along the edges of the sculpture are busts of the great storytellers of “Manas.”
Continue to the covered open-air art gallery in Oak Park, an excellent opportunity for people-watching (and shopping). Local artists and painters congregate here to display and sell their pieces to the public. Stroll along the walkways lined with contemporary and traditional artworks, including paintings of Kyrgyzstan’s famed mountain scenery, local cityscapes, portraiture, and more.
Enjoy welcome dinner at the Supara Ethno Complex in Chunkurchak Gorge a short drive outside of Bishkek, a serene yurt village surrounded by scenic mountains.
(Plaza Hotel; B, D)
Day 2 - EXPLORING BISHKEK
In the mornig head out to Ala Archa National park with glaciers and 50 peaks from 4,000 to 5,000 meters for some landscape photography. During the Soviet times alpinists trained in this national park, which was established 1976. A highlight is the forested gorge of the Ala Archa River.
As evening approaches we explore the Osh Bazaar and experiences the full display of spices, local crafts, dried fruit, and the bright Kyrgyz textiles. Haggling is the order of the day to settle on a price and is expected when making purchases. Excellent location for portrait photography.
(Plaza Hotel; B, L)
Day 3 - LAKE ISSYK-KUL
Day of exploration and photography of Kyrgyzstan countryside. Our goal for the day is Lake Issk-Kul but we will make many stops along the way.
Just over an hours drive we reach the Burana Tower. Built in the 11th century, it is one of the only existing watchtowers on the old Silk Road that traversed Kyrgyzstan. Climb up to the platform from inside the tower – while the ancient steps are steep, with panoramic views from the top. Visit the small museum and the collection of ancient bal-bals, carved stone figures used as monuments.
Not far from the tower is the village of Don-Aryk. Explore the village of just 2,000 residents, where we will visit a local local family, learn about their lives and enjoy homemade lunch prepared by the family.
Following lunch, witness and photograph a display of traditional Kyrgyz horse games, such as Ulak Tartysh, a sort of polo played with a goat carcass, and Oodarysh, a kind of wrestling match on horseback and Kyz-Kumai, or “bride-chasing,” in which a young man chases a young woman – both of them on horseback in traditional costumes – and tries to kiss her. If he is not successful, the woman gets to hit him with her quirt.
Our final stop before reaching the lake is Cholpon-Ata, one of several places in the Kyrgyz Chu Valley where you can see petroglyphs thought to have been created by the tribes of the Neolithic period. The images are mainly primitive long-horned ibex, horses, camels and snow leopards. There are several thousand petroglyphs here providing a glimpse into the world of the Iron Age.
Late afternoon reach Issyk-Kul meaning “warm lake,” referring to the fact that it never freezes, despite its high elevation and cold winters. Archaeological discoveries from the lake’s bottom include ancient relics and graves dating back to the first millennium BC.
(Karven Issyk-Kul Hotel; B, L, D)
Day 4 - ISSYK-KUL - CHON KEMIN
Full day to enjoy activities and pursue photo ops around the lake as we wend our way to beautiful Chon Kemin Valley.
First we board a boat and glide over the second-largest alpine lake in the world, beautiful spring-fed Issyk-Kul. Surrounded by soaring mountains, the lake is often clear down to depths of 15 feet, before driving to the secnic Grigoriev Gorge for a walking excursion in the sloping alpine pastures, where you may see horses, sheep, goats and nomadic yurts.
Learn how the Kyrgyz set up their yurts, the round collapsible homes that nomads have lived in for thousands of years. The walls of a yurt are typically made of sections of birch or willow lattice formed into a circle and secured with leather straps. In the center of the ceiling is a hole that allows smoke to escape and fresh air and light to enter. Modern yurts may be covered with canvas rather than the traditional felted wool.
The beautiful steep-sided Chon (Big) Kemin Valley runs parallel to the border of Kazakhstan between two mountain ranges. The valley’s population is mostly Kyrgyz, of the Sary Bagysh tribe, and many traditions are still practiced here and we will be treated to one tonight.
During dinner this evening, enjoy a traditional Manas performance around a campfire, recited by a Manaschi, a trained specialist in this art. The Kyrgyz mythical hero, Manas, fought against the Uighur people in the 9th century. His story, the Epic of Manas, is a Kyrgyz epic poem with nearly a half million verses, listed by UNESCO as a part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Never written down until the 19th century, the poem has been passed down by word of mouth for centuries. A performance of selections from the beloved poem is often given at Kyrgyz festivals, accompanied on the komuz, a traditional three-stringed instrument.
(Kemin Guesthouse: B, L, D)
Day 5 - COUNTRYSIDE PHOTOGRAPHY / FLY TO TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN
We have the morning to explore and photograph the small village of Tarsuu, as the locals go about their daily chores. We will see ‘felt making,’ ride a horse drawn cart and see a presentation of traditional Kyrgyz eagle hunting.
This demonstration captures the majesty, ferocity, and skill of traditional Kyrgyz hunting. You’ll see expertly trained golden eagles perch on their masters’ arms and then go racing through the air in a game of pursuit. Long-legged Taigans (hunting dogs) also show off their range and dexterity, and archers mounted on horseback pierce targets while at a full gallop.
After lunch in the village, we drive directly to Bishkek Manas International Airport for the evening flight to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, scheduled for 7:35pm departure. The short one hour and 20 minute flight brings you to Tashkent at 7:50pm local time.
Return to Bishkek airport for the evening flight to Tashkent.
(Lotte City Hotel Tashkent Palace; B, L)
Day 6 - EXPLORING TASHKENT
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel this morning before heading out on a full day of touring and photography in Tashkent.
Although it doesn’t look it today, Tashkent is one of the oldest cities in Uzbekistan. Rock paintings in the Chatkal Mountains about 50 miles away show that humans have been here since perhaps 2000 BC. In the 2nd century BC the town was known as Ming Uryuk. A major caravan crossroads, it was taken by the Arabs in 751 and by Genghis Khan in the 13th century. Tamerlane feasted here in the 14th century and the Shaibanid khans in the 15th and16th. The Russian Empire arrived in 1865, and Uzbekistan was not an autonomous country again until 1991.
Explore Old Tashkent, beginning with a visit to Khast-Imam Plaza, with its 16th century Kaffal-Shoshi Mausoleum and al-Bukhari Madrassah; Chorsu Bazaar with its 16th century Kukeldash Madrassah; the recently renovated Juma Mosque on the square where executions used to be held; and Salgoh, a pedestrian street where one can shop for art and souvenirs. Dip down underground to admire the beautifully decorated Tashkent subway stations.
Stroll through a labyrinth of mud-walled houses surviving from the 19th century to Khast Imam Square, where some of Tashkent’s oldest monuments remain. The 16th century Kaffal Shashi Mausoleum, the tomb of one of the first imams of the Muslim world, and Barak-Khan Madrassah, also 16th century, are flanked by the 19th century al-Bukhari Madrassah and the early 20th century Tillya Sheikh Mosque, which houses the oldest Koran in the world.
(Lotte City Hotel Tashkent Palace; B, D)
Day 7 - TRAIN TO SAMARKAND, UZBEKISTAN
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the railway station and take the train to Samarkand, a 2 hours, 10 minute ride.
A World Heritage Site, Samarkand is called “Crossroad of Cultures” by UNESCO. It has been visited throughout time by many of the world’s conquerors — Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Tamerlane. Alexander said of Samarkand, “Everything I have heard about the beauty of the city is indeed true, except that it is much more beautiful than I imagined.” Tamerlane made it his capital city and gathered the finest architects, builders, and artisans of the time to enhance its beauty.
Gur-Emir Mausoleum is the final resting place of Tamerlane, but was originally built for his grandson after the latter’s death, at the turn of the 15th century. The interior of the mausoleum has been restored and is brilliant in gold leaf and fresh tile. The heavily gilded central dome opens over the set of tomb-markers resembling sarcophagi (the bodies are located well below, but are on site). All are marble, with the exception of Tamerlane’s which is a slab of solid jade, are reportedly from Mongolia.
Registan Square is the centerpiece of Samarkand and the most recognizable landmark for visitors. The three emblematic madrassahs frame the square, and loom over the empty space in the center. It was this central space that originally gave the place its name, for “registan” simply means “place of sand.” This sandy place was at the center of ancient Samarkand and was a public square and marketplace before the Ulug Bek, Tillya-Kori, and Shir Dor madrassahs were built. In its reconstruction, the square maintains the majesty that it has radiated through the ages.
(City Hotel; B, L)
Day 8 - IN SAMARKAND, UZBEKISTAN
After breakfast depart to visit and photography a traditional Uzbek village on the outskirts of town, returning to town around lunch time.
In the afternoon, visit the Bibi Khanum Mosque, built by Tamerlane to be the largest mosque in the Islamic world, and dedicated to the memory of his favorite wife. Architects from India and Persia were brought in to build the mosque, and it is said that 95 elephants were used to transport the marble and other building materials from India to Samarkand.
Browse the animated Siab Bazaar, just across the street from the Bibi Khanum Mosque. Vividly dressed women oversee neat stacks of brilliant produce and burlap sacks of nuts and spices. Uzbek and Tajik men in black and white skullcaps, called doppi, sell cabbage rolls and shashlik. For a pittance, an entrepreneur with a brazier of special incense will cleanse you of all bad luck.
The row of tombs and mausoleums collectively called Shah-i-Zinda, or “place of a living king,” stretches between the present and the past. At its front is living Samarkand, and at its back are the dusty slopes at the edge of ancient Afrosiab. Even on hot summer days the mausoleums remain shady and cool and seem to lure the traveler to approach the oldest tomb at the far end. Behind the complex and set into the hill lies an active cemetery with grave sites dating back as far as the 9th century and as recently as the present day.
(City Hotel; B, L)
Day 9 - TRAIN TO BUKHARA, UZBEKISTAN
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before we transfer to the railway station and take the train to Bukhara, a 1 hour, 50 minute ride.
An oasis in the desert, UNESCO-listed Bukhara, offers cool shade and rest to the modern traveler as it did to the camel caravans that plied the Silk Road hundreds of years ago. Bukhara is as old as Samarkand and has preserved its ancient architecture and design to an arguably larger extent than that city. The Old Town in Bukhara has a unified feel that is drawn together by a central reflecting pool and plaza, by commonality in the structure of the domed bazaars, and by the major monuments surrounding the Old Town: the Kalon Assembly, the Zindan Prison, and the Ark Citadel.
Bukhara was the site of one of the best-known episodes (to westerners) in Central Asian history: the 19th century capture and ultimate execution of two British spies posing as explorers. They were involved in what was then known as the Great Game between Russia and England for control over Central Asia and access to India. The last emir of Bukhara was a notoriously brutal and crafty leader and kept the men imprisoned for great lengths before their public execution. The city was also an important merchant center of Sephardic Jewry. The term “Bukharan Jews” refers to a large community of Jews originally from Persia who lived in the lands formerly ruled by the emir of Bukhara.
In the afternoon go on a walking photo safari around the old town. Photograph the early 19th century Chor Minar Madrassah, whose four slender, blue-topped minarets give it its name. Visit Khanaka of Nadir Divan-Begi, the first component of the Labi-Hauz ensemble, built even before the reflecting pool. Two phoenixes spread their wings on each side of a shining sun on the archway that leads into the Nadir Divan-Begi Madrassah. Seated on the east side of the Labi-Hauz pool, the 1622 madrassah was originally built as a caravanserai. At its opening, Bukhara’s leader, Imamkulikhan, dedicated it to the “greater glory of Allah,” and Nadir Divan-Begi quickly had it converted to a madrassah, adding student rooms and the portal with its phoenixes. In the evenings, a performance of Uzbek folk music and dances takes place in the courtyard of the former madrassah.
(Amelia Boutique Hotel ; B, L)
Day 10 - EXPLORING BUKHARA, UZBEKISTAN
A full day to further explore and photograph this important town on the Silk Road.
In a clearing in a tree-filled park, a small plaza is marked with a single building, the Ismael Samani Mausoleum. It is the 10th century resting place of Ismael Samani, founder of the Persian Samanid Dynasty, and was buried under centuries of sand and not discovered until the 20th century. Though small, it is detailed in a fashion not seen in many other Bukharan monuments. More than sixteen styles of brickwork adorn the face of this cubic memorial, and their elaborate pleats and layering are still fresh today. From inside, the transition from square walls to circular roof, created using bricks of identical size and shape, testifies to the engineering powers of the designers.
The Chashma Ayub Mausoleum is not a true mausoleum, but a qadamdjoy, or site visited by a holy person. The Koranic prophet, Ayub – the Biblical prophet, Job – reportedly struck the ground with his staff here and water immediately bubbled up from a spring. The oldest part of this multi-domed building was probably built in the 12th century. Under its many roofs are the sacred spring and the Water Supply History Museum of Bukhara.
Photograph the serene Bolo Hauz Mosque across from the Ark. Called the forty-pillar mosque because of the reflection of its colonnades in the pool, the mosque was founded by 18th century emir, Shah Murad.
The Ark Citadel is the original fortress of Bukhara and likely dates back two thousand years or more. The current structure has been built and rebuilt on the same site throughout its history, and has preserved something of the form, purpose, and function of the first Ark. Like the medieval castle complexes of Europe, the Bukhara Ark served the Emirs of Bukhara as a residence, audience hall, as protection from neighboring enemies, and for more mundane purposes such as a trade center and a police station.
Just behind the Ark Citadel is the infamous Zindan Prison and the even more infamous “bug pit” or “black hole,” the cell where two of Britain’s finest Great Game players were imprisoned before their execution.
(Amelia Boutique Hotel ; B, L, D)
Day 11 - DRIVE TO KHIVA, UZBEKISTAN
This morning, head for the last great city on the Uzbek itinerary, Khiva. The drive today traverses long stretches of the Kyzyl Kum, or Red Sand Desert. This is the same route taken by loaded Silk Road camel caravans and was once plagued by brigands on-hand to plunder their riches. Stop en route to take a look at the Amu Darya River, once called the Oxus, and loosely parallels the Uzbek-Turkmen border. You will have the opportunity to stop and take photos in the desert along the way.
Arrive in Khiva in time for dinner and a performance of traditional Khorezmian music with the folklore group Khalfi. Brilliant costumes, historic songs and traditional instruments are featured in this program of local music and dance.
(Asia Khiva Hotel; B, L, D)
Day 12 - IN KHIVA, UZBEKISTAN
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel this morning before meeting up for a full day of touring and photographing Khiva on foot.
Legend says that the ancient Silk Road oasis of Khiva was founded at the place where Shem, son of Noah, discovered water in the desert. The city got its name from Shem’s joyful shout, “Hey va!” at the discovery. Today the living city is part museum town and part recreation of life hundreds of years ago. Archaeologists have found traces of human habitation around Khiva dating from the 5th century BC. For hundreds of years, it was a stop on the old Silk Road and a fortress town, but it was not until the 16th century that Khiva became the capital of the Khorezm Khanate. The khanate ruled the surrounding area for over 300 years.
Photograph Khiva’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that has been extensively preserved and restored and exists today much as it did hundreds of years ago. Approaching the old town, modern-day visitor see the same sight as Silk Road caravans did, the dun-colored city walls, the main gate opening on a dusty stone thoroughfare, merchants hawking their wares from each side, and the distinctive minarets watching over the whole scene. The largest of the existing buildings inside the walled Old City is the Tash Hauli Palace, the home of the Khan and his four legal wives. The intricate blue and white tilework in the open-air throne room offsets the airy space set aside by the carved wooden columns.
Wood carving is a traditional specialty of Khiva and more wooden columns are found at the Dzhuma Mosque. The mosque is partially below ground level and the 115 carved columns that support the wooden ceiling create a forest-like effect around two square light wells. The Kunya Ark was originally built in the 12th century as the khan’s fortress and residence, and encompassed numerous small courtyards surrounded by administrative buildings, sleeping quarters, kitchens, guardhouse, stables, parade area and weapons strongholds. Much of it was lost when Persia invaded the Khivan Khanate in the 18th century, but what remains, including the mosque, harem, and throne room are beautifully decorated with ceramic tiles and majolica.
There are several places that offer aerial views of the city from a 3rd or 4th story balcony. The unique minarets with their blue-green tiles stand over the domes, mud-brick walls, and maintain the quiet feel of this museum town.
(Asia Khiva Hotel; B, L)
Day 13 - FLY BACK TO TASHKENT
Following an early breakfast, transfer to airport in the regional capital Urgench and fly back to Tashkent. Estimated flight times: 9:35am-10:55am. Upon arrival in Tashkent, check in to hotel and enjoy the free afternoon at leisure. Celebrate the journey at an early evening farewell dinner.
(Lotte City Hotel Tashkent Palace: B, D)
DAY 14 - DEPARTURE
You are transferred to the airport in time for your outbound flight.