18-night all-new textile tour of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan!
Trip Cost: $6595 Single Supplement: $600
Rikki Quintana from HoonArts Fair Trade and Cynthia Samaké, textile expert with Behind the Scenes Adventures, have created a an authentic and fascinating experience for you! We’ll visit three of the famous Central Asian ‘Stan countries: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and finally Kyrgyzstan. Check another fabulous adventure off your bucket list!
The trip begins in the exciting city of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, crosses Tajikistan and ends in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
The ancient trade passage called the Silk Route, linked the Mediterranean to China. This legendary route traversed Central Asia from Bukhara and Samarkand in the west, through Margilan and then to Osh in Kyrgyzstan, before crossing into China. Our “Three ‘Stans” adventure follows this section of the Silk Route. The countries we have chosen for this adventure exhibit a variety of unusual textiles and skillful crafts: hand-embroidered suzanis, hand-dyed, handwoven ikat textiles; thick and cozy felted rugs and slippers, fine wood carving, and cobalt-blue ceramics and tile work.
Local textile experts will accompany our small group during the trip to be sure we meet the most talented artisans and enjoy several hands-on workshops. Along the whole route, we’ll see stunning turquoise-domed buildings, bustling handicraft bazaars and superb mountain scenery. True to our name, we’ll go ‘Behind the Scenes’ to meet silk ikat dyers and weavers, embroidery and ceramic masters, wood block printers, and more. We’ll also see four UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- We’ll meet you at the airport in Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Turkish Airlines is the best way to arrive.
- Meet the premier ikat weaving master and watch him create jewel-toned fabrics.
- Create your own felted silk scarf with your choice of traditional patterns!
- Jump on a fast train for the ancient town of Bukhara with its amazing mosques, galleries and museums.
- Marvel at UNESCO-designated Samarkand and the blue-tiled Registan plaza.
- Meet suzani embroiderers and contemporary felt designers; purchase their original work.
- Spend a cozy night in an authentic felted yurt and learn about the nomadic lifestyle.
- Try your hand at carpet weaving and watch the masters create colorful rugs.
- Day trip to observe a potter making beautiful blue traditional ceramics.
- Visit a silk carpet factory and the Museum of Decorative Applied Arts.
- See four UNESCO World Heritage sites.
- Relax in comfortable hotels and eat traditional, local cuisine.
Three ‘Stans: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan
Each country has something different to offer! The three countries we will experience were part of the Soviet Union until its dissolution, and we shall see remnants of this in the Soviet-style architecture. But in 1990, each republic declared sovereignty and became independent. Officially the countries are named the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Republic of Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic. We’ll learn more about the very complex history of the region from our guides, but most of our time will be spent admiring the arts, crafts and architecture, meeting the artisans, marveling at the mountains and lakes, and enjoying the delicious fresh foods!
Our route goes from Tashkent west to Samarkand and Bukhara, then back east into Tajikistan. Then we’ll swing back into Uzbekistan to the Ferghana Valley, and on into Kyrgyzstan. We’ll fly home from the Kyrgyz city of Bishkek. Once you sign up for the trip, we’ll send details for flights, visas, what to take, etc.
In Tashkent (as in many Uzbek cities) the cerulean domes of historical buildings such as the 16th Barak-Khan Madrasa complex form one of the exciting photo opportunities and attractions. We’ll also shop at a famous crafts bazaar, as well as visit a woodblock print studio, an embroidery workshop and the Applied Arts Museum. The State Museum of Applied Arts showcases some of the best historical artistic examples of the textiles of Uzbekistan. Long ago, the Imperial Russian diplomat and visionary Alexander Polovtsev built a mansion to display his extensive collections of unique national handicrafts; it is now open as a museum with collections that include traditional ikat garments.
Then we’ll board the air-conditioned fast train to Samarkand. This interesting city lies right on the ancient Silk Road and its historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Seasoned travelers consider Samarkand as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and we shall see why. Today it’s the third largest city in Uzbekistan. Modern Samarkand is a unique city: it combines the spirit of modernity and old historical grace. Once the capital, and an important trade stop along the Silk Road, Samarkand sits at the center of the country. Prominent and iconic landmarks include the Registan, a plaza bordered by three ornate, tile-covered madrasas dating to the 15th and 17th centuries. We’ll see the towering tomb of Timur (Tamerlane), founder of the Timurid Empire. The western part of the city is more modern, with architecture reflecting 19th and 20th c. European design and style, influenced by the Russian aesthetic. The city is often referred as a crossroad of cultures.
Next stop, Bukhara
The ancient city of Bukhara (also a UNESCO site) remains an exciting place to explore the architecture and textiles of Uzbekistan. This city has overflowing textile bazaars and an active art scene! Blue-tiled mosques and museums also abound in this fabulous historical city. The age-old caravansarai and madrasas have often been converted into artists’ studios and workshops. And several ancient, domed bazaars here offer carpets, suzanis (embroidered panels) and jewelry. We’ll explore these, as well as an artisan center where we can learn how some typical crafts are made.
While in Bukhara, we must see the Emir’s summer palace, Sitorai Mohi Hosa. It’s an ‘over-the-top Russian/Central Asian confection built in 1911.’ The palace also houses the excellent Bukhara Museum of Decorative Arts where the suzani collection will enthrall the embroidery lovers among us. We’ll visit architectural wonders such as the 9th century Ismael Samani Mausoleum, made of baked bricks in basket weave pattern.
After a few days in Samarkand and Bukhara, we’ll cross the border at Panjakent and enter Tajikistan. We’ll check into our hotel then walk around town to get our bearings. One morning we’ll take in the bustling Panjakent Bazaar, in an unusual round arched building.
Panjakent has many crafts centers and Armughon will be our first visit. They make unique felted Tajik crafts such as pillows and ornaments. Next we head for Madm to see the carpet knotting, and later the woodcarvers. They are called kandakori.
With chisels, rasps and mallets, craftsmen make bookstands, latticework, pencil cases, molding for traditional tables and more. The most ambitious application of the craft is when large logs are shaped into finely worked columns and beams for mosques (think Juma Mosques) and the homes of the wealthy.
Next we’ll head for the Ferghana Valley, home of superb and glowing ikat resist-warp dyed fabrics, the most renowned of Uzbek textiles. Our route to the Ferghana Valley leads us via the low Kamchik pass at around 7400 feet. After 4 hours drive, we’ll stop in Kokand, to visit the incredible Khudayarkhan Palace and the Juma (Friday) mosque with carved wooden pillars. Taste the delicious homemade honey halva sold in the mosque courtyard! We’ll have lunch and continue to Margilan.
In Margilan, an ancient Fergana Valley city, we’ll meet ikat dyers and weavers who are the most skilled in Central Asia. Margilan was already well-known in antiquity for the superb quality of silk created here. A highlight will be the Kumtepa Bazaar, one of the best places to buy ikat fabrics (with resist-dyed warp) which are the most renowned textiles of Uzbekistan. It’s a great local market with an extensive area devoted to local textile crafts. Here you can buy ikat yardage to make robes, quilts or pillows, and other textile treasures.
Over the course of four days there, we’ll visit many ikat weavers and artisans to see how they weave, tie and dye. We’ll learn to make some typical dishes in a cooking class, pore over the textile bazaar and visit a silk factory.
Famous Ferghana Valley
There is also a workshop where you can buy the ikat fabrics directly from the weavers. Later we’ll visit the training center of the most renowned ikat weaver, whose workshop did custom work for Oscar de la Renta. We’ll visit the Yodgorlik Margilan silk factory, established in 1972. Today about 450 people, mostly women, work there, and the visit is fascinating. Every month the factory produces about 6500 yards of fabric including natural silk and silk blend fabric. Over the course of our four days in the Ferghana Valley, we’ll visit many artisans, and the textile bazaar. At a silk factory, we’ll witness the entire process from silkworm’s cocoon to the finished ikat. We’ll also learn to make some authentic dishes in our cooking class.
We’ll eat delicious food everywhere and learn about the local cuisine in at least one cooking class. The diet includes vegetables with grilled meats and stews such as pilaf or plov, with lamb/mutton. Usually cooks serve meat dishes with vegetable kebabs and fresh salads.
Traditionally, lamb is the most popular meat among Uzbek people; and in some regions they catch and consume varieties of freshwater fish.
Sacred Uzbek bread
Bread is considered sacred by Uzbek people. The traditional round and flat bread, called non or lepeshka, and is baked in a tandyr/tandoor (clay oven), after which it comes out toasted and crispy. Bread of each region has own particular method of leavening, its own baking techniques and its own inimitable taste. For instance, delicious flaky bread – katlama non, each layer smeared with oil or sour cream – typifies the Fergana Valley version. Some lepeshkas are prepared with onion or meat baked inside the dough.
Traditionally Uzbek dinner guests never cut bread with a knife. At the start of the meal, they break the bread into pieces by hand and place it on the table near each place setting. And they take care not to act disrespectful by setting the bread upside down on the table (with its flat side up). We will learn about the cuisine as well as as the polite Uzbek way of dining. Two evening meals will be on your own, to lounge at the hotel with a picnic of bread, cheese and fruit, or to find an interesting place to try.
At the end of our adventure, after seeing a million gorgeous suzanis and stunning ikats, we’ll drive to the Bishkek airport for early flights back to Tashkent. Until time to depart for the airport, you are free to explore on your own — to see something you missed the first time, visit more museums, . Or just relax at the hotel and pack up all your exquisite textiles for the trip home. Lunch on your own. Pack up bags tonight, before our Farewell Dinner.
Flights home the next day.
Once you sign up and pay the deposit, we’ll send you the detailed itinerary and other information about the country and the tour.
Trip Cost: $6595
Single Supplement: $600
The 18-night tour cost includes:
- 18 nights accommodation in double rooms with private bathrooms.
- Single supplement available for a single room (except in yurt).
- Expert English-speaking textile specialty local guides.
- Rikki Quintana of HoonArts, trip coordinator will accompany the trip.
- And Cynthia Samake, textile expert will also join the tour.
- All breakfasts in the hotels.
- 16 Lunches and 17 Dinners (3 meals on your own)
- Transportation by air-conditioned Minibus.
- Entrance fees to all sites and monuments.
- Flight from Urgench-Tashkent
- All Tashkent and Bishkek airport transfers
- Train travel between Tashkent and Samarkand, Samarkand
and Bukhara, and Bukhara-Khiva.???
- All train station transfers – Samarkand, Bukhara, etc.
- 1 liter of bottled water per person per day.
- Cooking master class, felt scarf workshop
- Wood Block printing lesson
- Ikat textile weaving demonstration/lesson
- International flights to and from Uzbekistan
- Visa and passport fees
- 2 Dinners (buy fruit and cheese to eat at the hotel, or go out)
- Tips for guide and driver; amounts will be suggested.
- Mandatory travel insurance (more about this later)
- Note for Vegetarians: Most dishes contain meat in some form. Vegetarian visitors will find more choice of foods traveling in urban Uzbekistan. In out-of-the way places, there will be some rice and veggie combinations, but these will be the exception. However there are places that offer a choice of fresh salads like achichuk (shakarop, or Uzbek salad with tomatoes, onions, dill and red pepper), turf chakka (sliced summer radish served with traditional yoghurt), chalop (cold soup, mixture of chakka/suzma yogurt and greens, or cucumbers), carrot and walnut salad, very delicious beetroot salad (also frequently served with walnuts), excellent fried or grilled aubergines, tomatoes, potatoes, fried cauliflowers, squashes and many more. The markets have loads of dried fruits and nuts also.
- More about foods and typical dishes later.