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Textiles, Arts & Architecture: Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan

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Tour Dates:

April 6 - 29, 2024

Fly Home:

April 30, 2024

Tour Pricing:

24 Nights - $6,420

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THIS TRIP IS FULL, sorry! September 2024 has spaces and also 2025 dates are available.

Our 24-night textiles and arts tour of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan checks another fabulous adventure off your bucket list!

On this spectacular tour, we’ll be following part of the Silk Road, the ancient trade route that linked the Mediterranean to China! These ancient artistic exchanges and shared aesthetic traditions practically assured that nowadays the whole region would be home to large numbers of talented artisans. Uzbek textile artists create exquisite hand-embroidered suzanis and brilliant hand-dyed, handwoven ikat fabrics. Kyrgyz women have expanded traditional nomadic-style felt-making (yurts and rugs) to produce innovative craft items such as cozy slippers and small needle-felted animals.

In both countries, we will meet the welcoming people and see their weaving, dyeing and felting techniques first-hand. Weather permitting, we will spend a night in a typical felted, handmade yurt at the edge of Lake Issy-Kul!

In the historic areas of many cities such as Samarkand and Bukhara, blue and turquoise-domed mosques and madrasas compose important UNESCO World Heritage sites. Detailed tile mosaics with masterful calligraphic panels decorate these stunning ancient buildings inside and out. Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, has modern hotels, tree-lined streets and verdant parks. The restaurants of both countries are superb and serve a great variety of fresh and healthy foods.

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • Visit exquisite blue-tiled madrasas, mosaic-covered mosques, and fascinating museums
  • Design and make your own silk and felt scarf in our workshop in Bishkek
  • Meet silk ikat dyers and weavers, woodblock printers, and embroidery and ceramic masters
  • Meet Kyrgyz feltmakers and learn their methods of making shyrdak rugs
  • Walk the historical neighborhoods of ancient Samarkand and Bukhara to see UNESCO Heritage sites
  • Shop in the bustling markets and handicraft bazaars of Bishkek and Bukhara.

What’s Included in The Trip?

An Overview of Our Journey

Arrival in Tashkent!

The trip begins in the booming city of Tashkent, the Uzbek capital. You’ll be met at the airport early on April 6, then check in to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. The next day, we’ll have an easy day of sightseeing in Tashkent. Big sycamores line the wide avenues of this beautiful city, and mosaic-decorated apartment blocks alternate with sleek new glass and steel edifices.

In Tashkent’s old city, we’ll admire historical buildings with iconic turquoise-tiled domes, such as the 16th c. Barak-Khan Madrasa complex. We’ll also visit the home/studio of a famous embroiderer’s workshop and school, and see her beautiful jackets and other pieces. One of the days in the capital, we’ll go to the huge Chorsu Bazaar to meet the bread bakers and ride the subway to see the artistically decorated underground stations.

We’ll be sure to see the Museum of Applied Arts which showcases some of the best historical examples of the arts of Uzbekistan, in the mansion of the Imperial Russian diplomat Alexander Polovtsev. He commissioned the intricately decorated mansion expressly to display his extensive collections of unique handicrafts and textiles. After the Soviet revolution, the government nationalized his cherished home and opened it to the public as a museum. Polovtsev’s rare examples of vintage folk art such as ikat fabric, suzanis, ceramics, handmade rugs, and wood carvings are on display in the wondrous house with its colorfully decorated ceilings.

Tiled minaret of Kokhand Palace.
Shohizinda, a necropolis for Timur's female relatives in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Samarkand

From Tashkent we board the comfortable, air-conditioned fast train to Samarkand. Seasoned travelers consider Samarkand to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world, not only for the stunning historical monuments but also for the tree-shaded avenues and lovely green city parks. It was an important trade stop along the Silk Road and was at the forefront of early Islamic architecture. 

We’ll visit the mausoleums of Shah-i-Zinda, where Tamerlane built elaborate tiled mosaic tombs for his favorite wives and sisters, among others. We can visit a handmade carpet workshop, the Afrasiab Museum and the fascinating Observatory of visionary astronomer, Ulughbek. We’ll see the towering tomb of Emir Timur (Tamerlane), founder of the Timurid Empire. Prominent landmarks include the iconic Registan, a plaza bordered by three ornate, majolica-covered madrasas dating to the 15th and 17th centuries.

We’ll visit Registan Square in the daytime as well as at night when it’s lit with floodlights and looks magical. Modern Samarkand is a unique city: it combines the spirit of modernity with old historical grace. 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—as well as 21st c. towering modern glass and steel buildings.

Large and intricate hand-embroidered suzani. Tashkent.

Next Stop Bukhara!

Next we’ll visit the ancient city of Bukhara, another UNESCO World Heritage site. The historic center of Bukhara, situated on the Silk Road, is more than two thousand years old. It is one of the best examples of well-preserved Islamic cities of Central Asia of the 10th to 17th centuries, with an urban fabric that has remained largely intact. It was a major medieval center for Islamic theology and culture. Bukhara still contains hundreds of well-preserved mosques, madrassas, bazaars and caravansarais, dating largely from the 9th to the 17th centuries. Several ancient, domed buildings here still function as bazaars, offering carpets, typical suzanis (embroidered panels) and jewelry.

Important monuments that survive from early times include the famous Ismail Samani mausoleum, impressive in its monochromatic elegance of unglazed bricks set in decorative patterns. It’s considered the best surviving example of 10th century Muslim architecture in the whole world.

While in Bukhara, we’ll see the Emir’s summer palace, Sitorai Mohi Hosa. It’s an extravagantly decorated Russian/Central Asian complex built in 1911. The palace also houses the excellent Bukhara Museum of Decorative Arts where the superb suzani collection will enthrall the embroidery lovers among us. The main building with its tall ceramic fireplaces houses treasures such as royal furniture of the 19th-20th centuries, palace artifacts from Russia, crystal chandeliers, and jewelry by well-known Bukharan masters.

On to Khiva

Onward from Bukhara to Khiva! This is a long drive, but the desert landscape is compelling: vast steppes, shepherds and their flocks of goats and sheep, remote villages, and unusual vegetation. We’ll skirt the Kyzylkum or Red Sand Desert, and cross the Amu Darya River, known as the Oxus in ancient times.

Ichan Kala, the walled inner city of Khiva was an important stop on the Silk Road. It’s also the largest surviving walled city in the central part of Asia.

Tiled and mosaic-encrusted treasures of Khiva’s old town include stunning palaces, mosques and minarets. We’ll walk through the striking and ancient Juma Mosque, with its 200-plus hand-carved wooden pillars, right. There is a good carpet shop in Khiva that we will visit also. Hand-knotted examples here exhibit subtle color combinations and unusual and intricate patterns that were inspired by the designs of the tiles and doors of the city.

Juma Mosque with over 200 hand-carved pillars, Khiva.
Cotton ikat coats in Margilan.
Long coats of cotton (or cotton and silk) hand-woven ikat. Margilan.

Fergana Valley of Ikat

Next we’ll fly back to Tashkent for one night and then drive to the Fergana Valley. After several hours, we’ll stop in Kokand for lunch and to visit the incredible Khudayarkhan Palace. Along the route we’ll stop several times to visit the bakers slapping dough rounds onto the walls of fiery domed ovens.

Soon we arrive in Margilan, an ancient Fergana Valley city, and home of glowing resist-warp dyed (ikat) fabrics, the most renowned of Uzbek textiles. Margilan town was well-known in antiquity for the superb quality of silk created here. We’ll meet ikat dyers and weavers who are the most skilled in Central Asia. Over the course of our days there, we’ll visit ikat masters to see thread binders, weavers, and dyers. Stunning ceramic plates and bowls will be available at the master ceramicist’s studio we’ll visit too. All the pieces are intricately hand-painted and wood-fired on site.

 A highlight will be the Kumtepa Bazaar, one of the best places to buy inexpensive ikat fabrics (woven with resist-dyed warp) which are the most renowned textiles of Uzbekistan. It’s a great local market with an area devoted to vintage and new textiles. Here you can buy ikat yardage to make robes, quilts or pillows, and other textile treasures.

Later we’ll visit an ikat dyeing workshop and will see how the warp threads are bound to make the bold patterns. We’ll visit the Yodgorlik silk factory in Margilan where we can see the entire process from reeling silk cocoons to the finished ikat.

Fascinating Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan has been at the crossroads of several great civilizations as part of the Silk Road. Though long inhabited by a succession of independent ethnic groups, Kyrgyzstan has periodically fallen under foreign domination. It attained sovereignty as a nation-state after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Ethnic Kyrgyz make up the majority of the country’s six million people, followed by significant minorities of Uzbeks and Russians.

After the modern cities and the fascinating historical sites of Uzbekistan, a visit to Kyrgyzstan is a refreshing change of pace. The few travelers that make it here love the peaceful countryside and stunning mountain views. In fact, the mountainous Tian Shan region covers 80 per cent of Kyrgyzstan. Some Kyrgyz people still prefer to live in a felt yurt in the beautiful forests or lake country.

Shop display of felted slippers made of dyed wool, Kyrgyzstan.
Handmade, felted and embroidered wool slippers from Kyrgyzstan.
Shyrdak carpets made of cut and stitched felt.

Over the Border Into Kyrgyzstan!

After our time in Uzbekistan, we’ll head over the border with our wonderful Kyrgyz guide who will explain Kyrgyz traditions and culture. We’ll see the highlights of the country, starting in the capital, Bishkek. It’s modern with good restaurants and hotels, pretty parks, and a population of one million. We’ll visit verdant and peaceful Oak Park and other historical monuments in the city. In the fabulous Kyrgyz State (Historical) Museum we’ll learn more about traditional Kyrgyz nomadic culture. There’s a full-sized typical yurt and mannequins dressed in local dress, as well as an excellent collection of felted shyrdak carpets.

We’ll have several opportunities to learn about Kyrgyz felt-making, in NGO supported workshops around the country. Best known for making felted rugs, saddle blankets, and tent bands, Kyrgyz artists also create charming felt toys and clothing such as warm slippers, pretty shawls and scarves. 

In Bishkek, we’ll meet a talented felt artist, learn about her techniques and see her latest work. Then we’ll try our hand at making beautiful silk and wool felted scarves! These are gorgeous scarves you will be proud to wear at home!

We’ll also visit some women’s coops where the felting methods are different and they make varieties of home decor and accessories, such as the colorful and durable appliqué shyrdak rugs, left.

The Beauty of Felt!

Later we’ll drive to Kochkor village, 260 kms from Bishkek. Kochkor is a famous province for farmers and woolen felt makers, and we’ll visit the Altyn Kol Women’s Handicraft Co-operative. At the Felt Master’s studio, we will learn how nomadic Kyrgyz women make felt rugs called Shyrdak. These floor coverings are made by cutting positive and negative shapes out of prepared felt in various brightly dyed colors. Then the positive shapes are inserted into the negative spaces of the background and stitched.

The women at the coop will show us another process of felt carpet making. This method of layering colored felt shapes or strands of roving on a felted background is called ala kyiz and is different from the modern art felt shyrdak rugs with cut designs that we have seen before. The backing felt and the front design are sprinkled with hot water, then rolled into a cylinder. One or more people roll the cylinder back and forth with their feet, adding hot water and soap occasionally, for about 45 minutes. The roll is opened and the rug is revealed!

These are fun because we get a glimpse of how people really live! The families who volunteer to have travelers as guests are lively, interested folks who like to talk about the outside world.

Tian-Shan Mountains

One day we’ll drive along another part of the Great Silk Road to the Tash-Rabat Caravanserai. This trip passes through the spectacular mountains and valleys of the Tian-Shan mountains where we will enjoy stunning views of the At-Bashy ranges.

The well-preserved and mysterious 15th century stone fortress of Tash Rabat stands 100 km before the Kyrgyz-Chinese border at Torugart, at 3500 meters altitude. It has a central hall and 30-odd small rooms. The latest theory is that it was a Zoroastrian temple because some parts of the stone structure have a spiritual arrangement and atmosphere. Another theory is that it was related to the Nestorian religion or a Buddhist monastery… 

The Tash-Rabat region is spectacular. High mountains are dotted with Golden Marmots observing the scene from in front of their burrows. Shaggy near-wild horses, sheep and yak roam the picturesque hills. We’ll perhaps spend a night in the Yurt Camp near the enormous IssyKul Lake, depending on the weather.

On to Karakol

Next morning, we’ll continue to Kyzyl-Tuu village where a Kyrgyz family member will show us how to assemble a felt-sided traditional yurt. Here we will also learn about Kyrgyz national traditions such as beshik (baby cradle ceremony) with a demonstration using a cheerful local babe!

A traditional eagle hunter will demonstrate his Golden Eagle’s skill by letting the eagle loose to chase and snag a goatskin with a chunk of meat attached (no animals harmed in the demo).

We’ll continue to Karakol town, one of the first Russian military outposts, founded in 1869. Here we can see the wooden Russian Orthodox church called the Holy Trinity Cathedral. This masterpiece of woodworking has distinctive wooden cut-work trim all along the eaves. The cathedral was used for many non-religious purposes after the Revolution, but in 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Independence of Kyrgyzstan, the local authority gave the building back to the church; services are held there today for a small congregation. There is also a most unusual pagoda-influenced Chinese mosque with complex woodwork decorations under the eaves.

Winding it up with Music…

And on our last night in the rural countryside, we’ll have a superb dinner at a Uighur family house, with an interesting Kyrgyz musicians’ folk concert. The talented and welcoming musicians who also teach Music, will explain their unique, handmade instruments too. 

Then on our way back to Bishkek we’ll stop to see the enormous field of boulders with ancient rock engravings at Cholpon-Ata’s open-air museum. This is a very important historical site, located on a territory of 42 ha (104 acres). With a splendid background made of high snowy mountains, the petroglyphs date back more than 4,000 years.

We’ll also see the Burana Tower, a truncated minaret, from the 11th century with another open-air collection of interesting pre-Islamic images on human-shaped tombstones.

Near the end of our adventure, after seeing hundreds of amazing textiles of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan – gorgeous suzanis, stunning ikat yardage and beautiful felt creations – we’ll return to Bishkek for a felting workshop with a prominent felting artist before flying home the next day. We will fly home on April 30 from Bishkek.

Some of our hotels…

Hotel in Tashkent

A modern hotel, conveniently located. There’s a rooftop restaurant for dinner and the breakfast buffet is excellent. Rooms are comfortable with smooth linens, good beds, and contemporary bathrooms.

Khiva Hotel

Cozy, new family-style hotel within walking distance to all the important sites in Khiva. It has comfortable rooms and good beds. Breakfasts are delicious. The owner and staff are all helpful and very welcoming.

Additional Details & Experiences

Bread In Uzbekistan

Bread is considered sacred by Uzbek people. Each region has its own type of bread, some chewy, some lighter. The traditional round and flat bread, called non or lepeshka, is baked in a tandoor (round clay oven), after which it comes out toasted and crispy.

Bread of each region has its own particular method of leavening, its own baking techniques and its own inimitable taste. For instance, delicious flaky bread—katlama non—typifies the Fergana Valley version.

All Uzbek bread is marked with a wooden stamp that has small spikes arranged in a design that marks the dough with the baker’s decorative mark and sometimes a telephone number!

Uzbek meal of large samosas, carrot salad and chicken.

What are the traditional foods of Uzbekistan?

We’ll eat delicious food everywhere! Popular foods include vegetable, chicken or beef skewers, fresh salads and dishes such as rice pilaf or plov, with beef or lamb. Flaky-crusted meat-filled pastries called somsas are common. They’re cooked in a round oven, stuck onto the sides to ensure crisp pastry. Another popular dish is steamed noodle dumplings called manti. These delicious little packages are filled with pumpkin or ground beef. Vegetarians will have no trouble at all; many salads such as grated carrot, tomato and cucumber with feta cubes, or beets with walnuts are popular and found in most restaurants. Soups such as lentil or beet borscht often start the meal. Kyrgyz food is similarly delicious.

The Ismail Samani Mausoleum

The Samanid Mausoleum is an architectural wonder, a highly decorated perfect cube of unglazed tan bricks. Its thick walls are embellished with decorative basket-weave patterns inside and out. It’s located in the northwestern part of Bukhara, just outside its historic center.
The mausoleum was built in the 9th-10th centuries AD as the resting place of the powerful and influential Islamic Samanid dynasty. It is extremely important from an art historical perspective as it is the earliest instance of an Islamic tomb to survive in Central Asia.

Photos From Previous Adventures in Uzbekistan

Your Trip Leaders

Mirza

Mirza’s upbeat and easy-going personality is a large part of why trips with him are so delightful! He’s a guide who explains just the right amount of the complicated history of his country and its architecture. It would be easy to get overwhelmed by all the conquerors and wars, but Mirza knows just how much info to impart. He’s also friends with the textile and ceramic artisans that we visit, which makes those encounters personal and much more interesting.

Cynthia Samaké

Cynthia

Since 1998 Cynthia has led small groups of textile fanatics and friends all over the world. Desiring some new locations and new types of textiles, she has branched out and found different destinations for her tours. Now the repertoire includes the fabulous textiles of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, where artisans dye and weave stunning silk ikat designs and make felted rugs.

Check Trip Availability

Trip signups are accepted on a first-come, first serve basis. Please provide your details below and we’ll be in touch to confirm whether spaces are still available for this trip. If you need to get in contact, please email: info@btsadventures.com

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Registration Information

  • Dates: April 6 – 29, 2024
  • Fly Home Date: April 30, 2024
  • Deposit: $500
  • Tour Cost: 24 Nights – $6,420
  • Single Supplement: $650

For more information:
E-mail: info@btsadventures.com
Read: Frequently Asked Questions

Travel Plans

Fly into Istanbul on Turkish Airlines (or any other airlines) and connect with Turkish to a Tashkent flight, arriving on April 6 at EITHER 1 am or at 7am. You will be in the air on April 5.

You’ll fly home from Bishkek on April 30 anytime, typically early in the morning to connect with homebound flights.

Most people fly into Istanbul from their home airport, then connect with Turkish Air for the flight to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. For Americans or Canadians living in cities served by Turkish, it may be less expensive to take Turkish Airlines on one “multi-city” ticket for the whole flight itinerary.

There are non-stop flights on Turkish to Istanbul from some American cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle.

Visas

A visa for Uzbekistan is necessary unless you are over 55 years old. If you are under 55 you will need to apply for an electronic e-Visa through the government’s website – fairly straightforward!. We’ll send visa info closer to departure.

Right now, Kyrgyzstan doesn’t require any visa for foreign travelers from the USA, Canada, Australia, UK, Turkey and most of Europe. The list includes many more visa-free countries, and citizens of other countries can apply for an e-visa online. We will let you know if this policy changes.

What’s Included

  • 24 nights of accommodation in double rooms with private bathrooms; one night in a 2-person shared yurt (with bathroom nearby) in Kyrgyzstan, weather permitting. Single rooms available with supplement.
  • Expert Uzbek English-speaking professional guide
  • Expert Kyrgyz English-speaking professional guide
  • Textile expert Cynthia Samake to accompany tour.
  • All breakfasts in the hotels
  • 24 Lunches and 22 Dinners (2 meals will be on your own on free days)
  • Transportation by air-conditioned Minibus
  • Entrance fees to all sites and monuments
  • TWO Flights – Urgench-Tashkent and Osh to Bishkek
  • All Tashkent and Bishkek airport transfers
  • Modern, fast train travel between Tashkent and Samarkand, Samarkand and Bukhara. 
  • Mini-bus/Sprinter to Khiva
  • All train station transfers – Samarkand, Bukhara, etc.
  • Bottled water on all van rides and in most hotel rooms; you can buy more if needed.
  • Silk and felt scarf workshop plus wet felting and needle felt-making demonstrations
  • Ikat dyeing and weaving demonstrations.
  • Optional traditional embroidery techniques lesson.

What’s Not Included

  • International flights
  • Any visa and passport fees
  • 2 meals on your own
  • Tips for guides and drivers; amounts will be suggested
  • Recommended travel insurance (suggestions about this later)

Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What information will I receive after registering?

Once you sign up for a trip, we will e-mail a general itinerary, lists of Suggested Reading, what to take, cultural considerations, weather charts, etc.

How can I get a detailed itinerary for a tour?

A day-to-day itinerary will be sent once you sign up for a trip. If you need specific information about the flow of the trip and the pace of the specific activities, before committing to the trip, get in touch with your questions and we will be happy to fill you in.

What sort of clothing should I bring?

When you sign up for a tour, you’ll receive detailed lists of what to bring to your destination, as well as weather info, to more easily coordinate your wardrobe with the heat or cold.

Your travel clothing will depend on the weather during your stay, in either April or October. We’ll send a list of weather/temperatures to help you decide on comfort levels, but modest clothing is important at all times. In Kyrgyzstan, we’ll be visiting rural, casual destinations and you will need sturdy shoes for walking around the archeological sites. Bring a walking stick if it might help you walk over rough mountain terrain; we will not be trekking but strolling… over the field of boulders with the petroglyphs, for instance.

Are laundry services available?

Most hotels have a laundry service and prefer that you don’t wash clothes in the bathroom sinks. If there is no laundry service, and you don’t want to wash your jeans and wait a day or two for them to dry, asking at the hotel desk is a good place to start.

Please note that it is considered demeaning to wash someone else’s underpants, so we ask that you wash your own underpants. Hang them to dry discreetly in the bathroom.

What is the COVID situation?

Both countries have done well with their vaccination campaigns and the situation continues to improve. Masks are worn voluntarily in some close indoor venues such as museums. We will wash hands before eating, and use hand sanitizer and have it available in the van; please bring your own also.

However COVID is still present everywhere in the world and we recommend bringing several COVID self-tests. Then if you start to feel cold- or flu-like symptoms, you can test yourself and if positive, you will need to wear a mask in the van, and during some daily activities until you test negative. If you like, we can make provisions for you to rest at the hotel and to have food/juice/water delivered to you.

Entry into Uzbekistan now require only your passport and a visa (if you are younger than 55 years old) to get through Customs and Immigration – and no vaccination proof. Behind the Scenes does require that you have had at least two vaccinations to join the trip; there are now several iterations of booster; we recommend getting whatever you qualify for!

We recommend bringing a paper copy of your vaccination card, in with your passport, just in case they change the rules….Don’t count on having important docs like these downloaded only onto your phone. Kyrgyzstan requires no visa nor proof of vaccinations at this point.

What are the COVID requirements for returning to the US?

There are no longer any COVID 19 health restrictions related to returning to the USA as a US citizen.

Do I need any vaccinations or immunizations?

This varies with each country. Make an appointment with your travel doctor and take your tour itinerary with you. Some areas of certain countries require malaria pills and others do not; same with Yellow Fever and others such as Cholera and Typhoid. He or she will have all the latest requirements at hand.

A rural visit to a farm may require extra precautions, for example. We will send you the links to the CDC.gov information pages for your specific destination so that you can ask questions.

You should be current on all your typical childhood and international travel shots such as Polio and Tetanus. Some countries now demand proof of vaccination against COVID. Behind the Scenes Adventures requires you to have had two COVID vaccinations. We recommend you have a booster as well.

How much physical activity is involved during the trip?

Each trip has different activity levels that will be fully explained in the specific tour material. But no activities or events are mandatory, and you are always welcome to sit at the bottom of the stairs to a temple or wait in the van while others ascend or visit a particular place. Walking sticks are fine to bring if they help you. We cannot accept wheelchairs or walkers.

For most tours, you’ll need to be able to walk the distance of 4-5 city blocks on your own, with sturdy shoes.  Please note that sidewalks in many countries are full of big holes and broken cement chunks, with bits of re-bar sticking out, and you must constantly be alert to these dangers. In urban areas where distances are greater, the group will take taxis and/or get help from local assistants. If you need a personal taxi or additional special aid, that will be at your expense.

What will the weather be like?

Our Uzbekistan trips are planned for temperate weather with little or no rain, in April-May and September-October. Summer temperatures are far too hot! Average daytime temperatures are usually in the 70s and nights can be cooler, in the 50s. With global warming, it is much harder to predict but we will send Weather Charts with your pre-departure info.

What kind of money will we be using?

Purchases are made either in local money, Uzbek SOM for example, or in US dollars. US dollars are stable and the most widely accepted foreign currency, and they are what you should bring. Euros are also accepted. Canadian dollars are not often accepted so you are safer with US dollars. Other currencies are either not accepted, or the rates are not correctly calculated.

Bring US dollars in clean, new-ish, unmarked, unripped bills. $100 bills are fine, but you could bring about a dozen $20s also just in case you want to buy smaller items, in places that accept dollars. I will hand out currency exchange charts when we meet.Purchases are made either in local money, Uzbek SOM for example, or in US dollars. US dollars are stable and the most widely accepted foreign currency, and they are what you should bring. Euros are also accepted. Canadian dollars are not often accepted so you are safer with US dollars. Other currencies are either not accepted, or the rates are not correctly calculated. Bring US dollars in clean, new-ish, unmarked, unripped bills. $100 bills are fine, but you could bring about a dozen $20s also just in case you want to buy smaller items, in places that accept dollars. I will hand out currency exchange charts when we meet.

Do NOT count on using ATMs, although their service is much better nowadays. They exist but can be out of money, or the systems are down, etc.

Credit cards might be accepted for large purchases with a surcharge at more modern shops, but definitely will not be accepted for small items in markets, and small shops.

It’s easy! BRING plenty of CASH dollars, and just take home what you don’t spend. You will keep your US bills in your secret waist pouch or your wallet. You can lock extra money inside your suitcase in the hotel also; we know and trust the hotels where we stay.

We will go as a group to a currency exchange place when we arrive in each country, to change our clean, new-ish, unmarked, unripped US dollar bills into SOM or other local currency. Some places that we shop will accept dollars or credit cards but since there is a high fee for them, merchants greatly prefer cash – dollars or local money.

Since your trip fee includes all the necessities, you will need spending money only for alcoholic drinks, guide and driver tips, and textiles and souvenirs that you decide to buy.

There are many exciting and beautiful textiles, yardage, and fashionable clothes to take home with you! Bring as much cash as you can afford to spend, or that you’ve budgeted for, and plan on using a credit card for any large unplanned purchases like rugs or vintage suzanis. You can always return to the US with any extra, un-spent dollars.

Meals & Accommodations

What sort of food will we be eating?

Uzbek food is fresh and delicious. There is an excellent variety of salads without lettuce, including grated carrots, beets, and other fresh choices. Chicken or beef kebabs are popular and delicious. There are some good hot and cold soups, such as a cold yogurt and cucumber version, so refreshing in warmer months. Lagman is a delicious thick noodle soup with bits of beef.

Other popular dishes are samosas, meat or vegetable-filled pies baked in a round tandoor oven, and the Uzbek national dish called Plov. Typical blue-collar lunch plov mixtures served from huge cauldrons are greasy but other healthier and delicious plov versions include lots of yellow and orange carrots, garbanzos, and raisins. Uzbekistan is famous for fresh-baked bread and bakeries. Every meal starts with fresh bread, sometimes with grilled onions incorporated (my favorite!).

Will I be able to accommodate my dietary needs?

If you have any special dietary, health, or nutrition issues, restrictions, etc, there is no guarantee that Behind the Scenes Adventures will be able to accommodate your special diets in foreign countries. Please contact us before departure, and bring sufficient alternative foods. Travelers with severe peanut allergies cannot be accepted. Vegan diets are possible but with much less variety than at home. Vegetarian diets are often fairly easy to accommodate, but also with less variety than what is available at home.

Flights & Travel

Will I need a visa for connecting countries?

It is very rare to need a visa for a connection if you stay in the Transit area. This will be regulated by the connecting country and the airline will send information as to this requirement.

Will I be met at the airport?

Yes! Cynthia, an assistant or a driver will meet you with a sign with your name and/or Behind the Scenes Adventures. They will have your flight schedule and know you will need time to pick up your luggage. Wait for them in the terminal, right outside the Arrivals area, and don’t go with any other drivers that don’t have your name on a placard.

What are the requirements for my passport to be valid?

Your passport needs to have one blank page for your visa, although, with an E-Visa, you will have just a piece of paper to show, and don’t need room for anything except Immigration stamps in your passport.

What is the best airline to fly to the country?

You will need to get to Istanbul, Turkey, then connect to Tashkent. There are non-stop flights to Istanbul’s fabulous new airport from SFO and LAX, and perhaps other major cities. Try to get a non-stop flight; it’s much easier not to have to change planes. Some flights connect in Istanbul for an hour or two, then continue directly to Tashkent – easy!

I found good deals on Expedia.com with Turkish Airlines which is very good; they are a partner of United. Turkish and United are the airlines I always use but from your home airport, there may be other deals with other airlines such as Delta and Air France, etc.

What will we use for transportation?

We use a Mercedes Sprinter for most interior transportation. It is high-topped and spacious, and our luggage is stored in the back, or on top if we amass extra bags along the way. (This is another reason we must start with a luggage limit.)

With a small group, we may use a Chevrolet SUV (made in Uzbekistan!) for the whole trip. Vans and buses are not allowed on the route from Tashkent to Ferghana Valley, so we will go in Chevy SUVs. And we will take the modern high-speed train, from Tashkent to Samarkand and on to Bukhara.

We may also fly on one interior/domestic flight from Urgench (Khiva) back to Tashkent, on Turkish Airlines or Uzbek Airways. If not we will use the van on this route also.