4 Stans Autumn Tour

Start
Sep 7, 2024
Astana
End
Sep 25, 2024
Bukhara
Duration
19 days
Price
US$2830.00



TOUR OVERVIEW



We'll begin this tour in Kazakhstan's capital city of Astana, with the fifth World Nomad Games, an amazing spectacle showcasing sports such as Kok Boru and Eagle Hunting.

From there we'll fly to Bishkek, and venturing through the famously spectacular countryside of Kyrgyzstan, we'll sleep in yurts, ride in a Soviet 4x4 up a dry riverbed, wind through spectacular canyons and valleys, and explore some abandoned Soviet gems.

Crossing the border into Uzbekistan, we'll do a few SAIGA favourites, including the world's second largest solar furnace and a Soviet mountain resort town.

Winding our way through the Fann Mountains in Tajikistan through Khujand, Iskanderkul Lake, and Dushanbe, we'll re-enter Uzbekistan to visit the ancient cities of Samarkand and Bukhara.


View the full itinerary


This tour can be done as a 4 Stans Tour or a 5 Stans Tour. For those doing all 5, you can choose from the Whirlwind , Original or Mega Tours .

World Nomad Games
Kolsai Lake, Kazakhstan



If you like the look of this tour but the dates don't work for you, or you'd like to do part of the tour, please get in touch and let us know. All our tours are able to be split into smaller sections, we're always scheduling new tours and your dates might work for one of them, or we can always organise an independent tour.




Group

Start End Days Price Single Sup.
Polygon Sep 4
Astana
Sep 7
Astana
4 $995 $250
Nomad Games Sep 7
Astana
Sep 10
Astana
4 $650 $200

4 Stans Tour

Sep 7
Astana

Sep 25
Bukhara

19 $2830 $900

5 Stans Whirlwind

Sep 7
Astana

Sep 29
Ashgabat

23 $3825 $1150

5 Stans Original

Sep 7
Astana

Oct 3
​​​​Ashgabat

27 $4325 $1350

5 Stans Mega

Sep 7
Astana

Oct 8
Ashgabat

32 $4945 $1650



INCLUSIONS:

Letter of Invitation for Turkmenistan

Accommodation in twin share at roughly 3 star hotels, breakfast included, except when other accommodation is mentioned in itinerary

Where itinerary mentions yurt or homestay accomodation, single supplement and twin share may be affected

Transport as per itinerary

Entrance fees to most sites (as per itinerary)

SAIGA guide and local guides


SINGLE SUPPLEMENT: $900


EXCLUSIONS:

Visa fees if necessary

Visa support if necessary, other than Turkmenistan

Some activities, eg. treatments at sanatorium (as per itinerary)

Meals other than breakfast

Transport to and from the start and end of tour

Personal expenses such as souvenirs or any optional activities

Any COVID related expenses


Khoja Obi Garm, Tajikistan
Kyrgyz mountains


TOUR HIGHLIGHTS


Enjoy the Opening Ceremony and other weird and wonderful events at the World Nomad Games

Explore some little-known Soviet relics in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan

Navigate the moutains, valleys and lakes of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan

Go back in time in the Silk Road gems of Samarkand and Bukhara



Itinerary
Day 1Sat Sep 7
Astana
  • We will spend today exploring this very spread out, but ridiculously impressive city. With the Nomad Games starting the following day, the city will be bustling and lively, so it's a great time for us to be there.
  • Built in 1997, Astana resembles in many ways other cities such as Ashgabat, or to a lesser extent Baku. Clearly built from nothing at the snap of a finger, several of the world's most iconic architects were given carte blanche and tasked with the epic job of designing an incredibly unique city.
  • We'll start the city tour with a visit to Bayterek. Sometimes referred to as the “Chupa Chup” because it looks like one, Bayterek has become a symbol of Astana. From the viewing platform, which is 97 meters high, symbolising the year of the city becoming capital, you can get spectacular views over the new city.
  • Next we'll visit the Palace of Independence, the shopping and entertainment centre "Khan Shatyr", probably Astana's most famous building. The building is in the shape of a giant, slightly lop-sided tent, and it's got everything inside that you might want. Restaurants, luxury shops, and even an aquapark which has sand imported from the Maldives.
  • What's in a name? Although currently known as  Astana, it was known as Nur Sultan (after the first President of Kazakhstan Nur Sultan Nazarbayev) from 2019 until 2022, before that the city was known as Astana for the first time. Before 1997 it was Tselinograd, and before that it was Akmola or Akmolinsk in Russian.
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Day 2Sun Sep 8
World Nomad Games Opening Ceremony
  • Today will mark the start of this epic event. The exact program is yet to be announced, however from our experience at the first three Nomad Games, the Opening Ceremony won't disappoint, with performances from various sports people and teams, local and foreign pop stars, traditional music, and a lot of very picturesque traditional clothing on display! Not to mention an overall festive atmosphere.
  • Typically there have been four venues – the hippodrome which is where all horse games take place; a sports centre for indoor activities; an outdoor area for some wrestling events and other outdoor sports, and then an amazing yurt village.
  • We will spend today visiting the Opening Ceremony, exploring the grounds of the events, and just taking it all in.
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Day 3Mon Sep 9
Nomad Games
  • Today is our opportunity to experience a lot of the events of the Games.
  • Salbuurun is a sport based on the nomadic hunting routines. They would go on several day long group hunts, for which the best eagles, horses, riders, hunters and dogs would be selected. While returning home, the most nimble horseman would put the body of a wolf that they'd caught across the saddle and would gallop ahead of the group. The others would try to catch up with him and grab the wolf, attempting to display their own strength and agility. In the end the most best rider would return home to the village and to show everyone his victory, would throw the wolf’s carcass at the elder’s yurt. And thus, Kok Boru was born.
  • The most famous and possibly most novel sport is Kok Boru, known in Afghanistan and Tajikistan as Buzkashi, and sometimes referred to in English as “Dead Goat Polo”. “Kok Boru” literally means “Grey Wolf” and originates from when Kyrgyz nomads would hunt wolves and play games with them. Nowadays the game involves two teams of men on horseback, each trying to get the decapitated goat or sheep which is the centre of the game, into the other team's goal, which is actually a large pit at the end of the pitch. It's absurdly fast-paced, very rough, and extremely exciting, but the decapitation of the animal at the beginning of the game is definitely not a site for the squeamish. (Don't worry, if you don't want to see the animal actually losing its head and limbs, you can easily not watch this part!)
  • Ordo, which means “Khan's headquarters” or “Khan's Palace” is a game played by kicking knuckle bones out of a circle drawn on the ground. It represents a military map, and originally the game was used as a training scheme to teach soldiers various strategies to use to defeat their enemies.
  • Another sport most likely based on military training, though the origins of this one aren't as clear, Er Enish is the wrestling of horsemen. The rules permit a lot of violence, and it's thought that it was used to train horsemen in cruel methods of melee combat to take down their enemies. For example grabbing your opponent's ribs or the muscles in their hands, or turning out their joints, are perfectly acceptable tactics to use.
  • In the nearby Genghis Khan style yurt village, there will be eagle hunting, equestrian displays, and demonstrations of arts and crafts and other ancient domestic traditions, just to name a few.
  • Of course there are many more sports and events you'll be able to witness, these are just a few of our favourites.
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Day 4Tue Sep 10
Fly to Bishkek
  • This morning we will fly to Bishkek, and will start with doing a walking tour of Bishkek, a quintessential Soviet city with an amazing mix of Stalinist and Brezhnev era architecture. The wide boulevards and Brutalist apartment blocks, in stark contrast to the snow-capped mountain backdrop.

  • We’ll start with the Frunze Museum, dedicated to Mikhail Frunze, whom the city of Bishkek used to be named after (and why the airport code is still FRU!).

  • Making our way past Victory Square, the circus and Tsum, we'll visit the Lenin Statue and Ala Too Square, home to the National Museum of Kyrgyzstan and a large Kyrgyz flag. Although this flag isn't quite as famous as their world-record holding neighbours, Tajikistan and Turkmenista n, it is still impressive and every hour, on the hour, there's a changing of the guards.

  • We'll continue on to Osh Bazaar, passing the White House on the way, and we’ll finish off the day learning about some of the weird and wonderful produce and delicacies you’ll find in the market.

  • For your first night in Kyrgyzstan, we’ll try some local Kyrgyz food for dinner, and afterwards can go out and experience some of Bishkek's rapidly gentrifying nightlife, maybe at Save the Ales or some of the many other cool ever-emerging options.

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Day 5Wed Sep 11
Bishkek, Burana Tower, Kok Boru, Song Kol
  • Our first stop will be in the town of Tokmok, a stereotypical Soviet town and home of the former air force training base. To honour the town’s past, there’s a MiG-23 mounted as a memorial.
  • Our next stop will be at Burana Tower, which was once the minaret of a mosque in Balassagyn city, and you can climb to the top of it for some great views over the nearby landscape.
  • Next up is a real local treat – a game of Kok Boru, which is played on horseback, and the aim is to get a newly decapitated goat into the other team's goal. They'll also demonstrate other horseback sports such as shirtless wrestling.
  • If you're game you can even have a go yourself, whether it's just seeing if you can pick up the dead goat (not as easy as they make it look!), or getting on a horse and actually trying to play.
  • We'll continue on to Song Kol, stopping in the town of Kochkor where we'll visit the market, take a short walk through the streets, and have lunch in a local family’s home.
  • After the epic drive, we’ll arrive at Song Kol. Set high in the mountains, the lake itself is in the middle of a fertile plateau, dotted with horses, sheep and yurts. Tonight's yurt is a bit more authentic than at Beltam, but still very comfortable. Even though it’s summer and we’ll have been hot down in Bishkek and Issyk Kol, we’ll now be very glad to have stoves on in each yurt for warmth.
  • Depending on how early we arrive, you'll have the opportunity to go horse riding, or just take a walk around the area or if you’re really brave, a dip in the lake. Either way it’ll be a relaxing and peaceful evening under the stars.
  • Dinner will be in the main yurt at our camp, cooked by the family we’re staying with.
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Day 6Thu Sep 12
Song Kol, Kyzyl Oi
  • Leaving Song Kol in the morning, we will drive through the Jumgal Valley, crossing the Kara-Keche Pass, stopping for a picnic lunch on the way.
  • We'll arrive in the later afternoon at our destination for the day - Kyzyl Oi, an old village located in the Suusamyr Valley in a narrow gorge of the powerful Kokomeren River.
  • At 1800 metres above sea level, and characterised by scattered reddish clay houses, it gets its name which means “Red Bowl” from the formation caused by the high red mountains surrounding it.
  • Dinner and overnight in a homestay in Kyzyl-Oi.
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Day 7Fri Sep 13
Kyzyl Oi, Toktogul
  • Today we will continue through rural Kyrgyzstan, to the town of Toktogul, which was originally named after Toktogul Satylganov, a well-known Kyrygz poet and musician. His contributions and talent were so extensive that he is featured on the 100 Som note.
  • Dinner and overnight at a homestay in Toktogul.
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Day 8Sat Sep 14
Toktogul, Osh
  • This is our last drive through rural Kyrgyzstan, and on the way we’ll cross Suusamyr Valley and Chychkan Gorge, before arriving in Toktogul, 1000 metres above sea level.
  • Arriving in Osh in the late afternoon we'll have the chance for an evening walk before going out for dinner.
  • Overnight in Osh.
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Day 9Sun Sep 15
Osh
  • Our last stop in Kyrgyzstan, Osh feels a lot different to Bishkek. There’s a bit of a rugged, w ild west sort of feel, that’s quite charming.
  • We’ll visit the sacred Sulaiman Too Mountain, the main attraction in Osh.
  • We’ll walk to the top of the rocky outcrop, no doubt meeting lots of local pilgrims happy to have a chat on the way.
  • Not only is the scraggy hill a site in itself, but it’s also home to Sulaiman Too Museum, one of those famous crazy Soviet buildings that appear on all the lists of weird Soviet structures.
  • If there's time we’ll go to the Osh bazaar, one of Central Asia’s largest open-air markets. This is a great opportunity to find some cool souvenirs – hats, coats, rugs, fabrics, ornaments, loads of the cool stuff you’ve been admiring on locals and in their houses since being in Central Asia.
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Day 10Mon Sep 16
Osh, cross border to Uzbekistan, Yangiabad
  • Today we will leave Kyrgyzstan and cross the border into Uzbekistan.
  • We’ll drive through the Fergana Valley into the mountains to visit the town of Yangiabad. A closed town during the Soviet Union, not even appearing on maps, it was built as a mining town where exiles were sent. Once home to about 10,000 people, the population is now a little over 300, and noone pays them much attention. We'll spend the afternoon wandering the streets, peeking into abandoned buildings and listening to stories from locals.
  • We'll spend the night at a nearby Soviet “resort”. If it's hot you can go for a swim in the river, or if you just want to relax, we might be able to find the massage lady.
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Day 11Tue Sep 17
Parkent, Tashkent

  • Heading back towards Tashkent, we'll drive to Parkent, where we've been granted permission to visit a spectacular example of Soviet technology and architecture – the solar furnace. Still functioning, though never really having managed to fulfil its purpose, it's not open to the public.
  • Return to Tashkent just in time for lunch. You'll probably have tried plov by now, but there's no better place to have it than at the Plov Centre. This gigantic hall, decorated as if for a wedding in the 1980s, is set up for large numbers of people to eat plov in. Prepared just outside by an army of Uzbeks, it is some pretty good plov, but more than that, it is an exceptionally unique experience.
  • Go to Tashkent TV Tower for fabulous views of the city.
  • Visit Tashkent Land, Central Asia's answer to Disneyland. With it's faded welcome sign, crumbling gift shop and creaky rides, this is another step back in time. Most tourists don't make it to this gem of Soviet infrastructure, but we just can't resist it. If you're really game you can try out the “Boomerang” rollercoaster, or if you'd like something a bit more relaxing you can take a ride on the “African tour”, a boat trip through the jungleand.
  • Next we'll visit the Museum of Railway Techniques’. This outdoor museum is full of all sorts of old locomotives, and they don't mind us climbing all over them. We can even take a little train ride around the train museum. You don't have to be a train lover to enjoy this charming museum.
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Day 12Wed Sep 18
Tashkent
  • Our first stop in Tashkent will be the famous Chorsu Bazaar, with its iconic blue dome that's now home to meat, dairy and dried fruits. Exploring the stalls you'll learn about traditional bread-making methods, local remedies for everything including of course virility issues, and how Uzbek babies are taught to go to the toilet.
  • Take a walk from Independence Square, formerly Lenin Square, through the park and past the statue of Amir Timur. Stop and browse in a small market in the park, full of old Soviet trinkets and sit under a shady pagoda for a cold drink or ice cream.
  • In the afternoon we'll visit Tashkent Land, Central Asia's answer to Disneyland. With its faded welcome sign, crumbling gift shop and creaky rides, this is definitely a step back in time. Most tourists don't make it to this gem of Soviet infrastructure, but we just can't resist it. If you're really game you can try out the “Boomerang” rollercoaster, or if you'd like something a bit more relaxing you can take a ride on the “African tour”, a boat trip through the jungle land.
  • You'll most likely have tried plov by now, but nothing will prepare you for the Plov Centre. This gigantic hall, decorated as if for a wedding in the 1980's, is set up for large numbers of people to eat plov in. Mixed and cooked just outside by an army of Uzbek women, it is some pretty good plov, but more than that, it is an exceptionally unique experience.
  • Visit the Tashkent TV Tower for fabulous views of the city, and if it’s open, a coffee or a beer in a Soviet-built revolving restaurant.
  • We'll take several rides on the Tashkent Metro while we're there, one of only two metro systems in Central Asia (the other one being in Almaty). As with most Soviet built metros, the stations are unnecessarily lavish, but Tashkent's are particularly ornately decorated. Until June 2018 it was illegal to take photos inside them, but fortunately now pictures of these incredibly photogenic stations are allowed.
  • Next we'll visit the Museum of Railway Techniques’. This outdoor museum is full of all sorts of old locomotives, and they don't mind us climbing all over them. We can even take a little train ride around the train museum. You don't have to be a train lover to enjoy this charming museum.
  • Overnight in Tashkent.
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Day 13Thu Sep 19
Tashkent, Cross the border to Tajikistan, Khujand
  • This morning we'll head to Tajikistan and cross the border into our fourth Stan.
  • Arriving in Khujand around lunchtime, we'll have a sightseeing tour in that afternoon, including the Orient bazaar Panjshanbe – the famous Panjshanbe city market and one of the most interesting sights of Khujand, Sheikh Muslihiddin Mosque and the Mausoleum of Khujand.
  • A highlight of Khujand will be the massive Lenin statue, standing majestically on the side of a hill overlooking the city, this is now the largest statue of Lenin still standing.
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Day 14Fri Sep 20
Khujand, Fann Mountains, Khoja Obi Garm
  • Today we will be doing a full day drive south through the famous Fann Mountains towards Dushanbe.
  • We'll be driving via Istiklol Tunnel, sometimes known as the “Death Tunnel”, 2,630m above sea level.
  • There will be plenty of stops on the way though for photos, toilets and of course lunch.
  • The best stop though will be at Iskanderkul Lake (2,255m above the sea level), where there will be an opportunity to go for a 40 minute hike to the local waterfall after arriving at the lake, or if you’d prefer, you can just relax by the lake or go on a shorter walk around it.
  • Arriving at today's destination, we’re going to spend the afternoon and evening at an amazing building which really encapsulates what we're all about. Khoja Obi Garm is a Brutalist behemoth Soviet-era sanatorium that is still in operation. The drive there is like the opening scene from the film The Shining. It's run by the Tajikistan Trade Union organisation to provide workers with rest and relaxation. The treatments are a little unorthodox as they include radon baths, electric shock therapy, pulsating circulation treatment as well as mud baths and acupuncture (treatments not included in tour price). It’s an absolute dream for any lovers of weird Soviet stuff.
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Day 15Sat Sep 21
Khoja Obi Garm, Dushanbe
  • This morning you'll have a chance to get some more treatments, take some photos in different light, or just explore the buidlings and grounds some more, before we head off towards Dushanbe.
  • Arriving around lunchtime, we’ll take a tour of Dushanbe's city centre, including Rudaki Street, the Somoni Monument and Central Park, where you can gawk at the huge flagpole which was the largest in the world from 2011 to 2014.
  • We’ll visit the largest teahouse in the world, where you can either just enjoy a locally made tea, or have something to eat in this iconic building.
  • Then we'll visit the Museum of National  Antiquities with the reclining Buddha in Nirvana, before c ontinuing on to the Botanical Gardens, the Somoni Monument, and the Building of National Spirit (unfortunately it’s not possible to go inside, but it’s still impressive from the outside).
  • Overnight in Dushanbe.
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Day 16Sun Sep 22
Dushanbe, Cross the border to Uzbekistan, Samarkand
  • Leave Dushanbe first thing in the morning, we'll cross the border back into Uzbekistan, and head to Samarkand.
  • Once known as the “Pearl of the Muslim World”, Samarkand is a city synonymous with the Silk Road, full of towering minarets, shimmering domes and home to a splendid technicolour bazaar, which you will have time to wander around and discover for yourself.
  • We’ll start our time in Samarkand with a visit to the famous and spectacular Registan Square which is flanked by three beautifully decorated, sparkling blue mosaic madrassas. Once the city's commercial centre, Registan Square is modern Samarkand's centre piece and a pride of the Silk Road. We’ll have our tour and then you’ll have a chance to continue exploring the Registan by yourself.
  • Optional wine tasting at the Khovrenko Winery, a small local wine factory with adjoining museum.
  • Dinner at a local restaurant.
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Day 17Mon Sep 23
Samarkand
  • Today we will explore the main sites of Samarkand. Having already visited the Registan the day before, we’ll start today’s tour with a walk through the centre of town.
  • Having died in September 2016, Islam Karimov, the First President of Uzbekistan, now has his mausoleum on the newly renamed Islam Karimov Street.
  • Winding through the narrow streets of the old city, we'll stop at a particularly unique synagogue. Totally unrecognisable from the outside, it looks like any of the typical houses on either side, but inside is a bizarre and unique mixture of Uzbek and Jewish décor.
  • We'll also pay visits to Bibi Khanum Mosque, Siyab Bazaar, and the grave of St. Daniel which is said to grow a foot in length every ten years.
  • Visit Romanenko House, a place that is difficult to describe. This small suburban house has been transformed into a completely unique textile workshop where thirty men and women redesign ancient Central Asian clothing into colourful, modern designs.
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Day 18Tue Sep 24
Train to Samarkand, Bukhara
  • This morning we will catch the fast "Sharq" train to Bukhara. Not only is it a quicker way to get between these two cities, but it's also an integral part of any Uzbekistan experience and a great way to see how locals, expats and tourists travel in modern Uzbekistan.
  • Arriving in Bukhara in the late morning, we will spend the afternoon doing a walking tour of the old town of Bukhara.
  • In the evening we'll meet up for dinner at Lyabi Hauz.
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Day 19Wed Sep 25
Bukhara, End of Tour
  • Today is the final day of the 4 Stans Tour. Anyone continuing to Turkmenistan on our 5 Stans Tour will be crossing the land border today, and we'll farewell those finishing here.
  • You might like to spend longer in Bukhara, visit more of Uzbekistan, or head back to Tashkent to fly home or to your next destination, and of course if you'd like help with any of these plans please let us know .
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