Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan Classic Tour

Jul 25, 2022
Aug 7, 2022
14 days


So many similarities, yet so many differences. On the surface Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan might seem like they’re natural bedfellows, but in fact there isn’t as much in common as it might seem. One has a history of empire building, with some of the most famous examples of Silk Road era cities, whilst the other was nomadic and is famous for its yurts. Geography-wise, there are the sandy deserts of Uzbekistan, versus the grazing steppe of Kazakhstan – both barren, but quite different. Culturally these neighbours have gone in quite different directions in recent times, and this tour really shows you all these vast differences. Yet of course something that really does bring them together is their shared Soviet history, which we at SAIGA Tours pride ourselves on finding really awesome examples of, and we have a few crackers up our sleeves for this tour.

View the full itinerary


Accommodation in twin share at roughly 3 star hotels/guesthouses, breakfast included

Transport as per itinerary

Entrance fees to most sites (as per itinerary)

SAIGA guide and local guides



Visa fees if necessary

Visa support if necessary

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

PCR Tests and any other COVID related expenses


Eat the national dish Plov at the Plov Centre in Tashkent

Soviet urban exploration: Former closed towns in Uzbekistan to Mining towns in Kazakhstan

Go back in time in the Silk Road gems of Samarqand , Bukhara and Khiva

See the environmental disaster that is the Aral Sea

Day 1Mon Jul 25
Samarqand, Start of Tour
  • Today we'll meet at our hotel in the afternoon.
  • Once known as the Pearl of the Muslim World, Samarqand is a city synonymous with the Silk Road. Full of towering minarets, shimmering domes and home to a splendid technicolour bazaar, it is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Central Asia.
  • We’ll start our time in Samarqand 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 Samarqand's centre piece.
  • Optional wine tasting at the Khovrenko Winery, a small local wine factory with adjoining museum.
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Day 2Tue Jul 26
  • 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 3Wed Jul 27
Samarqand, Bukhara
  • Catch the train to Bukhara in the morning, and then we'll take a walking tour of the old town, including Lyabi Hauz Square, Bolo-Hauz Mosque, and the elegant blue-tiled Ulughbek Madrassa.
  • On your way in and out of town you won't be able to miss a huge structure that looks like a giant ark. Known as the Ancient Ark Fortress, this was the Palace of Bukhara's Emirs, and parts of it are still open for us to visit.
  • In the evening we'll sit by the lake, chilling out and taking it all in over a cold drink and a chat.
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Day 4Thu Jul 28
Bukhara, Nukus
  • You might like to get up for a sunrise view over Bukhara. With minarets a-plenty, there are loads of great viewing points, and the sunrise can be quite spectacular over the old city.
  • We’ll leave early in the morning for the long drive to Nukus, with plenty of road side stops along the way.
  • In the afternoon we'll visit the Museum of Savitskiy. The Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art hosts the world's second largest collection of Russian avant garde art (after the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg). Savitskiy himself went to great lengths to save prohibited pieces of art during the Soviet Union, and amazingly you can see some of them now in this museum.
  • Overnight in Nukus.
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Day 5Fri Jul 29
Aral Sea
  • Departure from Nukus first thing in the morning to drive towards the Aral Sea. Stopping at some Silk Road ruins and a canyon on the way, we'll drive up on to the Usturt Plateau.
  • Picnic lunch at a ruined Soviet gulag, near the edge of one of the small parts of the remaining sea.
  • Arriving at the main part of the sea, if you're game, you can go for a swim. There used to be 10mg of salt per litre in the sea, but now with 160g (yes, grams, not miligrams, so 16,000 times more!) it's not far off the Dead Sea (180g/l), and now you can easily float on top of the water. That’s if you can bring yourself to get to the water, past all the oil and grime that’s collected at the side of the sea.
  • We’ll spend the night in a yurt camp near the shore, from where you can watch the sun set over the rapidly disappearing sea.
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Day 6Sat Jul 30
Aral Sea, Nukus, Tashkent
  • You can wake up early to see the sun rise over the water, otherwise it's breakfast then on to Moynak village, which used to be a thriving coastal town, but is now a disheveled and quiet desert town, most famous now for the ship cemetery.
  • Ships lay abandoned on the old seabed as the sea receded. A lot of them were removed and destroyed, supposedly so the metal could be recycled, but a dozen or so of them were saved and are now in Moynak.
  • Back in Nukus in the early evening to fly to Tashkent.
  • There will have been various points during the trip where you’ve felt like you’ve returned to civilsation to different extents – arriving in Osh after Song Kol and Jalalabad, then Dushanbe after the Pamirs, Samarqand after Khoja Obigarm, but Tashkent really is the big smoke, and it will be quite exciting to get there.
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Day 7Sun Jul 31
  • There will have been various points during the trip where you’ve felt like you’ve returned to civilisation to different extents – arriving in Osh after Song Kol and Jalalabad, then Dushanbe after the Pamirs, Samarqand after Khoja Obi Garm, but Tashkent really is the big smoke, and it will be quite exciting to get there.
  • 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.
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Day 8Mon Aug 1
Tashkent, Parkent, Tashkent
  • Heading out of Tashkent, we'll drive to Parkent district where we've been granted permission to visit a spectacular example of Soviet technology and architecture – a 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 have plenty more opportunities to try plov, 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 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.
  • 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 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 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 9Tue Aug 2
Tashkent, Turkistan
  • Saying goodbye to Tashkent and to Uzbekistan, we’ll cross the nearby Kazakhstan border and head to Shymkent where we’ll stop for lunch.
  • Drive to Otrar, an ancient, abandoned town on the Silk Road, that existed from as early as the 5th century B.C. right up until the 18th century A.D and is now a well-preserved archaeological site.
  • Next stop is the ruins of Sauran, a large city surrounded by walls, which for a time was the capital of Ak Orda and the largest city in Kazakhstan. The city was a major player on the Silk Road, having strong diplomatic relations with world powers, but like Otrar, Sauran saw its decline alongside the Silk Road itself.
  • In Turkistan, we’ll find the mausoleum of Khawaja Ahmed, which was instructed to be built by Amir Timur in 1389 but was never finished as building was stopped upon Timur’s death.
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Day 10Wed Aug 3
Turkistan, Kentau, Achisay, Zhanatas
  • Make sure you wear some comfortable shoes and get ready for some nostalgia, as we explore several semi-abandoned old industrial towns. Kentau, Achisay and Zhanatas are old Soviet monogorods (mining towns), but with the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of centralised planning, the towns have bowed to market forces and largely depopulated.
  • Best of all for us, there are still plenty of Soviet murals, awesome public art, old Palaces of Culture and the usual 1950s Khrushchevka apartment blocks. Exploring these towns will be like entering a time machine, and any lovers of Soviet nostalgia, or those partial to a bit of urbex, will be in heaven.
  • On the road between Ashysai and Zhanatas, we’ll stop by an old caravanserai by itself in the middle of the Kazakh steppe.
  • We’ll spend the night in Zhanatas, a town which has probably had very few if any foreign travellers.
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Day 11Thu Aug 4
Zhanatas, Bayzhansay, Taraz
  • Today we’ll take the abandoned Soviet feel to the next level, stopping in Bayzhansay, a completely abandoned Soviet town. There is now no one living here and the town can be extremely eerie. It is this type of town that encapsulates the demise of the Soviet Union and its economic model.
  • In the afternoon we’ll head to Taraz where you’ll have the rest of the day to explore. Taraz is over 2000 years old, but is also a modern city and one of the fastest growing in Kazakhstan.
  • There are several easily accessible things to do in Taraz including the Aisha-Bibi Mausoleum, the Kali-Yunus bathhouse, and Abdykadyr Mosque just to name a few. Others might wish to just stroll in the local park, or otherwise relax at a local café or chaykhana (tea house).
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Day 12Fri Aug 5
Taraz, Almaty
  • It’s a 500km drive from Taraz to Almaty, so we’ll need to make sure we’ve got some good trivia questions and stories to tell. We’ll stop on the way for a few rests and lunch, before we arrive in the largest city in Kazakhstan, and until 1997, its capital. As is becoming increasingly common in Kazakhstan, Almaty was formerly known as Alma-Ata and before that Verny.
  • We’ll check into our hotel for the next two nights, then head out to start exploring Almaty. We will will take in such famous sites as the Green Bazaar, the Arbat and Panfilov Park, named after the 28 Panfilov Guardsmen from Almaty, who died during the Battle of Moscow in 1941, which is right next to Zenkov Cathedral. A Russian Othodox Church, its claim to fame is being the largest wooden structure in the world constructed with only joins, and no nails.
  • If you like to have a night out of any type, whether it’s fine dining, a cosy bar, a noisy pub or even the ballet, Almaty is the city you’re going to want to do it in.
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Day 13Sat Aug 6
  • Today we’ll drive to a few of the destinations not within walking distance.
  • We'll pass Old Square and Republic Square, the two places where the Kazakh Parliament used to take place before moving to Astana in 1997. These are also where we recently saw fatal riots in January 2022, along with the images of the destroyed city hall and presidential residence.
  • We’ll show you Medeo, the highest ice-skating rink in the world.
  • Driving out to the suburbs of Almaty, we'll make a stop that isn't on other tour itineraries, and in fact most people in Almaty aren't even aware of this gem of Soviet history. Hidden in amongst medium density housing, there's a park which is now home to all the unwanted Soviet statues that were moved from their original places throughout the city and dumped unceremoniously here. Our favourite is the giant Lenin which used to be in Old Square, removed from his plinth and just standing flat on the ground with no sign or plaque to be seen.
  • Back in the city centre, we’ll take a ride on the Almaty metro. One of only two metros in Central Asia (the other being in Tashkent), it has just nine stations, so is largely useless to most people. However, like many metros in the former Soviet world, the stations themselves are ornately decorated, sparkling clean, and well worth a look at.
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Day 14Sun Aug 7
  • Last day of the tour.
  • Transfers to Almaty airport for onward travel, or if you wish to stay longer in Kazakhstan please let us know and we can help you out with organisation or advice.
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