Sandy Dunes of Kyzyl-Kum Desert
Sandy Dunes of Kyzyl-Kum Desert
Type of tour: ecological
Season: March - October
Duration: 11 days
The itinerary: Tashkent - Nurata Range- Aydarkul Lake - Kyzylkum - Bukhara - Shakhrisabz - Samarkand - Tashkent
BRIEF PROGRAM OF THE TOUR
|Day 1||Arrival in Tashkent. Sightseeing.|
|Day 2||Transfer from Tashkent to Yurt Camp (located at the NW coast of the Aydarkul Lake).|
|Day 3||Transfer from Yurt Camp to the depth of the sandy dunes of Central Kyzylkum.|
|Day 4||Walking amidst and across the dunes.|
|Day 5||Walking in the dunes followed by transfer to Bukhara.|
|Day 6||Sightseeing in the old town of Bukhara.|
|Day 7||Transfer Bukhara - Shakhrisabz. Accommodated at hotel or guest house.|
|Day 8||Sightseeing in Shakhrisabz. Transfer to Samarkand.|
|Day 9||Sightseeing in Samarkand.|
|Day 10||Transfer Samarkand - Tashkent.|
|Day 11||Departure from Tashkent by air.|
Arrival in Tashkent.
You lunch and then you go out for (guided) sightseeing in town to visit sites as follows: Old Town, Barak-Khan Medressa (XVI c.), Yunus-Khan Mausoleum (XV c.), Kaffal-Shoshi Mausoleum (XVI c), Kukeldash Medressa (XVI c.), Applied Arts Museum, Independence Square, Bunyodkor Square (former Peoples’ Friendship Square), Theatre Square (next to Alisher Navoi Opera House) and have a ride on local metro renowned for its unique architecture and design.
From Tashkent to Yurt Camp (located amidst sandy dunes at the NW coast of the Aydarkul Lake) by road, 400 km).
On the way, we come to visit one or two of the numerous gorges and canyons of the Nurata Range of mountains, each gorge of its own character. Explore exotics of the mountain villages and farms built of stone and improvised materials, some of them very old and abandoned, others inhabited and nestling on steep mountain slopes like eagle’s nests. Seems like time has stopped its going there, as people wear traditional clothing and are very respectful to elders and their customs and traditions – as it’s always been since time immemorial. Unique 1000-odd year old juniper tree impresses with its age and size too.
Overnight in yurts, each yurt fitting in up to 8 persons. After a nice dinner make yourself comfortable in your chair by the camp fire and listen to the local Kazakh folk singer - “akyn”. Starry sky complements the pleasure of the evening.
From Yurt Camp to the depth of the sandy dunes of Central Kyzylkum (from where walking part starts), 350 km.
You may begin today with camel-back ride in the area around the yurt camp. Then you may explore the life of a small village lost in sands (some 4km from the camp site) and have a swim and a fish lunch at the lake-side of Aydarkul (5km from the camp).
You carry on then by four-wheel drive car across the desert for 50km from campsite to salt-marshes. The small paddles of salty water seasonally dry out living snow-white crispy crust on the ground as water disappears. This gives life to locals who mine for salt there using their primitive methods and living with their families in dugouts and tents.
Then the party is making its way across motley hills through multiple “tackyrs” – smooth clayey bottom of dried-out ephemeral lakes, - stopping at a hilltop of an fancy-shaped giant “yurt-mountain”, driving past a desolated settlement abandoned in the sands and finally camping overnight nearby red hills (you may find, as we found it, it’s really a Mars-like scenery there) right in the middle of a vast fractured surface of a “tackyr” bottom. Springtime gives unique opportunity of seeing spectacular views of the desert where masses of land are covered in carpets of green, yellow, violet, salad-green - you may find your own words for that - flowers and shrubs in blossom, some of the plants (ferules) reaching as high as human height.
There we put up our tents and peacefully sleep in our sleeping bags.
Walking amidst and across the dunes.
Today is a day of getting full-measure acquaintance with wonderful flora and fauna of the desert. You start your morning with a walk amidst and across the red “Martian” hills, from top of which you will see high-rise stand-alone yellow sandy dunes – a goal of your today’s hike. The dunes, 30 to 40 metres high, uprise to the height of a 10-storey building and are covered over by peculiar designs curved by winds. The landscape, too, is outstanding – harsh beauty of a world that does not care of live beings.
And you camp overnight amidst the dunes.
Walking in the dunes followed by transfer to Bukhara, by road - 250km.
On the way your are visiting a holy place. Lost in the desert are a well, a mausoleum, a mosque and a humble hostel for pilgrims. Every visitor is welcomed there. Be prepared for a cup of tea accompanied by local sweets served by hospitable attendant who also is willing to tell you a legend on local saint and to pronouns a prayer for you. After a nice and refreshing respite you may then carry on straight to Bukhara.
At this point an option comes: you may extend your acquaintance with the desert and, too, get seen historically and culturally important ancient town – Khiva. If you opt for this, then your further route changes: you drive through town Uchkuduk (that means “three wells”) to see motley fancy cake-like tailing piles (from nearby mine), the hot springs and the ancient fortress Ayazkala (3cc BC – 13c AD) and you end up the same day in Khiva.
If not, then you drive on a good road to another ancient historical site – Bukhara, known as “Bukhoroi Sharif”, i.e. “Holy Bukhara”. Back to civilization – you are accommodated in one of the multiple hotels in the old town drown in numerous monuments.
Whole day you are sightseeing in the old town of Bukhara where you are visiting Samanids’ Mausoleum (end 9th beginning 10th cc AD) world-famous for its unique refined brickwork designs, you explore The Ark – fortress and place of residence of all Bukhara rulers from 7th c. AD till 1920, you try your hand in golden embroidery at Toki Zargaron (Jewelers’s Domed Market), you try on a fur hat at Toki Telpak Furushon (Fur-Hat Makers’ Domed Market), enjoy selection of hand-made “ikats” and “suzannes” at Tim Abdulla-Khan and see eye-pleasing refined architecture of Toki Sarrafon (Domed Market of Money-Changers) – all four belonging to 16th c. AD. You may opt to join a local chef in his preparation of “tandyr-kabob” (lamb on the bone baked in the sealed oven) to taste the lamb at your lunch.
Then you resume sightseeing at Poi Kalon Complex (XII-XVI) that includes: Minaret Kalon (XII c., height 46,5m), Medressa Kalon (16th c), Mosque Kalon (15th -16th cc) and Seyid Alimhan’s Medressa (20th c). You also visit Ulughbek Medressa (XV в.) built by Ulughbek - great astronomer and grandson of Tamerlane’s – and Abdulaziz-Khan’s Medressa (17th c.) ending you tour at marvellous place known (since 17th c) among Bukharians as “Lyabi Hauz” (“at the lip of the pool”) – a venue loved by both townsfolk and tourists for its lovely atmosphere of relaxing pastime at multiple cafes and “chayhanas” (traditional tea houses) at the bank of an ancient pond.
You may join in with spectators at folk show "Melodies and Dances of Orient" followed by dinner organised in the setting of old Nadir Divan-Begi Medressa (17th c.).
In Bukhara. From Bukhara to Shahrisabz by road, 280km.
First half of the day you may extend your exploration of monuments and sight in Bukhara and its vicinity to see: Sitorai Mohi Hossa (19th-20th cc.) – out-of-town palace of the last dynasty of Bukhara Emirs (Mangyt dynasty), Necropolis Chor Bakr (16th) and another important Muslim pilgrimage site also having great cultural value – Bahautdin Complex (15th-20th cc.). After early lunch you live for Shahrisabz where you are accommodated at hotel or guest house.
In Shahrisabz. From Shahrisabz to Samarkand by road, 150 km.
For 2-3 hours you are guided to a number of sites and monuments in the mother town of Tamerlane’s clan. These include: intended burial crypt of Tamerlane’s, mausoleum of Tamerlane’s elder son Jahongir, mausoleum of Tamerlane’s relatives and majestic and impressive ruins of Tamerlane’s palace – Aksaray Palace. Then you live for Samarkand.
On the way may visit another Muslim site of pilgrimage – Mazar Hoja Davud (Saint David’s Grave) – the cave located at the top of mountain. Mullah (Muslim priest) sitting at the entrance traditionally pronounces a prayer to every comer. In order to get to the cave one is to walk up all of the 1,301 steps of the stairs passing through the chain of small make-shift stands where vendors trade traditional souvenirs and dried alpine herbs. You may spare your efforts and travel to the top on the back of a donkey or pony at cost of USD3. At the foot of the mountain cosily standing in the shade of trees are multiple “supas” (traditional day beds) used by pilgrims for their respite. You may have your lunch there before carrying on to Samarkand.
Optional: an extra night in Sahrisabz may give you opportunity to have a round trip (by car) to an alpine village (70km away from town) to see old mausoleums and a mosque (hanako, 16th-17thcc.) dedicated to local sheikh Abdu Boki nick-named as Hoji Ilim Kan. Your local guide would love to show you round in the village built on a steep slope where the roof of a house below serves as courtyard for a house above. You may stay overnight in the village with one of the families and live for Samarkand next day.
Whole day sightseeing in town covers: Mausoleum of Tamerlane’s – Gur Emir (ХV c.), the Complex of the Registan Square (15th – 17th cc.), Mosque Bibi-Hanum (15th c.), Siob Bazaar and some other sights. Then you may pay a visit to a workshop where they make Samarkand silk paper according to ancient recipe – with usage of mulberry tree bark and an old-time water mill built on the arm of old canal Obi Rahmat. The workshop has been set up 10 years ago through assistance of UNESCO with aim to recreate tradition of making hand-made silk paper. Here you can see whole production process – from raw material (unbarking of mulberry tree branches) to finished goods (slips of silk paper). You can also take part in the process of making of your own souvenirs out of the paper. If ordered in advance, your hospitable hosts can cook for you and serve you while you are enjoying your meal under the shade of branchy trees by the creek. From there you may resume your sightseeing to visit Ulughbek Observatory (15th c.) and Necropolis Shahi-Zinda - burial place of Tamerlane’s wives, sisters and generals (12th – 15th cc.). Short break at your room after sightseeing will make you prepared for your evening meal with one of the restaurants in town.
From Samarkand to Tashkent by road, 350 km.
It takes 5-5.5 hours of driving by bus to get to Tashkent where you lunch and, after check-in at hotel and a short respite, go out for a last minute shopping at local markets.
|Day 11||Departure from Tashkent by air.|