2023 Bucket List
It's the start of a new year… and we have a new appreciation for travel! The world is cautiously opening, and we can feel the wanderlust again. We are thrilled to let you in on our travel bucket list of possibilities for 2022!
We've got magnificent UNESCO World Heritage sites and legendary cities, remote Silk Road villages and bustling bazaars, wind-swept steppe, breathtaking mountains, crystal clear lakes, and destinations all along the roads less traveled for outdoor adventures and al fresco dining, with foodie, art and shopping itineraries and cultural exploration. Join us for the pure joy of travel in the lands of Silk Road Treasure Tours.
Silk Road Treasure Tours helps navigate the changing state of travel to some of the most beautiful and under-visited locations, perfect for those who still want the “big” trip, but safely. The most popular sites in Central Asia are rarely crowded, and since opening again, visitors often find themselves alone with the past at historical and cultural sites. With fewer travelers at our other Silk Road destinations, and fewer travel restrictions, now is the time!
1) Bukhara, Uzbekistan
On the edge of the fabled Kyzyl Kum desert, Bukhara is an ancient oasis city for centuries of culture and desert exploration. Its medieval city core boasts more than 2,000 UNESCOl monuments. Ghengis Khan reportedly lost his hat looking up at the landmark Kalyan Minaret and spared it destruction. Visitors now climb the tower for the stunning panorama. The city’s markets, workshops and galleries offer fine traditional arts. Skilled artisans draw visitors, students and shoppers from around the world. Markets in Bukhara are busy and bright, tempting with the aromas and flavors of local produce and imported spices, fabulous colors and fabrics of ikat fabric, gold embroidery, and brass and copper ornaments, and the beauty of hand-made carpets, suzanis and gold embroidery. Enjoy the desert moon from your rooftop restaurant or the everyday bustle from a table around the pond at Lyabi-hauz. Nearby, Lake Tudakul is known for its diversity of bird species, and a diversity of leisure activities on its ample shores - a wonderful addition to Bukhara exploration!
2) The Fann Mountains And Villages, Tajikistan
Beautiful and remote, Tajikistan rolls out its traditional Kayrakum carpets for visitors. Visitors from the US and Canada no longer need visas for up to 30 days! Come and discover the road less traveled. Tajikistan is 90% mountainous, and the Fann range is the land of the elusive snow leopard, golden eagles, pastures of springtime flowers and nomadic herds, traditional village culture, and a heartfelt welcome for guests. Spend the night in a cozy yurt, village guesthouse or boutique hotel and enjoy your choice of local sightseeing caravan: Land Rover or camel, horse, donkey, yak or bike. Choose city walks or foothill hiking, birding, rafting, or mountaineering. There is music, handicrafts, and art to enjoy, and culinary, historical and archaeological explorations… or simply relax at a spa or yurt camp with the pristine landscapes, vast starry night skies and incredible vistas.
3) Khojand, Tajikistan
Khodjand dates to the 7th c. BC; the last stronghold in Central Asia of Alexander the Great. The second-largest city in Tajikistan, it lies along the spectacular Syr-Darya River in the fertile Ferghana Valley, surrounded almost entirely by Uzbekistan. The region is known for its abundant fruit crops, mild climate, …and one of the few remaining statues of Lenin outside Russia! Shady streets, verdant parks and gardens and a lively riverside characterize the city. Successive invaders throughout history left little of the medieval city intact, and much of the modern architecture is classically Soviet. The Panshanbe Market is a highlight here, buzzing day and night, and astonishing for its size, structure, and the sheer quantity of goods on offer. Get your bargaining skills going and enjoy the sights, sounds and flavors of one of the world’s most iconic bazaars.
4) Samarkand, Uzbekistan
The legendary city of Samarkand made UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2001, but its origins can be traced back to 1500 years BC. It’s location on the ancient Silk Road routes and a steady caravan of conquerors and empires ensured the city its place in history. Myth and legend surround Samarkand. Founded by early Persians, razed by Ghengis Khan and rebuilt by Emir Temur, even Alexander the Great claimed "Everything I have heard about Samarkand is true, except that it is more beautiful than I ever imagined." Visitors here still feel this way about the magical city. Turquoise domes sparkle in the sun, intricate tilework covers adobe facades of magnificent tombs at the Shah-i-Zinda ensemble, the romantic Bibi Khamyn mosque and the Gur-Emir complex; prototype for the Taj Mahal and the final resting place of Emir Timur. The tomb of the prophet Daniel here draws Islamic, Christian and Jewish pilgrims alike.
The heart of Samarkand is historic Registan Square and the plaza remains a place of spectacle - though now with international visitors and music and dance performances rather than medieval royal decrees and executions! Beautifully restored, it dazzles visitors today as it did hundreds of years ago with glazed tiles of geometric and calligraphic design and “Samarkand blue”, marble carvings, and gilded ceilings. What once were student rooms in the madrassas now offer riches of traditional arts for shoppers! Don’t leave Samarkand without trying the plov (pilaf) here. Like their bread, it's distinctive to the region and every chef proclaims theirs the best.
5) Ala Archa National Park, Kyrgyzstan
The Ala Archa National Park in the Tian Shan Mountains is 200 square kilometers of pristine, natural perfection conveniently located near the capital city of Bishkek. One the most spectacular and less traveled gems of Kyrgyzstan, it's named for a juniper tree with magical properties! It’s home to coniferous forests, fast flowing rivers, 20 glaciers, 50 mountain peaks, spectacular waterfalls and the snow leopard, the national animal of Kyrgyzstan. Local guides take you to the most beautiful photography locations and for fantastic sporting and trekking; from gentle strolls along the valley floor to serious mountaineering and glacier skiing even in summer. Kyrgyzstan is the undiscovered skiing paradise of Central Asia. May 1st is the Alpinada festival, with climbers and campers setting off for the 2,100m ascent of Mount Komsomolets.
6) Sarmishsay Gorge, Navai, Uzbekistan.
Sarmishsay, or the Sarmish Gorge, is a scenic canyon in Uzbekistan not far from the city of Nurata. Sarmishsay is famous for both its rugged natural beauty and it's more than 4000 ancient Bronze Age petroglyphs, giving the canyon the aspect of a place of ritual. The area has ancient quarries, caves, burial mounds, and pagan altars. Stay at a traditional yurt tent camp or at the camel farms north of Nurata, and even travel to Sarmishsay on a two-humped Bactrian camel in the Kyzyl Kum red sand desert that stretches across the borders of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.
7) Khiva, Uzbekistan
The “living museum” of Khiva is more than 3000 years old. It was the last rest stop for caravans before crossing the Karakul desert to Persia and the bazaar here retains the original caravansarai doors, tall enough to accommodate a camel and rider. Caravansarai were the equivalent of caravan truck stops, with accommodation for animals and merchants. Some unique hotels here now include renovated madressas and caravansarais! This beautifully restored, fairy-tale city in the desert has warm adobe walls that change color with the sun and tilework contains more green than blue. Within the Old City walls and the Ata-Darvaza gates is the Ichan Kala or the inner city, the majestic Kalta Minar tower, mosques and madressas, the Kunya Ark (Ancient Citadel),and the ornate Tash Hauli Palace with its dim corridors and harem-quarter rooms. The astonishing Juma mosque has no domes, simply ornamented by 213 individually carved wooden pillars and peaceful shadows. The Karakul desert offers archeological exploration, camel rides, fabulous desert photography,endless sunsets, and a taste of nomadic life at a yurt camp. On every menu in Khiva are the fabulous green dill shivat oshi noodles. Create your own 1001 Nights in Khiva with traditional music and dance and rooftop dining under the desert moon.
8) Kochkor Village – Son Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan
Kochkor is a colorful, rural village a few hours from the capital city Bishkek and the ideal location to begin an adventure in central Kyrgyzstan. It’s a village of cheerful handicrafts, farms, nomadic yurts, and pastures that seem to stretch up into the mountains. This lesser-traveled area welcomes visitors to stay with local Kyrgyz families, sharing culture, traditions, and homestyle meals. Kochkor is well known for its production of shyrdak; felted, stitched carpets and mats. These complicated, colorful designs are also made into wearables like slippers and hats. Imagine how warm you will be! Son Kul Lake is a fabulous alpine destination for horseback riding and hiking. Used by shepherds as a jailoo – a summer pasture, the dramatic route up into the Tien Shan mountain range winds through verdant mountainous terrain until it seems to disappear into the very sky itself and aptly named Son Kul, which translates from Kyrgyz to “the last lake”!
9) Chymgan-Charvak-Beldersay, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Just 90 minutes from the capital city of Uzbekistan, the Chymgan - Chatkal - Beldersay region is a popular hiking, swimming and picnicking destination. A fabulous respite from the summer heat with skiing in winter and incredible photography all year ‘round. Part of the picturesque Ugam Chatkal State Park, in the western Tian Shan range, it’s home to one of the oldest and largest nature reserves in the country. Flowering native almond shrubs and the rush of waterfalls cool the fresh mountain air. Pack a lunch or a backpack for easy hikes or more adventurous treks, or just a ride up the chairlift to the Beldersay resort and enjoy coffee and the view. Lower down, where the river flows into the blue waters of the Charvak reservoir, Bogiston village means “land of orchards” and you’ll find traditional treats of nuts in honey and yogurt with spices. There are traditional outdoor restaurants, and rural villages which become haloed by the dusty roads in the late afternoon sun.
10) Tbilisi, Georgia
Old Town Tbilisi is a charming, bohemian neighborhood of wooden houses with open-air balconies and winding cobblestone streets, part of the growing cosmopolitan city of easy, European chic, ancient monuments and traditional hospitality. Tbilisi’s cafe culture invites passers-by to sit awhile and the recent renaissance of Georgian cuisine makes it a hotspot for foodies. Food and wine tours are a MUST! Fresh, local ingredients are the headliners, generously seasoned with fragrant herbs and spices and paired with the incredible variety of Georgian wines. All irresistible reasons to indulge. The Caucasus Mountains provide an impressive city backdrop and easy access to nature. Museums, galleries and creative spaces showcase the history and art of the area, enticing art lovers and culture explorers. Continuously ranking on the charts as a top destination for food, wine, friendliness, safety and culture, you should definitely move Georgia up on your own travel bucket list. Georgia also offers a digital nomad visa, should you fall in love with Tbilisi and find it hard to leave!
11) Mtskheta, Georgia
Tbilisi has been the capital of Georgia for almost 1500 years, but nearby Mtskheta reigned from the 3rd to the 5th century. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is the coronation and burial place of Georgia’s kings, and the center of the Georgian Orthodox church since the 4th c. A place of pilgrimage and legend, Mtskheta is surrounded by forest-covered mountains and its historic architecture and charming restaurants give it a quaint, village-like atmosphere. Ancient ruins dot the city, including remains of the Armaztshikhe Fortress, the 1st c. Acropolis, Pompey’s bridge, and the Bebris Tsikhe castle. Jesus’ robe is said to be buried under the Svetitskhoveli complex. Perched on a hill overlooking the town at the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers is the 6th century Jvari Monastery. Saint Nino herself planted a miracle working cross there. Like everywhere in Georgia, food, wine and hospitality are the hallmarks of Mtskheta.
12) Yerevan, Armenia
From a darkened church at midnight appears the sudden glow of worshiper’s candles, stirring the soul and proclaiming the light of the resurrection. Armenia is the “Cradle of Christianity” and in this most ancient of Christian cultures, Easter is the most important holiday. The capital city of Yerevan is filled with ancient temples, monasteries and churches, and Holy Week is festive with celebrations and traditions. Yerevan combines European charm and old world hospitality and the city itself is surrounded on three sides by mountains while sloping down to the Hrazdan River giving the city a variety of elevations… and a cable car to get to the top! Mount Ararat across the Turkish border dominates the view. Forests and hiking trails are easily accessible and the streets are full of flowers, fountains and parks, cognac cellars and creative spaces galore, and outdoor cafes that offer visitors two centuries of coffee culture. Armenia’s rich history and culture, its amazing cuisine (think “Middle East meets Central Asia”) combine to make it an unforgettable destination for travelers looking to explore the Caucasus.
13) Baku, Azerbaijan
Baku was the “Paris of the East'' in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, created by oil and driven by politics and nationalism. It combines traditional Islamic style with European elegance. The medieval walled Old City includes the palace complex of the Shirvanshah Dynasty and the remains of the 12th century Maiden Tower, while all around, modern Baku is a thriving, exciting world-class city set on the shores of the glittering Caspian Sea. Innovations in architectural design contrast with the traditional cityscape. The carpet museum is designed to resemble a rolled up carpet and houses a dizzying collection of gorgeous carpets and exhibits explaining the history and traditional craft of carpet making here. The astonishing Flame Towers shoot out from low rise brick buildings and the Heydar Aliyev art center has impossibly waving walls and fun outdoor art installations. Explore Baku on walking tours and wine tours and trips out to Yanar Dag burning mountain and the Qobustan mud volcanoes.