Lights

 

While it can be said that the world is getting smaller, by any measure Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are a long way from Canada. Situated in Central Asia, they border Russia in the north, China to the west, and Afghanistan in the south. Right in the middle of the Silk Road with its rich history, they conjure up pictures of exotic cities such as Tashkent, Bukhara and Samarkand. These are places you have heard and read about but never in your wildest dreams thought of visiting. There are few places left in the world that are truly off the beaten track. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are far enough off to be exciting, but still surprisingly comfortable for travel and certainly safe. And they won’t be off the beaten track for long!

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With a small group of like-minded mature travellers (maximum 12) you will visit the ruins of ancient civilizations, stand in awe at majestic blue tiled mosques, walk through charming walled towns, enjoy colourful bustling markets, visit magnificent mausoleums, and so much more. But besides the historic buildings there is a thriving cottage industry that includes weaving of the iconic Ikat silk and cotton fabrics, Suzani embroidery, paper making, ceramics, and carpet weaving. We will visit all of these to see exactly how it is done. They might even let you try your hand.

And, of course, you will have many opportunities to purchase some of these handmade crafts to take home. Prices are surprisingly low… I mean really low. The markets and old city centres have many colourful stalls and shops with limitless selection. Shopkeepers are helpful and, of course, eager to sell you something. But they are not aggressive and are happy to explain their products and how they are made.

To truly get a sense of a new place you need to interact with the people. This you will do in spades. The Uzbeks are welcoming and friendly. Those who don’t speak English will conjure up every word they know and use it to try to communicate. You will often be approached with the question “where from?”. Not surprisingly, they find your response, “Canada”, just as exotic as you will find Uzbekistan. The official languages are Uzbek and Russian. Children learn English in school, so it is not uncommon to be approached with questions. If this is not enough interaction, we will stop for lunch at a small Uzbek farm in the Fergana valley where the hospitable and excited family will show you around and serve one of their national dishes.

This trip will be a “soft” adventure. Travel will be by mini bus or train plus one short flight from Tashkent to Nukus. Hotels will be small and comfortable (don’t expect five stars). All hotels are western style with ensuite bathrooms, AC and Wifi. No bellman will carry your bags so pack light but leave plenty of room for purchases. Leave the dressy clothes and expensive jewellery at home. No need to impress the locals.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Traverse the ancient roads of the Silk Route through medieval cities of Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand.
  • Be mesmerized by medieval Islamic architecture as seen in the Bibi Khanum Mosque at Samarkand, the massive fortress of Bukhara, Shahi Zinda Mausoleum at Bukhara and many other monuments.
  • Admire the twisting alleyways, markets and artisan shops of these ancient cities and towns.
  • Shop for beautifully handcrafted silk and cotton clothing and fabrics, finely embroidered coverlets, delicate miniature paintings, intricate ceramics, hand woven carpets and more at the famous markets.
  • Tour the local workshops where all these beautiful items are made and meet the artists.
  • Visit spectacular museums including the world famous Savitsky Museum in far off Nukus.
  • Venture into remote Tajikistan to view the remains of the pre-Islamic, Zoroastrian civilization 
  • Marvel at the spectacular sound & light show at the Registan in Samarkand
  • Meet three generations of a local family over lunch at their rural farm – a unique opportunity
  • Visit an old winery for a tasting of surprisingly good Uzbek wine. 
  • Participate in a Master class in cooking “Manti” followed by dinner at a National house
  • Enjoy dinner at a miniaturist painter’s home with Plov tasting and folk show

WHAT TO EXPECT

  •  A busy 18 days of exploration, laughter, and camaraderie. There will be time for exploring on your own, shopping, or relaxing, but overall this will be a busy trip.
  • Food that is heavy on meat (lamb and chicken) and rice. They also have lots of fresh fruit and nuts. And if you are a vegetarian, well you will survive.
  • Comfortable travel including one short flight, excellent trains, and modern mini buses.
  • Excellent guides with a background in local culture, history, and crafts, and with good English skills.

WHY YOU SHOULD GO

  •  This is a once in a lifetime trip to a very exotic destination at a quite reasonable price. How can you pass that up?
  • While it will cost you big bucks for airfare, once on the ground in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan you will find that your U.S. dollars go a long, long way (sorry, no one wants Canadian dollars).
  • You will have bragging rights over all your family and friends. Really, how many people do you know who have been to Uzbekistan or Tajikistan? Or who even know where they are? OK, they may say they know, but how many will then run home to look at a map? (You just went to look at a map, right?)
  • You will come home with heavier bags but a lighter heart.

WHO SHOULD GO

This trip is designed for mature, adventurous travellers (not tourists) who are looking for something different. Be prepared to find things not exactly up to the comfort levels and standards of home (but that is why you travel, no?).

You should be:

  • Able to walk for several hours at a stretch on flat ground (some towns or old areas of cities are walking only). There may be some short climbs at various sites (but if climbing is not your thing you can always pass your camera to a travel mate to take a photo for you).
  • Up for long days of sightseeing interspersed with time to rest (or shop). We will also have a couple of early mornings due to flight or train timetables.
  • Able to manage your own bags, including occasionally dragging them up a flight of stairs if necessary.
  • In reasonably good health with no major issues. Doctors and hospitals are, of course, available. But no one wants to visit them!
  • Open minded to cultural and country differences, and occasional plan changes.

FLIGHTS FROM TORONTO TO TASHKENT

You will need to book your own international flights. For planning purposes, Turkish Air offers flights from Toronto to Tashkent return from approximately CD$2,000 economy class. Flights stop in Istanbul in both directions which makes for a good stopover opportunity. Total flight duration from Toronto to Tashkent is 18 hours.

If all of this has convinced you that this is your next big adventure, call or email now.
We will see you in Uzbekistan!

Contact Polestar Meeting Group Inc.
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Call: (416) 465-8756
Website: https://gopolestar.ca