The Golden Road to Samarkand - Art and architecture of Central Asia

Prices from £3,565


26 May 2020 - 5 Jun 2020
Duration: 10 nights
Ref: 20UZBE
With: Sue Rollin


Prices from £3,565
Single Supplement: from £255
Deposit: £200

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Tales of the Silk Road have enticed and beguiled the west for centuries, and images of the ‘mysterious east’, lingered on in the western imagination long after the overland trade route had disintegrated. Even today, the six central Asian ‘-stans’ are a poorly-understood region well off the European radar, and Uzbekistan is the ‘-stan’ nonpareil, being bordered by the other five. But Uzbekistan’s geographical and political isolation, has slowed the inroads of modernity, and here the glories of the Silk Road have withstood the sands of time. After flying to Tashkent, the tour properly begins in the walled city of Khiva, a figurative and literal oasis of majolica and glazed brick that owed its wealth to the vast slave market at its spectacular East Gate. From Khiva we continue to ‘the Dome of Islam’, Bukhara, to wonder at its 150-foot high Kalyan minaret and the Lyab-i Hauz architectural complex of Sufi boarding-houses and madrassahs. Our third major stop is Samarkand, Tamerlane’s capital, which he endowed with many spectacular buildings, including the vast Bibi-Khanym mosque and his own solemn mauseoleum, where visitors may find themselves recalling the words of the English poet James Elroy Flecker: “Sweet to ride forth at evening from the wells / When shadows pass gigantic on the sand / And softly through the silence beat the bells / Along the Golden Road to Samarkand.”


"Bukhara, Samarkand, Khiva, Silk Road cities and centres of excellence, where I feel privileged to walk in the footsteps of scholars like al-Khwarizmi, founder of algebra, geographer and astronomer al-Biruni, renowned physician Avicenna and Ulug Beg, grandson of Tamerlaine, who created one of the finest observatories in the Islamic world"

Sue Rollin specialises in the ancient and Islamic Middle East and Mediterranean. An archaeologist and linguist by training, she lectures for the Arts Society and the Art Fund and has led study trips in Spain, Sicily, Morocco, the Middle East, Central Asia and India. Sue speaks Spanish, Italian, French and German and works regularly as an interpreter for international organisations. She is co-author of two travel guides: the ‘Blue Guide to Jordan’ and ‘Istanbul: A Traveller’s Guide’.

DAY 1:

Late morning flight from London Heathrow to Tashkent via Istanbul.

DAY 2:

We arrive in Tashkent in the early hours of the morning and transfer to our four star hotel for some rest. After an early lunch and a short orientation tour we take an early afternoon flight to Urgench, then a short drive to Khiva for the first of two nights at the four star Orient Star Hotel.

DAY 3:

Whole day spent exploring the old walled city of Khiva. One of the most remote of the Silk Road cities, Khiva enjoyed an artistic renaissance in the 19th century. In the afternoon we focus on the eastern district of town, where we find the old slave market, domed bazaar and huge caravanserai, and the beautifully decorated Tash Hauli (stone palace).

DAY 4:

Today we travel to Bukhara where we arrive late afternoon and check in to the four star Asia Bukhara for the first of three nights.

DAY 5:

Today we begin our exploration of Bukhara, the foremost centre of Islamic art and scholarship in Transoxiana until the time of Tamerlaine. Our morning visits include an exquisite brick mausoleum of the Persian Samanid dynasty. In the afternoon we stroll through the city streets and see the Kalon (great) mosque and its adjacent minaret and several madrassahs. Another site of interest is the lovely architectural ensemble around the Lyab i-Hauz pool, fed by the waters of the ‘Royal Canal’ which still runs through the city.

DAY 6:

In the morning we continue our tour of Bukhara with visits to the Chor Minar, a curious gatehouse with four towers on the outskirts of the old city. This is followed by a visit to the traditional Bukharan mansion of Faizullah Khodjaev, and the Emir’s Summer palace, built in 1911. The afternoon is free for independent exploration.

DAY 7:

After breakfast we drive to Shahr-i-Sabz, birthplace of Tamerlaine, where the conqueror built an enormous palace of which only part of the imposing and beautifully decorated audience chamber remains. After our visits we drive alongside the Zerafshan mountains towards Samarkand where we will spend the next three nights.

DAY 8:

A full day exploring Samarkand, capital of Tamerlaine. In the morning we visit the huge Bibi Khanum mosque, followed by an afternoon drive to the outskirts of the city where Ulug Beg built an observatory without equal in east or west. Close to our hotel is the magnificent Gur Emir mausoleum, commissioned by Tamerlaine for his favourite grandson Mohammad Sultan, who died young, and where the conqueror himself and his immediate descendants are also buried.

DAY 9:

Our first visit this morning is to the ancient deserted site of Afrosiab on the outskirts of Samarkand. On the southern slope of the ancient site is the Shah-i-Zinda necropolis, an extraordinary collection of mausolea. Within the cemetery is the holy shrine of Qussum ibn Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Mohammad, who came to Transoxiana to convert the people to Islam. The afternoon is free for further exploration.

DAY 10:

This morning we drive from Samarkand back to Tashkent for our final night. After lunch in Tashkent we visit the State Fine Arts Museum and take a short walk through the old town. In the evening, we enjoy a farewell dinner together in a local restaurant.

DAY 11:

An early transfer by private coach to Tashkent airport for a flight back to London Heathrow via Istanbul.


Specific fitness requirements for this Study Tour:

Please note that this tour involves a fair amount of walking across uneven ground. You must be fit and surefooted to make the most of this tour. If you would like to find out more about the physical ‘difficulty level’ of the tour, please ring or email us.


Twin/double share: £3565 per person
Actual single room supplement: £255
Double room for sole use supplement: £445
Price of the tour without flights: £3065 per person
Deposit: £300 per person


  • Return flights with Turkish Airlines from London Heathrow to Tashkent via Istanbul and flights from Tashkent to Urgench
  • Transfers and excursions in Uzbekistan by private coach
  • Ten nights’ bed and breakfast in locally rated 4* hotels
  • All dinners and lunches
  • Guided visits to monuments and museums listed in the programme
  • Services of the Lecturer and Tour Manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes, and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters

Orient Star, Khiva ****

The Orient Star Hotel occupies a former madrasa in the heart of Khiva’s walled city. The building has been expertly restored using gorgeous glazed tilework and traditional mud bricks. Rooms are air conditioned and equipped with a flat-screen satellite TV, complimentary toiletries, a hairdryer and free WiFi.

Asia Bukhara Hotel, Bukhara ****

Asia Bukhara Hotel was built in 2006 in the historical part of ancient Bukhara and is within walking distance from the buildings and monuments of old Bukhara. The hotel is fully equipped and amenities include a restaurant, lounge bar, swimming pool, gym and sauna. Each room is air conditioned and features a desk, wardrobe, flat-screen TV and free WiFi.

Registan Plaza, Samarkand ****

Conveniently located in the city centre, the Registan Plaza is a short walk to the historical sights of the Old Town and offers high-quality European service with traditional Oriental hospitality. Beautifully furnished, the hotel features numerous bars and restaurants, a fitness centre, swimming pool and sauna. Rooms are tastefully decorated and feature a satellite TV, mini fridge, hairdryer and telephone.

Tashkent Palace, Tashkent ****

Built in 1958, the Tashkent Palace Hotel is located in the centre of Uzbekistan and combines classic style with sophisticated modern design. The hotel features a beautiful courtyard and outdoor swimming pool. Guests can dine on the rooftop terrace or in the courtyard garden, and drinks are served in the piano bar. The air conditioned rooms are fully equipped and feature a satellite TV, complimentary toiletries and a hairdryer.