Samarkand and the Silk Road
Uzbekistan, Discovery, 14 days - from £1,195 (land only) - from €1,435 (land only) - from $1,970 (land only)
By: Sarah Bradley, Worcestershire, UK
The hotel accommodation is what I would have expected from a trip to this part of the world. By its nature, it just isn't going to be as good as elsewhere. I liked the Hovli Poyon in Bukhara best, with its lovely courtyard and clean rooms and bathrooms. Homestays were a really good part of the whole experience and it was lovely to get right up into the countryside and away from other tour groups. A second loo at them would be appreciated, though I realise that this would be a big investment for the families and might not be practical. The second yurt stay was the best, facilities good, family very friendly and delicious food , and nice to meet Isrofil and Nulifar. The first yurt stay was OK, and it was good to get the experience of being in the desert, but a bit artificial. On balance I would still keep it in though. The mix of sightseeing and time in the mountains worked really well. I thought you got the balance right and the timing of the 'time off' in the countryside right. A couple of more minor points. The journey from Khiva to Bukhara was long and dusty but, on balance, I think I would keep it in rather than fly. You would lose something of the scale and nature of the country by flying. Thought the ground agents did us really well and that we had a very personal service. Great to see them at different points on the trip and I very much enjoyed the dinner at their house. They even came to see us off, loaded with a picnic for the train, which was above and beyond as by then the formal tour had ended. Masshura was a lovely person, helpful, kind, considerate in the extreme. Her English was very good, and she was eager to improve it. She worked extremely hard to perfect her knowledge of the history of what she was showing us and as a tour guide she was excellent Overall better than I expected. The cities were more beautiful, the countryside more interesting and the people more friendly. Also enjoyed the food.
By: Christine Perks, Canterbury, Kent
Our trip leader went out of her way to make sure we had a good holiday. As a vegetarian in a country where this is uncommon, she made sure I had plenty to eat, and always spoke to the restaurant/home stay hosts to ensure I could be fed appropriately. She was extremely knowledgeable about the history and culture of Uzbekistan and the sites we visited. I enjoyed the holiday very much. We had a good balance of sightseeing and walking. All the homestay hosts were welcoming, and it was lovely to see the beautiful countryside of Uzbekistan, as well as the amazing cities. I particularly enjoyed the walking, and the mountain scenery. However, the three cities we visited after Tashkent were fascinating and all different. I didn't really know what to expect, but it was a wonderful trip. The mix of sightseeing and walking appealed to me. You cannot go to Uzbekistan without visiting the three historical cities, but i would have been disappointed not to have done some walking, and staying in yurts and homestays was a bonus, as you got a good flavour of rural life.
By: Ross Bishop, Preston, Lancashire
I most enjoyed the hikes in the unspoilt scenery of the Nurata and Zarafshan Mountains. There is so little awareness of Uzbekistan in the UK that I really didn't know what to expect, but I left with a positive impression of the country. I chose KE because of the inclusion of day hikes in the itinerary to provide a more diverse experience of Uzbekistan, simply than a sightseeing trip of the "Silk Road" cities offered by other operators and the fact that this trip offers a reasonable level of comfort and runs at a mild time of year avoiding the high temperatures of mid summer in Central Asia.
By: Robert Campbell, Wrexham, Wales
Ganeshir, our guide was very good. He listened to our comments and responded positively. I loved the variety of the itinerary and the outstanding hospitality of the people of Uzbekistan. I found the people very welcoming and open. The hospitality of the agent was also exceptional.
By: William Cross, Tyne and Wear, UK
The agent took a real interest in this, his first KE trip, to the extent of inviting us to his home. I've always thought one of KE's strengths is in identifying good local partners, and I think you've succeeded again. It was brilliant. Samarkand fully lived up to all the hype, and Khiva and Bukhara were not far behind. The walks in the mountains were excellent, and made a good break from the sightseeing, and the Uzbec people were a joy! I loved the variety of accommodation - the yurt stays were great (especially the second night).
By: Elizabeth Judson, North Yorkshire, UK
The hotels were homely and comfortable. The hotel Bukhara was particularly lovely - an excellent restoration of an old building. The yurt and homestay accommodation were basic but perfectly adequate. The food was amazing - the quantity and generosity of hosts outstanding - certainly no chance of going hungry! The meals were all chosen by the local guide to give us a taste of a wide range of local foods. The driver of the bus was excellent - difficult driving, but no chances taken. The local guide and agents took an extraordinary interest in ensuring that everything was arranged and planned perfectly and I can't say enough about how impressed the group was with this. It was great to be invited to their homes to meet family and eat delicious food.
By: Susan Kirt, USA
Fantastic accommodations and food. For me, the home stays really made the trip. I particularly like true home stays, not 'home stays' that are basically high-level B&B's plonked down in a village to serve western tourist tastes. Fantastic food, lovely people, great locations, comfortable sleeping. Ganesher was great! Forthcoming, knowledgeable, constantly monitoring the group needs, terrific sense of humour. He really went above and beyond to try to work with other group members with particular non-KE travel requirements, and he/Zamin were more than willing to (thoughtfully) modify the itinerary on the fly for the group (no 'long' hike because of the heat).
I most enjoyed the home stays, the hikes, The pacing/schedule. Perfect to have home stays after Khiva/Bukhara and before Samarkand. Otherwise, you just rush into Samarkand already blown away and I don't think you best appreciate it that way. Absolutely made all the difference to me to have the home stays/hikes in the middle.
I don't research much before I go away, but I have dreamed about the Silk Road since childhood. This trip was much more than I expected. The home stays, the walks, the opportunities to be around the local people, the lake! I was thinking camels and beautiful architecture when I came away. Nature and the people are what linger in my mind as well.
By: James Bradley, Worcestershire, UK
The balance of the trek between sight-seeing and mini-trek was excellent, and a major factor in our choice of trip. Definitely a trip to be recommended. The unusual mixture of sightseeing and trekking was just what we wanted. With minor glitches, which will always happen in a country like Uzbekistan, it was very well organised. Uzbekistan itself matched, and often exceeded, our expectations. Samarkand etc really are special. Society appeared freer than expected; signs of the police state poked through, but as tourists you're little affected. Fascinating to see the almost unchanged elements of homestays and the mountains. The Hotels were generally good by Uzbek standards - we hadn't sought (or paid for) "5-star".