Highlights include exploring the culinary tastes and ancient architecture of three of the most celebrated Silk Road oases – Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand, celebrating Navruz with the locals as they welcome you into their homes and communities, and discovering the enduring traditions and abundant hospitality essential to everyday Uzbek culture. The tour is scheduled for March 16-25, 2018 and starts at $3,995. For more info, visit http://www.mircorp.com/trip/backstreets-bazaars-of-uzbekistan/.
Days 1-2: Tashkent
Begin with an introductory tour of modern Tashkent, admiring the Square of Independence, Kukeldash Madrassah and several examples of medieval Islamic architecture. Browse the lively Chorsu Bazaar with visits to the fabric area and the bakery. Enjoy lunch and a special meeting with renowned chef Bahriddin Chustiy, and watch as he demonstrates how to make a selection of Uzbek specialties.
Days 3-4: Khiva, Kyzyl Kum Desert
Fly to Urgench, and continue overland to the ancient city of Khiva, still imbued with the spirit and energy of the old Silk Road. Wander through the winding alleys of the UNESCO-listed Old Town, filled with minarets, cobbled alleys, mosques and the beautifully preserved Kunya Ark, the original residence of the khans. Drive through the red sands of the vast Kyzyl Kum Desert, stopping en route at the banks of the Amu Darya, one of Central Asia's longest rivers.
Days 5-6: Bukhara
Arrive in Bukhara, Central Asia's most ancient living city; its UNESCO-listed Old Town encompasses over 140 protected monuments, including the Lyabi-Hauz Plaza, the heart of the Old Town, and the Ark Citadel, the original fortress of Bukhara with more than 2,000 years of history. Spend a full day in celebration of Navruz, the ancient Zoroastrian festival welcoming the arrival of spring. Witness firsthand the festivities and convivial nature of this age-old holiday, and (conditions permitting) join with locals as you participate in either a Muchal Tuy or Sallabandon Tuy, traditional Navruz ceremonies unique to Uzbekistan. Meet for a memorable Navruz dinner, and learn more about the customs and traditional foods served during the Uzbek New Year, including sumalak, a favorite holiday sweet.
Days 7-8: Gijduvan, Samarkand
On the road to Samarkand, stop in Gijduvan for a behind-the-scenes tour at the renowned Narzulaev family ceramics workshop. Experience the glory of fabled Samarkand, Tamerlane's ancient capital, with visits to the massive Bibi Khanum Mosque, Ulug Bek’s incredible observatory, and majestic Registan Square. Learn how to make traditional bread at a local family bakery, stroll through the colorful stands brimming with fresh produce and spices at the Siab Bazaar and enjoy a master class in the art of making plov, Uzbekistan's signature dish.
Days 9-10: Urgut, Tashkent
Depart Samarkand for the vibrant Urgut Market, one of the most authentic crafts markets in the region. Browse the labyrinthine stalls for brilliant textiles and clothing before attending an exciting match of buzkashi, an ancient Central Asian game of strength, courage and daring horsemanship. Celebrate the journey with a festive farewell lunch before hopping the high-speed train back to Tashkent.
MIR Corporation, whose name means "peace" and "world" in Russian, has specialized in Russia (and neighboring countries) since 1986. Offering scheduled and custom journeys to Russia, along the Trans-Siberian and across the Silk Route, MIR's Seattle-based experts design imaginative trips that take travelers far from the familiar, and work closely with local affiliates in Western Russia, Siberia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan to carry them out. MIR has twice been named one of National Geographic Adventure's "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth," and is a preferred operator for museum, alumni and special interest organizations across the country.