‘Along the Golden Road from Samarkand. A Journey through Central Asia’  

23 April - 7 May 2024

Uzbekistan Tajikistan

Trip Dates:
23 April - 7 May 2024

Trip Length:
15 days

Trip Price: £3680

Originally caravanserais on the Golden Trade route across Central Asia, these fabled cities developed into thriving centres of commerce and culture. Under the ferocious medieval warriors Genghis Khan and then Tamerlane and their descendants they assumed inimitable power and splendour. These great cities were once so remote behind barriers of deserts and mountains that until the demise of the Soviet Union, it was almost impossible to visit them.

Fly to Tashkent the capital of Uzbekistan and continue onto the Fergana Valley which historically is the main Silk Route through Central Asia from Western China to Samarkand. The Valley is a fertile, populous and prosperous area though much of the surrounding country is mountains, steppe or desert. Visit the main cultural towns of Kokand, Margilan and Rishtan which are known for their exceptional crafts in silk and ceramics. From Fergana fly to Samarkand, chosen by Tamerlane as the capital of his great empire and he transformed it into the most beautiful city in Central Asia. New buildings rose out of the desert, built of mud brick, and faced with ceramic tiles in every imaginable shade of blue. Explore this remarkable city of soaring minarets and domes of glistening turquoise and cobalt blue. In the 14th century Samarkand’s observatory and mosques became intellectual gathering places for astronomers, poets, theologians and architects. The city contains some of the finest examples of Islamic art and many of its architectural styles became models for the rest of the Islamic world. Continue onto Bukhara which was an important staging post on the network of caravan trails which criss-crossed Central Asia. Although famous for its rugs, it was as ‘Divine Bukhara’ with its hundreds of mosques, madrasas and minarets that the British diplomat-poet, James Elroy Flecker and the Muslim world remembers it. Crooked alleys wind irregularly between the walls of clay-built houses and the men still wear colourful striped coats, knee high leather boots and patterned turbans.

From Bukhara, the party will cross the great Kyzl Kum desert and visit the marvellous city of Khiva, an ancient walled city. This is an open-air museum is more intact than either Samarkand or Bukhara. It is a maze of mosques, palaces, religious schools and homes, most of them enclosed within an area less than one mile square. Return to Tashkent for one last night before taking a direct flight back to London. 

The journey is open to Members of the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office Association (FCDOA) and their friends and family. Please note that Distant Horizons has sole responsibility for the operation of this tour. The FCDOA has no direct control over the operation of any tours.


Maximum Party Size: 20

Trip Leader: Dr Iain Shearer

Dr Shearer has lectured and researched extensively on development and conflict archaeology and has conducted on site research at the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan, excavated at the city of Nishapur in Iran (near Mashhad) and in the Ferghana Valley of Uzbekistan. He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and has worked with the London Metropolitan Police, Arts & Antiques Unit as their in-house expert on stolen cultural artefacts from Afghanistan, Central Asia and Iran. He has also held positions at the Centre for Applied Archaeology at University College, London and was the Sackler Scholar at the British Museum. In addition to his scholastic experience and knowledge, Dr Shearer has travelled extensively in the region and has accompanied five very successful journeys to Central Asia for Distant Horizons.

‘Along the Golden Road from Samarkand. A Journey through Central Asia’   . Trip Comments:

‘I have nothing but praise for every aspect of the trip... The cities we visited were utterly fascinating, allowing us to understand much about the history of the region and to appreciate many features of its architecture. This was our first taste of the Alumni Travel Programme, and it has certainly encouraged us to consider taking part in another trip.’

‘All the guides were excellent. Fatima was both knowledgeable and very competent as well as being very charming. Meals at pottery workshop, private houses in Samarkand and in Mary very enjoyable.’

‘I am just writing to say how delighted and impressed my wife and I were by our journey through Central Asia. We were very impressed by the evident thought which had gone into every detail, every location for meals, every picnic stop and every site visited.’

‘A fascinating and memorable journey for all the right reasons. Extremely comfortable and a friendly, interesting party.’

‘We were very impressed with the management of the journey both on the ground and with pre-departure support.’

'Dr Shearer was exemplary. Could not have asked for a better leader and scholar. Absolutely fascinating. Totally into his subject and he made it fully accessible for us.'

'Dr Shearer was quite outstanding- not just the depth of his knowledge from Neolithic thru to the present day on history, architecture and crafts, but the range of issues covered inc current education, politics, religious practice and agriculture . His sense of humour and real concern and respect for the peoples of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan was infectious. Fitting in several market visits was really interesting. All the organisation was immaculate and people uniformly helpful. Such an interesting trip!'

‘Dr Shearer gave us impassioned overviews of the sites that clearly meant so much to him. The fact that this trip was perhaps life-changing owes much to his capacity to infuse life into the smallest bit of calligraphy as well as the most mesmerising dome.’