Central Asia Immersion: the 5 Stans Tour

Discover these five exotic oriental countries with a touch of history from the ancient civilizations by joining our Central Asia immersion tour to Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

The 15-day tour starts from Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, to explore its unforgettable natural beauty. Fly to Almaty in Kazakhstan and experience the most developed country in Central Asia. Continue to Tajikistan where Dushanbe shows off the country’s modern side. Cross the border into Uzbekistan and appreciate the classic beauty of Samarkand, Bukhara, and the walled city in Khiva. Camp at the Darvaza gas crater for an unforgettable night under the shining stars, and finish your tour in the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, which is a city full of white marble buildings.

Journey Route

Tour Map

Highlights

  • Enjoy breathtaking views of the snowcapped mountains and stunning waterfalls at the Ala Archa National Park.
  • Enjoy a glass of champagne with a boat ride on Issyk-Kul Lake.
  • Admire the splendor of the monuments and ancient blue-tiled mosques in Samarkand and Bukhara.
  • Wander through the narrow mudbrick alleyways in Khiva and discover the locals' lifestyles.
  • Camp at the Darvaza gas crater and enjoy a fire-cooked meal.

Itinerary in Detail

This sample itinerary is designed for reference. Follow our tailor-made guidelines to create your ideal 5 Stans tour.

Day 1 Arrive in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan)

Sheraton Bishkek (4-star) / Orion Hotel Bishkek (5-star)

Upon arrival in Bishkek, your local guide and driver will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel. Enjoy the rest of the day on your own.

Day 2 Bishkek City Tour and the Ala Archa National Park

breakfast and lunch

In the morning, you will be driven out of the city to the Ala Archa National Park (40KM). The park is located in the region’s largest gorge where you will enjoy seeing beautiful mountains, snowcapped peaks, a dry riverbed, and stunning waterfalls.

After lunch, you will be driven back to Bishkek for a city tour. You will pass the city landmarks of Victory Square, Kyrgyz National Opera and Ballet Theater, and Ala-Too Square with the Manas statue.

Ala Archa National ParkClean rivers and green mountains of the Ala Archa National Park.

Day 3 Bishkek to Cholpon-Ata and Issyk-Kul Lake Boat Trip

Hotel Resort "Karven Four Seasons" (4-star)
breakfast, lunch, and dinner

After breakfast, you will be driven to Cholpon-Ata (265KM), a town on the northern shore of Issyk-Kul Lake. On the way, you will have the chance to visit and climb up the Burana Tower, which offers a panoramic view of the historical site and is rare in nomadic culture. You will also discover the nearby open-air museum of Balbas with its many carved stone figures.

 Burana Tower Burana Tower

In the afternoon, you will take a 1-hour boat trip on the world’s second-largest alpine lake, Issyk-Kul Lake. There, you can enjoy a glass of champagne and taste the local fresh fruits while appreciating the surrounding snowcapped mountains.

You will stay overnight in a resort in Cholpon-Ata on a full board basis.

Day 4 Return to Bishkek and Fly to Almaty (Kazakhstan)

Kazzhol Park Hotel Almaty (4-star)/ Rixos Almaty Hotel (5-star)
breakfast and lunch

After breakfast, you will visit the Museum of Petroglyphs where you can enjoy walking among the rocks and admiring the petroglyphs from hundreds of years ago.

After returning to Bishkek, you will visit Osh Bazaar where you will have an authentic Kyrgyz experience and find lavish dry fruits, homemade honey, and colorful candies.

Bazaar Visit the local Bazaar, a way to get close to the local life.

You will take an early evening flight to Almaty. On arrival, your guide and driver will take you to your hotel for your overnight stay.

Day 5Almaty City Tour

breakfast and lunch

In the morning, you will start your Almaty city tour with a visit to the Central State Museum of Kazakhstan. As you enjoy a walk through Panfilov Park, visit the colorful Zenkov Cathedral and the Kazakh Museum of Folk Musical Instruments where you can see a collection of unusual musical instruments.

Zenkov Cathedral The colorful Zenkov Cathedral.

You will stop at the local favorite Green Bazaar and look for some traditional Kazakh foods.

After lunch, you will take a cable car ride up to the Kok-Tobe Hill and you will enjoy the panoramic view of Almaty’s skyline.

Day 6Almaty to Dushanbe by Flight (Kazakhstan/Tajikistan)

Hotel Atlas (4-star) / Hilton Dushanbe (5-star)
breakfast and lunch

After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport to take a morning flight to Dushanbe, which is the capital of Tajikistan.

Your guide and driver will meet you at the airport and drive you to a local restaurant for lunch.

You will visit the beautiful and modern National Museum of Tajikistan to get an overview of the nation's long and complex history. It was built with an elliptical roof and giant atrium. Outside the museum, you will find the sculpture of Cyrus the Great along with many other sculptures. There are three must-sees there: the murals from ancient Panjakent and Sarazm, the 10th-century wooden mihrab, which is a masterpiece of wood carving, and a replica of a 13-meter-long reclining Buddha (to see the real one, you can visit the National Museum of Antiquities instead).

Then, you will walk along the pathways in the extensive Rudaki Park and enjoy the beautiful canopy of mature trees and flower gardens alongside lakes and fountains.

 Dushanbe City A view of Dushanbe city

Day 7 Dushanbe–Penjikent–Samarkand by Road (Tajikistan/Uzbekistan)

Alexander Hotel (4-star)
breakfast and lunch

You will depart early in the morning and start your journey from Dushanbe to Samarkand. You will pass Iskanderkul (135KM), which has another name - the Lake of Alexander the Great. Listen to your local guide tell the story about how the lake got this name.

IskanderkulIskanderkul, the Lake of Alexander the Great

After you arrive in Penjikent (150KM), you will visit the Penjikent Ancient Settlement, which are the ruins of old Sogdian town. From there, you can still find a citadel with two Zoroastrian fire temples, extensive yards, workshops, markets, and the foundations of houses. You will be surprised to see the picturesque and colorful wall paintings that have survived for over 1,300 years in ruins.

After the visit, you will be driven to the Uzbekistan–Tajikistan border. After dealing with the border pass formalities, which will take about an hour, you will continue driving to Samarkand (62 KM) with your new guide and driver.

Day 8Samarkand City Tour

breakfast and lunch

Samarkand is a historical city known for its intricately beautiful mosques and mausoleums. After breakfast, you will visit the resting place of Timur, the Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum, and enjoy the splendid building. Then, you will visit the magnificent trade and crafts square, the Registan Square, which has three madrasahs surrounding it.

Registan Square Registan Square

You will be driven to the Islamic world's largest mosque, the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, where you will discover its decorated structure. Next, you will visit a mysterious and unique monument, Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis, which has a combination of various architectural styles, methods, and decorative craftsmanship.

Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis Enjoy the various architectural styles at Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis.

Days 9Samarkand–Bukhara with an Afrosiyob Train Ride

Amelia Boutique Hotel (4-star)
breakfast and lunch

You will depart early in the morning to go to the railway station and take the high-speed Afrosiyob train to Bukhara (09:50 - 11:19).

Upon arrival at the train station in Bukhara, your guide and driver will meet you to start your Bukhara city tour.

You will visit the Ark of Bukhara, which was once a former governmental center and is now a collection of museums and mosques, and Bolo-Khaouz Mosque to discover its skillful wood carvings and amazing ceiling paintings. Afterward, you will explore Bukhara with a walking tour, starting from the Kalon Minaret. It is one of the rare monuments that survived the destructive wrath of Genghis Khan who destroyed most of the monuments of Central Asia. You can walk through the Trading Domes and spend some time searching for souvenirs. Next, you will visit the Lyabi-Khauz Ensemble, including Nadir Divan-Beghi Madrasah, Kukeldash Madrasah, and Divan-Beghi Khanaka.

Kalon Minaret Kalon Minaret

The last stop for the day will be Chor Minor, which has four minarets.

Days 10Bukhara to Khiva via the Kyzylkum Desert

Arkanchi Hotel (4-star)
breakfast and lunch

After breakfast, you will travel to Khiva (450KM) through the Kyzylkum Desert during a long drive of over 7 hours.

You will have the chance to visit the Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa complex on the way. It was known as being the summer residence of Bukhara’s last Emir.

You will arrive in Khiva in the late afternoon and enjoy the rest of the day on your own.

Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa complex Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa complex, a combination of Uzbek and Imperial Russian architectures.

Day 11Khiva City Tour

breakfast and lunch

Khiva, known as an open-air museum, is full of historical and architectural monuments. It was divided into two parts, Ichan Kala (the inner city for the Khan's palace, high officials, and rich people) and Dishan Kala (the outer city for ordinary people).

You will have a full day to explore Khiva. The most popular sites are the blue-tiled Mohammed Amin Khan Madrasah and Kalta Minor Minaret, Mohammed Rakhim Khan Madrasah, the tomb of Sayid Allauddin (a well-known Sufi), Juma Mosque, which has 212 beautiful carved wooden pillars, Tash Khauli (Stone Palace), Pakhlavan Makhmud Mausoleum (in honor of the famous poet, craftsman, and fighter), Islam Khodja complex, which includes the tallest building in Khiva, and the ancient fortress Kunya-Ark where you can get panoramic views of old Khiva.

Ichan Kala A panoramic view of the Ichan Kala.

Day 12Khiva to Darvaza (Uzbekistan/Turkmenistan)

Tent Camp or Yurt camp
breakfast, lunch, and dinner

The morning is free for you to enjoy your last moments in Khiva so you can explore any sites you haven’t already visited or do some shopping.

After lunch, you will be transferred to the Uzbekistan–Turkmenistan border, Shavat–Dashoguz (60KM). After the border formalities have been completed (about 1½ hours) you will walk through the 1.5-kilometer neutral zone (transportation is not available) and meet your guide and driver from Turkmenistan. They will drive you to the Darvaza Gas Crater (also known as the Door to Hell), which is located in the middle of the Karakum Desert (270KM), to camp for the night. Your sleeping bag, pillow, and tent will be provided.

Darvaza Gas Crater The Darvaza Gas Crater has been on fire continuously since 1971.

You will witness the fiery Darvaza gas crater and enjoy a fire-cooked meal. In the evening, gaze at the bright stars, which you won’t be able to see in the cities.

Day 13Darvaza to Ashgabat

Yyldyz Hotel (4-star)
breakfast and lunch

After a simple breakfast, you will be transferred to Ashgabat (280 KM), which is the capital of Turkmenistan. On the way, you will stop near the community of Erbent, which consists of single-story buildings and yurts. You can admire the golden sand dunes that stretch out to the horizon before you reach Ashgabat.

Erbent Camels graze near the community of Erbent

The rest of the day is free for you to explore Ashgabat.

Day 14Ashgabat City Tour

breakfast and lunch

Ashgabat is a city with white marble buildings and grandiose national monuments. You will visit some of Turkmenistan's landmarks: The Gypjak Mosque, the Ashgabat National Museum of History, the Arch of Neutrality, and Independence Park.

After lunch, you will be driven out of the city to visit an archaeological site, the Parthian Settlement of Nisa (21KM) and learn more about the history of Turkmenistan.

Arch of Neutrality Arch of Neutrality

Day 15Departure

breakfast

After checking out from your hotel, you will be driven to the airport for your flight back home.

Asia Highlights Handpicked Hotels

We have selected hotels with different styles and for different budgets. Let us know your preferences and we will help you find the right one.

Amelia Boutique Hotel
BukharaAmelia Boutique Hotel
  • Perfect location in the old town
  • Unique decoration in each room
  • Very helpful staff and cheap laundry

Journey Information

  • About food The restaurants you will be eating at in Uzbekistan have been carefully chosen after our seasonal inspections. You may find both local people and tourists dining in those restaurants. The restaurants have adopted versions of the local cuisine, retaining the flavor but made less heavy to avoid stomach issues and diarrhea.
  • Visa Requirements Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan: Citizens of most Western countries do not require a visa when visiting for up to 30 days.
    Uzbekistan: Citizens of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and all EU countries can stay in Uzbekistan for up to 30 days. US citizens can obtain an e-visa through the official website and get a single-entry visa for a stay of up to 30 days.
    Turkmenistan: Citizens of all countries require a visa to visit Turkmenistan. To obtain a tourist visa for Turkmenistan, all foreign nationals must supply an invitation letter issued by a travel agency licensed in Turkmenistan. Asia Highlights can provide you with an official invitation letter. It takes a minimum of 20 days to receive a Turkmenistan visa.
    Tajikistan: Citizens of most Western countries need to obtain an e-visa online or a Visa on Arrival (at Dushanbe International Airport) to visit Tajikistan.
    For more information about a visa application, please contact your travel consultant.

Local guide

local guide
Having a private guide and an itinerary allows visitors not only to see as many attractions as possible, but also to learn about them from a local. Guides can also teach travelers about important features of visiting Central Asia and show you all the important sites.

Private transportation

private transportation
When with a private tour, customers will travel in a prearranged chauffeured car. This means that you won't have to worry about catching the train on time or getting off at the correct stop.
 

What our clients say about us

My wife and I booked a private tour with Asian Highlights and they arranged a phenomenal vacation for us. Albee Ning was our Travel Agent and she took care of everything for us and did a phenomenal job... It was the perfect vacation and they handled every detail for us from meet and greet services at each airport, baggage handling, private tour guides and drivers at each location, good restaurants, and fantastic hotels throughout... Read more