By tradition, the Silk Road is considered to extend all the way from the Great Wall of China to the walls of Constantinople. Our rail tour focuses on Central Asia, the heart of the Silk Road, but offers Tour Extensions before and after to optionally extend the tour all the way from China to Constantinople.
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Although the term Silk Road (or Silk Route) was coined only in the 1870s by the German cartographer Ferdinand von Richthofen, there has been a trading route between China and Europe since the third century BC, with silk from the East being but one of the commodities traded. 1,500 years later Marco Polo may or may not have followed the route.
We don’t have 20 years to spare to make the journey, so we commence our journey by joining our private train, the Orient Silk Road Express, in Almaty, Kazakhstan for a 14 day journey (7 nights spent on board) along the historic route through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
We skip the next section of the Silk Road - through Iran, Iraq and Syria - and fly on to finish our journey in Istanbul, ancient Constantinople, the terminus of the historic Silk Road.
To Almaty [D]
Meet your tour guide either in Dubai Airport, or on arrival in Almaty Airport. There is a transfer to our First Class Hotel in Almaty. If you began the tour at the original source of the Silk Road, you arrive from the China Pre-Tour, in the early evening.
Almaty [B] [L] [D]
This morning we enjoy a sightseeing tour of this green metropolitan city at the foot of the mighty Ile Alatau Mountains. Highlights include the Zenkov Russian Orthodox Cathedral, built entirely of wood, the Wedding Palace, the Almaty Circus, and the Central Mosque. After a Kazakh welcome lunch, we board our private train, the Orient Silk Road Express. Overnight on board the Orient Silk Road Express.
Turkestan [B] [L] [D]
We arrive after breakfast in the city of Turkestan and visit the 1394 Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, one of the most significant examples of Timurid architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Afterwards our private train continues its journey, crossing the Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan border towards Tashkent. Border formalities are completed in the comfort of our compartment. Overnight on board.
Tashkent [B] [L] [D]
Our private train, the Orient Silk Road Express, arrives in the early morning at Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent. During our city sightseeing of this green oasis in the steppe, we see the Madrassa Kukeldash, the Kavoj and Amir Timur monuments. This evening we attend a concert in a music hall, and then re-board our private train. Overnight on board.
Shakhrisabz [B] [L] [D]
Through mountainous territory, we follow the route of the trade caravans, also the route and the armies of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan,and Tamerlane. A traditional ceremony offers us first-hand insight into the region’s unique folklore, before we continue to the green city of Shakhrisabz, Tamerlane’s birthplace, where we visit the brutal Mongol leader’s great palace. Back on board, we head for the magical city of Samarkand. Overnight on board.
Samarkand [B] [L] [D]
On arrival in Samarkand we settle into our First Class hotel for a 2 night stay. During the rule of Tamerlane, Samarkand was considered the world’s most beautiful city, and it still speaks of all the magic of 1,001 Nights. Today we learn why. It is also historically important, as the site where many Uzbek women burned their veils (burkhas) in 1917, with the arrival of the Soviet system. Overnight First Class Hotel.
Samarkand [B] [L] [D]
Our day’s sightseeing in this fascinating city includes a tour of a silk carpet manufactory, a visit to an Uzbek craftsman’s family to see paper being made from mulberry bark, stops at the Ulug Beg Observatory and the ruins of the Bibi Khanum Mosque, and viewing the interior of the palace-like Gur Emir Mausoleum. Overnight: First Class hotel.
Samarkand [B] [L] [D]
The morning is yours to explore Samarkand or to spend as you please. We re-board the Silk Road Orient Express at noon and depart for Khiva. Overnight on board.
Khiva [B] [L] [D]
Today we visit the oasis of Khiva, an exotic fairy tale from 1001 Nights – in stone. Its palaces, mosques, minarets, mausoleums, and madrassas (Muslim religious schools) represent one of the best preserved ensembles of medieval oriental urban architecture in the world. Overnight on board.
Bukhara [B] [L] [D]
On arrival in Bukhara (also called Sherif - the noble one) we transfer to our First Class hotel and then commence our city sightseeing of just a few of its thousand architectural monuments recalling the golden age of the Great Silk Route, including the almost fifty-metre tall Kalyan Minaret. Exotic spices, furs, and especially silk were stored and then traded in the city’s caravanserais. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Overnight: First Class hotel.
Bukhara [B] [L] [D]
This morning we continue to explore Bukhara’s ancient oriental architecture - the splendid Mire-Arab Madrassa, the Samanid Mausoleum, and the massive Ark Citadel. Our private train continues its journey in the evening. Overnight: First Class hotel.
Merv [B] [L] [D]
We farewell the Silk Road Orient Express this morning on arrival at the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site of Merv. Here are the remnants of what was once one of the world’s largest and most magnificent cities: gigantic walls and ramparts simply standing in the middle of the desert next to the imposing ruins of ancient buildings such as the Tomb of the Sultan Sanjar, and the Maidens’ Castle. We have lunch with a local family in their home’s picturesque courtyard. Overnight: First Class hotel.
Nisa & Ashgabat [B] [L] [D]
This morning we are driven to the ancient Parthian city of Nisa, then after lunch we take a guided tour of the modern-day Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat and the National Museum in Ashgabat, where you view artefacts excavated from the ruins at Nisa and gain insight into the development of a culture shaped by various peoples, ethnicities, and religions. Overnight: First Class hotel.
To Istanbul (Constantinople) [B]
The traditional Silk Route further West requires passage through Iran, Iraq and Syria, so we bail out and take a flight to its historic terminus, Constantinople (Istanbul) where, on arrival, you transfer to your homeward flight or, if you choose to join your Tour Director on an 8 day Add-on tour of Istanbul, Troy and Gallipoli ›, we transfer to our First Class hotel.
From $AUD 17,250 per person twin share.
“Follow the Legendary Silk Road” Tour, Commences in Almaty on October 4th and ends on arrival in Istanbul on October 18th: 14 days.
We have a strictly limited allocation of cabins in the top 3 classes ‘Aladdin’, ‘Sultan’ and ‘Kalif’ on the Orient Silk Road Express.
Tour cost based on cabin choice (see below):
1 Mixed is Single in hotels & Twin Share on train.
2 Kalif Category Cabins book out quickly.
This category features two lower beds (67cm x 184 cm), a small table and storage space. Each car has eight compartments and one shower facility. Combined toilet and washing facilities are located at both ends of each car.
Overview of the carriage with ‘Aladdin’ class cabins
This category features two beds, with an upper berth measuring 80cm x 174 cm and the lower one a more generous 110cm x 184 cm. The compartment also offers comfortable seating, a larger table and a small closet. Each compartment has its own lavatory equipped with toilet, washing basin and integrated shower with shower curtain. Every car of this category contains only six compartments.
Overview of the carriage with ‘Sultan’ class cabins
This category is the highest available on the Orient Silk Road Express, and has the same cabin layout as the Sultan category, except that each cabin has its own en suite bathroom. Each compartment features closet, safe and en-suite bath with separate shower cabin. Every car of this category, offering the highest level of comfort available on the Silk Road, contains only four compartments and offers space for a maximum of just 8 guests.
Overview of the carriage with ‘Kalif’ class cabins
International Airfares: Please check our competitive airfares, available 11 months before departure.
Orient Silk Road Express:
Commences 28 September, 2023
To Beijing [D]
Join your flight today to China’s capital, Beijing. On arrival you are transferred to your centrally located First Class hotel where we meet our fellow travellers. Overnight: 5-Star hotel.
Beijing [B] [L] [D]
Today we are introduced to the ancient (and modern) city of Beijing – highlights include the Temple of Heaven as well as the famous Tiananmen Square.
For centuries the doors to the former Emperor's Palaces have been closed to the public. Today the glorious halls and mysterious temples of the Forbidden City are open for us. A traditional Chinese dinner of Peking Duck tonight. Overnight: First Class hotel.
Great Wall of China - Beijing [B] [L] [D]
The Great Wall of China is the 8th Wonder of the World; today you can experience it up close, both on foot and from a cable car. Construction began in the 7th century BC with sections of the 1,500 mile long wall dating from the 3rd century BC, and most from the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644). On the way back to our Beijing hotel, we visit the famous Ming Tombs (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Sacred Way. Overnight: First Class hotel.
To Xian [B] [L] [D]
On the tracks today. We join China’s high speed bullet train, taking our reserved First Class seats for our journey at 300kph from China’s modern capital, to her to historic capital, the walled city of Xian. On arrival we are transferred to our First Class city centre hotel. Overnight: 5-Star hotel.
Xian - Entombed Warriors [B] [L] [D]
This morning there is a city sightseeing tour of Xian, including the 7th Century Wild Goose Buddhist Pagoda and the 14th Century Great Mosque. The afternoon is free for the markets or, for the more athletic, a bicycle ride around the city walls – 14 kilometres. Overnight: First Class hotel.
Xian [B] [D]
Yet another wonder of the world today – the Entombed Warriors of Xian. 8,000 life size soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, stand guard over the grave of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China from 210–209 BC. Overnight: First Class hotel.
to Almaty [B]
Farewell China today with a transfer to the Xi’an Airport for your flight to Almaty, Kazakhstan, to join your fellow travellers on the Silk Road Express. On arrival you are transferred to our First Class hotel.
$AUD 4,000 per person, twin share. $AUD $800 single supplement
Commences in Beijing on 28 September and ends Xian on 3 October: 6 days.
What’s included? China Pre Tour
Commences 18 October, 2023
On arrival in Istanbul Airport from our Silk Road journey, we are transferred to our First Class city-centre hotel.
Istanbul [B] [D]
Istanbul has a long and eventful history, reflected in its 3 names – Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul. Today we see modern Istanbul, the city spread across the two continents of Europe and Asia.
We begin our exploration of the Byzantine and Ottoman city at the Hippodrome and nearby twin shrines of Hagia Sophia, the greatest church in Christendom for a millennium, and the Blue Mosque. We then visit the historic underground cisterns constructed under Emperor Justinian in the sixth century. Free time in the afternoon for the Spice Market, which has been selling spices from the East since mediaeval times.
This morning we visit the Topkapi Palace, the royal palace of the Ottomans, founded in 1459, just 6 years after the invasion of Christian Constantinople by the Turks. Since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War 1 it has served as a most important museum with fine art and ornamentation from the Ottoman era. The harem room is of more than appropriate interest to most tourists.
We spend the afternoon in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops.
To Gallipoli [B] [D]
By coach today we skirt the Sea of Marmara south-west into European Turkey towards the Dardenelles. Here is the town of Gelibolu situated on the peninsula of the same name. We all know it as Gallipoli.
Gallipoli [B] [D]
The “holy of holies” for Australians and Kiwis today. Our sightseeing today is a roll call of those places seared into our national psyche – Anzac Cove, Chunuk Bair, Lone Pine. Back to our Gallipoli hotel tonight.
Troy - Istanbul [B] [D]
An Ancient history excursion today to Classical Troy, long believed to be a Greek myth until unearthed in the 1860s by the German archaeologist Dr Heinrich Schliemann. In the afternoon we make our way back to our Istanbul hotel.
Homeward Bound [B]
Our Turkish holiday ends this morning after breakfast.
$AUD$4,900 per person twin share. Single supplement $AUD900
What’s included? Turkey Post Tour
Tour Payment Details:
A deposit of $5,000 per person guarantees your seat (unless your preferred class of cabin is sold out prior). Full final payment 6 months prior to departure. Credit card payments attract a 1.5% merchant fee.
NOTE: Travel insurance is mandatory and Great Trains of Europe Tours will be delighted to quote for your travel insurance.