Nowruz - Oriental New Year Holiday
Combined Group Tour of Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan during Nowruz Festival
|Countries:||Uzbekistan - Turkmenistan||View the route map »»|
|Tour duration:||11 days / 10 nights|
|Itinerary:||Tashkent - Samarkand - Bukhara - Uzbek-Turkmen border - Mary - Merv - Ashgabat - Derweze -|
|Dashoguz - Ashgabat|
There is no doubt that Uzbekistan’s status as popular touring destination has much to do with its fascinating architecture from various periods, and its rich cultural heritage going back thousands of years. But visiting Uzbekistan during cultural celebrations and festivals can enhance your vacation and add even more unforgettable experiences.
The most cherished and gracious of all Uzbekistan’s national holidays is the spring festival of Novruz which falls on March 21. The holiday coincides with the day of vernal equinox - the start of spring, and traditionally honours the rebirth of nature, hence the name (Novruz means “New Day”).
From the times this spring holiday originated in 3,000 BCE, Novruz has been observed annually, in one form or another, on a wide territory in the East as a festival symbolizing re-awakening of nature, hope for bumper harvest in the fields and gardens, for love and consent in family. Traditionally the festival of masses, Novruz continues to be unimposed, non-political event to the present day.
While initially a religious festival, Novruz is now mostly secular, though it is steeped in symbolism and rich traditions. Several days before the festival, spring cleaning begins when houses are scrupulously cleaned, whereas cities and villages are tidied up and colourfully decorated enriching the atmosphere of upcoming festivities.
On March 21 the festival celebrations start with traditional games, music and drama performances, street art and colourful fairs, joyful traditional dances, various activities for children and adults, lavishly set tables with the most savory festive dishes, including a ritual meal sumalak (a wheat bran pudding) cooked exclusively for Novruz celebrations and thus available for tasting only once a year. The celebrations are also marked with lots of merry partying and social visiting, allowing music, songs, and laughter to be heard late into the night.
The popular belief says, “He who celebrates and has fun on the day of Novruz will spend his life cheerfully until the next Novruz celebration”.
So why not to join in the celebrations of the Spring Festival of Novruz, the nation's signature event?
Make it a spring to remember!
- Itinerary /
Services & Cost
Itinerary in Detail
- Useful Information
|Day 1||Arrival in Tashkent.
Meeting at Tashkent airport. Transfer to hotel and check-in. Rest after a long flight. At 12:30 guided sightseeing tour around Tashkent: Khast-Imam Square, Barak-Khan Madrasah, Kafal-al-Shashi Mausoleum, Kukeldash Madrasah; after lunch: Museum of Applied Arts, Independence Square, Amir Timur Square. Overnight rest in hotel.
|Day 2||Tashkent - Samarkand.
Breakfast at the hotel. Departure for Samarkand by the high-speed train Afrosiab. Arrival in Samarkand. Leisure time: Siab Bazaar recommended. Overnight at the hotel.
Additional options this day (not included into the cost of the trip):
Breakfast at the hotel. Guided sightseeing tour around Samarkand: Registan square (Ulugbek madrassah, Sher-Dor madrassah, Tilla-Qori madrassah), Gur-e Amir mausoleum (Tamerlane’s sepulcher), Rukhabad mausoleum; after lunch: Bibi-Khanym mosque, Shah-i-Zinda necropolis, Ulugbek observatory. Overnight at the hotel.
|Day 4||Samarkand - Shakhrisabz - Bukhara.
Breakfast at the hotel. Transfer to Bukhara through Shakhrisabz, birthplace of Tamerlane. Guided sightseeing tour around Shakhrisabz: Ak Saray palace, Dorus Saodat complex, Dorut Tillavat madrassah, Kok Gumbaz mosque. Arrival in Bukhara. Leisure time. Souvenir shops / workshops. Overnight at the hotel.
Breakfast at the hotel. Guided sightseeing tour around Bukhara: Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Chashma Ayub Mausoleum, Bolo Khauz Mosque, Ark Citadel, Po-i-Kalyan Complex (Kalyan Minaret and others), Ulugbek Madrasah; after lunch: Lyab-i Hauz Architectural Ensemble, Kukeldash Madrasah, Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah, domed shopping arcade. Overnight at the hotel.
Additional options this day (not included into the cost of the trip):
|Day 6||Bukhara - Uzbek-Turkmen border - Mary.
Breakfast at the hotel. Transfer to Uzbek-Turkmen border Farab. Overcoming the border. Transfer to Mary through Turkmenabat. Arrival to Mary accommodation and overnight at the hotel.
|Day 7||Mary - Merv - Mary - Ashgabat (evening flight).
Breakfast at the hotel. Transfer to ancient Merv city, excursion program. Returning to Mary, sightseeing program in Mary: Russian Orthodox Church, the main bazaar of the city, central Mosque, city Museum. Transfer to the airport, evening flight to Ashgabat. Meeting at the airport, transfer to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.
Breakfast at the hotel. Transfer to foothill terrain near Ashgabat to observe colorful Navruz celebrations and traditions. Afternoon transfer back to Ashgabat. Visit National Museum, Nissa (UNESCO) Independence Park and Neutrality Arch. Overnight at the hotel.
|Day 9||Ashgabat - Derweze - Ashgabat.
Breakfast at the hotel. Morning visit Sunday Bazaar and Turkmenbashi Mosque-Mausoleum. Afternoon transfer to Derweze. BBQ dinner. Return to Ashgabat after dark (slow driving). Overnight at the hotel.
|Day 10||Ashgabat - Dashoguz (air flight) - Konya-Urgench - Ashgabat.
Transfer to airport for morning flight to Dashoguz. Excursion to Kunya Urgench (UNESCO). Meeting at the airport of Tashauz. Transfer to settlement Konya-Urgench. Sightseeing program in Konya-Urgench: mausoleums of Turabek-Khanym, Sultan Tekish, Il Arslan, Minaret of Tamerlane. Return to Dashoguz for evening flight to Ashgabat. Transfer to hotel. Overnight at the hotel.
Breakfast in hotel. Transfer to airport. Departure from Turkmenistan.
|Cost includes:||Cost does not include:|
|-||Half board (evening meals)||- 205 USD per pax|
|-||Full board||- 345 USD per pax|
|•||Tea testing in the "Silk Road Spices" tea house (Bukhara)||- 5 USD per pax|
|•||Folklore show in Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah (Bukhara)||- 15 USD per pax|
|•||Wine testing in old winery named after Hovrenko (Samarkand)||- 15 USD per pax|
|•||Visiting the theatre of historical costume El Merosi (Samarkand)||- 10 USD per pax|
If this itinerary does not completely suit you, Central Asia Travel can modify it for your convenience, changing days, cities, tourist attractions, hotels, services, etc.
We choose the most conveniently located and reputable hotels for our customers to stay at. The list of the hotels we offer is below. However, due to seasonal conditions and group size this list is subject to change.
Hotels 2-3* - cozy private hotels, with traditional national interiors in many of them, providing all the necessary facilities for comfortable stays; notable for very warm hosting and home-like atmosphere.
This tour comes with the following accommodation:
|Tashkent||Samir Hotel 3*||or similar|
|Samarkand||Arba Hotel 3*||or similar|
|Bukhara||Siyavush Hotel 2*||or similar|
|Mary||Margush Hotel 3*||or similar|
|Ashgabat||Ak Altyn Plaza Hotel 3*||or similar|
Detailed tour description in Uzbekistan:
Day 1. Arrival in Tashkent. Sightseeing in Tashkent.
Upon arrival at Tashkent international airport you will be taken to the hotel where you will have time to unpack, and unwind before starting the exciting tour round the Uzbek capital.
The sightseeing begins with visiting the Old Town, which has retained much of its old charm. Here, amongst low clay-walled houses and narrow winding streets, you will find the real pearls of oriental medieval architecture: the magnificent 16th-century madrassah of Barak Khan, the mausoleum of Imam Kaffal al-Shashi and functioning Kukeldash madrassah.
In Tashkent the legacy of medieval period goes hand in hand with its present status as cosmopolitan city with numerous skyscrapers, large boulevards and green parks, concert halls and theatres. All this is highly visible during the tour in the New City. A visit to the Museum of Applied Arts, Independence square and Amir Timur square will complement your first day in Uzbekistan.
Day 2. Tashkent - Samarkand.
Early in the morning leave hospitable Tashkent and head for the best-known destination in Uzbekistan - the legendary Samarkand.
Visiting Siab Bazaar is recommended in Samarkand. The entrance to the bazaar is a high arch decorated with blue and dark blue mosaic at the top. Once you are inside, you find yourself among many colors, scents and sounds. The produce sold is divided by types: vegetables; fruits; dried fruit and nuts and stones - raisins, currants, sultanas, dried apricots, nuts in dried apricots, salted cracked apricot stones baked in ash, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios; and Asian sweetmeats - navat (grape sugar crystals), kazinaki (pressed nuts or seeds with sugar or honey), parvarda (white hard candies), pashmak (mass of thin sugar threads) and many others. In spring, when the celebrate the holiday Nowruz, there are rows of tables with the traditional spring holiday dish sumalak - a sweet brown paste made from germinated wheat; it is sold there in jars or smaller containers.
Additional options this day (not included into the cost of the trip): Uzbek wine testing in old winery named after Hovrenko; visiting the theatre of historical costume El Merosi.
Day 3. Sightseeing in Samarkand.
Samarkand (also spelled Samarqand) boasts world-famous masterpieces of medieval Islamic architecture, most of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Today’s whole-day sightseeing round Samarkand includes the array of tourist attractions: the most magnificent landmark of the city - epic Registan square whose central esplanade is lined on three sides by three grandiose constructions - Ulugbek madrassah (15th century), Sher Dor and Tillya Kari madrassahs (17th century); the breathtaking Shakhi-Zinda necropolis, representing various oriental architectural styles; one of Temur’s monumental ego projects- Bibi-khanum mosque; the fabulous Gur-Emir mausoleum - an imposing medieval construction with interior gilded cupola delicately decorated like a Faberge egg; and epitome of the 15th-century oriental science - Ulugbek’s observatory.
Several days before Nowruz you can see overall preparations for the festival here, there and everywhere: houses are scrupulously cleaned, streets are tidied up and colourfully decorated enriching the atmosphere of upcoming festivities.
Day 4. Samarkand - Shakhrisabz - Bukhara.
Our next destination today is Bukhara - the famous trading post on the Silk Road, but transfer to Bukhara via Shakhrisabz, near which Tamerlane was born.
In Shakhrisabz you visit the remains of the summer palace Ak Saray (‘white palace’), its construction was launched by Tamerlane in 1380 and lasted for 25 years; the memorial complex Dorus Saodat (‘seat of power and might’; 14th c. - 15th c.), consisting of a tall mausoleum with a conical dome and an crypt at a distance of almost 40 meters from it, which were parts of an architectural ensemble in the Timurids times; the memorial complex Dorut Tillavat (‘contemplation place’; 14th c. - 15th c.); the Friday communal prayer mosque Kok Gumbaz (‘blue dome’, 1437).
After completing the tour of Shakhrisabz you resume your journey to Bukhara where you arrive in the evening and check in at your hotel. Bukhara is robustly lived-in and has remained much like it was in the days of yore. Enjoy a free time to absorb its ambience, walk around the old town, drop in the numerous shops which offer an intriguing array of souvenirs, embroideries, jewellery, spices, and handicrafts.
Day 5. Sightseeing in Bukhara.
Bukhara (“a lucky place”) is one of the world’s oldest cities. It is over 2,500 years old, and seems to be emanating the breath of history. The city was a large political and religious center in the Middle Ages. It is one of the seven holy cities of Islam. Bukhara boasts a large number of old mosques of different architectural styles, as well as a lot of madrasahs, minarets and mausoleums. The historic center of Bukhara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Spend the day enjoying a sightseeing tour around Bukhara with its numerous minarets and madrassahs, fortresses and mosques, teahouses and dynamic oriental bazaars. Start by visiting the ruins of the Ark Fortress once used as the residence of the governors. Wander along the imposing Poikalon complex (comprising the Kalon minaret, Kalon mosque and Mir-i-Arab madrassah). Continue with Ulugbeg madrassah and Abdulaziz-khan madrassah. Marvel at a fine specimen of Central Asiatic architecture of the 9th-10th centuries - Ismoil Samani mausoleum renowned for its decorative brickwork. Walk the city narrow winding streets, duck through the low arches of the caravanserai and trading domes. Admire the views of the 16th-17th century Lyabi-Hauz complex which includes Kukeldash madrassah, Khanaka and Nadir Divan-Begi madrassah.
Additional options this day (not included into the cost of the trip): visiting the "Silk Road Spices" tea house and testing teas prepared from herbs and spices; folklore show in Nadir Divan-Begi madrassah.
Day 6. Bukhara - Uzbek-Turkmen border - Mary.
An early departure this morning as we head to Uzbek-Turkmen border Farab and transfer to Mary via Turkmenabat (381 km, 5-6 hrs.).
Mary is the third largest city of Turkmenistan. It is located in a great oasis amidst Karakum desert, in the delta of Murgab river. From your guide you will find out that the city was founded in 1884 as Russian military centre 30 kilometers away from ancient Merv (until 1937 Mary was called Merv, former names include Meru and Margiana), which in corrupted form gives its name to the modern city. Nowadays Mary is a large centre of a wealthy cotton-growing region, a large transportation centre and major centre of gas industry, which is the main source of income of Turkmenistan.
Day 7. Mary - Merv - Mary - Ashgabat (evening flight).
Today you will have an amazing tour to ancient Merv. And here you will discover the entire ancient world, reaching us from the depth of centuries, which has retained a lot of historical landmarks. In ancient times Merv was considered to be one of the most precious pearls of the Orient, which was shining against the background of the great empires of ancient dynasties for five centuries, permanently being either their capital or the biggest and the most favourite city of the shakhs. From its foundation and till its destruction by the Mughals, decade over decade, it was growing, developing and getting better due to its skilled craftsmen and careful inhabitants.
The ancient city of Merv was an oasis city on the Silk Road. The site of ancient Merv has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Nowadays, Merv is considered the spiritual centre of pilgrims as it has retained sacred memorials built by the long gone generations. At the territory of this astonishing historical memorial, the area of which is 60 square kilometers, you will be lucky to see the mausoleums of Sultan Ahmad Sanjar, and the ruins of palaces dated back to the rule of the Achaemenid, the Parthian, and the Seljuk dynasties.
As you explore rich heritage of Merv you will be transferred back to Mary. Here you will enjoy sightseeing program in Mary: Russian Orthodox Church, the main bazaar of the city, central Mosque, city Museum. Many legends will be told to you by the pieces of the archaeological exhibit of the Turkmen Museum of History. In addition, you will see many samples of Turkmen carpets, national costumes, silverware and finely embroidered garments of various local tribes, which provides visitors the insight into culture, lifestyle and versatile past of this great country.
Transfer to the airport, evening flight to Ashgabat, which is the capital of, and the largest city in Turkmenistan.
Day 8. Nowruz festivity. Sightseeing in Ashgabat and its environs.
Today you will have opportunity to savor the festive ambience of foothill terrain near Ashgabat and observe colorful Nowruz celebrations and traditions: national games, bright decorations, warm spring sunshine and pleasant fragrance of apricot blossom permeating the air. Join in general elation, enjoy genuine country hospitality, take part in festivity and taste a traditional festive dish - sumalak.
Sumalak (Samanu, Samanak) is a sweet paste made from young wheatgrass. Sumalak is being prepared for several days in a large kazan (like pot). Traditionally, the final cooking would take from late in the evening till the daylight with a cheerful party, involving only women. This would be full of laughter, music, dances and singing traditional songs.
Afternoon transfer back to Ashgabat. Visit National Museum, Parthian Fortresses of Nisa (UNESCO), Independence Park and Neutrality Arch.
In general, the most notable of the mentioned memorials is «Old Nisa». As a matter of fact, Nisa is an ancient settlement situated 18 kilometers away from present-day Ashgabat, which is dated back to 1000 BC - 1000 AD. In its time Old Nisa was an imperial residence in Parthia, while New Nisa was one of the first capitals of the Parthians (alternate names are Parthaunisa, Mithradatkirt). At the time of Parthia existence Old Nisa was called in the honour of the king Mithridates I, who ordered to build the city. At that time Nisa was the capital of the empire, but later the location of the capital was changed, it was transferred to Asia Minor. When the Sassanid came to power, Nisa absolutely lost its influence; the city was ransacked and forgotten. New period of Nisa’s history begins with its affiliation to the Arab Caliphate. The city recovered again but has never reached its past power. The start of the city’s degradation is dated back to the XVI C, and in the 20-s of the XIX C Nisa was already in ruins.
Day 9. Ashgabat - Derweze - Ashgabat.
In the morning you visit famous Sunday bazaar (market), which is open only by Sundays. You will see thousands of shops with jewelry, wonderful fabrics and world-famous Turkmen carpets. Carpet weaving is a common property of Turkmen people. Carpets could be laid out wherever a tent was pitched, others could be used to decorate bare walls. At the same time their delicate complicated pattern was like a visiting card of every ethnic group, every family and could be used as home decoration.
Next you visit Turkmenbashi (meaning Leader of Turkmen) Ruhy Mosque which is in the village of Gypjak about 7 kilometers west of the centre of Ashgabat. The mosque was built in the home town of President Saparmurat Niyazov.
Afternoon transfer to Derweze (also spelled Darvaze, meaning "gate") - a village in the middle of the Karakum Desert, about 260 km north from Ashgabat. It is famous for its The Door to Hell - a natural gas field, huge burning gas crater with a diameter of 60 metres and to a depth of about 20 metres, one of the largest gas reserves in the world. Natural gas has been burning here continuously since 1971, and locals have dubbed the crater "Door to Hell", referring to orange flames in big hole and awesome view, especially during the hours of darkness.
Return to Ashgabat after dark (slow driving).
Day 10. Ashgabat - Dashoguz (air flight) - Konya-Urgench - Ashgabat.
After breakfast outdoors you are going to the city of Dashkhovuz (also Dashhowuz, Dashoguz, Tashauz) to see the site of Kunya-Urgench located at a distance of 100 km from Dashkhovuz.
Kunya-Urgench (also known as Old Urgench, Konya-Urgench or Urganj) is the site of the ancient town of Urgench, the 12th-century capital of Khwarezm. Today it is both a tourist sight with impressive architectural monuments, such as mausoleums and a minaret, and Islamic place of pilgrimage. Since 1999 the government of Turkmenistan and UN Development Programme have been carrying out the project of cultural development in the area, and since 2005 the ruins of Kunya-Urgench have been protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
After seeing the site you are going back to Dashkhovuz from where you are flying back to Ashgabat in the evening.
Day 11. Ashgabat.
This festive trip is nearly up. It has highlighted some of the best experiences Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have to offer. It has allowed you to discover a whole new world during one of the signature events of local people - Oriental New Year Novruz that honors the birth of spring. However, there is still a lot to be explored in the future in Central Asia. You are always welcome if you ever decide to come back for more unforgettable experiences.
The popular belief says, “He who celebrates and has fun on the day of Nowruz will spend his life cheerfully until the next Novruz celebration”. Wish you happy Oriental New Year!
Frequently Asked Questions
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Photos of the tour:
Our video gallery:
Nowruz in Uzbekistan
Cuisine of Central Asia
Kopkari: Headless Goat
Ziyorat. Laylak mozori
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