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Tashkent, Uzbekistan

E-mail: sales.tashkent@sitara.com

Phone (Uzbekistan): (99871) 2814148, (99871) 2814149, (99871) 2553504

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The Caravan Countries Tour

  • Itinerary:
    Pakistan - Afghanistan - Uzbekistan
  • Duration:
    18 days / 17 nights
  • Price:
    on request
  • Tour program
    Itinerary of «The Caravan Countries Tour»
    Day 01: Arrive Islamabad – Flt
    Meeting on arrival assistance and transfer to hotel
    Afternoon visit the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi – we shall visit Shakerparian
    Hills, the Folk Heritage Institute – it has the largest folk music library with wide range of recordings from nomadic groups to the settled maestros. Later visit the view point to see the city of Islamabad in the shadow of lower Himalayas. Afterwards we shall drive past important Govt buildings planned by the architects of international repute like
    Edward Durrel Stone, Geo Ponti, Carbouzier and Fernarolli associates. Also visit an old village being kept intact as a reminiscence of old Islamabad. Later drive to Islamabad
    Museum with a nice collection of our heritage and afterwards visit Faisal Mosque, the
    Largest of its kind in the area, planned by Turkish architect Vedat Delokoy
    We shall have our lunch at local restaurant
    Dinner at typical restaurant
    Overnight

    Day 02: Islamabad/Taxila/Peshawar – 165 kms
    Morning departure for Peshawar enroute we shall visit Taxila – the famous archaeological site dating 06th BC-06th AD. Taxila was the site visited by Alexander the Great after receiving submission of local Raja in 326 BC. It was here that St. Thomas
    The Apostle had discourse with the Parthian King Gondophares and who is said to have embraced Christianity. Taxila rose to prominence during the time of Kushan rule form 2nd AD to 3rd AD. It was then that Taxila developed as an important centre of Buddhist literature and was known overland.
    We shall visit Taxila archaeological museum, later proceed to Sirkap 2nd city ruins planned by the Bactrian Greeks in 1st BC, later proceed to Jaulian Buddhist monastery ruins from 2nd to 5th AD. Also time permitting visit Jandial temple with its Greek architecture and layout.
    Lunch at PTDC motel
    Later proceed to Peshawar enroute short stop at the crossing of Indus river with overlooking Akbar’s Fort built in 1581 to protect his Indian empire from the Afghan Inroads. This is an important crossing point where many invaders tend to have crossed the mighty river. After a short stop for photo, proceed to Peshawar and on arrival
    transfer to hotel
    Dinner and overnight

    Day 03: Peshawar
    Full day sightseeing tour of Peshawar – the fabled city of the caravan days when Peshawar was the halting station for the caravan going to western asia from India.
    We shall start our tour at Peshawar Museum – this is one of the best Museum with an excellent collection of Gandharan Art. The Greco-Roman or Indo-Roman sculpture has an extra ordinary appeal being an admixture of Roman and India art.
    See the Buddha with an Apollonian face, wearing a Roman toga. The life of Buddha has been carved on the stone reminds of the Christian legend in paintings and sculpture. The Museum has rich collection of sculpture in stone and stucco.
    Later proceed to the bazaars of Peshawar entering the story tellers street, the copper
    Bazaar, the spice and cloth market, the shoe bazaar, a walk through the fruit and vegetable street and later the Jewelry and antiquities street. We shall also have a glimpse of Mohabat Khan’s mosque dating 1630 AD from an old caravan sarai.
    Lunch at hotel
    Afternoon free at leisure – this day we shall process permit for travel into Afghanistan.
    Dinner and overnight

    Day 04: Peshawar/Khyber Pass/Kabul – 275 kms
    Morning departure for Kabul enroute we shall drive via the famous Khyber Pass with a short stop on the view point with view of Peshawar valley. We shall then stop at Landikotal – the former smuggler’s paradise is covered bazaar of the local tribal community of Afridis, Shinwaris and Mullagoris 
    Khyber Pass known for its passage to Peshawar valley and many invading armies passed through this corridor to India. This is the wild frontier of the British Empire and was the venue of Anglo Afghan wars. As we travel pass through the history of incessant events happening in this corridor of the world.    
    On arrival at Torkham check point we shall go through the border formalities for both the countries separately.
    As soon we leave Torkham border point we travel to Jalalabad, the first major city on the banks of Kabul river. After a short stop for Lunch we proceed to Kabul heading through the Kabul Gorge. Around the fall of the day we arrive into Kabul city and transfer to former hotel
    dinner and overnight

    Day 05: Kabul
    Our tour of Kabul is a stride past recent destruction – we shall visit Bala Hissar, the old Fortress of Kabul this was the home and refuge for the early ruling families. The fort played an important role in the 2nd Anglo/Afghan war when it was partially destroyed by the British army. Later visit the Arg Palace, the home of most of the Kings in the recent history of Afghanistan, we shall also see the parts of city walls. An interesting visit to the Chicken market will show us the faces of various ethnic groups living in Kabul.
    Also visit the mosque of Sahe du Shashira and the Kabul Museum.
    An excursion in the afternoon will be visit Baghe Bala(the high gardens) is past time resort of Kabulis. We shall also visit the recently restored tomb of Babur the Great, the founder of Mughal Dynasty in India.
    Meals and overnight

    Day 06: Kabul/Bamiyan – 234 kms
    This is a long day, not for the distance but for the poor road conditions – we ride the 4x4 vehicles to Bamiyan. We drive through a rugged beauty of Central Afghanistan as we start climbing to Hajikak Pass – 2900m and then descending to the beautiful valley of Bamiyan at an altitude of 2300m in the lap of Kohe Baba range, the off shoots of Hindukush ranges. The journey from Kabul to Bamiyan will take us 10 hrs so an early start from Kabul is foreseen
    on arrival transfer to local Guest House accommodation
    later in the afternoon we shall see the impressive sight of the cliff supporting a huge monastic complex with rock hewn caves and the destroyed statues of the huge Buddhas once overlooking the valley.

    The site is an extra ordinary panorama, with a back drop of Kohe Baba ranges.
    We shall have a visit into the history of Bamiyan where the destruction of Buddhas is as much sad as by the then iconoclastic Arabs of the 9th century AD, had cut the faces of Buddhas. Then once again their hate for images was rekindled, when the Arab advisors of the Islamic heretics prompted, the destruction of this world heritage in the recent times. Most of the frescoes were destroyed by the heretic armies by using the caves as dumping stores for ammunition.
    Meals and overnight
     
    Day 07: Bamiyan
    Full day excursion to cover the famous Bande Amir lakes and Shakre Gholgola (the city of sighs) – our first stop will be at Shakre Gholgola the town which was destroyed by the Mongol armies as a revenge for the resistance it had put earlier which resulted in the death of whole population. The destruction of the area was to avenge the death of the grandson of Ghengiz Khan at Shakre Zohak nearby. Mongols later had left a strong contingent of their country men to be permanent settlers that was very vocal for their invasion of India. 
    It is interesting to note presence of large number of population of Mongolid origin popularly known as Hazaras(contigent of 1000 souls) Their contacts with later Mongols the Il-Khans who had settled in Iran and converted to Shiaism influenced them in later years to be converted to Shia doctrine. It is also interesting to note that in the deep valleys a pure form of Mongol language still survives and not much has changed in the remote parts of this region.      
    Later we shall proceed on excursion to Bande Amir – the beautiful blue water lakes are best seen at the waning light of the sun.
    return in the late afternoon after the picnic day
    Dinner and overnight

    Day 08: Bamiyan/Puli Khumri – 335 kms
    We start early in the morning and ascend to Shibar Pass(2987m) which joins the major route above Charikar and then enter the famous Salang Pass(3363 m) the main conduit to northern Afghanistan. This is an interesting day with many photogenic stops in the narrow valleys, the side tea houses and the village views.
    On arrival after a long days drive transfer to local Guest House
    Meals and overnight

    Day 09: Puli Khumri/Surkh Kotal/Kundoz – 160 kms
    Morning depart for Kundoz our first stop will be on the road to Mazar-i-Sharif to visit Surkh Kotal archaeological site. This was one of the major Kushan city having monasteries of importance. The acropolis of Surkhkotal according to the finds was a fire temple which in the successive centuries was converted into an important Buddhist complex during Kanishka’s period. The site is also famous for its various Bactrian inscriptions found in the temples and stupa bases.
    The famous statue of supposedly of King Kanishka wearing the traditional dress similar like today’s Afghan dress was found here. 
    Later we shall return to the main road to Kundoz
    On arrival transfer to local Guest House
    Meals and overnight

    Day 10: Kundoz/Aikhanum/Kundoz
    Kundoz/Mazar-i-Sharif – 195 kms
    Full day excursion to Aikhaum archaeological site – supposed to be the true Bactrian Greek site dating from 4th- 2nd BC. The site was rich in Greek architecture and its Influence could be seen across the river Oxus(Amudarya river) The charred remains on the site reveal that this was also destroyed and burnt during the Hun invasion of 
    450 AD
    Later in the afternoon depart for Mazar-i-Sharif and on arrival transfer to Guest House
    Meals and overnight

    Day 11: Mazar-i-Sharif & Balkh 
    Morning excursion to Balkh – Bactriana or Bakhtara is one of the oldest place which could be well placed around 1000 BC and the legend says this may be the birthplace of Zoroaster who taught here around 600 BC. Being an important part of the Achaemenid empire Bakhtra or Balkh was a busy commercial city on the Great Silk Road. This was the meeting point of the Great Silk Road traveling through the Pamir knot while another trading route more popularly known as Spice Route came from India. It was the resting place for the Caravans and trading activity must have made the place of great commercial importance. Silk and Spices were sorted out and classified before moving further westwards.
    Alexander the Great came here in pursuit of the Persian rebel general Bessus who had killed Darius. The town was taken without any resistance but it was here that the Greeks built their headquarter for campaigns into Central Asian towns. Later it passed to the Bactrian Greeks or the later Greeks. Kushans also ruled this city but the town rose to its prominence again during the Arab invasion as it again served as the spring board for their campaigns into Central Asian towns against the heathen Turks.
    The town suffered greatly at the hands of Mongols who brought a catastrophic destruction of the town. Marco Polo does mention about town of Bakhtara while passing through in one of his hazardous journeys down from the Pamir Knot.

    We shall see the old Fortress or City walls, later visit the Shrine of Abu Nasr Parsa, Tomb of Rabia Balkhi the famous poetess and Masjid a Gombad 
    Later return to Mazar-i-Sharif
    Afternoon visit of Mazar-i-Sharif will be mostly strolling around the streets of Mazar and dedicated with a visit to Shrine of Ali – supposedly the burial place of the cousin of Prophet Muhammad. This shrine dates back to 1136 AD and was extensively Destroyed by marauding armies of the Mongols and was rebuilt later by one of the later Timurid Hussain Baiqara. The Herati tile work is very beautiful and worth taking photographs. This is an important pilgrimage place and lots of Afghans coming from the nearby countryside come here to pay tribute to the cousin of the Prophet.
    Later we shall stroll around the bazaar – Mazar is the best place for hunting Turcomon
    Carpets known for their quality and value.
    Meals and overnight

    Day 12: Mazar-i-Sharif/Termez – 88 kms 
    Morning depart for Uzbekistan border and we shall cross the famous Friendship Bridge over Amudarya(Oxus river) and enter into Uzbekistan. Since this is not a regular crossing of tour groups ever we do expect delays at both the formality points.
    Afterwards meet our Uzbekistan office coach and travel to the town of Termez.
    On arrival transfer to hotel
    Later after lunch visit Termez Archaeological Museum and then proceed to Fayz Tepe and Kara Tepe Buddhist monastery ruins
    Dinner and overnight

    Day 13: Termez/Shakre Sabz/Samarkand – 457 kms
    Early morning depart for Samarkand enroute visit Shakre Sabz
    We will arrive at Shakre Sabz for Lunch and later visit Ak Saray palace ruins, Dorus Tilavat seminary, Kok Gumbaz mosque, Dorus Saidat and Friday mosque
    Later proceed to Samarkand and on arrival transfer to hotel
    Dinner and overnight

    Day 14: Samarkand
    Full day sightseeing tour of Samarkand visit – Registan Square to see the three beautiful madrassahs, late proceed to Bib Khanum mosque, the Silk Road bazaar
    and Shahi Zinda necropolis
    afternoon visit Afrosiab Museum and site, Ulugbek’s Observatory and Gur Emir, the mausoleum of Tamerlane
    Meals and overnight

    Day 15: Samarkand/Bukhara – 268 kms
    Morning depart for Bukhara enroute short stops at the Gijduvan to see the famous Pottery works. Later visit Sitora-i-Mokhikhosa the summer Palace of the former emir of Bukhara. Continue to Bukhara and on arrival transfer to hotel
    Meals and overnight

    Day 16: Bukhara
    Full day sightseeing tour of Bukhara visit – Lyabikhauz, madrassah Nadirkhon Devanbegi, Khanaga, Mogaki Attari mosque, Poi Kalon minaret and mosque, 
    madrassahs Aziz Khan and Ulugbek
    afternoon visit Ark Fortress, Balakhauz mosque, mausoleum of Ismail Samanid, Chasma Ayub and the bazaar
    Folk Show in madrassah
    Meals and overnight

    Day 17: Bukhara/Tashkent – Flt
    Morning flight to Tashkent and on arrival transfer to hotel
    Lunch at hotel
    Afternoon sightseeing tour of Tashkent visit – Old city, Barak Khana, Kafelssashi Complex, Chorsu Bazar, madrassah Kukeldesh, Friendship Square, museum of Applied Arts and Navoi Theatre
    Farewell Dinner at local restaurant
    Overnight

    Day 18: Tashkent – Flt
    Early breakfast and transfer to airport for flight to your destination
    Assistance on departure

  • Details
    Details of itinerary & map
    The history of Afghanistan is a story of incessant wars and uprisings till todate.
    This was the passage country for the fertile plains of India when in 1500 BC groups
    Aryans descended down through Afghanistan to India. This great migration continued for many centuries until a settled culture of these migratory tribes of western asia appears in the Indus to form an admixture with Indic tribes valley and we hear about the land of Kubha (Kabul – derives its name from the river) in vedic annals is the start of the historic periods of Afghanistan. After the vedic period we hear about Afghanistan being part of Achaemenjd empire in 6th BC as it served as the corridor for Indian invasion. The classic period of Afghanistan begins with the arrival of Alexander the Great in the spring of 330 BC and later crossed Paropamisus mountains (Hindukush range) to begin his Indian pursuit. His arrival in the region was of great significance as this impact was felt later in the establishment of Greek colonies in the north with Bactria(Balkh) as a principle state. One could bump on a part of Corinthian column or an archaeological site that may be of Greek origin. The wooden pillars of houses in the northeastern part may look like reformed Ionic supports. The era of Seleucus, the inheritor of the eastern boundaries of Alexander’s Empire begins the formation of Greek tribes which was known in the history as the Indo-Bactrian Greeks forming the federation around beginning of 1st BC. These colonizing Greeks had greatly influenced the local culture and its imprints on architecture is still seen in the area. This was also the beginning of beautiful coinage system of the region.
    It was the conversion of Kushanas to Buddhism in the northern Afghanistan to establish a strong empire which dedicated itself to the promotion of Buddhism in the region.
    While Kushans were known for their works of great merit, their patronage of Buddhism led to the beginning of Great Schools of art and sculpture developed taking its shape to the beginning of Gandharan art in north western Pakistan with its north boundaries included present day Jalalabad. It is very interesting to see the western influences on this school of art and its further development is seen in Afghanistan. Huen Tsang the Chinese pilgrim who visits Afghanistan in 7th AD describes of Buddhist sanctuaries and monasteries established in various parts of the country. The Buddhas of Bamiyan were then part of a strong Buddhist settlement with numerous deep meditation rock hewn caves in large numbers. These caves led the formation famous Afghan arch which is now seen in the madrassahs and other monuments.
    Then in the later centuries the country was devastated by the Mongolid hordes who also left their colony in the northern Afghanistan known as the Hazarajats where in some valleys a pure Mongolian language still survives.

    Moghul or more known in the region as later Mongols established a strong base Kabul for their future empire in India. Babur the Great is buried in Kabul. Then begins the rule incessant dynasties which kept in the Kabul war and intrigues. The British came on the scene in the wake of playing their part of the game against their arch rivals, the Czars of imperial Russia.
    The latest history of Afghanistan has destroyed the very culture of the freedom loving people to extent utter humiliation. The recent control seems to pay and Kabul is now fast returning to normal and trying to reassess its place in the world community.

    Bamiyan is more known for its statues of Buddhas which were hewn out of the rock into the images of colossal standing Buddhas wearing toga. The upper parts were decorated with extensive frescoes showing the celestial Buddhas and angels flying overhead. This was a strong assertion of an influence burrowed from the Sassanian art. The site dates from 03rd to 7th AD and must have been the same which is described by the famous Chinese Pilgrim, Huen Tsang who visited the site after the devastation of the White Huns couple of centuries ago. He describes the site being visited by pilgrims from Bactria(Balkh) and from Peukelaotis (present outskirts of Peshawar) he also mentions of the numerous cave dwellings used by local Buddhists for deep meditation a practice which had developed in the 2nd century AD when the school of Buddhist thought was in the process of change.
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