Cities & Bazaar Life
While Iran arguably has one of the best (and oldest) bazaars along the Silk Road — the Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex — the cities and towns within Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have the upper hand in beauty and sheer numbers. Begin in Uzbekistan’s Tashkent where its possible to view the world’s oldest Koran and visit the bustling Chorsu Bazaar and its powder blue dome for a spot of haggling. And from there, journey onwards via the express train to Samarkand, a city of radiant domes and stunning madrasas (schools) covered in elegant tile mosaics coloured a magical blue. For those with plenty of time, make the effort to journey to Bukhara, to wander the Fortress of the Emir, visit the picturesque old town, gasp at the incredible views from the top of the Kalon Minaret in the Po-i-Kalyan mosque complex and sample the fresh produce of the wonderful Zelen (Green) Bazaar.
Afterwards travel to the oasis city of Khiva, get lost in its warren-like old town and climb the Juma minaret to see the vistas of the desert landscape and the jade-shaded domes of the town. From here it’s possible to cross over to Turkmenistan to visit the fiery Darvaza Crater whose diabolic flame-saturated aesthetic has earned it the epithet ‘hell on earth’. From there journey to the striking capital Ashgabat — filled with white towers and eye-catching Soviet-esque iconography.
Tours of Uzbekistan are numerous, but Silk Road Adventure’s Classic Uzbekistan: Minarets and Madrassahs tour is one of the best and takes in many of the Silk Road classics.