This 21-day, three-country tour is designed for people eager to have the most comprehensive possible experience of Central Asia. On it, we'll spend 10 days in Uzbekistan, four days in the neighbouring republic of Turkmenistan, and the rest of the time in Iran, also known today, as it was in ancient history, as Persia.
Over the centuries, our part of the world has been conquered so often, and by so many nationalities, that just trying to keep track of them all is a challenge. In the 9th and 10th centuries, much of the territory we'll explore was part of the old Persian empire. During that period, in fact, Bukhara was considered to be the cultural and spiritual heart, not only of Persia but also of the entire Islamic world. Earlier, Alexander the Great and Arab invaders held sway over the region. Later, various parts of Central Asia would be dominated by nomadic Oghuz Seljuk tribes, the ancestors of present-day Turkmen; Mongols under Genghis Khan; Tamerlane, who made Samarkand his imperial capital; Uzbek tribes whose native tongue was a dialect of Turkish but who admired Persian culture so greatly that they adopted Persian as their court language; Imperial Russia; and finally, the Soviet Union. And that's just the short list!
All our conquerors left behind evidence of their presence in the form of sites now being excavated by archaeologists, our unique regional languages that have borrowed words from many larger linguistic groups, and some of the most breathtaking Islamic architecture in the world.
After we've escorted you through the highlights of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, we'll cross the border into Iran. On this leg of the tour, we start by visiting Mashhad, Iran's holiest city, with a huge shrine complex devoted to the 817 martyrdom of Shia Islam's eighth Imam, Reza. Other cities on our tour include Shiraz, Iran's cultural capital; Isfahan, famed for its magnificent architecture; Kashan, home to a garden considered to be the one of the most beautiful in the world; and finally the nation's capital, Tehran.