Silk Road Cities by Private Air

Silk Road Cities by Private Air

ALL TOURS
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DETAILS

Trace the path of explorers and emperors on this customized, small-group, private air program. Begin appropriately in Venice, Marco Polo’s home where many caravan routes originated; visit a plethora of UNESCO World Heritage Sites that were important stops along Silk Road routes in Georgia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan; and conclude in Istanbul, terminus for many ancient Silk Road caravans. Fly directly to Samarkand and visit the awe-inspiring Registan Square. Learn about the important crossroads that connect the East and West in Bukhara. In Istanbul, marvel at the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

Pricing from
$49,950
Trip Type
By Private Jet, Group Travel Tour, International Land & Rail Voyages
Departure Dates
Sep 18, 2023 - Oct 5, 2023

AIRFARE

We’ll travel aboard a Canadian-built De Havilland Dash 8-400, the world’s most advanced turboprop, significantly more efficient than an aircraft with jet engines. Our aircraft is configured with 72 Economy Class seats but each of our maximum 32 trip participants will have both a window seat and a free seat next to them, with ample overhead storage and an armrest that can be raised to provide extra space and comfort. The eight on-tour flights average one hour and 45 minutes in duration.
Private air info

TOUR MAP

silk air map

ITINERARY

  • day 1

    DEPART U.S. Overnight flight to Venice.

  • day 2

    ARRIVE VENICE, ITALY

    You will be met on arrival and transferred to the Belmond Cipriani, flagship of the Belmond chain and one of the most celebrated luxury hotels in Venice. After your long flight, settle into your room which is available for your early arrival. Time to refresh and enjoy the hotel facilities or lunch (not included). Use the afternoon to explore Venice on your own or join us for a guided visit. The hotel’s boat will transfer us from the hotel to San Marco Square where we will meet our guides for a 2-hour guided tour including an introduction to Marco Polo and the Silk Road, visit Marco Polo’s house, explore Piazza San Marco and The Dodge Palace. This will be a great introduction to our Silk Road journey.
    Dinner is not included. Options are available in the hotel or in Venice itself. Hotel: Belmond Cipriani

  • day 3

    EXPLORING VENICE

    After breakfast we will be divided in 2 smaller groups. We visit “Tessitura Bevilacqua “ http://www.luigi-bevilacqua.com/ on a private tour of about 40 minutes which includes a demonstration of the production of handmade velvet as well as a visit to their show room on the Grand Canal. We’ll learn about the history of the company and its cooperation with some of the most important interior design and fashions houses, based on the topic of the Silk Road.
    The 2nd part of today’s exploration will be a guided visit to “Atelier Nicolao” https://www.nicolao.com/ to see artisans who have been producing historical costumes and dresses since 1980, with a focus on the history of Venetian costumes. The Atelier has a selection of over 15,000 cine-theatrical costumes made with fabrics and fine workmanship for major film and opera productions, complete with accessories. Nicolao Atelier has worked for the most important opera, theater and film productions all over the world: from the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Washington, to the New National theater of Tokyo, passing through Bilbao, Lisbon, Nice, Lausanne, La Fenice, La Scala and the major Italian and European theaters.
    After the morning’s explorations the afternoon is free. You can return to the hotel or continue your exploration of Venice of your own accord. This evening we are invited to a gala welcome reception and dinner at the hotel. Meet your fellow travelers, lecturers, and tour managers.

  • day 4

    VENICE TO TBILISI, GEORGIA

    Leaving the grandeur of Venice behind we board our private aircraft for our first flight. The dedicated crew will be ready to welcome us on board our private de Havilland Dash 8 aircraft. We have chosen this aircraft to allow us adequate space. It has 72 seats for 32 guests plus staff, while at the same time providing the convenience of a private aircraft to connect the cities of the Silk Road.
    Sit back, relax and enjoy the service as we make our way to the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi. Upon arrival we are transferred to the Marriott Tbilisi for our 3-night stay. This evening join your fellow travelers for a traditional Georgian dinner and local music at the city’s famed Restaurant Ethnographer.
    Hotel: Marriott Tbilisi

  • day 5

    TBILISI

    In the 6th century the North Caucasus was subject of a major interest and became a conflict zone between powerful empires of Byzantium and Persia. The reason was significant — they fought for the control over the vital trade routes of the Silk Road passing across the Caucasus. Byzantium controlled mainly the mountainous areas of Western Georgia, which is known as Abkhazia today, and Persians controlled the eastern territories.
    Our journey today commences with a short trip north of Tbilisi to Mtskheta, the former capital of Georgia. The first stop is the sixth-century Georgian Orthodox Jvari Monastery. The Monastery is a sample of the Early Medieval Georgian church that survived to the present day almost unchanged. We follow our exploration with a visit to Svetitskhoveli, a masterpiece of the Early and High Middle Ages. Both Jvari and Svetitskhoveli our UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
    We return to Tbilisi for lunch after which we explore the city itself, including Metekhi Church, the Sulfur Bathhouse District, Narikala Fortress and Sioni Cathedral. Dinner this evening is included at your choice of a number of restaurants.
    Hotel: Marriott Tbilisi

  • day 6

    TBILISI

    After breakfast and a morning lecture, we meet our guide for a sightseeing tour of Château Mukhrani, the first Georgian Château, which combines four main components: a vineyard, the wine cellar, the castle and the history. Our tour of Chateau Mukhrani includes wine degustation, lunch, and Georgian kitchen masterclasses.
    After Chateau Mukhrani we will return to Tbilisi to visit the Museum of History “Karvasla” / Caravansary, get acquainted with Georgian workshops and hand craft masters, and visit Georgian carpets & kilims studios. If his schedule permits, we will meet famous Georgian Writer, publicist and historian David Turashvili, who will speak about the Silk Road and in particular the connection of Turkey and Georgia.
    Dinner this evening is again included at a choice of restaurants.

  • day 7

    TBILISI TO TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN

    Optional: This morning we offer a visit to the Georgian Sulfur Baths Houses. The sulfuric water is not only gloriously warm (100–104 degrees Fahrenheit on average), it is also purportedly therapeutic. A soak is a very relaxing experience. We will be transferred from either the hotel or the bath house to Tbilisi airport.
    Our crew will be waiting to welcome us back on our private aircraft for our flight to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. The “Stans” formed a core part of the ancient Silk Road and Uzbekistan offers a treasure trove of ancient sights and cities. A lunch will be served on-board as we head East. Upon arrival and after clearing formalities we transfer to the Hyatt Regency. Uzbek hospitality will be on display as we arrive at the hotel with music, drinks and canapes. Prior to dinner this evening we board coaches and visit the exhibition hall for an exclusive meeting with Akmal Nur, President of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan. Our visit will feature an informal talk about the Silk Road cultural heritage and modern arts in Uzbekistan.
    Dinner options include a choice of high-quality national and European cuisine restaurants.
    Hotel: Hyatt Regency

  • day 8

    EXPLORING TASHKENT

    Today we learn about the unique history and culture of Tashkent with our local guides. Our first stop is the bustling Chorsu Bazaar in the old town, accompanied by a local food expert. The bazaar has a wide range of food, local produce and crafts and the atmosphere gives us a sense of what bazaars were like in the Silk Road trading days. In the Khasti Imam complex of religious buildings we meet with Dr Farrukh Khudoyberdiev, keeper of the Koran of Caliph Osman, one of the most important relics of Uzbek Muslims.
    For a fun and contrasting experience we ride on the Tashkent Metro, representing a mixture of Soviet time socialist realism and traditional Uzbek décor. Finally, we visit the former residence of Aleksandr Polovtsev, a Russian Diplomat, who was a prolific art collector. He commissioned the construction of the residence, combining European and Oriental styles.
    Before dinner, we visit the house workshop of the legendary Rakhimovs dynasty of traditional ceramic masters. During an engaging master-class you can try your hand at creating your own design. The finished article will then be burned, glazed and shipped to Urgench to be presented as a good-bye piece of memorabilia.
    This evening gather for a special dinner in the courtyard of the Applied Arts Museum. Live folklore and classic music will be featured, as well as an exclusive catwalk show by a local fashion designer who uses sustainable handmade silk and cotton fabrics to produce modern attire.

  • day 9

    TASHKENT TO SAMARKAND

    Enjoy a relaxing morning before we head to the airport for the short flight to Samarkand, no doubt one of the true jewels in the Uzbek crown. It was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2001, identified as “Samarkand – Crossroads of Cultures.” The city is a center of Islamic scholarly study. Distinctively divided between an “old” and a “new” Samarkand, the old city includes a host of historical monuments, private houses and shops. Here you find that the people have carefully preserved the traditions of ancient crafts like embroidery, goldwork, silk weaving, ceramics and many others. Our visit here will no doubt be a highlight for many.
    This afternoon our guides will take us on an exploration of the old city starting with the Gur-Emir Mausoleum, which is the resting place of the great Tamerlane as well as many of his descendants. In the 14th century Tamerlane made Samarkand the capital of his Empire. Next up is Registan Square where we meet with a master restorer who, for many years, has been involved in the restoration and discovery of the lost secret of the creation of the blue and turquoise tiles prevalent in Samarkand. The Square is flanked by three Madrasahs, or religious schools. Dinner is included this evening.
    Hotel: Dilimah Hotel

  • day 10

    SAMARKAND

    This morning we visit the family bakery of Nonvoy to learn the secret of the local Samarkand round non-bread and to try some straight from the tandyr oven, a local specialty not to be missed.
    We continue our exploration of Samarkand with a visit to the Bibi-Khanum Mosque. It was rebuilt during the Soviet Era and it remains one of the city’s most remarkable landmarks. Afterwards we make our way to what was once the largest market in the world, Siab Market.
    In the old town we find the archaeological site of Afrosiab, featuring pre-Islamic wall frescos depicting the very essence of the Silk Road and showcasing the royal Sodian procession with ambassadors from as far away as Korea, as well as hunting and battle scenes. Our old town visit concludes with a visit to the Shakhi-Zinda (Living King) necropolis with uniquely decorated tombs, including one of the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad.
    We take a short drive to the nearby village of Koni-Gil where the once lost technique of creating Samarkand silk paper has been restored in a sustainable manufacturing method. We enjoy a traditional Uzbek Pilov lunch, including a cooking demonstration.
    On our return to Samarkand, we visit Khudjum to learn about the process of organic silk production and silk carpet-making. The unique production was established by Afghan migrants and provided work for many local women. This evening we will start with cocktails and a performance by the National Instruments Academic Orchestra in Registan Square, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.

  • day 11

    SAMARKAND TO BUKHARA

    Free time before check out. If you wish, you can visit the early 20th century Russian Orthodox church and meet with the icon painter, who carefully restores walls décor and icons. Mid-morning transfer to the airport where our crew is waiting for the short flight to Bukhara. Upon arrival we transfer to our hotel before lunch in a local restaurant at the Lyabi-Haus Square area.
    After lunch our local guides will take us on an exploration of the holy city of Bukhara. This is the place where, as much as any place along the various Silk Road routes, caravans and great religions crossed. Bukhara was the capital of many ancient empires and, lesser known, was also the center of the 19th century Great Game of Spies between Britain and Russia! During our sightseeing we will visit the Ismail Samani Mausoleum and ascend (by elevator) Shukhiv’s tower offering a bird-eye’s view of Old Bukhara.
    No visit to Bukhara is complete without a visit to the Ark Citadel, including the Royal chambers and the “bug pit.” Finally, we will visit the Kalyan complex housing one of the tallest minarets in Central Asia. Rumor has it even Genghis Khan didn’t dare to destroy it.
    Dinner this evening is at the family house (now a museum) of Faizulla Khodjaev – the prominent Soviet Uzbek politician.
    Hotel: Zaragon Plaza or Hyatt

  • day 12

    BUKHARA

    Our morning journey takes us to the outskirts of Bukhara to visit the magnificent summer residence and gardens of the last Emir – Sitora-i Mohi-Khosa (Moonlike Stars Palace). On our return we stop to visit the studio of Davron Toshev, a well-known miniature artist and calligrapher. We will meet with Davron, and some of his students, to hear about the history of calligraphy and witness a master class.
    The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to continue exploring Bukhara on your own, immersing yourself in the labyrinths of the ancient Jewish Quarter (synagogue, school, etc.) as well as Lyabi-Haus square.
    Our final dinner in Bukhara will be in the rooftop restaurant of the Minorai Kalan hotel offering majestic fairy-tale views of Kalan Minaret Square and the rest of Old Bukhara.

  • day 13

    BUKHARA TO KHIVA AND ON TO ASHGABAT, TURKMENISTAN

    Breakfast will be served early as we have a long, but also exciting and interesting day ahead. Our aircraft will fly us to Urgench from where we travel to the ancient Silk Road city of Khiva.
    Upon arrival to the grand gates of Khiva’s citadel, traditional giant puppets and a music band welcome us. Ichan Kala, the walled inner town of the city, was Uzbekistan’s first inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1991. Our local guides will take us on an exploration of the Ichan Kala citadel including the Juma Mosque, Kalta Minor and many other places. After lunch we return to the airport in Urgench where our aircraft is waiting to fly us to Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. Upon arrival we transfer to the hotel. Dinner is on our own this evening.
    Hotel: Yildiz Hotel

  • day 14

    ASHGABAT

    We start our touring today with a visit to the ruins of Old Nisa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Erected on the top of an irregular pentagon hill at the foot of the Kopet-Dag Mountains, Old Nisa is a beautiful landmark. The fort accommodates two semi-excavated complexes of the Parthian period designated as a Royal residence and temple complex. Abandoned at the end of the Parthian period, Old Nisa transferred its functions to New Nisa, another archaeological site located a couple of kilometers to the west, an important medieval Silk Road city.
    After sightseeing at Old Nisa we proceed to Kipchak village to visit a complex of the biggest mosque in Turkmenistan and the family mausoleum of the first President, Turkmenbashi. Returning to Ashgabat, we visit the National Museum of History that boasts more than 327,000 objects on display. We will see an exclusive collection of ancient artifacts from different historical & archeological sites of Turkmenistan, including Old Nisa, Ancient Merv, and others. Lunch at local restaurant.
    In the afternoon we explore the truly striking structures of modern Ashgabat. We will stop at the Monument of Independence which resembles a white-marble “Eiffel Tower”, the rocket-like Arch of Neutrality, the “Palace of Happiness” (the official name for the wedding registration office) which is shaped like a 3D octagon star, the National Memory complex consisting of an eternal fire rising up to the skies, and the Earthquake Memorial topped by a sculpture of a large bull holding the Earth on its horns.
    Dinner at the hotel this evening.

  • day 15

    ASHGABAT TO MERV

    We transfer to the airport for our flight to Mary this morning. We will be welcomed by our friendly and now familiar crew as we board our private aircraft. Upon arrival in Mary, we head 15 miles to the east towards Bayram-Ali, the contemporary reincarnation of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Merv. One of the major archaeological sites of Central Asia, Merv played an important part in the development of the Silk Road for more than 2,000 years. Within the limits of the archaeological park, we will visit various parts of what is often referred to as a “wandering city.”
    Besides remnants of the cities of Merv, we will visit the VI-IX cc. AD forts of Big and Little Kyz-Kalas, excellent examples of the so-called corrugated Koshks; and the mausoleums of Sultan Sanjar and Muhammed ibn-Zeyd, demonstrating exquisite Seljuk period brickwork and architectural décor. After sightseeing, we head back to Mary.
    On arrival in Mary, we visit the local History Museum, presenting a wide array of archaeological finds from both Ancient Merv and Bronze Age sites of the Margush country. Later this afternoon we will visit a private house in a nearby village, with a garden and animals, to see the life of a typical local family. We will get an opportunity to observe how the family members bake traditional Turkmen cookies called “pishme” (bits of dough cooked in boiling oil) and of course taste them. We will learn the process of making felt floor mats (koshma or keche) or weaving a carpet, and gain an understanding of the significance and symbolism of these crafts. Dinner at the hotel this evening.
    Hotel: Hotel Mary

  • day 16

    MERV TO ISTANBUL, TURKEY

    This morning we board our private aircraft for the last time for the flight to Istanbul. The crew and the convenience of having our own aircraft to take us to and through these destinations has been a real bonus. This last flight will no doubt be a lively one and before you know it, we will be arriving in Istanbul, terminus of many caravan routes and the last destination on our own Silk Road Journey.
    Our first visit will be to the extraordinary Hagia Sophia Museum. Built in the 6th Century by the Emperor Justinian, this church stands as a testament to the sophistication of the former Byzantine capital. This building influenced architecture in the medieval world for centuries. Its original design was supposedly created as a mirror image of the heavens. Converted into a mosque by the Ottomans in the 15th Century under the Sultan Mehmet II, this vast edifice now includes minarets and Turkish Rococo fountains.
    Next, we will visit the Blue Mosque, one of the most important temples of worship in the world. It is named for the blue Iznik tile work that decorates its interior and its dome can be seen from all over the Sultanahmet district. Finally, we will visit the Roman Hippodrome, the scene of chariot races and great public occasions throughout the immensely long history of the Byzantine Empire. Watch a Whirling Dervish Ceremony and enjoy a cocktail party at a Private Cistern as the evening begins. Dinner is on our own arrangements.
    Hotel: Four Seasons Bosphorus

  • day 17

    ISTANBUL FAREWELL

    Breakfast at the hotel. This morning we will set out on an overview tour that covers more of Istanbul’s highlights, including Topkapi Palace, Spice Market, and the Grand Bazaar.
    Our first visit will be to the incredible Imperial residence of 25 Ottoman Sultans – the Topkapi Palace, lavish home to the Ottoman Sultans. For centuries this was the place from which the Sultans ruled over an empire that stretched from Eastern Europe to Atlantic Ocean. It contains a priceless collection of jewelry, porcelain and costumes. Legend claims that the ancient rod on display in the Treasury is the one used by Moses to part the Red Sea.
    Lunch will be served at Hamdi Restaurant located close to the Spice Market. We will continue our tour at the 17th century Spice Bazaar, also called the Egyptian Bazaar because in the 17th Century it was built with money paid as duty on Egyptian import goods. From medieval times, spices were an important and expensive part of Oriental cooking and they gradually became the Breakfast at the hotel. This morning we will set out on an overview tour that covers more of Istanbul’s highlights, including Topkapi Palace, Spice Market, and the Grand Bazaar.
    Our first visit will be to the incredible Imperial residence of 25 Ottoman Sultans – the Topkapi Palace, lavish home to the Ottoman Sultans. For centuries this was the place from which the Sultans ruled over an empire that stretched from Eastern Europe to Atlantic Ocean. It contains a priceless collection of jewelry, porcelain and costumes. Legend claims that the ancient rod on display in the Treasury is the one used by Moses to part the Red Sea.
    Lunch will be served at Hamdi Restaurant located close to the Spice Market. We will continue our tour at the 17th century Spice Bazaar, also called the Egyptian Bazaar because in the 17th Century it was built with money paid as duty on Egyptian import goods. From medieval times, spices were an important and expensive part of Oriental cooking and they gradually became the bazaar’s main focus, taking advantage of Istanbul’s strategic position on the main trade route between the East and Europe. We will visit the famous Grand Covered Bazaar, the largest covered marketplace in the world, where a dazzling array of items—from furniture and carpets to jewelry and clothing—are sold in the bazaar’s 4,000 shops.
    This evening enjoy a memorable Farewell Dinner.

  • day 18

    DEPART ISTANBUL

    There will be individual transfers to the airport for your onward scheduled flight.

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