Uzbekistan

Hi everyone! I usually housesit and work when I travel but after a year and a half of being stuck at home, I think I’m going to treat myself to booking a bit of an adventure with no work or sitting responsibilities attached for some time next year.

I’m looking at visiting Central Asia, specifically Uzbekistan. The region has always been on my bucket list, the history is fascinating and I am dying to see the architecture of Samarkand and Khiva in person. I’d love to do a full Silk Road tour but will probably only have 2 weeks for this so I don’t want to rush anything. Has anyone been to Uzbekistan? I’d love any tips or must-see spots!

I’m also considering booking this through a tour company which is a little nervewracking as I usually do all travel planning myself, but for the first time, I am kind of into the idea of all the preparation being taken care of, especially in a region that I know so little about. I know most folks here are probably more like me and prefer to take care of things themselves, but it’s worth asking, has anyone here ever been on a trip with Intrepid Travel? Or any other company they would recommend that deals with slightly off-the-beaten path destinations?

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Wow, that sounds like our type of adventure and I really hope you get some feedback here. My initial thought too would have been to recommended Intrepid Travel as I’ve always heard good things about them. I’ll be following this post with interest … good luck with the planning!

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I did a trip with Imaginative-traveller about 15 years ago.
Katmandu, Nepal down through northern India, New Delhi, to Mumbai. Mostly using public transport - buses and trains, basic but clean hotels. A young Indian guide accompanied us and did all the buying of tickets and hotel bookings etc.
A small group, started off with 5 people in Nepal, with another 4 joining in India. Visited most of the normal touristy places - Taj, Red Fort, Varanasi-Ganges plus a few more not so well known. The group tended to eat out together most days(3-week tour) but we could spend time alone if wanted.
The trip was well organised, but I did find it a bit much after a couple of weeks - getting up every day at 5 am to visit somewhere, long days of travel, a bit regimented. The idea was great, but like you, I am used to organising my own trips so I haven’t done anything like it again.
Hope this helps!
p.s just checked and they do Uzbekistan - 11 different options.

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I think Petermac makes a very good point about organised tours where they are packing so much in, it all becomes a bit much. I wonder if more companies will adopt a flexible approach whereby you see all the sights you want but can enjoy a bit of down time and some local exploring on your own. It would probably mean you mixed and matched your fellow travellers but that could all add to the fun.

Not specifically on the topic of Uzbekistan, but on guided tours; just before Covid hit we were fortunate to spend two months in South Africa, our first time in Africa. We started with a two week housesit in Johannesburg over Christmas, had 5 days at the Victoria Falls before flying back to Johannesburg to join a three week ‘Explore’ trip travelling down to Cape Town. My 76 year old mum flew out to join us there for a three week self drive along the Garden Route finishing with 3days luxury safari.
We thoroughly enjoyed this mix of activities, 2 weeks to gently introduce ourselves to SA, 3 weeks full on, but with no responsibility and 3 weeks left to our own devices. Unusually for us, but because mum was there, we had pre-booked all the accommodation, which was hard work beforehand, but great while on the trip.

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Agreed, that’s been one of my concerns about a packaged trip. The one I’m looking at seems to involve quite a bit of free time, I suppose it’s difficult for companies to strike that balance between providing enough activities to justify the costs and giving travellers free time to explore at their own pace.

Thanks for sharing your experience in Nepal, also on my would love to visit one day list! The format you experienced sounds similar to what I’ve been looking at, although I didn’t consider 5am mornings… 6 or 7 I can do, 5 is a bit much if it’s more than a few days. It is a holiday, after all!

I hadn’t heard of Imaginative, great to hear of another option, checking them out now!

That sounds like the perfect mix! What a great experience!

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@Lindsay I also have a friend who used Imaginative-travel to do a month-long tour in SE Asia and found them very good. Arranging all travel and visa’s etc, with some time off to explore.

My own early starts were, I think, more to with the type of excursions - sunrise on a boat on the Ganges :
image

Overnight train from Varanasi to Dheli :
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and early starts to get to locations before it got busy / hot.

Nepal and Katmandu were my favourites, much more relaxed and friendlier than India. There are occasionally pet and house sits in Katmandu and I may just apply once the world opens up again.


Good luck with your plans.

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Snap, Jackie! We were in SA about the same time as you and got back (blissfully unaware of the extent of Covid) just in time before the U.K. lockdown. We did a self drive after Cape Town of the Classics - Winelands, Hermanus, Oudtshoorn, Wilderness, Knysna, Plettenberg, finishing up at Shamwari for an incredible Safari.
How did you find J’burg? We’d been put off going there by various people but found everywhere we went felt safe and the hospitality was fantastic. Maybe our fears were unfounded ref J’burg. A fabulous country with great people. Can’t imagine what we’d have done if we’d been stuck in Shamwari - trained as rangers?!!
We were also put off the Falls by advice that lack of rainfall had made them unimpressive. Ah well, always good to save something for the next time.

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Wow, your route across the bottom was very similar to ours, we finished up in Amakhala which was the most special experience. (We’ve now slept in the same bed as prince Harry!) My mum had already said it would be her last trip but it gave her so many happy memories to sustain her through lockdown.
We were certainly a little nervous about Jo’berg, and like everywhere you have to be sensible, our housesit was high up, in the suburbs but we felt safe in our hire car driving to parks and visitor attractions. Who thought a few years ago that you would now be able to tour Soweto?
It didn’t however feel like Africa, the supermarkets were more British than French ones are… Getting off the plane in Vic Falls though, that was Africa. We too dithered about the amount of water, but apparently they say it every year, and they were stunning

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I’m generally an independent traveler, but then pick up some local activities using sites like Withlocals, Eatwith, or airbnb experiences - especially in China. And in China I used a web sit sinotrip.com to book private guides.
I did book a full tour when I went to Cambodia about 10 years ago. I was expecting to join a group, instead for about $30/day I got nice hotels (3 star) most meals, a personal tour guide, driver and car, and local tours. Started with airport pickup in Phnom Penh, travel to Siem Rep/Angkor via Battambang with sightseeing along the way. And a return flight to Phnom Penh to connect with my flight back to the US. After a few days at Angkor I asked if I might do something else the last morning and had a cooking class.
Everything was ‘private’ including the cooking class although there were 3 of us having private cooking classes in the courtyard. I asked one of my guides about that and he explained that 3 people got paid for teaching cooking classes that day instead of 1. And the same with the private guide and driver - more people worked.

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@Diggy we spent time at Shamwari during our honeymoon 13 years ago - a fantastic place!

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Yes, Shamwari was incredible and the highlight but we can’t match your Prince Harry experience. Closest we can get - a fellow guest was a disgraced former MP!! He didn’t deign to speak to us although his lady friend was delightful.
Good point re the Falls - on the list for the next visit :crossed_fingers:t2::crossed_fingers:t2:

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Sorry, got Jackie’s and Debbie’s replies muddled up!

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@Debbie @Diggy … I just read my dream word in your conversation … Shamwari

It is the most incredible place. My daughter volunteered there two years running while she was doing her veterinary degree and wrote her dissertation on Giraffes, which was published.

On her second visit she took a photo of two Giraffes, necks entwined, and had it framed for me. Six years later we stayed at Shamwari and on a morning drive found the same track and same spot where the pic was taken, it was a magical moment in a magical place.

Thank you for bringing back the memory.

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We visited Shamwari not long after they had introduced 2 cheetahs to the reserve. One day our game drive took us to the far side if the reserve and we spotted them, down in the valley quite close to the boundary fence. We left the jeep on the track above and walked down to the valley where we were only about 20 metres from one of the cheetahs, As we made our way back up the hill to the jeep, our ranger pointed out that the cheetahs were “stalking” us - they kept appearing from behind rocks and bushes to our left as we headed uphill. Not many people can say they have been stalked by a cheetah!

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@JackieX @Diggy @Debbie @Angela-CommunityManager you guys are almost making me want to rethink and book SA instead :rofl:

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They still like to eat by the fence - we watched from Amakhala…

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and live to tell the tale!

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