Kyrgyzstan yurts background of mountains in Songköl Lake area

Sandwiched between the Middle East and China, Central Asia has earned its status as a crossroads for much of human history and civilisation.

The "Five Stans" of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan are best known as being the central artery of the ancient Silk Road trading routes that connected the ancient civilisations to the east and west.

But the region was far more than merely a connector between China and Europe, with a glittering – if brutal – history of its own; birthing sprawling empires and flourishing cultures such as the vast Timurid Empire.

Today many of the historical landmarks remain – although heavily reconstructed – in the glittering Islamic cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. While out in the hinterlands, you'll find vast steppe and snowcapped mountains, along with the herding communities who have lived here for countless generations.

The cities meanwhile tell their own story of the Soviet era, and their attempts at reinvention since 1991 reinvention – some more successful than others.

It's not necessarily a relaxing vacation destination: if you're looking for lazy afternoons in the sun, you may want to try elsewhere. But if you seek adventure and insights into the incredible, magical, at times awful, human story, well Central Asia is a must.

The Five Stans

An essential guide to visiting the Five Stans of Central Asia

The climate of Central Asia is one of extremes. Between the lowest point in the former Soviet Union, 132m (433ft) below sea level to peaks over 7,000m (23,000ft) high, you should expect anything and everything. The region is also the furthest place on Earth from the more

  • Kazakhstan


    A land for wanderers
  • Nur-Sultan (Astana)

    Nur-Sultan (Astana)

  • Astana

  • Charyn Canyon

    Charyn Canyon

  • Altyn Emel National Park

  • Turkestan

  • Shymkent

  • Aktau


  • Ustyurt Plateau

    Ustyurt Plateau

  • Almaty


  • Kyrgyzstan


  • Bishkek


  • Lake Issyk Kul

    Lake Issyk Kul

  • Song Kul Lake

    Song Kul Lake

  • Karakol


  • Kochkor


  • Osh


  • Tajikistan


  • Yagnob Valley

  • Dushanbe


  • Fann Mountains

    Fann Mountains

  • Panjakent


  • Seven Lakes

    Seven Lakes

  • Khujand


  • Turkmenistan


  • Ashgabat


  • Darvaza


  • Uzbekistan


    Mosques, mausoleums and madrasahs
    Central Asia’s showstopper, Uzbekistan is synonymous with the famed Silk Road which weaved its way through much of this historic country...
  • Khiva


  • Bukhara


  • Samarkand


  • Tashkent


  • Termez


  • Derbent


  • Fergana Valley

    Fergana Valley


Places to go in Central Asia

Central Asia Tours

Highlights of the "Five Stans"

Explore the heart of the Silk Road

22 daysFrom €4,580
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Tour Type Small group tour
Activity Nature & Wildlife, Culture, Cities

In Depth Uzbekistan

Guided tour of Uzbekistan's historical highlights

14 daysFrom €2,590
Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent, Termez, Derbent
Tour Type Small group tour
Activity Culture

Historical cities of the Silk Road

In the footsteps of Marco Polo

15 daysFrom €4,060
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
Tour Type Small group tour
Activity Culture, Cities

Best of Uzbekistan

Where the ancient and modern world collide

8 daysFrom €1,540
Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent
Tour Type Small group tour
Activity Culture

Explore Kazakhstan

Overland through the giant of Central Asia

8 daysFrom €1,590
Nur-Sultan (Astana), Astana, Charyn Canyon, Altyn Emel National Park, Turkestan
Tour Type Small group tour
Activity Nature & Wildlife, Culture

Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan

Land of nomads and Silk Road traders

15 daysFrom €2,480
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan
Tour Type Small group tour
Activity Nature & Wildlife, Culture

Central Asia Travel Companies

Kalpak Travel

Small group tours of Central Asia
Central Asia
Custom itinerary, Small group tour, Private guided tour
Adventure, Hiking & Trekking, Active, Nature & Wildlife, Culture, Solo Travel

Why Horizon Guides?

Impartial guidebooks

Impartial guidebooks

Our travel guides are written by the leading experts in their destinations. We never take payment for positive coverage so you can count on us for impartial travel advice.

Expert itineraries

Expert itineraries

Suggested itineraries and routes to help you scratch beneath the surface, avoid the tourist traps, and plan an authentic, responsible and enjoyable journey.

Specialist advice

Specialist advice

Get friendly, expert travel advice and custom itineraries from some of the world’s best tour operators, with no spam, pressure or commitment to book.