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

Where to go and what to do in Central Asia

The Five ‘Stans… just a handful of countries, but covering a vast swathe of Central Asia. Where do you start an introduction to a region that stretches from China in the east, to the Caspian Sea in the west, when just one of the countries, Kazakhstan, is almost the same size as Europe?Some definitions to get us going: the Five 'Stans consist of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and the largest, Kazakhstan. Although these five countries have much in common, they also have quite different cultures and more

14 days

Essential Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan

Explore the historical heritage of Persian Central Asia
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10 days

Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan Unwrapped

Explore the lakes and landscapes of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
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10 days

The Kazakhstan Loop

Almaty, Shymkent, Astana and Karaganda
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12 days

The Uzbekistan Loop

Explore the highlights of Uzbekistan
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21 days

Tajikistan & Uzbekistan Adventure

The Pamir Highway and the Uzbekistan loop
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21 days

The Silk Road Trail

Explore Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan
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  • Kazakhstan


    A land for wanderers
  • Nur-Sultan (Astana)

    Nur-Sultan (Astana)

  • Astana


    Gleaming constructions of glass and steel by the world’s top architects, rising out of nowhere from an inhospitable desert...
  • Charyn Canyon

    Charyn Canyon

  • Altyn Emel National Park

  • Turkestan


  • Shymkent


    Located on the southern tip of Kazakhstan, just north of Kyrgyzstan’s Tashkent, Shymkent is the third most populated city in Kazakhstan and a cultural and industrial hub...
  • Aktau


  • Ustyurt Plateau

    Ustyurt Plateau

  • Almaty


    The most populated city in Kazakhstan and former capital, Almaty is surrounded by mountains, with streets lined by trees and parks scattered across the city...
  • Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve

    Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve

  • Karaganda


    For a different view of Kazakhstan, take a day trip to Karaganda...
  • Huns Village

    Huns Village

  • Kyrgyzstan


  • Bishkek


  • Lake Issyk Kul

    Lake Issyk Kul

  • Cholpon Ata

    Cholpon Ata

  • Song Kul Lake

    Song Kul Lake

    Located in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, Song Kul is a high-altitude, alpine lake perfect for hiking and horseback riding, although the area is covered in snow for the majority of the year...
  • Karakol


    Karakol, on the eastern side of Lake Issyk-Kul, is a traveler’s favourite...
  • Kochkor


  • Osh


  • Arslanbob


    Arslanbob is the perfect spot for those looking to escape the cities in favour of walking and hiking...
  • Pamir Mountains

    Pamir Mountains

    Connecting Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan by road through the Pamir Mountains, the M41, commonly referred to as The Pamir Highway, is the second highest highway in the world...
  • The Karkara Valley

    The Karkara Valley

  • The Suusamyr Valley

    The Suusamyr Valley

  • Kyzart

  • Kilemche Jailoo

    Kilemche Jailoo

  • Jety Oguz

    Jety Oguz

  • Telety


  • Ala Kul Lake

    Ala Kul Lake

  • Altyn Arashan Valley

    Altyn Arashan Valley

  • Chon-Kemin Valley

  • Tamga


  • Tian Shan Mountains

  • Tajikistan


  • Yagnob Valley

  • Dushanbe


  • Fann Mountains

    Fann Mountains

  • Panjakent


  • Seven Lakes

    Seven Lakes

  • Khujand


  • Khorog


  • Iskanderkul


    A glacial lake in the mountains of Tajikstan, located in the Gissar Range popular for swimming, boat rides and star-gazing...
  • Nofin


  • Kalai Khumb

    Kalai Khumb

  • Khorog


  • Yamg

  • Bulunkul

  • Keng Shiber

  • Jarty Gumbez

  • Murghab

  • Karakul


  • Sawnob


  • Jizev


  • Ishkashim


  • Langar


  • Bashgumbez


  • Shirkent National Park

    Shirkent National Park

    Shirkent National Park is a real hidden gem and is one of my favourite places to hike anywhere in Tajikistan...
  • Turkmenistan


  • Ashgabat


    Ashgabat is a wonder, in that it is a huge, richly decorated, marble clad capital city that’s streets are largely empty of people...
  • Darvaza


  • The Karakum Desert

    The Karakum Desert

    The Karakum Desert covers a huge portion of Turkmenistan, bar the lizards, camels and other hardy wildlife, it is sparsely populated, with little rain falling across the area...
  • Konye-Urgench


    Konye-Urgench is just across the border from Khiva in Turkmenistan...
  • Merv


  • Mary

  • Dashoguz


  • Avaza


  • 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


    The walled city of Khiva is made up of mud-brick buildings and has over 50 historic monuments meaning you will need a few days to explore the city...
  • Bukhara


    Bukhara is over 2,000 years old, built on the site of a former Buddhist monastery, it has hundreds of minarets, mosques and madrassas with key sites being the Kalyan minaret, that's tower is a prominent landmark of the city, the Ismail Samani mausoleum and Bolo Haouz Mosque, one of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city...
  • Samarkand


    A rebuilt 14th-century city, Samarkand in Uzbekistan is a striking place to visit with mosques covered in ceramic tiles and sand coloured buildings...
  • Tashkent


  • Termez


  • Derbent


  • Fergana Valley

    Fergana Valley

  • Urgench

  • Urgut


  • Nukus


Places to go in Central Asia

Central Asia Tours

Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan (and 1 more)

Best of Central Asia

Experience the people, history and nature of the 'Five Stans

22 daysFrom $6,230
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan

Historical Cities of Central Asia

Following in the footsteps of Marco Polo

15 daysFrom $5,220
Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent (and 3 more)

Uzbekistan in Depth

Explore Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Termez and Fergana Valley

14 daysFrom $3,650
Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan

Best of Kyrgyzstan & Uzbekistan

Follow the footsteps of the Kyrgyz Nomads and ancient Silk Road traders

15 daysFrom $4,950
Dushanbe, Fann Mountains, Panjakent

Tajikistan Trekking in the Fann Mountains

Guided hiking tour through the Fann Mountains

11 daysFrom $2,390
Fann Mountains, Panjakent, Seven Lakes (and 3 more)

Highlights of Tajikistan

Experience the cultural and natural highlights of Tajikistan

8 daysFrom €1,840

Central Asia Travel Companies

Central Asia

Kalpak Travel

Small group tours of Central Asia
Central America, South America, Africa (and 8 more)

Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris

In-depth nature & wildlife tours in outstanding destinations
Central America, Africa, Central Asia

YellowWood Adventures

Sustainable travel for the modern-day explorer

Paramount Journey

Pioneering Tajikistan adventures

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