2021 Bucket List
Where to Travel in 2021
At Silk Road Treasure Tours, we continue to scout unique destinations and curate novel experiences for all our tailor-made itineraries. Our connections and colleagues on the ground keep us on top of changes and procedures during the pandemic, while keeping their eye on new developments in the travel industry along the Silk Road.
We stay informed on current trends and our 25+ years means we’re considered an authority on travel for these destinations. We’re tracking the maze of point-to-point protocols and still managing our clients’ current travel plans; troubleshooting and re-booking, overseeing private tours and transfers and staff training at accommodations and sites.
While many places are closed to tourism, the good news for us is that our favorite Central Asian destinations including Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and Georgia and Armenia in the Caucasus are welcoming travelers in 2021. Government mandated health and safety protocols are in place ensuring safe and enjoyable travel. Now more than ever before having a trusted travel expert on your side is imperative!
Whatever your interests and travel style our Silk Road Treasure Tours experts create incredible itineraries for the pure joy of travel in the lands of Central Asia, the Caucasus, Southeast Asia, and western China!
Here are our top choices for travel to Central Asia and Caucasus in 2021
1) Samarkand, Uzbekistan
The legendary city of Samarkand made UNESCO's World Heritage List back in 2001, though its origins can be traced back to 1500 BC. A “crossroads of world culture” in Central Asia, it’s location on the ancient Silk Road routes between India, China and Europe and a steady line of conquerors and empires ensured the city its place in history.
Myth and legend surround this region, and the first papermill in the Islamic world produced the finest paper anywhere. Luxurious carpets are still a favorite souvenir. Founded by early Persians, razed by Ghengis Khan and rebuilt by Emir Temur (Tamerlane) as his capital, even Alexander the Great claimed "Everything I have heard about Samarkand is true. Except that it is more beautiful than I ever imagined." Travelers who tour Uzbekistan still feel this way about the magical city today. Even the most popular sites in Central Asia are rarely crowded, and now with no international tour groups, visitors more often find themselves alone with the past at historical sites.
Monuments, mosques, madressehs and museums offer a glimpse of that medieval city of trade and scholarship. Turquoise domes sparkle in the sun, intricate tilework covers the adobe brick of places like the magnificent tombs of the Shah-i-Zinda ensemble, the romantic Bibi Khamyn mosque and the Gur-Emir complex - prototype for the Taj Mahal and the final resting place of Emir Tamur. The tomb of the prophet Daniel is here, one of the few places in the world where people of different faiths come together. Religion in Uzbekistan is inclusive, mixed with local traditions and far from political.
The heart of Samarkand is the historic Registan Square. Lined on three sides by medressahs, the plaza is still a place of spectacle - though with international visitors, and music and dance performances now rather than royal decrees and executions! Richly decorated with bright glazed tiles of geometric and calligraphic design, the famous sun gods and tiger like beasts of the Sher Dor facade, supporting minarets and marble carvings, and the gilded, trompe l’oeil ceiling of the Tilya Kori. What once were hundreds of student rooms now offer riches of traditional crafts for shoppers!
2) Tbilisi, Georgia
Tbilisi is a charming, bohemian Old Town of wooden houses with open-air balconies and winding cobblestone streets contained in a growing cosmopolitan city of easy, European chic and traditional hospitality. The Caucasus Mountains provide an impressive backdrop and easy access to nature. Listed as one of the top three trendiest destinations in Europe last year, Georgia is a country not yet bothered by overtourism. Its growing popularity as a Foodie destination means you should probably move it up your bucket list! The country also currently offers a digital nomad visa, and we can show you how to make the most of your time there, either solo or with the family.
Tbilisi is a cultural hub, named an Emerging Culture City last year by the Leading Culture Destination Awards. Museums and galleries galore showcase the history and art of the area. There are art-related cafes and street art to explore and cultural entertainment venues include opera, ballet and modern dance. For sports fans, stadiums abound, especially for soccer and basketball.
Georgia itself is a foodie paradise and with 8,000 years of viticulture, food and wine tours are a MUST! Every region of Georgia has its own distinct culinary tradition, with fresh, local ingredients as the headliners, paired with the incredible variety of Georgian wines. You’ll find a wide variety of dishes, generously seasoned with fragrant herbs and spices. Khinkali, khachapuri, chakapuli… all irresistible reasons to indulge.
Georgia was an early convert to Christianity, and the country is filled with picturesque churches, ancient abbeys and significant monuments to early Christian architecture. . In Tbilisi, the fabulous 2004 Sameba Holy Trinity Cathedral commemorates the 1,500th anniversary of the Georgian Orthodox Church and the medieval Sioni Cathedral still occupies the original 5th c. site. Perched above Tbilisi on a cliff, the Metekhi area of the city is home to the medieval Assumption church and fortress, once the residence of Georgian kings. Across the river is Narikala, an ancient 4th c. fortress, now nestled between hot springs and botanic gardens. The ancient capital of Mtskheta, at the north end of Tbilisi remains a cultural center and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
3) Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Bukhara is one of the most fascinating oasis cities of Central Asia. Located on the border of the Kyzyl Kum desert it offers easy access to outdoor activities and desert exploration. For centuries it was the religious, scientific, and economic heart of the Great Silk Road. An unspoiled example of a medieval Central Asian city, its historic center boasts more than 2,000 architectural monuments protected by UNESCO, including Ark Fortress and the 12th c. Kalyan Minaret (Ghengis Khan is reported to have lost his hat looking up at its beauty!). Nowadays, visitors can climb the tower for a view of the city and then explore the city’s markets, workshops and galleries for fine traditional arts including wood carving, jewellery making, copper chasing and elaborate embroidery. After independence, the government promoted the restoration of these crafts, and skilled artisans draw visitors and students from around the world. Markets in Bukhara are bright and tempting with the aromas and flavors of local produce and imported spices, the colors and fabrics of national clothing and ornaments, and the beauty of hand-made carpets, suzanis and gold embroidery.
Hospitality reigns supreme here and meals are no exception. Open-air restaurants or chaikhanas (tea houses) are popular with everyone. Lyabi-Hauz, set around a 17th-century reservoir offers relaxation under the shade of the mulberry trees. Here is an opportunity to taste hearty Silk Road dishes such as plov - pilau rice, shashlik - sizzling brochettes of meat and lagman, a noodle-based meat and vegetable stew.
4) The Fann Mountains and villages, Tajikistan
Beautiful and remote, Tajikistan is rolling out its traditional Kayrakum carpets for visitors. Come and discover this unspoiled ancient destination along the Silk Road. Over 90% mountainous, The Fann Mountain region is the land of the elusive snow leopard and mountain yak, golden eagles and pastures of springtime flowers, ...of nomads, traditional village culture and a heartfelt welcome for guests. Spend the night in a cosy yurt or boutique hotel and travel by your choice of caravan: Land Rover or camel, horse, donkey, yak or bike, it's all here for you. How would you like to experience Tajikistan? Through city walks or foothill hiking, birding, rafting or mountaineering, music, handicrafts and art, at a resort or yurt camp, through culinary, historical or archaeological explorations… or simply relaxing at a spa, enjoying the wide open landscapes, pristine alpine waters and unbelievable vistas of the spectacular Fann Mountains of Tajikistan.
5) Ala Archa National Park, Kyrgyzstan
The Ala Archa National Park in the Tian Shan Mountains is pristine perfection conveniently located near the capital city of Bishkek. It is one the most spectacular and less travelled gems of Kyrgyzstan. The vast territory contains a variety of coniferous forests, wThe Ala Archa National Park in the Tian Shan mountains near Bishkek is one the most spectacular and less travelled gems of Kyrgyzstan. Just under 200 km², it’s home to a variety of juniper and spruce forests, rushing rivers, waterfalls, and alpine scenery. Ak-Sai waterfall is a popular site for summer picnics. Local guides know locations for the most beautiful photography and fantastic sporting and trekking. From gentle strolls along the valley floor to serious mountaineering and glacier skiing even in summer, this gorgeous national park is less than a half hour outside the city.
6) Yerevan, Armenia, Easter in the Caucasus
Armenia is the “Cradle of Christianity” and Easter is an important time in this most ancient of Christian cultures. Filled with ancient temples, monasteries and churches, Holy Week is festive with celebrations and traditions. From the darkened church at midnight the sudden glow of worshiper's candles proclaiming the light of Jesus’ resurrection is a stirring sight.
Yerevan is surrounded on three sides by mountains, then slopes down to the Hrazdan river, giving the city a variety of elevations and neighborhoods, and even a cable car to get to the top! Outdoor adventure is easy and accessible.
Armenia’s rich history and culture, amazing cuisine, incredible scenery, and modern amenities combine to make it an unforgettable destination for travelers. From the mountain meadows of Tsakhkadzor and the historic churches of Echmiadzin, to the cognac cellars and urban pulse of Yerevan, come and celebrate this most joyous of holidays in Armenia!
So, which of these Silk Road destinations will you be checking off your travel bucket list in 2021? - We would love to hear all about your travel plans.
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