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1300 219 885 (AU)

0800 456 219 (NZ)

Flight from your airport of departure to Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan.

The green oasis of the Steppe, Tashkent is Central Asia’s hub. We traverse centuries: from the C16th Kukeldash Madrasah, Soviet-era architecture to contemporary Independence Square, the Amir Timur museum and Tashkent Metro’s beautiful artwork. Depending on the schedule, settle in for an evening performance at the famous Navoi Opera Theatre. Afterwards your private train Orient Silk Road Express departs for Samarkand. 
Overnight on board.
(Meals: B, L, D)
After breakfast we arrive in Samarkand, for centuries a powerful political, economic and cultural centre on the Silk Road. Founded in the C7th BC, this extraordinary city reached its peak during Amir Timur’s C14th rule. Discover magnificent Central Asian Islamic architecture: the huge Registan Square with its mosaics and blue-tiled domes, necropolis Shah-e-zende and the excavation sites of Afrosiab, the oldest existing evidence of this ancient city. 
Overnight: Hotel Registan Plaza (or similar).
(Meals: B, L, D)
The ancient rural town of Urgut has one of Uzbekistan’s busiest and most traditional markets and the Chor-Chinor garden’s 1,000 year old trees. Back in Samarkand, there’s much more to discover: the observatory of Ulug Beg, C15th ruler and remarkable astronomer, the enormous Bibi Khanum Mosque and Timur’s resting place in the Gur Emir Mausoleum. In the evening, your train departs for Bukhara.
Overnight on board.
(Meals: B, L, D)
Journey through the red sands of the Kyzyl Kum desert to Bukhara, a fascinating city more than 2,500 years old. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed old city still boasts around one thousand monuments. We visit the Kaljan Minaret, Labi-Hauz Ensemble, the architectural masterpiece Mire-e-Arab Madrasah, and the beautiful Samanid Mausoleum. The day ends with a tour through the massive earthen Fortress Ark and a dance performance in a madrasah.
Overnight on board.
(Meals: B, L, D)
Our train crosses into Turkmenistan, the somewhat mysterious and least visited country in Central Asia. Towards morning, we arrive at the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site of Merv. Once a glorious metropolis famous for its exports, scholars, culture and gardens, the city was destroyed in 1221 by Ghengis Khan’s son. Merv’s astounding remnants rise from the desert among ancient ruins: the Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, Kyz Kala Fortress and historic mud brick ice-houses. Late in the evening our train arrives in the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat.
Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn (or similar).
(Meals: B, L, D)
A morning drive takes us to the ancient city of Nisa, former flourishing capital of the Parthian state. Later, a guided tour of Ashgabat introduces this distinctive and rather bizarre modern-day capital. Hollywood meets Stalin in a rapidly transforming city flush with new-found oil wealth. Artefacts from Nisa and Merv in the National Museum provide further insight into a country where great science, art, architecture and spirituality countered an often-violent history. 
Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn (or similar).
(Meals: B, L, D)
After breakfast, a bus ride takes us across the border to Mashhad, Iran’s holiest and second-largest city. One of the seven holy sites of the Shiite Islam – and the only one in Iran – Mashhad is the site of the mausoleum of the eighth Shiite Imam, Ali ibn Musa ar-Reza. This beautiful and massive shrine complex, with its dazzling intricate blue tiles, gold domes, minarets and fountain-cooled courtyards, commemorates the AD 817 martyrdom of Imam Reza. Attracting around 20 million pilgrims each year, the shrine features one of Iran’s most comprehensive art collections. 
Overnight: Hotel Homa (or similar).
(Meals: B, L, D)
Around noon, we leave Mashhad on our private train, the Persian Explorer, and journey across the desert to Yazd.
Overnight on board.
(Meals: B, L, D)
We arrive in Yazd, Iran’s most exciting desert city, early morning. Wedged between two deserts, Yazd is regarded by UNESCO as one of the oldest cities on earth. It is also the centre of Zoroastrianism in Iran. Yazd’s old, sun-dried mud brick city skyline is dominated by badgirs (wind towers), the tallest sitting in the UNESCO-listed Bagh-e Dolat Abad, described as ‘the quintessence of the Persian garden’. We visit the Zoroastrian fire temples and, rising from the desert just outside the city, former burial sites the Towers of Silence. A visit to the Yazd Water Museum explains the desert city’s Qanat water supply system. Back on board, we take lunch as we travel towards Isfahan.  
Overnight: Hotel Kowsar/Abbasi (or similar).
(Meals: B, L, D)
Often bypassed by tourists, Kashan is one of the most alluring destinations in Iran. A full day exploring this oasis city north of Isfahan includes the exquisitely decorated, turquoise and gold Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse, the Tabatabei House, one of Kashan’s architecturally-significant C19th merchant houses, and Bagh-e Fin, the oldest extant garden in Iran, its classic Persian design dating to the C16th rule of Shah Abbas 1. 
Overnight: Hotel Kowsar/Abbasi (or similar).
(Meals: B, L, D)
Our time in this elegant jewel of ancient Persia centres on its heart – the vast, beautifully-proportioned, Savafid Dynasty Maidan or Imam Square, once the site of trading, assembling troops, polo games and celebrations. We visit a number of the monumental buildings bordering this UNESCO World Heritage Site: Masjed-e Imam (Imam Khomeini Mosque), the Ali Qapu Palace and its veranda overlooking the Square, and the Lotfullah Mosque, once a private mosque for the Safavid royal families. A short walk brings us to Chehel Sotun (Pavilion of Forty Pillars) with its huge reflecting pool, shady gardens and wonderful fresco museum. In the ancient historic centre we visit the Jameh Mosque, a stunning illustration of Iranian Islamic architecture over twelve centuries. 
Overnight on board.
(Meals: B, L, D)
With the verses of much-loved poets Hafez and Sa’adi top of mind, a visit to Bagh-e Eram reminds us this is the city of the Persian paradise garden. The hustle and bustle of the Old Town Vakil bazaar is fun and entertaining (stock up on excellent Iranian saffron) and contrasts with the calm interiors of the elegant Nasir-al-Molk (Pink) Mosque. Its mesmerising decorations are more than matched by the dazzling mirrored tiles of the Shah Cheragh Mausoleum, the third most venerated pilgrimage site in Iran.
Overnight: Chamran Grand Hotel (or similar).
(Meals: B, L, D)
At the site of his victories east of the great Zagros Mountains, the Persian King Cyrus the Great built his capital city of Pasargadae. I am Cyrus the King, an Achaemenian, states the inscriptions on pillars and reliefs of the audience hall of the Residence. The sprawling archaeological site, which includes the King’s mausoleum, also contains remnants of the garden he created at Pasargadae 2,500 years ago. The oldest extant garden layout in the world, it can still be ‘read’ among the remains. We travel an hour by bus to our next destination, the magnificent ruins of Persepolis, founded by Darius 1 in the early years of the C6th BC. His Achaemenid empire was the largest the world had ever seen, extending from Egypt to Pakistan, with Persepolis its capital. The vast part-artificial platform above the plains holds an extraordinary complex of ruins, with royal palaces, reception halls, apartments, walls covered by sculpted friezes, gigantic winged bulls and monumental stairways – all burned and looted by the Greeks of Alexander the Great in 330 BC. Nearby is the impressive Naqsh-e-Rostam necropolis of the Achaemenids. A short bus ride brings us to our private train, destination Tehran.  
Overnight on board.
(Meals: B, L, D)
Arriving in Tehran, we farewell our charming train staff before spending a day out of the busy city centre. First stop, a guided tour of the Iranian National Botanic Garden, with the Alborz Mountains as backdrop. The garden’s 150 hectares sit at 1300 metres, with different landscapes designed to represent Iran’s diverse flora. Just 40km to the north-east of Tehran city lies the Khojir National Park, one of the oldest protected areas in the world with stunning views to the stratovolcano Mount Damavand. Khojir is renowned for its high biodiversity and as an important base for migratory birds. Dinner will be served in the Milad Tower, the sixth tallest telecommunication tower in the world.
Overnight: Hotel Laleh (or similar).
(Meals: B, L, D)
The Iranian capital is rich with museums. We explore the glories and excesses of the Qajar emperors in the lavish Golestan Palace and take a journey through history at the Archaeological Museum. A short walk away is the Glass and Ceramics Museum, with exhibits spanning centuries of workmanship by Iranian artisans. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy. A visit to see the glittering collection of gemstones and jewellery at the Treasury of National Jewels is highly recommended, as is time spent in Park-e Laleh or another of Tehran’s beautiful parks.
Overnight: Hotel Laleh (or similar).
(Meals: B, L, D)

Airport transfer for individual departure.

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