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The great Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara are undoubtedly Uzbekistan’s dazzling jewels.

The very names of Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara are enough to evoke Arabian tales of fabled desert cities, suspended in the mists of time. And the reality appears surprisingly close to the legend with little evidence of the modern world imposed on the architectural and cultural splendours of the past.

Travelling east along the old Silk Road on our Silk Road to Samarkand cultural tour, Khiva is the first of the great cities. A World Heritage site, the land of the ancient Mongol empire has remained untouched for almost 1,000 years. Within its walls lay a treasure trove of pristine historical monuments including mausoleums, a mosque, a castle and a palace.

Following the ancient route across the Kyzyl Kum desert, Bukhara appears like a movie set rising out of the desert floor. It has similarly impressive architecture to Khiva, with wonderful blue-domed mosques and Madrasahs, as well as the magnificent fortress known as the Ark. It is also the centre of Uzbekistan's traditional carpet making industry and intricately patterned examples can be found draped throughout the bazaars and ancient thoroughfares.

Last, but definitely not least, comes Samarkand, perhaps the most famous of all the Silk Road cities. It is home to Tamerlene’s mausoleum and famous Registan Square - one of the most relevant and visually stunning examples of Islamic architecture to be found anywhere in the world.

To travel through Uzbekistan is to discover a country, barely twenty years old, newly freed from the Soviet Empire, where the people are justly proud of both their new country and of their ancient history.

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