Trans-Caspian Explorer – A Train Journey Through the Western Branch of the Silk Road

TransCaspian Explorer A Train Journey through the Silk Roads Western Branch

In the course of a literature review and interviews with transport sector professionals from Estonia and Finland, a framework for examining the economic, political and infrastructural contexts of the Trans-Caspian trade route was developed.

From the port of Poti in eastern Georgia to Baku in western Azerbaijan, cargo moves by rail to Aktau in Western Kazakhstan. This is a major project cargo route for project cargo shipments of power-generating machinery and petrochemical, smelting and mining equipment.

Train Arrives in Tashkent

The fabled Silk Road brought civilizations together in an ancient crossroads of culture, religion and trade. Centuries later, a new route is helping re-establish reliable landbridge routes between Europe and Central Asia. A joint initiative between Turkey-based freight forwarder Advance International and Kazakhstan’s Advantage International Transport & Logistics Ltd, the weekly combined rail and sea-ferry service aims to connect Europe with Central Asia in just six days. In December, the first 40-car train with cargo of household appliances and refrigeration equipment arrived in Tashkent from Izmir on a 4,500km journey through Iran and Turkmenistan.

The new route will help bring a much-needed boost to the local economy and support trade between the two sides of the Caspian Sea, creating new jobs and improving the lives of people along the way. It will also help reduce the burden on soaring fuel prices and environmental pollution caused by truck traffic. The project was launched by the European Union, the five Central Asian countries, and regional partners.

Discover the captivating landscapes and historic cities of this region on an immersive journey through Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. This 16-day trip reveals the cultures and ancient tales that have defined this extraordinary area. Experience the enchanting capitals of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva – all UNESCO World Heritage Sites – amid majestic medieval architecture and palatial Islamic masterpieces.

Aboard the Golden Eagle luxury train, a palace on wheels, you’ll marvel at the awe-inspiring architecture of these remarkable places. The all-suite train offers a high level of comfort and includes large panorama windows, two fine dining restaurant cars and a spacious bar lounge car.

With a range of itineraries to choose from, the luxury travel specialists at A&K can include a trip on board the Golden Eagle as part of your Luxury Tailor Made Journey. For example, our Arctic Explorer journey travels from St Petersburg to Moscow and deep into the Arctic Circle to Kirkenes, and a Caspian Odyssey trip goes from Yerevan to Almaty via the South Caucasus and trading posts along the fabled Silk Road.

Tashkent – Samarqand

Train travel can provide a much more immersive experience than flying, with stops along the way providing time to get out of your carriage and explore the local sights. You can also enjoy the changing landscapes and views as you cross over the mountains into Kazakhstan and continue on to Uzbekistan. The country is reviving the fabled Silk Road route and expanding its railways with a focus on modernizing facilities and increasing speed. It is easy to reach Samarkand on the Afrosiyob high-speed train, for example, taking just over two hours from Tashkent – as opposed to five and a half by car.

On the 15-day Caspian Odyssey Golden Eagle Train tour with Uzbekistan Railways and German adventure travel specialists Lernidee GMBH, you can journey from the Kazakh capital of Astana to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Samarkand. Stopping at other historical cities such as Kokand, where you can visit the opulent Khudayar-Khan fortress; Margilan, where you can see how silk is made; and Bukhara, one of Asia’s most impressive architectural wonders and a key trading post at the center of the ancient Silk Road.

Aboard the train, you can also admire the amazing architecture of Khiva, another UNESCO city that offers a step back in time to an age of emirs on this extraordinary rail trip. And, if you want to see more of the region’s rich culture and history, you can do that too with tours to Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan on the carefully curated Golden Eagle luxury train tour.

This journey will take you through a region that has always been a key crossroads of trade, religion, language, and arts. It is a place where the provincial and palatial, the ancient with the avant-garde coexist in a remarkable harmony of cultures and civilizations. And, with its dazzling blend of Islamic geometry and the cosmopolitan cityscape of Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s fascinating cultural kaleidoscope is sure to capture your imagination. Embark on this exceptional adventure today. Prices start at PS17,495pp based on 2 sharing, including hotel accommodation (1 in Moscow, 1 in Almaty), 14 nights on the Golden Eagle in Silver Class, all meals, drinks with meals (with generous allowance of quality wines), fully guided off-train excursions programme, porterage, arrival and departure transfers, services of a Tour Manager and gratuities. Flights are extra.

Samarqand – Khiva

There are many ways to cross the vast Central Asian deserts, but few of them are as adventurous and exciting as boarding one of our luxury train tours. Combine the soaring mountainscapes and alpine lakeside towns of Kyrgyzstan with medieval desert citadels strung along old Silk Road routes on this double-whammy of a journey, taking in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan as well.

The line begins at Turkmenbashi (Krasnovodsk) on the shore of the Caspian Sea, then runs southeast alongside the Karakum Desert, past the city of Bereket to Tedzhen. Here a branch line leads north to Mary (Merv), while the main line heads northeast through Kurgan-Tepe to the border with Afghanistan at Gushgy, and then on to Turkmenabat (Charjew).

Travelers aboard the Trans-Caspian Explorer will reach Kokand, a former trading post at the intersection of two major ancient trade routes, home to the Khudayar-Khan fortress and a Jami Madrasah and Mosque that are among the region’s largest; Margilan, where passengers can tour the country’s biggest silk factory; and Samarkand, one of the most important centers of Islamic culture that has long attracted travellers with its spectacular architecture and legendary tales.

Once across the border into Uzbekistan, the train passes over the red desolate expanse of the Kyzylkum Desert to reach the storied city of Khiva. Founded 2,500 years ago, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is like stepping back in time to an era of sultans and Emirs with its incredible bazaars and mosques.

If a trip to Central Asia is calling you, speak with your A&K Travel Consultant or travel advisor about including it in a luxury tailor made journey. Our experts are on hand to help you craft a memorable trip by rail, whether that’s on our Golden Eagle trains or another option that suits your style and timeframe. We look forward to bringing you on an unforgettable adventure.

Khiva – Tashkent

At the end of your journey, you’ll be transferred to your hotel in Khiva for a night in this Silk Road capital. Designed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city is a true architectural wonder with its maze of white-marble palaces, madrassas and harems. Your included tour takes you to some of the most important sites including the Kalat-i-Mozaffar. This unique tomb, built for the son of a local governor, dates back to around 1200. Your guide will also take you to the unique mud volcanoes of Qobustan where the lava bubbles through the earth and create a spectacular sight.

Azerbaijan is a country growing rich on oil, with Baku the capital that sits on the shore of the Caspian Sea. Many of our Central Asian train tours start or finish in this cosmopolitan port city that has a post-Soviet feel to it. The ferries that cross the Caspian are large, comfortable and offer a number of facilities for travelers. There is a restaurant, an exchange office with an ATM, a little shop where you can buy water, soft drinks, snacks and canned fruits, a common area, showers (although it’s worth bringing your own toiletries as there’s not always hot water), and wi-fi for 3 AZN per day or 5 AZN for two days.

You’ll leave Baku on a ferry to Aktau, Western Kazakhstan where you’ll start or finish your rail tour. The ferry takes 36 hours and is the longest leg of any trip in this part of the world. The good news is that the ferries are equipped with modern facilities and most of the time there’s only about one to three hours of waiting.

This train journey is a perfect addition to any Luxury Tailor Made Journey that incorporates Central Asia or the South Caucasus. Speak to your A&K Travel Consultant to learn more about including this epic train ride as an inspiring addition to a customized itinerary.

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