Central Asia, or "The Stans", is a vast landlocked region of Asia, increasing in popularity amongst travellers who want to experience one of the world's last great frontier lands. In Stalin’s time, the area was known as Turkestan. Soon after Independence, the five former Soviet Central Asian Republics, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, were defined as Central Asia. This is the common modern definition.
Our tour covers the first four. The history of Central Asia is defined as much by the area's climate as by its geography. Since a large body of water does not buffer the area, temperature fluctuations are more severe. The aridness of the region made agriculture difficult, and its distance from the sea also restricted the growth of industry. Thus, few large cities developed in the part. Instead, the region was, for many centuries, dominated by the nomadic horse people of the Steppe. Steppe horse riders became some of the most militarily potent people in the world.
Periodically, great leaders would organise several tribes into one force of almost unstoppable power. These included the Hun invasion of Europe, the Wu Hu attacks on China and, most notably, the Mongol conquest of much of Eurasia. The Mongol Empire's fracturing led to the Turkic people's resurgence; from one minor tribe near Samarkand arose the tyrant Timur around 1405. His descendants ruled separately in small kingdoms and duchies for almost a century. The dominance of the nomads ended in the 16th century, as firearms allowed settled peoples to gain control of their surroundings. Russia, China and other powers expanded into the region and had captured the bulk of Central Asia by the end of the 19th Century.
The geography is varied, including high plateaus, mountains, vast deserts, and treeless, grassy steppes. Much of the land is too dry and rugged for farming. A majority of its people earn a living by herding livestock. The two major rivers, the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya, used to replenish the Aral Sea. Now that most of their water is diverted for cotton growing, this sea/lake has virtually disappeared. Central Asia's water is a precious resource, leading to occasional border disputes.
The Silk Road gave rise to unprecedented trade. Its brilliance and unique place in human history were the result of the interchange of ideas, innovations and philosophies that occurred amongst the very different peoples that used it. Our travels will encompass many of these historic places along with many other “story-book” destinations. Beautiful monuments, some restored, some not; museums full of ancient artefacts; colourful bazaars, all combined with stunning landscapes, will make this a memorable experience.
Some parts of Central Asia have hardly seen a traveller, making it all the more fascinating. Bring your camera and curiosity, with many wild and beautiful landscapes to explore.
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Suite 502, 107 Walker Street
North Sydney NSW 2060