Joanna Lumley has been giving us seriously glamorous travel inspiration in her latest show Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure.
The ITV series, sponsored by Saga Holidays, sees the Absolutely Fabulous star taking on the iconic route through Italy, Albania, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran – and in the final episode she’s rounding off the trip with a visit to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, the heartland of the Silk Road.
Almost never seen on television, this little-known corner of the world offers breathtaking landscapes, towering mountains and glittering cities.
We take a look at Joanna’s fascinating trip across Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan – and how you can follow in her footsteps on your own Silk Road Adventure.
Joanna kicks off the trip with a stop in Uzbekistan’s Kyzl-Kum desert, where she meets some Bactrian camels and visits a windswept 2500-year-old Silk Road fortress called Ayaz Kala.
Then it’s onwards to beautiful Khiva, an ancient desert citadel that was once a famous slaving town well into the 19th century. It’s a must visit for history buffs from the ancient citadel walls to a 16th-century castle.
Here, Joanna meets Shokir, a man whose family have made Khiva’s distinctive sheepskin chugirma hats for centuries, and witnesses a special chugirma dance.
From Khiva, she journeys on to Uzbek capital Tashkent, where she rides the city’s splendid Soviet-built Metro system and goes to a glamorous society wedding with pop star Rayhon Ganieva.
No stranger to travelling in style, Joanna then boards the area’s Spanish-built high speed train along ‘the Golden Road to Samarkand’.
Once in the iconic city, she takes in the awe-inspiring turquoise domes of the Registan, Shakhi Zindar and Bibi Khanum, joins throngs of Uzbek worshippers at the gilded tomb of warlord and ‘destroyer of worlds’ Amir Timur, and whiles away a few hours in the fascinating Afrasiab museum.
And of course, a search for Samarkand’s legendary lepyoshka bread is a must.
After exploring fascinating Uzbekistan, it’s onwards to the equally breathtaking Kyrgyzstan, kicking off the trip with a stop in capital city Bishkek.
But it’s not just the country’s urban spots which she visits – there is spectacular scenery to explore too including beautiful Lake Issyk-Kul, where she learns about eagle-hunting, and a visit to the village of At-Bashi near the Chinese border to meet yak herders, amidst some dramatic snow-streaked mountainous landscape.
Her final stop? The 15th-century caravanserai of Tash Rabat, a huge stone complex tucked into the mountains near the Chinese border.
It’s almost impossible not to get major holiday envy – but the good news is that it’s so easy to follow in the star’s footsteps if you want your own once-in-a-lifetime-holiday.
How to have your own Silk Road adventure like Joanna Lumley
Saga Holidays offers a 10-night Uzbekistan: Heart of the Silk Route tour which includes visit to a host of destinations explored by Joanna such as the Kyzyl-Kum desert, Khiva, Tashkent, Samarkand and a journey on board the Afrosiab high-speed train she discovers.
For example, the holiday includes a two-night stay in Khiva where, like Joanna, you’ll be able to wander through the streets and stop at the must-see sites including Khiva’s inner fortress, the Ismail Khodja Mausoleum, the 16th-century Kunya-Ark Castle and 19th-century Muhammed Amin Khan Madrassah.
Envious of her trip to the Kyzyl-Kum desert? You can take in the same sweeping landscapes as you travel across from Khiva to Bukhara, including a stop for a packed lunch in the desert.
As for the glittering cities she explores, in Samarkand you can see the same incredible turquoise domes of the Registan, Shakhi Zindar and Bibi Khanum which have Joanna in awe, or while away some time in Afrasiab museum where she shows us a seventh century Sogdian fresco, and tells the story of how these powerful traders were long the beating heart of the Silk Road.
And of course if you can, try sampling that mouthwatering lepyoshka bread she raves about during the show.
Of course you’ll also get to have your own Silk Road adventure packed with other exciting excursions and activities from dinners alongside local folk shows to a masterclass on Bukharian cuisine, or even a session learning the art of embroidery.
You can see the full itinerary and book your stay on the Saga website here. Prices start from £1,749pp.