THE SILK ROAD
WHY IT’S HOT: TRAVEL IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ‘LUMMERS’ AND THE TRADERS OF OLD, DARLING!
We say: Where our idols go, we follow. And according to our 2018 Wanderlust Reader Awards, your enduring TV travel crush is still the absolutely fabulous Ms Joanna Lumley. With her latest series tracing the Silk Road, the ancient trade network connecting China to the West, we’re betting it’s on your list, too. And why not? The once difficult-to-visit lands it passes through have become ever more accessible to travellers – just this year, Uzbekistan introduced a new e-visa system and five-day visa-free stays for visitors in transit.
Expect romance, history and endless variety, from overlanding the rugged Pamir Highway in Tajikistan to trotting the sapphire-blue lakes and velvet valleys of Kyrgyzstan on horseback. But the wild settings are just the backdrop to cultures and traditions unchanged for centuries. Soak them up first-hand on community stays or in tales told over the crackle of campfires.
But it’s in the bazaars, caravanserais (inns) and desert forts of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan where you’ll arguably find the Silk Road of the imagination. Here, between Samarkand’s Registan Square and the oasis of Khiva, the ghosts of travellers long past can still be felt on a journey that, for all the myriad options en route, hasn’t altered in spirit since the first camel train set out.
Don’t miss: Silk Road travellers often skip China’s western Xinjiang region, but its Uyghur culture, alpine lakes and incredible food are worth the visit. Spicy chuan’r kebabs and fried naan bread, anyone?