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Turtle, Ecuador

Reviews

Your Words – We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

Here at Exodus we thrive on feedback from our customers. It’s the only way we can ensure our trips continue to be the best they can be. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of the trip you’re interested in, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.

Simply use the selector below to search our trip reviews and start reading real feedback from real Exodus travellers who have ‘been there and done that’!

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Reviews

From desert camels to mountain yak

This was the longest duration trip I’ve ever taken, covering the most ground by road and with some (by my standards) fairly extreme variations of temperature, altitude and landscape. But it was mostly very unusual, often spectacular and totally worth the bumpy ride – take layers, medications and a better camera than I did. The people were also a particular highlight. Jabbar in Turkmenistan was an impossible act to follow, but the local leaders were all very good. The group was a great mix and we bonded over one or two minor glitches and some medicinal vodka. We met the friendliest local people in markets, at the border crossings, on the road. They were very often willing to share my three words of Russian, and to practice their English. It was also very nice to be asked to join them for their photos – probably some of these invitations were from other tourists, but was still great to feel like the exotic extra for a change.

Most Inspirational Moment

The night sky, particularly at Son Kul lake.

Thoughts on Group Leader

We were very fortunate to have Alina as our tour leader for the full duration. She’s an inspiration and second to none in terms of her people and organisational skills.

Advice for Potential Travellers

This is a challenging trip – certainly well out of my comfort zone - and most of the group fell ill at some point. So best to be prepared for some visceral reactions and take each day as it comes. Possibly I should have read ahead about the destinations, but travelling without expectations can be a lot more fun, just read the trip notes closely for the practicalities – money, visas etc.

Suggestions

So long and thanks for all the plov!

Superb tour through the 'Five Stans of the Silk Road'!

I can honestly say as a seasoned traveller the ‘Five Stans of the Silk Road’ tour was one of the best I’ve been on! In a well-planned and packed 3-week itinerary we got to compare & contrast the highlights of five countries in Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan) each with its own distinct culture, history and approach to life. Exodus provided local guides for each country to ensure we got beneath the surface to learn more about the people. We stayed in a variety of excellent accommodation from plush hotels to lakeside yurts and the food was usually locally sourced, freshly cooked and delicious. An endlessly fascinating and thoroughly recommended for anyone with a sense of adventure and desire to learn about & experience a little-known corner of the world!

Most Inspirational Moment

Too many to easily choose between (eg. the Darvaza gas crater in Turkmenistan, the Islamic architecture & decor in Uzbekistan, Iskanderkul lake in Tajikistan) but if I had to pick one it would be the time spent at Son Kul lake in Kyrgyzstan. Stunning scenery, remote location, fresh air and starry skies free of light pollution. Add to that a chance to walk in the wilderness, sleeping in comfortable yurts and excellent food and you have a perfect experience.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Jordan oversaw the whole trip professionally and was always approachable to help get things sorted out. Each country had its own local guide and all were very good, although those in Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan went above and beyond in providing the best service.

Advice for Potential Travellers

The travelling can be gruelling at times, with long days in the bus from time to time. But more than made up for by the destinations. The border crossings were occasionally frustrating as unnecessary bureaucracy kicks in - we had our passports checked by six different border staff on a couple of occasions! Watch out also for some of the locals pushing in the passport control queues, but if you develop a group strategy to shield you, you'll be fine!

Suggestions

Consider the time of year you go - Turkmenistan is a desert country and in late July we had temperatures of 45C+ to contend with, however the air-con in the bus was always ready to refresh us after a short walk outside. The temperature at Son Kul lake reached freezing - indeed it snowed as we started our descent by bus! Just go for it, you won't be disappointed by this tour!

Amazing, Extensive, Exhausting Trip

If you want to see classic Silk Road architecture then go to Uzbekistan.
If you want to see amazing mountain scenery then go to Kyrgyzstan.
If you want to see both of the above plus three other countries in Central Asia, whilst experiencing a wide range of ‘best of’ activites plus a few off the beaten track sights, all crammed into three hectic weeks, then the Five Stans trip is the one for you.

My expectations were high, but this trip surpassed them.

Most Inspirational Moment

I can't pick one, here are a selection of things that blew me away: Surreal Ashgabat. Beautiful Bukhara. Samarkand. Obviously. The night sky (and entire yurt experience) at Son Kul lake

Thoughts on Group Leader

Suzie Grant is a one woman whirlwind. She held our great group together, looked after us all, kept our spirits up and used her natural curiousity to help make it the best trip possible for us. It was a privilege to travel with her.

Advice for Potential Travellers

Bear in mind that the itinerary is very 'full on' and, although I consider myself to be relatively fit, I was quite tired by the end of the trip. That said, I am grateful for the opportunity to do so much in such a short period of time.

Suggestions

Just go.

A long and varied road

This amazing trip was like several holidays rolled into one. From the surreal weirdness of Ashghabat and Darvaza, through ancient archaeological sites to the stunning monuments in Bukhara and Samarkand, through the desert to the Afghan border then up into beautiful mountains, lakes, rivers and nomad camps, before descending back down to the modern post-Soviet cities… every day there was something new and wonderful to see.

Most Inspirational Moment

So many! Ashghabat set us up with three weeks' worth of jokes; we all fell instantly in love with Bukhara; the necropolis in Samarkand was an unexpected delight; the drive into the Fann Mountains was a welcome return to awesome scenery, and the whole of Kyrgyzstan was jaw-droppingly beautiful, especially the ever-changing colours of Son Kul lake and the brilliant stars on a clear night.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Our fantastic tour leader Ale(jandro) was a major reason for the success of the trip - always on hand to organise things or deal with any issues, endlessly cheerful and calm, and full of entertaining stories about his previous trips. The local guides sometimes varied in quality, but the best ones were truly stellar - Bek in Uzbekistan and Valentina in Kyrgyzstan in particular were excellent.

Advice for Potential Travellers

The Tajik visa is valid for about 45 days, so allow a few days' leeway at the start rather than trying to calculate your exact entry date (a few people got this wrong and had to get new visas over dodgy Turkmen internet). The Turkmen LOI can arrive very late, not the "month in advance" suggested in the trip notes, but nobody got rejected. Take plenty of rehydration salts even if you have bowels of steel - nearly everyone had some troubles, and the salts are also good if you're sweating buckets (which will definitely happen at 46 degrees!). Learn some Russian if you can, it's spoken almost everywhere, and will help you understand the bill at restaurants. The transfer window at Istanbul Airport on the way home is very tight - do whatever it takes to speed things up, whether going through the VIP security check or hitching a ride with a motorised wheelchair (have some $$ ready to tip the driver), as you may have over a mile to run to make it before boarding closes - we all made it, but only just.

Suggestions

Make sure you have plenty of room on your camera memory card!

Leave the West Behind

If you want to leave the west behind until the last city on this incredible journey, then welcome to the former Soviet States that make up the silk road. This trip has everything, religion, wildlife, nomad living and amazing countryside and mountains. Forget McDonalds and Burger King, at times you won’t even get social media!

Most Inspirational Moment

staying in a Yurt high in the mountains, seeing the nomad people living their lives as they have done for 1000's of years

Thoughts on Group Leader

our group leader was good, and the local guides and drivers were exceptional

Advice for Potential Travellers

Do not expect western standards, the food is basic at times as are the toilet and shower facilities. There are no home comforts which is what makes this trip what it is. Do not go expecting to get Wifi and social media, it isn't going to happen at times

The Five Stans - A journey through history and the Central Asian Republice

A great holiday with plenty of superb sites and stunning scenery. One reason for calling this the Silk Road was that silk was used to pay people. It started with the Chinese needing horses to fight the nomads from the north. By 53BC, Rome was spending half its silver production on silk and other products from the Silk Roads. Rome also had to introduce modesty legislation because of the number of people wearing only silk.

Whilst Julius Caesar was invading Britain in 53BC, his friend Marcus Crassus was leading another Roman army to defeat by Persia, in an empire that stretched from modern day Iran to Afghanistan and north to Merv. 10,000 Roman captives were sold at the Merv slave market to the Chinese, to fight on their northern border against marauding nomadic tribes.

The ruins of three cities can be seen at Merv, in southern modern day Turkmenistan. The first was built by Cyrus the Great when he created the first Persian Empire. Next to it is the remains of the city built by Alexander the Great and next to that the remains of the city built after the Arab invasion, which was destroyed by the armies of Genghis Khan 1221 AD, with up to a million people being massacred.

Alexander is a hero in Turkmen, after he freed them from Persian rule. In Uzbekistan, Timor is the hero, as he rose from hired sword to ruler of a vast empire, stretching from the Chinese border to Egypt, destroying many armies on the way. He made Samarqand his capital and made it one of the greatest cities.

In Tajikistan, it is Cyrus the Great who is remembered, partly because he was murdered there.
In Osh, Kyrgyzstan, it is Babur, great great grandson of Timor and founder of the Indian Mughal dynasty who is remembered. Although it is Manus who is the local hero.

Most Inspirational Moment

Too many. Merv, Bukhara, Samarqand to name three cities. The snow capped mountains, throwing snowballs and sweltering in the heat all on the same day, magnificent lakes, watching flocks of goats and sheep being moved to the high pastures and seeing the yurts of the shepherds. One surprise was the large number of roses and other plants we saw in the first three countries visited.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Very good. Unusually we had both a western leader for the whole trip, as well as local guides for each of the countries visited.

Advice for Potential Travellers

You may only spend one day in Kazakhstan, but a day time flight home, clouds permitting, gives you the opportunity to see the steppes and the salt pans of this vast country from the air, either through the window (book seat early) or as an alternative to a movie, using the plane's downward looking camera (which is an option in the My Flight screen). On arrival at Ashgabat airport, you have to take your invitation letter to the Visa desk before going to through passport control. The visa fee is also variable, partly depending on the exchange rate. We also found the fee charged to individuals varied from a low of $99 each to a high of about $130 each. Beware of each fresh fruit and salad, it is usually washed in local tap water, which can cause problems. Our costs per person were around: Turkmenistan - 200 Turkmen Manat for food and photo fees (June 2019 rate 4.42TMT = £1) Uzbekistan - 800,000 Uzbek Som for food and photo fees (10,700UZS = £1). Spending in the markets, pottery, silk and carpet shops is extra. Tajikistan - 380 Tajiki Somoni for food (11.93TJS = £1) Kyrgyzstan - 2,000 Kyrgyzi Som for food plus 500KGS for optional Arslanbob jeep tour (88.24KGS = £1) Kazakhstan - 15,000 Kazakh Tenge for food and market visit (481.79KZT =£1) Istanbul/other airport stop overs - don't forget this. Visa fees and tips are extra. Istanbul

Varied and Interesting Trip

A busy and varied trip covering five countries, encompassing a wealth of culture and history, and some amazing scenery.

Most Inspirational Moment

Riding a horse above Lake Song Kul. Beautiful blue and gold ceiling in the Registan in Samarkand. Many encounters with friendly and welcoming local people, especially when we had homestays in the villages.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Suzie Grant is one of the best leaders I have come across. The trip would not have been half as good without her. Very well organized, very attentive to the wishes of all her clients, and a lovely personality.

Advice for Potential Travellers

Be prepared for a busy schedule: you are moving on almost every day, and there are long hours of driving. Bring clothes for all climates: temperatures ranged from 40 Centigrade in Ashgabat to near freezing at night in the highlands. Learn some Russian if you can: it is the lingua franca in all the countries, restaurant menus are usually in Russian, and all our drivers were Russian. Be aware that there is often no internet.

The must see's of the Five Stans

This is my 17th trip with Exodus and this has been one of the best so far, if not the best. There is so much to see, though there is quite a lot of travelling to enable this to happen. However the scenery, mostly deserts and mountains, are delightful. The accommodation ranged from the sublime (A Sheraton!) to the plain and simple, homestays, which gave us an even better chance to interact with local people. If you have the time to do this trip, do it, the scenery is stunning and the history of this region is the history of the civilised world. Brilliant!

Most Inspirational Moment

Seeing the Gur E Amir (Timur's tomb) during the day and then again by Moonlight.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Suzie Grant's organisational skills are simply outstanding. Her experience and endless patience ensured that we all had a fantastic, trouble free trip, without feeling rushed or manipulated in any way. Don't ever let her go, your company will be much the worse for it

Advice for Potential Travellers

Go on this trip and maybe read John Frankopan's 'The Silk Road' first?

An Incredible Trip

An incredible journey across a region that has not always been easy to visit.The trip encompasses grand landscapes, huge distances and wonderful opportunities to learn much from the local guides. Bek in Uzbekistan and Aibek in Kyrgyzstan/ Kazakhstan particularly endeared themselves to the group, bringing knowledge, consideration and enthusiasm to the task.
The trip endeavours to give wide and varied experiences and “gets off the worn track” with inclusions such as Termes, Uzbekistan near the Afghanistan border.

Most Inspirational Moment

Expect to be amazed ! ... From bizarre Ashgabet, historically dense Bukhara and Samarkand, roadside interactions with local herders in their Yurt camps to stunning high altitude lakes.

Thoughts on Group Leader

For a trip such as this, which encompasses moving almost every day, 5 currencies , many meal arrangements and visa challenges at borders, an extraordinary guide is paramount for success. Our guide Alejandro (Alex) was without doubt the reason for the smooth progression of the trip. His positive manner, perceptive nature, great humour and organisation skills endeared him to us all.

Advice for Potential Travellers

Beware: The trip is exhausting (particularly with temperatures averaging around 40 degrees celsius in August for much of the trip) even though much of the time is spent sitting in the vehicles. Pack light but include extra layers for high altitude. Be very sure your visa arrangements are correct.

Suggestions

You will meet interesting people. Our group was well travelled, very interested to learn more of the region and well informed. It was great to share the experience and fun with them.

Fantastic trips

This is a really fascinating, busy, exhausting and quite unique trip across 5 countries in just over 3 weeks. Go with an open mind and you will enjoy the most amazing experiences, see incredible sights, meet really lovely people and learn so much.

Most Inspirational Moment

My favourite time was in the yurt camp at Son Kul lake. After a really hectic couple of weeks this was a brilliant place to relax and chill, walk and ride local horses. There are very few places in the world with no phone or internet access and no sound of roads, planes or trains - but this is one of them. I would have stayed another week here just to unwind and enjoy the spectacular surroundings if I could have.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Our group leader, Alejandro, was quite exceptional - his patience, calmness, kindness and good humour kept us all together as a group for this long and quite intense trip.

Advice for Potential Travellers

This trip requires a really small wardrobe in order to manage a lot of one-night stopovers, with very cool lightweight, easily washable clothing for the incredibly hot places (Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) and a down jacket, hat, gloves and thermals for the much cooler places (Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan). If you take the Astana extension - just make sure your free day is NOT a Monday, when everything (yes, literally everything!) is closed.

Suggestions

Please ensure you take bucket loads of patience and good humour, along with hours and hours of reading/podcasts/music for the long bus journeys.