With its wonderfully diverse landscapes, fascinating history and thriving cities, Central Asia offers a getaway unlike anywhere else in the world. Each country is entwined with the legends of the Silk Road and evidence of this ancient trading route can be seen and felt everywhere, from small towns in the Caucasus Mountains to the grand architecture of Samarkand.
Central Asia is a melting pot of cultures, religions and lifestyles which make it a pleasure to explore. And it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to exploring this exceptional region from home. We’ve selected some of our top picks for Amazon Prime, Audible and Netflix so you can watch or listen to the stories of the Silk Road and delve into the delights of Central Asia’s captivating countries.
The Silk Road
Released in July last year, this series lets you delve into the wonders of the historic Silk Road in fifteen 30-minute episodes. Join two journalists as they embark on an extended trip through six countries, from Bursa in Turkey to China’s Xian, discovering unique cultures, beautiful scenery and fascinating people along the way. Meet the local artists and craftsmen of Bukhara, travel the age-old route through the mountains from Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan and explore the colourful, thriving bazaars of Central Asia’s bustling cities.
Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure
Similar to the above but starring a Wendy Wu Tours’ favourite, this fantastic four-part series follows Joanna Lumley as she embarks on an adventure along the veins of the ancient Silk Road. From Venice to the Chinese border, Lumley’s incredible journey takes us to the rapidly changing areas of Georgia and Azerbaijan, and the Central Asian states of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, plus so many more, as she discovers the Silk Road from end to end.
The Man Who Unlocked the Universe
This documentary delves into the life and extraordinary mind of Ulugh Beg, an enlightened leader who turned medieval Samarkand into one of the world’s greatest astronomical hubs. 150 years before the telescope was invented by Galileo, Ulugh Beg had already transformed Samarkand into a renowned centre of science and this documentary gives a great insight into the history of this iconic city in Uzbekistan.
Little Big World
A truly unique and fascinating way to explore, Little Big World turns the most beautiful locations on earth into incredible miniature models using specialist photography. As well as showcasing destinations as you’ve never seen them before, each episode highlights the most iconic sights of each one providing a wonderful overview in a whistle-stop tour. Season 6 features entire episodes dedicated to some of Central Asia’s greatest destinations – Gorgeous Georgia, Amazing Azerbaijan, Awesome Armenia and Neat Nagorno Karabakh.
Our Product Executive, Leah Marrow, tells us the best books to embark on a literary journey through Central Asia – thanks Leah!
Land of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris
Land of Lost Borders is the perfect read to start our journey as we follow author, Kate Harris, on her voyage along the legendary Silk Road whilst she discovers the importance of breaking the boundaries that we set ourselves. Cycling along this iconic route, Harris visits some of the most remote places in the world and deliberates what it truly means to be an explorer. This travelogue beautifully blends adventure and philosophy with the history of exploration, it is a thought-provoking read that will leave you in awe of our connection to the natural world.
Eastern Horizons: Hitchhiking the Silk Road by Levison Wood
Next, our literary journey continues on the Silk Road but this time we’re taking explorations to another level by hitchhiking the famous route. At the young age of 22, Levison Wood attempts his extensive travel itinerary on a budget of just £750…and that was to include his flight home! This adventurous memoir is littered with many an eccentric character and highlights some of the great hospitality that he was offered on his way.
Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane by S. Frederick Starr
In a region so tightly packed with fascinating history, the stories of Central Asia’s achievements between the years of 800 and 1200 remain largely unknown; Lost Enlightenment takes us through some of the astonishing accomplishments of Central Asia’s greatest minds. The region was home to significant breakthroughs in many years; having given algebra its name and written the books that went on to define European medicine. Delve into the forgotten age of achievement and learn of the rise and demise of this captivating area. This book is thoroughly enjoyable and will greatly expand your knowledge of the Golden Age.
Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth by James M. Tabor
Following the theme of great achievements and explorations, Blind Descent digs into the discovery of the deepest cave on earth and the story of those that risked so much to find it. Still a very recent exploration, in 2004 two scientists selected areas on opposite sides of the world to discover; American Bill Stone chose the vast Cheve Cave in southern Mexico, while Ukrainian explorer Alexander Klimchouk Stones selected Krubera, a super cave in the Republic of Georgia. This book is an exhilarating tale that describes the difficulties that were encountered, including deadly flooded tunnels, thousand-foot drops and even psychological horrors.
Where the West Ends: Stories from the Middle East, the Balkans, the Black Sea and the Caucasus by Michael J. Totten
Next on our list is a book that is filled with stories from a number of regions: The Middle East, the Balkans, the Black Sea, and the Caucasus. Prize-winning author Michael J. Totten masterfully blends history into tales of his personal journeys, adding an enticing touch of humour. As an independent foreign correspondent, Totten’s work takes him deep into the world behind the headlines, even reaching the front lines in the Caucasus during the invasion of Georgia by Russia. Where the West Ends is filled from beginning to end with captivating stories that will leave you eager to embark on your own adventures.
The Colonel’s Mistake by Dan Mayland
Moving on to some fictional recommendations, why not dig into the first novel in this globetrotting thriller series. The Colonel’s Mistake is set in Baku, Azerbaijan and follows CIA station chief Mark Sava as he seeks to help a CIA operations officer who is arrested for a heinous crime which he is convinced she did not commit. Mark Sava places himself in the middle of a new Great Game where the good, the bad, and the brutal play a deadly chess game of global espionage.
Flashman in the Great Game by George Macdonald Fraser
Leah’s final Audible recommendation is another fictional story, fifth in The Flashman Papers series, a set of books that follow secret agent Harry Flashman in his adventures across the four corners of the world. In Flashman in the Great Game we follow the story as he is thrust headfirst into the middle of the Indian Mutiny.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
Chef Anthony Bourdain’s renowned show has made its way onto Netflix and it’s a great binge-worthy watch if you want to journey around the world from home! It might take a while to get through all 15 series, so we’ll tell you to head straight to season 7 for Bourdain’s culinary trip to Georgia, where he embarks on a drinking tour of Tbilisi, Batumi and Khurvaleti, and season 11 for his journey to Armenia where he discovers a welcoming society embracing the past and looking to the future.
Explore The Five Stans
Our most extensive tour of Central Asia takes you from Bishkek to Ashgabat on a 27-day ‘Five Stan’ cultural experience. Visit the Silk Road gems of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, the quirky Turkmenistan, colourful bazaars, charming villages and alpine scenery as you retrace the footsteps of Marco Polo and Alexander the Great on this unforgettable journey.