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The Fergana Valley: A Picturesque Ethnic Melting Pot

Known as the 'Golden Valley', the Fergana is a 22,000-sq km (8,500-sq mi) wedge of rich arable land enclosed by the Tein Shan and Pamir Mountains. The 300-km (190-mi) long valley is a picturesque ethnic melting pot with a distinguished history. In 329 BC Alexander the Great founded the city of Khujand and, some 200 years later, the inhabitants of the valley began trading with China - the origins of the Silk Road.

The 7th and 8th century descendent of Ghengis Khan spread the splendours of Fergana's Moghul culture into South Asia. In the 1920s Stalin carved up this prosperous province between Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, creating today's crazily illogical borders
As you travel up the valley from Khujand, an important Tajik city on the Syr Darya River, you will find yourself drawn into an intriguing cultural adventure.

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The diversity of customs, costumes and language is fascinating and you may often be surprised by the contradictions between ancient and modern, Islamic and communist ideals. Head northeast through cotton and wheat fields, orchards and vineyards into Uzbekistan, to the historic capital of Kokand; and Margilan, a market town famous for its skills. Admire the faded 19th-century granduer of the elegant tree-lined streets in Fergana town, and visit Andijan, the city where Babur was born.

Cross into Kyrgyzstan, a remote mountainous country of breathtaking natural beauty, ending your travels in fairytale surroundings of sparkling alpine lakes, wild walnut orchards, and snow-capped mountain peaks. On your journey, you will see countless historic monuments, haggle in colourful bazaars, relax under the ornately painted roofs of wayside Chaikhanas (traditional tea houses); and find yourself welcomed into people's homes with heartfelt hospitality that transcends cultural barriers, leaving you with many fond memories of this remarkable part of the world.

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When to visit

May to June and September to October

Duration of the trip

Ten days by mountain biking or three to four days by car

Highlights

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  • Khujand medieval citadel
  • Kokand - Palace of Khudayar Khan
  • Visit the silk factory of Margilan.
  • Rishtan - a small town 50 km (30mi) from Fergana, famous for its blue ceramics
  • Shakhimardan - a beautiful Uzbek mountain village in Kyrgyzstan

You should know

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This is a moderately demanding bike journey for which you need an open mind, adventurous spirit and good level of fitness. The mountains around Fergana are a wonderful trekking country. The region has only recently become politically stable after years of turmoil and as yet has little tourist infrastructure.

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