An ancient network of trade routes connecting east with west, the Silk Road has fascinated travellers for centuries. A new four-part ITV series follows actress Joanna Lumley as she makes the epic 7,000-mile journey from Venice to Kyrgyzstan, visiting Albania, Turkey, Georgia, Iran, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan along the way.
The series was filmed over three trips – the longest stint being a month, which Lumley admits is quite unusual.
“None of us wanted to do a month,” she admits, “but suddenly Iran said, ‘You can come and film here,’ so we had to skid to a halt, turn around on our tracks and go straight off.”
In spite of the unexpected length of time spent away from home, she describes the adventure as “sensational”.
Below are some of her highlights from the trip – as well as ways you recreate it. “I couldn’t have loved it more,” she says.
Surprised by Uzbekistan
“I just thought, ‘What can it really be like?’ It sounds as though it will be a few old stones on a street and a dusty camel and an old something. But it’s the most sophisticated place, with boulevards, tree-lined streets, opera houses, great architecture. It’s a fabulous and beautiful place. So all my preconceptions [were] dashed.”
Longing for Iran
“My family has always travelled. The furthest west any of us was born was my father in Lahore, which is now in Pakistan but was part of India back then. But my mother’s parents travelled all the way across to Persia. My grandmother said of all the countries in the world she would like to live in, having travelled so much, it would be Persia. So I couldn’t wait to get to Iran.”
Falling for Georgia
“The mountains, the clean air, the emptiness… the wines! We had to go to Tbilisi, the capital, and I thought, ‘Oh, I would much rather be up in the mountains’, but Tbilisi is gold. Please go there if you can. I hope lots of people will go to Georgia, because it really is easy to get to. You don’t have to take much trouble – you can fly there and no visa is needed. It’s a totally brilliant country, and it’s far away and adventurous.”
How to recreate the trip
Travel writer Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent was a producer on the series and spent a year researching and designing Lumley’s journey. She’s now teamed up with adventure travel company, Silk Road Adventures, to create and lead several tours following directly in Lumley’s footsteps – meeting the same people and staying in the same hotels. All prices include accommodation, meals, transportation and guides, flights are extra.
The 13-day A Silk Road Adventure: Georgia and Azerbaijan ventures into local homes, wineries and workshops. Visit cliff-top monasteries, learn the secrets of Azeri silk and hike through mountain meadows. Departs June 3, 2019 and costs £3,650 per person (two sharing).
The 16-day A Silk Road Adventure: Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan travels from the Uzbek cities of Samarkand and Bukhara to the snowy peaks of Kyrgyzstan’s ‘Heavenly Mountains’. Sleep in yurts under the stars, swim in mountain lakes and meet Kyrgyz eagle hunters. Departs August 30, 2019 and costs £3,650 per person (two sharing).
The 12-day A Silk Road Adventure: Iran visits cosmopolitanTehran, the Dasht-e-Lut desert and the ancient wonders of Persepolis. Departs April 7, 2019 and costs from £3,240 per person (two sharing).
For more information, visit silkroad-adventures.com or call 07966 911 917.
Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure airs on ITV from Wednesday, September 12 at 9pm.
- Press Association