Thursday 20 September 2018

Joanna Lumley on her adventures along the Silk Road - and how to follow in her footsteps

Ahead of her new ITV series, the actress shares highlights from her journey.

Undated ITV Handout Photo from Joanna Lumley's Silk Road Adventure. PA Photo/ITV/Burning Bright.
Undated ITV Handout Photo from Joanna Lumley's Silk Road Adventure. PA Photo/ITV/Burning Bright.
A Generic Photo of Azadi monument in Azadi square of Tehran. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.
Mountains of Georgia. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.
ITV Handout Photo from Joanna's Lumley's Silk Road Adventure, in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. PA Photo/ITV/Burning Bright.
Pictured: Joanna Lumley at Bevilacqua Weavers in Venice.
Entrance portal to Gur-e-Amir mausoleum in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.

Sarah Marshall

An ancient network of trade routes connecting east with west, the Silk Road has fascinated travellers for centuries.

Now, 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

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Entrance portal to Gur-e-Amir mausoleum in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.

"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

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A Generic Photo of Azadi monument in Azadi square of Tehran. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.

"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

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Mountains of Georgia. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.

"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

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ITV Handout Photo from Joanna's Lumley's Silk Road Adventure, in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. PA Photo/ITV/Burning Bright.

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/€4,095pp (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 £3,65/€4,095pp (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/€3,635pp (two sharing).

For more information, visit silkroad-adventures.com.

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A world of adventure - the world's most spectacular journeys

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