How about some Celestial mountain-biking?

12 best Holidays in the Former Soviet Union
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The Independent Travel

1 Vintage wineGeorgia is often credited with being the birthplace of wine, with grape pips found dating back 9,000 years. Journeys Through Georgia (tel: 020-7431 5482) offers a 12-day wine tour of Georgia, focusing on the country's gastronomic delights. Travel during the Rtvelli, the grape harvest in early October, is recommended. A Georgian wine tour starts at £1,399 per person based on two sharing. All flights, transfers, car and driver, full-board accommodation and even wine are included in the price.

1 Vintage wineGeorgia is often credited with being the birthplace of wine, with grape pips found dating back 9,000 years. Journeys Through Georgia (tel: 020-7431 5482) offers a 12-day wine tour of Georgia, focusing on the country's gastronomic delights. Travel during the Rtvelli, the grape harvest in early October, is recommended. A Georgian wine tour starts at £1,399 per person based on two sharing. All flights, transfers, car and driver, full-board accommodation and even wine are included in the price.

2 MoldovaCompletely off the tourist trail, Moldova is squeezed in between Ukraine and Romania in Eastern Europe. Steppes East (tel: 01285 810267) is one of the few operators that can tailor-make a trip there. Centred on Chisinau, the capital, a four-night break will cost £625 per person based on two sharing. Flights, transfers, half-board accommodation, excursions and an English-speaking guide are included.

3 Horse-ridingClose to the border with China, Kyrgyzstan has been an independent nation since 1991. The ethnic Kyrgyz have always been known for their horsemanship, essential in a rural country with few roads. Ride World Wide (tel: 01837 82544) offers a 15-day horseback trip to Kyrgyzstan's wild countryside, with the possibility of spending a night in a traditional felt yurt. The trip costs £1,500 per person based on two sharing. This includes transfers from Bishkek, full-board accommodation, horses and guide, but flights cost extra. The next tour departs on 22 June.

4 Ashkhabad marketOne of Central Asia's most colourful markets - the Tolkuchka bazaar - takes place in Ashkhabad, the capital of Turkmenistan, a small republic to the north of Iran and a good place to find hand-woven Turkmen carpets. Regent Holidays (tel: 0117 9211711) offers a four-day break - including an excursion to an underground lake - that costs £452 per person. Based on two sharing, the price includes return flights, transfers and b&b accommodation.

5 Baltic tourLithuania, Latvia and Estonia Specialised Tours (tel: 01342 712785) has the perfect tour for the indecisive. It visits all three Baltic nations on its Classical Baltics Tour. This seven-night trip takes in Latvia's Rundale Palace, the old town of Riga, and Estonia's medieval capital, Tallinn. The tour costs £625 per person based on two sharing, and includes flights on SAS, all transfers, b&b accommodation and guides. The first summer tour leaves on 2 June.

6 Tajikistan treksThe juniper forests and lakes of Tajikistan's Fan mountains offer some of Central Asia's finest hiking country. EWP (tel: 01550 721319) specialises in high-level walking holidays. Their 16-day trip in Tajikistan includes nine days of wilderness trekking. A tour departing 15 July costs £1,225 per person based on two sharing. Flights to Tashkent in Uzbekistan, transfers, full-board accommodation in hotels and tents, and guides are included.

7 ArmeniaSunvil Discovery (tel: 020-8758 4722) runs tours to the trans-Caucasus republic of Armenia. Arriving in Yerevan, an eight-night tour will take in Armenia's diverse architecture of temples, churches, and monasteries. The tours start from £1,210 per person based on two sharing. BA flights, transfers, half-board accommodation and excursions, are included. A three-night extension to Nagorno- Karabakh costs an extra £315.

8 Celestial bikesThe ultimate off-road adventure for mountain-bikers in the Celestial Mountains of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan is offered by KE Adventure Travel (tel: 017687 73966). The highlight of its 16-day trip is a chance to "heli-bike". Two days will be spent around Karkara, where bikers will be taken by cargo helicopter, dropped off at 3,500m, and allowed to freewheel back down the mountain. The tour departs on 10 August and costs £1,695 per person based on two sharing. It includes flights, transfers, full-board accommodation, vehicle support and guides. Participants must be experienced mountain-bikers with their own bike.

9 CrimeaBob Sopel Ukrainian Travel (tel: 0161-652 5050) offers tailor-made itineraries to the Crimea. Based in the Black Sea resort of Yalta, you can visit Ukraine's once- feared naval fleet in Sevastopol. A week starts at £479 per person based on two sharing. This includes a flight on a new charter service to Simferopol from Gatwick (from 1 September), and six nights' hotel accommodation with breakfast. Transfers and excursions are extra.

10 Silk RoadThree of Central Asia's most stunning cities - Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva - grew rich from the commerce along the ancient trading route that once linked China and Central Asia to Europe. They are all part of a 10-day trip to Uzbekistan organised by Steppes East (tel: 01285 810267) that also incorporates a visit to the sublime Kalyan minaret in Bukhara, said to be so beautiful that Genghis Khan spared it as his invading hordes levelled the city. Based on two sharing, the tours start from £1,375 per person. This includes flights, transfers, largely full-board accommodation, guides and excursions. The next departure is on 23 May.

11 Minsk weekendJust a few hours away from the UK, the capital of Belarus is now within weekend-break range thanks to Regent Holidays (tel: 0117 9211711). The city retains a flavour of its old Soviet past, with Lenin's statue prominent in the main square. If two share, the cost for a three-night break is £390 per person. Return flights on Austrian Airlines and b&b accommodation are included in the price. Transfers cost extra.

12 Alpine flowersThe Tien Shan mountains are the focus of a 13-day Naturetrek (tel: 01962 733051) break to experience the alpine flora of Kazakhstan. While some of the flowers will be familiar to keen botanists - such as tulips, yellow poppies and delphiniums - many of the 1,400 species of the Aksu Dzabagly Nature Reserve will not. Dr Anna Ivashenko will be on hand to lend expert interpretation. Brown bears and marmots may also put in an appearance. The tour costs £1,995 per person based on two sharing. Flights to Tashkent, transfers, and full-board accommodation are included in the price. Tour departs 22 July.

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