This is a simple (but free and ad-free) app to pretend to walk the Silk Road. We successfully raised the money for art, so the app has been released and is in the stores now.

Data privacy: The ‘To Samarkand’ app will read your step count from your fitness or health app. This is considered ‘sensitive’ information about you. This app uses the data ONLY to calculate progress on your virtual walk. It is not shared, exported, or used in any other way and never seen by the developer.
NOTE: Privacy policy for the ‘To Samarkand’ app is here. The policy for the app differs from the privacy policy for this website, which is at the bottom of this page.

To Samarkand has been withdrawn from Google Play because they have added days of effort to periodically prove the app is resistant to hacks. We don’t have the staff or the funding (for the tools and services required) to do this for a free app.

The app has recently been reviewed (thorough, well-done review) by Android Apps For Me:

Most importantly, the World History Encyclopedia liked the app idea, and is promoting it to their subscribers (of which I am one) and advised me on some of the content.

The app has 3 paths on first release, between:

  • Tyre, Lebanon and Samarkand, Uzbekistan
  • Antalya, Turkey and Samarkand, Uzbekistan
  • Ctesiphon, Iraq and Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Because we raised enough funds for more images, I added these:

  • Samarkand, Uzbekistan and Turfan (near Ürümqi!), China
  • Samarkand, Uzbekistan and Chang’an China (known today as Xi’an)

We have now added a southern route between Tamralipta (India near modern Kolkata) and Balkh, Kashgar, and Khotan, — thought to be the route of Buddhism out of India.

Users can walk the roads in either direction.

Released January 2022 — Italy!

It is not the Silk Road, though much commerce on the later Silk Road started in Italy, particularly Genoa and Venice, where we end our walk. Close enough, we can think of getting ready for the Silk Road.

The Italy road will start in the mountains of southern Italy (Montella, where my wife’s family is from), to the ruins of Pompeii, then up through Rome, Florence, Pisa, Genoa, and then pass through the towns of Shakespeare on the way to Ravenna and Venice. The time period will be 13th-14th centuries, the time of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, the Shakespeare plays — and Marco Polo.

Here are some sample screenshots. The art for the overview maps and the trade items are taken from original watercolors by Leith Walton.

Trading: Just for fun

When you reach major milestones, you will be able to ‘trade’ for items typical of that location in the time of the Silk Roads. I have taken liberties with time such that trade goods from different places might have been common in different eras. But such is the fun of a virtual experience.

Trading concept. All art will be replaced by original art.

You will start out with wool, linen, and Byzantine coins, and glassware if traveling from the Mediterranean, or silk, paper, jade if starting in China, or furs, carpet, spices, ivory if starting in Samarkand. The prize goods available in some locations will be Central Asian manuscripts from the ‘Lost Enlightenment’ of the 8th-12th centuries for the western routes or illustrated painted scrolls for the eastern routes.

Why Samarkand?

Ever since I can remember, ‘Samarkand’ evoked an exotic, exciting, very different world. I didn’t know anything about it, probably heard it mentioned in the movies, “Tales of Arabian Nights”, stories of Marco Polo or other random source, might even have been comic books! But ‘Samarkand’ stuck in my brain as exciting and ‘cool’.

I became interested in world history in my 40s, and started reading about the Silk Roads. I have recently returned to that interest and am reading a half dozen books on the history of Central Asia and the Silk Roads. Peter Frankopan’s “The Silk Roads” was my favorite book read in 2020 and S. Frederick Starr’s book “Lost Enlightenment” is my favorite book read so far in 2021.

And I love archaeology — what better place for that? Çatalhöyük, Antakya (Antioch), Jerusalem, Damascus, Ctesiphon (ancient capital of Persia), Isfahan, Yazd, Nishapur, Ashgabat, Jeitun, Merv, Bukhara, Samarkand — I’m coming!

Is this educational?

Maybe not strongly educational, but I hope it will increase interest and awareness of the awesome history (many images are archeological) of Central Asia.

Other history games from PhosphorLearn

We have also created a history trivia set of games in Puddle Hopping, a free app, and Mixed-Up Museum, a free online 3D game. We also have a game idea Threads for classroom use.

Three whimsical but simple text-based games (Interactive Fiction) are available online at

The Elegant Defense — a simple educational problem

To Samarkand — Travel the Silk Road to gain enlightenment

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish — a Halloween story/game

Comments and Support

Please send any feedback, comments, suggestions, bugs to our feedback page:

Current plans, bugs, comments on bugs, and FAQ are on our Trello board: