TOP 9 PLACES TO VISIT IN UZBEKISTAN
Uzbekistan was possibly the most remarkable, underrated and surreal place I’ve ever been to. Most of the time I was there, I struggled to believe that anything I was seeing was real. The architecture there looked straight out of the most magical chapter of One Thousand And One Nights, and to do it justice, you really just have to see it for yourself.
But aside from the glittering minarets, ornate mosques and majestic madrasahs, there’s a lot more to this Silk Road hub shaped by a dozen different cultures and religions. Here’s a little guide to the top places to visit in Uzbekistan that you absolutely shouldn’t miss in this little-known country that will inevitably steal your heart.
Before my trip many people asked me, is Uzbekistan a good place to visit? The answer is undoubtably Yes. As you can see, Uzbekistan is an incredible place to visit.
#1 - Get lost in the mosaic blue tiles of Samarkand
Samarkand, the second largest city in Uzbekistan, is listed as ‘Crossroads of Cultures’ under the UNESCO World Heritage. Being one of the oldest cities in Central Asia, it was founded in the 7th century B.C. and has been captured by both Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, while ruled by Persians, Greeks, Turks, Mongols, Chinese and Russians in the course of its history. Half a dozen religions have found a home here, and you can still see the influence that they had on the city today.
When you travel to Uzbekistan, make sure to spend at least a couple of days here, and don’t miss out on Registan, Gur-e-Amir, Shah-i-Zinda, Bibi-Khanym Mosque and The Siob Bazaar. If you have some extra time, pay a visit to Ulugh Beg Observatory or take a day trip to Shakhrisabz – one of Central Asia’s most ancient cities.
#2 - Enjoy a traditional Uzbek concert inside a 17th century madrasah
When you visit Registan in Samarkand, you can watch a magical concert inside the Sher-Dor Madrasah everyday at 7 pm. Against a backdrop of the colorful madrasah walls, you will see performances from talented locals in their traditional clothing, showcasing not only their music and instruments, but also snippets of their culture, such as scenes from an Uzbek wedding. The People in Uzbekistan are some of the most exciting and friendly people I have ever met.
#3 - Experience living like the locals in Bukhara
Bukhara is a medieval Muslim town with more than 2,000 years of history. Aside from the ancient mosques and fortresses there, you can also get a taste of the “real Bukhara” by experiencing the Hammam - a traditional steam bath. Bozori Kord Hammam is one of the oldest in the world (built in the 14th century) and one of the best places, according to the local Uzbekistan people, to experience this exotic ancient ritualDuring the rest of your stay in Bukhara, make sure to stop by Kalon Minaret& Mosque, Ark Fortress, Chor Minor, Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah, Bolo Hauz Mosque and Lyabi-Hauz Complex. Furthermore, the Terrace Cafe and the Silk Road Tea House are both amazing places to take a nice rest from walking and enjoy some tea.
#4 - Explore the sand castle city of Khiva
This medieval town of Khiva is essentially an open air museum. A fortress surrounds its inner city, which is home to dozens of ancient madrasas, mosques, minarets and clay-colored houses. Being there felt like walking inside a movie set. The entire town resembles a real life sand castle city, and it’s hard to find anywhere else in the world like it. The city is also really intact and well-preserved.
Most people only spend a day here, but you will not regret having an extra day to soak in this surreal scene. Some highlights of the city include Itchan Kala, Tash Hauli, Juma Mosque, Kuhna Ark, Watchtower, Isfandiyar Palace, Kalta Minor Minaret and Islom Hoja Minaret. Don’t miss the city of Khiva, one of the top places to visit in Uzbekistan.
#5 - Play Indiana Jones at abandoned desert fortresses
There are several ways of getting to Khiva, and one of them is via a long bus ride, which really isn’t as bad as it sounds. A big reason is because you can ask your driver to make a little detour along the way and bring you to the ancient fortress of Tuprakkala, not too far from Khiva. This fortress is in the middle of the desert, and walking amongst its ruins is truly a unique and unforgettable experience. The visit will prolong your trip by about 1-2 hours, but it’s completely worth it.
#6 - Take lots of selfies with kind strangers
Uzbek people are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Not only are they genuinely kind and welcoming, but they also go out of their way to help you out. You will get approached by many friendly strangers, who are genuinely curious about who you are and where you’re from. And many of them will also ask you to take photos with them. Throughout our week in Uzbekistan, we must have made an appearance in over 40 selfies with random friendly Uzbek people. We’ve learned that the locals there are simply excited to see foreigners in their country, and after taking photos with you, almost all of them have ended the exchange with the most heartwarming “welcome to my country!”
#7 - Take a train from Tashkent’s notoriously stylish metro stations
Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, is home to some of the most ornate metro stations in the world. They were built in the former USSR and are very similar to the artsy metro stations in Moscow. You not only can admire the decorated platforms and art shaped by different cultures and religions, but now you can also capture them on camera, as the photography ban on the stations has just been lifted last year! Don’t miss Tashkent, another one of the top places to visit in Uzbekistan.
#8 - Stay at a cozy family-run guest house
We were completely stunned by how gorgeously decorated, stunning and homey Uzbek hotels and guest houses were. Many of them are family-run too and offer a very cozy breakfast in their stylish courtyards. Accommodation is in general very comfortable and affordable – you can find a variety of high quality boutique hotels, guest houses and B&Bs for a reasonable price per night. The places we stayed at were also clean, well-situated and well-renovated.
#9 - Indulge in some of the most flavorful food there is
Uzbek cuisine (Uzbekistan food) is one of the most exquisite ones I’ve tried, and it left me longing for more even after leaving the country. One thing to note is that Uzbek people love meat, so you’ll find it in many of their main national dishes. Some must-tries are plov, shurpa, lagman, manti, somsa, naan bread, shashlik, kazan kabob and shivit oshi. Don’t worry if you’re a vegan or vegetarian though — there are quite a few restaurants that offer vegetarian options as well. Just remember to say "bez myasa", which means “without meat”, as some salad plates may also occasionally contain sliced meat.
From history, adventure and art to delicious cuisine and relaxation, Uzbekistan has something for every traveler. If you’re unsure about whether to go and wonder if Uzbekistan is safe - I am journey on and prepare to get your expectations surpassed.
Join us an Uzbekistan Tour and visit the incredible countries along the Silk Road. Wondering when is the best time of year to visit Uzbekistan? Summer, winter, spring, and autumn each offer something unique and different. Read more about the visit time to travel, how to get an Uzbek Visa, and other tips and tricks for visiting Uzbekistan.
From history, adventure and art to delicious cuisine and relaxation, Uzbekistan has something for every traveler. If you’re unsure about whether to go - take a leap of faith and prepare to get your expectations surpassed.
Post written by @thediaryofanomad