top of page

Your Ultimate Guide to Traveling in Uzbekistan

Updated: Jan 31

August, 2023.

My second trip with mom this year took me back to my fourth Stan nation, in the heart of Central Asia. Uzbekistan lies in ancient Silk Road, where we were introduced to captivating history.

It is a realm where every cobblestone street, every turquoise dome and majestic minaret, and every bustling bazaar is a chapter in a story that spans centuries. Imagine wandering through grand Silk Road cities, where the echoes of caravans and merchants still linger in the air, and where the vibrant hues of mosaics dance under the sun's light.

details of a blue tiled wall in a mosque in Samarkhand, Uzbekistan
Samarkhand

In this ultimate quick guide to visit Uzbekistan, you'll get to uncover the secrets of Uzbekistan, from the timeless splendor of Samarkand to the hidden gems of Bukhara and to the quieter labyrinth streets of Khiva. I help you navigate the gems of this remarkable country, where history is alive, and the culture thrives.

ITINERARY

Samarkhand | Bukhara | Khiva

TABLE OF CONTENTS
FLIGHTS + VISA

We flew directly from Dubai to Samarkhand and then flew back home from Tashkent.

For Indian passport holders who are UAE residents, the visa is on arrival and free of charge. If you are one of the people who need a visa, you can apply for an e-visa.

LANGUAGE

In Tashkent, some people spoke English but in general, very few people speak English. So use google translate to speak Uzbek or Russian.


BEST TIME TO VISIT

As is the case with most of the Stans, best time to visit is between September to late October or between March to late April/early May. The weather is cooler. The summer, especially July is scorching hot. August is just as daunting but we got lucky with the weather and had some Fall like weather for the 4 days we were there.


We kept in the shoulder season and still found it to be a bit too crowded. That is the reality of going to these Instagram popular places, a rarity for me these days. If you go during high season, expect more people and lots of tour buses.

CURRENCY

Most places accept card. I carried dollars to pay the guide but best to exchange to local currency for food, tips etc.


HOW LONG TO SPEND THERE

As I often say, this is a personal choice. Some people spend 10 days, some people just 3, I am the latter kind. We were happy with four. Unless you are big time into slow traveling or history, this is enough time. If you are doing more of Tashkent and the more off beat areas, by all means you can spend more time. If you are keen on an easy trip just covering the three major cities, then four days is plenty of time as most of these places are similar and are tombs, mosques or mausoleums.

WHERE WE STAYED

GH Maqdoos in Samarkhand | GH Nazira in Bukhara | GH Islam Khodija in Khiva

HOW TO GET AROUND

Traveling in Uzbekistan is simple. The transport between the cities is remarkably cost effective; it is one of the reasons you can do this trip on your own. You can book your train tickets online but the catch is to make sure book ahead as sometimes tickets sell out quickly on these trains. We took two trains (one fast and one sleeper). The fast train was more fancy but the sleeper train was equally comfortable. You can also fly between few of the cities if you don' have a lot of time, but this will be slightly more expensive. Within the cities, most places are walkable and the streets are clean, safe and paved for you to spend hours on your feet.

COSTS + LOCAL GUIDE

I found an amazing local guide through my guide in Kyrgyzstan. The trip for two including all intercity transportation, accommodation in 3* guest houses with breakfast, a guide cost is $425 per person.

SOLO TRAVEL + SAFETY

You will find that traveling in Uzbekistan is a breeze; it is backpacker-friendly country that is perfect for going along. As is the case anywhere in Central Asia, the people are the highlight here too. As a woman or otherwise, you will always be treated with respect and welcomed with a big warm smile.


VEGAN + VEGETARIAN FOOD

We were quite happy to find so many veggie dishes like the ones I had in Kyrgyzstan. From lagman to Shviti Oshi, there were plenty of local vegan options and we loved it all.

HIGHLIGHTS
Samarkhand

Visiting Samarkhand is like taking a step back in time.

Exploring the ancient ruins of Afrosiab in Samarkand
Shah-i-Zinda

The echoes of the Silk Road whisper through its streets, and every tile, every archway holds a piece of a rich tapestry that's woven with passion and heritage.

From the awe-inspiring Registan Square, where mosaic brilliance meets grandeur, to the tranquil serenity of Shah-i-Zinda's mausoleums that seem to touch the sky to the sun sets behind the turquoise domes of the Gur-e-Amir mausoleum, in Samarkhand you'll be transported to an era where time stands still.

Must-see places:
  • Registan Square: The heart of Samarkand, where three majestic madrasas create an awe-inspiring ensemble.

  • Shah-i-Zinda: A street of stunning mausoleums, each with its own unique design and history.

  • Gur-e-Amir: The final resting place of Tamerlane, adorned with intricate tiles and awe-inspiring architecture.

  • Bibi Khanum Mosque: The resting place of the wife of Timur the great.

Bukhara

With a history dating back over 2,000 years, its streets have witnessed the rise and fall of empires, the footsteps of traders, and the whispers of ancient tales.

Intricate mosaic work at Mir-i Arab Madrasa, a treasure of Islamic architecture
Mir-i-Arab Madrasah

Picture this: caravanserai bustling with merchants from far-flung lands, storytellers weaving tales in dimly lit corners, and the echoes of countless footsteps blending into a symphony of time. For over 2,000 years, Bukhara has been a living testament to the intricate threads that connect civilizations.

This city has been a living tale of empires, a crossroads of cultures, and a treasure trove of secrets waiting to be unraveled. Every step here feels like turning a page, connecting you to the past in the most immersive way.

How to get there:

From Samarkhand take a train to Bukhara. We took a fast train and it was 90 minutes.

Must-see places:
  • Ismail Samani Mausoleum: One of the oldest buildings in Bukhara

Ismail Samani Mausoleum
  • Bolo Hauz Mosque: an artistic mosque made up of 40 pillars

The intricate islamic details of the beautiful Bolo Hauz fourty pillar Mosque in Bukhara
Forty Pillar Mosque
  • Ark of Bukhara: the ancient fortress, a testament to Bukhara's rich history

Bukhara's Ark Fortress against a backdrop of the city's blue-domed skyline
Ark Citadel
  • Kalon Complex: Admire the stunning Kalon Minaret and Kalon Mosque. It is also highly recommended to visit this place during the day time and at night - the minaret is lit and the colors of the minaret itself are fantastic.

  • Miri-Arab-Madrasah: widely known as the face of Bukhara

  • Chor Minor: a minature version of the famous Charminar in India

Timeless elegance at Bukhara's Chor Minor, a hidden gem of the city
Chor minor, a miniature version of Charminar in Hyderbad, India
  • Trading domes: there are so many of these beautifil indoor markets everywhere in the city

Silk Road charm: Strolling through Bukhara's atmospheric Old Town
  • Magok-i-Attari: the oldest surving mosque in Central Asia, built prior to the invasion of the Mongols in the 12th century. You can still see the inscriptions from back then!

The rustic walls of Bukhara's Magok-I-Attari Mosque, a visual delight
  • Nadar Diva Begi Madrasah: today this is a restaurant and an open market but the outside walls are adorned with breathtaking details. Visit at golden hour for best photos!

Sunset over Bukhara's Nadar Diva Begi Madrasah, a historic gathering place
Khiva

Our final stop was a desert deep within the heart of the Uzbekistan's desert landscape. One of the oldest cities along the Sil route, this place is a living testament to the splendor of a bygone era.

Tash-Hauli Palace: Opulent courtyards and intricate tilework in Khiva
The opulent courtyards of Khiva

As we stepped into its well-preserved ancient walls, we were transported back in time to an era where caravans laden with riches traversed its bustling markets and minarets pierced the sky.

Khiva's allure lies not only in its physical beauty but in the stories that its streets tell – stories that have endured through the ages, waiting to captivate modern-day travelers in search of a journey into the past. How to get there:

From Bukhara we took the overnight sleeper train to Khiva; it was 7.5 hours.

Must-visit places:
  • Ichon-Qala: a UNESCO-listed old town within a town – boasts an architectural ensemble that spans centuries. Stroll through the labyrinthine alleys, where intricate tilework and ornate facades adorn every structure.

Khiva's Ichon-Qala: Ancient city walls surrounding a world of wonders
Ichon-Qala
  • Kunya-Ark: a fortress that once housed khans and their courts and one of my favorite places in Uzbekistan

  • Islam Khoja Minaret: at 57 meters, this is the tallest minarets in Central Asia

Khiva's Islam Khodja Minaret soaring above the city's historic heart
Khiva's Islam Khodja Minaret soaring above the city's historic heart
  • Juma Mosque: a structure that stands out for its beautiful ornate pillars made of almond and elm wood back in the 14th century!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Imagine strolling through ancient Silk Road cities, where minarets kiss the sky and bazaars buzz with vibrant energy. You get a chance to savor the flavors of centuries-old cuisine, explore intricate mosaic wonders, and connect with the warmest hearts you'll ever meet. From the stunning architecture of Samarkand to the enchanting streets of Bukhara, you will uncover the tales of empires and traders etched into the walls of this country. Remember the mosaic-covered domes that shimmered in the sunlight, the bustling bazaars that whispered secrets of the Silk Road, and the warm smiles of the people who welcomed you with open arms.

Most people tend to skip Khiva but you don't want to do that. Your journey through Uzbekistan won't be complete without dancing through the stories and colors of Khiva's deserted streets.


I also won't say this is now most favorite country - I got bored after the first day. That said, whether you're a history enthusiast, a curious traveler exploring new territory, or simply seeking new experiences, there is something for every kind of explorer here. From the beauty of its landmarks to the genuine warmth of its people, Uzbekistan's allure lies in its ability to transport you to eras long gone while embracing you in the present.

Thanks for reading. Leave your questions and comments below.

Lots of love,

Anki