Uzbekistan is one of the most fascinating countries in Central Asia and is famous for its Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva. There are a lot of incredible places to explore in Uzbekistan such as beautiful silk road cities, stunning desert landscapes, friendly people, and delicious food. Here are the top must-visit destinations in Uzbekistan. Now, let’s discover with us!
Must-visit Destinations in Uzbekistan
“Samarkand – Crossroad of Cultures” is the official moniker used to describe this city as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Samarkand conjures up images of ancient times and sounds almost mythical. However, this is no fairytale: Samarkand today is a lively city that cherishes its traditions. Archaeological excavations have revealed a history that dates back 3500 years; the town of Afrosiab was founded in the 7th century BC. The area was continuously inhabited and served as a melting pot of diverse cultures.
It was conquered by Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan was the sumptuous capital of the Timurid Empire, and played an important role in the development of Islamic architecture and arts. You won’t want to miss Registan square, the Bibi Khanum and Gur Emir Mausoleums, the Shah-i-Zinda complex, Afrosiab & the Ulughbek Observatory.
The historic center of Bukhara has been an important base for Islamic theology and science for several centuries. Its well-preserved city center was recognized by UNESCO as an exemplary medieval city. City-planning, urban, economic, and scientific development in Bukhara had a large impact on the Islamic World in the Middle Ages. The earliest architectural monument is the tomb of Ismail Somoni dating back to the 10th century. For seven centuries up until the 16th century, it was the largest Islamic center for the study of Sufism with hundreds of mosques and madrasas or learning places. World-renowned scholar Avicenna was born near Bukhara and grew up there.
While in Bukhara we’d recommend taking a stroll around the old city to savor its architectural legacy and imagine yourself bargaining as they would have done in medieval times.
Known as the “Garden of Uzbekistan” the Fergana Valley lies in the eastern part of Uzbekistan between the Tian Shan (Heavenly Mountains) and the Pamir Alay range and is shared with neighbors Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It is the most fertile and populous area of Uzbekistan.
Fergana, the largest town in the valley, with its Russian colonial architecture and streets shaded with the plane and poplar trees, makes a good base from which to see the older and more interesting towns of Kokand and Margilan.
Khiva is one of the must-visit destinations in Uzbekistan. It is a fascinating medieval desert town that has been perfectly preserved. It came to prominence in the 16th century as the capital of the Khans of Khiva whose territory stretched from the Caspian Sea to India and was famous for its religious fervor and slave markets.
Khiva’s inner walled city or “Ichan Kala” has been described as an open-air museum (or perhaps an abandoned film set). It consists of a maze of narrow medieval streets lined with madrassahs, mosques, caravanserais, and palaces.
Kokand was the capital of the Khanate of Kokand. During the 18th and 19th century the city was just as important as Bukhara. It was a major city of trade, religion, and development in what is now the Fergana valley.
Unfortunately, not much of its long history is still visible. Most of the city was built after Kokand became a Russian vassal state in 1868. Still, the Kudayar Khan palace of the last khan definitely warrants a visit. There are also some mosques and madrassah’s that are worthwhile.
With few other tourists, Kokand is one of the best off the beaten path places to visit in Uzbekistan and a chance to see Uzbek culture in the Fergana valley that is still relatively untouched by tourism.
Remote Nukus is the capital of the autonomous Karakalpakstan. This unappealing town is interesting for two reasons. First of all, it is the best place to learn more about the Karakalpak culture. The nomadic Karakalpak people have more in common with the Kazakh people and speak their own language.
The second reason to visit Nukus is the Savitsky Museum. Savitsky was a Russian man that visited Nukus and developed a special interest in the people of Karakalpakstan. He started to collect items like carpets, jewelry, and clothes to display Karakalpak culture.
Savitsky opened the Nukus Art museum in 1966 after which he also started to collect Russian art. Some of it was banned by the Soviet Union but somehow protected by its remote location in Nukus. The museum currently has over 82,000 works of art and the second largest collection of Russian avant-garde paintings.