Two millennia ago, Uzbekistan was once the cradle of culture and trade right at the center of the ancient silk road. Nowadays, It is well-known for ancient cities and well preserved islamic architecture, perfect for a curious adventurer like you. Within this post, I will tell you why Uzbekistan should be your next destination, how to get there, and where to go.
Uzbekistan Travel Video
Why go to Uzbekistan?
Uzbekistan is like Iran on steroid. With its Persian root and its significant location during the Silk Road time, cities like Samarkand and Bukhara were able to maintain most of its wonderful structures and culture that have been striving for the past 2 millennia.
With so much history, Uzbekistan is the place to be to learn about the Silk Road trade route that dominates much of Central Asia history, explore the stunning desert landscape, and be immersed by its unique culture.
When To Go
Uzbekistan is best visited during either Spring (April - May) or Autumn (September - November) where the weather is mild and the colors of the seasons are in full swing. In the summer, it is possible if you can handle the desert heat.
If you want to go during the summer, keep in mind that most road transports are not equipped with air conditioning and marshrutka (minivan) can be cramped at times so prepare accordingly.
Getting a Visa
Update 2019: As of 2018, 51 nationalities are now eligible for an e-visa which do not require a letter of invitation and can be applied online. For more information, check out Uzbekistan Visa Requirement on Caravanistan.
Almost everyone needs a visa to get into Uzbekistan and many of you will need a Letter of Invitation (LOI) prior to getting a visa so be sure to get it before embarking on the journey. To see if you need a LOI or not, please visit Caravanistan for the latest information.
You can also get your visa in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan which is highly recommended if you planned to visit Kyrgyzstan as well. For more information on this, please see a quick guide by Lost With Purpose.
How to Get Here
You can fly to Tashkent if you already have your visa organized but you if you are already in Kyrgyzstan like I did, you can cross the border from Osh and take a taxi to Tashkent all in one day. If you are looking for a flight, be sure to browse through Skyscanner or Momondo before to compare prices so you will get the cheapest flight possible.
How To Get Around
High-speed trains are the easiest, most comfortable and cost-effective to travel around Uzbekistan. Unfortunately, as of 2017, you can not book the ticket online so you will have to go to the train station the day before and get the ticket one day in advance. You can try getting the ticket on the same day but there is a high chance that it will be fully booked during the summer.
Another option is taking a bus. It is cheap and not as uncomfortable as a marshrutka (minivan) but it is slower and you might have to change buses at times.
Some stretches of the itinerary I proposed might require you to get a shared taxi. From Bukhara to Khiva, it is best that you organize a shared taxi with your hostel since the train doesn't reach Khiva directly, only Urgench. The shared taxi might be a little expensive but it's direct and much more comfortable. It will take you around 6 hours to travel from Bukhara to Khiva.
Samarkand - Amir Hostel (Budget) - 10 USD/Night (Dorm) | 22 USD/Night (Double Room)
Bukhara - Rumi Hostel (Budget) - 8 USD/Night | 22 USD/Night (Double Room)
Khiva - Laliopa 2 Guest House (Budget) - 7 USD/Night | 23 USD/Night (Double Room)
Nukus - Jipek Joli Inn - 25 USD/Night (Twin Room)
- You are required to register to an accommodation every day you are in Uzbekistan. The hostel/hotel will manage this for you but you will have to keep all the registration papers provided by your accommodation throughout your entire trip.
- Since 2017, the official rate of exchange had been equalized to be the same as the black market going rate so you are no longer required to exchange your money at the black market. You can do it at any back now.
- Crossing the border from Osh to Uzbekistan, my bags, my camera and computer were searched. Most of the time, they are looking for illegal drugs, pornography, drones and political books so be sure not to carry those with you when you are traveling to Uzbekistan
This place is quite cheap compare to all the other countries in the world. If you are planning a trip here, you can expect to pay around 25 - 45 USD per day per person and that should include accommodation and 3 meals.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Uzbekistan, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure. They have a simple and flexible search system that allowed me to find the right insurance for the right amount of time at an affordable price in seconds. If you need a travel insurance, give WorldNomads.com a try.
2 Weeks Itinerary
Tashkent (2 nights)
Tashkent is not exactly my cup of tea as but it is still a good place to see Uzbekistan proper metropolitan. The city is equipped with a Metro system and so traveling around the city is easy and fast. It is also a good place for you to get a sim card and prepare for a trip through the country.
There are a few sights to see but the most interesting ones are the Chorsu Bazaar (shown above) and the Kukeldash Medressa which is right next to the bazaar and can be easily reached by a metro.
If you enjoy beautiful architecture, be sure to visit Hotel Uzbekistan and the surrounding buildings. This area have all the cool looking architecture on display from the soviet-era to the modern Uzbek architecture.
Samarkand (3 nights)
Samarkand is one of the reason why I decided to come to Uzbekistan. The entire city is like an open air museum with multiple UNESCO sights all concentrated in one area which makes it easy to explore. Right at the center of all is Registan, a public square framed by three madrasahs (Islamic schools) with distinct architectural style.
Registan is best seen during either sunset or sunrise.
Another of my favorite sight is the Shah-i-Zinda, a necropolis which includes mausoleums and other ritual buildings. This cluster of buildings are most photogenic in the evening when there is less people.
A few other sights like Bibi Khanym Mosque and Gur-e Amir Сomplex are also worth visiting as well.
Bukhara (3 nights)
The beauty of Bukhara lies within the small alleys of the old town area where you can discover locals living out their lives in the traditional sand structure.
You can spend an entire day just walking around the Lyab-i Hauz square, shopping for souvenirs, drinking cold beers and enjoying the traditional food on a roof-top restaurants.
Kalon Mosque and the minaret are also quite a sight to behold as you can walk around this spacious mosque admiring at the intricate craftsmanship of the Uzbeks or hide from the sun under the shade of the Minaret.
Kalon Minaret is one of the few architecture that was spared by Wrath of (Genghis) Khan when his army invaded Bukhara. Although the fate of the minaret was spared, what the tower had become to represent after that was as dark as if it was destroyed. Tower of Death as it was known after was due to the fact that the execute people by throwing them out of the tower.
Walking a little further, you will stumbled upon a beautiful sand fortress called the Ark of Bukhara, a massive fort that has since turned itself into a museum for the public.
Chor Minor is also worth a visit. Chor Minor or Four Minarets is a nice little old mosque located in between the cramped stall of modern city of Bukhara.
Khiva (3 nights)
The entire city of Khiva is UNESCO site and for a good reason. The city is surrounded by an old wall that maintained its traditional look throughout the years. You can still see many household living inside the wall in traditional sand structures with its unique culture intact.
Khiva old town square is there you will spend most of your time. It is located right inside the front gate where you can find nice restaurants, museums and locals hanging out in the evening.
You can also go up one of the minaret for a nice sunset over the city.
Another thing to do in Khiva is to go out into the desert and explore the many long forgotten fortresses that scattered throughout the barren land. Ayaz Qala is the most impressive one of all and you will be able to see it from a wonderful view point on a hill nearby. Too bad, there were zero attempt at maintaining all these forgotten fortresses.
Nukus (2 nights)
Only a few hours away from Khiva, Nukus is worth a visit if you have a bit of time left on your trip. Mizdakhan Necropolis, Moynaq and the Nukus museum of art are definitely worth a visit.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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