7 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Uzbekistan
Somewhere between the rolling hills of the Angren River Valley and the remote deserts of the vast Taklamakan Desert, the capital of Uzbekistan is the home of ancient sites, such as the monumental tomb of King Solomon, as well as the graceful Samanid Palace, one of the finest historical buildings in Central Asia.
The Termez Region is a fantastic destination in and of itself, boasting some of the highest mountains on Earth and some of the most beautiful valleys and rivers. The highlight of the region is the sparkling turquoise lake of Lake Tengiz, where paragliders soar through the sky and the only decent beach in the entire region.
The city of Samarkand and its surrounding countryside are a study in contrasts. One moment, you're walking in the wide pedestrian-only streets of the old town, where carpets of flowers blanket the old bazaars and traditional restaurants and cafes. The next, you're ambling through the rocky fields of the desert, the red-brown rock of the cliffs shooting into the sky before you.
Discover the best places to visit in Uzbekistan with our list of the top tourist attractions in Uzbekistan.
Home to thousands of religious and historic monuments and sites, ancient Samarkand is a unique and captivating city in Central Asia. Situated at an important intersection between the Silk Road and the Silk Road Trade Route, the city's role in history and world culture is legendary. The most important of the sites to visit in Samarkand is the Mausoleum of Khudayar Khan. This vast and spectacularly ornate mausoleum, built in 1730, was designed by the legendary Amir Temur, ruler of the Mogul Empire. He ordered it to be built as a tomb for his father, Temur Mirza, a legendary conqueror and the father of the great Mughal conqueror, Akbar. Samarkand is also home to the massive Gulistan Square, a renowned landmark for its ornamental fountains and magnificent architecture. The other key attractions are the former imperial caravanserai, Khwaja Khizr and the wooden merchant houses of Dadu, the jewel of Samarkand. Samarkand's important role in history, which dates back more than 2,000 years, makes it a fascinating city to visit. It's also a fascinating place to live as it mixes the best of East and West and is an ideal place for a trip to explore this region of Central Asia.
Located in central Asia, Bukhara is one of the most evocative places in the world. Founded more than 1,000 years ago by the Samanids and ruled by Timurids and Mirzas, Bukhara has a rich history of mosques, caravanserais, fortress-palaces, hospitals, libraries and gardens. In 1775, on the orders of the Shah, the city was burned and destroyed, and today there is little left of what was once the largest city in Central Asia. Today, the historic center of Bukhara is a sight to see, a colorful maze of blue and yellow minarets, and graceful gardens fringed with cascading fountains. The wonderful views of the great Central Asian desert give visitors the sense of being in a peaceful oasis far removed from the struggles of the modern world. In the summer, tourists can visit Bukhara's palaces, markets, tombs and museums. In the winter, the old city of Bukhara is locked up, and tourists can only visit the exterior of the old palaces through the "Back Door," a series of small restaurants in the narrow alleys in the heart of the city.
Tashkent is the capital and largest city of Uzbekistan, and its main points of interest include the Mausoleum of the First President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov; his own office, which is a model of Stalinist architecture; and his museum, which displays the grandiose decoration of the mausoleum. This is a low-key city, with a relaxed atmosphere and not many tourists. Uyghur (Muslim people of Turkic origin who live in Xinjiang, China) architecture can be seen throughout the city, in the older buildings. The museum of culture and architecture is also worth a visit. Another interesting attraction is to visit the historic part of Tashkent, and visit the only road bridge in the world that has no central pillars, to cross the historic Volga. A word of warning: take care on the narrow roads on the outskirts of Tashkent, the traffic can be very heavy, especially in the evening.
The site of Uzbekistan's capital, Khiva has been a stronghold since the end of the 9th century. To approach, visitors have to pass through vast gorges formed by the Indus and Khalkh Rivers. The atmospheric city center, where Mongol monuments mark the year of Khiva's foundation, is surrounded by imposing fortifications. It was here that Marco Polo found a population of 50,000, which later turned into the world's largest city when its population exploded after the demise of the Tartars. For modern visitors, there are over twenty Uzbek restaurants and tea rooms in Khiva, the most representative being Tanta's Teahouse. Here you'll find tea for 5-10 UZS and pastries and snacks for 15-30 UZS. There is also a handful of bars serving the cold local beer to locals and foreigners alike. At night, Khiva's old quarter is busy with food vendors and locals spilling out onto the streets, and it's a good idea to keep your wits about you. You can walk around Khiva's citadel from the east gate and west gate and explore the shops, stores and architecture in the city center.
The Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan's largest economic development zone, is situated between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It is an enormous area of fertile lowland plains, crossed by the tiny Fergana River. But Fergana is not just a pretty picture; there's real economic activity here, including cotton, tobacco and tea production, limestone quarrying and cement production. In short, Fergana is big business. Travelers interested in the Fergana Valley should visit the agricultural fairgrounds of Gazret Teger, about an hour from the regional capital, Tashkent. In addition to agricultural shows, Gazret Teger also offers traditional dance and music, Uzbekistan's most popular tourist attraction. Fergana's other main attraction is the tiny Uzgal Valley, which contains numerous interesting salt mines. From Tashkent you can reach the Fergana Valley in two ways, both making a quick but interesting trip. The major route starts at Bilaichent (Jement) along the Fergana River, where ferries cross the river to Tashkent. The ferry departs every half hour from 7am to 7pm. The trip takes about two hours. The alternative is to take the train from Tashkent to Urgench, and then a bus from Urgench to Gazret Teger. The travel time from Tashkent to Gazret Teger takes one hour, 15 minutes by bus, or two hours by train.
The 12th-century Imam Mosque of Andijan, in the city of Andijan, is the most splendid surviving example of the art of rural Uzbekistan. The interior of the edifice is extraordinarily rich in decorative carvings and geometric patterns, executed entirely in ivory. The image of the sun carved in the interior of the hall of the Juma mosque in Yengi Kipras, also in Andijan, is one of the most impressive that the country has to offer. Another outstanding example is the huge "Solar" monolithic arch in Andijan, carved out of a piece of granite, as well as in the neighboring village of Askis in several of the smaller structures. There are many other mosques and temples of the period, including the impressive "Solomon's temple" in Samarqand, for example, as well as many other spectacular edifices in various other regions, all unique in their own way.
Kokand is a picturesque oasis in the ocher-colored steppes of southern Uzbekistan. The city's attractions include a broad square (many buildings of which date back to the 15th century), an attractive waterfront and fine old Turkish-style fortification, which has been converted into the Uzbek government's House of Culture and Cultural Revolution Museum. If you visit the town by car, the roads in and out of Kokand are dirt, and therefore rough on the suspension of your car. It's worth exploring by foot, however, as the market square can be bustling.