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  • Writer's pictureSaptadeepa Bandopadhyay

Exploring the Heart of Central Asia: A Comprehensive Guide to Creating the Ultimate Uzbekistan Itinerary

Uzbekistan is a fascinating country in Central Asia, grouped as one of the five "Stans". It is a land-locked country, bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Kyrgyzstan to the northeast, Tajikistan to the southeast, a bit of Afghanistan to the southern tip, and Turkmenistan to the southwest. Uzbekistan is renowned for its rich history and culture, medieval cities of the ancient Silk Route, stunning architecture of the Timurid dynasty, and delicious cuisine. It's worth adding to your next travel destination!

Uzbekistan Travel Guide

Uzbekistan was under Soviet Union rule and gained its independence only in 1991. Until recently, Uzbekistan and its neighbours were unheard of to most Western tourists. People also feared it to be war-torn like Afghanistan, just because it had a "Stan" in its name. That is, however, not the scenario anymore. Since the pandemic ended, there has been a shift in the influx of tourists in Central Asia. European tourists swarm the streets of Uzbekistan during the summer and autumn months.

So, let's park your inhibitions and plan an itinerary to visit Uzbekistan, the gem on the ancient Silk Road!

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How to reach Uzbekistan?

Tashkent is the capital city, and you must look for flights connecting your home city to Tashkent. Another international airport in Uzbekistan is Samarkand, the UNESCO Heritage City. We chose to fly on direct flights between New Delhi, India, and Tashkent.

While slow-travelling in Central Asia, you may consider searching for road transfers or train connections between these countries. For example, there are daily overnight trains running between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.


Visa process of Uzbekistan -

  • Apply E-Visa on the govt portal of Uzbekistan -

  • Please complete the visa application form, attach a photocopy of your passport and a photograph, and upload them on the portal. The visa charges are as outlined: Single Entry $20, Double Entry $30, and Multiple Entry $50.

  • You will receive your e-visa via email in 3-7 working days.

Immigration process in Uzbekistan -

Immigration is a very smooth process at the Tashkent International Airport. We just had to provide our passport and e-visa details. The same was the case during our departure from Uzbekistan.

This reminds me of the registration process for your stay in Uzbekistan. Some immigration officers or land border checkposts may ask you to show your registration slips before leaving the country. This ensures that you have stayed at a govt. registered hotel and are not involved in any unlawful activities.


Registration of your Stay in Uzbekistan -

  • As per Uzbek tourism, any person who enters the country must register themselves if they intend to stay over 72 hours in Uzbekistan. Your hotel/ homestay/ hostel accommodation will register your stay with Uzbek Tourism and provide a Registration slip.

  • Please inform your hotel reception beforehand that you will need a registration slip for the number of nights you stay at their accommodation. This could be a printed slip from the govt. website or a handwritten slip. As per our experience, some hotels/homestays may ask for an extra payment if you insist on a registration slip i.e. up to USD 4 per night per person. This is the same amount the hotel might pay to the government as taxes.

  • Some argue that you need not collect these slips anymore, but there have still been instances in 2023 where people were asked to produce their registration slips at the Land Borders. Better safe than sorry! Refer to this document on the Indian Embassy's website -

  • If the registration slip seems to be biting into your budget, here is how you could save on it - a) On the nights you are taking an overnight train journey, you can save the train ticket for that night. You will not be required to produce a Registration Slip for that night. b) A new registration starts from the night at 00:01 hrs. So on the days you are moving into a new accommodation, ensure you are not registering twice for the same date.

Uzbekistan travel
Exploring Uzbekistan's architecture

Other important details to plan your Uzbekistan trip better -

Currency/Money Exchange -

  • The official currency of Uzbekistan is Som (UZS). 1USD = 12760 Som.

  • As a tourist, you will frequently use cash to buy food at local eateries, entrance tickets to various attractions and sometimes pay for transportation. Digital payments are accepted for hotel stays and booking cabs through applications.

  • Please carry USD along with you while visiting Uzbekistan. You will get the best exchange rates at the airport's arrival gates. At the airport's arrivals gate, you will find a currency exchange ATM and money exchange booths of the National Bank of Uzbekistan, which are open 24X7.

  • We tried both methods and here is our overall experience: The exchange rates offered at the bank counter are better than at the ATM. However, the difference is nominal. The bank booth also accepts currencies like the British pound, Euro, Swiss franc, Russian ruble, Kazakh tenge and Japanese yen. The ATM works only for US dollars. If you need to exchange money after exiting the Airport, you can visit the nearest bank and collect the cash. Both processes are pretty quick.

  • If you exchanged money at the bank counter, you have the option to return any remaining Uzbek Som and convert it to USD at a similar counter near the departure gates before you leave, provided you present the original receipt. You will need to preserve the receipt throughout the journey. This won't be possible with an ATM withdrawal amount.

Sim Card/Data Plans for Tourists -

A local phone number makes it easier to book a cab through YandexGo or call your Hotel once you have landed.

  • New SIM cards for various Uzbek mobile operators can also be picked up before leaving the airports. Some of the operators you will see in Uzbekistan are UZ Mobile, Mobiuz and Beeline. A SIM with unlimited calls and 20-35 GB of internet data will cost you between 40,000 Som and 70,000 Som as of 2024.

  • You can also pick up a SIM card from the city centre or request your Hotel which would be cheaper than Airport rates.

  • E-Sim is another option which you will have to subscribe to before coming to Uzbekistan.

Transportation Services around Uzbekistan -

  • Taxi/Cab service - Install the YandexGo app for reliable and affordable airport pick-up and city transportation in Tashkent, Bukhara, and Samarkand. Services are prompt, with vehicles arriving in under five minutes. Note that cabs may have limited luggage space; consider booking a larger cab if needed.

  • Metro train services in Tashkent - Tashkent has good underground metro rail connectivity throughout the capital city. A metro ticket costs only 1400 Som, an affordable option for budget stringent tourists.

  • Uzbekistan Railways - The country's robust and punctual railway connectivity running across the length and breadth of Uzbekistan is the best network for connecting the tourist destinations of Uzbekistan. All railway tickets can be booked online through the Uzbekistan Railways' official website - or their mobile application. (Note - The website seemed a bit buggy when we used it in 2023 but I am sure there will be upgrades in the coming days.) Alternatively, you can look for physical tickets at the station if you do not have a planned itinerary.

Uzbekistan Railways for Tourism
At the Bukhara Railway Station

There are three types of trains currently operating in Uzbekistan -

  • Sleeper Trains for Long Distance Overnight Journeys - These trains have Sleeper births in various classes. The first class can be booked for 2 people in a coup while the second class has no coups but sleeper birth arranged in the entire compartment. This is preferable for Tashkent to Khiva, the longest distance one might have to cover.

  • Sharq for Short Distance - Preferably a seated arrangement in air-conditioned compartments for 2-4 hours journeys.

  • Afrosiyab High-Speed Trains - These Spanish High-Speed trains are recently introduced in the country. They run at a speed of about 250km/hr. These tickets are sold out soon unless booked in advance.

Accommodations in Uzbekistan -

  • You can book your accommodations in advance through online aggregator applications like or (Tip: Please confirm your bookings on call, before arriving at the hotel. Some hotels here mention to have discontinued bookings from Agoda after we arrived)

  • As we got to know the area better, it became easier for us to navigate and reserve homestays or hotels at our destinations. This allowed us the flexibility to stay near the majority of tourist spots.

  • Before booking budget-friendly accommodations, verify whether the bathroom is shared or private. It's common for hotels to offer shared bathroom amenities.

  • Most hotels and homestays around Uzbekistan provide you with complimentary breakfasts daily. The food is wholesome and has an extravagant spread of bread, seasonal fruits, cheese, yoghurt, eggs/beacons and so much more.


Planning Your Perfect Itinerary of Uzbekistan -

Best time to Visit Uzbekistan -

  • Uzbekistan experiences an extreme continental climate with soaring temperatures in summer and freezing wet winters. Thus it is advisable to avoid the summers from late June to early September and the harsh winters from mid-November to February.

  • Spring and Autumn are the best tourist seasons for visiting Central Asia. Plan your visits around mid-March to mid-June to experience the spring or September-October to travel during Autumn.

No. of Days Needed to Explore Uzbekistan -

  • If you intend to explore historical places along the Ancient Silk Route, 10-12 days is a good enough time to cover destinations like Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. You must intend to spend at least 2 days in each of these places. You will need to keep in mind the travel time from Tashkent to Khiva which could be 12-14 hours by overnight train. You could also opt for a domestic flight to cut this travel duration.

  • If you are short of time and only wish to get a glimpse of the country on an onward journey to Central Asia, 5-7 days would be good enough to explore the major attractions around Tashkent, Bukhara and Samarkand.

Sample Itinerary for Uzbekistan -

Tourist route map Uzbekistan
The tourist trail of Uzbekistan
  • Itinerary 1: This can be done in 10-12 days, considering a few transit/travel days Tashkent (1-2 days) -> Khiva (2 days) -> Bukhara (2 days) -> Samarkand (2 days) -> Tashkent (exit).

  • Itinerary 2: This can be done in 5-7 days if you are short of time Tashkent (2 days) -> Bukhara (2 days) -> Samarkand (2 days) -> Tashkent (exit)


List of Places You Must Visit in Uzbekistan -


Hazrati Imam Complex
Tourist Police pose at the Hazrati Imam Complex

If you have landed in Uzbekistan via Tashkent International Airport, Tashkent will be your gateway to exploring the country. While the city is modernizing its infrastructure and architecture, remnants of the Soviet era and the nation's independence history can still be experienced.

Most tourists do not stay in the capital for long but here is a list of all the things to do in Tashkent -

  • Visit the Chorsu Bazaar (Uzbek: Chorsu bozori) - The heart of Tashkent city is the busy Chorsu Market in the Old Town area, featuring a turquoise-blue dome-shaped market building in Soviet Modernism style. The market is divided into sections of essential items, including bread, milk, cheese, meat, spices, fruits, vegetables, clothes, ceramics, jewellery, fresh juices, tea, and snacks. Open until 5 PM, it's a great place to interact with locals and immerse in Uzbek culture. Don't miss the bread-making workshop and try Pomegranate juice, Somsa, and Choi. Grab some bread, plums, and dry fruits for your journey from Chorsu Bazaar.

  • Hazrati Imam Complex - A historic religious monument built between the 16th to 20th Century in the Islamic form of architecture is the final resting place of Hazrat Imam one of the first Islamic preachers in Tashkent. The complex also houses mosques, a few madrasahs and the library of oriental caliph manuscripts. The Samarkand Kufic Quran, considered the first original manuscript of the Quran is kept in this complex and has been recognized by UNESCO This place is 2 km from the Chorsu market in the Old Town of Tashkent.

  • Amir Timur Square - This is the main square of Tashkent city. After independence, a statue of the great ruler Amir Timur was erected here in 1994. Surrounding the streets of Amir Timur Square, you can locate a few iconic buildings of the city like - a) the curved building of Hotel Uzbekistan adjacent to the underground Metro station (where you can choose to stay) b) The Amir Timur Museum houses many artefacts, weapons, maps, textiles and literature from the Timur Lane dynasty. c) The 19th-century building of the Judicial Institute d) The Tashkent chime tower/clock tower e) The Palace building that hosts important events of the capital f) A few walking streets with food trucks where you could enjoy the evening

Amir Temur Square
The iconic Amir Temur Statue
  • The Tashkent Metro - You could explore all of Tashkent using the Metro connectivity that runs underground throughout the city. The metro railways and its stations are historically significant for being the first Subway in Central Asia. The architecture and decor of every station on the subway line have a national significance to Uzbekistan's dignified personalities, culture and agriculture. The metro stations are like the extended museums of the city. These stations were not allowed to be photographed until 2018 as they were under military vigilance and served as underground hideouts for the USSR in case of nuclear attacks. Since the ban has been lifted, it's an honour to capture these beautiful stations in frames.

  • Tashkent TV tower - The Tashkent TV tower dazzles the night sky of Tashkent standing tall at 375 meters high, thus being the 12th tallest tower in the world. One can climb the observatory deck of this tower and view the city from there. You can also dine at the Tashkent Tower restaurant for a unique experience.

  • Besh Qozon Pilaf Center - Besh Qozon is a tourist favourite as you can see the Pilaf(a rice and meat recipe) being prepared in open kitchens in large metal pots and pans. This place is just behind the TV tower. Lunch time here is exceptionally crowded so you must arrive before noon. We chose to visit for Dinner. The food tasted good, but there was no choice for vegetarian or chicken pilaf.

  • Minor Mosque and Anhor Canal - The Minor Mosque, constructed around 2014 along the Anhor Canal in Tashkent, is a popular spot for both locals and tourists. The promenade features tree canopies, eateries, and boat rides, making it a must-visit leisure destination in the city.

  • Museums of Tashkent - Being the capital city, Tashkent also houses many museums showcasing the history, culture and arts of Uzbekistan. Visiting these museums is a good way to learn about the country you wish to explore in the coming days. Here is a list of museums you could visit -

State Museum of the History of Uzbekistan

Amir Timur Museum - Dedicated to the dynasty of Amir Timur

State Museum of Art

State Museum of Applied Arts - Displaying the Handicrafts of the region

Islam Karimov Museum - Dedicated to the life of the First President of Uzbekistan


Khiva (Also known as 'Xiva') -

Ichan Kala, Khiva
Pink hues of Sunset hour at Ichan Kala, Khiva

Khiva is located in the Khorzem region of South Western Uzbekistan and geographically very far from the capital city. Thus you will often hear people skipping Khiva from their itinerary if they are short of time. I would, however, recommend you have a few more days so that you do not miss out on this jewel town that was equally important on the Ancient Silk Road along with Bukhara and Samarkand.

Did you know, that Khiva was once the largest Slave Market in the world? Bukhara was the next!

Today, Khiva is surrounded by desert on all sides, though it once was a cotton cultivation hub with the Amu Darya River running through the north of the region.

Reaching Khiva: Khiva is conveniently accessible by taking an overnight train from Tashkent to Urgench, a mere 20 km distance. Upon arrival in Urgench, hire a taxi ride to reach the Ichan Kala UNESCO Heritage Town. Khiva town also has a railway station but very few trains ply up to Khiva.

Booking domestic flights is advisable if you are short of time, although it could raise your total expenses.

Stay at Khiva: While booking your stays in Khiva, ensure you choose accommodations inside the Ichan Kala or just outside its walls. This will help you save a lot of commutes and provide ample time to explore the UNESCO Heritage walled inner town of Ichan Kala.

Select from the many Homestays (for Budget Travellers) and Heritage properties for mid-range to luxury travellers inside Ichan Kala.

Exploring around Ichan Kala:

Ichan Kala in Khiva
Entrance of Ichan Kala overlooking the Kalta Minoret

Ichan Kala is a sand-coloured town guarded by 10-meter-high walls in a rectangular layout. The town is a 2 millennia old town and once served as the resting place for caravans travelling through these harsh deserts on the Silk Road leading to Persia/Iran. Though you can explore the town for free if you stay inside the Ichan Kala, you must buy tickets to enter the monuments. The town is filled with artistic Islamic architecture using traditional building materials like baked bricks, wood and stone. Many buildings are ornately beautiful because of the intricate majolic pattern tiles on the walls.

Islam Khoja Minor, Ichan Kala, Khiva
The charismatic sunrise behind the Islam Khoja Minaret of Ichan Kala, Khiva

One can walk from one end to the other of Ichan Kala in just 30 minutes, but if you admire architecture you will be forcing your feet to walk away from each of these buildings. A few noteworthy structures you cannot miss in Ichan Kala are the Kalta Minor (the half-finished turquoise minor at the entrance gate), Islam Khoja Minor (the tallest minor of Ichan Kala) and Madrassah, Djuma Mosque (a stunning wooden mosque with intricately carved pillars), stunning palaces like the Kunya Ark and Tosh Haveli, Complex of Saint Pakhlavan Mahmud Tomb (a renowned wrestler, poet and writer of the Khorzehm province). Ichan Kala houses many mosques and Madrassahs (now turned into heritage hotels/museums) which you can explore. One must not miss the breathtaking views of the pink sunset sky over the wall of Ichan Kala. Walk around the souvenir stores to explore the local artists selling Uzbek dolls, Russian fur caps and traditional robes. The carpet weaving centre is a good place to learn about the carpet-making process of the region.

Where should you eat at Ichan Kala:

Most accommodations will provide you with elaborate breakfasts which will keep you full through the day. There are a few restaurants in Ichan Kala serving international as well as local delicacies. Some restaurants, choykhana (teahouse) and cafes offer rooftop seating overlooking the Ichan Kala. Terassa Cafe is popular for its rooftop views. There are a few restaurants outside the wall of Ichan Kala.

Special dishes to try in Khiva: Dill Lagman (Spaghetti in dill sauce), Dumplings with egg filling, Khorezm pilaf with yellow carrots and rice. Also, try grilled fish. The fish is sourced from the Amu Darya River.

Day Tours beyond Khiva/Ichan Kala:

If you have more days to explore, consider signing up for some adventures around the deserts of Khiva / Khorzehm province. Some interesting things to do around Khiva include day trips to Khorzehm and Karakalpakistan to explore the ruins of desert fortresses, experience Yurt camping and visit the Aral Sea (the largest lake that has dried up due to extensive cotton cultivation in the region). Islambek Travel is a well-recommended operator for these day trips. But, please ensure you contact them in advance to book your trip.



Bukhara is yet another UNESCO Heritage City along the ancient Silk Route. It is the most complete example of a Medieval City in Central Asia with remains dating as early as 2nd Millennium BC. It has seen many communities settling in the region. There have been traces of Buddhism and Zoroastrianism in Bukhara until Arabic, Persian and Russian travellers discovered the city. Its location on the Silk Route made it a perfect resting place for travellers from the East as well as the West. These travellers left a global influence in the region.

Bukhara long served as the centre of trade, culture and religion as the capital of the Samanid Empire, Khanate of Bukhara, and Emirate of Bukhara. The city was even titled Bukhoro-i-Sharief due to its religious importance in the Islamic world (Islam came here around the 7th Century). Few Madrassahs in Bukhara were active even after the Russian Invasion.

Today 140 monuments in Bukhara's ancient town have been listed under UNESCO's protected sites. Most of these monuments that have survived the test of time, were built/rebuilt around the 15th Century.

Reaching Bukhara: Bukhara is well connected with major cities in Uzbekistan. Railways are the easiest mode of transport to reach Bukhara. It also has an Airport if you wish to fly in.

Where should you stay in Bukhara: As most tourist sites are in the Ancient town of Bukhara, please book hotels or homestays in the old town. This will save time on commutes.

Things to see/do in Bukhara:

Trading Domes of Bukhara
Walking inside the Trading Domes of Old Town, Bukhara

  • Walking around the Old Town of Bukhara: The Trading domes of the Caravanserais were essential stops on the Silk Road for travellers and facilitated commerce of Art, Craft, Culture, spices, silk textiles, rugs, and jewellery. Today, four bustling trading domes are actively selling souvenirs to visitors.

  • Po-i-Kalyan Mosque, Kalyan Minaret and Mir-i-Arab Madrassah: The Kalyan Mosque and Minaret are iconic monuments in Bukhara. The 48-meter-high minaret served multiple purposes, including calls to prayer, public announcements, and criminal punishments. Across from the mosque is the Mir-i-Arab Madrassah, the longest active school in Bukhara, which continued functioning even during the Soviet era after World War II.

Po-i-Kalyan Mosque and Minaret, Bukhara
The Po-i-Kalyan Minaret, Bukhara's Heritage site
  • Explore the Ark of Bukhara, the citadel of the last Emir of Bukhara overlooking the surrounding public square, the Bolo Hauz Mosque and the old town area. This Ark has been rebuilt several times since it was first established in the 5th Century. The newer citadels were built on the ruins of the older ones, thus giving it an elevation from the ground level. Yet another gorgeous building is the Bolo Hauz Mosque (also known as the Friday Mosque) with ornate wooden carved pillars that beautifully reflect in the pond in front of the mosque.

  • Bukhara was the centre of Islamic education, there are many Madrassahs around the Old Town. A few eminent Madrassahs are the Ulugbek Madrassah and the Abdul-Aziz-Khan Madrassah in the centre of the Old Town.

  • Lyabi Hauz Ensemble surrounds a beautiful pond. The name Lyabi Hauz means 'by the water'. Hundreds of such ponds were scattered around the city and used by the people of Bukhara for their day-to-day activities. Today only a few ponds remain as ornamental. You could spend some peaceful moments sitting there or enjoying a meal at the adjacent Lyabi Hauz Restaurant.

Lyabi Hauz Ensemble, Bukhara
A calm view around the pond of Lyabi Hauz Ensemble, Bukhara
  • Surrounding the pond are three important Madrassahs -

    • Kukaldosh Madrassah to the north (containing 160 rooms for students of religion, built in 1569)

    • The Khanaka to the west (It was a free lodging facility for pilgrims, built in 1620) was named after Nadir Diwan-Beghi

    • The Nadir Diwan-Beghi Madrassah to the east with decorative tiles depicting mythical birds (built in 1622)

    • The life-size bronze statue of Khoja Nasserudin in front of the Nadir Diwan-Beghi Madrassah. Khoja Nasserudin is a famous character in the local folklore of Central Asia.

  • Other noteworthy architectures of Bukhara are the Samarid Mausoleum (which contains the tomb of Ismail Somoni built in the 10th century) and the Chor Minor(named after the four towers of this mosque). The Samarid Mausoleum is built with brick art similar to the Zoroastrian Fire Temple architecture. The Chor Minor is also believed to be a tribute to the religious harmony of Bukhara, with each tower designed to symbolize a different religion.

  • The Summer Palace of the Last Emir of Bukhara: Named Sitorai Mokhi Khosa which translates to the Palace of Stars and Moon was a country home to the last Emir of Bukhara. The architectural style of the building is modern as the Emir studied in St Petersburg. Today the palace buildings are open to tourists and house museums of Applied Arts. Apart from the palace artefacts, you will see the Bukharan Townsmen's clothes, century-old embroidery fabrics of 'Suzani', Household Utensils, furniture and Porcelains sourced from China and Japan.

Sitorai Mokhi Palace, Bukhara
A chamber in the Sitorai Mokhi Khosa, the summer palace of Last Emir of Bukhara

Where/What to Eat in Bukhara:

Here you can try the Bukharan dumplings also known as Manti. The restaurants have a wide range of mantis to try from. Since we were craving Vegetarian food, we tried pumpkin manti and Spinach mantis. Until then, I had never imagined Veg Dumplings could be so delicious. Try them!

Shashlik i.e. Grilled Meat is yet another delicacy widely served around restaurants here.

We ate mostly around the Old Town area since we spent most of our day there. Visit the Tea Houses / Choikhana for snacks and tea, there are many options like Silk Road Tea House and Bolo Hauz Choikhana. Cafes in the vicinity serve good coffee and dessert. We tried the Bukhara Tower cafe and loved the food!

Restaurants to try meals at - Zaytoon, Chalet Bukhara, Lyabi Hauz Restaurant, Minzifa, Saffron



Samarkand is the most famous destination of the UNESCO Heritage List on the Silk Road Trails of Uzbekistan. You will often find swamps of tourists in Samarkand, and the place is worthy of its fame. For a first-timer in Uzbekistan, Samarkand is non-negotiable.

Samarkand was first founded in the 7th Century BC as the Afrosiyab. It expanded to its grandeur during the reign of Amir Timur and his successors who ruled the region between the 14th and 15th Century.

Reaching Samarkand: The city is well-connected by the International Airport and Rail Route with multiple trains running throughout the day.

Where should you stay in Samarkand: Though Samarkand is a big city and you will find many options to stay all around the city, I recommend you choose accommodation close to Registan Square. You will find options from Premium Boutique Hotels to Hostels and Homestays.

Things to See/Do in Samarkand:

  • Registan Square Complex: The square was the heart of the Ancient City of Samarkand where public gatherings were held. The square is surrounded by grand madrassahs on three sides, whose walls are decorated with beautiful majolica pattern tiles in shades of blue. These three madrassahs are the Ulugh Beg Madrassah named after the astronomer Ulug Beg, Sherdor Madrassah named after the symbol of 'two Tigers carrying the Sun on their back' that is drawn on the wall and the Tilla Kori Madrassah named after the golden gilt decoration on its walls. These architectural beauties of Uzbekistan were constructed during the reign of two different rulers between the 15th and 17th centuries. These buildings were restored to their current stature by the Soviet Rulers in the 20th Century and the restoration process lasted several years.

Registan Square, Samarkand
Inner Courtyard of Tilla Kori Madrassah in Registan Square. Samarkand

  • Bibi-Khanum Mosque: This is the oldest surviving mosque of the Timurid era located within 15-min walking distance towards the north-east of Registan Square. It was commissioned by the favourite wife of Timur, Bibi-Khanum while he was on a tour to India. However, the large mosque started forming cracks before its completion and there have been various folklore associated with this incomplete structure. The mosque was built in the early 15th Century and was worshipped until late 18th Century.

  • Shah-i-Zinda: The Shah-i-Zinda complex is named after the tomb of prophet Mohammad's cousin, Qasum who died in Samarkand in the 7th Century. Shah-i-Zinda means 'The Tomb of the Eternally Living King'. The complex was later expanded through the 14th and 15th Century with tombs of the members of Amir Timur's family members and other eminent personalities. This is the most famous architectural complex in Samarkand because of its mesmerizing cut tiles decorating the tombs,  in shades of blue. The complex also houses a mosque and is frequented by many worshipers.

Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand, Uzbekistan
A closer view of the intricate turquoise blue tile art on the walls of Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand

  • Ulugh Beg Observatory: Ulug Beg, successor to Amir Timur, introduced scientific and astronomical studies in the region. He built the Islamic world's oldest observatory in 1428, which was destroyed after his assassination in 1449. Today, one can see a part of the sextant used to study celestial movements is partially buried in the ground here. The observatory ruins were found in 1908, leading to the establishment of a museum in 1970 to showcase Ulugh Beg's astronomical and mathematical theories.

  • Gur-e-Amir: Gur-e-Amir is the mausoleum of Amir Timur, built by Muhammad ibn Mahmud in 1405 AD. It showcases beautiful Persian architecture and includes the tombs of Timur, his sons Shah Rukh and Miran Shah, and grandsons Ulugh Beg and Mohammad Sultan.

  • In Samarkand, visitors can also explore the Hazrati Khizr Mosque, where Uzbekistan's first president Islam Karimov is buried, and the Museum of Afrosiyob, displaying excavated sites of a pre-Samarkand city.

  • Siyob Bazaar of Samarkand: To break from the monotony of architecture, spend some time in the Siyob Market to experience the local trade of agricultural produce, spices, dry fruits and handmade goods. It is also a great way to interact with the locals.

  • Stay at old Uzbek-style homes where rooms are built around a courtyard. These homes are about one or two stories tall. The old tradition of gathering for meals in the courtyard can be experienced here. You will find such homes around the Ancient town monuments.

  • Light and Sound Show at Registan Square: Experience the Registan Square monuments lit up in beautiful colours every evening at 7 PM, accompanied by traditional Uzbek music and occasional storytelling through a Light and Sound Show. Free to view from a distance, no tickets required.

Registan Square, Samarkand, Uzbekistan
The stunning golden gilt interiors of the Tilla Kori Madrassah in Registan Square, Samarkand

Where/What to Eat in Samarkand:

A few restaurants around Registan Square and close to Bibi-Khanum Mosque offer options for lunch and dinner. This would be the best place to eat in Samarkand while you are exploring the Ancient monuments. Bibi Khanum Teahouse was our go-to place for dinner. Some street vendors also sell snacks/ice creams to grab on the go.


Packing Checklist for Uzbekistan

  • When travelling to Uzbekistan, pack comfortable and covered clothes. Ensure your arms and knees are covered before entering mosques and dress decently for UNESCO heritage sites.

  • Carry a scarf or sarong for religious buildings if wearing shorter clothes.

  • For travel between June and September, no warm clothes are needed. In October, bring a light jacket for cool evenings. From November to March, pack sufficient winter wear for colder weather.

  • Remember to bring sunscreen lotion and a hat since you will be spending a lot of time outdoors during the day.

  • Vegetarians should carry dry snacks as Uzbekistan is a meat-heavy country.


Souvenirs to bring from Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is an art and craft enthusiast's haven. Every tourist attraction, the madrassahs, local bazaars and ancient trading domes are filled with souvenir stores or artists selling their craft.

You can pick from -

  • Handpainted ceramic plates, bowls and teapots. Look for the artist's signature on the backside of each product to ensure they are original handwork. Samarkand is the best place to pick them

  • Terracotta dolls that represent the local people of Uzbekistan. These dolls are also sold as magnets.

  • Wall art paintings: You will often find artists or art students painting beautiful pieces in the Persian style of art. Most paintings are centred around the 'Tree of Life' concept, that represents abundance, prosperity, fertility and the circle of life in the Uzbek culture. We picked a couple of paintings from Bukhara.

  • Handmade Majolica pattern tile art, symbolic of the beautiful blue tiles found on most monuments.

  • Textile pieces like Ikat print fabric, Suzani embroidered clothes and home furnishing fabric. Ladies can also pick a few traditional attire to dress like the locals.

  • Metal Knives and Scissors carved in beautiful designs. Find these in Bukhara's Trading domes.

  • Carry home some local delicacies to relish with your family. You could pick the best quality dry fruits, spices, Samarkand Tea and local sweets/halwa.

You can bargain the rates if you wish to buy something from a seller.

Khiva, Uzbekistan
A hearty goodbye from Uzbekistan

For any information you need about travelling to Uzbekistan, please leave a comment on this post.

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Hi, I am Saptadeepa, an Indian travel  enthusiast.

My curiosity to explore the unexplored, has led me to some offbeat destinations across India and a few neighbouring South East Asian countries.

Seeking Happiness Diaries is a travel inspired lifestyle blog where I share my adventures, stories, experiences and life lessons  through my journeys.

In leisure, I finds solace in reading books or writing about travel and life experiences on this blog.

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