Uzbekistan isn't the first tourist location that comes to mind for most people, but that's a shame in my opinion because this place has so much to offer. Here are my favorite 3 spots so far:
One of the most important stops of the ancient Silk Road, Samarkand holds so much important history (read more). The city is most famously known for the Registan, and for a reason. The Registan holds 3 madrassas (which are essentially universities), each of which holds stunning architecture, on the inside and outside.
In addition to the Registan, my favorite part of Samarkand was the Shah-i-Zinda, which features a plethora of beautiful mausoleums (burial chambers).
If you visit, I’d recommend purchasing a tour. As you leave the train station, there will usually be a number of guides, ready to take you around. You can also book in advance. Here is the tour I did.
To get to Samarkand we took the high-speed Afrosiyob train, a modern technology I haven’t seen in the U.S. yet. The train covered a four-hour car ride in just two hours. In peak tourist months, I’d recommend booking at least a week in advance through their website. Each way costs 100,000 Uzbek Soms, which is about $10.
The capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent has much to offer visitors. More recently, it’s being renovated to especially cater to tourists. When I visited, I saw a lot of construction going on, and our driver told us that many of the buildings we were seeing had only recently been built. If you visit Uzbekistan, this is likely where you'll fly in, as the country's only international airport is located right in the capital.
I’d recommend the Tashkent City Tour, a 2-hour audio-guided bus tour that takes you all around Tashkent, stopping at several sites (the bus is reminiscent of hop-on hop-off buses in many major tourist cities like New York and Paris). Though the 2 hours weren't enough to explore all of Tashkent, I'd say it can show you all the main sites, and you can take note of which ones you may want to return to later.
If you’re looking for a fun escape, Tashkent is full of many amusement parks and water parks. I really enjoyed Anhor Lokomotiv and Solnechnyy Gorod (Sunshine Village).
A bit of an underrated destination in my opinion, Charvak offers some of the most beautiful nature I’ve ever seen. About an hour from Tashkent, this water reservoir has an area of 40.1 km² and some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen. It’s an especially nice escape from the heat in the summer.
The best way to get to Charvak would be by taxi. There are also one-day tours offered on Viator, such as this one.
Many visitors stay in the Charvak oromgohi or private dachas which you can rent on sites like Airbnb. On the road there, there’s a stop where you can go horseback riding, with a set of the beautiful reservoir behind you.
My #1 recommendation is to take a boat tour. By the beach, there are plenty of boat owners who are willing to do so. They can be as short as 15 minutes, but we did a 1.5-hour ride which took us to the Kyrgyz border (and a beautiful waterfall!). The boat also stops in a warmer region of the reservoir, where you can go for a swim!
These 3 places are just the tip of the iceberg of what you can visit in Uzbekistan. There's also the historic cities of Bukhara and Khiva, and so much more. To visit these, a resource I find really helpful is the Journal of Nomads guide.
Throughout your visit, an important thing to remember is that Uzbekistan is still a low-income country and many people live in poverty here. So while we learn about the history and enjoy the beauty, it is also important to acknowledge that many of the citizens themselves don't get to enjoy these. So when you visit, talk to the locals, learn about their stories, and most importantly, keep an open mind.
Hope you learned something new from this blog post! If you plan to visit Uzbekistan sometime, let me know in the comments!