Uzbekistan may not be at the top of most people’s travel lists. However, the fascinating Central Asian country has a lot to offer. There are many places to visit in Uzbekistan. From its Silk Road cities of Samarkand and Bukhara to the many palaces and museums, it is home to four significant UNESCO World Heritage sites you cannot miss.
With such a rich cultural heritage and so many amazing places to visit in Uzbekistan, it should definitely be on your list of potential holiday destinations. And, to make things easier, Uzbekistan also recently announced a new e-visa system which promises to make it much easier to visit.
1Registan Square, Samarkand
Samarkand’s Registan Square was once called one of the most beautiful squares in the world, and it’s easy to see why. This public square was the heart of the ancient city of Samarkand during the Timurid dynasty. It is known for its beautiful Islamic architecture and three imposing madrassas. In Tajik, Registan translates to “sandy place”.
The Gūr-e Amīr is the mausoleum of the 14th-century Mongol conqueror Timur. Literally translating to “Tomb of the Commander,” it has a beautiful fluted azure dome. The mausoleum is also the resting place for two of Timur’s sons and grandsons. The tomb also inspired Mughal architecture in India, especially Humayun’s Tomb and the Taj Mahal.
3Amir Timur Museum, Tashkent
The Amir Timur Museum in Tashkent is dedicated to the Mongol conqueror, Timur. It was opened in the capital, Tashkent, in 1996 after the country gained independence. The museum has over 5,000 exhibits artefacts related to Timur and the dynasty that followed him, the Timurid Dynasty. The building itself is meant to resemble the Gur-e Amir mausoleum in Samarkand.
4Chor Minor, Bukhara
This historic mosque located to the northeast of Bukhara was built in the 18th century by a rich merchant, Khalif Niyazkul. The four minarets for which the mosque is named (Chor Minor literally means “four minarets”) symbolize the four cardinal points. They each also feature unique decorations.
Built in the 1600s, the Lyab-i Hauz is a serene plaza built around one of the few remaining ponds (hauz) in Bukhara. The pond itself is fed by an ancient canal system and is surrounded by beautiful mulberry trees. To the south of the Lyab-i-Hauz lies the historic Jewish Quarter of the city.
6Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent
This blue-domed building in the centre of Tashkent is a traditional bazaar. It is a popular spot for both tourists and locals, as here you can get everything from clothes and trinkets to delicious food. The Kukeldash Madrasah is located at one end of the bazaar.
7The Walled City of Khiva
The ancient city of Khiva, also known as Khorasam, is over 2,000 years old. The walled inner city Itchan Kala, was the first Uzbek site added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Encircled by crenellated brick walls, it is full of fascinating places and historic monuments. Entering the walled city is like going back in time.
8Palace of Khudayar Khan, Kokand
This is the palace of the last ruler of the Kokand Khanate, Khudayar Khan. Often called the ‘the Pearl of Kokand,’ it was built in 1871 and cover four acres of lush green land. It once had seven courtyards and 119 rooms. However, only two courtyards and 19 rooms are open to the public today.
9Nukus Museum of Art, Nukus
Also known as the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art, this museum in Nukus contains over 82,000 items, mostly collected by I.V. Savitsky. Among these are antiquities from Khorezm to Karakalpak folk art, Uzbek fine art, the second largest collection of Russian avant-garde in the world.
This semi-artificial lake was created by the Soviets near a smaller seasonal lake. Today, it covers over 4,000 square kilometres in the middle of the Kyzylkum desert. It is also a popular place to go camping, or to spend the night in a traditional yurt.
11State Museum of History of Uzbekistan, Tashkent
Previously known as the National Museum of Turkestan, this is one of the oldest museums in Central Asia, founded in 1876. It has over 250,000 exhibits reflecting Uzbek history from prehistoric to modern times. Among these are: a well preserved Gandharan alabaster Buddha relief from Termez; Tamerlane calligraphy; and ethnic art and costumes.
12Zindan of Emir, Bukhara
“Zindan” means prison in Persian, and this prison, built in the 18th century was used to house criminals and dissenters during the Bukhara Emirate. Able to house up to 40 prisoners, the brick structure also has a circular pit. After the fall of Bukhara Emirate in 1920, the Zindan of Emir ceased to operate, and was eventually turned into a museum.
13Muynak, Aral Sea
The Aral Sea was once a massive body of water between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. It was a major source of fish, and so many fishing towns, such as Muynak, grew along its shores. However, the Aral Sea has been shrinking since the 1960s due to poor irrigation management. Most of it has turned into a parched desert, filled with the hulls of rusting ships.