Uzbekistan is a rare double-landlocked country located at the heart of the ancient Silk Road. It is full of beautiful architecture and breathtaking landscapes, from the north to the south. Its historical cities promise a journey in every sense of the word. Uzbekistan is less known as a holiday destination compared to other countries in the region, however, it is quietly drawing attention due to its unique features and history. Read on for the best things to see and do in this remarkable place.
1. Explore Samarkand
A name recently popularised by the renowned author Amin Malouf’s novel, Samarkand has in fact long been the name of a stunning city in the southeastern region of Uzbekistan. The central Registan square was once the ancient city, and an often-frequented spot along the Silk route. Samarkand boasts of stunning architecture in its mosques and mausoleums and visiting this sacred city is a must.
2. Experience a stay with locals in the Nuratau Mountains
If you’re looking to escape urban city life, then the Nuratau Mountain region offers the opportunity to connect with nature unlike any other. Filled with breathtaking gorges, clear lakes and stunning waterfalls, time in a village here will bring clarity of heart and mind. Staying with a local family is the best way to experience life here, and Uzbeks are known for their friendly and welcoming nature. You can absorb the wonderful surroundings without worrying about a single thing since all will be taken care of by your hosts.
3. Get stuck into a delicious dish of Plov
You might be unfamiliar with Uzbek dishes, however, if there is one that you must absolutely try, it is Plov! During your travel, you are likely to come across huge street kitchens where this national favourite is made with the freshest and finest local ingredients. It is made of meat, rice and vegetables and flavoured with aromatic herbs, making it hearty, wholesome and one to enjoy with friends.
4. Explore ancient Khiva
An ancient UNESCO-listed site, Khiva is a well-preserved medieval city. It was the last stop on the Silk Road, and caravans would stock up here before continuing west. The inner city area is perfect for foot exploration. The streets are narrow and winding and with minarets and mosque ruins all around, you can discover numerous historic monuments here.
5. Marvel at the exhibitions at the Savitsky Museum
For art enthusiasts, the Savitsky museum of Nukus holds some of the most wonderful pieces of art from the region. Those passionate about the preservation of art and history will appreciate the lengths Igor Savitsky went to when he brought a large number of paintings to Nukus to prevent their destruction at the hands of socialists. It is a great example of what can be achieved by the brave actions of one person and visitors will be inspired to see a real example of this.
6. Ride the underground metro
Whilst not something most visitors will anticipate doing, it is possible to head deep under Tashkent, the capital, and visit the numerous stations that offer a unique blend of modern Soviet Art as well as Islamic Art. The stations each communicate a story and offer insight into the singular history of this wonderful city in a wholly unique way.
7. Enjoy shopping in the bazaars of Bukhara
Bukhara is a name popularized by restaurants serving up dishes of the east. The name comes from what is known as the shopping central of the country with over a hundred unique and protected buildings. There are ancient mosques as well as hammams dotted around the city. The bazaars come to life at all times of day and night, offering a unique pilgrimage of all the senses. Spices, clothes, jewellery and local handicrafts can all be bought here. Walking through here will give a taste into the past when Chinese, Indian, Russian and Persian merchants all crossed paths here. It is a friendly city, and while haggling is welcome, you can expect fair prices for the most part.
8. Enjoy Fergana Valley’s craft learning experiences
Many of us live as consumers, not knowing where the majority of our clothes and consumptions come from. If you have been looking for an opportunity to get to the bottom of this, then a day tour in Fergana Valley will not disappoint. From the journey of silk to the production of ceramics, different villages in the valley offer a unique insight into their crafts and livelihood, giving you an opportunity to learn and support their work in a wholesome way.
9. Enjoy some serenity in the Kyzylkum Desert
Kyzylkum desert offers a subtle desert experience. The external vastness makes you feel small and yet connect with your vast inner self like little else. Gazing across the landscape, you will spot sparse sprouts of bush and thorn breaking out of the sandy earth. You can stay at one of the Yurt camps near Lake Aydar and enjoy storytelling and traditional music around the campfire.
10. Tantalise your tastebuds with Uzbekistan’s fruity flavours
A visit to Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent, or any central market in one of Uzbekistan’s major city, will offer insight into the delicious local produce. You will find stalls piled with fruit, vegetables, nuts and grains. Dairy products such as yoghurts and cream will also be seen, and the meat markets will show displays of meat and fat which is used in the national dish of Plov. There are numerous restaurants around Tashkent where you can sample Uzbekistan’s national dish and more. The food is generally meat-heavy, however, you can stick to starters for lighter and meat-free options.
For a unique trip that is becoming more and more popular, exploring Uzbekistan will open up travellers to a world they are unlikely to have experienced before. From the friendly and warm faces of the people to the wholesome and hearty cuisine, it is a dive into a culture that embraces all. The unique art history and merge of cultures will offer eye-opening insight, as well as the ample opportunity to learn and appreciate unique handicrafts particular to different families and communities.
The country is full of vast and distinct landscapes. The lush, romantic mountain regions contrast against the desert experiences reminiscent of the Arabian nights, you can have multiple trips in one as you traverse across this beautiful country.
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