Best Places to Visit in Uzbekistan

Aerial view of the ancient city of Khiva at sunset, Uzbekistan

Khiva

Once an important stop-off on the Silk Road, the city of Khiva is now well established for tourism. Much of the its ancient architecture is still intact, with an array of mosques, minarets and madrassahs (Islamic schools) clustered within an area of less than 3 kilometres. A stroll through the inner walled city known as Ichon-Qala will bring you highlights such as the turquoise-tiled Kalta Minor Minaret, the beautiful blue palace of Tosh-Hovli and the 12th century Kukhna Ark fortress. Try and time your visit at sunrise or sunset to see the silhouettes of these historic structures at their very best.

Poi-Kalyan complex in the historic centre of Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Bukhara

Also situated on the famed Silk Road, Bukhara is the best-preserved example of a medieval city in all of Central Asia. With a history of over 2,000 years, this fascinating city was deservedly awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1993. Must-sees include the Kalyan minaret, a fortress known as the Ark of Bukhara and the famous tomb of Ismail Samani, which is believed to have been built in the 10th century. The beautiful Poi Kalyan Mosque is also an architectural marvel, with its bright blue domes dominating Bukhara’s skyline.

Tashkent TV Tower Aerial Shot During Sunset in Uzbekistan

Tashkent

Capital of Uzbekistan, the sprawling city of Tashkent is home to some 2.5 million people. This rapidly changing metropolis has plenty of newly built structures to capture your attention, such as the Tashkent TV Tower. However, you’ll need to head to the Old City to gain an insight into Tashkent’s past. The spiritual heart of the capital is Hast Imam Square, which is fronted by the beautiful Hazrat Imam Mosque with its two, 50-metre high minarets. Bustling Chorsu Bazaar offers stall after stall of brightly coloured spices, fruits and souvenirs. And the History Museum of the People of Uzbekistan has exhibits dating from 5,000 years ago to the present day.

Tombs of the Shah-I-Zinda necropolis in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Samarkand

The second largest city in Uzbekistan, Samarkand was another important trading spot along the ancient Silk Road. For over two and a half millennia, it has been at the crossroads of world cultures and is believed to be the same age as the city of Rome in Italy. Top sights include the Registan, a public square flanked by three historic madrasas, and Gur-e-Amir, the beautiful mausoleum of the 14th-century Mongol conqueror Timur. Be sure to also visit the line of blue and turquoise-tiled tombs known as the Shah-i Zinda and the stunning Bibi-Khanym Mosque.

Lake Ajdar Kul in Uzbekistan

Lake Ajdar Kul

Located in the southeast of the Kyzylkum Desert, Lake Ajdar Kul was created due to catastrophic floods in 1969. Today it spans some 250 kilometres in length and is 15 kilometers wide, with long stretches of sandy beaches along its shores. There’s plenty of wildlife, with thousands of ducks, geese, herons and pelicans flocking here in early spring. Visitors can enjoy activities such as swimming and fishing - and the surrounding area perfect for walking, horse rides and camel rides. The lake is also a popular spot for camping or to spend the night in a traditional yurt. If you’re looking for a break from sightseeing, this is the place to go in Uzbekistan.

Khudayar Khan Palace in the Fergana Valley, Kokand, Uzbekistan

Fergana Valley

Split between Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the Fergana Valley is one of the most ethnically diverse spots in the world. Covering some 22,000 square kilometres, this vast landscape is bordered by the Tian Shan mountain range in the north and the Pamir Alay mountains to the south. In Uzbekistan, the valley is home to the important Silk Road cities of Kokand, Andijan, Namangan and Fergana. Old traditions such as pottery and silk making live on here, with several bazaars in the valley offering the chance for you to buy some local handicrafts.

Abandoned fishing boat on the dry lakebed of the Aral Sea, Uzbekistan

Aral Sea

Once the world’s fourth largest saline lake, the Aral Sea is now just 10% of its former size. Its disappearance was caused by the diversion of the Amu-Darya River to irrigate the region’s cotton fields. Said to be one of the most dramatic changes to the Earth’s surface for centuries, this once vast lake can never be restored. Visitors can explore Moynak, its once important port town, and the graveyard of giant fishing boats that have been left abandoned on the dry lakebed.

See Also

Check out these travel guide resources for more information about visiting Uzbekistan.

Best Time to Visit – climate and festivals in Uzbekistan
Top Travel Tips – helpful information about currency, cuisine and more
Tourist visas - what you need to know to enter Uzbekistan