Two Week Week Uzbekistan Itinerary
Updated April 2020, A Two Week Uzbekistan Itinerary was originally written in January 2019
Uzbekistan is an up-and-coming destination and the place that comes to mind when many think of the Silk Road. I’ve created this two week Uzbekistan itinerary based on my own personal travels in the country. You’ll find the best way to hit the highlights without (hopefully) missing a thing.
If it’s one thing you come to Uzbekistan it’s for the gorgeous architecture. I’ve traveled a bit and must say that Uzbekistan tops off my list for its opulent buildings, intricate tile work, sky-scraping minarets, and grandiose archways.
But don’t worry, there’s more to Uzbekistan than just blue tiles and madrasas. Uzbeks will welcome you with their kind hospitality and at very least a qazan of plov and glass of chai, the desolate region of Karakalpakstan & the Aral Sea lures in the most curious travelers, and the turbulent yet culturally diverse Fergana Valley is a magnet of interest. If you’re just starting to plan your trip, I recommend getting a copy of Bradt’s Uzbekistan guidebook to help you organize your own visit.
Looking for more info? Start here: The Uzbekistan Travel Guide
TWO WEEK UZBEKISTAN ITINERARY
Alternative Destinations For Those With More Time
- Uzbek Fergana Valley
- Aral Sea & Further Afield In Karakalpakstan
- Boysun & Dark Star Cave
- Termez (for those headed toward the Afghan border)
Short on time? Shop Uzbekistan tours
Uzbekistan Quick Tips & Info
Currency: The Uzbek Som (UZS). Current exchange rate (March 2020) is $1USD = 9,595 UZS. ATMs and currency exchangers are available in major cities and towns.
Getting In & Visas
Uzbekistan has recently undergone some major changes to its visa policy. Getting visas is continuing to get easier with several nationalities now eligible for an e-visa. Head here to read up more about visas in my Uzbekistan Travel Guide. Click here to apply for e-visas through the Uzbek MFA website. Read up more on Uzbekistan visa policies here.
For its not-so-huge size, transport in Uzbekistan is a bit slow. Shared taxis and trains are the most common ways to get around Uzbekistan. Shared taxis typically depart from one point in a city or town for a given destination and depart when full. Your accommodation can usually point out where the taxis depart from, and it’s also wise to ask what the usual price is because you will likely need to negotiate your price with the driver. Another option for traveling between cities is by train. Fast trains travel between cities during the daytime and slow trains travel by night. There are 3 different classes of trains: platzkarte, kuppe, and SV, (platzkarte being the cheapest and SV being the most expensive). You can purchase train tickets online here, but it is easy enough to purchase tickets at Uzbek railway stations. Read more about transport in Uzbekistan by clicking here. Hitchhiking is also a possibility when traveling in Uzbekistan, however, you can assume that drivers will expect payment, as anyone with a car (much like the rest of Central Asia) seconds as a taxi driver. For those traveling in their own vehicle, Uzbekistan drives on the right. Those on a tight schedule should consider flying between cities in Uzbekistan to save time.
Hostels, hotels, and guesthouses can be found in most cities in Uzbekistan. Being a bit of a police state you are required to show a registration slip for each accommodation you stay in for the duration of your trip as they are required to register you. Note that: You are only required to register every three days (thus meaning a couple of nights camping in-between a night at an official accommodation isn’t impossible). However, in the Fergana Valley, it is required for you to be registered every night, which is unfortunate as there is camping and trekking potential in this area especially nearer to the Tajik border. Start shopping for accommodations here.
Uzbek is the official language, while Russian is still widely used and understood. In border areas, Tajik, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, and Turkmen can be heard. The Karakalpaks of Karakalpakstan have their own language, similar to both Uzbek and Kazakh.
What to wear
No special clothing is really needed for Uzbekistan, though dressing somewhat modestly (covering knees and shoulders) is suggested. With that said you will see many, especially younger Uzbeks wearing sleeveless shirts and above-knee skirts in summer. Headscarves are required to enter certain mosques so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep one in your bag. Summer can be excruciatingly hot and winters downright frigid, so do plan accordingly for outfit choices. Expect to see the most conservative dress in the Fergana Valley.
Best time to go
By and far spring and autumn are the best times to visit with comfortable temperatures for exploring. That said, those two times are the peak of tourism in Uzbekistan making things a bit more crowded. Winter can be a great time with few tourists and the possibility of seeing one of the gorgeous Silk Road cities dusted in snow but plan to layer up to stay warm. Summer is boiling hot, so light and breathable fabrics and lots of water are recommended.
Two Week Uzbekistan Itinerary
Day 1-2: Tashkent
Most will start their trip from Tashkent if flying into the country. Other’s coming from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan overland will cross the Fergana Valley before arriving here. Tashkent isn’t the most exciting place in Uzbekistan, especially as far as architecture is concerned, but it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do there. Here are the highlights of Tashkent:
- Chorsu Bazaar: A lively bazaar where you can find anything from produce to spices to clothing and more. One of the busiest and most important bazaars in Central Asia that has been around for centuries, since the days of the Silk Road.
- Kulkedesh Medressa: Not far from the Chorsu Bazaar, this Medressa (Islamic School) warrants a stop. It will give you an idea of what you have to look forward to in Samarkand, but nowhere near as impressive. 5,000 UZS entrance fee.
- Hazrat Imam Complex: This is the main religious center in the city and one of the most popular tourist attractions. With turquoise-domed mosques and the Muyi Mubarak Library housing the oldest Quran and the hair of the Prophet Mohammed. 5,000 UZS entrance fee.
- Central Asian Plov Center: If there is one dish synonymous with Central Asia, it’s gotta be plov. Plov is a dish of rice fried in mutton fat, carrots, onions, meat, and raisins (depending on the chef, other ingredients may be involved). Try to get to the plov center before noon if you want to see the plov chefs in action frying up the plov in the giant qazan. 10,000-15,000 UZS for a plov meal. Looking for more recs for where to eat? Check out my Tashkent Restaurants Guide.
- Amir Timur Museum: Amir Timur is a huge part of Uzbekistan, as well as greater Central Asia’s history. Learn more here about the man who founded the Timurid Empire.
- Tashkent Metro: The Tashkent Metro stops are intricately and ornately decorated. In 2018 they began allowing photos to be taken inside the stations.
- Timur Square & Independence Square: These squares contain some of the important monuments, cultural sites, and political buildings.
- Tashkent TV Tower: At 375 meters, this is the tallest building in Central Asia. Located close to the Plov center.
- Hotel Uzbekistan: For those with a fondness for brutalist Soviet-style architecture, this place is photography heaven. This is the most famous hotel in Uzbekistan.
Learn more to plan the perfect visit: The Tashkent Travel Guide
Check out my journey through the Tashkent Metro in photos
Where To Stay In Tashkent
The Rooms Boutique Stay
| Agoda.com |
Getting Around Tashkent
The metro is the cheapest and easiest way to get around the city. Tickets cost 1,200 UZS each way regardless of destination. Click here for a great map and history (with photos) of the metro. There is a public bus system in Tashkent as well (though I haven’t been able to track down a route map online), rides are 1,200 UZS. Hailing a taxi is simple, just stand at the road’s edge with your hand out and before long a car will stop. Note that pretty much any car in Tashkent (and Uzbekistan) is a taxi. Negotiate a price before getting in.
Onwards Transport From Tashkent
- Samarkand: Trains take 2-4 hours, whereas a shared taxi journey will take 4 hours once the car departs. Flights are also available from Tashkent to Samarkand, flight time is 1 hour.
- Fergana Valley: Trains are available to Kokand (4 hours) and Andijon/Margilan (6 hours). A shared taxi to Kokand will take a bit longer than the train. Shared taxis to Andijan and Namangan can take a while to fill up, so it may be quicker to go to Kokand and change shared taxis to continue the journey.
Day 3-5: Samarkand
Samarkand is the most grandiose and well-known city of Uzbekistan, home to many of the country’s finest mosques and madrasas. Here are just a few sites to see in Samarkand, but for those looking for details check out my Samarkand City Guide.
- Registan: Samarkand’s most famous site, home to three massive & impressive madrasas. Make sure to watch the sunrise over the Registan, and don’t miss the evening light show. $8 USD entrance fee.
- Gur e Amir: The gorgeous mausoleum to Amir Timur, with ornate designs. $5 USD entrance fee.
- Shah i Zinda: The Necropolis housing the remains of many Uzbek rulers and their families. $8 USD entrance fee.
- Bibi Khanym Mosque: One of the world’s largest mosques. Has undergone massive restoration processes. $5 USD entrance fee.
- Ulugbek’s Observatory: Once one of the greatest observatories in the Islamic world, built by Timurid astronomer Ulugh Beg. $5 USD entrance fee.
Plan your time in Samarkand with the Samarkand Travel Guide
Where To Stay In Samarkand
Samarkand Center Hotel
| Booking.com |
Getting Around Samarkand
- By foot and taxi are the best ways to explore Samarkand. As with Tashkent make sure and negotiate taxi price before getting in.
Onwards Transport From Samarkand
- Tashkent: 2-4 hours by train, 4 hours by shared taxi.
- Bukhara: 2-3 hours by train, 4 hours by shared taxi, and 5-6 hours by bus.
- Nurata & Aydarkul: You can reach Nurata by taking a shared taxi from Samarkand to Navoi (2 hours), and another from Navoi to Nurata (1 hour). From Nurata or Navoi hire a private taxi to Aydarkul.
- Urgench & Khiva: You will need to go to Urgench if heading to Khiva by train from Samarkand. Trains take 12 hours. Once in Urgench, you can get a shared taxi to Khiva. Buses and shared taxis depart Samarkand bound for Khiva as well. From Urgench it is possible to cross the border into Turkmenistan to Dashoguz by shared taxi.
Day 6: Nurata & Aydarkul
Nurata and Aydarkul are both worth a stop between Samarkand and Bukhara to break up the journey and to get a night staying in rural Uzbekistan. The main attractions in Nurata are the Chashma Complex and Nur Fortress. Nurata can easily be seen in about 1-2 hours. Continue onto Aydarkul Yurt Camp for the evening to sleep under the stars and get the chance to go camel trekking in the Kyzylkum Desert.
Where To Stay In Nurata & Aydarkul
- Aydar Yurt Camp
- Nurata Accommodations
- Navoi Accommodations
- For those not quite as adventurous, opt to stay in Nurata, Navoi, or continue on to Bukhara
Getting Around Nurata & Aydarkul
- Nurata is easily explored on foot. You will need to hire a vehicle to reach Aydarkul Yurt Camp.
- Bukhara: Shared taxi from Nurata to Navoi (1 hour) and Navoi to Bukhara (2 hours).
- Samarkand: Shared taxi from Nurata to Navoi (1 hour) and from Navoi to Samarkand (2 hours).
Day 7-9: Bukhara
Bukhara is easily walkable with many great sites as it once was an important trading city along the ancient Silk Road. Bukhara’s highlights can be seen in 1-2 days, but after a night in Aydarkul or the long journey from Samarkand, it’s worth spending the 3rd day here.
- Arc Citadel: A gigantic fort with houses exhibitions and a mosque. $2.50 USD entrance fee.
- Lab i Havz: The main square of houses and ornate buildings in Bukhara.
- Po i Kalyan: Houses an impressive mosque, madrasas, and minaret. 7,000 UZS entrance fee for the Kalyan Mosque.
- Chor Minor: You may recognize this building from the front cover of the old Lonely Planet: Central Asia guide. It’s a quaint 4-minaret topped mosque that is now a souvenir shop.
- Bolo Havz Mosque: A beautiful mosque with impressive ceiling and woodwork.
Plan your stay with my Bukhara Travel Guide
Where To Stay In Bukhara
Getting Around Bukhara
- Bukhara is best explored on foot.
Onwards Transport From Bukhara
- Samarkand: 2-3 hours by train, 4 hours by shared taxi, and 5-6 hours by bus.
- Khiva: 8-9 hours by bus to Khiva via Urgench, by shared taxi 7-8 hours, and by train 8 hours via Urgench.
- Urgench: 7 hours by train.
Day 10-11: Khiva
Stepping into Khiva is like stepping into a living museum. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the walled-off Itchan Qala is a walkable time warp back to the days of the ancient Silk Road and is packed full of history. Some may opt for a third day in Khiva (I did). Here are just a few main sites in Khiva:
- Itchan Qala: Khiva’s historic old town, surrounded by the Kuhna Arc- the walls that surround the city. This is where most of the sites are located. $10 USD entrance fee.
- Islam Khodja Minaret: The massive minaret towering over the Itchan Qala. For 5,000 UZS climb up the winding staircase to the top for excellent views of the city, best at sunset.
- Mohammed Amin Khan Medressa: The largest mosque in all of Central Asia. Plenty of stalls to purchase souvenirs and even houses a lux hotel.
- Kalta Minor: This unfinished squatty minaret is easily recognizable by its blue tiles.
- Pakhlavan Makhmud Mausoleum: Necropolis to Pakhlavan Makhmud and religious center of the Itchan Qala. Has an entrance fee of $3 USD separate from the Itchan Qala ticket.
Want to plan the perfect visit? Check out my Khiva Travel Guide
Where To Stay In Khiva
Getting Around Khiva
- Khiva is best explored on foot.
Onwards Transport From Khiva
- Nukus: Shared taxis will take about 3 hours.
- Bukhara: 8-9 hours by bus, 7-8 hours by shared taxi and 8 hours by train.
- Samarkand: 12 hours by train via Urgench.
Day 12-14: Nukus, Castles of Khorezm & Moynaq
Nukus is the capital of the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan and will be your home-base for exploring. The main attraction in Nukus is the Savitsky Art Museum, filled with rare avant-garde pieces and Karakalpak artwork. Another site worth seeing in Nukus is the Mizdakhan Necropolis. The nearby crumbling ancient castles of Khorezm that once guarded the Silk Route are worth taking the time to explore. Head to desolate Moynaq to see the defunct old port that was once bustling before the Aral Sea was drained and the ship graveyard. For more about Karakalpakstan, check out my Karakalpakstan Travel Guide.
- Savitsky Museum of Art (25,000 UZS entrance fee)
- Mizdakhan Necropolis
- Ancient Castle of Khorezm
- Ship Graveyard
- Visit the Shores of the Aral Sea
Find more to check out in the area in the Karakalpakstan Travel Guide
Where To Stay In Nukus
Getting Around Nukus, Khorezm Castles & Moynaq
- Nukus is easily walked.
- For the Castles of Khorezm, it is best to arrange private transport. For those wanting to save time, I would recommend hiring your own transport from Bukhara or Urgench and making a day of it en route to Nukus.
- Moynaq can be reached by shared taxis or by private car hire.
Onwards Transport From Nukus
- Khiva: A shared taxi to Khiva is 3 hours, though expect them to fill slowly.
- Tashkent: A flight to Tashkent is 2 hours, a shared taxi will take roughly 8 hours.
- Turkmenistan: There is a lesser-used border crossing with Turkmenistan here at Nukus. In my experience, it was a simple and fairly quick (for Central Asia) process.
Alternative Uzbekistan Itinerary Destinations
The Uzbek Fergana Valley is a fascinating region packed full of culture and history. If traveling to/from Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan you’ll be passing through here, so why not spend a little time? Fascinating things to see include mosques, madrasas, and Silk making workshops. Cities to explore are Fergana, Kokand, Andijon, Margilan, and Namangan. Read more about the Uzbek Fergana Valley in this section here. Note that when staying in the Fergana Valley you will be required to be registered every night– meaning that you will need to stay in an official accommodation (No Couchsurfing or camping, unfortunately). From this area, you can easily reach Osh, Kyrgyzstan, and Khujand, Tajikistan.
Transport To & From The Fergana Valley
- Tashkent: Trains are available from Kokand (4 hours) and Andijon/Margilan (6 hours). Expect shared taxis to take a bit longer than trains. Kokand is typically the quickest for shared taxis to continue the journey.
- Kyrgyzstan: Shared taxis depart from Andijon bound for Osh.
- Tajikistan: Shared taxis depart in the early day for Khujand from Kokand.
Aral Sea & Karakalpakstan
For those with a little extra time, you can arrange tours to the Aral Sea– as in the part where there is still water. Plan to camp at the lake’s current shores. Karakalpakstan can be a rewarding area to travel by motorbike; however, it isn’t recommended in the summertime. Check out Ayim Tour’s Aral Sea departures.
Boysun & Dark Star Cave
Boysun is the jumping-off point for the Dark Star Cave located in the Boysuntov Mountains. A speleology-freak’s dream. I am unaware of anyone currently offering guided trips to Dark Star (I am personally dying to get here). But in the meantime, check out this article and photos about it at National Geographic.
For those headed onward (or from) Afghanistan you’ll likely spend at least a night in Termez. If you have a little extra time and find yourself in Termez looking for things to do check out Sultan Saodat Ensemble, the Buddhist Stupas, the Mausoleum of Al Hakim At Termezi, and Kirkkiz Fortress. Check out Termez accommodations here.
Have Any Questions Not Answered In This Two Week Uzbekistan Itinerary?
Ask in the comments below!