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Uzbekistan Travel Guide

Uzbekistan Travel Guide was updated April 2020 The Uzbekistan Travel Guide was originally written June 2018

The Central Asian cradle of culture, Silk Road history, Caravansarais, and traces of great conquerors from Genghis Khan to Amir Timur and more are just a few reasons to travel in Uzbekistan. The blue-tiled Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva are the biggest draws for those visiting the country, but without much effort, you can veer off the beaten path to discover little-visited mosques & madrasas, villages exploding with culture, yurt camps, the desolate semi-autonomous region of Karakalpakstan and so much more. In this Uzbekistan travel guide you will find information including:

UZBEKISTAN TRAVEL GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS

Money
Language
Religion
What to Wear
How Long To Visit
When To Visit
Get Around
Get In
Entering Uzbekistan: Drugs, Porn & Photos
Visas
Food
Accommodations
Where to go in Uzbekistan
Central Uzbekistan
The Uzbek Fergana Valley
Karakalpakstan
Southeastern Uzbekistan
Trekking
Uzbek Festivals
Budget
Packing List
Internet & Mobile
Safety

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Uzbekistan Map
Click map above to view on Google Maps

Practical Information

Money

The official currency of Uzbekistan is the Uzbek Som (UZS). The current exchange rate (March 2021) is $1 USD = 10,520 UZS, however, it’s worth noting that the Uzbek Som is in constant fluctuation and when I was visiting in early October this year it was ranging from 9,000-9,600 UZS to the dollar and could change from hour to hour.

In September 2017 Uzbekistan abolished its black market and finally bumped its bank rate up to the black market rate, so the days of avoiding banks and official money exchangers are over. Another thing to note is that 10,000, 50,000, and 100,000 bills were introduced.

When I visited in 2016 the largest note was 5000 UZS, so my bag at all times was stuffed with cash until it was about to explode and I had like $40 worth of UZS on me.

Language

The official language of Uzbekistan is Uzbek. Uzbek is a Turkic language and is closely related to Uyghur. Russian is widely spoken and understood due to Uzbekistan being a former state of the Soviet Union.

Tajik is spoken in Bukhara and Samarkand as these cities were formerly part of Tajikistan prior to their addition into the Soviet Union (the two countries still have sour feelings toward each other because of this). Tajik is also common in the Uzbek Fergana Valley.

Karakalpak is spoken in the semi-autonomous state of Karakalpakstan. Karakalpak, like Uzbek, is a Turkic language, however, it has more ties to the Kazakh language.

Religion

Islam is the predominant religion in Uzbekistan with 88% of the population following the religion. Eastern Orthodox comprises 9% of the population and the remaining 3% practice all other forms of religion.

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Gur e Amir Mausoleum in Samarkand

What To Wear

Being a majority Islamic country it’s recommended to dress more on the conservative side. It’s advisable that skirts and shorts go to at least the knee. The headscarf is not required except for inside mosques.

Uzbekistan has 4 seasons with winter being pretty cold (-10 C) and summers being uncomfortably hot (sometimes over 40 C), so make sure to have clothing suitable for the temperatures.

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Women in front of the Kutlug Oko at Shah i Zinda Ensemble in Samarkand

How Long To Visit

Typical tourist visas are given for 15 and 30 days, so these are the most common amounts of time spent in the country. With that said there are many visitors who spend just a week traveling Uzbekistan spending a couple of days each in the Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva.


Start Planning: 2 Weeks In Uzbekistan, A Backpacker’s Itinerary


When To Visit

The best times to visit Uzbekistan are spring and fall- April, May, September and October as this is when temperatures are most comfortable.

Summers (June, July, August) can be miserably hot throughout most of the country, and winters (November-March) can be downright cold. Although it’s cold, Uzbekistan can be beautiful in the winter months with the iconic Silk Road cities dusted in snow.

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A group of friends I met at Kamchik Pass, note the jackets as it was unusually cold for October

Get Around

Uzbekistan is fairly easy to get around in. Most tourist sites are reachable by train (note that there is an express and modern Afrosiyob train and the old school and slower Sharq trains). Visit the Uzbek Railways website to see schedules and to book (the site isn’t very reliable, I was unable to book train tickets online in October 2019).

Just as easy is traveling around by shared taxis between cities. Depending on where you’re headed you’ll need to go to a specific taxi stand in town to find a shared taxi to the place you’re going. Ask your accommodation or a local and they’ll know where to go. Make sure you negotiate a price before you get in a car.

Taxis are the best way to go longer distances within cities, and since just about anyone with a car functions as a taxi driver you won’t be left waiting long to get a ride. Just stand at the edge of the street with your arm extended outwards and tap your hand up and down. I recommend asking a local how much your hop should cost because you will need to haggle your price before you get in.

You can hitchhike in Uzbekistan, however, you will be hard-pressed to find a ride for free. Since most anyone with a car will function as a taxi driver most drivers will expect payment.

One anomaly to this is during the Mongol Rally. On both my trips through Central Asia I met many people hitchhiking the rally as rally drivers will pick up people sometimes.

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Push-starting the taxi to leave Fergana City

Get In

Uzbekistan has international airports in Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Fergana City, Navoi, Urgench, and Qarshi. The most common airport to enter the country from is Tashkent.

As Uzbekistan is also commonly visited by those overlanding through Central Asia, there are several border crossings with Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan. To read up more on border crossings head to Caravanistan.

Entering Uzbekistan: Drugs, Porn, Photos & Drones

In the past (pre-2018) Uzbek officials would typically scour through tourists’ bags upon arrival (and departure) at borders and airports. Prior to 2018 many over-the-counter and prescription drugs that are legal in many countries were illegal in Uzbekistan. Antidepressants, anything containing codeine, sleeping pills, and more were all on the list.

Books containing anything regarding religion, history, or politics were almost always confiscated if found, and porn, whether in print, on laptops, or phones would be confiscated or deleted.

Now, (2019 on), bringing in medications is no longer a problem. It isn’t usual that you’d even have a thorough bag searching like the old days, so bringing in books shouldn’t be much a problem either.

On occasion, I’ve heard of phones being searched, but it’s not the norm. However, in the past when I’d had my phone searched, I noticed the officers are giddily scrolling and smiling (I got the vibe they were hoping to find nudes, and they were disappointed to find nothing except memes, photos of my parrot, and random snaps from my Central Asia trip). My advice is that if you have any porn downloaded on your devices, just delete it before you arrive in Uzbekistan.

Also, do be aware that if your phone or laptop is searched and they find photos of sensitive locations (border area, military installations, government buildings, etc.) you’ll be forced to delete them.

In fact, on my first visit to Uzbekistan, it took about 6 hours to cross the Dostyk border between Osh and Andijon as officers went through bags and removed one item at a time, wanting to know what each thing was. Fast forward to 2019 (my most recent visit) and crossing the Tajik-Uzbek border from Panjakent to Samarkand took mere minutes. Nothing was searched and was overall a pleasant experience.

Visas

Uzbekistan has made major changes to its visa policy in the last few months, introducing an e-visa and allowing several more nationalities are visit visa free.

An old Uzbek visa

E-Visa

The recently introduced Uzbek e-visa is making travel to Uzbekistan easier than ever before. The following countries are eligible for an e-visa:

Albania, Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Cote d’ Ivoire, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, Gabon, Ghana, Guyana, India, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Macedonia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Morocco, Nauru, Nepal, North Korea, Oman, Palau, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Thailand, Tonga, Tunisia, USA, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

E-visas are issued for single entries for 30 days. Apply for your e-visa here.

Visa-Free

Uzbekistan has expanded the nationalities eligible to enter visa free. The following countries can enter Uzbekistan visa free for 30-90 depending on nationality:

All EU citizens, Andorra, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belize, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa, Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Georgia, Grenadam Guatamala, Honduras, Iceland, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Russia, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Switzerland, South Korea, Tajikistan, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, UAE, UK, and the Vatican.

LOI (Letter Of Invitation)

Some countries still required to get a traditional visa may have to submit a LOI in order to be granted an Uzbek Visa. If you do need an LOI and you are not booked on a tour group, you can get one here for $65 USD.

Food

Uzbek food is very similar to the cuisines served up all around Central Asia. In cities, it’s easy to find international cuisine for those needing a break from Central Asian dishes. Check out my Best Restaurants in Tashkent Guide.

Non

As in much of Central Asia bread is life. You’ll see the round discs of non in bazaars all over the country.

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Non (bread)

Chai

No Uzbek meal is complete without a cup of chai.

Laghman

Popular noodle dish, typically with mutton or beef, spices, and various vegetables. Sometimes plov will have fruit or chickpeas.

Plov

Fried rice typically served up with meat, onion, carrot, and sometimes other vegetables, fruit, and chickpeas.

Manti

Noodle dumplings typically served stuffed with meat and onion. Sometimes can be found in a vegetarian version with either potato or pumpkin as a filling. Typically served with sour cream and can be found served in a soup, or in a sauce.

There are similar smaller dumplings called chuchvara.

Shashlik

Grilled skewers of meat. Beef and mutton are the most common. Chicken is less common and on occasion, you can find veggie shashlik.

Samsa

Similar to Indian samosa. Most commonly stuffed with minced meat and onion.

Dimlama

An Uzbek soup of mutton or beef, potato, onion, vegetables, and optionally fruit.

Shorbo

A spiced soup that will typically contain mutton or beef and potato.

Naryn

Noodle dish of homemade noodles and horse meat (called Beshbarmak in Kyrgyzstan as well).

Accommodations

In cities and most places of interest, you’ll find hotels and hostels. In more rural areas you’ll find yurt camps. Note that when departing Uzbekistan you will need to hand over the vouchers for every accommodation you’ve stayed at.

Sometimes border officers will check them thoroughly, other times they hardly glance at them, or when departing from Tashkent Airport in 2019 I wasn’t even asked for them.

Note that for your time spent in the Fergana Valley you must be registered every night you spend there. Your hotel or hostel will take care of this for you.

If you do not do this it can get you into some trouble. If you take an overnight train in the Fergana Valley keep your ticket as this will be considered your registration for that night.

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Khiva

Where To Go In Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is a fairly large country, but the Silk Road giants of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva are all clustered not too far from each other. Veer much off of this well-beaten path and you’ll get to see another side of Uzbekistan.


Need Help Planning? Read The Perfect Two Week Uzbekistan & Tajikistan Itinerary


Central Uzbekistan

Central Uzbekistan is by far the most visited region in the country with the Silk Road giants of Samarkand, Bukhara & Khiva sitting within Central Uzbekistan, as well as the capital of Tashkent.

Barak Khan Madrasa, Khast Imam, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Khast Imam Complex, Tashkent

Tashkent

Tashkent is the biggest city in Uzbekistan, as well as Central Asia. While it doesn’t appear to be an old city, Tashkent has a history that dates back an estimated 2,000 years. The reason for the newer look is the 1966 earthquake that decimated the city.

The biggest attractions in Tashkent include the Imam Hazroti Complex, Sheik Khantour Mausoleum Complex, a plethora of museums, Chorsu Bazaar, and the ornate Tashkent Metro Stations.

If you’re tired of Central Asian food, there’s an array of international cuisine including Korean, Georgian, Italian restaurants, and more. Read up more on where to eat in Tashkent in my Tashkent Restaurant Guide.

From personal experience, I recommend staying The Rooms Boutique Stay, located about a 10-minute walk from Oybek & Ming Orik Metro Stations. If you’re looking for something super cheap try Top Hostel and Topchan Hostel, which are both highly recommended.

Shop Tashkent accommodations here.


Check out the Tashkent Metro in photos and plan your time in the city with the Tashkent Travel Guide


Samarkand

Samarkand is probably the most well-known city in Uzbekistan, and for good reason- it’s home to more Silk Road historical sites than you’ll believe. A few must-sees include the Registan’s Shirdor Madrasa, Ulugbek Madrasa & Tilla Kari Madrasa, Gur e Amir Mausoleum, Shah i Zinda Ensemble, Afrosiab, Bibi-Khanym Mosque, Ulugbek’s Observatory…. just to name a handful!

I’ve stayed at Samarkand Center Hotel, which I highly recommend and I’ve splurged and stayed at the Konstantin Hotel in Samarkand, but there is an array of accommodations to fit most budgets. Amir Hostel comes highly rated among backpackers.

Check out other Samarkand accommodations here.

Want a guided tour of Samarkand? Check out this one-day Samarkand tour as well as this Samarkand wine tasting tour.


Start Planning: The Samarkand City Guide


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Registan Square, Samarkand
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The doorways of Tilla Kari Madrasa in Registan Square
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The dome inside Tilla Kari Madrasa

Shahrisabz

Shahrisabz doesn’t have the major attractions of Samarkand but also doesn’t have the crowds either. Shahrisabz is most well known as the birthplace of Amir Timur. There are several points of interest in Shahrisabz that can be easily visited on a day trip from Samarkand.

For those opting to spend the night, check out Shahrisabz accommodations here.

Rabat Malik Caravanserai

Rabat Malik Caravanserai is a ruin of the complex built by the orders of Karakhanid Shams-al-Mulk Nasr who ruled Samarkand from 1068 to 1080. It’s located along the M37 between Samarkand and Bukhara.

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Rabat Malik Caravanserai

Bukhara

Bukhara was an important trading city along the ancient Silk Road with plenty to explore in a couple of days. Make sure to visit the Arc Citadel, Labi Havz, Poy i Kalyan & Kalyan Minaret, Mausoleum to Ismoil Somoni, Chor Bakr, and the many bazaars around the city.

The Samani Bukhara is a great hotel right in the heart of Bukhara from personal experience. Shop Bukhara accommodations here.


Plan your visit to Bukhara: The Bukhara Travel Guide


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Ulugbek Madrasa, Bukhara
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Po i Kalyan

Gijdovan

Gijdovan is located just outside of Bukhara as you approach the city on your way down from Samarkand. The main draw to visit is the Gijdiovan Ceramic Museum ran by the Narzullaev family. Uzbeks are known for their impressive ceramic work.

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Gijduvan Ceramic Museum just outside Bukhara

Nurata

Located at the foot of the Nurata Mountains and at the fringe of the Kyzylkum Desert. Make sure to explore the Nur Fortress and the Chashma Complex.

Shop Nurata accommodations here.

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Chashma Complex, Nurata
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Nur Fortress, Nurata

Aydar Kul

Aydar Kul is a large lake in the Kyzylkum Desert nearby to Nurata. Aydar Kul only exists because of a flood of the Syr Darya River breaching the Chardara Reservoir. There is a great yurt camp near to its shores that is a great place to stargaze from or take a sunset camel ride from.

Stay at Aydar Yurt Camp during your stay in Aydar Kul where you’ll sleep under the stars and take a camelback ride during sunset.

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Bactrian Camels at Aydar Kul
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Aydar Yurt Camp

Khiva

The original capital of Khorezm and the Khanate of Khiva. Khiva ended up being my favorite of Uzbekistan’s Silk Road cities.

Khiva’s Itchan Kala was Uzbekistan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Must-see sites include the Itchan Qala’s City Walls & Gates, Kuhna Arc, Kalta Minor, Mohammed Rahim Khan Madrasa & Square, Juma Mosque, Pahlawan Mohammed Mausoleum, Islam Khodja Minaret, Shirgiz Khan Madrasa, Mohammed Amin Khan Madrasa, Ak Mosque, Bogbonli Mosque, Said Alauddin Mosque, as well as Kutli Murad Inak Madrasa, Khan Anush Mohammed’s Bath, Uc Avlija Mausoleum, Tash Chauli, Khan Allakuli Madrasa, Tim, and the Ditchan Qala.

I opted to splurge for the Hayat Inn, but it was nothing to write home over. Check out other Khiva accommodations here.


Going to Khiva? Read the Khiva Travel Guide to make the most of your time there


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The sun setting on Khiva from atop the Islam Khoja Minaret
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Mohammed Rahim Khan Madrasa, Khiva
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Mohammed Rahim Khan Madrasa in Khiva

The Uzbek Fergana Valley

The Fergana Valley has a tense feel to it as Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Kyrgyz all have strong feelings that the valley belongs to them. With that said, occasional strife does break out, however, it usually wouldn’t affect tourists.

Margilan

Margilan is Uzbekistan’s Silk Capital that sits at the crossroads of the Silk Road in the Uzbek Fergana Valley. A stop in Margilan would be incomplete without a visit to the Yodgorlik Silk Factory to get a lesson on how Silk is made from start to finish.

Make sure to pay a visit to Chakar & Toron Bazar Mosques, Khodja Maggiz Mausoleum, Said Ahmed Khodja Madrasa, and Pir Siddiq Complex.

For those opting to spend the night in Margilan, shop accommodations here.

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Woman making silk at Yodgorlik
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Weaving silk at Yodgerlik Factory in Margilan

Fergana City

Fergana City is the Uzbek Fergana Valley’s transportation hub and a great place to base yourself for exploring more of the Fergana Valley.

Shop Fergana City hotels and guesthouses here.

Kokand

Kokand will be the first introduction for those crossing from Tajikistan’s Fergana Valley. Kokand is a far cry from Tajikistan’s Fergana Valley cities with its obvious wealth in comparison, Silk Road Palace, and fancy hotels. Make sure to pay visits to Juma Mosque and the Khudayar Khan Palace.

Check out Kokand hotels here.

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The Palace of Khudayar Khan in Kokand
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Inside Khudayar Khan Palace

Andijan

Andijan will be a first welcome to those crossing the border from Kyrgyzstan. There’s not a lot to see on Andijan aside from a handful of mosques.

Search Andijan Hotels here.

Namangan

Namangan is Uzbekistan’s Islamic Center. Make sure to visit the Khodja Amin Mosque and the Wahabbi Mosque of Ota Valikhon Tur.

Karakalpakstan

Karakalpakstan is a semiautonomous state of Uzbekistan that is rarely visited. The fascinating Qala Castles of Khorezm, Savitsky Museum, and remnants of the Aral Sea sit in this region. Read more about Karakalpakstan in my Karakalpak Travel Guide.


Plan your time in Nukus, Moynaq, The Aral Sea and beyond: The Karakalpakstan Guide


Ancient Qala Castles of Khorezm

The eight ancient castles sit perched along the Kyzylkum Desert. They were built to protect ancient Khorezm from invaders traveling along the Silk Road.

The eight UNESCO World Heritage protected castles are Toprak Qala, Ayaz Qala, Koy-Kirilgan Qala, Big Guldursun fortress, Pil Qala, Anka Qala, Kurgashin Qala, and Djanbas Qala.

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Toprak Qala
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Ayaz Qala & Toprak Qala

Nukus

Lonely Planet describes Nukus as desolate and hopeless, but I found Nukus to be inhabited by friendly locals with a busy bazaar. The city does have a cold Soviet feel to it mostly due to the apartment blocks and architecture.

Make sure to stop and check out one of the best collections of Soviet Avant-garde artwork at the Savitsky Museum (Nukus Museum of Art).

The best option for accommodations in Nukus is the Hotel Jipek Joli (note that there is a different hotel in Nukus called Jipek Joli Inn). You can shop other options here.

Moynaq

Moynaq has a more desolate and hopeless feeling to it. Moynaq used to sit at the shores of the Aral Sea and was a busy port.

It now sits about 100 kilometers from the edge of the present Aral Sea. Most who visit Moynaq do so to visit the ship graveyard and as a stop on a camping tour to the shores of what is now the Aral Sea.

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The Moynaq ship graveyard

Aral Sea

One of the world’s worst environmental disasters. In a poorly executed diversion effort by the Soviets, more than 90% of the shallow lake has disappeared.

The basin is continuing to desertify and is now covered in toxic chemicals due to weapons testing in the area. You can visit the shores of the new Aral Sea by tour.

Southeastern Uzbekistan

Southeastern Uzbekistan still remains off the tourist track. The most intriguing draw to the region would have to be the Dark Star Cave near Boysun.

Denau

You’ll likely find yourself in Denau only if you’re crossing the Tajikistan-Uzbek border in transit between Dushanbe and Termez. If you end up spending a day in Denau visit Said Attalik Madrasa and the bazaar next to it, the ruins of Beg Denau Fortress, and the arboretum.

You can use Denau as a base of you want to explore Kalchayan, Dalverzin Teppe, and Sangartek Falls.

Denau could be a great place to explore the Uzbek Hissar Mountains, however, this prospect can be a bit difficult with Uzbekistan’s policies on being registered in a hotel while you are staying in the country, as well as areas close to the Tajik border being off-limits.

Boysun

Boysun is the jumping-off point for those wanting to explore the Dark Star Cave in the Boysuntov Mountains. Teshik-Tash and Festivalnaya are other nearby caves that can be explored. Boysun village itself is worth a visit to see the homes adorned with colorful carpets called Suzane.

Katta Langar

Want to explore beautiful Uzbek architecture without the crowds? Katta Langar is the perfect alternative. Set in green hills with a 500 year old mausoleum.

Termez

Termez has a long-standing history of over 2,500 years as it was a stop along the ancient Silk Road. It’s not very touristed but does have a handful of hotels and restaurants to offer.

Termez is a good stop for those interested in archeological sites and Sufi Islamic sites. Must-see spots in Termez are Khanaka Mausoleum Kokildor-Ota, Al Hakim At-Termezi Mausoleum, Sultan Saodat, Jarkorgan Minaret, Kirk-Kiz, Fayaz-Teppe, Karateppa, and Zurmala Stupa.

Most who come to Termez are stopping en route to Mazar e Sharif in Afghanistan.

Shop Termez accommodations here.

Qarshi

Qarshi has a long history of being sacked by different empires. It was once the Sogdian city of Nakhshab, then was overtaken by the Arabs to become the city of Nasaf, and then became the second city of the Emirate of Bukhara.

Sites to see in Qarshi include Bekmir/Rabiya Madrasa, Khodja Abdul Aziz Madrasa, Khodja Kurban Madrasa, Kurgancha Mosque, Chakar Mosque, Sharafbai Madrasa, Kok Gumbez Mosque, Namazgokh Mosque, public baths, and the Kashkadarya Bridge.

Check out Qarshi accommodations here.

Trekking

Although Uzbekistan is fairly flat and deserty, there is a few treks believe it or not!

Chimgan

Rocky and forested, the Chimgan Mountains offer trekking around in tulip-covered hills in the summer to the summit of 3300 meter Greater Peak Chimgan. In winter there is a ski complex to go make some turns.

There are CBT (community based tourism) guided hikes offered connecting Chimgan and Beldersay, check out the 3-day hike here, and the 5-day and 6-day treks that include the Western Tien Shan as well.

Beldersay

Home to the alleged longest ski lift in Central Asia, Beldersay is a bit steeper and closer to Tashkent than Chimgan.

In summer hike around in the pine tree forests, explore the Beldersay Gorge, Marble Waterfall, and even view ancient petroglyphs of hunters and ibex.

There are CBT (community based tourism) guided hikes offered connecting Chimgan and Beldersay, check out the 3-day hike here, and the 5-day and 6-day treks that include the Western Tien Shan as well.

Hayat

Stay in homestays in the Nurata Mountains, visit small mountain villages, and see the rare and very endangered Severtzov’s wild sheep.

There are CBT (community based tourism) guided hikes offered into the Nurata Mountains from Hayat Village that you can get itineraries and request tours of here.

Aydar Kul

Trekking around Aydar Kul is a great addition to a stay at the yurt camp along the lake’s shore. Aydar Yurt Camp can arrange trekking and camel treks around the area.

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Aydar Yurt Camp

Uzbekistan Tours

Uzbekistan is probably the most touristy of the Central Asia republics. Many local companies offer tours around the country.

Additionally, the foreign companies of Intrepid and GAdventures offer tours around Uzbekistan. Intrepid offers tours that traverse the entire Silk Road, where you can either join the whole nearly 12-week endeavor or just join for certain legs of the trip. G Adventures offers tours of just Uzbekistan alone, as well as tours of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and even Kazakhstan overland from Uzbekistan.

You can also shop tours from 1-dayers to multi day trips here.

A great Central Asia tour company offering tours in Uzbekistan and the greater region is Kalpak Travel. If you mention the promo code Nicki-Kalpak2017 you will get 5% off your booking!

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Islam Khodja Minaret in Khiva

Uzbek Festivals

Chimgan Extreme– A winter sporting even held in Chimgan each year in late February.

Nowruz– Persian New Year. Held on March 21 each year. Festivals including food, dances, and performances will be held all over the country. Families will usually celebrate at home as well.

Bukhara Silk & Spice Festival– Held in late May in Bukhara. The festival includes national games, traditional food, Uzbek fashion design, and folk performances.

Chimgan Echo Festival– A music festival held in the Chimgan area in early June each year celebrating singers and songwriters.

Sharq Taronalari– Held in late August every other year (odd years) in Samarkand’s Registan Square. Sharq Taronalari means Music of the Orient and celebrates traditional music from all over the world.

Independence Day– September 1. Cultural events, concerts and festivals take place throughout Uzbekistan.

Stihia Music Festival– The first one was held on September 14, 2018, and was probably the biggest event in Moynaq since the 1960s. This electronic rave took place in Moynaq’s Ship Graveyard. Future dates are TBA, but you can check the event website here.

Bazar-Art– An art exhibition held in November in Tashkent. Dates are TBD for 2020.

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A defunct Soviet carnival located outside the Itchan Qala in Khiva

Uzbekistan Travel Budget

Uzbekistan is on the more expensive end of the budget spectrum for Central Asia, but that doesn’t mean backpacking on a budget isn’t impossible. Here are some rough estimates for different travel styles.

200,000 UZS/$20 USD Per Day

Staying in hostel dorms, travel by marshrutka & train, dining in local eateries and bazaars.

400,000 UZS/$40 USD Per Day

Staying in decent double rooms, travel by a mix of public & private transport, dining in restaurants, taking occasional guided tours.

800,000 UZS/$80 USD + Per Day

Sleeping luxury hotels, traveling by private hire, dining in fine & international restaurants, taking private & guided tours.

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Kussam Ibn Abbas Mosque at the Shah i Zinda Ensemble in Samarkand

Packing List For Uzbekistan Travel

You’ll want to pack light for Uzbekistan as it’s the best country in Central Asia for picking up great souvenirs and handcrafts including carpets, silks, and ceramics. Here are a few items I recommend for traveling in Uzbekistan.

  • An external battery pack can be a great help on long marshrutka or bus trips.
  • I use the Osprey Ariel 65L backpack and recommend Osprey’s products because of their guarantee. Shop backpacks here!
  • A good pair of hiking boots if you plan to do any trekking. My personal favorite is the La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX hiking boot.
  • I personally use the Katadyn water filter. Tap water in the entire country is unsafe for drinking and natural water sources can be contaminated. Using a water purification system can also help cut down on plastic usage.
  • A headlamp will come in handy at yurt camps or if going on a mountain trek to stay at village homestays.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen! The Uzbek sun can be harsh.
  • The best guidebook to Uzbekistan in my opinion is Bradt’s Uzbekistan. Lonely Planet’s Central Asia Guidebook and their phrasebook can come in handy if you’re planning a larger Central Asia trip covering multiple countries.
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Women working on a silk carpet at Hujum Silk Carpet Factory in Samarkand

Internet & Mobile

Wifi is widely available throughout the country in hotels & hostels, as well as some restaurants in larger cities.

Sim cards right now are easy to pick up, the two largest mobile services are UCell and Beeline. In the past mobile companies would not let foreigners register a sim card, and would need to find a local who would register one for them.

As Uzbekistan can falter back and forth on policies such as this it could go back to this way without much to any notice. Some news sites, blogs, and of course opposition, porn, and torrent sites are blocked in Uzbekistan. Download a VPN to get around blocks.

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The outside walls of the Ichan Kala, Khiva

Uzebekistan Travel Safety

In general, Uzbekistan is completely safe for travelers. It is essentially a police state, and in cities you will see plenty of police walking around everywhere. However, there are a few things to watch out for including:

  • All border areas, especially those in the Fergana Valley. Many areas are still landmined, so exercise extreme caution if planning to trek around in these areas.
  • The Fergana Valley can get tense at times as there are still hostilities between Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan over the obscurely created borders.
  • Occasional purse/wallet snatching and pickpocketing happens in crowded areas, so do be aware at all times.
  • In general, Uzbekistan is safe for solo female travelers and the general precautions apply. Read more on solo female travel in Uzbekistan.
  • Say no to any stranger walking up offering to show you the nightlife, usually, it’s part of a scam.
  • Carry a scanned copy of your passport info page. It’s pretty uncommon to be bribed by police here, but if you are asked by law enforcement for identification it’s better to hand over a copy rather than have them potentially hold your passport hostage for ransom.

Read: Solo Female Travel In Uzbekistan


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In the courtyard of Khudayar Khan Palace in Kokand

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4 thoughts on “Uzbekistan Travel Guide”

  1. Hi Nicki,
    I Just wanted to thank you for this informative guide. I leave for Uzbekistan in April and cannot wait. I’ve added Nukus/Moynaq/Aral Sea, the desert castles and Aydarkul to my itinerary after seeing your photos and reading what you wrote about them. Thanks for tipping me off to them they seem right up my alley! 🙂

    Doug

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