Emarbking on an Uzbekistan itinerary is perfect for those travellers who enjoy wandering off the beaten path. This majestic Silk Road nation captures the attention of only the most intrepid adventurers.
With its rich culture, diverse history, and magnificent Islamic architecture, there is nowhere quite like Uzbekistan. Anywhere between two and three weeks is a perfect time to dedicate to your first trip to Uzbekistan.
If you are short on time, you can also get a flavour for this beautiful country and see its main highlights in just a week. At the very least, you should not miss Bukhara, Samarkand, and Tashkent.
This Uzbekistan travel itinerary follows a recommended two week route. This is the route that I followed during my recent solo female trip to Uzbekistan. I have also written variations of the trip schedule, and suggested some possible extensions here so as to suit every time allowance and travel style.
A trip to Uzbekistan can also be combined with an exploration of other silk road destinations. For example, nearby Kyrgyzstan or Azerbaijan.
- 1 Uzbekistan Travel Itinerary: The Perfect Two Week Route
- 2 Days One and Two: Tashkent
- 2.1 Haggle Your Way Through the Chorsu Bazaar
- 2.2 Enjoy an Evening Stroll Through Tashkent’s Beautiful Parks
- 2.3 Dine at the Central Asian Plov Centre
- 2.4 Ride the Tashkent Subway
- 2.5 Admire Modern Islamic Architecture
- 2.6 Sample Korean Food
- 2.7 Check out the Classic Soviet Architecture
- 2.8 Where to Stay in Tashkent
- 2.9 Days Three to Five: Samarkand
- 2.10 Day Six: Shahrisabz
- 2.11 Days Seven to Nine:Bukhara
- 2.12 Days Ten and Eleven:Khiva
- 2.13 Days Twelve and Thirteen: The Fergana Valley
- 2.14 Day Fourteen: Depart Tashkent
- 2.15 Uzbekistan Itinerary: Possible Trip Extensions
- 2.16 Uzbekistan Itinerary: Things to Consider Before You Go
- 2.17 Uzbekistan Itinerary: Get Insured!
- 2.18 Melissa Douglas
Uzbekistan Travel Itinerary:
The Perfect Two Week Route
- Tashkent (2 days)
- Samarkand (3 days)
- Shahrisabz (1 day)
- Bukhara (3 days)
- Khiva (2 days)
- Fergana Valley (2 days)
- Departure from Tashkent
Days One and Two:
The most common route into Uzbekistan is to start the journey in the country’s capital of Tashkent. Since most people start their Uzbekistan itinerary here, this is a good opportunity to meet fellow travellers.
Tashkent, with its wide sprawling boulevards and Soviet architecture is markedly different from the rest of the cities that you will explore during this Uzbekistan itinerary. The capital was mostly rebuilt in 1966 following a huge earthquake that practically flattened the city.
Consequently, there isn’t really much to see in Tashkent by way of historical buildings. However, there is still charm and culture to be found hidden away. One of Tashkent’s highlights is the city’s abundance of green open spaces.
An overview of the best things to do in Tashkent is provided below.
Haggle Your Way Through the Chorsu Bazaar
Tashkent’s Chorsu Bazaar is a vibrant and lively local market that is well worth stopping by while in town. The bazaar here at Eski-Juva square dates back over 100 years.
It is predominantly housed in traditional domed roofs intended to keep merchants and traders cool during their negotiations. Everything from fresh delicious fruit from the Fergana Valley, lepeshka (toasted bread), nuts, spices, meat, and kazy (horse sausage) can be found throughout Chorsu Bazaar.
Be sure to check the handicrafts section. Here, intricately detailed ceramics and gorgeous IKAT fabrics and tapestries are on display.
Enjoy an Evening Stroll Through Tashkent’s Beautiful Parks
Tashkent is very green and scenically beautiful for a capital city. Expanses of lush green parks scattered throughout the centre. For a pleasant stroll or a picnic, venture to the Amir Timur square or the monument park.
Treat yourself with a freshly brewed cappuccino, a slice of cake, and a little people-watching at the nearby book cafe when you’re done.
Dine at the Central Asian Plov Centre
Plov is essentially the national dish of Uzbekistan. The dish is comprised of rice cooked in lamb fat, beef, carrots and onions.
You will find plov everywhere while travelling through Uzbekistan but the plov centre is particularly interesting. Here you can see the dish prepared in a giant qazan which makes for a great photo opportunity.
Ride the Tashkent Subway
The Tashkent Metro is no ordinary metro. After being constructed during the Soviet era, the Tashkent metro network is the oldest of its kind in Central Asia.
It also doubled as a nuclear bomb shelter during an era when the Soviets were concerned about an attack from the Americans. Every single stop along the Tashkent subway route is designed differently.
Each station is decorated with elaborate artwork and grand, sometimes peculiar-looking interiors. A metro ticket costs just 1200 som ($0.15!) and you can get on and off at each station, admiring the various artworks as you please.
Admire Modern Islamic Architecture
The Minor Mosque and the Hazrat Imam Complex are both beautiful Islamic structures situated in Tashkent. Both of these buildings are relatively modern.
The latter is home to the Uthman Quran. This is the oldest copy of the Quran in the world.
Sample Korean Food
Tashkent is home to a large Korean population. As such, there is an array of excellent restaurants serving delicacies from South Korea.
Apgujung restaurant is considered the best in the city. They even hosted the Korean Prime Minister during his visit.
Check out the Classic Soviet Architecture
If you are interested in Soviet architecture, there are a few places that you can check out. The Hotel Uzbekistan, the Lenin Museum, and the Palace of arts are all interesting places to observe.
Where to Stay in Tashkent
Budget: Top Chan Hostel
The Top Chan Hostel is “the” place to stay in Tashkent. It seems that every single backpacker that you encounter will stay here.
This is a great place to meet travel buddies if you are travelling solo. Not to mention, Top Chan has a reputation for being a really fun hostel.
Private rooms with shared bathrooms are available as well as dorm beds. Click here to check rates and availability at Top Chan hostel.
Boutique: With its rich culture, diverse history and phenomenal silk road architecture,
I stayed at The Rooms Boutique Hotel during my time in Tashkent and it was one of my favourite places that I stayed at during my Uzbekistan itinerary.
The rooms are plush and gorgeous, and the hotel was only opened in April so everything is brand new! The staff are also very friendly and helpful so I would definitely recommend this place.
Click here to check rates and availability at The Rooms Boutique Hotel.
Days Three to Five:
For centuries, poets, writers and scholars have affectionately written about the “golden road to Samarkand”. With its glistening turquoise domes, its intricate mosaics, and its quaint old town, no place is as evocative of the ancient Silk Road route as Samarkand.
For many, a chance to gaze upon the marvels of Samarkand is their entire reason for venturing to Central Asia in the first place.
The key highlights of Samarkand that are worth incorporating into your Uzbekistan Itinerary are outlined below.
With its majestic, tilting madrasas and turquoise-domed roofs, the Registan is the centrepiece of Samarkand and perhaps one of the most inspiring sights in the region.
During the days of Amir Timur, the Registan was the central square of Samarkand. The square overflowed with vibrant markets and merchants selling the exotic wares they had procured from lands far away.
The three madrasas that surround the square are the oldest in Central Asia, with all of their predecessors being destroyed by Genghis Khan during his invasion of Uzbekistan.
The Shah-i-Zinda is a grandiose necropolis that serves as the final resting place for many notable figures in Uzbek history.
The initial monument that was built at Shah-i-Zinda was constructed over a thousand years ago, however the site has been expanded numerous times over the centuries.
The combination of different architectural styles, craftsmanships and colours makes Shah-i-Zinda a fascinating mishmash of history.
Dabble in Some Uzbek Wine Tasting
If you are looking to wind down with a tipple or two after a long day exploring Samarkand, you can head to the Hovrenko wine factory.
The factory has been in operation since 1868, and opting to do a tasting here means sampling 8-10 local wines, cognacs, and balzams.
The Bibi Khanym Mosque
After Amir Timur invaded India, he spent his newly acquired riches on constructing the Bibi Khanym mosque. During the 15th century, this was considered as being one of the most beautiful and impressive mosques in the region.
The Bibi Khanym Mosque has been heavily restored, however is still well worth a visit.
The Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum
The beautiful Gur-e-Amir mausoleum is the accidental final resting place of Amir Timur, along with his sons and grandsons.
Amir Timur had built himself a crypt in Shahrisabz, but after he suddenly passed away and the roads to Shahrisabz were covered in snow, he was buried here. Visit the Gur-e-Amir mausoleum in the evening once the crowds have left and the site is illuminated with beautiful twinkling lights.
The Siyob Bazaar
Amid all of the touristic markets that have popped up around Samarkand in recent years, the Siyob Bazaar has still retained a lot of its authenticity.
The Siyob Bazaar is the largest market in Samarkand and sells a vast array of products. While here, sample the famous Samarkand bread, and kurt – the Uzbek cheese balls that are not for every palette but worth a try!
Where to Stay in Samarkand
Budget: The B&B Emir is a cosy, comfortable hostel and hotel that is situated very close to the Gur Emir complex (and a short walk from the Registan) The owners are very friendly, and this is a great place to meet other travellers.
Click here to check the latest room rates and availability.
Boutique: Hotel Platan is an excellent option for those with a more flexible budget. Double rooms start from $35 a night and are incredibly plush and spacious – You almost feel as though you are sleeping in a palace! Hotel Platan also boasts its own serene garden, and hosts a very lavish breakfast.
Click here to check the latest room rates and availability.
Shahrisabz is a nice day trip to take from Samarkand. Though the city is small, it is overflowing with beauty. As Shahrisabz awaits off the main Silk Road tourist trail, it sees far less visitors than nearby Samarkand or Bukhara. Shahrisabz also played an important role in Uzbek history, as the birthplace of Amir Temur.
It is possible to travel to and from Shahrisabz from Samarkand in just a day, however you can also opt to stay overnight if you really want to get a feel for the place.
The best things to do in Shahrisabz during your Uzbekistan itinerary are detailed below.
The Dorut Tilavat Complex
The three blue domes of the Dorut Tilavat Complex are one of the first things that catch your eye as you enter Shahrisabz as they shimmer beneath the midday sun.
The Dorut Tilavat Complex is an interesting historical site that was in construction for more than 80 years. As new leaders came and went, they added different structures and annexes to the site. The complex is comprised of mausoleums, mosques and madrasas.
The Ak Saray Palace
Taking 24 years to complete, the Ak Saray palace was Amir Timur’s summer palace during his reign. Once a grand, regal home, very little of the palace remains.
Many of the stunning mosaics are still in place, as are the 35 metre walls of the entrance, however the middle of the palace has completely collapsed.
The Kok Gumbaz Mosque
The Kok Gumbaz mosque is the largest Friday mosque in Shahrisabz and was constructed by Ulugbek, the grandson of Amir Timur. It has been heavily restored, but its courtyards and interiors are still pleasant to explore.
Where to Stay in Shahrisabz
There are only a couple of hotels located in Shahrisabz as most travellers tend to visit on a day trip from Samarkand. Hotel Bek and Oq Saroy Hotel are two local properties with very good reviews, and are reasonably priced, at an average of $40 per night.
Days Seven to Nine:
Bukhara was my favourite city in Uzbekistan. The city was once the capital of Uzbekistan and has a rich history spanning back over 2,500 years.
Exploring Bukhara feels like stepping back in time. I had a wonderful time sipping tea in quaint tea rooms overlooking the main squares and madrasas, getting lost among the narrow winding passageways, and browsing the bazaars.
Bukhara’s desirable location during the Silk Road era meant that the city was invaded and conquered numerous times over the centuries, most notably by Mongolian warlord Genghis Khan.
Some of the most inspiring things to incorporate into the Bukhara leg of your trip are outlined below.
The Chor Minor
The Chor Minor complex is a very special madrasah that is tucked away down a narrow backstreet away from the centre of Bukhara.
The structure is interesting because it is not built in the traditional Islamic design, but is based on the Charminar gateway in Hyderabad, India. It boasts four minarets instead of the traditional two. Once upon a time, local boys studied here during the day, and at night it became a hotel for travelling merchants.
Sample the Best Lagman in Uzbekistan
The old town of Bukhara is the most historic and charming, but for the real authentic Uzbek food you want to venture into the modern part of the city. Dolan restaurant requires a 5000 som to get to and from ($0.50) but is considered as selling the best lagman (beef noodle soup) in Uzbekistan.
Sip Tea Overlooking Ancient Madrasahs
As you are wandering by the Kalyan mosque, look to your left. You should see a multi-storey, rickety old wooden cafe. This cafe, named Chasmai Mirob definitely boasts the best views over Bukhara.
The food is not great and a little overpriced, but it’s incredibly pleasant to sip spiced tea as you overlook the sunset over the Po-i-Kalyan. Despite it’s incredible views, it seems that most tourists don’t notice this place. I could have sat there for hours watching Uzbek life go on below me. Definitely worth a stop.
Lyab-i Hauz Square
The Bukhara Lyab-i Hauz Square is one of the few remaining hauzs (ponds) in the city. Surrounded by madrasahs, mosques and cafes, this is essentially the central square of old Bukhara.
Come to Lyab-i Hauz in the evenings for dinner or a pot of tea at the square’s namesake restaurant.
Situated in the central Registan square of Bukhara, the Po-i-Kalyan complex has become the iconic image of the city. At one end, the Kalyan mosque boasts beautiful courtyards and exquisite Timurid architecture. At the other, the Mir-i-Arab Madrasa is a still functioning Islamic school to this day.
The icon of the Po-i-Kalyan is no doubt the Kalyan minaret, also often referred to as the tower of death! The tower dates back to the 11th century. There are many rumours about this tower, and some say that historically, criminals would be pushed to their deaths from the top window! (hence the “tower of death” nickname!)
Where to Stay in Bukhara
Note: I stayed at the Rizo Boutique Hotel in Bukhara and had a very uncomfortable experience with the owner making advances towards me. Avoid!
Budget: Rumi is pretty much the “in” place to stay in Bukhara if hostels are your thing. Furthermore, the beds here cost just 8 euros a night! Most independent travellers seem to choose to stay at Rumi and it has an excellent reputation.
Click here to check the latest prices and availability at Rumi.
Boutique: Samani Bukhara is a good mid-range option for travelling to Bukhara. The hotel is located in the beating heart of the city’s old town and its modern, comfortable rooms are decorated with unique Uzbek art.
Click here to check the latest prices and availability at the Samani Bukhara.
Days Ten and Eleven:
Cute Khiva with its labyrinth-like network of winding narrow streets, adorable tearooms, and breathtaking Islamic architecture captures the hearts of many of those who visit it.
Once synonymous with the slave trade, modern Khiva is an incredibly well-preserved Silk Road city whose Itchan Kala (old town) is UNESCO protected.
Khiva is a little far away from the other sites on this Uzbekistan itinerary, but it is worth the journey as exploring Khiva is key to understanding Uzbekistan’s Silk Road heritage.
Some of the highlights of Khiva to incorporate into your Uzbekistan itinerary are detailed below.
“Itchan Kala” relates to Khiva’s walled old town which is incredibly well-preserved and feels almost like stepping into a movie set or a scene from Aladdin.
You can purchase a ticket on arrival which for $10, grants you access to the majority of the museums, mosques and exhibits in old Khiva. Be aware that some sites, such as the Islom-Hoja Minaret, are not included in the admission price.
Kala Minor Minaret
The Kala Minor minaret is the cute stubby blue structure that you may have seen in images of Khiva (real technical terminology there!) This “stubby blue thing” is in fact an incomplete minaret.
Many legends surround Kala Minor and why it was left incomplete. When construction started, it was intended to be the tallest minaret in the orient.
Some say that the leader of Bukhara felt jealous of Khiva’s efforts and had the architect killed. Others say that the architect fled. In any case, these theories add to the mystery and charm of the structure.
The Islom-Hoja Minaret
Constructed in 1908, the Islom-Hoja minaret is the tallest structure in Khiva. It is possible to climb to the top for a small fee in order to enjoy incredible views over the city. Keep in mind though, the stairways are very narrow and not for the claustrophobic!
The Juma Mosque
Khiva is home to a particularly beautiful Juma mosque (Friday mosque). By this point in your Uzbekistan itinerary, you have probably seen countless mosques.
This one is interesting however as the ceiling is supported by wooden columns.
Dine in an Old Madrasah
The Khorezm art restaurant is an interesting eatery set in the grounds of an old madrasah (the Madrassah of Allakuli-khan). The restaurant offers both national and regional delicacies, including the Khiva specialty dish shuvit oshi – green spaghetti with vegetable bullion.
Where to Stay in Khiva
Budget: Khiva Alibek
There are several budget hostels and homestay experiences available in Khiva. Khiva Alibek is the lowest cost option that is close to the old town. Dorms here are priced at just $14 per night.
Click here to review the latest rates and availability.
Boutique: The Arkanchi Hotel
The Arkanchi hotel is a very spacious, comfortable hotel in the heart of old Khiva. Rooms here cost no more than $40 a night and the hotel has an incredible rooftop from which you can enjoy marvelous views over the city as you enjoy breakfast.
Click here to review the latest rates and availability.
Days Twelve and Thirteen:
The Fergana Valley
The Fergana Valley provides a very different travel experience to the Silk Road cities of Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand. Though there are not a huge amount of sites to see here per se, the region provides an insight into true Uzbekistan life and culture.
Various towns and villages are scattered throughout the Fergana region. I suggest making Fergana city your base and using it as a point from which to explore the surrounding areas. The highlights and main places to see in the area are detailed below.
In Margilan, it is possible to have a free tour of one of the various silk factories. In other parts of Uzbekistan, you may be able to purchase beautiful scarves and rugs but it is here where the production takes place. Margilan bazaar too is a very worthwhile place to explore.
Kokand is perhaps the most scenically attractive stopping point in the Fergana Valley. There are a few notable sites here – including the grand Khudayar Khan Palace, and a very interesting Juma mosque.
I met a very lovely Uzbek family on the train to Tashkent who invited me to visit them in Adijan. There are a few mosques and markets. If you are crossing the border to or from Kyrgyzstan, it is worth spending a little extra time in Andijan.
As the final day of your Uzbekistan itinerary approaches, board your plane at Tashkent international airport onwards to your next destination.
Possible Trip Extensions
Most nationalities can now enjoy visa-free travel in Uzbekistan for up to 30 days! As such, if you have a little longer to spend here, you may want to consider extending your itinerary in order to incorporate the below destinations.
Urgench is a large city in the Khorezm region of Uzbekistan. It is situated just 30 minutes from Bukhara. If you take the train from Bukhara, Samarkand or Tashkent to Khiva then you will more than likely have to stop in Urgench.
Honestly Urgench is not very touristic at all, and sightseeing opportunities here are few. However I felt that the locals I encountered here were some of the kindest in Uzbekistan! Urgench has a very interesting market (Urgench bazaar) where you can find everything from traditional clothing to fruits and vegetables.
I got the feeling that the people in Urgench did not see many tourists. During my day there, I went for tea with locals, got invited to Uzbek weddings and all sorts. If you have time to spare, it’s a nice place to spend a day and there are a few nice hotels in the centre.
The Fortresses of Khorezm
Close to Khiva and Urgench, there are dozens of ancient fortresses that once guarded the Kyzylkum desert during the Silk Road era. Since many merchants passing through region fell victim to nomadic thieves bursting out of the wilderness to rob them of their wares as they passed, many of these fortresses were constructed to protect them.
It is tricky to get to the fortresses of Khorezm without a car. You can opt to visit them on an organised tour departing from Khiva, or negotiate a price with a local driver if there are a few of you.
Some of the most notable fortresses to keep on your radar are Toprak-Kala, Ayaz-Kala, and Kyzyl-Kala.
Moynaq and the Aral Sea
The Aral Sea is perhaps the worst environmental disaster in human history. During the Soviet era, water from the sea was redirected to the cotton fields in order to maximise production. Unfortunately, this led to the sea drying up and thousands of local fishermen losing their jobs.
Today, you can take a bus to Moynaq from Nukus in Karakalpakstan to see the rusting ships that lay eerily abandoned here.
Perched on the border between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, Termez is a site reserved for only the most voracious travellers. There are some interesting sites to see in Termez, but the city has a more rugged, unexplored feel to the rest of the country.
Sites to add to your Termez schedule are the early Alexandrian ruin of Kampyr Tepe, the Buddhist sites of Fayaz Tepe and the Zurmala Stupa, and the pre-Islamic sites of the Kyrk Kyz Fortress, the Jarkurgan minaret, and Old Termez and the Mausoleum of Al Hakkim At-Termizi.
You can also visit an old Buddhist monastery named Kara Tepe, and the ruins of Ayrtam, though both sites are very close to the Afghan border and require a special permit for visiting.
Things to Consider Before You Go
Uzbekistan was previously a very hermetic country. Over the last few years though, the nation has begun to open its doors to more international tourism.
Once upon a time, there were a great deal of peculiarities and additional considerations that travellers had to make before adventuring to Uzbekistan – customs processes could be strict, and getting visas was tricky.
Travel to Uzbekistan has become a lot more accessible in recent years, and many of these “strict” processes are being phased out. That said,it pays to do your research. For that reason, I have composed this comprehensive Uzbekistan Travel Guide which addresses any FAQs you may have.
It is imperative that you purchase comprehensive travel insurance for your Uzbekistan itinerary. It should be noted that health and medical care in Uzbekistan is not very well developed. Should you be so unfortunate enough to fall ill during your trip, you will likely have to be transported to India or Eastern Europe (which will not be cheap!).
Make sure that you purchase insurance cover that has sufficient medical coverage. It is better to go with a trusted provider that specialises in off-the-beaten-path destinations (like Uzbekistan). For that reason, I always use World Nomads, who focus on adventure travel cover.
Have any additional questions about this Uzbekistan itinerary? I spent two weeks in this beautiful nation in May 2019 as a solo female traveller. I would be happy to assist with any queries and concerns you may have – just pop me a comment below!
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