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Central Asia Travel Guide – 11 Things To Do In Uzbekistan

By Kach Umandap December 30th, 2019 Posted in Asia Travel Blog, Destination, Travel Blog, Travel Guides No comments

Uzbekistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia and is home to some 32 million people. Aside from the fact that it is ranked as the 5th Safest Country to Visit on Gallup’s Global Law and Order Report, this is one of the most tourist-friendly countries in Central Asia because of its fascinating history, beautiful mosques, modern infrastructure, and extremely friendly locals.

Quick Guide to Traveling to Central Asia For Filipinos

I have never felt this safe in any country and by safe I mean the Uzbekistanis are very very kind. Hands down to them because I feel like they’re one of the nicest people I’ve met in my journey. A kind family stopped their car to help me and drop me off the City Center when they saw me almost bitten by a stray dog; two teenagers approached me and helped me book a taxi just when I was struggling to find one; and I never felt that locals, especially taxi drivers and vendors would take advantage of me and cheat me of my money because I’m a foreigner. They seemed to be very nice people!

Train Ride and Overland Adventure in Uzbekistan3

If you’re on this page, I’m sure you’ve been wanting to visit Uzbekistan and if you’re still hesitant, I say GO FOR IT!!! Anyway, here are 11 Things to do in Uzbekistan! (You can also read my border crossing experience to Iran and Turkmenistan via Uzbekistan)

1. Go to Samarkand/Samarqand

Samarkand is described by the UNESCO the crossroads of world cultures with a history of over two and a half millennia. The major monuments include the Registan mosque and madrasahs, originally built in mud-brick and covered with decorated ceramic tiles, the Bibi-Khanum Mosque and Mausoleum, the Shakhi-Zinda compound, which contains a series of mosques, madrasahs and mausoleum, and the ensembles of Gur-Emir and Rukhabad, as well as the remains of Ulugh-Bek’s Observatory. 

From the capital of Tashkent, it is merely a 2 hour and 30 minute trip away via Speed Train (which is more beautiful and clean than the ones in Europe!). The tour company I arranged my trip pre-booked my ticket and arranged my transfers to and from the train station so it was pretty easy.

2. Visit the Amir Temur Mausoleum in Samarkand

One of the first things you should do in Uzbekistan is to visit this museum in the capital. After Uzbekistan gained its independence in 1991, they paid attention to important people who contributed greatly to civilization. One of which was Amir Temu– a warlord, politician and reformer, patron of science, education, trade, culture and craft.Things to do in Samarkand, Uzbekistan7

A visit to this grandiose museum will help you learn more about this country’s history, especially considering that the artifacts presented are well detailed in English. Take a step back and relive the life of the Uzbekistanis many moons ago.

3. Walk around the City Center in Tashkent 

Train Ride and Overland Adventure in Uzbekistan

One of the best places to just watch the world go by is the city center. Watch how the locals go about their daily lives, grab a cup of coffee, watch street performers and artists, buy souvenirs and eat some local delicacies! What’s surprising about this country is despite being a Muslim country, women can wear whatever they want. I even saw street performers dancing and twerking in the park! 

4. Visit a Silk Carpet Production 

Train Ride and Overland Adventure in Uzbekistan2

One of the best things you can buy from Uzbekistan is the precious (and hefty expensive) silk carpet which is entirely hand-made down to the last thread! If you can’t afford one, then why not bring home the memory of visiting a place where they do it instead? I visited one in Samarkand and it was very interesting to watch! Seeing the ladies do these by hand, hearing their stories, and learning the complex process on how they make it (which usually takes them 6 months) made me realize that this work of art is just priceless.

5. Take a break at the Siab Bazaar in Samarkand

Traveling To Central Asia

One of the oldest bazaars in Samarkand, this is the perfect place to see history which compliments modernity. Shop for spices, local sweets, and freshly baked bread for which Samarkand is famous for. 

6. Purchase and see how a Samarkand Paper is made in Konigil Village

Train Ride and Overland Adventure in Uzbekistan4

Samarkand is also famous for its Samarkand or Meros Paper, the craft of which is perfected throughout the centuries using traditional techniques up until now. The good news is that the place where it is produced is just a little outside Samarkand in a small village called Konigil. These papers are made from Mulberry barks and are very durable which makes it perfect to give as gifts!

7. Try their local dishes! 

Their local dishes are very much flavorful with fresh spices. Must try are the Samarkand shashlik of lamb’s liver, Samsa, Palov, Lagman, Shurpa, Bread and Cheese and my favorite– the PLOV which is sauteéd rice with vegetables, meat, and tons of spices! Oh, don’t forget to match it with some freshly brewed green tea!

8. Visit the Holy City of Bukhara

Train Ride and Overland Adventure in Uzbekistan

Home to 140 historical monuments dating as far back from the 8th to 18th Century AD, this city is a haven for the old souls. Some interesting places include the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, the Chashma Ayub Mausoleum, the Bolo-Khauz Mosque, the ruins of the 5th-century Ark Fortress which is the heart of the city, the Poikalon complex that consists of the Kalon Minaret, Kalon Mosque and Miri Arab Madrasah, and the Madrasah of Ulugbek and Abdul Aziz Khan. The scenery over the pond Lyabi-Hauz also can’t be missed!

9. Go camping by the Aral Sea

Things To Do In Uzbekistan
Photo by Land Rover MENA CC BY 2.0

Sometimes, it’s just nice to take a little time off from the modernity and complexity of this world. Camping by the Aral Sea will give you just this as you relax by the sea, set up a bonfire, and enjoy a nice dinner. You can also drive on the dried bottom of the sea where you’ll see abandoned ships also known as the “Cemetery of ships” that used to be the port in Muynak. 

10. Take care of your hair, the Uzbekistani way

Things To Do In Uzbekistan

If you look at the Uzbekistani women, you’ll notice they have such beautiful hair (or at least I did). Upon doing my research, I learned that the secret is that they wash their hair with yogurt and apply a hair mask of oil made of Usmi (green plant). Now, head on to the supermarket and find these! 

11. Visit the town of Khiva

Khiva is probably one of the most intact towns located along the Silk Road and seeing this town would feel like you’re in an open-air museum. Spend your day (or days rather) to walk around this town and admiring the beautiful architecture, visit the museum, see the ancient Juma Mosque made unique by its 213 wooden pillars, and climbing at the Islam-Khodja complex with its small madrasah and minaret, making it a part of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1990.

Central Asia Travel Guide 11 Things To Do In Uzbekistan
Photo by Mr. Theklan CC BY-SA 2.0

Imagine walking around the streets of Uzbekistan and try to imagine how the old roads were once filled with camels carrying valuable goods; how alley after alley were filled with merchants trying to sell their wares; and how busy and colorful their life was before the internet. Seeing all these structures and looking back at their history, this is indeed the Pride of the Silk Road. 

12. Find accommodation in Uzbekistan

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Thank you, Lifetime Adventures for giving me a one of a kind adventure! I highly recommend them to arrange your trip in Uzbekistan. Not only will you be having an awesome and hassle-free journey, you’ll also be supporting 2 new entrepreneurs who used to be tour guides and their entire team! Let’s support small businesses and big dreams!

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Written by Kach Umandap

Founder of Two Monkeys Travel Group. Since 2013, Kach has visited all the 7 continents (including Antarctica) and 151 countries using her Philippines Passport. In 2016, she bought a sailboat and went on sailing adventures with her two cats - Captain Ahab & Little Zissou in the Caribbean for 2 years. She now lives in Herceg Novi, Montenegro where she's enjoying her expat life and living on a gorgeous Stonehouse. She writes about her experiences traveling as a Filipina traveler with a PHL Passport. Also tips on backpacking trips, luxury hotel experiences, product reviews, sailing & adventure travel.