Why go?
From the blue-tiled mosques of Bukhara to the distant semi-autonomous area of Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan presents historical tradition and ample alternative for journey. Highlights embrace using Tashkent’s glitzy metro, admiring Silk Highway-era structure and strolling Samarkand’s backstreets. Add to this Uzbek hospitality, as heat as it’s heartfelt, vibrant festivals and the very fact you’re following within the footsteps of the best travellers and conquerors in historical past and there are all of the elements of a riveting journey. Entering into the nation, and getting round it, is now a lot simpler. There’s much less bureaucratic trouble, loads of wonderful English-speaking guides, an increasing and environment friendly rail community and, crucially, the abolishment of visas for a lot of European travellers. British passport holders can enter Uzbekistan for as much as 30 days with out a visa from 1 February.
One-month itinerary
Uzbekistan map
Overlanders could cross one in all many borders from a neighbouring ‘stan however the capital, Tashkent, is the most typical entry level. Start centrally, on the Amir Timur statue (that’s 14th century Turco-Mongol conqueror, Tamerlane, solid in bronze, on horseback), marvel on the hulking Resort Uzbekistan, then purchase a token for the Tashkent Metro (about 10p). Modelled on the Moscow Metro, it’s all marble, chandeliers and carved alabaster (have your digital camera prepared, pictures restrictions have been lifted early in 2018). Alight at Kosmonavtlar station, devoted to Soviet area journey (look out for Valentina Tereshkova, the primary girl in area) and go to the Museum of Utilized Arts for a primer on silk weaving, Uzbek hats (tubeteika) and native ceramics. Take the metro to the Previous City’s sprawling Chorsu Bazaar and wander lanes stuffed with dairy items, dried fruit and pyramids of greens. Purchase a takeaway bag of salad and a roundel of Non bread. Keep on the reasonably priced Artwork Hostel (dorms about £10, financial system double round £18)). Tashkent deserves a couple of days, don’t rush off.

Dry fruits stand in Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent. {Photograph}: Getty Pictures
Subsequent, head to the Fergana Valley for 3-Four days. Take the morning practice to Margilan (£4, 5 hours), the hub of Uzbekistan’s silk business. Arrive at lunchtime and go to the Yodgorlik Silk Manufacturing facility to see grasp weavers working beneath mulberry bushes and, if the fruit-filled Kumtepa Bazaar is on, (Thursdays and Sundays), go to that, too. Subsequent, take a shared taxi (two hours) to historic Kokand. Go to its spectacular mosques, strive some native halva (sweets) and see a number of the 100 or so rooms on the Khan’s Palace. Keep at Resort Kokand (doubles £30), then, for a slice of village life, daytrip to little Rishton (45 minutes, shared taxi) for the well-known pottery workshops and the Rishton Ceramic Museum.
Proceed to Andijan (additionally Andijon), a laid-back metropolis with a good bazaar (Jahon) and museums however notorious for the horrors of its 2005 bloodbath. One style of Fergana’s celebrated melons and also you’ll see why Babur, founding father of the Mughal Empire and the town’s son, missed them so in India. In a single day at Resort Andijon (doubles £30, +998 74 2237040). Practice again to Tashkent (round 5 hours).

Mosaic masterpiece … Khan’s Palace, Kokand. {Photograph}: Jane Sweeney/Getty Pictures/AWL Pictures RM
From the capital, bag a seat in a shared taxi and journey an hour north to Chimgan nationwide park. If it’s summer time, spend a couple of days mountain climbing there taking in rock work, waterfalls and wild tulips. Oleg Shelamonov (ast.uz) can prepare multi-day strolling excursions. In winter, snowboarding is an possibility.
Zip again to the capital and take the speedy Afrosiyob practice to Samarkand (£5 in financial system; two hours) and get your fill of towering and resplendent turquoise-tiled madrasas and mosques. Emir B&B is keenly priced (doubles £25, +998 91 314 02 59, no web site) with views of Gur-e-Amir, Tamerlane’s mausoleum. At evening, have a beer on the atmospheric Blues Café (Amir Temur Road, +998 66 233 62 96, no web site).

A hiker in Chimgan nationwide park. {Photograph}: Galyna Andrushko/Alamy
Subsequent, escape the tour teams by heading north to the Nurata Mountains, taking shared taxis through Navoi, and spend a couple of days mountain climbing and overnighting at yurt camps corresponding to Sputnik (£30pp together with meals, tenting.uz). Attempt a camel journey and chill out on the Chashma Spring, residence to holy fish.
Bukhara subsequent. That is probably the most romantic of Uzbekistan’s cities with former service provider home B&Bs, boutiques galore and first rate cafes (Café Wishbone is sweet for European espresso). It’s straightforward to spend a couple of snug days right here exploring the fortress referred to as the Ark of Bukhara and craning your neck on the Kalon Minaret (47 metres tall). Don’t miss Shavkat Boltaev’s long-established Bukhara Photograph Gallery or Silk Highway Spices for tea and sesame brittle. Rumi Hostel is affordable and clear (doubles £18 B&B).

Conventional tea home in Lyabi-Hauz sq., Bukhara. {Photograph}: Lucas Vallecillos/Alamy
From Bukhara, make the lengthy journey in a shared taxi to Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan, through a crucial connection in Urgench (seven hours, then two extra to Nukus, price range round £10 for each). Now’s the time so as to add in historical Khiva for extra mosques and museums, for those who don’t have Silk Highway fatigue by now.
In Nukus, enable half a day for the unimaginable Savitsky Museum, which is residence to the second-largest assortment of Russian avant garde artwork after St Petersburg’s State Russian Museum. Splurge by staying on the charming Jipek Joli lodge, full with on-site museum (doubles from £61 B&B), then side-trip to the previous fishing port of Moynaq, to witness the Aral Sea Disaster and the resultant desolate ship graveyard.
Getting round
Uzbekistan’s rail community is increasing and it has quick trains between vacationer cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, with a line to the western metropolis of Khiva virtually prepared. The sluggish Soviet trains could be a drag and it’s typically higher to do because the locals do and take shared taxis: the most cost effective, if typically slower (and infrequently your solely), possibility. They go away after they replenish. Pay additional for the entrance seat: extra room, plus doubtlessly much less movement illness.
Bukhara has the lion’s share of family-run inns with character. My favorite is Kavsar Resort (doubles from £40, +998 91 406 38 83, no web site), with its courtyard and antique-filled rooms. Samarkand’s motels get booked up by tour teams, particularly through the spring competition of Navruz and within the early summer time and autumn (peak journey instances). Guide forward.

Uzbekistan Resort, Tashkent. {Photograph}: Getty Pictures
Lodging-wise, an open thoughts helps in Uzbekistan because the nation’s tourism scene is in its infancy and choices are restricted – particularly in Fergana Valley and Karakalpakstan. One evening you possibly can be in a Soviet-built monster, the following a fundamental motel-like inn. Tashkent has some five-star properties however there are few low-cost motels to choose from.
Over-zealous restoration work has blighted a lot of Uzbekistan’s Timurid-era structure and, sadly, Shahrisabz, south of Samarkand, is a key instance. Hasty renovation – and a bid to supply a sanitised model of Uzbek tourism – has destroyed the very factor that made the town particular: its medieval townscape, irrecoverably altered ceaselessly. A number of residential mahallas (neighbourhoods) have been flattened, together with the historic bazaar and of their place is a brand new plaza.

Gumbaz Synagogue. {Photograph}: Caroline Eden
Everybody visits Bukhara’s Jewish quarter however hidden behind Samarkand’s huge Registan ensemble is a warren of alleys with bread-makers, faculties and youngsters working amok, providing a slice of conventional mahalla life. It’s there you’ll discover the Gumbaz Synagogue, which was in-built 1891. Guests must name forward first on +998 91 552 7268.
For those who eat or drink one factor
Plov is served virtually in all places in Central Asia and Uzbeks are the masters of this layered rice dish that’s usually eaten at lunch. At its most straightforward, plov is rice, onions and carrots normally topped with mutton, lamb or beef. Greater than only a dish, it represents hospitality, group and id.

Dish of plov, a layered wealthy dish. {Photograph}: Olga Mazyarkina/Getty Pictures
Wherever you might be, you’ll discover the distinct aroma of carrots, meat and rice that drifts up from effervescent cauldron-like kazans (giant cauldrons) in courtyards and kitchens. Lagans (ceramic plates) of plov feed whole households. Eat it at one of many devoted plov centres in Tashkent and Samarkand.
Day by day price range
In Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan usually presents the perfect worth with its wonderful and reasonably priced homestay community. Oil-rich Kazakhstan, the place motels are sometimes aimed toward enterprise folks, is expensive, as is difficult Turkmenistan (the place, except you’re on a transit visa, you want a information outdoors the capital). Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are on a par however in Tajikistan hiring drivers, for the Pamir Freeway, for instance, pushes the price up. Meals and beer is usually low cost. A minimal backpacking price range for Uzbekistan is £20-£30pp a day ({couples} sharing a room can break up that price).
Shifting on

Trekkers within the Fann mountains, Tajikistan. {Photograph}: Alamy
From the Fergana Valley, use the Dostyk border between Andijan and Osh for Kyrgyzstan. Osh has a wonderful market, pilgrimage websites (Suleiman Too) and first rate homestays. From Samarkand, the close by Penjikent border crossing, into Tajikistan, reopened final yr. This border is the gateway to Tajikistan’s Fann Mountains, unbelievable for trekking.
For inspiration
Two books … Uzbekistan: The Golden Highway to Samarkand (Odyssey Illustrated Guides, £16.95) by Calum MacLeod and Bradley Mayhew, the perfect cultural information in the marketplace, and The Devils’ Dance (Tilted Axis Press, £9.99) by Hamid Ismailov. Banned in Uzbekistan for 27 years, it grips like a thriller and tells the story of 19th-century Turkestan, the Nice Recreation and Soviet-era Tashkent.
On Instagram, comply with @ruztamo who runs native photographic excursions, whereas Caravanistan is an important useful resource; it’s up-to-date and written by Steven and Saule who know the area.
Caroline Eden is creator of Black Sea: Dispatches and Recipes – By way of Darkness and Mild (Hardie Grant Publishing, £25), and co-author, with Eleanor Ford, of Samarkand: Recipes and Tales From Central Asia and the Caucasus (Kyle Books, £25). Each can be found at The Guardian Bookshop (£22 every, together with UK p&p)