Updated on: 6 August, 2021
So far, Uzbekistan has been a distant, absolutely unknown country to us that we knew very little about. Until 2017, this affected all of Central Asia with its many stans. With our trip to Kyrgyzstan in August 2021, the region suddenly came into our focus. We liked Kyrgyzstan so much that we really wanted to explore more of the region.
UZBEKISTAN ROUND TRIP – OUR UZBEKISTAN TRAVEL ROUTE
For us it was a full 16 days in this historic country, with its nodes along the Silk Road. The starting point was the capital Tashkent. And this is what our Uzbekistan tour looked like:
Tashkent → Khiva → Bukhara → Aydar Kul Lake → Sentob in the Nurata Mountains → Samarkand → Tashkent → Fergana → Tashkent
On our travel route we got to know an incredible variety. You can immerse yourself in modern cities, visit countless historical sites or enjoy the untouched nature.
For your own Uzbekistan tour we have put together our top Uzbekistan sights in this article. If you have any questions or additions, we look forward to your comment at the end of the article!
1. UZBEKISTAN ROUND TRIP – THE CAPITAL TASHKENT
The metropolis of Tashkent, whose name means something like “stone city”, is located on the western edge of the Tianshan Mountains. It has about 2 million people who live in an area that is a third of the city of Berlin.
It is very difficult to enumerate the sights in this lively metropolis of Uzbekistan, because there is a lot to discover here. We are also publishing a separate article on Tashkent.
Nevertheless, we would like to give you a little insight into the activities and highlights here. We had a total of two days to explore the city.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT TASHKENT
Tashkent is a very green city with many parks that give the city a high quality of life. The traffic here is very civilized and we felt very safe everywhere.
The city was mentioned as early as the 3rd century BC. Despite a major earthquake in 1966, where fortunately there were “only” eight fatalities, there are still historical buildings that you can visit, especially in the old town.
In this northwestern part of the city you will also find many traditional traders and restaurants that offer typical dishes. You have to visit the Chorsu Bazaar for this .
You will learn a lot about Uzbek history at the Amir Timur Museum, which opened in 1996. Amir Timur was a Mongolian leader who promoted culture, science and the arts in Uzbekistan and helped the country flourish again at the time.
The Hotel Uzbekistan, an impressive example of Soviet architecture – the so-called brutalism – gives an insight into recent history.
THE METRO IN TASHKENT – A TOP UZBEKISTAN SIGHT!
You should definitely plan a metro ride for your visit to Tashkent. The stations of the metro, which opened in 1977, are really an impressive sight and make the hearts of photographers beat faster.
Based on the Moscow model, each station is designed differently and surpass each other in terms of their beauty. Incidentally, it has only been allowed to take photos here since 2018.
The trip with the metro cost just 1400 Sum when we visited, or 0.14 €. And you can drive as long as you want. Only when you completely leave the subway do you have to solve it again.
The Independence Square Mustaqillik maydoni is also quite nice to see. It was inaugurated in 1991 and redesigned between 2003 and 2006. The most important government buildings are gathered here.
2. THE MUSEUM CITY OF KHIVA – KHIVA – XIVA
On our Uzbekistan tour we went from Tashkent with Uzbekistan Air to Urgench in an hour and a half. From there we drove about half an hour past cotton plantations to Khiva.
By the way, Uzbekistan was once one of the largest cotton producers in the world, which used to be harvested using forced and child labor. Even today, cotton is still an important industry. It is used not only for export but also to make cottonseed oil, which is used in the kitchen.
There are different spellings for many Uzbek cities, for example Chiwa, Khiva or Xiva. I’m going to stay with Khiva now.
VISIT TO THE OASIS CITY
Khiva is a historically important oasis city. Today it is over 2500 years old and the historic city center has been designated a museum city by UNESCO. In principle, the area is like a beautiful open-air museum, for which you also pay admission at the city gate.
Historical Khiva was on the trade route, the Silk Road, between India and Europe. It was always an important place for past dynasties, but many parts of it were destroyed over the centuries.
Today’s picture of the historical core was only created in the 19th century, but is no less impressive than older buildings in Uzbekistan.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site Tasch Hauli, for example, is a palace in which you can admire numerous decorations that are attached as paintings, carvings and paneling.
We also found the Dschuma mosque with its 212 carved wooden pillars from various eras to be particularly worth seeing . The oldest pillars go back to the 1st millennium. Here you can see how mosques were built in the 7th and 8th centuries.
Another attraction is the colorful “Kalta Minor” minaret, known as a landmark and unfinished, at the Muhammad Amin Khan madrasah. At that time it was supposed to be the tallest minaret in the Islamic world. Various stories circulate why it went unfinished.
Our guide said that while the minaret was being built, the khan found that you could look into his harem from above and so had construction stopped. Others say it was static, still others say the building remained unfinished after the khan’s death.
The city of Khiva became Islamic in 712 and so, in addition to the palace, there are several mosques and beautiful madrasas, the schools of Islamic sciences, to visit.
3. TOPRAK KALA FORTRESS RUINS
The drive to the fortress ruins of Toprak Kala and Ayaz Kale takes you through the desert landscape of the autonomous region of Karakalpakistan in the west of the country. The fortresses were both built in ancient Khorezmia. Khorezmia was an ancient kingdom and was located in what is now Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The kingdom in the fertile oasis produced numerous art monuments. The excavation of the ancient Toprak Kala testifies to the wealth of Khorezmia: the palace complex covered an area of approximately 14 hectares, in which there were more than 150 rooms.
This included a huge hall, which was furnished with rich wall paintings and reliefs. Most of the treasures found there during excavations are now in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.
Unfortunately, there is not much to see of the Toprak Kala today. Some areas of the fortress have been reconstructed so that you can get an approximate impression of the former size. However, from up here you have a great all-round view of the desert landscape and the “Black Mountains”.
At first we thought the mountains were in shadow, but they are actually black.
4. AYAZ KALE
From Toprak Kala the fart went even further into the desert and even deeper into the world of the Kingdom of Khorezmia. Three mud fortresses, which are up to 2000 years old , protected the settled population here from nomadic groups, whose attacks they feared.
On the edge of the Kyzylkum desert, you will not only be impressed by the remains of the fortresses, but also by the landscape. Abandoned for 1300 years, they were only rediscovered in the 1940s by the archaeologist Tolstov.
Unfortunately, not much of all three fortresses has survived. We climbed up to the largest of the three facilities – you can take great photos here. On the way to the fortress, you are sure to come across numerous agamas whizzing through the sand here.
Our lunch took place in a yurt camp with a view of the fortresses.
5. BUKHARA – BUXORO
The city of Buxoro, in German Bukhara, is the capital of the province of Buxoro. Along with Tashkent, it is one of the most important cities in the country and thrives on industry and trade.
The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a population of around 272,000. One of the largest ethnic groups here are the Tajiks, which is why Tajik is often spoken in Bukhara.
The time when Bukhara was formed is not known. What is certain, however, is that the first settlement on this site belonged to the Hellenistic-Bactrian kingdom. Archaeological excavations testify to older settlements that existed here before antiquity.
Arab conquerors first reached the city in 673, but Islamization lasted several decades. Under different rulers, such as the Samanids and the Carachnids, an architecturally unique city emerged.
The special thing about Bukhara is that buildings from over 1000 years are gathered here. Even pre-Mongolian architecture is still represented in Bukhara.
For us, Bukhara was the cosiest city in Uzbekistan. In its historic center there is a square with an artificially created pond, where both locals and tourists come to stroll and linger.
There are numerous good restaurants and cafes and many different shops that invite you to stroll. But just as many impressive Uzbekistan sights.
POI KALON ENSEMBLE BUKHARA
Centrally located in Bukhara is the Poi Kalon Ensemble, one of the most beautiful Uzbekistan sights. The ensemble consists of 4 buildings: The Kalon Minaret and the Kalon Mosque, as well as the Emir-Alim-Khan-Madrasa and the Mir-Arab-Madrasa.
The 50 m high minaret is often depicted as a landmark for the entire city. Its construction began as early as 1127, making it one of the oldest structures of its kind. In the past you were allowed to climb the minaret, but since the steps are rather dilapidated, it is now closed to the public.
It stands on the corner of today’s mosque, the construction of which did not begin until the 15th century. However, it has only been used as a mosque again since 1991.
Tip: There is a restaurant with a roof terrace opposite the ensemble. From up here you have a priceless view of the square. Our photo was also taken there.
ARK BUKHARA CITADEL
The aforementioned ensemble is gathered around a square bordering the Ark Fortress. From this citadel emirs and khans ruled Bukhara. As the citadel was often destroyed and rebuilt, it is not known when the first fortress was built on this site.
The citadel that you can visit today was built by the Scheibanids in the 16th century . You should plan enough time for a visit to the citadel, because in addition to various buildings and galleries you can visit some museums for cultural studies here.
A little further from the historic center, but still within walking distance, is Chor Minor. It is a building that cannot be found anywhere in Central Asia in this form. The Chor Minor is the gate building of a former madrasa that was built in 1807.
Unfortunately, almost nothing of this original complex has survived today. Nevertheless, Chor Minor should be part of your visit to Bukhara, because the 4 towers (choir = four) are really beautiful! They almost have an Indian look.
Although the towers give the building its name, they do not serve as minarets. You will quickly notice the individual design of the 4 tiled roofs, which are all designed with different patterns.
There is a souvenir shop in the building of the four towers, but for a small fee you can also go up to the roof, between the four towers.
By the way, it happens quite often in Uzbekistan that sights are converted into souvenir shops. Actually all madrasas – no matter how old – house souvenir shops with scarves, clothing, ceramics and paintings in their rooms and courtyards.
What would be unthinkable in US is quite normal here and somehow I think it’s nice that the old walls are filled with life and meaning.
THE CHOR BAKR NECROPOLIS
Just outside the historical center of Bukhara is Chor Bakr in Sumitan. The necropolis (also necropolis) Chor Bakr is located at the place where Abu Bakr Said, a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, was buried.
Also in the later centuries the place was used as a burial place for outstanding personalities. The main part of today’s complex was built under the Scheibanid dynasty, whose members were splendidly buried here.
The graves are in courtyards that are surrounded by walls and have ornate doors and gates. In addition, the 3 hectare site includes a mosque, a Khanqah (or tekke) for and a minaret.
The garden of the necropolis, which was laid out in the 16th century, is also worth a detour. Unfortunately the mosque was being restored during our visit and we were unable to visit it.
6. MALIK SARDOBA (NEAR NAVOIY)
On the way from Bukhara to Samarkand you will pass Malik Sardoba near Navoiy. It is a cistern that supplied the Raboti Malik caravanserai with fresh water .
The Rabat Malik Palace was also fed by this fountain. Like around 400 other Sardobas, it is said to have been renovated or rebuilt by Abdullah Khan II. Scheibani.
Malik Sardoba is located on one of the Silk Roads and served to take care of the travelers and their animals who found accommodation in the caravanserai opposite.
The structure has a dome and extends deep into the ground. A staircase takes you to the water level.
Both inside and out, the dome is an impressive structure that shows you how important fountains were for travelers.
7. NUROTA WITH ALEXANDER THE GREAT’S FORTRESS
Also located in the province of Navoiy, we definitely recommend a detour to Nurota. The growing city was founded by Alexander the Great in 327 BC! Today the city, which was then called “Nur”, is a pilgrimage center.
Be sure to ask your guide about the petroglyphs on the way there. They are right on the road and there are beautiful images of ibex and other animals from the Bronze Age.
Significant in Nurota is the fortress from the time of Alexander the Great, the remains of which you can still see and climb today. For many travelers and especially pilgrims, Nurota is above all a city of pilgrimage.
Here, according to legend, Ali ibn Abi Talib, the son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Mohammed, created a source, chashma, through his staff. For the pilgrims, the water of the spring and the fish that live in it are considered sacred, because the water is said to have healing powers.
The water is crystal clear and has a great turquoise color, many locals fill their canisters with drinking water here.
THE NAMAZGOKH AND JUMA MOSQUE
Structures that you can visit have been built around the spring since the 10th century. The building complex includes several mosques, including the Namazgokh Mosque and the Juma Mosque Chilsutun.
During your visit to the Namazgokh Mosque, you should also pay attention to the numerous domes of the building, which make this mosque such a magnificent building.
In addition to historical buildings, Nurota is also a good starting point for a visit to the Naruta Mountains. You can also easily reach Lake Aydar from Naruda.
When we were visiting the place, a young man suddenly came running from behind and asked us in English where we were from. When we told him that we are from US, he beamed all over his face and continued to speak in English!
He told us that he was a big fan of US and that he would love to visit Florida to study, next year. He was so excited and then took another selfie with us.
Incidentally, that was not the only time; many of the young people here seem to dream of studying engineering in US. The Uzbeks are generally fluent in speaking English, which made us very happy.
8. AYDARSEE & AYDAR YURT CAMP – UZBEKISTAN ROUND TRIP
Uzbekistan has a multitude of historical buildings to offer due to its history. But the landscape that you can discover here is just as beautiful. Including the flora and fauna that has formed around the artificially created Aydarsee in recent decades.
The Aydarsee emerged from the Syr Darya when a dam had to be opened in 1969 because of flooding. In this way a lake was formed, which today is about 180 km long and up to 32 km wide.
Since many fish species were released in Lake Aydar, fishing has become an important industry here today. But water birds have also settled and the lake has developed into a habitat for many other protected species. Tourists have the opportunity to see rare species such as the Dalmatian pelican and the black sea eagle .
THE YURT CAMP
The yurt camp where we spent the night is also located on the edge of Lake Aydar. There are a few camels here and if you want you can take a short ride. We preferred to spend the afternoon on the beach at Lake Aydar.
There are even reed parasols on the beach, and when it’s warm enough, you can take a dip in the shallow water. Don’t be surprised – Lake Aydar is a salt water lake, as the Uzbek soil is extremely salty.
There are around 20 yurts available in the camp, usually a coach with a group of tourists comes in the afternoon.
9. UZBEKISTAN ROUND TRIP – VISITING THE NURATA MOUNTAINS
If you need a break from the cities on your Uzbekistan tour, we recommend taking a trip to the Nurata Mountains.
THE VILLAGE OF SENTYAB
Sentyab is a village in the Nurata Valley. There we stayed in the cute Mutabar’s guest house .
There is a beautiful garden under walnut trees and even a pool filled with fresh water from the rushing river. After a strenuous mountain tour, you can relax here with a cup of tea or jump into the water.
The barren mountain world around is interrupted here by a green oasis that extends to the left and right of the river. If you go hiking in the mountains, you will see this oasis like a green ribbon in the brown-gray landscape.
The host family was so lovely, it was really difficult for us to say goodbye. Mutabar, the lady of the house, went hiking with us for 1 hour and showed us everything. And with her husband Schotiboy we drank vodka in the garden in the evening.
By the way, it is impossible to refuse any invitations. If you say that you can’t eat or drink anymore, you will be talked into until you give in. And that was always the case with me pretty quickly …
THE VILLAGE OF UHUM
The next morning we drove to the next place, Uhum, for about an hour. Walnut groves and gardens await you here too , which you would not expect in the barren landscape. The walnut harvest was in full swing and the harvested nuts lay out to dry everywhere.
We got a little tour of the village here. There is a small sanctuary nearby for an endangered species of mouflon. With a little luck you can spot the animals there.
In the guest house Hayot we got a really tasty, traditional lunch. A kind of stew with potatoes, cabbage, meat and tomatoes. As everywhere else, there was a vegetarian option for Martin.
The two picturesque villages are an interesting insight into the rural life of the Uzbek people.
10. SAMARKAND – OUR UZBEKISTAN HIGHLIGHT
If you are going on a tour of Uzbekistan, you definitely must not miss Samarkand. Here you will find the coronation of oriental architecture – and not only with the famous Registan Square. In our eyes there are the most beautiful Uzbekistan sights to be admired here.
The city of Samarkand was built in the 14th century. But since 750 BC the important Afrasiab was built on the fertile plain on which Samarkand is today. Both the ancient Greeks and the Arabs appreciated the good location on the Silk Road and the fertile soil.
Today’s Samarkand has a population of around 350,000, most of whom speak Tajik. The UNESCO titled Samarkand with the phrase “intersection of cultures” , which describes the diversity of the city.
If you are grappling with the history of the city and its dynasties in Samarkand, you should not miss the Gur-Emir mausoleum from the early 15th century. The burial place of Timur Lenk and his closest confidants is not only interesting from an architectural point of view, but also because of its history.
The building was commissioned by the warlord himself to serve as a grave for his grandson. In addition to the tomb, the building complex originally included a madrasa and a building for the Sufi brotherhood.
The architect Muhammad ibn Mahmud is said to have designed the impressive gate that leads into an inner courtyard. Mosaics made of colored and black tiles are attached outside and inside and make the building appear different at any time of the day.
THE REGISTAN SQUARE – TOP UZBEKISTAN TOURIST ATTRACTION
Registan Square was the center of the city in ancient Samarkand and is said to be the most magnificent of its kind in all of Central Asia. 3 madrasas are built around the square and show the importance of the sciences of that time.
The Sher-Dor-Madrasa, the Tilya-Kori and the Ulugh-Beg-Madrasa were created in different epochs and also differ in their construction. The Ulugh-Beg-Madrasa, which was built first, was a prestigious university where numerous scholars have studied.
In the Tilya-Kori Madrasa there is a mosque that is so richly decorated with gold that it almost leaves you speechless.
Here you can really spend several hours and just let yourself go. In the Ulugh-Beg-Madrasa, the one on the left as seen from the large stairs, there is a little café on the first floor. There you can sit in the portico and watch the goings-on in the courtyard.
You will also find countless souvenir shops here that you can browse through. You will really find some great things here like ceramics or beautiful fabrics.
ULUG BEGS OBSERVATORY
The Ulug Begs Observatory, which is also called Gurkani Zij, was built between 1424 and 1428 to observe the sky. The builder, Ulug Beg, was a Timurid prince who is now considered an important astronomer.
The observatory is a bit outside of Samarkand, but it’s worth it. Ulug Beg had a building built that was 30 meters high and 46 meters in diameter. The determination of the celestial bodies was carried out with the help of sextants, as telescopes did not yet exist.
Nevertheless, the astronomers came to a value that was only a deviation of less than a minute from today’s value. Although there is only a ruin above ground of the observatory today, part of it has been preserved and you can take a look at the measurement methods used at that time.
But the museum is also interesting, where you can learn a lot about the important science of that era.
BIBI KHANUM MOSQUE
The Bibi Khanum Mosque is a restored mosque that has only been open to visitors in all its glory for a few years. The original mosque was commissioned by the ruler Timur and probably built between 1399 and 1404.
The special thing about the mosque are the octagonal minarets, which are rather untypical for the architectural style of this time.
As the new Friday mosque, the great mosque was to become the main mosque of Samarkand. It is still not entirely clear where the name Bibi-Khanum comes from.
One suspicion is that the mosque was named after Timur’s favorite wife, but its existence cannot be proven. It’s best to ask your guide about the legend of Bibi-Khanum.
11. THE CITY OF KOKAND – UZBEKISTAN ROUND TRIP
The city of Kokand is quite a young city, it was only built in its present form in 1740. The palace of Xudayar Khan, which was built in 1863-1873, is particularly worth seeing.
Traditional handicraft techniques were used, such as the impressive ceramics that you come across all over the country. There is also a museum in the palace where you can learn more about the region and its cultures.
VISIT TO A CERAMIC WORKSHOP
Everywhere in Uzbekistan you will encounter the colorful ceramics, which have a long tradition here. In Rishton, near Kokand, you can visit Said’s Ceramics workshop.
During a guided tour you will learn everything about the production of the beautiful vessels and afterwards you can stock up on souvenirs to take home.
If you are toying with the idea of buying ceramics, do so here in the Ferghana Valley. The ceramics from here are known across the country for their beautiful patterns.
Since we were only traveling with hand luggage, there was only enough space for two pretty tea bowls. We now use them every day.
And while using it, we finally understood why bowls are often used in oriental areas: After pouring it, you can drink the tea straight away and don’t burn your mouth like you would with a cup. The tea cools down to drinking temperature as it is poured out. Pretty handy!
INTERNATIONAL CRAFTSMEN FESTIVAL KOKAND
When we visited Kokand, the first international craft festival was taking place in Kokand. The whole city was on its feet and since the President was also there, entire streets were partially closed.
The festival took place around the palace, there were countless stalls with handicrafts from all over the world. It was fascinating to see the differences between the different countries.
By the way, on the way from Tashkent to Kokand you cross the impressive Kamchik Pass with great views. Unfortunately, it was quite cloudy here, so we only stopped for a photo.
12. FERGHANA – FARGʻONA
Ferghana is a very young city that is attracting more and more people: While the place was no more than a village in the 18th century, almost 190,000 people live in the city today.
With the surrounding residential areas, the region even has 500,000 residents. Ferghana is particularly attractive due to its growing industry.
THE “NATIONAL PARK” IN FERGHANA
To be honest, we didn’t find Ferghana really worth seeing. We were there for an afternoon, that was enough for us. The highlight for us was the so-called “National Park” – we imagined a nature reserve with wonderful waterfalls and dense forests underneath. In fact, it’s an amusement park with rides from the Soviet era.
For us it was full of the happening to walk through the park and look at all these ancient rides that were still in use here. With some of them we were worried that in the next second they would just collapse.
But then we actually ventured onto the Ferris wheel, which reminds me of the famous Chernobyl Ferris wheel. We definitely had a lot of fun paired with various panic attacks.
There used to be a traditional theater in Ferghana, but unfortunately it is closed until further notice.
VISIT TO A SILK WEAVING MILL
In Margilon, a neighboring town of Ferghana, you can visit a traditional silk weaving mill and follow the process from the first silk thread to processing.
Here you will also find out how the traditional Uzbek pattern, which you will encounter again and again on the whole Uzbekistan tour, is created. And finally, shopping is not neglected either – here you can buy real silk goods of the best quality at unbeatable prices.
A silk scarf woven on both sides cost just $20 when we visited – unfortunately they weren’t in the color of my choice. So I bought a cotton scarf in the right color for $5.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT UZBEKISTAN
About 33 million people live in the Central Asian state of Uzbekistan. The name Uzbekistan is derived from the Uzbeks, who are the third largest Turkic people .
Most of the residents of the country, which gained independence in 1991 and previously belonged to the Soviet Union, are Muslims. However, they have only been able to practice their religion freely and without fear for three years, since the new president has been in power.
The previous president or dictator arrested and tortured Muslims on the pretext of extremism. Much has changed in Uzbekistan in the last three years, including journalists from abroad who are now allowed to travel to the country.
On our Uzbekistan tour we got to know a country in a spirit of optimism and positive expectations for the future.
THE BEST TRAVEL TIME FOR A UZBEKISTAN TOUR
To really enjoy the impressive Uzbekistan sights, you should travel in autumn or early summer. The country is in the temperate climate zone.
There are large temperature fluctuations between the seasons: winters can be very cold, while hot temperatures of up to 50 degrees and little rainfall are not uncommon in summer.
ARRIVAL TO UZBEKISTAN
The three best options to fly to Uzbekistan: With Aeroflot via Moscow, with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul or as a direct flight with Uzbekistan Airways. You can choose both Tashkent and Samarkand as your travel destination. There are also other options such as Air Astana or Emirates.
Our flight with Turkish Airlines went from Frankfurt to Istanbul in about three and a half hours. And then on to Tashkent in four and a half hours.
Since we only had an hour and a half transfer time in Istanbul, we only flew with hand luggage to be on the safe side. We didn’t want our luggage to be stranded in Istanbul if the plane was delayed.
That happened to us on the way back from Kyrgyzstan via Moscow to Frankfurt. Although that didn’t really matter to us on the way home.
UZBEKISTAN WITH HAND LUGGAGE
That was our first trip with hand luggage, we had the new Rolling Transporter Carry-On 38 specially made available by Osprey . Martin and I have been committed hand luggage travelers since this trip.
The weather in Uzbekistan is very constant and even in September it is still warm, which makes packing sparingly easier. But we also had our down jackets with us for the evenings and the mountains.
If at all possible and if we don’t have to take all of our camera equipment with us, we will now travel with hand luggage more often!
CHANGE AT ISTANBUL AIRPORT
Luckily the plane was on time – but we were on the way from the arrival gate to the departure gate at Istanbul Airport for almost forty minutes! We had to go straight through the entire gigantic airport.
Even if your connection is so tight: There is probably the option for passengers whose flight is within the next ninety minutes to take a shortcut. They are also signposted (only we didn’t see them).
MONEY IN UZBEKISTAN – UZBEKISTAN ROUND TRIP
The Uzbek currency is Som (spoken Sum). In September 2019, 1 US dollar was equivalent to about 1,000 som. So you can imagine what a chunk of bills we got when we exchanged $100.
You can also pay in dollars or euros when buying souvenirs or eating out in a tourist spot. Until recently, paying with dollars was forbidden and there was no way to pay with Visa or Mastercard or to withdraw money. Even today, this is only possible to a limited extent.
HOW DO I GET UZBEK MONEY?
The best way to get cash is to bring cash from home and exchange it on the spot. It doesn’t matter whether you bring dollars or euros with you.
There are usually exchange offices in larger hotels or at the bank. In these hotels you will usually also find ATMs where you can withdraw dollars. When the machine is loaded.
As a tourist, you have no way of withdrawing Som directly from the machine. Either your credit card is not (yet) accepted or the ATM is empty. The government is probably working to make it easier for tourists to get hold of money in the future.
PRICES IN UZBEKISTAN
By the way, Uzbekistan is an incredibly cheap travel destination. You can get lunch for two to five dollars, a bottle of water costs twenty cents and a glass of Uzbek drinks would cost you around $3.50. For a good mid-range hotel you pay between $25 and $35.
FOOD IN UZBEKISTAN
Martin was very skeptical beforehand whether he would really get through as a vegetarian in Uzbekistan. But it worked out great!
Uzbekistan has a lot of delicious salads and vegetables. Including a tomato-cucumber salad with herbs or a simple tomato salad. As a starter there is a delicious, cooked eggplant and tomato mixture that tastes different in each place. Manti, steamed dumplings with different fillings, are also popular.
The national dish, however, is plow: rice, beetroot and beef are boiled in a sauce with cottonseed oil in a huge pot. The whole thing is then served on a huge platter and traditionally eaten by hand. Today, however, people usually eat with cutlery.
Samsa are often sold at street stalls, they are very reminiscent of the Indian samosas, but are filled with meat.
The Uighur Laghman, a meat dish with thick noodles, or shashlik skewers in all varieties is also typical.
By the way, there is always watermelon and sugar melon for dessert. And I’ll tell you, these are the best melons you have ever eaten!
HOW DO I DRESS IN UZBEKISTAN?
Uzbekistan is a predominantly Muslim country, although the interpretation of the Koran is not seen as strictly here. Due to the influences of the Soviet Union, for example, people like to drink a lot of alcohol here.
There are no regulations for tourists when it comes to clothing . But I always had my legs covered, be it with a long skirt, a long dress or airy trousers. At the top I also wore T-shirts with short arms, no spaghetti tops and no wide neckline either.
I always had a scarf or jacket with me to cover my shoulders for the sightseeing.
Martin always wore shorts that kept his knees covered.
EVENTS IN UZBEKISTAN – UZBEKISTAN ROUND TRIP
An important holiday in Uzbekistan is Nouruz, the Persian New Year festival. Nouruz takes place on March 20 or 21, when spring begins. Like January 1st, Nouruz is a public holiday in Uzbekistan.
Independence is celebrated in Uzbekistan on September 1st (we were right in the middle of it!). In addition, public holidays such as Constitution Day (October 8th) were introduced to honor the country’s independence.
Like Nouruz, there are some holidays that stem from Zoroastrianism and Islamic history. Ramdan Khait and Kurban Khait are celebrated every year.
During Ramadan, people’s entire rhythm of life changes, because there is no eating or drinking during the day. Before you travel, you should therefore find out about the time of your trip in the Islamic lunar calendar.