Bukhara, Uzbekistan. The intriguing city rising from the Kyzylkum Desert, like an oasis of the past. With the sea of turquoise madrasahs and mosques, a rich history reaching thousands of years back, there is no shortage of impressive things to do in Bukhara. Here are the top places to visit, as well as the ones less known to the tourist’s eye, but still worth discovering.
Bukhara in Uzbekistan (Buxoro in Uzbek), a historical medieval city, located on the Silk Route, emanates with the charm of the past days. Located between the buzzing with a city life Samarkand, and like-a-history-museum Khiva, Bukhara places itself somewhere in the middle. And it’s a worthy stop on the journey along the Silk Road.
The two-thousand-years-old town shows its face as one of the best-preserved Islamic cities of Central Asia between X and XVII century. There are certainly a lot of interesting things to do in Bukhara, whether you are a history lover, or if you just enjoy exploring less known places and breathtaking sights.
You can find there multiple madrasahs (Muslim theological schools), mosques, shrines, tombs, flat-roofed houses of sun-dried bricks, covered bazaars and more. There are around 140 architectural monuments to visit there. The historic centre of Bukhara has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage site.
However, the true beauty of this ancient Persian city lies in its overall townscape, where the consistent architecture can be found.
THINGS TO DO IN BUKHARA UZBEKISTAN
Bukhara is full of history. Compared to things to do in Samarkand, the places to see in Bukhara are not as grand and well restored, but they are still astonishing, full of meaning and culture. Uzbekistan’s fifth-largest city for long has been a centre of religion, scholarship and trade, connected with the Silk Road.
Even though Uzbekistan is a less visited place, there is tourism here, and you can also see it in Bukhara. However, the city feels quieter and more authentic thank Samarkand or Khiva. In the old town, I was mostly walking alone on the empty streets. Although it might have something to do with the scorching heat. The newer part of town was busier.
When searching for things to do in Bukhara, focus on visiting the old town, but do venture out of it to see the daily lives of people. That’s the best way to encounter even more interesting sights.
I especially recommend visiting the below places. These are some of the must-see sights of Bukhara, as well as less known gems, that you can explore if you get off the main track a little.
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# Visit Po-i-Kalyan
Po-i-Kalyan is the top place to visit in Bukhara. It’s an Islamic religious complex that consists of Kalan Mosque, Kalon Minaret, and Mir-i-Arab Madrasa.
# Enter the Kalan Mosque
Kalan Mosque has been built in the XVI century. In size, it’s similar to the Bibi Khanym mosque, which is one of the top things to do in Samarkand. However, it is very different in architectural style. The mosque’s inner courtyard features 288 domes resting on 208 pillars.
# Admire the Kalan Minaret
The Kalan minaret, also known as Minara-i Kalan, which means “Grand Minaret” in Persian, is the most famous structure of the Po-i-Kalyan complex. Its role is for decorative purposes, as well as traditional – to call people to prayer.
The minaret is also known as the Tower of Death – the criminals have been thrown down from the top as a form of execution.
Unfortunately, you cannot enter the top of the minaret.
# Peak into Mir-i-Arab Madrasa and snap a photo in front of it
Mir-i-Arab Madrasa was constructed at the beginning of XVI century and it’s in use still today. Therefore, it’s not accessible to tourists. However, you can peak through the entrance into the main courtyard and watch students studying and reading.
The exterior of the Madrasa is also worth looking at.
# Eat at Bukhara Chasmai Mirob restaurant
I know, it’s strange to add the restaurant to the places to visit, but in this case, it’s all about the view. The food is not bad either.
The restaurant is located on the other side of the road from Po-i-Kalyan and offers an amazing view of the whole complex from the terrace. It is a touristy place, and you can see it in the prices, but the view is worth it.
# See the real size of the Chor Minor
Chor Minor is also known as Madrasah of Khalif Niyaz-kul. The cultural heritage monument is a destroyed part of madrasah built in XIX century.
The structure has four minarets (chor minor means four minarets). Each of them has a different design. Interior is very tight and now houses a souvenir shop, which you can enter for free. You can also go up to the roof, but it costs a small fee.
Opposite, there’s an interesting shop selling old military uniforms.
# See where old meets the modern at Bukhara fortress – the Ark of Bukhara
Ark of Bukhara is a huge fortress, initially erected in 5th century AD. It has been used as a military structure, acted as a town for royal courts and now is one of Bukhara tourist attractions. I especially liked looking at everyday life happening in front of the 5th-century walls.
Don’t forget to take some photos by the walls from the outside.
You can enter part of the fortress, which is now a museum, for a 15,000 UZS per person.
# Take a break from tiles in the beautifully decorated Bolo Haouz Mosque
Opposite the fortress, you’ll find this beautifully decorated wooden Bolo Haouz Mosque. Raise your head up to admire the finely decorated ceiling.
The mosque has been built in 1712 and together with other parts of the city, it’s on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
# Climb up the Shukhov Tower
Near the mosque, you will notice an unusual looking tower. It used to be a broadcasting tower, now used as an observation deck. I didn’t go up, but I’ve heard that the prices are quite high for what you get (40, 000 UZS).
# Have a tea by the Lyab-i-Hauz
Lyab-i-Hauz is the main square in Bukhara with a picturesque pond in the middle. The square is surrounded by beautiful buildings and a few madrasahs.
Especially worth a visit is Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah, by the lake. The Kukaldosh Madrasah is located across the street, but it’s a bit more ruined.
As a central part of the city, Lyab-i-Hauz is where locals gather to have tea under the shadow of the trees during the day or ice cream in the evening. It was one of my favourite spots for people watching in Bukhara.
# Visit the Madrasahs around – Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah
The beautiful building of Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah with a courtyard filled with chairs and stalls.
# Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah
The XVIIth century Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah is worth a stop. The building’s entrance amazes everyone who passes by. Delicately carved archway, painted in an array of colours catches an eye.
The madrasah lies opposite the Ulughbek Madrasah. They both make for the Kosh Madrasah.
The interior is also beautiful, but it has been filled up with souvenir stalls, which makes it harder for you to admire it properly. You need to pay a fee to enter the madrasah and the museum.
# Stop by the Ulugbek Madrasah
Located opposite the Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah, Ulugbek Madrasah is under construction and not particularly interesting to visit right now. But the entrance is free.
# Go shopping to the Bukhara Covered Bazaars
You will not have problems finding a place to shop in Bukhara. There are sellers on the streets, on the markets and even inside of some old madrasahs. But one of the most interesting, almost like an old-school shopping experience, is a complex of Bazaars inside the domes in Bukhara. They exist there since the days of the trading on the Silk Road.
There are three remaining domed bazaars that were renovated in the Soviet times: Taki-Sarrafon, Taki-Telpak Furushon and Taki-Zargaron. You can find them on the way from Lyabi-Hauz to Kalyan Mosque.
# Walk around the Samonids Recreation Park
A little bit away from the old town, lies a recreation park. It’s a favourite local spot for hanging out and relaxing. A perfect place to watch locals living their lives. Around, you can also find several of the Madrasas and mosques.
# Visit Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum
Near the park, you will find a mausoleum, which now houses a museum of the water supply in Bukhara. Inside, you can learn how the water supply in Bukhara has changed and evolved over time.
# Have a look at Mavzoley Samanidov Mausoleum
Mavzoley Samanidov shrine, also known as Samanid Mausoleum, has been built in X century. It has some distinctive brickwork, and it’s considered one of the key example of early Islamic architecture.
The building is quite small, and it’s not really worth paying for the entrance fee.
Stop by the Qo’sh Madrasa
Beautiful quiet place close to a park and the market. I got there by accident when I was walking around on the streets in Bukhara. There was not a single tourist in sight. I’ve also met some locals decorating hand-made items.
# Buy local produce on the local Bukhara Bazaar – Kolkhoznyy Rynok
Adjacent to the Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum, there is a local bazaar, where you can find food, souvenirs and everything else you might need.
# Try Hammam in Bukhara
Hammam, the traditional Turkish style public baths, are separated in Uzbekistan for the ones for men and women. Hamman Kunjak or Khodja Kord hammam are for women. Hamman Bozori Kord is just for men.
#Visit Museum of the history of carpet weaving
The Museum of the history of carpet weaving was opened in 1991 in the place of the ancient mosque Magoki Attori dating to between XII and XVI century. The museum shows all kinds of traditional carpet weaving styles in Central Asia. The origin of carpet weaving dates back to between II-III century.
BUKHARA TRAVEL TIPS
Where to stay in Bukhara – Bukhara hotels
There are a few places to stay in Bukhara to choose from. However, in the high season, the rooms get booked quickly. Remember to save your space in advance. When you use Booking.com, you can usually cancel the reservation for free.
Here are some recommended Bukhara hotels:
Bukhara Rumi hotel – I stayed there for two nights in a mixed dormitory room. There were bunk beds with curtains, which was nice. The building is rather old and has a courtyard inside. The toilet was a basic one. We had a good and very big breakfast. The wifi was working mainly in the common area. The location was good enough, but further from the tourist attractions. It was just fine for a few nights, but for a longer stay, you might consider options below. Check prices and availability here.
For nice hotels with a bit higher price range, Hotel Malika Bukhara with their spa centre is a good choice. I wanted to stay in a beautifully decorated Boutique Hotel Minzifa that has traditional Uzbek architecture, but it was fully booked. It gets quite popular, so make sure to book in advance. Check prices and availability here.
How to get to Bukhara
The easiest way to go to Bukhara from Samarkand is by train. The tickets are cheap and the trains are quite fast and efficient. You can book the tickets on the Uzbek rail website. I recommend buying them in advance, as they can get sold out. To avoid hefty bank fees, use Revolut for payments.
Ticket price from Samarkand to Bukhara cost me 76600 UZS. The journey takes around 2h.
Bukhara train station is a bit away from the city centre, so you would need to take a taxi to get there. The station is called Kagan. You can take shared or private taxi or marshrutka.
Can you recommend any other things to do in Bukhara, Uzbekistan? Have you been there or are you planning to go? Let me know in the comments!
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