There are a lot of places to visit in Uzbekistan. However, a well made, a one week Uzbekistan itinerary is enough to see most of them, together with going off the beaten path and meeting local people. I carefully planned my Uzbekistan itinerary to see as much as possible in a week of backpacking Uzbekistan, and I share it with you.
Uzbekistan tourism places narrow down to three main cities located on the Silk Road: Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva. Those are the cities that feature almost every Uzbekistan itinerary, and for a reason. There are, however, also other places to visit, and things, that you should put your attention to when you plan your trip to Uzbekistan.
And how to plan your Uzbekistan travel anyway? Is Uzbekistan safe? What about transport, money, prices, food?
Below, I explain it all to you. Dig in!
Table of content
# Uzbekistan itinerary tips
# What to add with more time
# Map of Uzbekistan itinerary
# What to pack for Uzbekistan
BACKPACKING UZBEKISTAN ITINERARY
The route that I chose, I managed to do in 7 days with plenty of spare time in between.
However, before travelling to Uzbekistan, I’ve read on several blogs, that I cannot possibly do that all in a week unless I rush it through. And should only focus on three cities that are closer to each other – Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara.
Of course, if you want to spend several days in one city and come back to the same places at different times of the day, then plan like this would work. Or, if you don’t want to travel at night.
However, with correct planning, you can still see much more. With no rushing!
During my Uzbekistan 7-day itinerary, I followed the Silk Road, witnessed the history written in the walls of Bukhara, learned about the Timurid Empire in Samarkand, listened to the stories of Khiva, had Uzbek food in the traditional yurt, explored the abandoned desert castles, and met tons of wonderful local people. And this is how.
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UZBEKISTAN ITINERARY TIPS
I travelled in Uzbekistan solo and I checked on my own skin if Uzbekistan is safe.
Uzbekistan has recently relaxed its visa rules, which includes no-visa entry for some passport holders. Check the information about the visa requirements for Central Asia before departing. You can read the latest visa information for Central Asia on the official country website. For Central Asia visas for Uzbekistan, click on the blue link.
To travel in Central Asia you can use different modes of transport. My favourite transport in Uzbekistan were trains, shared taxis and marshrutkas. Marshrutkas are the minibuses that travel either on short or long distances. They are usually small and cramped but it’s the cheapest option to travel around. Shared taxis are the cars where you share places with other people. Their price is normally a bit higher than the marshrutkas, but they can get you to the destination faster. Trains connect the main places on this Uzbekistan itinerary, they are cheap and fast, so this was my favourite transport to use.
You need to bring a lot of cash with you to Uzbekistan. Or take dollars and exchange them in the bank. Most places don’t accept cards (any cards), and ATMs are either broken or only working for locals. Sometimes, in Tashkent, you can use Revolut.
By law, you need to register your stay in Uzbekistan every three days. When you stay in hotels, they will do it for you. Then you just need to collect the receipts in case you get asked for them at the border. Check for accommodation in Uzbekistan here.
I did Uzbekistan backpacking as a solo traveler, and I felt safe in Uzbekistan. However, I’ve already visited over 60 countries, most of them independently, I speak Russian and I can make my way around pretty well. If you don’t consider yourself ready for taking an independent trip to Uzbekistan, here are some recommendations for the organized tours to consider instead:
- 2 Days desert Yurt camp tour in Uzbekistan – Check details here
- 4 Days Pearls of Uzbekistan Tour – Check details here
DAY 1 UZBEKISTAN ITINERARY – TASHKENT
Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, has quite a lot of charm, especially if you compare it to other world’s capitals. If you have some time, you can spend a day in Tashkent and see how life goes on in a big city. In terms of main Uzbekistan tourism places, there is not that much there, but you can still find something to see.
I was quite tired after my travels, so I didn’t manage to see much of the city. If you have time, spend at least half a day there and make sure to see some of the Soviet architecture.
Top places to visit in Tashkent
- Uzbekistan hotel – it’s the most famous hotel in Uzbekistan due to the interesting look. The building is mainly of interest to photographers who enjoy the post-Soviet architecture.
- Asian Plov Center – it’s a place to try some of the national Uzbek dishes like Central Asian plov, made from rice and meat.
- Amir Timur Museum – Timur was the first ruler of the Timurid dynasty, founding the Timurid Empire in Iran and Central Asia. If you are interested in learning more about this emperor, you can find out a lot there.
- Chorsu bazaar – main bazaar in Tashkent. The outdoor markets in Central Asia are always worth a visit 😉
- Tashkent Metro stations – trip to beautifully decorated metro stations is recommended. The photography used to be forbidden there, but now it’s possible.
Where to stay in Tashkent:
Sunrise Caravan Hotel – I stayed there for one night after arrival. The location is central. The interior was really nice and wooden, with a clean bathroom and a comfortable bed with a curtain in a mixed dormitory room. A simple breakfast was included. They also offer private rooms. Check prices and availability here.
Tashkent Amir Khan Hostel – a nice hostel, located close to the airport (I walked for my flight). I stayed in a female-only dormitory room and it was clean and comfortable. Plugs and curtains for each bed. Clean bathroom. Breakfast included. The staff were really nice and offered me a takeaway breakfast with no additional charge as I was leaving early for my morning flight. Check prices and availability here.
How to get around Tashkent
Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, serves as a transport hub of Uzbekistan. In the city, you can find several modes of transportation.
The only metro in the country, and one of the two in Central Asia, Tashkent underground is quick transport option in the Uzbekistan capital. And if the speed of transport is not enough to convince you, the interesting designs of the metro stations should! Trains run every 10 minutes from 5am to 00:00.
Bus network in Tashkent is quite extensive, but route planning might be difficult. Ask locals for help if you’re unsure.
Taxis is also a convenient option to get around the city. This is when there is no traffic! Remember to agree on the price before you get on.
Read more: Central Asia Travel Guide
DAYS 2-3 UZBEKISTAN ITINERARY – SAMARKAND
Samarkand, and especially its old town is a crossroad and melting pot of cultures. Founded in the 7th century B.C., but has been mostly developed from the 14th to the 15th centuries, during the Timurid period.
It is quite a big city, and contrary to other Silk Road cities like Bukhara or Khiva, it doesn’t have entirely separated old town. From one side, it’s better as it looks more “real” to have all those old Silk Road buildings dotted around.
On the other side, it can feel a bit noisy and crowded with all the locals and cars everywhere around, when you try to get from one place to another. There are, however, parts of town, where the cars don’t go in, and this is where you can catch a bit of peace and enjoy the magical feel of the ancient Silk Road.
I managed to see most of the important things to do in Samarkand on the first day after arrival, so during the second day, I was mainly walking around, talking to people, eating, drinking tea and wandering the streets. I would say that one full day there would be enough, but make sure to not miss sunrise and sunset in Registan, so plan accordingly.
How to get to Samarkand
The easiest way to go to Samarkand from Tashkent 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.
The ticket price from Tashkent to Samarkand cost me 69585 UZS. The journey took 3 hours. Plan for an early train to have the whole day to explore, or for a late train to not to lose time.
Top places to visit in Samarkand
A mausoleum for Amir Timur, the first ruler of the Timurid empire. You can walk around the building to see people paying their respects to the emperor, or pay a fee to get inside.
The most famous square in Samarkand, is worth the hype. Three madrasas (Islamic schools) create the complex. It’s worth going up to the minaret, just beware for the very narrow stairs. The Registan looks the most beautiful in the morning before all the local crowds arrive.
Make sure to also visit Registan at night, when the whole complex is lit up. Even after the entrance is closed, you can still admire the square from the outside.
Bibi Khanym Mosque
This huge mosque is worth visiting. It used to be one of the largest mosques in the world, but it has been destroyed with time. It still does look magnificent, from the outside and from the inside, showing off the delicate Islamic architecture design.
The mosque is located by the busy local street, and near the market, so expect a lot of locals hanging around.
Siyob (Siab) Bazaar
The biggest open-air market in Samarkand and the largest bazaar in the whole of Uzbekistan. It’s located just by the Bibi Khanym Mosque. It’s a great place to wander around and explore what items you can get there – from sweets to fresh produce, meat, bread, medicines to kitchen dishes.
- Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis
Beautiful complex, full of turquoise mosaics, consisting of mausoleums, ritual buildings and tombs. It has been built for Amir Timur’s family and aristocracy from his times. I recommend visiting in the late afternoon when it’s quieter and the sun creates long shadows and golden colour on the buildings. Opening hours: 7 am-7 pm. Entrance fee: 10,000S.
There are many more sights to see in Samarkand. Find more info in the post about things to do in Samarkand.
Where to stay in Samarkand:
I stayed in B&B Emir. It’s a nice hostel, located close to Gur Emir complex and a short walk away from Registan. Traditional wooden interior, rooftop (it wasn’t fully ready when I was there though) and clean rooms. Breakfast wasn’t included, but there are plenty of places in the city where you can get food. Check prices and availability here.
DAYS 3-4 UZBEKISTAN ITINERARY – BUKHARA
Bukhara is much quieter than Samarkand. In Bukhara focus on visiting mainly the old town, but do venture out of it to see the daily lives of people and to encounter even more interesting places.
It’s a perfect place to just walk around and discover it on your own. Do not miss some of the important sights, though 😉
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 center, 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. I ended up taking a local bus and rode through the city people watching.
Top places to visit in Bukhara
Po-i-Kalyan is the top place to visit in Bukhara. It consists of Kalan Mosque, Kalon Minaret, Mir-i-Arab Madrasa (not accessible for tourists, as it’s still being used). For the birds-eye view of the complex, head to Bukhara Chasmai Mirob restaurant.
- Chor Minor
A heritage monument left from now destroyed madrasa with four minarets (Chor minor means four minarets). It now houses a souvenir shop. It’s the tiniest interior that I’ve seen. You can enter the roof for a small fee.
Opposite the building, there’s an interesting shop selling old military uniforms.
- Bukhara fortress (The Ark)
A huge fortress with interesting architecture. You can enter part of the fortress, which is now a museum, for a fee. I especially liked looking at everyday life happening in front of the 5th-century walls.
- Bolo Haouz Mosque
The opposite the fortress, you can find this beautiful wooden mosque. Raise your head up to admire the finely decorated ceiling!
The central square in the old town of Bukhara. Filled with locals resting under the trees with a cup of tea during the day and with kids buying ice-cream in the evening. It’s a place with a special atmosphere. And perfect for people watching and making new local friends.
- Samonids Recreation Park – nice park, where you can watch locals relaxing after work.
There are many more places to see, check them in the post about places to see in Bukhara.
Where to stay in Bukhara:
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, unfortunately, the owner didn’t want to give me anything for takeaway as I was checking out before breakfast was served. The wifi was working mainly in the common area. The location was good enough, but further from the tourist attractions. It was ok for a few nights. Check prices and availability here.
For nice hotels with a bit higher price range, Hotel Malika Bukhara with their spa center 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.
DAYS 4-5 UZBEKISTAN ITINERARY – KHIVA
Khiva, with its old town, Itchan Kala, that is part of the UNESCO Heritage list, was last of the main cities on my Uzbekistan itinerary.
Itchan Kala, the historic old town of Khiva, is the main purpose people travel to the city. Some call it an open-air museum, but for me, it was more than that. You have many historical buildings and architectural pieces in one place, crisscrossed by the local’s stalls and restaurants serving local food.
The mud walls of the buildings and walking off the main paths, as well as waking up for the sunrise on the city walls added magic to my stay in Khiva. I spent one full day, an evening and the next morning before and after the sunrise, wandering within the old city walls.
How to get to Khiva
The easiest way to go to Khiva from Bukhara is by train. However, the train doesn’t go all the way to Khiva. It goes to Urgench and from there you need to take a bus or taxi to Khiva.
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.
The ticket price from Bukhara to Urgench cost me 123487 UZS on a sleeper train in the private compartment. I shared it with 3 other people. The journey took around 6 hours. I recommend taking a night train, so you save a day and you can start exploring the city straight away.
Places to visit in Khiva
Spend most of your time there. You don’t need the ticket to enter the old city. However, if you want to enter some of the museums or buildings you would need a ticket, which you can buy at the entrance of the old town.
I recommend just to walk around and stop wherever something sparks your interest. Below are some places that you shouldn’t miss inside the Khiva old town.
- Kalta Minor Minaret
This unfinished, turquoise minaret features in most of the photos you can find from Khiva. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to enter it anymore, but it still makes for an interesting sight.
- The Mohammad Amin Khan madrasah
Located next door to Kala Minor Minaret. It has been turned into the hotel, and the student cells are the guestrooms. Do stop for a photo there.
- Pakhlavan Makhmoud Mausoleum
Mausoleum with green tile roof and beautiful tile works. Separate entry ticket.
- Islam Khoja Minaret
A tall minaret on the southeast side of the old town. To climb it, you need to pay an entrance fee and go through the set of steep steps. The effort is worth it – the views from the top are magnificent.
- Kunya-Ark Citadel
Beautiful citadel from 1686. Inside there is a mosque Ak Sheikh Bobo and a museum. It features stunning tile and woodwork. Visit in the late afternoon to have a whole place for yourself.
- Khiva city walls
You can climb the city walls for free for the great views of the old and new town. The entrance to climb up is near Bakcha Darvaza. I recommend going there for the sunrise and/or the sunset.
Where to stay in Khiva:
Khiva Meros B&B – family-run hotel with rooftop terrace and wonderfully decorated ceilings. It’s located within the Old Khiva walls, perfect for peaceful strolls amongst the historical buildings and offering great sunset and sunrise views. It gets very popular and it’s hard to get a room, so be quick with booking. Check prices and availability here.
ELLIQ-QUALA, THE 50 FORTS – UZBEKISTAN ITINERARY DAY 6
Golden Ring of Khwarezm
I finished my Uzbekistan itinerary with a day trip to the Elliq-Qala, which means “50 forts”. I was looking forward to this part of the trip, as it sounded very unusual to me. The ruined towns and forts located in the middle of the desert oasis Khwarezm are collectively called a Golden Ring.
Currently, there are around 20 ruin sites that have been discovered, but the new ones are constantly being added to the list. The area of Khwarezm proves to be one of the biggest and most interesting areas of ruin on the planet.
A visit to the Golden Ring was a very interesting experience, that I can definitely recommend. The forts were empty and we could visit the walls in peace. The landscape reminded me of the intriguing rock formations of Wadi Rum in Jordan in the Middle East.
The most known fortress is Ayaz Qala, which is also the biggest one.
How to get to Elliq-Quala, the Golden Ring of Khwarezm
There is no public transport going there and the ruins are located in different places in the desert. The best way to get there is by car. You can rent a taxi to take you there or take a tour. I shared the car with a driver with other travelers from the hostel I stayed in Khiva.
It cost me around 10$ (and was a bit too expensive, you can get it cheaper, but I didn’t have time or energy to look for anything else). The car took us to four different ruin sites.
We had time to explore each one of them and spend as much time as we wanted. On top of the price for the car, we needed to pay a small entry fee into each site.
WHAT TO ADD TO UZBEKISTAN ITINERARY WITH MORE TIME
The sixth-largest city of Uzbekistan and the capital of the Republic of Karakalpakstan is located far away into the desert on the west side of the country. Nukus is known for its world-class Nukus Museum of Art, dubbed “museum of forbidden art” or “the Louvre of Uzbekistan“.
The ghost-city, which population has been on a constant decline since the recession of the Aral sea, now it’s a testament of how the Muynak used to be a seaport, and now it lies more than 90 miles from the shore.
Travellers visit Muynak for the ship graveyard and to understand the ecological disaster of the Aral Sea.
The Aral Sea used to be the fourth-largest lake in the world. After excessive usage of water to the Soviet Union irrigation projects, the lake has started shrinking and now parts of it completely disappeared.
The shrinking of the Aral Sea has been called one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters. Today, you can drive up to the shore of the Aral Sea through the desert, which used to be filled in with water. It’s a good place to reflect on the impact of human actions on the planet and why being a responsible traveller is so important.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the division of the Valley between several countries created some cultural complexities in the region.
Even though Uzbekistan is not often associated with mountains, there are some options for hiking in Uzbekistan. Some places to consider for Uzbekistan hiking are the Chimgan Mountains and Kadwansai Mountain River Valley.
A MAP OF UZBEKISTAN ITINERARY
Below you can find a rough map of my Uzbekistan itinerary.
WHAT TO PACK FOR UZBEKISTAN
A few things that I recommend bringing when you travel to Uzbekistan:
- Revolut card for fee-free ATM withdrawals (some of the local ATMs will still charge a small fee, but it’s not the bank fee). Order your card here.
- US dollars in cash (so important Uzbekistan)
- Water filter. I recommend SteriPen, that also filters viruses or LifeStraw. You can buy SteriPen here, LifeStraw here.
- Russian phrasebook & dictionary – I used the one from Lonely Planet and found it very helpful. Buy it here.
- Sunscreen, always. I love this 50+La Roche Posay.
- Good sunglasses for the harsh sun and higher altitudes
- First aid kit
Are you planning a trip to Uzbekistan? Or maybe you have already been to Uzbekistan and can recommend what to see in Uzbekistan and what to add to the guide to Uzbekistan? Let me know in the comments.
Read more about Central Asia:
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