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MAKING THE MOST OF UZBEKISTAN IN ONE WEEK

Updated: Aug 12, 2023

I can see Uzbekistan being one of the next hot tourist destinations in the next few years. If you haven't heard of it, it is one of the cheapest and most affordable places you can visit. Uzbekistan is in Central Asia. From Toronto, the best route would be via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. Now you're probably wondering, how did I end up there, out of all places?

Well, here's a little backstory: I was looking at countries that were allowing tourists in during the pandemic (circa October 2021). Uzbekistan came up on the list. After some research, I was interested to visit as I saw it offered quite a lot in terms of history and culture (plus there are so many UNESCO Heritage sites). What I didn't know was that one of the girls I was friends with on Instagram actually lives in Tashkent! I saw her story one day and saw that she had the location tag on. I messaged her right away and said that I was already planning a trip there for October and we instantly made plans to meet up. The rest was history!


When you arrive in Uzbekistan, you are in for a surprise. Why, you ask? The people of Uzbekistan are one of the most hospitable and friendliest I've met on my travels! Your experience will be one to remember just for the kindness of the people you meet along the way. It may be hard to come across English speakers, but there are a few. At the time we visited, we often got stopped by students for interviews, who wanted to know how they can make the country more tourist-friendly. At the time, there were also very few tourists (some days, I wouldn't see any at all), so locals were super excited to come across us.


You can accomplish a lot in one week in Uzbekistan, from a trip to the mountains to visiting monuments that were once part of the Silk Road. In one week, we visited Tashkent, Bukhara, and Samarkand. It is possible to visit Khiva too (you can fly there to save time).


Here is how we spent one week in Uzbekistan:


1. TASHKENT

Upon landing, I found that Wi-Fi was not available at the airport. Right away, I knew that free Wi-Fi may be challenging to find in the country. I recommend buying a SIM card if you are planning to stay a while (even if it's just a week). Luckily, the person working at the information counter helped us, and I was able to connect with my friend. We ordered a taxi to our hotel. They use Yandex GO as the equivalent of Uber, so make sure to download the app prior to your arrival! Taxi rides are very cheap and range anywhere from $1-4 CAD!


A tip for your hotel stays while in Uzbekistan: avoid booking online! For the first few days, we were booking our hotels online, however, as time passed, we decided to find other hotels by ourselves in person and prices would be x2-3 times cheaper than online. On average, we spent $60-80/night per room when booking online. But, when we booked in person and paid cash, we would get some hotels for as low as $20/night, including breakfast.

First stop: Chorsu Bazaar! This is a great stop to see a little more of local life, where people come to buy their meat and produce. Though mainly fruits, meats, nuts, and vegetables are available, you can also find a clothing section. I came here to shop for some traditional Uzbek snacks (my favorite being the halwa) and to fill my stomach with some local cuisine.


Then we were off to a Subway Tour! Did you know that some of the metro stations in Uzbekistan are one of the most beautiful in the world? The design varies from each station, but has a good mix of Uzbek culture, the country's Soviet past, and fascinating art designs.


If you do decide to check it out, I highly recommend stopping at any of the following stations: Kosmonavtlar (pictured), Mustakillik, Toshkent, Alisher Navoi, Paxtakor, and Tinchlik. These stops are all part of the Ozbekiston Line, with the exception of Paxtakor, being on the Orange Line (Chilonzor Line).


Some sights we visited in Tashkent included the Hazrati Imam Complex (Khast Imam Square), Minor Mosque, Kukeldash Madrasah, Amir Timur Square, and Navoi Park. We ended the night at Magic City Park. From Tashkent, you can also do a day trip to Chimgan Canyon.


2. SAMARKAND

We took an early train from Tashkent to Samarkand, one of the most important stops on the Silk Road! We opted for the bullet train to save time. Believe it or not, Samarkand happened to be my favorite stop on this trip!

In the heart of Samarkand lies Registan Square! This place can be explored both during the day and at night, but I find nighttime to be more stunning. This was also the highlight of my experience in Samarkand. I recommend planning your visit in the afternoon so you can get the best of both experiences, up until sunset. There is also a light show in the evening. The entry fee covers a single entry, so ensure to give yourself at least 2-3 hours to visit. There is also the option to hire an English-speaking guide. Inside, you'll find lots of souvenir shops, as well as 3 madrasahs (or what used to be madrasahs).


I recommend staying at least 2-3 nights in Samarkand to make the most of it. Other notable landmarks include Bibi-Khanym Mosque, Siab Bazaar, Islam Karimov Memorial, Hazrat Khizr Mosque, Shah-i-Zinda Mausoleum Complex, and Ulugbek Observatory. You can also add a visit to the Silk Carpet Factory to your list if it's something that interests you.


Another experience that is also high on my list of top things to do in Samarkand was the home-cooked meal.


The family at Muborak-Opa Guesthouse provides a cultural experience to guests while giving you the chance to feast on homemade authentic Uzbek cuisine. Do ensure to call at least a day before to make a reservation and to give them enough time to prepare.


I do admit that our taxi driver had a hard time finding the address, but it was worth it! You can find more about my experience in my Culinary Guide to Uzbekistan.


3. BUKHARA

Our third stop was Bukhara, easily accessible by train from Samarkand. What made our stay in each destination easier is finding locals who spoke English and who took us around, as language is a barrier. All of the restaurants we visited had no menus in English. If we booked a taxi on the spot, it was also hard to explain where we wanted to go.

Bukhara is an ancient city with several madrasahs, bazaars, and mosques that have been well-preserved until today. These landmarks date as far back as the 9th century.

One of the main things I enjoyed most about Bukhara is relaxing in its Old Town. From here, you can also find tours to experience sleeping in a yurt (which we struggled to find, due to the pandemic).

Some of the places we visited during our time in Bukhara included the Samanid Mausoleum, Great Minaret of the Kalon, Mir-i-Arab Madrasa, Chor-Minor, Poi Kalyan Mosque, Ark of Bukhara, Palace of Moon-like Stars and the Bakhautdin Naqsband Mausoleum.

You can also add a ceramic and/or pottery workshop to your list if it's something that interests you.


The journey back to Tashkent was long, but we booked the slow train back and opted for the overnight train. This way, we were able to save on a night at the hotel (plus save our daylight time to explore too) and booked the sleeper cabin instead.

The sleeper cabin for 2 cost us only $28. It was very comfortable and had 2 single beds. The train is pretty noisy, moves slowly, and has a few stops along the way, but it was one of the best sleep I've had in my life!

No trip is complete without a stop at the grocery store! It's one thing I MUST always do before leaving any country.


Stopping by the supermarket in Uzbekistan was an interesting experience. I found the store to be very organized. I didn't find aisles, but I found lots of different rooms with products within the same category in each (pictured). In the middle of the store, you can also find stalls of nuts, traditional Uzbek snacks, produce, meat, and dairy items.


We had an amazing time in Uzbekistan, but it wouldn't have been as memorable if it wasn't for the hospitality of the people we met. In Samarkand, I was shocked when I visited the guesthouse for a meal and the woman told us how she had just lost her daughter, yet she still welcomed us in her home.


My friend whom I met via Instagram had also invited me over, and her sister-in-law even got up at 4 am to prepare breakfast for us before we left Tashkent. Her grandmother closed our gathering with a beautiful prayer. Despite the language barrier, kindness, hugs, and smiles shared spoke louder than words and made communication effortless.


Is Uzbekistan on your list yet? If not, add it now before everyone starts going!

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