Uzbekistan is one of the most colorful destinations where I have ever been.
It is also the country with the biggest expectation-reality gap in my experience. Very beautiful architecture, rich history, original culture, kind people, the food is so delicious that Italy simply falls short.
Tourism in the country is still developing, so I strongly advise you to go to Uzbekistan right now, before crowds of people flooded everywhere, and prices skyrocketed.
It is important to add that Uzbekistan is a country with a fascinating and ancient history, as well as a country where so far everything is built on personal connections, so I recommend to arrange with the guide in advance, and not explore everything on your own, as the guide will be able to take you to interesting places, that you didn’t even know about. For example, during an excursion in Tashkent, we just went into the courtyard of a local resident and drank tea. This is not some kind of tourist attraction, but just an acquaintance of the guide.
I can help you with that providing 2 contacts of mine:
- Feruz was the guy who organized our entire trip. That’s his instagram.
- Jalol is a super amazing guide. We had a tour with him in Samarcand. But he also works in other cities. This is his instagram.
How to get around Uzbekistan?
Afrosiab (local Sabsan) runs between Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara, so you can travel quite comfortably.
However, you need to buy tickets for Afrosiab in advance! A couple of months preferably.
Our itinerary was:
- Tashkent – Samarkand – high-speed train Afrosiab.
- Samarkand – Bukhara – Afrosiab high-speed train.
- Bukhara – Tashkent – plane.
Inside the city, you can safely ride the subway or use Yandex taxi.
Tourism and safety.
- All signs are duplicated in 2 languages: Uzbek and Russian.
- Tourism is safe here. All tourist places have a tourist police to ensure that tourists do not get into trouble.
- Despite the fact that this is a Muslim country, there are no strict religious prohibitions regarding the appearance for tourists.
Men constantly compliment (culturally), make way, and help carry bags. For 5 years of living in Latvia, I have not received a single compliment regarding my appearance , but here every day.
Best places to visit and to eat in Uzbekistan
And now let’s move on to my personal recommendations. I will not call myself an expert on Uzbekistan. We spent there only a week and visited only three cities, but I liked everything that we saw and tried so much that I definitely want to share it!
Tashkent is the only city where direct flights fly from Latvia, so visiting it is simply inevitable. For me, of all the cities we visited, Tashkent is the most … Soviet, or what? Large squares, architecture, metro, like in St. Petersburg 15 years ago. Compared to fabulous Bukhara and colorful Samarkand, Tashkent seems to be the least interesting location.
But it’s not so simple. Tashkent is an indicator of how quickly Uzbekistan is developing. There are old quarters, and Soviet architecture, and trendy bars with hotels, and Tashkent-city is being built at a staggering pace.
I managed to get to the show from fashion week, and it was organized just fine. Defile around the fountain at the National Theatre.
This is the very city from which you can begin to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the country that once have been situated on the Silk Road.
Best places to visit in Tashkent
Hazrati Imom majmuasi
The Hazrati Imom complex is the religious center of Tashkent. It is located in the old city, inside residential areas with old adobe houses that survived the 1966 earthquake.
This complex arose near the grave of one of the first imams of the city of Tashkent, a famous scientist, an expert on the Koran and hadiths, a poet, as well as a craftsman Hazrat Imam. By the way, our guide told us that religious buildings in Uzbekistan are partially funded by Saudi Arabia.
The complex consists of the Tillya-Sheikh Mosque, the Mausoleum of Abu Bakr Kaffal Shashi, the Barak Khan Madrasah and the Islamic Institute of Imam al-Bukhari.
In the library they have a super ancient Koran that was written in the 7th century . This ancient sacred book migrated to Uzbekistan during the time of Amir Timur. The library is open for visitors.
The old town
The old city in Tashkent is called the entire historical center with religious buildings and mosques. But I want to talk separately about residential areas. These quarters were built even before tsarist Russia conquered Central Asia
This area probably looked could look almost the same and 200-300 years ago. The architecture here is simple: walls made of clay and straw are molded on a wooden frame, narrow streets. This is not a museum, people live here.
This is a real eastern bazaar. N1 experience you need to have in Uzbekistan.
To understand the culture of the country, you definitely need to go to the bazaar! You shouldn’t be afraid of him. The atmosphere of the markets in Uzbekistan is not the same as in the Arab countries. Everyone here is very friendly. There are no annoying sellers, or a veil of irritation.
Sweets, dried fruits, nuts and spices are the best souvenirs of Uzbekistan.
At the bazaar, you can approach any merchant and ask him to make an “author’s mix” for pilaf, meat or soup. Thus, you take away the taste and smell of Uzbekistan with you.
Grocery shopping in Uzbekistan is a ritual. People go to the market, choose meat, sniff spices, measure tea by weight.
Going to Uzbekistan, I did not associate this country with wine at all. But it turned out that Uzbek wine is quite good.
Uzumfermer is one of the first family wineries in Uzbekistan. It is located 25 km from the center of Tashkent. A kind of oasis in the heat. Tours and tastings are held here, and on the third floor of the complex there is a restaurant overlooking the vineyards and mountains.
Where to eat in Tashkent?
This place changed my life forever and made me fall in love with Uzbekistan at first sight. What a delicious pilaf they cook here! And the way this pilaf is cooked – in giant jacuzzis! Uzbeks eat pilaf for breakfast, so come here at the latest for an early lunch. Otherwise, you will have nothing left.
Address: st. Chupon Ota 35
This is the only place in our entire trip to Uzbekistan where they made great cocktails for us. The bar itself is incredibly stylish, so I recommend it!
Address: Sharaf Rashidov Avenue 77A.
Restaurant Ogni Tashkenta
This restaurant is a portal to the 50s. Very interesting interior and cool European menu.
Address: Bukhara street 24
I have to say that touristic Samarkand is simply gorgeous. Magnificent religious ensembles, Registan – all in green and blue colors. Very beautiful. But beyond all this lies an unremarkable city with dusty streets and poor buildings.
We spent 2 days in Samarkand. And this is quite enough for interesting excursions and tasting all the food masterpieces.
Best places to visit in Samarkand
Eternal City Silk Road Samarkand
This is a huge tourist attraction complex. Hotels, parks, recreation areas, restaurants, objects of cultural significance. I have not been here (the complex opened after our trip), but it was highly recommended to me. They say that there are areas similar to all the main cities of Uzbekistan.
The majestic central square has existed for more than 600 years, some of its buildings have been preserved in their original form since the 15th century. Registan is located in the heart of the old part of Samarkand, all major roads of the city lead here.
In general, Registan is the reason most tourists fly to Uzbekistan. This is indeed a fascinating place, especially beautiful in the sun.
From three sides the square is surrounded by majestic madrasahs, the portals of which are facing the center of the space. All three buildings have their own unique decor, which differs from each other.
I will not tell you about the history of the square, I will leave it to the guide. But I will give advice on the photo. Be sure to go up to the 2nd floor and take pictures on the balconies.
The Gur Emir mausoleum is a prototype for the famous architectural monuments of the Mughal era: the Humayun mausoleum in Delhi and even the Taj Mahal in Agra. It seems to me that this is enough to visit it!
The mausoleum is not as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside. The ribbed dome and the walls of the crypt are completely covered with mosaics of light and dark blue glazed bricks, gilding and paintings. Embossed rosettes on the dome imitate the starry sky.
Shahi Zinda is the burial place of royalty and nobility. This is a whole complex of tombs.
It is better to come here early because of the very narrow spaces and a large number of people.
Carpet factory “Khujum”
Here you will be told about how carpets are made (spoiler: by hand), how to distinguish a silk carpet from a fake, and much more.
It is interesting here, but I advise you to go here only if you have time left in Samarkand and you have nothing to do with it!
Best places to eat in Samarkand
An interesting feature of restaurants in Uzbekistan is that they are surprisingly authentic and atmospheric. Antique design, carpets on the walls, combined with the taste of food, give rise to a whole new level of admiration for the country.
Be sure to order manti in this restaurant. They are incredible here. I have never eaten anything like this anywhere.
Address: st. Mirzo Ulugbek d. 59
This restaurant hosted our last meal in Samarkand. By this point, we had already tasted everything that was possible, and I just physically could not look at the food. But it was simply impossible to refuse this kebab!
Address: Gagarina street 194
This is the place to go if you are tired of the authenticity of Uzbekistan and want to get back into Western culture for a while and eat something European.
Rui Zamin Restaurant
The guide took us here on the first day with the words: yesterday you ate Tashkent plov, and today you must try Samarkand plov. And this is the best place for it! It’s true. Pilaf in “Rui Zamin” – what you need, like everything else.
Go there and tell us which pilaf is tastier: in Tashkent or Samarkand?
Address: 21 st. Khoji Mumin
Kokand samsa № 1
The real simple canteen with the most delicious samsa in your life. I’m not exaggerating. This is delicious. And you can see how this samsa is prepared. I was even given a chance to unstick it from the tandoor. And it’s very difficult.
Address: Kokand street
I liked Bukhara more than all other cities. It’s like an illustration of the cartoon “Aladdin”. A very beautiful and even “instagrammable” city.
I can’t recommend any particular attractions to you. I advise you to take a guide and take a tour of the historical center. Be sure to walk around the Jewish quarter, the Poi-Kalyan complex, look into the madrasah.
Best places to visit in Bukhara
Bukhara desert oasis & spa
This is an entertainment-hotel complex in the Bukhara region, which I would call a historical attraction with accommodation in yurts, horseback riding, camel riding, historical excursions and other authentic entertainment.
Where to eat in Bukhara
And again, as in Samarkand, every restaurant in Bukhara is a museum.
Restaurant “Old House”
The restaurant is located in the old well-preserved house of a Bukharian Jew in the Jewish quarter in the old center of Bukhara. This is an incredibly atmospheric place with incredibly delicious food. Our guide advised us to order meat here. And it was great!
Restaurant “Old Bukhara”
Restaurant in the heart of the old town with a terrace with a wonderful view!
Address: st. Samarkandskaya, 3
The restaurant is located near the Poi-Kalyan complex on Khoja Nurabad street. And this is the best place to meet the sunset in Bukhara.
I am sure that after some time the cafe will be super popular, and bloggers will come there and shoot fashionable reels. It’s very atmospheric there. It seems as if Aladdin is about to fly out of somewhere on his magic carpet.
We did not take food there (they say that it is not very good there), ordered sweets, coffee and chilled with a view of the square and the sunset!
It was magical!
Food in Uzbekistan, what to try?
Everyone who knows me well knows that I should never be left hungry. This is not possible in Uzbekistan. You are constantly in a state of satiety, changing to appetite.
It is an ideal country for gastro-tourism. For me, Uzbekistan is the country with the most delicious food of all the countries where I have ever been. Meat, vegetables, spices… mmm
It will take a couple of weeks to appreciate all the local dishes, but each region prepares all dishes in different ways …
The local cuisine is very hearty, but a lot of vegetables are brought to each dish. And, interestingly, for the whole trip we almost did not eat sweets. And if we did, it was natural oriental sweets with nuts and dried fruits.
The main feature of the local cuisine is seasonality. As desperately as we search for pomegranate juice in May, pomegranate season is March.
Of the minuses:
With all the richness of the local cuisine, the restaurateurs of Uzbekistan are trying to flirt with the West. In a colorful cafe in Bukhara, when asked about desserts, you will first of all be offered chocolate fondant. And only then baklava.
An interesting point is that many restaurants still serve instant coffee. As it turned out, until 2011, in principle, the usual Latte and Cappuccino were not made in the country.
Also, alcoholic cocktails here are far from ideal; for example, they constantly forgot to pour Prosecco into Apperol. But tea and wine are on the level.
Well, this is my top food!
Achchik-chuchuk is a famous Uzbek tomato salad. Served to the pilaf. The most delicious we ate in Bukhara at the Old House restaurant
Tandir Cakes. Tandir cakes are brought always and everywhere. By the way, it is customary to take half-eaten cakes from the restaurant with you.
Pilaf. There are several dozen types of pilaf in the country, but I remember the very first pilaf in the “Pilaf Center in Tashkent”.
Manti. The most delicious were in the Suzane restaurant in Samarkand.
Samsa. The best Samsa tour was in Samarkand in a small canteen.
Meat. You can simply sing an ode to meat in Uzbekistan. Be sure to try all meat dishes.
Dried fruits, spices and nuts;
Sweets. You can see a photo of my favorite below!
Souvenirs from Uzbekistan:
I advise all my friends to go to Uzbekistan with an empty suitcase. Because there is so much to take back!
- Mandatory set of any tourist: spices, dried fruits, sweets, fruits. Buy at the market!
- Handmade souvenirs
In Uzbekistan, manual and handicraft labor is being developed and appreciated. All souvenirs are produced exclusively by local artisans. No Chinese magnets. Human labor and communication is much more important than technology. Accordingly, you can bring a bunch of inexpensive hand-made souvenirs from here: handmade silk carpets, colorful dishes and outfits.
My absolute love – Uzbek gowns. We bought a few gowns on Chorsu and keep on wearing them in Latvia.
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