5 Reasons Why You Need to Go to Uzbekistan
Central Asia & Uzbekistan has always held a mystique for me—maybe it’s the legends I was told as a child about Genghis Khan, or the imagined images of merchants and traders on the silk road, or just how vast and unexplored the region still is.
Needless to say, when I had the chance to explore Uzbekistan, I jumped at the chance.
Here are some things I loved about the experience and why you need to visit as soon as possible, too.
It’s Still Kind of a Secret
Remember when I visited Georgia last year, and I came home saying what a hidden gem it was, and how it felt like a secret? I feel the same way about Uzbekistan.
Since most foreigners need a visa to visit Uzbekistan (which, in addition to taking some time to be approved, costs about $160 for Americans and about $60 for Britons), plus its remote location – it’s not the kind of place many travelers visit unless they really make the effort.
The good news, intrepid travelers, is that means smaller crowds at tourist attractions and a more local feel to your everyday movements.
It’s an awesome country to explore, and it’s FULL of incredible sites.
Oh, Uzbekistan. We made our way via high-speed train to Bukhara, a desert city with structures from the 13th century in which every corner is a postcard. There are buildings that look like sand castles, buildings that have been used as trading centers for centuries and still are, and mosques like this one made of ceramic. It’s so beautiful!
The Ancient Cities are Awesome
Uzbekistan has several ancient cities: Bukhara, Samarkand, and Khiva being the most famous of the three. We didn’t get the chance to make it to Khiva (which I hear is incredible!) but Bukhara and Samarkand were magnificent. I particularly loved the old city of Bukhara, with its small dirt and cobblestone roads leading to trading centers from centuries past.
The Shopping is Epic
As an erstwhile buyer and a small-kine shopaholic myself, I love places where I can shop to my heart’s content without breaking the bank. In Uzbekistan, you’ll find a variety of shops selling things from the region, but two things that are unique to the country are their Suzani (embroidered tapestries) and Ikat (hand-woven out of cotton or silk).
Did you know that ikat (like the scarf around my neck) gets its patterns from the individual threads being dyed at specific intervals and then woven together? It’s the most beautiful math I’ve ever seen.
You’ll also find unusual assortments of ceramic gnomes (don’t ask me why) as well as breathtakingly gorgeous ceramic plates, tea cups, and tea sets.
If you’re hoping to shop for these items, Bukhara or Samarkand are great places to visit. I came home with six ceramic plates (two large and four small) – all of which are now displayed on the walls of my NYC apartment – as well as several yards of Ikat fabric.
It’s More Persian than Soviet
Uzbekistan was part of the USSR until 1991, so I mistakenly thought that the architecture and terrain of the country would represent the flat, concrete buildings I’ve seen in Russia. I was so wrong.
While the people still speak Russian as a primary language, I found Persian-inspired buildings made of turquoise and precious gems that were stunning, as well as ornate tombs that looked like sandcastles. Although there was some obviously Russian architecture in the capital city of Tashkent, it was vastly different from the rest of the green and leafy country.
There’s So Much Fun to Be Had in the Desert
Our group spent one splendid night in a desert yurt camp. These experiences often consist of your excursion out to the desert, having dinner, sleeping in a yurt (or under the stars), and possibly even riding camels. Over the fire pit, you’ll sing songs or listen to traditional Uzbeki music. It’s a truly unique experience that I highly recommend—we had a blast!
If I still haven’t convinced you, here are some reasons to consider.
You Should Go to Uzbekistan If:
- You are looking for adventure in unexpected places
- You love to explore the unexplored
- You don’t need fancy 5-star hotel stays and modern amenities (although the country is still catching up in that regard, the newly-opened Hyatt Tashkent is one of my favorite properties of all time).
- You’ve ever been curious about Genghis Khan or the Silk Road.
If this sounds intriguing to you—I’ve got great news! I’m leading a tour departing later this year! Let’s go quick—before the rest of the world figures out what they’re missing!