Uzbekistan is an up-and-coming destination in Central Asia, but there’s not much practical information available. To ease your planning process, we’ve created this two week Uzbekistan itinerary so you don’t miss any of the highlights.
Update 2019: Uzbekistan is increadily seeing its tourist potential, as has made it much easier to obtain a visa. Check out the MFA website to see if you van get an e-visa, or if you’re one of the lucky people who can enter Uzbekistan 30-days visa free.
From the opulent Registan in Samarkand to the twisting alleys of the museum town of Khiva, Uzbekistan is a land of onion domes, grand archways, and towering minarets. Needless to say, it’s an architecture buff’s wet dream.
But the country offers more than just drool-worthy architecture. From hopping bazaars in Tashkent and the Ferghana Valley (home to the founder of the Mughal Empire) to the desolate destruction of the Aral Sea, it’s a country with many faces. Luckily, for any visitor, the faces are almost all smiling, as Uzbeks are some of the friendliest people in Central Asia.
Lost With Purpose’s two weeks Uzbekistan travel itinerary
Uzbekistan in two weeks
- Days 1-2: Tashkent
- Days 3-5: Samarkand
- Days 6-8: Bukhara
- Days 9-11: Khiva
- Days 12-13: Nukus
- Day 14: Travel day
Practical info and resources
Days 1-2: Tashkent
For most, Tashkent is a rather underwhelming introduction to Uzbekistan. The city isn’t blessed with particularity nice architecture of the kind found elsewhere (though you won’t know that… yet), and the sights available don’t really make up for this. Regardless, this is where most people will start their visit to Uzbekistan, and the city is not without things to do!
Top things to see in Tashkent
- Chorsu Bazaar: Tashkent’s main bazaar is a lively affair, with vendors selling everything from clothing to spices and vegetables. Doubles as a congregation point for money changers.
- Amir Timur Museum: Museum dedicated to the warlord Amir Timur. A good stop for people interested in the man behind some of the most monumental buildings in the region, and founder of the Timurid empire.
- Hotel Uzbekistan: Not far from the Amir Timur Museum is Uzbekistan’s most famous hotel: the Hotel Uzbekistan. Not everyone’s cup of tea, this brutalist building is a dream for photographers who favor austere architecture.
- Kukeldash Madrasah: This madrasah (Islamic school) is by no means comparable with the ones in Samarkand or Bhukara. Regardless, it’s nice enough to warrant a visit, as it’s not far from Chorsu bazaar.
- Plov Center: The place to eat plov, Uzbekistan’s favorite national food, in Tashkent.
Where to stay in Tashkent
- Budget: Topchan Hostel (recommended!) – Book Topchan Hostel now for the best deals
- Mid-range: Bo’ston Hotel – Interested? Book Bo’ston Hotel now
- Luxury: Ichan Qala Hotel – In need of some luxury? Check out the deals on Ichan Qala Hotel now
Getting around in Tashkent
Tashkent has a convenient and cheap metro system, although using it might seem daunting at first. Your bags are usually checked twice before entering the metro station, and there are plenty of police around. But rest assured, they are not here to bother you, just to make sure no one misbehaves. Note that taking pictures of the metro stations is allowed now.
- A useful map of the main metro lines can be found here
- Tickets cost 1,200 Som, regardless of destination
Any car in Tashkent can be a taxi. Just stand on the side of the road and hold your hand out, and a car will usually stop within minutes. If the driver is heading your way or feels like heading there, you can hop in. Make sure to agree on a price beforehand. The driver will usually want you to make the first offer, and if your offer is fair, most drivers will agree with the price quickly. Ask your hotel or a friendly local what a reasonable price should be for your intended destination.
Transportation from Tashkent
- Train to Samarkand: 2-4 hours
- Plane to Samarkand: 1 hour
- Shared taxi to Samarkand: 4 hours
Days 3-5: Samarkand
Samarkand is a definitive highlight of any trip to Uzbekistan. The first time you see the Registan (preferably at sunrise) is a moment you won’t soon forget. Although the city can feel a bit crowded and touristy at times, it’s easy to retreat to the winding back alleyways to get away from it all.
Top things to see in Samarkand
- Registan: The three madrasahs that make up the Registan are a sight to behold. Just writing about them still gives me goosebumps, and I’m eagerly waiting for the time I can visit again. The magnificence of the Registan is best sampled at dawn, as the souvenir shops during the day take away some of its appeal. There’s also a light show in the evening, not to be missed.
- Gur-e-Amir: The mausoleum to Tamerlane (Timur) is built in a distinctly Timurid fashion, with blue onion domes and plenty of elaborate tile work. Make sure to hang around inside for a while, to see people chant and pay their respect to the long-dead emperor.
- Shah-i-Zinda: Necropolis for many a ruler and their offspring. Visit in the late afternoon, when it’s least busy. It’s possible to enter for free, using one of the entrance ways to the adjoining, regular, cemetery.
- Bibi Khanym Mosque: Once one of the largest mosques in the world, large parts of it were destroyed over time. Restoration efforts have given it some of its shine back, though, and it’s still a sight to behold.
- Siyob Bazaar: The largest bazaar in Uzbekistan is easily found right next to the Bibi Khanym mosque. It’s a great place to wander, whether you’re on the hunt for fresh produce (a rarity in Uzbek restaurants) or just want to bask in the bustle.
There are many more sights in Samarkand, too many to mention here. We recommend exploring Samarkand leisurely, to really soak in one of the grandest cities of the Silk Road.
Where to stay in Samarkand
- Budget: B&B Bahodir – Book B&B Bahodir now
- Mid-range: Jahongir B&B – Check out Jahongir B&B
- Luxury: Grand Samarkand Superior – Looking for the best deals? Check them out for Grand Samarkand Superior now
Transportation from Samarkand
- Train to Tashkent: 2-4 hours
- Train to Bukhara: 2-3 hours
- Shared taxi to Bukhara: 4 hours
- Bus to Bukhara: 5-6 hours
- Train to Urgench (for Khiva): 12 hours
Days 6-8: Bukhara
Bukhara is a perfect place to get lost in, and we recommend just that. Most tourists stick to the main sights, but the back alleys are full of surprises and make for a great afternoon of leisurely exploration. Wander for a while, occasionally refuel with a cold beer and some pumpkin manti (dumplings with pumpkin), and you’ll be good to go again.
Tip: Chasmai Mirob, a small rooftop restaurant overlooking the Pol-i-Kaylan, is a great place to try pumpkin manti… with a view!
Top things to see in Bukhara
- Po-i-Kalyan: One of Uzbekistan’s greatest architectural ensembles, the Po-i-Kaylan houses the Kaylan Minaret, the Kaylan Mosque, Miri-Arab Madrasah, and Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah.
- Chor Minor: A charming little former mosque now houses a souvenir stall. For a small fee, you can enter the roof. Chor Minor means Four Minarets.
- Ark of Bukhara: A massive fort, of which a small part is open to the public. Houses some interesting exhibitions. The mosque on the other side of the street, across from the entrance to the ark, is worth a visit, too.
- Lyab-i-Hauz: Bukhara’s main square houses some exquisite buildings, and is a perfect place for an afternoon ice cream or drink.
- Bolo Hauz Mosque: A stunning mosque with exquisitely decorated wooden ceiling panels and columns.
You could possibly see Bukhara in two days, but since getting there can take some time, we recommend three. One of Uzbekistan’s joys is wandering about the back alleys of the cities, away from tour bus crowds, and Bukhara is perfect for that.
Where to stay in Bukhara
Bukhara might have the greatest concentration of guest houses and homestays in Uzbekistan. It pays to look around the internet to see what strikes your fancy. English isn’t always spoken in budget places, but considering how friendly everyone is, this hardly matters.
- Budget: Jeyran Hotel – Book Jeyran Hotel now
- Mid-range: Chor Minor Hotel – Have a look at Chor Minor Hotel
- Top end: Komil Boutique Hotel – Indulge with Komil Boutique Hotel
Transportation from Bukhara
- Train to Samarkand: 2-3 hours
- Shared taxi to Samarkand: 4 hours
- Bus to Samarkand: 5-6 hours
- Train to Tashkent: 6.5 hours
- Bus to Urgench (for Khiva): 8 hours
- Shared taxi to Urgench (for Khiva): 7 hours
Days 9-11: Khiva
Khiva, a World Heritage Site, is a unique town in Uzbekistan. It’s so well preserved it’s almost museum-like! The old town is one huge historic playground and a sightseer’s dream.
Unless you’re arriving on a night train from Samarkand or Tashkent, getting to Khiva will take the better part of a day. We recommend staying in Khiva at least three days, to make sure you can soak up the sights at a leisurely pace. Most sights can be entered on a combined entrance ticket, sold at the main entrance to the old town.
Tip: Don’t miss a chance to try shivut oshi (green noodles), a local specialty made with dill-infused dough. The color’s a bit disconcerting, I know, but never fear, they’re delicious.
Top things to see in Khiva
- Itchan-Kala: Khiva’s historical old town, and the place you want to spend most of your time. Basically an open-air museum. Make sure to get up early one day to see the sunrise from the city wall.
- Muhammad Aminkhan Madrasah: The largest madrasah in Central Asia now houses a luxury hotel, but is still a sight to behold.
- Kalta Minor Minaret: Unfortunately it’s not possible to enter this unfinished minaret next to the Muhammad Aminkhan Madrasah anymore. Regardless, it’s synonymous with Khiva, and you can’t miss it.
- Tura Murad Minaret: A towering minaret in one of the corners of the Old City, which you can climb for 5,000 som (separate from the general entry ticket).
- Pakhlavan Makhmud Mausoleum: Another one of the few sights in Khiva ticketed separately, this mausoleum is an interesting stop. Look for people chanting to score free snacks 😉
Where to stay in Khiva
- Budget: Laliopa Guest House – Book Laliopa Guest House here
- Mid-range: Hotel Old Khiva – Check out Hotel Old Khiva now
- Top end: Hotel Shaherezada – Find the best deals for Hotel Shaherezada
Transportation from Khiva/Urgench
- Flight to Tashkent: 1.5 hours
- Train to Tashkent: 16 hours
- Train to Samarkand: 12 hours
- Shared taxi to Nukus: 3 hours
Days 12-13: Nukus
Nukus, home to the Savitsky Karakalpakstan Art Museum, is a bit of an oddity. It’s the capital of the autonomous Karakalpakstan region, a little-visited part of Uzbekistan. There is not that much to do in Nukus, but art lovers cannot miss the museum, which houses one of the finest art collections in Central Asia.
Top things to see in Nukus
- Nukus Museum of Art: A fine museum founded by The Russian painter, archeologist, and collector, Igor Savitsky. It houses one of the finest art collections in the entire region.
- Mizdakhan Necropolis: An ancient cemetery outside of Nukus with a mixture of Islamic and Zoroastrian influences.
- Moynaq: An abandoned fishing village outside of Nukus, along the dried-up Aral Sea. More about it in the “Alternative destinations” section below.
Places to stay in Nukus
Transportation from Nukus
Nukus could theoretically be done as a day trip from Khiva, but only if you hire a private taxi. Shared taxis tend to fill up slowly.
- Shared taxi to Khiva: 3 hours
- Flight to Tashkent: About 2 hours
Day 14: Travel day
Since traveling in Uzbekistan can take more time than you’d think, we left one day open in this itinerary.
If you end up in Nukus and need to head back to Tashkent quickly, the best option is to fly back from Urgench. Otherwise, an overnight train from Urgench to Tashkent will do the trick.
If you have more time, we mention some places below that might be of interest. And before you go, Check out these 60+ things to know before you go to Uzbekistan.
Andijan, the capital of the Ferghana Valley, lacks any must-see tourist sights. It has a nice bazaar, a decent Friday Mosque, and a destroyed mosque with an incredibly intricate ceiling, but none of these will blow you away.
Andijan does, however, houses some of the friendliest people in Uzbekistan. Walk around town and you’ll see grinning faces, students trying to up their English game, and a friendly stranger or two who’ll invite you for dinner (and a homestay, but alas, not allowed). Andijan is also a decent base from which to explore the rest of the Ferghana Valley.
Note: Due to government concerns, you’ll need an accommodation slip for each night you stay in the valley. Couchsurfing or camping is not recommended here.
Top things to see in Andijan
- Jama Mosque: If you visited any of the places mentioned in the main itinerary, Andijan’s Jama Mosque is probably a letdown. Regardless, the gatekeeper is friendly, and more than willing to tell you about the mosque’s history.
- Nameless mosque: Not far from the Jama mosque (to the right, if you’re facing it) and across from the Eski Bazaar, is something that looks like a construction site. It has a debilitated minaret, and you wouldn’t normally walk over. We implore you to do so, though—the ceiling won’t disappoint!
- Andijan bazaar: Every Sunday and Thursday Andijan’s bazaar springs to live. It’s a great place to wander and chat up some local people.
Where to stay in Andijan
- Budget/mid-range: Andijan Hotel. It’s hard to find info online, but it’s centrally located, and all taxi drivers will know it. Don’t be deterred by the stateliness of it, budget travelers—it’s reasonably priced, especially for Uzbekistan.
- Top-end: Bogishamol Hotel – Check out Bogishamol Hotel now
Transportation from Andijan
It used to only be possible to travel from Andijan to Tashkent by shared taxi, but that has changed with the arrival of a new train station and train line.
- Shared taxi to Tashkent: 4-5 hours (see how to get from Andijan to Tashkent by shared taxi at the end of this post)
- Train to Tashkent: 6 hours
Like Andijan, Termez doesn’t have any must-see sights inside the city. It does have some places of interest nearby, though, and you can see Afghanistan from parts of the city. Not many tourists make it here, and Termez has a Wild West feel to it. Only recommended if you have time to spare, or if you’re heading to Afghanistan. John B Around the World has a great guide to Termez.
Top things to see in Termez
- Mausoleum of Al Hakim At-Termizi: Nowhere near as impressive as other mausoleum’s in Uzbekistan, it’s still an interesting place to visit.
- Kirk Kiz Fortress: A little out of town, this fortress is fun to rummage around in for a bit.
- Sultan Saodat Ensemble: Not as grand as the ensemble in Samarkand, but still quite beautiful and definitely worth a visit when in Termez.
- Fayaz Teppa – Kara Tepa – Zurmala Stupa: Some of the last remaining Buddhist holy places in the area.
Where to stay in Termez
- Budget: Surhan Atlantic
- Mid-range/top-end: Meridian Termez
Transportation from Termez
- Train to Tashkent: 14 hours
- Train to Samarkand: 10-11 hours
- Shared taxi to Samarkand: 6 hours
If you’re going to Afghanistan, check out our Uzbekistan – Afghanistan border crossing report here.
The Aral Sea is a testament to how human greed and poor planning can destroy the environment in a nearly irreversible way. Uzbekistan’s huge cotton industry has bled the sea, which Uzbekistan shares with Kazakhstan, nearly dry. Kazakhstan is trying to fill the sea back up, but the water coming in is siphoned off again to the cotton fields of Uzbekistan. A saddening, but eye-opening, trip.
Moynaq, a small fishing village that used to be on the edge of the sea, is the easiest place to witness the current state of things. It’s best done as a day trip from Nukus, as it’s only a 3-hour drive away.
Practical info and resources
Money in Uzbekistan
September 2017 update: The Uzbek government has done away with its restrictive currency policies, effectively killing the black market for money. Money can now be changed at market rates at Uzbek banks, and ATMs should convert money at market rates too. We still advise bringing cash when traveling to Uzbekistan, as ATMs can run out of money quickly in Uzbekistan.
Traveling to Uzbekistan comes with some quirks. It’s a cash-only economy, meaning your cards are virtually useless.
Unless you’re going with a tour that has arranged everything for you (doubtful if you’re reading this), you’ll have to bring cash. Cold hard US dollars are the currency of choice, but other currencies are accepted too. For more information on the money situation and how to exchange money, check out our Uzbekistan budget report.
Transport in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan isn’t a huge country, but getting around can be time-consuming. The most common means of transportation between cities are trains and shared taxis.
Shared taxis have set places of departure, and leave when full. Ask your guest house where the shared taxi for your destination goes from. Regular taxi drivers usually know, too. In some cases, bargaining for a shared taxi is straightforward. Ask your guest house what the going rate it, and offer that to the taxi driver. They usually agree right away.
Routes to less visited places, such as Termez and Andijan, however, can have very stubborn drivers, who refuse to give you a good price. Your best bet is to wait for locals to arrive and have them negotiate a price. Make sure to listen in, as drivers will sometimes ask them to overstate the price so they can charge you more.
Drivers will usually drop you off in front of your guest house, or your desired destination.
Trains are more comfortable than shared taxis, and the way to go for long distances. There are fast trains and slow trains. The fast trains, which only run during the day, are modern affairs, priced accordingly. Slow trains, which also run overnight, consist of old Soviet rolling stock. The times we mention in this itinerary (except the train to Termiz) are mostly for fast trains. Slow trains take at least twice as long.
We only used slow trains. They are much cheaper, and a great way to meet locals. They also help you save on accommodation costs since fast trains don’t go overnight. Most slow trains offer three types of seating:
Platzkart is an open wagon, with four two berths to the side and four berths across from each other. Kuppe has four berth wagons, and SV two berth wagons. We preferred platzkart. It’s cheap, comfortable enough, and a great place to meet locals.
You can book tickets online, but we found it much easier to just go to the train station a day before departure. Guest houses can help with bookings, too. Seat 61 has a more extensive guide to trains in Uzbekistan.
Tip: If you take the train, make sure to arrive at the station on time, as security can be tight.
Accommodation in Uzbekistan
Since Uzbekistan has a bit of an obsession with control, they like to make sure foreign visitors stay in official lodging. To enforce this, hotels, guest houses, and hostels are required to register each foreign visitor that stays and provide a registration slip as proof. All tourists visiting Uzbekistan have to present these registration slips upon departure from Uzbekistan.
Officially you need to register every three days… but not all officials seem to know. The exception is the Fergana Valley, where you do need to register every day.
If you’re staying in a hotel, guest house, or hostel, everything will be arranged for you. Just make sure to keep all your registration slips in a safe place. Camping and Couchsurfing are much trickier propositions, which we don’t recommend since you can put both yourself and your host in danger. If you’re taking a night train, keep the ticket as proof of “accommodation.”
As of 2019 border guards seem much more relaxed about the need to register and mostly wave tourist through. However, we still recommend you keep your registration slips just in case.
Resources for travel in Uzbekistan
- Lonely Planet: Central Asia – Because let’s face it, having a physical book is always best. This is the most up-to-date Lonely Planet with Uzbekistan coverage.
- World Nomads Travel Insurance – The travel insurance we used while in Uzbekistan. Highly recommended!
- Practical Uzbekistan guide – Our straightforward guide to all of the nitty-gritty things you need to know for travel in Uzbekistan.
- Uzbekistan travel guide – A comprehensive online guide to Uzbekistan from Caravanistan, the go-to source for everything about Central Asia travel. If you haven’t checked them out already, do it now.
- Getting an Uzbekistan visa in Kyrgyzstan – A quick guide to getting your Uzbek visa in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
- Uzbekistan? Overchargistan! – A look at the unfortunate practice of overcharging in Uzbekistan by Uncornered Market, one of our favorite blogs.
Interactive route map
Yay transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you buy or book something with our links, we’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Think of it as a way of saying thanks for making the itinerary 🙂