The Best Places to Visit in Uzbekistan (top cities in Uzbekistan)

Samarkand, Uzbekistan

About Tourism in Uzbekistan

Discover the best places to visit in Uzbekistan; jewel of the ancient Silk Road! In this article, you will find the top cities in Uzbekistan to visit in 2022!

From the legendary cities of Bukhara, Khiva, and of course Samarkand, to the laid-back capital Tashkent, Uzbekistan is a must-see country for any serious traveller. Read on to find out about the best things to do in Uzbekistan!

What’s more, the traditionally painful visa process for Uzbekistan was scrapped back in 2018 and now it is easier than ever to visit, with visa-free entry for most people. Come and discover Central Asia‘s most interesting destination while it is still somewhat “off the beaten track”!

A Note about Uzbekistan Tourism in 2022

Uzbekistan is almost fully open for tourism, making it a perfect destination in these uncertain times.

Current Entry Requirements: Anyone wishing to enter Uzbekistan must have a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival in the country. You will also be tested on arrival (at your own expense).

Facemasks must be worn in public places and you could be fined up to $150 for breaking this rule.

Top Cities in Uzbekistan

Bukhara

Top Bukhara Attractions:

  • Ark Citadel
  • Char Minor
  • Kalon Minaret
  • Ismail Samani Mausoleum
Places to see in Uzbekistan
Places to visit in Uzbekistan – Bukhara

Bukhara is one of the jewels of the Silk Road alongside Khiva and Samarkand. The old city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and boasts over 100 mosques and madrasas. The city dates back over 2,500 years and is packed with ancient landmarks and monuments from the Muslim world.

The city of Bukhara is linked to Tashkent and Samarkand by rail, making it an easy stop on a trip to Uzbekistan.


Khiva

Top Khiva Attractions:

  • Itchan Kala
  • Tash Chauli
  • Ancient baths
Places to visit in Uzbekistan
Top Cities in Uzbekistan – Khiva

A smaller city than both Bukhara and Samarkand, Khiva is no less impressive for it. The settlement here dates back over 1,500 years and includes some of the best-preserved sites on the Silk Road.

The city was the first in Central Asia to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the entire city has been designated with a status of “open-air museum”.


Samarkand

And how beguile you?
Death has no repose
Warmer and deeper than the Orient sand
Which hides the beauty and bright faith of those
Who make the Golden Journey to Samarkand.

Golden Road to Samarkand by James Elroy Flecker

Top Samarkand Attractions:

  • Registan Square
  • Bibi Khanym Madrasa
  • Amur Timur Statue
  • Ulugbek’s Observatory
  • Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum
Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Places to Visit in Uzbekistan – The Ancient Silk Road City of Samarkand

Just the name is enough to evoke images of camels, caravans, madrases and ancient warlords. From Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan and Amir Timur, Samarkand has been one of Central Asia‘s best-known cities for centuries.

The medieval Islamic architecture of the city has been fantastically preserved. Allow at least two days to discover everything. Samarkand is definitely one of the top places to visit in Uzbekistan and all of Central Asia!

Read my full guide to the city here.


Tashkent

Top Tashkent Attractions:

  • Hazrat Imam Complex
  • Chorsu Bazaar
  • Tashkent Metro
  • TV Tower
  • Hotel Uzbekistan
Places to Visit in Tashkent
Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan

The laid-back capital reminds me a lot of Russian cities (unsurprising given its Soviet history), with leafy streets lined with wooden houses.

The city is sprawling but has a modern centre with some excellent restaurants and bars. The Timur museum is well worth a visit as is the Russian Orthodox Dormition Cathedral.

Tashkent makes the perfect base for exploring Uzbekistan thanks to it’s rail connections with Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand. It is also a great jumping-off point for exploring nearby Kazakhstan (the border is a 30-minute taxi ride from the centre of Tashkent.

Read my full guide to the city here.


Termiz

Top Termiz Attractions:

  • Al-Hakim at Termizi Mausoleum
  • Friendship Bridge
  • Oxus River
Al Hakim at Termizi Mausoleum, Uzbekistan
Al Hakim at Termizi Mausoleum, Uzbekistan

Termiz is located in the far south of the country a stone’s throw from Afghanistan. It is worth a couple of days to explore the ancient archaeological sites and peer across the Amu Darya River (known in antiquity as the Oxus).

Termiz is definitely one of the more interesting places to visit in Uzbekistan and sees few tourists thanks to its out-of-the-way location and proximity to its war-torn neighbour. Only for the adventurous!

Read my full guide to the city here.


Top Attractions in Uzbekistan

Al-Hakim at Termizi Mausoleum, Termiz

Entrance Cost: 15,000 Som ($1.40)

Address: 758Q+9PF, Kaftarkhana, Uzbekistan

Opening Hours

09:00 to 17:00 daily

Al Hakim at Termizi Mausoleum

Amur Timur Museum, Tashkent

Entrance Cost: 6,000 Som ($0.60)

Address: 1 Amir Temur Ave, Tashkent

Opening Hours

10:00 to 17:00 daily

Time for a visit: one hour

Amur Timur Museum, Tashkent

Bibi Khanym Masjid, Samarkand

Entrance Cost: 25,000 Som ($2.30)

Address: Bibikhonim St, Samarkand

Opening Hours

09:00 to 19:00 daily

Bibi Khanym Masjid

Kalon Minaret, Bukhara

Entrance Cost: 13,000 Som ($1.25)

Address: 9 Khakikat St, Bukhara

Opening Hours

08:00 to 20:00 daily

Time for a visit: one hour

Famous Landmark in Asia

Registan Square, Samarkand

Entrance Cost: 55,000 SOM ($5)

Address: Registan Sq, Samarkand

Opening Hours

08:00 to 19:00 daily

Time for a visit: two to three hours

Registan Square, Samarkand

Uzbekistan Visas

Good news, Uzbekistan is now visa-free for citizens of many countries. It wasn’t always thus and I remember spending a lot of time having to go back and forth to the Uzbek embassy in London back in 2017.

On my latest visit in 2019, I didn’t need a visa at all and the infrastructure had improved greatly in those few years between visits.

Visa Free

Citizens of the following countries can enter Uzbekistan visa-free for up to 90 days:

Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine.

Citizens of the following countries can enter Uzbekistan visa-free for up to 30 days:

All EU countries, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Iceland, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Vatican City.

E-visa

Citizens who require a VISA can apply for an E-visa on the official website. The E-visa costs $20 and is valid for 30 days.


Money in Uzbekistan

It’s pretty easy to become a millionaire when travelling in Uzbekistan as $1 US dollar is equal to over 10,000 Som.

The currency is the Uzbek Som, however, ATMs only give out USD (usually $50, but you may get lucky and find smaller denominations). You will then need to exchange your USD to Som at a bank, or on the black market if you want to risk it.


How to get to Uzbekistan

Tashkent Station
Tashkent Janubiy Station

There are two ways to reach Uzbekistan; by air and land. Below we will outline each in more detail.

By Air:

Islam Karimov Airport operates flights to and from major destinations in Europe and Asia. I don’t need to tell you how to book a flight, but you can check Trip.com as they usually have some great deals.

By Land:

Uzbekistan shares land borders with Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. It’s possible to cross all of these borders with varying levels of ease.

I have personally crossed to and from Kazakhstan on many occasions and once from Turkmenistan.

Be aware that some medications that are legal elsewhere in the world are highly illegal in Uzbekistan and the border guards are likely to search your medical kit for contraband. When I crossed from Turkmenistan in 2017 they rigorously checked everything, but when I crossed from Kazakhstan in 2019 they didn’t search me at all.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth office advises checking this list from the official website of the State Customs Committee of Uzbekistan prior to departure.

Afghanistan

Uzbekistan shares a small border with Afghanistan in the far south of the country. There is a road that leads from Mazar e Sharif in Afghanistan to the border with Uzbekistan. Once crossed, you will arrive in the Uzbek town of Termiz, which has a daily overnight train to Tashkent (via Samarkand).

Kazakhstan

From Almaty take the overnight train to Shymkent. From there take a taxi to the border (2 hours / 5,000 Tenge). Cross the border on foot (avoid early mornings where you can queue for three hours or more, and cross instead during the middle of the day).

Once you have crossed the border you can take a taxi for the short ride into Tashkent (30 minutes / 1,00,000 Som). Read my full report; How to get from Almaty to Tashkent.

Kyrgystan

There is a bus that connects Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan with Tashkent. The overnight journey takes around 14 hours.

Tajikistan

There are multiple land borders between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. See Caravanistan for information on each of these.

Turkmenistan

There is a road that goes all the way from Ashgabat in Turkmenistan to the Uzbek border near Nukus and Urgench. The road is rough and it can be slow going. The border is in the middle of nowhere and you have to cross the no-mans-land of 1km either by foot or by minibus ($1).

Do not exchange money with anyone at the border, especially the soldiers, as you will get ripped off (or so I heard…)!

There is no public transport from the border to Urgench so you will need to take a taxi (there should be some waiting). In 2017 it cost my friend and me $50, which was a rip-off, but we didn’t really have any choice.


Getting Around Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan has a decent railway network that links all the major cities. The trains can be old and without air conditioning so try and avoid journeys in the height of summer as it can be unbearable (I’m speaking from experience). Visit the Uzbek Railways website for prices and timetables.

Taxis in Uzbekistan

Taking a taxi in Uzbekistan can be something of an adventure, but unfortunately, the chances of being ripped off are high. Out of maybe 10 taxi journeys I took in 2019, only one driver didn’t increase the agreed cost on a variety of pretexts (need to charge for my bag, the cost was for 1 passenger, but you need to pay the same for the empty seats etc). Proceed with caution.


Places to Stay in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan has as good a selection of accommodation options as you would find anywhere. From hostel dorms and homestays to 5* hotels and resorts, there is something to suit every budget.

See Hostelworld.com for the best selection of hostels in Uzbekistan and Booking or Trip.com for hotels. . I have stayed at the following places on multiple trips to the country:

  • Topchan Hostel, Tashkent – Excellent backpackers hostel in the capital.
  • Timur the Great Hotel, Samarkand – Pleasant, family-run hotel a stone’s throw from Registan Square.
  • Hotel Intourist, Termiz – Comfortable but basic room, but choices are limited.

Uzbekistan Weather

Uzbekistan has an arid climate and much of the country is covered by large swathes of desert. Temperatures in summer can be very hot (above 40 Celsius), especially in the far south. The winters are cool rather than cold.

What is the Best Time to Visit Uzbekistan?

Autumn and spring are the best times to visit Uzbekistan to avoid the worst of the summer heat. If you don’t mind the high temperatures, then summer can also be a good time for a visit thanks to the blue skies!

Food and Drink in Uzbekistan

Bazaar, Uzbekistan
Bazaar, Uzbekistan

One of the highlights of any trip to Uzbekistanis the delicious food and drink to be found across the country.

Some local specialities to try:

  • Dolma – minced lamb and rice wrapped in cabbage or vine leaves.
  • Dovga – yogurt with rice, chickpeas and herbs
  • Shashlik – chunks of grilled meat on skewers, usually lamb.
  • Plov – safron-infused rice with meat and carrots.

Is Uzbekistan Safe to Visit?

Overall Uzbekistan is a very safe country with low levels of crime. Corruption is still a problem as with many former Soviet countries, but as a tourist, this should not affect you.

In summer the temperatures can be intense, so be sure to pack long sleeves and sunscreen.

Some areas of the country are more conservative, so cover up when entering religious sites.

Uzbekistan’s borders with neighbouring countries have seen fighting and violent clashes as recently as 2021. The Afghan and Kyrgyz borders should be avoided.

Looking for more off the beaten path places? Check out my guide to these adventure tourism destinations!

Travel Insurance for Uzbekistan

A good travel insurance policy is a must for any trip, and Uzbekistan should be no different. Our partners at World Nomads provide excellent cover for adventurous tourists and specialize in covering destinations and activities many “standard” insurers don’t cover. You can get a no-obligation quote here.

Conclusion

Uzbekistan is growing ever more popular thanks to the relaxation of its visa policy and an increase in flights to the region. At present the country is still “off the beaten path”, but it’s not going to stay that way for long. So, now you know the best places to visit in Uzbekistan, get in there before the crowds do and book your Silk Road adventure today!

Photo credits:
Bukhara & Khiva © Ben Sand / bittermansguide.com
Tashkent, Samarkand & Termiz © Stephen Rohan / thetripgoeson.com



Steve Rohan

About the author: Steve Rohan, originally from England, has lived in China for over six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, the ancient capital of Luoyang, the tropical paradise of Sanya and Hong Kong.

He has travelled extensively across Europe and Asia, mostly by train, and has written about his travels for this blog as well as self-publishing his first book, Siberian Odyssey.


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