11 Amazing Things to do in Samarkand, Uzbekistan in 2023

Samarkand has been voted World Tourism Capital for 2023, so what better time to visit and discover the top things to do in Samarkand, the jewel of Central Asia? I visited the city in 2019 when travelling back home from China to London and fell in love with the incredible spirit of the place.

Nowhere is more synonymous with the ancient Silk Road than this ancient city in Uzbekistan. The very name evokes images of camels, caravansaries and conquerors such as Alexander the Great, Tamerlane and Genghis Khan.

In this post, you’ll discover the best places to visit in Samarkand and all the top attractions the city has to offer! From madrasas to the observatory, the famous Registan Square and some of the most impressive architecture in the world, take a Samarkand sightseeing trip before the secret gets out!

Boring stuff: I have visited each of the places I recommend and give you my honest opinion, warts and all. All photos are my own unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission. Affiliate links may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

Top Samarkand Tourist Attractions

Founded in the 5th Century BC, Samarkand is one of Central Asia’s oldest cities but it is most famous for its stunning medieval Islamic architecture such as the Registan and Bibi Khanym Masjid. Below you’ll find the best things to do Samarkand to make the most out of your trip.

1. Registan Square (One of the Best Things to do in Samarkand)

The awe-inspiring Registan Square is one of Central Asia’s most iconic sights and is made up of three large madrasas (Islamic schools) surrounding the square. Azure domes sit atop yellow and red brickwork with intricate mosaics woven into the walls.

In medieval times the Registan housed a busy bazaar with traders selling goods in the square. One of the top things to do in Samarkand and is considered one of the most famous landmarks in Asia! This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the best places to visit in Samarkand thanks to its stunning madrasas!

Although there is an entrance fee to enter the square and madrasas, you can still enjoy the view from outside for free 24 hours a day. If you’re looking for what to do in Samarkand, this should be the number one on your list.

Opening Hours: 08:00 to 19:00

Ticket Price: 55,000 Som ($5.20)

Address: Registan Ko’Chasi

Time Needed to Visit: One to two hours

2. Ulugh Beg Madrasa

Ulugbek Madrasa, also known as Ulugh Beg Madrasah, is the oldest surviving piece of architecture in Registan Square and was completed in 1420 under Timur’s grandson Ulugbek. The madrasa was a centre of learning for mathematics, philosophy, theology and astronomy.

The giant arched entrance and towering minarets are a sight to behold, and this is definitely one of the top Samarkand places to visit for its phenomenal architecture.

Tip: If you slip one of the traders inside Ulugh Beg Madrasa 10,000 Som they will let you climb one of the minarets for fantastic views of the city!

Opening Hours: 08:00 to 19:00

Ticket Price: included in the ticket for Registan Square

Address: Registan Ko’Chasi

Time Needed to Visit: 30 minutes

3. Sherdor Madrasa (One of the Top Things to do Samarkand)

The Sherdor Madrasa (lion madrasa) was completed in 1636 and is famed for its lion relief decorations in the entrance. The construction took 17 years to build and this remains one of the most impressive Samarkand attractions.

Marvel at the blue domes, minarets and ornate design etched into this historic building. Inside Sherdor you will find traders selling carpets, handicrafts and souvenirs. The best views are had from climbing the minaret in Ulugbeg Madrasa across the square.

Opening Hours: 08:00 to 19:00

Ticket Price: included in ticket for Registan Square

Address: Registan Ko’Chasi

Time Needed to Visit: 30 minutes

4. Tilla Kari Madrasa

Tilla Kari, meaning “gold-covered” madrasa is located between Ulugh Beg and Sherdor Madrasas and is the newest of the three, being completed in 1660. There is a mosque in the courtyard with gold decorations revealing Samarkand’s history.

Although this madrasa has survived well throughout the city’s turbulent history, you can see that part of the building is leaning over, thanks to an earthquake. Tilla Kari is definitely one of the top Samarkand tourist attractions.

Opening Hours: 08:00 to 19:00

Ticket Price: included in ticket for Registan Square

Address: Registan Ko’Chasi

Time Needed to Visit: 30 minutes

5. Bibi Khanym Masijd

Bibi Khanym was Timur’s Chinese wife. It is said that the architect that designed and built the masjid fell in love with Bibi and kissed her, prompting Timur to kill the architect and impose the veil on women to stop similar incidences.

The beautiful, blue, turquoise and yellow mausoleum with its towering domes is definitely one of the top places to see in Samarkand! This is one of the most interesting Samarkand places to visit thanks to the intricate design work beneath the gorgeous blue domes.

Opening Hours: 08:00 to 19:00

Ticket Price: 55,000 Som ($3.65)

Address: Bibikhonim Street

Time Needed to Visit: 30 minutes

6. Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum

Beautiful Gur-e-Amir is the mausoleum containing the remains of Timur/Tamerlane along with his sons (Shah Rukh and Miran Shah) and grandsons (Ulugbek and Muhammed Sultan). The mausoleum dates to 1403AD. A must-see of all the things to do in Samarkand.

The beautiful, blue, turquoise and yellow mausoleum with its towering domes is definitely one of the top places to visit in Samarkand!

Opening Hours: 08:00 to 19:00

Ticket Price: 55,000 Som ($3.65)

Address: 1-4 University Boulevard

Time Needed to Visit: one hour

7. Shah-i Zinda Mausoleum

Shah-i-Zinda is a complex of mausoleums built between the 11th and 19th Centuries. Legend has it that a cousin of the prophet Muhammad was beheaded here and didn’t die. He took his head with him to the Garden of Paradise where he still lives.

The architecture of Shah-i-Zinda is some of the most impressive in the city with it’s glossy blue walls. One of the top things to do in Samarkand!

Opening Hours: 07:00 to 20:00

Ticket Price: 42,500 Som ($4)

Address: Shahizinda

Time Needed to Visit: one to two hours

8. Tomb of Islam Karimov

Islam Karimov was the first president of an independent Uzbekistan and ruled from 1991 until his death in 2016. His final resting place is an impressive necropolis on the edge of the ancient city. Entrance also includes the impressive Hazrati Khizr Mosque.

Opening Hours: 08:00 to 19:00

Ticket Price: 15,000 Som ($4)

Address: Tashkent Road

Time Needed to Visit: One hour

Top Free Things to do Samarkand

9. Siab Bazaar

Not only is Central Asia famed for its staggering architecture, but also for its rich and lively bazaars. The large Siab Bazaar (sometimes spelled as Siyob Bazaar) behind the Bibi Khanym Masjid is a vibrant trading centre where you can buy fruits, nuts, grains and more.

Wandering the brightly coloured market stalls of the bazaar is certainly one of the best things to do Samarkand and a great place to pick up breakfast or supplies for a picnic.

Opening Hours: 05:00 to 19:00

Address: Bibikhonim Street

10. Amur Timur Statue

Situated close to the Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum and in the centre of a large roundabout is a statue of Amir Timur (or Tamerlane as we know him in the west). The statue marks the edge of the old town and the new Russian-built town.

Opening Hours: 24 hours

Address: Bulver Universitet

11. Samarkand Parks

There are many parks in the centre of the city which offer a slice of shade under the verdant green trees. Islam Karimov Park, Tiger Park and Bibi Khanym Park are all centered around the main attractions of the city.

Opening Hours: 24 hours

A short History of Samarkand Uzbekistan

Amir Timur
Amir Timur
Registan Square, Samarkand
Registan Square, Samarkand

Amir Timur

Samarkand Timeline

Born on 9th April 1336, Amir Timur was a Turkic-Mongol from Transoxania (current day Uzbekistan) who came from lowly beginnings to lead an empire. He started out as a petty thief stealing livestock and was wounded by a shepherd’s arrow which led to the moniker Timur the lame, or Tamerlane.

As the Mongol Empire started to crumble, Timur played one ruler against another and led conquests across the Central Asian steppe and into Russia and the Caucasus, emerging in 1370 as the most powerful leader of the Muslim world at the time.

Timur made Samarkand the centre of the Timurid Empire and this would continue until the death of his grandson Ulugbek in 1449.

Timur died on 17th February 1405 on his way to attack Ming Dynasty China.

329BC The city is attacked by Alexander the Great

1221AD City beseiged by Ghengis Khan

1365AD Uprising against the Mongols

1369AD Samarkand becomes capital of Timurid Empire

1405AD Bibi Khanym Mosque and Gur-e-Amir Built

1405AD Timurid Empire moves capital to Herat and the city goes into gradual decline

1420AD Ulugbek Madrasa built

1868AD Russians take power

1886AD The city becomes capital of Samarkand Region of Russian Turkestan

1925AD Samarkand becomes the capital of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic

1930AD Capital moved to Tashkent

1991 Uzbekistan declares independence from the Soviet Union

Samarkand Weather

The Samarkand weather is influenced by the deserts of Uzbekistan. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Samarkand as the summers are incredibly hot (temperatures can exceed 40c).

Best Time to Visit Samarkand

The best time to visit Samarkand is spring and autumn (fall) when the weather is still warm, but not as intense as the summer months.

How to get to Samarkand

Air: There are daily flights between Tashkent and Samarkand and international routes include Moscow, St Petersburg and Istanbul. See Trip.com for cheap flights.

From Tashkent:

There are at least 10 daily trains between Tashkent and the city. The fastest takes just over 2 hours and costs from 50,000 Som ($5).

From Bukhara:

There are multiple daily trains from Bukhara with the journey taking around 2 hours.

From Khiva:

There is one daily train that departs Khiva at 17:30 and arrives in Samarkand at 07:29.

From Termiz:

There is a daily overnight train departing Termiz at 18:35 and arriving in Samarkand at 04:05.

A shared taxi is another great way to travel around Uzbekistan (I took a taxi from Samarkand to Termiz).

Samarkand Hotels

Looking for Samarkand hotels? The city offers plenty of accommodation options from budget hostels to 5* hotels. I stayed at the Timur the Great Hotel a few hundred metres from Registan Square.

The room was huge, clean and well kept, and the host/owner was very friendly. The breakfast of fresh pastries, fruits and eggs was amazing and served in a pleasant courtyard.

Looking to see more of Uzbekistan? Check out this great Two-week itinerary which includes Bukhara, Khiva and the Aral Sea!

So, is Samarkand Worth Visiting?

Ancient Samarkand is definitely worth visiting for its incredible Silk Road architecture and local specialty foods. The city rivals Khiva and Bukhara with its ancient madrassas, mosques and memorials. No trip to to Uzbekistan is complete without wandering around Registan Square!

How Many Days do you Need in Samarkand?

To get the most out of your visit and ensure you see all the Samarkand tourist attractions, two to three days is best. It is possible to see the main sights in one day, but two would be better and three optimal!


Now you know about the best things to do Samarkand, be sure to visit this enchanting city while it still remains off the beaten path. This secret won’t last long though as Uzbekistan is fast becoming one of the hottest tourist destinations in the world.

Book your tour of Samarkand today:

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About the author:

Steve Rohan is a writer from Essex, England. He has traveled to over 60 countries, lived in Armenia, China and Hong Kong, and is now living the digital nomad life on the road.

Steve prefers “slow travel” and has covered much of the world by train, bus and boat. He has been interviewed multiple times by the BBC and recently featured in the documentary Scariest Places in the World. See the About page for more info.

Where I am now: Yerevan, Armenia 🇦🇲

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