Uzbekistan is not a place that you hear about often in the travel world. I was on a KLM flight in Europe in 2015 and picked up their airline magazine. There was a story on Uzbekistan and I was instantly fascinated with the Islamic architecture and former silk road cities. When I returned to the US, I started doing more research on the country and contacted a tour operator, Advantour about arranging a trip. Fast forward a year later and I had chosen an 8 day tour that covered Tashkent, Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand. My Swiss friend was able to join me for the trip and provided excellent companionship and helped significantly reduce the cost.
Day 1: fly from Moscow to Tashkent, late arrival, overnight in Tashkent
Day 2: half day to explore Tashkent and late afternoon flight to Khiva, overnight in Khiva
Day 3: full day to explore Khiva, evening flight to Bukhara, overnight in Bukhara
Day 4: visit sights in center of Bukhara, overnight in Bukhara
Day 5: visit sights in outer areas of Bukhara, overnight in Bukhara
Day 6: train to Samarkand, visit Registan and Shakhi-Zinda necropolis, overnight in Samarkand
Day 7: visit outer areas of Samarkand, free afternoon, overnight in Samarkand
Day 8: train to Tashkent, free afternoon in Tashkent, overnight in Tashkent
Day 9: early morning flight to Berlin via Moscow
Aeroflot (economy): SVO-TAS
I paid cash for this 4 hour flight from Moscow to Tashkent. Surprisingly, Aeroflot operated a large body Boeing 777-300 on the route, so it was quite comfortable.
Uzbekistan Airways (economy): TAS-UGC, UGC-BUK
These two flights could not have been more different. The first flight was on an Ilyushin Il-114 (Russian airplane) during not great weather and it was a very bad flight. My travel partner and I barely spoke during the flight, because we were both terrified we were going to die. The second flight was on a new Airbus A320 and was smooth and pleasant.
Hyatt Regency Tashkent – luxury – 4k Hyatt points plus $55
This is the nicest hotel in Tashkent and the newest, opening only a few months before we arrived. The rooms were nicely decorated but I was more impressed with the fitness facilities, pool and spa, and breakfast buffet. The hotel is also a quick walk to Amir Temur Square, although exiting the hotel fortress requires additional time.
Asia Khiva – moderate – part of tour package
Good location just outside the historic center walls
Omar Khayyam, Bukhara – moderate – part of tour package
Basic and comfortable room in a good location near main attractions.
Grand Samarkand Superior – moderate – part of tour package
Good hotel but a bit far from the Registan and main sights.
Since we had an organize tour, we were mostly driven around in a private car with a driver and guide. We did take the train twice from Bukhara to Samarkand and from Samarkand to Tashkent. Both times we took the Sharq train and had a sleeper cabin that provided a nice space to nap. We were even served plov on our train to Tashkent. I slept mostly, but my travel partner said there were nice views of snow-capped mountains and verdant fields.
I love architecture and Uzbekistan’s Islamic monuments are exquisite. The mosque and madrasahs in the historical silk road towns are all worth visiting. After 8 days in the country, you will see tons of them. They are all interesting but are constructed in very similar styles and layout. My highlights list really focuses on the sights of the trip that I thought were unique.
Tosh-Khovli Palace, Khiva
This former palace was beautiful tiled courtyard and brightly colored wooden ceilings. Tosh-Khovli has over 150 rooms and each other is slightly different. I could’ve spent hours here taking photos and exploring the palace.
Shakhi-Zinda necropolis, Samarkand
Shakhi-Zinda is a street of elaborated decorated tombs. Most of the exterior of the tombs are covered with infinite shades of blue and green tiles. The interior of the larger tombs contain domed ceilings with intricate designs. Hills surround the necropolis and offer great panoramic views of the site and better views of the distinctive domes.
Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace, Bukhara
This was the summer residence for the emir. The palace is a unique combination of oriental and western styles. On the grounds are several other buildings, a large retention pool, a minaret, and many peacocks.
The stations of the Tashkent Metro are gorgeous. I only visited four stations, but I was impressed. Photography is not allowed in the metro since it’s considered a government/military installation. Several police are stationed at the entrances and on the platform, so the risk is too great to sneak and take photos.
WHAT I MISSED
The itinerary for this trip was pretty comprehensive and I did a lot of research before arriving, so I managed to see almost everything I wanted.
Ark Fortress, Bukhara
I was sick the first morning in Bukhara, so my travel partner and the guide explored this fortress and museum without me.
Soviet architecture in Tashkent
I saw many of the buildings on my list, but Tashkent is a big city and it was difficult. Just driving around town, we discovered many additional Soviet gems that I didn’t know about. I need to improve my skill at taking photos from a moving car.