Today, Uzbekistan is still very much as it was centuries ago, with mazes of cobbled streets snaking past mud-brick buildings, brilliant works of art and long-lived traditions celebrated as they have been for generations. Visitors can enjoy historical sites, many of which are recognized by UNESCO, and experience the deep rooted, proud culture and heritage of the friendly people who live here. Shop the local bazaars, visit ancient fortresses, and admire the structures and artifacts that serve as fascinating testaments to the deep past. A trip to Uzbekistan is sure to delight and intrigue even the most intrepid traveler. Our friends at MIR Corp share the 5 towns you shouldn’t miss while you’re there.
Not only is Samarkand one of the oldest cities in Uzbekistan, it’s also one of the most beautiful in the world. Tamerlane’s blue-tiled capital, Samarkand is home to a huge variety of ancient architecture, like the splendid Registan Square, permeating the city with an intriguing, almost magical atmosphere. Wonderful arched and domed mosques and madrassahs are adorned with intricate mosaic art. Visitors will particularly enjoy the exhilarating bazaar, which offers a glimpse into the traditional culture of the Uzbek people. Samarkand is known as the “Crossroads of Culture”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other points of interest include the massive Bibi-Khanum Mosque, the tombs of Shah-i-Zinde and the fascinating Ulug Bek Observatory.
The town of Tashkent is home to an interesting mixture of cultures. The modern-day capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent dates back as far as the 1st century BC, though most of its ancient traces have crumbled over the centuries. Nowadays visitors can enjoy the evolving restaurant scene and exciting nightlife, set amidst the backdrop of lush green landscapes. There are plenty of first-class museums to browse through, and the nearby Ugam-Chatkal National Park provides ample opportunity for outdoor activities like hiking, skiing and rafting. Noteworthy points of interest include the Square of Independence, the Navoi Theatre, Kukeldash Madrassah and the Kaffal-Shashi Mausoleum.
A town of innovation, Khiva was once host to several large scientific centers dedicated to the fields of mathematics, astronomy and medicine and has been credited with helping to carve out many of the cultural and spiritual values that have become the foundation of the Uzbek people today. It’s considered a “living museum”, with its narrow, winding streets and ancient historical sites that have been wonderfully preserved and restored through the years. Approaching the UNESCO-listed Old Town, modern-day travelers face the same sight as Silk Road caravans did, the dun-colored city walls, the main gate opening on a dusty stone thoroughfare, merchants hawking their wares from each side, and the distinctive minarets watching over the whole scene.
Don’t miss the 115 carved columns of the Dzhuma Mosque, the Taush Hauli Palace – home of the khan and his four wives, and the 12th century Kunya Ark.
If it’s history you’re after, Bukhara is the place to be. There are buildings here that date back thousands of years and have been incredibly preserved and maintained. The town’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is filled with architectural treasures, from fortresses to mosques, madrassahs and an ancient marketplace. Visitors can get a taste of Central Asia’s artistry and culture by browsing the spectacular covered bazaar, where handloomed carpets, silver filigree, silken shawls, beaten copper and jewelry are arranged along the cool shaded avenues. The Ark Citadel, likely dating back several thousand years, the ominous Zindan Prison, lovely little Ismael Samani Mausoleum, the looming Kalon Mosque and Minaret, and welcoming Lyab-i-Khauz Plaza are just a few of the many interesting sites to see in Bukhara. Be sure to leave enough time to experience everything – you won’t want to miss it!
This charming town of Fergana is said to have been in existence since the 4th century BC. The valley is particularly known for its perfect climate and incredibly fertile soil, which has been used for farming throughout the centuries. Visitors will be surprised by the stark difference of the terrain of the Fergana Valley in comparison to the many desert areas in other parts of the country. Visit Margilan Village, known as a center of silk production since the 9th century, and stop in at the workshop of a ceramics master in Rishtan, where the skills used to produce Uzbek ceramics have been passed down father-to-son for countless generations.
A trip to Uzbekistan is akin to a magical journey back in time. The country’s cultural diversity, ancient traditions and brilliant architecture and art all combine to delight and inspire those who walk its cobbled streets. Its long, rich history intertwines with its modern facade making a visit to Uzbekistan rewarding and unforgettable. These five towns are just a few of the many places to visit in this beautiful and fascinating country.
About MIR Corp
MIR Corporation, whose name means "peace" and "world" in Russian, has specialized in Russia (and neighboring countries) for 25 years. Offering scheduled and custom journeys to Russia, along the Trans-Siberian and across the Silk Route, MIR's Seattle-based experts design imaginative trips that take travelers far from the familiar and work closely with local affiliates in Western Russia, Siberia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan to carry them out. MIR has twice been named one of National Geographic Adventure's "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth".
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