Since getting rid of visa requirements for nationals of about 70 countries in early 2019, Uzbekistan has seen an incredible rise in tourism numbers. For decades the Central Asian country wasn’t eager to show the rest of the world what it had to offer, but things (politics actually) have changed and Uzbekistan has now opened up and warmed up to tourism. With all of its beauty, culture and extremely rich (Silk Road) history, Uzbekistan has everything it takes to attract the masses. But luckily, the beautiful country still remains a hidden gem, a fantastic find off the beaten track. For now, that is. Flights with Uzbekistan Airways are always pretty much jam-packed and it’s just a matter of time before cities like Samarkand, Bukhara and Xiva will receive the tourist numbers they deserve.
The capital of Uzbekistan is – for most tourists flying in to the country – the first stop. It’s the largest city of Uzbekistan, as well as the most populated city in ex-Soviet Central Asia with a population in 2018 of 2,485,900. It’s not the prettiest of cities, but it has a certain Sovjet charm and even a Sovjet beauty once you visit the subway stops. The city’s big, clean, the roads are filled with awesome Lada’s and white Chevrolets, the food is great, it’s cheap and people are friendly.
Only two hours away by Afrosiob (the fast train system in Uzbekistan) lies Samarkand, the country’s second biggest city. What a beauty this is. Samarkand is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Central Asia. It was a major stop on the old Silk Road. The city is noted for being an Islamic center for scholarly study. The Bibi-Khanym Mosque remains one of the city’s most famous landmarks. The Registan was the ancient centre of the city.
Another fantastich Uzbek city along the Silk Road. That made it a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion. The historic center of Bukhara, which has many mosques and madrassas, is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
In the west of the country, not far from the border with Turkmenistan, lies Xiva, a small walled city that acts like a cultural oasis in the Karakum desert. If I were to compare it with my own country, I would call this the Bruges of Uzbekistan: small, walled, incredibly beautiful, culturally rich. An absolute stunner! The old town retains more than 50 historic monuments and 250 old houses. Obviously this place is also UNESCO World Heritage. As it should be.