The 13 best places to visit in Uzbekistan

 

Completed in 1404 in the city of Samarkand, the Bibi-Khanym Mosque was one of the most magnificent mosques in the world during the 15th century. Almost immediately after completion the mosque was fraught with structural issues, continually having to be reconstructed and reinforced. Over the centuries the mosque deteriorated even more, and by the mid 20th century was in complete ruin. Having undergone enormous restoration work on the three main dome buildings and it's central portal, the mosque today has been partially restored to it's former glory, with work set to continue. The Bibi-Khanym Mosque is a major monument of Samarkand, as such it makes a considerable contribution to it's status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

13. Bibi-Khanym Mosque

 

In the north east of the country, close to the border with Kazakhstan is Uzbekistan's capital and largest city, Tashkent. Most of the ancient city along with the oldest monuments were destroyed during the 1917 revolution, with little remaining of the original architectural heritage. Tashkent is more a working city than a tourist location, with visitors to Uzbekistan being drawn to the countries more historical cities, or stopping off as they pass through between Samarkand and the Altai Mountains. Some major sites to be aware of are the Kukeldash Madrasah, the Barak-Khan Madrasah, the Muyi Muborak Madrasah and the Soviet Era Prince Romanov Palace.

Pictured is the Barak-Khan Madrasah.

12. Tashkent

 

Built in the 14th century as a mausoleum to Timur, the first ruler of the Timurid dynasty, the Gur-e-Amir is an important piece of Persian/Mongolian architecture, even being used as a model for great future constructions that include the Taj Mahal in India. Meaning 'Tomb of The King', the architectural complex with it's large azure dome has been heavily restored, with only the entrance portal, the richly mosaic decorated dome itself and one of four original minarets still remaining. Gur-e-Amir is a major monument of Samarkand, as such it makes a considerable contribution to it's status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

11. Gur-e-Amir

 

In the south of the country, directly south of Samarkand is the city of Shahrisabz, one of Central Asia's most ancient cities and famously the birthplace of Timur, the Turco-Mongol conqueror and the first ruler of the Timurid dynasty. The Ak Saray Palace, the Kok Gumbaz Mosque, the Hazrat-i Imam Complex and the Tomb of Timur remain as impressive monuments to the period, making the old part of the city a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the bronze statue of Timur in front of the Ak Saray Palace.

10. Shahrisabz

 

Meaning, 'The Living King', the Shah-i-Zinda in Samarkand is a huge necropolis that began it's construction in the 11th century and was added to over the following nine centuries. Today, the site with over twenty buildings including mosques and mausoleums of intricately detailed mosaic artwork and large domes is one of the most impressive of it's kind. The Shah-i-Zinda is a major monument of Samarkand, as such it makes a considerable contribution to it's status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

9. Shah-i-Zinda

 

Formerly one of the four largest lakes on Earth, the Aral Sea stretched from southern Kazakhstan into northern Uzbekistan, that was until the 1960's when Soviet irrigation projects diverted the rivers that fed it, and by 1997 it had diminished by 90%. With such a quick decline in fish numbers, the fisherman that worked there abandoned their ships with many left stranded in the desert miles from any water.

8. Aral Sea

 

East of Samarkand straddling the border with Tajikistan is the countries oldest nature reserve, Zaamin National Park. Located on the northern slopes of the Turkestan mountain range, the protected area of parkland is a mere 156 square kilometres (60 square miles) of rolling mountains and tree covered valleys.

7. Zaamin National Park

 

West of Samarkand, close to the border with Turkmenistan is the ancient city of Bukhara, it's location on the historical Silk Road allowed the city to flourish as a centre for trade, scholarship, culture and architectural significance. Today Bukhara is a major tourist attraction thanks to the huge number of historical monuments that make up the historic centre. The Po-i-Kalyan Complex located around the 10th century Kalyan Minaret, the 5th century Ark of Bukhara along with numerous mosques and madrassas have allowed the historic centre to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

6. Bukhara

 

In the east of the country, the Gissar Mountain Range stretches some 200 kilometres (124 miles) across the borders of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, making up the western end of the Pamir Alay mountain system. This enormous area of high peaks and deep valleys makes up some of the finest mountain scenery in the country. The range is also home to the Khazret Sultan, standing at 4,643 metres (15,233 ft) above sea level it is the tallest peak in Uzbekistan.

5. Gissar Mountains

 

East of the capital, Tashkent, connecting it with the Fergana Valley in a mountainous region of the country is the Kamchik Pass, the highest mountain road in Uzbekistan with an elevation of 2,268 metres (7,441 ft) above sea level. As well as being a strategic route for road vehicles, it allows visitors easy access to some of the countries most incredible terrain.

4. Kamchik Pass

 

In the extreme south of the country close to the border with Turkmenistan is the ancient city of Khiva. The most incredible place in the city is undoubtedly the Itchan Kala, the walled inner town with over fifty historic monuments and over two hundred and fifty 18th century houses and the 10th century Djuma Mosque. With it's 10 metre (33 ft) high walls, detailed mausoleums, tall towering minarets and colourful domes, the Itchan Kala was the first location in Uzbekistan to be classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3. Khiva

 

In the extreme north east of the country in a thin strip of land between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan on the Chatkal Ridges of the Western Tian Shan mountains is the largest protected complex in Uzbekistan, the Ugam Chatkal National Park. From it's lowland valleys to the high alpine meadows, the glaciers, the high mountain peaks and deep canyons, this large national park is one of the most striking natural beauty spots in the country.

2. Ugam Chatkal National Park

 

Meaning, 'Sandy Place' or 'Desert', Registan was the centre of the ancient city of Samarkand, the crossroads of cultures along the ancient Silk Road. Famed for it's three madrasah's of distinctive Islamic architecture dating back as far as the 15th century, today this famous square is the most iconic scene in Uzbekistan, the symbol of the country and one of the most impressive man made locations in Central Asia. As the most stand out monument of Samarkand, it plays an important role in the cities status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1. Registan

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