Where is Uzbekistan and Why Should I Go?

Monday, December 17, 2018

On the Silk Road, with a sandy desert, wild mountains, and a shrinking sea, a country with more than two millennia of history is waiting for its visitors. Impressive from every point of view, the land where is Uzbekistaninfo-icon will charm you. 

It is the land desired and conquered by Alexander the Great. It is the land where trekking is made with camels. It is the land of fortresses, palaces, and blue mosques. The landscape of Uzbekistan is vast and astonishing. But what fascinates the traveler is the culture of Uzbekistan. 

Even with an authoritative police state, this country is friendly and open. Centuries of trading history are still visible in colorful bazaars and artfully restored cities and monuments.

Uzbekistan is mostly a Muslim country, but with broader views. Uzbek women do not wear a veil and are dressed in colorful clothing. If you want to mingle, you can find traditional clothing in bazaars. Nevertheless, don’t expose too much skin (sleeves and knee-length skirts will do just fine). 

A visit to a bazaar can introduce you to the local artisan style. Souvenirs come in the form of ceramics, silk, miniature paintings, and other tremendous meticulous craftworks.

There is more than souvenirs to bring back from this country. A land that wears the steps of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan has a special grandeur, and its history must be known. 

This is a country desired by many, but their influences just made it stronger and gave it a very flavored cuisine. A combination of Iranian, Arabian, Russian, Indian, and Chinese flavors and techniques are waiting for you in the Uzbek kitchens.

Best Time to Visit Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan has many festivals that can immerse you in their rich traditions.
Uzbekistan has many festivals that can immerse you in their rich traditions.

Considering where is Uzbekistan, the best time to visit is from May to October. The continental climate of the country gives it sweltering summers and cold winters. 

Planning a journey in the summer will give you the opportunity to explore the entire country, but the normal temperatures are between 30°C and 40°C. If you are not coping with hot weather very well, choose the spring or autumn months, when the temperatures stay around 20°C. Spring is a good season especially if you want to visit the desert region or if you want to see the blossoming seasons of tulips and red poppies.

Read more: Where is Kyrgyzstan?

If you want to learn more about the traditions of Uzbekistan, try to plan your journey around Navruz, the Persian New Year, which is celebrated on 21st of March. There are two days of feasts, traditional sports like kopkari (horse racing) and kurash (wrestling), music, and general happiness. 

Uzbekistan has many national or regional festivals and celebrations that deserve to be seen. 

Here is a short list to guide you when you plan a journey to Uzbekistan:

Navruz – celebrated in all Central Asian countries, spring arrival is a good reason for parties all around Uzbekistan. Feasts and family parties are the main way of enjoying the renewal of nature and life.
Boysun Spring Festival – even if this is a regional celebration (held in the Boysun region), it is an extraordinary one. This festival is held from pre-Islamic times, and it is a very strong point in local history and culture. UNESCO has named it a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Traditional music and dance, costumes and stories are the features of this joyful festival.
Shark Taronalari – every summer, Uzbekistan hosts an international music festival where folk singers from around the world come to perform their art. You can listen throat singing (uran khai) and sacred Uzbek music along with many others traditional music types. Uzbek people are famous for their musical culture. They have many forms of music, some played by one singer, some performed as a dialog. Shashmakom, for example, is on the UNESCO list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Independence Day – held on 1st of September, Independence Day is the day Uzbekistan gained its independence from The Soviet Union. All major cities celebrate it with shows, fireworks, parades, and, of course, feasts.

How to Get Around in Uzbekistan

The best way of getting around Uzbekistan is by train, as many roads are damaged or missing.
The best way of getting around Uzbekistan is by train, as many roads are damaged or missing.

There are planes, trains, and buses that take you to Uzbekistan from the surrounding countries. This isn't an isolated country, and you have plenty of travel possibilities. 

The best way to get around inside the country is by train. Roads can be really bad or missing, and buses are an adventure. You can also try a shared taxi, for the thrilling of experience. 

What to Do in Uzbekistan

Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent will really give you a perspective on where is Uzbekistan.
Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent will really give you a perspective on where is Uzbekistan.

Start your journey in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Tashkent is famous for bazaars, beautiful mosques, and a stunning old town. Full of history and artifacts, with modern life, and a lake with sandy beaches, Tashkent will definitely surprise you. If you're lacking the ideas and managing a scarce budget, head over to Uzbekistan backpacking itinerary for some amazing travel tips.

There are many landmarks to see in Tashkent and there are also many things to do. Don't miss any of the following:

Kukeldash Madrasah – a medieval madrasa, built around XVIth century, this impressive building in yellow brick has a long history to tell.
Chorsu Bazaar – a traditional bazaar will best guide you through the life and civilization of the Uzbek people. It is of course in the center of the old town.
Tashkent Tower – a 375 meters high piece of modernity, this TV and radio tower has an observation deck from where you can see the entire city.
Amir Timur Museum – is a museum dedicated to Mongol warrior Amir Timur. It has a blue cupola, similar to the Gur-i Amir mausoleum in Samarkand, as the museum was built following medieval architecture style.

In fact, many of cities in Uzbekistan are full of history and architecture. Go to see Registan, the ancient city of Samarkand of the Timurid dynasty, a Persian desert city, with beautiful XVIth century buildings. Here you can find interesting ideas for things to do in Samarkand.

Visit Bukhara if you want to learn about the fascinating history of Central Asia.
Visit Bukhara if you want to learn about the fascinating history of Central Asiainfo-icon.

Go to see Bukhara, the largest city in the country, where people have lived for at least five millennia. With more than 140 monuments, Bukhara is home for the famous Samanid mausoleum, one of the most appreciated works of Central Asian culture. Other landmarks of Bukhara are:

Ark of Bukhara – a Vth century fortress, which function as a museum
Lyab-i Hauz – Just a few ponds (hauz) have survived in Bukhara. Lyab-i Haub is the area surrounding one of them and has three important buildings: Kukeldash Madrasah (from the XVIth century, the largest madrasa in town), a khanaka built in the XVIIth century, and a madrasah built also in the XVIIth century.
Kalyan minaret – the minaret of the Po-i-Kalyan mosque.
Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum – this UNESCO World Heritage Site actually means the well of Ayub and its linked to a legend. People say that Ayub struck the ground and a well with pure water was made in this place.
Bolo Haouz Mosque – also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built in the XVIIIth century with typical Central Asian architecture, elegant columns made of painted wood, and stunning details.
Sitorai Mokhi Khosa Palace – built by Nasrullah Khan, the Emir of Bukhara in the XIXth century, this palace is on the coolest place in the city. Destroyed and rebuilt by three emirs, the palace is a luxurious beauty, colorful and elegant, ready to receive guests.

If you are looking for wildlife and adventure, visit Ugam Chatkal National Park and Zaamin National Park and enjoy the best of the mountains of Uzbekistan. 

Find Urungach Lakes in Ugam Chatkal National Park and marvel at the jade colors of their water.
Find Urungach Lakes in Ugam Chatkal National Park and marvel at the jade colors of their water.

Here the landscape is green, hiking is strongly encouraged, and the water has curative characteristics.  

Also, don’t miss trekking by camel experience in the Kyzylkum Desert. Camels are smelly and bad-tempered, but it might be a once in a lifetime experience.

Read more: Explore the Kyzylkum Desert

You definitely don't want to miss:

Urungach Lakes – situated in the Ugam Chatkal National Park, at only 160 km away from Tashkent, these two lakes are surrounded by mountains and beauty. They are called “the jade lakes” because of their stunning color. Middle of April is the peak season for tulips, which adds even more beauty to this surrealistic place. A day trip from Tashkent to Urungach Lakes is a day well spent.
Charvak Lake – a popular summer resort, where you can swim and enjoy various water sports. Paragliders like it too.
Chimgan Ski Resort – if you have a winter holiday in Uzbekistan, visit this ski resort. It is near Tashkent (85 km away) and offers mild slopes and family entertainment.
Aydar Lake – created by man as part of the Aydar-Arnasay system of lakes, Aydar Lake contributed to the ecological disaster of the Aral Sea. It has a small community around it and offers fishing, camelback trips, and yurting experiences.

If you know where is Uzbekistan you probably heard of the Aral Sea disaster. The Aral Sea was the world's fourth-largest saline lake until the 1960s when the Soviet government decided to divert the main two rivers which feed it. 

In 30 years, the Aral Sea declined to 10% of what it used to be. The level of salinity grew, and the surrounding ecosystem was destroyed. The landscape is heartbreaking, but you should go and see what men can do when they only think of profit and take short-term decisions.

What to Eat in Uzbekistan

Discover where is Uzbekistan, and discover the delicious Uzbek food.
Discover where is Uzbekistan, and discover the delicious Uzbek food.

Uzbek food is considered very interesting at least. Based on bread and noodles (grain farming has a long history here), Uzbek cuisine mixes meat in various ways. Meat can be mutton, beef, horse, goat, camel or poultry. 

No pork in this country, don't forget it is a Muslim country. Palov is the main dish around the country. It contains rice, meat, and vegetables and is served at weddings and big parties. There is even a morning version, served between 6 am and 9 am, especially after an all-night party. Sometimes it can have dried fruits along with everything else.

Read more: Where is Tajikistan?

You can also try shurpa, dimlama, and all the kebabs you can find. They don’t have too many types of desserts, but you can try some local wines instead. A menu in Uzbekistan should include some of the following dishes:

Palov – it's a must. If they serve it at weddings it is because it's very good. Rice, meat, and vegetables made up a dish that traveled into international cuisine.
Shurpa – soup made of fat meat and vegetables.
Lagman – a dish with noodles that can come as soup or as the main dish.
Manti and Somsa – dough stuffed with different things like meat and vegetables.
Kebabs – with different types of meat and vegetables. Every Central Asian country has its own recipe.
Kutabi – traditional Uzbek flatbread served with meat or vegetables.
Dimlama – stew with mutton meat and vegetables.
Chuchvara – dumplings filled with meat. Can be served as a soup.
Oshi Toki – grape leaves stuffed with meat and rice.
Eggplant salad – it is an appetizer that traveled around the world.
Tashkent salad – boiled beef tongue and vegetables is a yogurt sauce.
Yogurt soup – yes, it is a soup made of yogurt with many herbs inside.
Katyk – sour milk yogurt.
Ayran – a yogurt drink served chilled, very popular during summer.
Holvaytar – a dessert made of flour and nuts.
Melons – they are a traditional dessert in this part of the world. They have several hundreds of types of melons.

Discovering where is Uzbekistan will be an adventure. But history happened here long before us, and it deserves respect and acknowledgment. In Uzbekistan, you’ll find wonders of nature and man-made natural disasters. You’ll meet talented people, joyful people, and welcoming people. You’ll see outstanding landscapes and experience the desert life. Take your time and explore Uzbekistan. Listen to their music, eat their food, enjoy their stories and legends, admire their art, and travel the way Uzbek people do. Your journey should probably last at least a month, but there is nothing dull in this country. From Persian civilization to modern Uzbek life, every experience will make a story. 

Uzbekistan has many things to teach you and it does it in an authentic and traditional way, which is impossible to resist.

Monica Radulescu a freelance writer for aSabbatical.com
Travelling is a joy. It's a way to become a better and wiser person. Mountain paths and road trips are my favourites.