Central Asia is a beautiful region. Following a visit to Kyrgyzstan in September 2022, we booked a trip to Uzbekistan and visited in April 2023. Our itinerary included Uzbekistan’s main sights and cities: Tashkent, Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand. Also, you can find a full 10-day Uzbekistan itinerary online describing our travel route (or check out the best hotels to stay). However, Uzbekistan deserves even more attention. Therefore, I created an overview of the top 10 things to do in Uzbekistan. Moreover, this will guarantee you cover all the best experiences on your trip!
Samarkand was the final city of our trip where, at times, we had to motivate ourselves to continue to explore. However, Shahi Zinda made it easy to enjoy Uzbekistan’s beauty. This mausoleum in Samarkand is beyond stunning and one of the most impressive places I’ve seen in my life. Moreover, I would advise you to visit in the morning or the evening (around 7 pm, near closing hours) for the best light and to limit the number of tourists present.
Although I didn’t know any sights by name before researching Uzbekistan, Registan is mentioned as the top thing to do in Uzbekistan. After visiting, I can say, that’s for a reason. Next to that, the Registan in Samarkand gives you a good impression of the various buildings that can be found in Uzbekistan. As we wanted to escape the crowds, we entered at 8 am, when the place opened. Lastly, don’t forget to visit the second floor of one of the Madrassahs, a lovely experience!
Khiva was the town in Uzbekistan we enjoyed the most. Therefore, I would recommend Khiva as one of the top experiences in Uzbekistan. However, if you want to understand more of the culture, and history and explore ancient corners all around town, you should book a tour. Upon arrival in Ichan Kala – when we bought our ticket – we booked a 3-hour city tour with a local guide. To me, this has been one of the best experiences in Uzbekistan!
Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of Uzbek cuisine, one of the best things to do in Uzbekistan is to taste the local food in Khiva. There are multiple dishes available in Khiva that can’t be found in the remainder of the country. My favourite is the green dill pasta (Shivit Oshi) and the dumplings (Gumma and Yumurta Barak). Next to the great food, Khiva is also home to one of the best views from a bar/restaurant: Terrassa. In my opinion, this is an experience that can’t be missed.
What is a better way to feel the local experience than visiting a market? Firstly, almost all towns and cities in Uzbekistan have a main bazaar where you can find a mix of goods being sold. During our first day in Uzbekistan, we explored Tashkent where we visited the Chorsu Bazaar. However, the Siab Bazaar in Samarkand or Central Bazaar in Bukhara will reward you with a similar experience. A must-do to experience the local culture.
Quite surprisingly, Tashkent has an elaborate underground network. On top of that, it’s not just an average underground network as there are plenty of beautiful metro stations to explore. Therefore, exploring the interior of the metro stations is one of the main activities in Tashkent. During our visit, we decided to use the metro for transportation along some of the main sights and made quick stops at some of the stations along the way, such as Gafur Gulum, Pakhtakor, Mustakillik Maydoni and Bodomzor. Also, if you want to learn more about visiting the metro stations, check out my 24-hour Tashkent guide.
Be aware that a 14-hour train ride is waiting for you when boarding the night train from Tashkent to Khiva. Nevertheless, it is one of the top things to do in Uzbekistan to experience the local culture. Especially the older night train brings you back to the Sovjet Times. As we were still looking for a comfortable experience, we booked a ‘luxury’ cabin with 2 beds. If you fully want to submerge yourself, you should of course take the normal class.
Plov is the national and most famous dish in Uzbekistan and includes rice, lamb, onions and carrots. Therefore, it must be part of the top 10 things to do in Uzbekistan list! Even though Plov can be found at almost all restaurants in Uzbekistan, you also should try it at a Plov Center. On top of that, the cooking process is interesting to see. Some of the best-known locations for Plov are the Central Asia Plov Center and the Beshqozon Pilaf Center.
The perfect activity when you want to cool down on a warm day and indulge in the local culture simultaneously. When we were in Bukhara, we visited the Silk Road Teahouse, where you can sip a lovely and healthy tea (think ginger or saffron) including some less healthy snacks. Moreover, you can also buy some tea as the perfect souvenir.
During our visit to Samarkand, we visited the Wine Museum during one of our afternoons. Luckily, we could also enjoy a tasting of several traditional Uzbek wines as well as stronger spirits. Looking at this list of the top 10 things to do in Uzbekistan, can you already see that I’m a big fan of indulging in the local food and drinks to learn more about a country?!