After visiting Kyrgyzstan in 2022, we were inspired to explore more Central Asia. Uzbekistan seemed the perfect next “stan-country” to visit, neighbouring Kyrgyzstan but having a completely different vibe and way of travelling. When booking our flights, we decided on 12 days in Uzbekistan and included a layover of 3 days in Istanbul in our travel plans. In the end, we found mostly 10-day itineraries online. As we decided to take a little more time, we included one mountain destination at our trip’s start. In addition, this is a complete 12-day Uzbekistan itinerary that can be easily limited to a 10-day Uzbekistan Itinerary by skipping Chimgan (mountains).
In 7 days you will be able to see all the main sights in Uzbekistan. However, you might miss the night train experience and you have to book a multi-city flight, starting in Tashkent and flying out of Urganch. The 7-day Uzbekistan itinerary can be found at the end of this post.
The perfect number of days to spend in Uzbekistan is 10 days. When spending 10 days in Uzbekistan, you can book your return trip to Tashkent and visit the main cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva.
Alternatively, you can spend 12 days in Uzbekistan and also include a visit to either the Chimgan mountains, Nukus, the Aydar Lake or the Aral Sea.
The easiest way to travel to Uzbekistan is by plane. From Europe, there are many flights through Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. From other parts of the world, Uzbekistan Airways is a good option. I managed to find a direct flight from Tokyo to Tashkent. When planning your trip, you can also check out other Uzbekistan airports. For example, if you want to skip the night train to Khiva, you can fly out of Urganch (very close to Khiva). An alternative 7-day Uzbekistan is included at the end of this blog post.
Temperatures in Uzbekistan can be extreme. When we visited in April and checked the weather forecast, temperatures at night were 3 degrees Celsius, while 2 days later the daytime temperatures went up to 38 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, because of the land climate, temperatures can get low in winter. Therefore, the best time to travel to Uzbekistan is generally April/May or September/October to avoid the extreme summers and winters.
Day 1 || Arrival to Tashkent and travel to Chimgan (optional)
Day 2 || Explore the Chimgan mountains (optional)
Day 3 || Travel back to Tashkent and board the night train to Khiva
Day 4 || Explore Khiva
Day 5 || Explore Khiva
Day 6 || Take the train to Bukhara
Day 7 || Explore Bukhara
Day 8 || Travel to Samarkand and explore Samarkand
Day 9 || Explore Samarkand
Day 10 || Explore Samarkand
Day 11 || Travel back to Tashkent
Day 12 || Board your outbound flight
After we arrived in Uzbekistan, we took a direct taxi to Chimgan. Before that, we passed passport control, bought our Uzbek sim card and picked up our luggage (~1 hour). As I did arrive 1 day earlier than my friend, I stayed the night in Tashkent and arranged a taxi to the airport to wait for my friend and head to Chimgan afterwards. This cost 300.000 UZS, which is around 25 euros.
On arrival in Chimgan, we checked in at the Archazor Mountain Resort. We decided on a bit more luxury on the first day, after a long flight. The Archazor Mountain Resorts offers a spa, with a sauna and steam baths as well as an indoor swimming pool. In summer, also both outdoor pools are open.
After a night in the hotel, we dedicated our second day in Chimgan to exploring the area. We ordered a taxi to first take us to Chavak Lake, where we snapped some photos. Personally, I don’t think it is worth spending more than 15 – 30 minutes, however, it is a nice location to see. Afterwards, the taxi driver took us to Amirsoy. We took the cable car up the mountain (195.000 UZS (15 euros) in total for a return ticket). You must buy the Amirsoy Express and Prima tickets to get to the top.
When at the top, you can admire the mountain views from the 2290 bar. It felt like apres-ski, sitting there with our Apfelstrudel and gin and tonics. When at the top, there are also some small walks you can do to explore more of the area. In general, it is possible to do some hiking in Chimgan, however, we decided to have a more relaxed trip this time, as the Uzbek mountains can’t live up to the Kyrgyz mountains. After taking the cable car down, we called our taxi driver to bring us back to the resort. A taxi for the full day costs 400.000 UZS (30 euros).
From Archazor Mountain Resort, we ordered a taxi (400.000) UZS to bring us to our hotel in Tashkent (Sapiens Hotel). After checking in, it was time to explore Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent. We had lunch at Socials Café. Afterwards, we headed to Sailgokh Street to explore the local culture, where we played table tennis. From Sailgokh Street, it was only a couple of minutes walking to admire Hotel Uzbekistan. From there, we walked to Silk96, an international wine bar located in Tashkent, for some wines and snacks. Thereafter, we ended the night with a cocktail in the rooftop bar of the Sapiens Hotel.
On the second day in Tashkent, we continued exploring Uzbekistan’s capital. Firstly, we ordered a cab to the Chorsu Bazaar, from where we also visited the Hoja Ahror Valiy Mosque and the Kukeldash Madrasah.
Afterwards, we took the metro towards the TV tower and Museum of Victims of Repressions and headed to Beshqozon to see the making of Plov (the national Uzbek dish) in real life. Along the way, we stopped at multiple metro stations, as the metro station network in Tashkent is a site itself. Thereafter, we had juice at Juice Bar by Leto and an amazing Napolitan pizza at RONI.
Even though there might be quicker ways to reach Khiva from Tashkent (you can also take a flight for about ~€60), the night train is the most unique experience. Therefore, the best way to travel from Tashkent to Khiva is, in my opinion, the older 14-hour night train. The night train is the least fancy train out of the 3 different types of trains in Uzbekistan. Taking the night train teaches you more about Uzbekistan’s history and the trains give you an SSR vibe. You can easily book your train tickets online (and use Google Translate).
There are different train classes. As the journey would be 14 hours, we decided to opt for a first-class ticket which means you only share a cabin with two people. Another option is a 4-person cabin (which we did on the train from Khiva to Bukhara) or a shared and open cabin. All in all, the night train is the perfect way to discover the heart of Central Asia.
Book your train tickets at Uzbekistan Railways.
Khiva is the smallest city out of the multiple cities touched by tourism. Khiva is further out and takes more travel time than Bukhara and Samarkand. Therefore, we weren’t sure if we should visit Khiva or make a side trip to Tajikistan. Eventually, we decided on Khiva, with no regrets!
Khiva can be compared with an open-air museum as all corners are amazingly stunning. Cars are not allowed in the city center and the town is home to many mosques that show the Islamic culture. Everywhere around town, there are little alleys and hidden courtyards. Khiva is marked by two famous minarets, especially the famous Kalta Minor Minaret, which has never been finished. Another famous Minaret is the Islam Kodjah.
Check out my full blog post about Khiva for a detailed overview of sights, bars, restaurants and hotels.
Where to stay in Khiva: We stayed at Islam Khodja Guesthouse, a wonderful guesthouse that I can 100% recommend (~€45 per night). Other great options are the famous Orient Star (~€65) in Khiva or Guest House Orzu (~€25).
Time to leave Khiva and head to Bukhara. We took an early morning train (8 am) to Bukhara, which took us around 8 hours. This time, we booked a cabin for 4 people so we did share our cabin with local travellers.
For many visitors to Uzbekistan, Bukhara is their favourite town. Even though I liked Bukhara, it wasn’t as striking to me as Khiva (because of how authentic it was) or Samarkand (because of the impressive blue mosaic). Nevertheless, you can find a lot of culture in Bukhara one of the most central places on the Silk Road. Also in Bukhara, you can find a famous minaret, beautiful mausoleums and other aspects of the Islamic culture. Furthermore, the city centre of Bukhara seems to be one large bazaar. One of my favourite things to do in Bukhara though, was to visit one of the Silk Road Teahouses. The place you definitely can’t, nor will, miss when in Bukhara is the Poi Kalon complex. Make sure to be there early to visit before the crowds and the entrance fee to the madrassah is worth it.
If you want to learn more about my favourite things to do in Bukhara and the best restaurants to eat, check out this full travel guide.
Where to stay in Bukhara: Old Gate Hotel (~€35) was the perfect place to stay and the staff was amazing. Other great options in Bukhara are Porso Boutique Hotel (~€70), Kukaldosh Boutique Hotel (~€90), or Old Bukhara Boutique (~€70).
From Bukhara, we boarded the Afrosiyob train to Samarkand, a 2.5-hour train ride. Samarkand is a city that is seen as one of the main jewels on the Silk Road. Even though Uzbekistan might not be the best-known country in the world, Samarkand also tends to be the best-known city in Uzbekistan. Samarkand is home to the famous Registan, housing multiple Madrassahs with amazing tilework and stunning mosaics. One of the things I liked, is to visit the second floor of one of these Madrassahs. Furthermore, Samarkand was home to the highlight of our trip: Shah-i-Zinda, where the colours are just majestic. Prepare to be enchanted by the many beautiful buildings in Samarkand, but also expect a city that is not as picturesque as the other Uzbek cities such as Khiva and Buchara.
If you want to learn more about all the sights to visit and the best restaurants in town, check out my Samarkand travel guide here.
Where to stay: We stayed in Furkat Guest House (~€35), a decent and central place to stay but feels slightly older than all other hotels mentioned. More modern hotels are Billuri Sitora (~€60). Marakanda (~€55) or Hotel House Luxury (~€35).
To avoid last-minute stress, we decided to head back to Tashkent one day before our flight. Around 16:00, we boarded the train from Samarkand to Tashkent, which is only a 2 to 2.5-hour train ride with the famous Afrosiyob. We spent our final day in Tashkent with some drinks and pizza at RONI, just because we are big fans of the food and didn’t feel like a local closing dinner. If we had redone our trip, we would have flown back from Samarkand as there are international flights to Istanbul from Samarkand, which will save you additional travel time.
Even though it is never a good idea to rush your travels, you can further optimize your trip to Uzbekistan. Especially, if you would like to combine this trip with other countries in Central Asia, you might not need the full 10 or 12 days. If you want to optimize your trip, you can fly into Urganch (which is a 15-minute drive from Khiva) and fly out from Samarkand or Tashkent (I like the vibe of a capital city, however, Tashkent might not be the reason you visit Uzbekistan.
In this case, my advised itinerary would be:
Day 1 | Fly to Urganch and head to Khiva
Day 2 | Explore Khiva
Day 3 | Take the train from Khiva to Bukhara (during some days of the week, there is a fast train to save you time)
Day 4 | Explore Bukhara
Day 5 | Travel to Samarkand and explore Samarkand
Day 6 | Explore Samarkand
Day 7 | Fly back from Samarkand or head to Tashkent
These 15 pictures of Kyrgyzstan will convince you to visit more countries in Central Asia. If you are down to combine culture with nature, than the combination of visiting Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan is perfect!