Uzbekistan itinerary: 2 weeks in Uzbekistan
This post will help you plan your Uzbekistan itinerary. Uzbekistan is one of the most upcoming destinations in Asia due to its recent visa free regime for most nationalities. It is now easier than ever to visit the country and there are good reasons to do so.
Uzbekistan was once an important part of the famous silk road and has a rich cultural heritage that is still visible in the beautiful islamic architecture and historic sites throughout the country. The Turks, Greeks, Persians, Russians and Mongols all once ruled parts of what is now Uzbekistan. Each of them left behind their own influences.
Uzbekistan has lots to offer as a result. From remote desert landscapes to green mountains and ancient cities. It’s not hard to imagine camel caravans passing through when you walk through the scenic alleyways of Samarkand, Bukhara or Khiva. People are still welcoming of visitors and will greet you with a smile.
Planning your Uzbekistan itinerary means you must make difficult choices, because there are so many places to visit in Uzbekistan.
I didn’t want to make any choices and I had a one month Uzbekistan itinerary. Therefore, I was able to see both the tourist highlights and some off the beaten path destinations. I must say that I love slow travel and spent considerable time in each place that I visited.
In my experience, you would need at least two weeks in Uzbekistan to see the major highlights. This post will include a 2 week Uzbekistan itinerary with a roundtrip from Tashkent visiting the beautiful cities of Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara.
If you have more time, there are a lot of other interesting places to add to your Uzbekistan itinerary. The desolate desert province of Karakalpakstan, for example, or the Fergana valley with its traditional handicradft centers. This post will also include several itinerary extentions to consider.
A 2 week Uzbekistan itinerary
Day 1 – 2 Tashkent
Spent your first two days of your Uzbekistan itinerary in Tashkent. The capital of Uzbekistan is a great introduction into the country and one of the best places to see Soviet architecture.
I can recommend this self guided tour of Tashkents’s metro stations. They are among the most beautiful metro stations in the world and a unique mix of Soviet and Uzbek design.
After your metro tour head towards the Chorsu bazaar. One of the oldest and largest bazaars in central asia. It’s easy to spend your whole afternoon here, but save some time to see some of Tashkent’s Islamic architecture. Next to the bazaar is the Kukeldash madrassa and you can take a taxi to the nearby Hast Imom complex.
On your second day you can visit the Amir Timur square and the Independence square. It’s a nice walk between the two squares where you get to see some interesting architecture like Hotel Uzbekistan, the clock towers, the state history museum and the Romanov palace.
In the afternoon you can visit one of Tashkent’s museums. To get a better understanding of Uzbekistan’s history visit the State History museum and to learn more about Uzbek art visit the State Fine arts museum or the museum of applied arts.
Read more about Tashkent in my post about the best places to visit in Tashkent.
Eat: National food or plov centre
Day 3 – 5 Khiva
From all the silk road cities in Uzbekistan, Khiva is the most remote. Some people skip Khiva all together, but I would say it is definitely worth a visit. The ancient town with its mudbrick buildings and towering minarets bring you right back to the days of the Silk road.
I recommend to head to Khiva first and then travel back towards the capital. Several times a week there is a comfortable night train to Khiva from Tashkent.
Khiva is a compact city and most tourist attractions are within the walls of the old town called Itchan qala. One day should be enough to see everything. Don’t miss the sunset from either the watchtower or on top of the city walls. This is when Khiva is at its best.
On your second day in Khiva you can make a tour along the Khorezm fortresses. These ancient desert castles in Karakalpakstan were a highlight of our trip in Uzbekistan. There is not much left of them and the ruins require some imagination, but the locations are spectacular. Furthermore, you do get a sense of how big these structures must have been.
Read more in my Khiva travel guide about the best things to do in Khiva.
Eat: Khorezm cafe & Terassa
Sleep: Islambek Khiva
Day 6 – 9 Bukhara
Traveling from Khiva to Bukhara used to be a long 8 hour shared taxi ride, but with the new train connection it is now an easy and comfortable journey of only 6 hours.
Bukhara is one of the most authentic silk road cities in Uzbekistan. Renovation projects have been more subtle in Bukhara and the city has a completely different atmosphere than Khiva or Samarkand.
Most things to do in Bukhara are centered around the Lyab I Hauz complex, the covered bazaars, the Kalyon complex and the Arc of Bukhara. Bukhara is a city that is best explored on foot, wandering through its old streets. If needed it is possible to see everything in one day, but two days would be better.
Spend your third day to see some of the things outside of Bukhara such as the Chor Bakr complex and the Sitora I mokha complex.
Read more in my Bukhara travel guide about the best things to do in Bukhara.
Day 10 – 13 Samarkand
From Bukhara there are several trains a day to Samarkand. With the new high speed train it takes only 2 hours.
Samarkand is the second largest city in Uzbekistan and also one of the oldest. Most of the Islamic architecture is from around the 14th century when Samarkand was the capital of the Timurid empire. Its histiry goes even further though and it was also the capital of the ancient Sogdian empire.
Highlights include Registan square, the Shah i Zinda complex and the Gur e Amir mausoleum and there is much more. Like the lively Siob bazaar and the Bibi Khanum mosque. It’s easy to spend 2 or 3 days in Samarkand and once you feel you have seen everything in the city you could make a day trip to Shakhrisabz.
Read more in my Samarkand travel guide about the best things to do in Samarkand.
Eat: Bibi Khanum Teahouse
Day 14 back to Tashkent
After Samarkand you can head back to Tashkent. With the high speed train it is only 2 hours. From there you could extend your Uzbekistan itinerary with for example the Fergana valley.
Uzbekistan itinerary: the Fergana Valley
Day 1 From Tashkent to Margilon
The best way to travel to the Fergana valley is through Tashkent. There is a daily train that leaves in the morning so you can be in either Margilon or Fargona city in the afternoon.
The Fergana valley is not so big and most people base themselves in either Fargona city or Margilon for the first few days. Fargona has more facilities and transport connections. However, Margilon is way more scenic and is only 20 minutes by bus or taxi from Fargona. I would personally recommend Margilon.
Eat: Soy Boy
Sleep: Ikat house
Day 2 Margilon
Spend your first day in Margilon with a visit to the colourful Kumtepa bazaar that is 5 kilometer east of the city. Early morning is when the bazaar is at its most vibrant. The highlights are Margilon’s famous silk clothes with ikat patterns. The bazaar is the best place to buy it.
After the bazaar you can have lunch in Margilon before you visit the silk factory to see how the famous ikat silk is made. The free tours are very insightful and if you haven’t already bought something at the bazaar you will have another chance at the silk factory’s own shop.
Day 3 to Kokand with a stop in Rishton
From Margilon it is easy to travel to Kokand, but rather than heading straight there, I recommend a stop in Rishton. A town that is famous for its ancient pottery tradition and handmade ceramics.
The Usmanov ceramic workshop gives free tours and I was very impressed by the handmade patterns on the ceramics. Of course you can also buy something in their shop at the end of the tour. If it comes to ceramics there is no better place in Uzbekistan to do so.
Rishton is conveniently in the middle between Fargona and Kokand. Walk back to the station for a quick lunch and to catch a bus or shared taxi to Kokand.
Eat: Cafe Kapriz
Sleep: Ahmadkhon hotel
Day 4 Kokand
Kokand was the capital of the Kokand khanate in the 18th and 19th century and was almost as important as Bukhara.
Few things remain from that time. The Khudayar Khan palace is the main attraction of town. It’s worth getting inside to see what is left of the rooms. Don’t forget to look up at the ceiling decorations.
There are some other mosques and mausoleums nearby that are easy to explore on foot. Kokand is a nice city to wander around in and get a sense of the community atmosphere in Uzbekistan’s residential neighborhoods.
After Kokand you can return to Tashkent or if your next destination is Tajikistan you can cross the border and head towards Khujand. Another option is to cross the border to Kyrgyzstan through Andijon.
Uzbekistan itinerary: Karakalpakstan
Karakalpakstan is best added in the beginning of your Uzbekistan itinerary. Even though it is the most remote province it is easy to take the night train from Tashkent that runs several days a week to Nukus and Kungrad.
Day 1 Tashkent to Nukus
The Tashkent to Nukus night train will be the longest distance you will cover in your Uzbekistan itinerary. The old Soviet train is an experience in itself and a good introduction into Uzbek hospitality. In my post on train travel in Uzbekistan you can read more what it is like to travel by train including my experience on this specific night train.
Day 2 Nukus
You will arrive early enough in Nukus to see something of the city. Among the best things to do in Nukus is the Savitsky Art Museum where you can easily spent a couple of hours.
If you have still time left you can visit the colourful bazaar or walk along the Amu Darya river boulevard.
Eat: Cinnamon cafe
Day 3 Moynaq
On your third day you can make a daytrip to Moynaq. A tour with a private taxi costs between $40 and $50 dollar. On your way to Moynaq you can also see the Mizdakhan necropolis and the Qaur Qala fortress.
Once in Moynaq you can visit the Moynaq museum, the shi[p graveyard and msaybe one of the abandoned fish canning factories. It is easy to see everything there is to see in Moynaq during a daytrip, but if you want to travel with public transport you need to add another day.
Also add another day if you want to visit the actual sea shore of the Aral sea. From Nukus & Moynaq there are tours available with an overnight stay near the lake.
Read more about Moynaq in my Moynaq travel guide
Day 4 to Khiva
From Khiva it is a 6 hour journey to Khiva where you can pick up the 2 week Uzbekistan itinerary on the top of this article.
Uzbekistan itinerary: nature extensions
Uzbekistan is more famous for its Silk Road cities and desert landscapes than its nature and mountains. It’s true that Uzbekistan is no Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan, but if you’re really keen to add some nature into your Uzbekistan itinerary there are a few options.
The first is a visit to the Chimgan mountains from Tashkent and the second option are the Nuratau mountains from Samarkand
The Chimgan mountains
For a visit to the Chimgan mountains, simply add another day to your Uzbekistan itinerary when you are in Tashkent. From Tashkent you can make this fun daytrip if you have your own transport.
The Chimgan mountains are part of the Ugam Chatkal National park that borders the Aksu Zhabagly National Park in Kazakhstan. You can visit the skilift at Beldersoy for beautiful views and the deep blue Charvak lake.
For a visit to the Nuratau mountains add two more days to your Uzbekistan itinerary when you are in Samarkand. More if you want to do some of the multipe day hiking tours. There are several villages in the Nuratau mountains with excellent community based tourism projects where you can stay with local families and experience rural Uzbek culture.
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