From a young age, I had this passion for travel but honestly not for photography. After moving to the USA for my studies, I started exploring the different states of the country and it’s amazing national parks.
During those times, I started shooting with my point and shoot camera. However, the outcome of those photos didn’t capture the beauty of the places I was exploring. That’s when I started to take an interest in learning photography. I began to see how photos could tell their own stories.
Inspiration to Visit the Dazzling Uzbekistan
I have always been drawn to destinations that are less explored and not so popular among tourists. I have a never-ending list of places to visit on my bucket-list and the five “stans” are among them. Of the 5 “stans”, I was particularly interested to visit Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan (still not visited).
Uzbekistan happened to be the first “stan” I visited. The first thing that impressed me was the railway system – impeccable, super-fast, amazingly clean and well maintained. It kind of reminded me of Japan’s bullet trains.
10 Incredible Days Traveling around Uzbekistan
While planning for this visit, I realized any time less than 10 days wouldn’t be sufficient to see the sights. So, we spent a total of 10 days in this country. The places we visited were Samarkand, Khiva, Bukhara and Tashkent.
We had so many amazing unforgettable experiences in Uzbekistan like witnessing people getting married, being invited to dine with the locals, marveling at the fine details of artwork and architecture, and learning about the fascinating history of all the madrasas and mosques.
But my favorite experience from the trip was undoubtedly to take in the kindness, love and friendliness of this amazing country. The people make Uzbekistan so beautiful with their generosity and friendliness.
My Favorite Place: Shah-i-Zinda Mausoleum
Uzbekistan is a photographer’s dream, especially for people who love to shoot architecture like me. My favorite color is blue and shooting the blue tiled mosques all around Samarkand simply left me speechless.
I loved the desert and Arabian night feel of the old city of Khiva too! But of all the places, Shah-i-Zinda mausoleum was the place closest to my heart. Not because it’s blue heaven or architecturally stunning, but while shooting here I had one of the most sacred experiences.
One of the locals took me inside the mosque – deep inside to an area only locals know about. He showed us the place where you can worship and make a wish, as it’s believed to come true. Despite knowing I am a non-Muslim, the faith and love he showed me on that day really touched me.
Not having any religious or cultural similarities but just sharing a moment of pure human kindness made Shah-i-Zinda mausoleum so special to me.
Favourite Memory from my Trip to Uzbekistan
Hands down my favorite memory is the time spent in Bukhara or rather the time spent in the hospital of Bukhara. As an extreme animal lover, I have this bad habit of petting animals everywhere I find them.
So, on one such similar occasion in Bukhara, I was playing with a beautiful fluffy ginger cat in the street and sadly at the end, it bit me and I started bleeding! One of the biggest challenges in this country is to communicate in English. Only a few individuals are able to speak in English.
Rushing to a hospital where vets were available, and trying to make them understand what bit me or what help I needed, was all a huge task. Thanks to Google Translate and some helpful locals, I was taken to the correct hospital and blessed to find the most helpful doctor in the world.
This doctor and his entire team were so patient to communicate with the help of the translator and sign language. They dressed my wound and explained the entire procedure before giving me injections and medicines. I was so touched again with the kindness and generosity of the locals.
During our translator-viz-sign-language communication, the doctor at the hospital learnt that we were tourists visiting their country for the first time. At the end of the whole process, when we finally asked for the bill, the doctor politely refused to accept any money for the treatment.
He said using the translator again: “You are our guest and we can’t take money from our guests!” We were speechless and awestruck by their kindness. Uzbek people make this country so beautiful and special.
The Amazing Local Uzbek People
By now you must have realized how much I love Uzbek people. I adore all the experiences I had with the locals during my stay. They are some of the friendliest, loving, kind and welcoming people I have ever met in my life.
From locals who are ready to help you like giving free rides in case of emergency hospital visits, to random smiling strangers who just come up and say hi to start a friendly conversation and ask where you are from.
In many instances, they also came up to me to get photos taken together or a mother-daughter duo who welcomed us to their home for meals. Uzbek people take kindness to a whole new level. It really is remarkable!
Flavorsome Food and Cuisine of Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan food is flavorsome and tasty. Some of their dishes reminded me of Indian cuisine. It’s a heavy meat based cuisine so vegans and vegetarians might find it hard. However, getting vegetarian food is possible.
For all the vegetarians, please use a translator like Google Translate or hand gestures to help the waiters understand that you don’t want to eat meat. They will then serve you the requested dishes without meat.
Some of the classic Uzbek dishes I highly recommend to try are: Plov (a rice dish with mutton, carrots and apricots), Manti (dumplings with meat or pumpkin inside), Shivit Oshi (green noodles with meat and dill; Khiva’s speciality) and Shurpa (a soup with mutton or vegetables).
In terms of restaurants, I can recommend Doston House in Bukhara, Hotel Bibikhanum in Samarkand and Terrassa Cafe & Restaurant in Khiva.
How to Spend 7-10 Days in Uzbekistan
To experience the best of this Silk-Road destination in Central Asia, I would recommend spending at least 7-10 days in the country if not longer. You could spend 3 days in Samarkand, 2 days in Bukhara, 1 day in Khiva and another day for transit time which would make for a 7-day travel itinerary.
That would be just enough time to tick off the highlights of Uzbekistan. Some of the must-see destinations are Shah-i-Zinda (as mentioned above), Registan in Samarkand, the Old Town (Ithcan Kala) of Khiva and experiencing the open-air museum feel of Bukhara by visiting Po-i-Kalan.
Of course, if you wanted to travel for longer that would be preferable as this country has so much to offer! Two weeks would be a great amount of time.
Most Challenging Aspect about Uzbekistan
There are two main languages spoken in Uzbekistan: Uzbek and Russian. However, the young population can still speak basic English and it’s understood in some tourist attractions. As I mentioned before, a major part of your communication will rely on hand gestures and Google Translate.
This might make it challenging but also an equally interesting and adventurous travel memory. Apart from that, Uzbekistan is easygoing.
What you Need to Know Before you Go
The best times to visit Uzbekistan are between late April-early May and September-October. Definitely avoid the months of June-August as it gets extremely hot and busy. If you love winter and enjoy crowd free access to all these amazing places, visit in November or December.
For sure you should download some sort of translator app on your phone for communication. Although the country has many ATM’s, it’s best to withdraw sufficient cash once you land at the airport in Tashkent.
Finally, Uzbekistan is a liberal country and you can dress the way you wish. However, please be mindful of the religious traditions and places of worship. It’s always best to cover your knees and shoulders to be respectful.
Thanks for reading my Uzbekistan travel guide. Enjoy your travels here!