I spent one week in Uzbekistan and I loved it. Some people say that 7 days in Uzbekistan is not enough and while I agree with them sometimes that’s all you have. That was the case with me.
I planned my Uzbekistan itinerary carefully so I could get as much as possible from such a short time and now I don’t think I could make this trip any better. If you are planning to visit Uzbekistan but you are also limited to 7 days only I wrote down my itinerary – hopefully it will help you plan your own Uzbekistan trip!
Table of contents
Uzbekistan itinerary – how to spend 7 days in Uzbekistan
Day 0 – Arriving to Tashkent
I don’t really count the first day in my Uzbekistan itinerary as I arrived only around midnight by plane from Almaty, Kazakhstan and the only thing I did that day was getting to the hotel.
That was already an interesting experience – everywhere taxi drivers at the airports are insane but in Tashkent they put in into a completely new level. I literally couldn’t walk through, I had to push my way while I was constantly asked if I need a taxi. Eventually, after leaving this madness, I found a nice taxi driver who offered to take me to the hotel for $10. As far as I know that’s more or less the standard price for getting the taxi at the airport and since it was already that late in the evening I accepted that price.
Where I stayed – ART Palace (8.3/10 on Booking). It was a decent place, exactly as I expected and nothing more. It’s recommended especially for its location, close to the airport and near the metro station. The hotel is a good starting point when you arrive to Uzbekistan. Click here to see the reviews and current deals.
Other recommended Tashkent accommodation:
- Navruz Hotel (9.2/10 on Booking)
- Lotte City Hotel Tashkent Palace (8.7/10 on Booking)
- Trip.LE (9.3/10 on Booking)
Day 1 – Tashkent
I had the whole day to kill in Tashkent and to be honest I didn’t have high expectations about the capital of Uzbekistan and the largest city in Central Asia. But I was nicely surprised and I wouldn’t mind spending more time there as Tashkent turned out to be a really pleasant place.
I knew I want to spend some time underground as Tashkent metro is known to be equally stunning as Moscow metro stations. And oh boy I wasn’t disappointed! Tashkent metro definitely lives up to the expectations.
I wish I had time to see all the stations (just like I did in Kharkiv, Ukraine) but those I’ve seen were exceptional too. The most beautiful stations were Chilonzor, Alisher Navoiy, Toshkent, Kosmonavtlar, Ozbekiston and Mustaqilliq Maidoni and you shouldn’t miss them when visiting Tashkent.
I also had high hoped for Chorsu Bazaar and that was the first place I visited in Tashkent. If you are fan of Eastern European markets you will love this place. You can find just about everything there, from all kinds of food to clothes and products you might need for home.
Walking around and looking at all the colors, people and vibrant life is already interesting but the highlight for me was the main hall – a real architecture gem. You can go to the up floor and look at everything from above but be prepared that you might be encountered by locals who would like to sell you some tea and spices or just want to chat to tourists.
Chorsu Bazaar is within a walking distance from another attraction of Tashkent – Hazrati Imam complex. This religious site is a good foretaste of what you are about to see during the rest of your Uzbekistan trip. The place took me by surprise as I had no idea such a beautiful complex can be found in Tashkent. If you are looking for some nice souvenirs from Uzbekistan this could be a good place for shopping as the prices were lower than in more touristic cities.
Another place you shouldn’t miss in Tashkent is the center – a surprisingly pleasant area. You can take the metro to Amir Temur Xiyoboni station and once out you’re in front of iconic Hotel Uzbekistan – yet another gem of Soviet architecture. From there just walk towards another metro station Mustaqilliq Maidoni (for me it was the most beautiful one!) and the square with the same name.
Along the way you will pass a nice pedestrian area where you can buy paintings, take picture with “Tashkent loves you” sign, get the painting of yourself done, rent a bike or play a table tennis with local teenagers (yes, that really happened to me). It seemed like hanging out in the area was among the favorite pastime activities of the locals and I enjoyed this area a lot too.
Afterwards it was already time for me to go to the train station and catch the night train to my net Uzbekistan destination – Khiva.
Where I stayed: in the overnight night train from Tashkent to Urgenc. The train departed from Tashkent at 6pm and arrived to Urgenc 16 hours later – such a long journey was perfect to catch up on reading, Netflix and sleeping. When booking the train I recommend you to choose a 4-bed compartment so you can have more privacy and more comfortable journey. You can read more about travelling by train in my Uzbekistan travel guide.
Day 2 – Khiva
The train arrived to Urgenc, some 30 kms away from Khiva. Again a hungry crowd of taxi drivers was waiting but since there was the free wifi at the train station I waited a bit to catch up with the online world. Shortly after I was approached by a nice man who offered a fair price for a ride from Urgenc to Khiva (40.000 sums) and half an hour later I was already checking in to the hotel.
I’ve decided to stay inside the city walls and that was a perfect decision – not only I was close to all the attractions but also the view from the room and the rooftop was stunning. Click here to see the hotel I’ve stayed at.
Khiva was the highlight of my one week in Uzbekistan. Could be because it was the first of the top attractions I’ve visited or just the overall feel and look of the city but I just loved it there!
Khiva is kind of like a living museum. The inner city – Itchan Kala – is surrounded by the symmetrical city walls. You can find most of the attractions inside the city walls and they will keep you occupied for the whole day. You can buy the ticket to most of the highlights – it costs 100.000 sums and to be honest it’s not worth it.
All of the madrassahs are beautiful but after a while they all look similar and the museums located inside are so-so. If you are not all that much into the Uzbek history and traditions you won’t find them exceptional, especially that the descriptions are mostly in Uzbek and only sometimes Russian and/or English.
What’s more you need to pay extra anyway to get to the biggest attractions of Khiva – Kuhha Ark, Pakhlavan Makhmoud Mausoleum and Islam Khoja Minaret. You can visit and pay separately to enter all the attractions anyway and if I have to choose I would go in the first place to Juma Mosque, Tash-Khauli Palace and one or two madrassahs.
Khiva was also a perfect place to try the Uzbek cuisine that turned out to be just delicious. Since it’s a very touristy place there are also few restaurants who focus on regional food and even offer a vegetarian versions of dishes like manti, lagman or plov. I was really impressed as I didn’t expect to try any of these goodies that typically come with meat.
Of all the restaurants I can recommend Terrassa Cafe in the first place. Be sure to get a table in the terrace as you will have the lunch and tea with one of the best views of Khiva. Service might be a bit slow but it’s still worth it! Other that were really good are: Cafe Zarafshon and Khorezm Art Restaurant.
Where I stayed: Arkanchi Hotel (9.0/10 on Booking). I can’t recommend this place enough! The location was perfect, the room was clean and spacious, the breakfast delicious and with big choice and the staff just the friendliest. What’s more the view from the rooftop terrace was one of the best you could get in Khiva. Click here to see the details and book the place before it’s too late.
Other recommended Khiva accommodation:
- Shaherezada Boutique Hotel (8.9/10 on Booking)
- Meros B&B (9.3/10 on Booking)
- Islam Khodja (9.7/10 on Booking)
Day 3 – Khiva – Bukhara
I started the day early as I wanted to see the town without too many people around (that’s the downside of the touristy places, everyone wants to visit them, me included) but also I wanted to be the first one to climb the Islam Khoja Minaret – the highest minaret in Uzbekistan.
After reading my friend’s story about it I knew it won’t be an easy task to get all the way up there so I didn’t want the whole bunch of people behind me putting a pressure on me to go faster. And I was lucky as I really was the first one to go up.
It was a challenge as for half of the way it was dark and the steps were really steep and high so I almost had to walk on all fours but at the same time I was surprised how fast I made it to the top. I think if I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen I would have been so much more difficult and nerve-wrecking!
The view from the top was spectacular and worth all the effort. Seeing Itchan Kala in the early morning light was magical and definitely one of the highlights of my visit in Khiva.
Since I still had some extra time to kill I’ve decided to go to Nurullaboy Saroyi Palace outside the city walls. I’ve heard couple of opinions how amazing and beautiful the place is and well, I can’t agree with them. Not only it was really expensive in comparison to other monuments and museums (50.000 soms, five times more than locals have to pay) but the place was just fine, nothing spectacular really and definitely not worth the price. To be honest I would rather have spent that time sipping tea and looking at Khiva’s Old Town.
After yet another delicious lunch it was time to find the taxi back to Urgenc and catch the train to another destination in my Uzbekistan itinerary – Bukhara. The train took 7 hours and again I had time to catch up on reading, Netflix or just to chat with fellow passengers. I arrived to Bukhara late in the evening, had the pre-arranged transport waiting for me at the train station and shortly after I could call it a day.
Where I stayed – Hotel Fatima Boutique (9.4/10 on Booking) – a very good hotel located next to Kukaldosh Madrasah in the heart of Bukhara. Stylish room, delicious breakfast and good wifi – I can definitely recommend this place. Click here to read more reviews and see current deals!
Other recommended Bukhara accommodation:
- As-Salam Boutique Hotel (9.3/10 on Booking)
- Hotel Malika Bukhara (9.0/10 on Booking)
- Boutique Safiya (9.3/10 on Booking)
Day 4 – Bukhara
My whole day in Bukhara was spent walking around with no rush, visiting all the interesting places and drinking lots and lots of tea. The city was already different than Khiva, both in look and feel. Bukhara, unlike Khiva, was part of the Silk Route and back in the day the city was one of the trade centers in the world.
You can find remnants of the great past just about everywhere Bukhara – numerous madrassahs, mosques and old bazaars as well as the Ark – fortress dating back to the 5th century. But the main reason why tourists visit Bukhara is Po-i-Kalyan complex – the reason why the city is often referred to as the holy place of Uzbekistan.
On one side you can find Mir-i-Arab Madrassah that is still operating, on another Kalon mosque and in between stunning Kalyan Minaret. At the time of being built, in the year 1127 it was the highest building in the whole Asia. The best place to admire Po-i-Kalyan complex is from a small cafe across the street – you can spend way too much time there over a pot of tea, just looking at the stunning view in front of you.
While most of the Bukhara attractions are near each other you shouldn’t miss also those a bit away. Not all the tourists get there and you can see a bit different, more real face of Bukhara. I especially enjoyed Samonids Recreation Park with sculptures of some old-school cartoon characters or Samanid Mausoleum and the nearby Qo’sh Madrassah as well as the cute Chor Minor that was once at the cover of Central Asia Lonely Planet guide book.
Bukhara isn’t very big but it can keep you occupied for the whole day really. And when you get tired you can always sit down for a tea in one of the restaurants and tea houses!
Where to eat in Bukhara: I ate at following places and can recommend all of them: Chasmai-Mirob Restaurant, Lyabi Hauz, Chinar.
Day 5 – Bukhara – Samarkand
Since the train to the last place in my Uzbekistan itinerary – Samarkand – was only in the afternoon and I’ve already managed to see all the Bukhara highlights I’ve decided to take the offer of my hotel and for a fair price I went for a tour to three interesting places just outside of Bukhara. They all turned out to be really interesting and worth a trip, especially that each of them was different.
I started with Chor-Bakr Necropolis with tombs from 16th century. Another stop was a beautiful Emir’s Summer Palace with some beautiful interiors. It was so much better than the palace in Khiva! The last place before heading to the train station was Baha-ud-din Naqshband Bukhari Memorial Complex, one of the holy Islamic places. I happened to be there just in time for the prayer which only added up to the already spiritual atmosphere.
After lunch it was time to catch the fast train to Samarkand. Even if the cities are located some 300kms away from each other the journey takes only 1,5 hour and is super comfortable. After arriving to Samarkand I encountered the only unpleasant situation during my whole trip to Uzbekistan.
Of course taxi drivers were way too pushy and tried to overcharge us so we’ve decided to go a bit further, towards the center and our accommodation. One of the especially annoying drivers started following me, stopping in just front few times hoping I will approach his car asking for a ride. At some point it got a bit scary, especially that it was getting dark, and I was even considering going inside one of the shops to ask for help but fortunately after another attempt of catching our attention he gave up.
On that day I only went somewhere near the hotel to get some quick dinner and that was it. I was getting ready to see why everyone is so crazy about Samarkand.
Where I stayed: Hotel Caravan Serail (8.4/10) – it was an ok place, not far from the main attractions. The interior was stylish but the room could be a bit more modern. The wifi was also working for me only in the lobby. Still I can recommend this palce as a decent option. Click here to see reviews and current deals.
Other recommended Samarkand accommodation:
- Bibikhanum Hotel (8.7/10 on Booking)
- Muzaffar Hotel Samarkand (9.3/10 on Booking)
- Tilyakori Hotel (9.6/10 on Booking)
Day 6 – Samarkand
I was wondering how I’m going to find Samarkand, would it live up to all the expectations. After all I’ve been disappointed with places before only because I’ve heard so much about them (like with Isfahan, Iran). But the moment I’ve seen Registan in the full glory I knew this place is definitely one of a kind.
The complex of three madrasahs really takes your breath away, that’s how stunning it is! One after another, each of the madrasahs is more and more beautiful, the highlight being the incredible ceiling at Tilya-Kori Madrasah – the newest one of the the buildings, dating back to the mid-17th century. If you’re wondering where you’ve seen these pattern before – these delicate tiles are currently on the cover of Lonely Planet Central Asia guide book.
You can also climb to the minaret of Ulugh Beg Madrasah (the oldest one, from the beginning of the 15th century) but to be honest after the spectacular views I got from the minaret in Khiva I’ve expected something much better here and you can’t even take a proper picture. If you’re claustrophobic I suggest you reconsider your decision of going up as the stairs are very narrow and badly lit.
From Registan it’s not too far to Gur-e-Amir – a mausoleum dedicated to Amir Timur (known also as Tamerlane) – a great conqueror of Central Asia who lived back in 14th century. Up to this day he is very much worshiped in Uzbekistan hence you can expect lots of people (including school trips) praying next to his grave. But it’s yet another beautiful place you can’t miss in Samarkand.
Another stop should be Bibi-Khanym Mosque that Amir Timur has built for his beloved wife. In the 15th century it was among the largest and most incredible mosques in the world. Now, all these years later, it still impresses the visitors although I found it a bit dark and gloomy, which only added up to the vibe of the place.
The last stop in Samarkand is Shah-i-Zinda cemetery. Most of it is just a regular necropolis that is worth seeing as well but the real reason to visit the place is the alley with beautiful mausoleums, some of them are as old as from the 9th century!
Even if there’s more to see in Samarkand these four places: Registan, Gur-e-Amir, Bibi-Khanym Mosque and Shah-i-Zinda cemetery are the most important monuments and it’s enough if you see only these four. I must admit that after the cemetery I already felt overwhelmed with the grand architecture of Samarkand and I just called it a day.
Where to eat in Samarkand: one place that I can definitely recommend is a small restaurant on the corner of Islam Karimov and Bukhara streets, just behind Registan. It looked like mostly locals eat there and I could see why – the food was delicious, freshly made and very affordable. On the contrary I advice you to stay away from the often recommended Labi Gor restaurant – it was my biggest disappointment in Uzbekistan really!
Day 7 – Tashkent
It was a very early start of my last day in Uzbekistan as I had to catch a 6.30am train from Samarkand back to Tashkent. In the half of a day I had left I was planning to visit the tv tower and plov center, located near each other in the northern part of the city as well as see some more of the beautiful metro stations.
But the weather was so-so hence I’ve just decided to chill in the charming cafe in the center. And that was fine too, I needed some rest time after these busy 7 days in Uzbekistan. Around noon I headed back to the airport to catch my flight back to Almaty.
What else to see in Uzbekistan
I know that one week in Uzbekistan is very little but enough to see all the highlights and give you a general impression of the country (especially if you travel to Uzbekistan independently). However, if you have more time you should also include in your Uzbekistan itinerary following places:
- the city Moynaq and the remnants of the Aral Sea – site of the biggest ecology disaster in the world
- Nukus for its museum of Soviet art with the second largest collection in the world
- Shakhrisabz – the birthplace of Amir Timur
- Desert fortresses, especially Ayaz-Kala, Kyzyl-Kala and Janbas-Kala
- Fergana Valley, known also as the garden of Uzbekistan
But no matter where you go and how long time you will spend in Uzbekistan I bet you will have a great time as will enjoy the country as much as I did!
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