2 Weeks In Uzbekistan – Step-By-Step Guide For A Perfect Uzbekistan Trip
Are 2 weeks enough in Uzbekistan? The answer is both yes and no! We spent almost 4 weeks in Uzbekistan during our visit to Central Asia. Still, we felt there was much more to explore, BUT 2 weeks is enough to get a good understanding of the country, the people, and experience their rich culture!
2 weeks in Uzbekistan itinerary.
Why visit Uzbekistan? I mean, why not! Throughout history the country has been part of many powerful empires, the cities of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand were vital stops on the Silkroad. It is Uzbekistan where the Persian empire blends into the Nomadic culture.
Explore some of the world’s most beautiful mosques and madrassas. Spend a night in the desert which once was the great Aral Sea. Explore the soviet remains in Uzbekistan’s capital: Tashkent and discover the remains of the Silk Road in the Fergana Valley. Got excited? Keep reading!
A Perfect Two-Week Uzbekistan Itinerary
How many days to spend in each city?
This is always the main question and usually depends on your own interests and way of traveling. For a two-week first visit to Uzbekistan, we recommend the following:
- Day 1 – 2: Tashkent
- Day 3 – 5: Samarkand
- Day 6 – 8: Bukhara
- Day 9 – 11: Khiva
- Day 12 – 13: Nukus – Aral Sea
- Day 14: Back to Tashkent
Alternatively, you can skip Nukus and the Aral Sea, or stay less time in Samarkand, Bukhara, and spend 2 days in the Fergana Valley. If you do this, don’t forget to visit the silk factories in Margilon!
Note: it seems rough that you will spend 3 days in each city. However, the size of the country is gigantic so traveling between cities will take quite some time.
Day 1 – 2: Tashkent
Tashkent will probably be a bit of a disappointing introduction to Uzbekistan. What is lacking in beautiful Islamic architecture is made up of interesting post-Soviet relics. There are lots of gems in Tashkent and after visiting it about 4 times due to VISA applications we have grown quite fond of this city.
Things to do in Tashkent
Amir Timur square
This square is located in the city center and surrounded by a park. Go here in the evening, the whole area turns into a fairground. Local artists selling art, making music, young kids playing, and teenagers showing off their muscles in boxing machines.
Probably the most prominent reminder of the Soviet Era in Tashkent. The fascinating architecture takes you right back into Soviet times. You can even stay there, but who knows who is listening?
Get ready to get lost in this maze of fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, bread, love, and all the stuff you could ever need.
It was long prohibited to take pictures in the Metro system. Due to its second use: a nuclear bunker. But since 2018 this is no longer an issue. Luckily!! Since some of the metro stations are amazing. Our favorite is by far Kosmonautlar.
Central Asian Plov Center
If you have been traveling in Central Asia for some time, you will be well familiar with Plov. The national lunch dish, that is literally everywhere. They like the stuff so much that they have made a Plov center. Literally, thousands of people gather here every day for lunch.
Visit the railway museum
Who doesn’t like trains? It’s a fun open-air museum, which displays some incredibly old steam trains, more modern trains, and some old Soviet trains! It’s located just across the main train station and if you like trains well worth the visit!
Day 3 – 5: Samarkand
Time to leave the Soviet-era and go back in time! Samarkand will be quite the contrast compared to Tashkent. Once occupied by Alexander the Great, this beautiful city had a prominent role on the silk road! But all the beauty in this city is made by Tamerlane, who made Samarkand the capital of his empire!
Things to do in Samarkand
The most famous Instagram spot of all Uzbekistan. And rightfully so, for some people even the reason for visiting Uzbekistan. 3 beautiful Madrassas build in a care shape, each displaying their own subject. You can easily spend half a day here exploring all the beautiful rooms. Make sure to come back in the evening when everything is illuminated.
Bibi Khanym Mosque
Legend has it the mosque was built by Timur’s favorite wife, as an honor of his return from conquest in India. However, the architect fell in love with her and demanded a kiss before he would finish the mosque. Timur later found this out and ordered that the architect be killed.
Shah-i-Zinda means “The living king” another legend here is that Kusam ibn Abbas, a cousin of the prophet Muhammad, is buried here. The Shah-i-Zinda complex was established from the 11th until the 19th century and consists out of more than twenty mausoleums.
The mausoleum to Tamerlane (Timur)
Visit the burial site of the man responsible for all the architectural beauty in Uzbekistan.
Day trip from Samarkand to Shakhrisabz
Ak-Saray Palace was built by Tamerlane in the city of Shakhrisabz, located 85km outside Samarkand. It’s a great reminder of the size of the empire. Although the gates are the only thing still standing of the palace, it is quite impressive.
Day 6 – 8: Bukhara
Bukhara, one of the holiest cities in Central Asia. Its history goes back thousands of years, playing a vital role in many great empires. The more days you have here, the better! We loved strolling around the endless streets, discovering new beautiful buildings and squares.
< picture 08. Kalyan Minaret by night at Bukhara >
Things to do in Bukhara
This minaret was built in 1127 and is 47m tall. It is an amazing structure. Especially by night, the whole tower is beautifully lit, and all its details are exemplified.
Located next to the Kalyan Minaret is a religious complex containing mosques, mausoleums, and a madrassa.
Ark of Bukhara
The Ark of Bukhara is a giant fortress, built and occupied around the 5th century AD. It is very big in size, especially for the time it was built in!
Lyab-i-haus pond, square
One of the main squares in Bukhara. Stroll around to explore the many mosques, madrassa, restaurants, and little stores selling local crafts.
This weird building looks like an upside-down table which is completely different than everything else. Well worth the stop, across the Chor Minor there is an old soviet store where you can buy lots of old Soviet relics.
Bolo Hauz Mosque
Located across the Ark, it’s different than most of the Mosques in Bukhara. Due to the use of wooden columns!
Sitora-i Mokhi Khosa
The Summer Palace of Bukharan Emirs. Located about 20min drive outside Bukhara and well worth the visit. It’s completely different than what you see in Bukhara but beautiful, nonetheless. If you need a break from all the Islamic Mosques, and mausoleums this is the place to visit.
There is much more to see in Bukhara, all of which is quite easy to explore on foot. It’s a small compact city.
Day 9 – 11: Khiva
It will take almost a full day to reach Khiva from Bukhara. Which leaves two days to explore Khiva. To be honest, you can probably visit everything in Khiva in half a day, but why rush it. Spend the full two days here to get to know the town a life of the people there.
Some people skip on Khiva due to its location from Tashkent. Don’t!! Is definitely worth the extra traveling time.
Things to do in Khiva
Itchan-Kala: Which is the old town, located within the city walls. The whole town is the major sight. No further explanation needed; you will understand as soon as you get there. You can get a 2-day museum pass which gives you entrance to the many museums, minaret, and watchtower! There are so many Mosques, museums, minarets, and other things to do and see. We’re not going to list them all, they are hard to miss and easy to explore.
Kalta Minor Minaret
For me, this was one of the first images a saw of Central Asia as a teenager. So, seeing this in real life was brilliant. The contrast of the big blue minaret in the brown desert landscape is beautiful.
You can visit the city walls everywhere, make sure to go there during sunset!
Make sure to visit the bazaar if you are in Khiva. Just 15min walk located outside the east gate. It’s a fun and chaotic Central Asian bazaar!
Day 12 – 13: Nukus – Aral Sea
The Aral Sea disaster, dark tourism at its best. For many, the reason to visit Nukus. It is quite a trip to get there but it is worth it. In Uzbekistan, you will see lots of cotton production, which does not make sense because Uzbekistan is basically a desert.
The Aral Sea is the reason for all these cotton plantations. During the Soviet era, the water from the Aral Sea was irrigated to fields, to grow cotton. Slowly this drained the whole sea and left a desert behind, starving many towns and farms of vital fishing ground.
For us, it was a logical stop since we were going into Turkmenistan from Uzbekistan. Since we had an extra day, we had some time to wander around Nukus.
Things to do in Nukus
The Aral Sea from Muynak
Tours going to the Aral Sea are for some reason extremely expensive. But it is the only way to go all the way into the desert to visit the remaining water of the Aral Sea. Like always we were traveling on a budget so we decided to catch a bus to Muynak, which used to be a lake town right next to the Aral Sea.
From here you can explore the shipwrecks and some museums. Easily done from Nukus as a day trip!
Visit Art Museum
Including over 82000 items makes this a great museum of ancient and modern art. Due to its location far away from everything else in Uzbekistan. Lots of art has been saved which otherwise would have been destroyed by the Soviets.
Located just outside Nukus this is a very interesting sight. The necropolis dates back to the 4th century BC. It is the only thing remaining of what once was the Mizdakhan city.
Many legends are surrounding Mizdakhan. Some say Adam (the one that dated Eva) is buried here and that the world clock has been built upon his tomb. Many people believe this clock is counting down the end of time. A brick falls out every year, continuing until the walls are gone. It’s quite a cool legend, who knows what is true?
Day 14: Back to Tashkent
In case you are planning to leave Uzbekistan from Tashkent, you need a full day of traveling. In case Turkmenistan is your next destination, you can take a taxi to the border from Nukus.
Alternative day 12-14: Fergana Valley
The Fergana Valley is probably the most off the beaten path area of Uzbekistan. Few tourists venture here, and it feels less organized than the rest of Uzbekistan. It is considered not as beautiful as the rest of the country and therefore skipped quite often.
Because there are fewer tourists, locals are very curious about meeting you. We had some great friendly encounters and people giving us fruits and kebab!
Things to do in the Fergana Valley
Silk factory in Margilon
While traveling on the Silk road, why not visit the factories that produce the beautiful products that give this ancient trading route its name. The entrance is free, and it’s really interesting the see the whole process.
Rishstan is being demolished in order to make big avenues. Which made Rishtan feel like a warzone. But in all this rubble, some of the most beautiful ceramics of Central Asia are being made. We especially recommend visiting: The Workshop of Rustam Usmanov, an incredibly talented artist who makes beautiful ceramics.
City of Kokand
A small cozy city with lots of small Mosques, Madrassas, and Mausoleums. The highlight for us was the Khudayar Khan Palace which has recently been restored to its former glory.
The main city giving the valley its name. Quite modern, with big streets it’s different than the rest of Uzbekistan. But it’s a good start to explore the Fergana valley or entrance/exit point towards Kyrgyzstan.
Top Tips For Two Weeks In Uzbekistan
Money & Budget
During our 4-week (26 days) trip to Uzbekistan in 2019 we spent:
- Total backpacking budget for Uzbekistan: € 1266,14 (for 2)
- Daily backpacking budget for Uzbekistan: € 24,35 (for 1 person).
Note: This includes all costs made in Uzbekistan: Transport, accommodation, food, drinks, activities, and visa costs. We entered and left Uzbekistan by land, therefore we didn’t spend any money on flights in/out.
Some examples of our expenses in Uzbekistan:
- Subway in Tashkent: € 0, 54
- Bus ticket from Tashkent to Samarkand: € 5,82
- 1 night in a Hostel dorm, Tashkent: € 5,82
- Kebab in Tashkent: €2,63
- Entrance Registan in Samarkand: €0,97
- Simcard for 30 days: €9,22
Want to know more about our backpacking budget in Central Asia? Check out our detailed post.
There are still a lot of rumors of ATMs not accepting foreigners’ cards, and travelers having issues withdrawing money due to the lack of ATMs. During our visit in 2019, we haven’t noticed this at all. Plenty of ATMs available and only the odd case were our cards were not accepted. Anyway, I would recommend having some dollars/euros with you just in case.
Top tip: we noticed however that most ATMs only accept VISA cards.
Good to know: Since 2019 there is a new law in place to protect the local currency, SOM. You cannot withdraw big amounts and exchange them into dollars or euros. This is something a lot of backpackers used to do in case of travelling towards Turkmenistan and Iran.
We luckily withdrew a lot of dollars in Kazakhstan for the rest of our trip. But one of our friends withdrew a large amount of Uzbek SOM which he then could not change into dollars!
In case you have SOM left at the end of your trip you can exchange these back to dollars, but you need to receipt of the ATM. Also, there seems to be a limit on the amount.
Uzbekistan is opening to tourists and has been promoting tourism for a while now. Recently the president has come to realize that growing cotton in a desert is not very sustainable, so he is focusing on tourism. A lot of countries can visit Uzbekistan 30 days visa-free.
For us coming from Iceland and the Netherlands, it was indeed visa-free and had no issues crossing the borders from Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and leaving towards Turkmenistan!
Since there are quite some different visa rules between countries. I recommend checking the latest info on the Uzbekistan official website.
Transport & Accommodation
Since tourism is increasing rapidly, booking accommodation is quite easy through the common channels: Booking, Hostel world & Airbnb. People are extremely friendly and hospitable.
Transport is super easy and there are a few options: Train, busses, shared taxi’s, and minibuses. All of them are reliable, cheap, and fun. The hospitality of people in Uzbekistan is incredible, be ready for many smiles, friendly stares, and lots of food! Make sure to have a few basic Russian words on standby, for small talk.
In theory, you can book tickets through their online platform. But for us it didn’t work at all, so we booked the trains at the station a few days before going. It helps writing down the trains you want to take, since they might not speak English very well at the station.
The trains are a mix of newer trains (Fergana Valley) and old soviet sleeper trains. But anyway, it’s cheap and reliable!
After 3 months in Central Asia, the bus network in Uzbekistan surprised us. The bus station in Tashkent is big, new, and modern! Since we traveled back and forth a bit in Uzbekistan due to VISA applications in Tashkent, we took a bus from Tashkent to Shymkent (Kazakhstan) and Samarkand.
Both times we showed up, bought a ticket and 30 min later we were on a bus! Very well organized. The station is located a bit outside the city but easy enough to reach by Yandex.
Note: In case you can’t find any busses that day, there are plenty of shared taxis, minibuses outside the station. So, no need to book ahead, you will find a ride that day.
We love shared taxis in Central Asia. It is such an easy system, cheap and a great way to interact with the locals. Due to the incredible hospitality in Central Asia, people will always help you and make sure to take you where you want to go.
Shared taxi stands can be found in any city in Uzbekistan. Sometimes you must wait until the car fills up, but that never takes more than an hour.
Minibuses – Maschrutkas:
Minibuses or Maschrutkas as they call them, are available everywhere. Similar to Shared taxi’s, they are everywhere and go everywhere. A bit cheaper than a shared taxi, but it stops more and therefore will take a bit longer.
Top tip: Yandex is widely used in Uzbekistan, it is the Russian version of Uber, and it works perfectly. Highly recommend this the navigate your way through bigger cities like Tashkent. Especially since taxi drivers rarely speak English, and usually have no idea where a hotel or hostel is located. Yandex saves you all this hassle!
Safety in Uzbekistan
Countries ending in -Stan freak a lot of people out. Often Afghanistan being the first thing they think of. Which is a shame! Uzbekistan is incredibly safe, people are very hospitable, and we haven’t heard one single bad story of travellers having issues in Uzbekistan.
Corrupt police officers and strict border checks on foreigners seem to be a thing of the past. The country is moving towards tourism and that is noticeable. People are welcoming, and the tourist infrastructure is exploding. So other than the normal travel precautions, no need to worry!
We hope this complete guide helps you in planning your trip to Uzbekistan. Missing anything? Drop us a message or leave a comment below! We will be happy to add more useful information.
Author Bio: We are Elisa (Iceland) and Marc (Netherlands), two amateur adventurers sharing stories from our dusty backpacks. We met in Maastricht (NL) while Elisa was studying there. Sharing a passion for traveling, we decided to sell all our belongings and set out on an overland adventure through Russia, Central Asia, and Iran. Before flying towards Nepal, India, and SEA.
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