Uzbekistan might not be the first Asian country you think of when you are planning your next vacation. Traveling to Uzbekistan is a bit like time travel and an adventure that will allow you to discover some of Silk Road's best bits. Conquerors Alexander the Great and Genkhis Khan passed through the country.
A quick glance at Uzbekistan's History
Set between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, Uzbekistan is located in the heart of Central Asia. During the first millennium, Iranian nomads built the towns of Bukhara and Samarqand and established irrigation systems along the rivers. Both towns were affluent and extremely important points of transit. The name of Silk Road is born to refer to this exchange point between China and Europe.
Toward the seventh century AD, Soghdian Iranians saw their land, Transoxiana (now Mawarannahr) overpowered by Arabs who were spreading Islam throughout the region. Under the Arab Abbasid Caliphate, the third Islamic caliphate to succeed Muhammad, the 8th and 9th centuries were a golden era for knowledge. Turks began entering this area through the north and founded several states. By the 12th century, Transoxiana joined Iran and Khwarezm region, becoming a single state. Genkhis Khan invaded the country with his Mongol army in the 13th century. Khan's successors forced Iranian-speaking communities to flee and find new homes in other parts of Central Asia. Not all was dim for Transoxiana, under Timur's ruling, culture began to grow and evolve. With the end of Timur, a new period began under the Uzbek, that had conquered most of Central Asia in the early 1500s.
Under the Uzbeks, there were two rival khanates, (a political entity ruled by a Khan or Khagan): Bukhoro and Khorazm. The once wealthy cities in Silk Road began their decline while ocean trade grew in popularity. The khanates had to confront Iran and northern nomads in multiple wars. Nader Shah of Persia turned all the khanates into vassals between 1729 and 1741. Briefly, in the 19th century, three khanates managed to recover, unfortunately, it did not last. Russians began their conquest of Central Asia, and that included the Uzbeks. In the year 1876, Russia had integrated all khanates into its empire. Russian population grew in Uzbekistan and industrialization began.
Twentieth century and beyond
In the twentieth century, educated Central Asians located in Uzbekistan started a movement to expel Russians from the region and in 1916 a brutal rebellion started against going to WWI. The Russian tsar was overthrown in 1917 and the Jadidists, the educated rebels, set an autonomous state in Quqon. The Bolshevik rose to power in Moscow and the Jadidists divided between supporters of Russian communism and supporters of the Basmachi Rebellion. By 1924 the Soviet Union established the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. In the late 1930s, Stalin executed the leadership of the Uzbek Republic and replaced them with Russian officials.
Moscow eventually could not hold onto Uzbekistan, in the 70s, Sharaf Rashidov, an Uzbek party leader, gained control. Moscow made an effort to recover the country by pushing out the Uzbek leadership members. This only contributed to strengthening Uzbek nationalism and resentment toward Soviet policies was strong. In the 80s Mikhail S. Gorbachev only cultivated a greater need for opposition groups. Finally, in 1991 Uzbekistan became independent from the Soviet Union and Karimov became president of the Republic of Uzbekistan. After becoming independent, the country has been working to build a democratic state with a market economy.
As a traveler going to Uzbekistan you will encounter a culture of over two millennia and alluring ancient cities with delicate and preserved architecture. You can discover the Silk Road and its legacy. Learn more about Uzbekistan main attractions, visa requirements, and travel tips further down.
Uzbekistan Basic Information
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When to Go
Uzbekistan has nothing to envy to other countries around the world and it is a top destination for architecture and history lovers. As far as the weather goes, here is our advice on when to go to Uzbekistan:
April to June: The skies remain clear, the sun shines brightly and there’s a lovely cool air that makes it a perfect combination for visitors.
July and August: Summer is a tough season and the heat is quite extreme. The plus side? Hotels drop their prices.
September and October: The heat drops, but the weather stays warm. It doesn’t get cold either.
Uzbekistan is a good destination for:
Uzbekistan Entry Requirements
A visa to go to Uzbekistan is required for almost all nationalities. The process, however, is not as difficult as some may think. Your papers should be in order before traveling to Uzbekistan. Upon arrival, visitors must complete two identical customs declarations forms, one to turn to customs and one to give when you depart the country. You will have to declare every last cent of the money you bring into Uzbekistan.
Please note that you will be asked to register at your hotel every night of your stay, these registration slips will be required when you leave the country. The law indicates that you are obliged to register somewhere at least within three days of arriving, but it is recommended to do so on your first day. Some hotels are licensed to take foreigners and this grants you automatic registration. Few travelers choose to stay at private homes. If so, they must register at the local Office of Visas & Registration.
Uzbekistan Country Atractions
If you do choose to travel to Uzbekistan, you will be mesmerized with the buildings and religious monuments. Certainly, there’s much more to the Uzbek than its architecture, we will share Uzbekistan top attractions along with some fun trivia.
- Registan: was a public square where royals made public proclamations. It is a majestic architectonic structure with azure mosaics and three well-preserved medressas. Its name stands for Sandy Place and you will find it in the center of Samarkand.
- Silk Road: There are three important cities in Uzbekistan that were part of Silk Road which extends from Turkey to China). Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkan were significant spots for trading. The cities have been restored and you can see minarets, domes, and mosaics.
- Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum: this is where Timur, the Asian conqueror, is buried. It’s a beautiful representation of Persian-Mongolian Architecture. There’s a detailed portal and a trademark azure dome. Visit the mausoleum in Samarkand.
- Bukhara: There are over 350 mosques and 100 religious institutions in this city. One mosque to see is the Kalyan Mosque, open to the public. Here visitors can also shop at bazaars.
- The walled city of Khiva: protected by the UNESCO, the city allows you to time travel and connect with Uzbek traditional lifestyle. It was founded in the 6th century and it is perfect for photography enthusiasts. Loads of color and detail!
- Kalon Minaret: an Islamic site in Bukhara, it was built by the ruler Arslan Khan in the 11th century. At the time, it was the tallest building in Central Asia. Kalon Minaret is evidence of the talent of the time and is 47 meters tall and has 10 meter deep foundations. It has survived despite the attacks on the city.
Each country has specific regulations, traditions, and laws that are worth considering before planning a trip. Uzbekistan has had an interesting past with the Soviet Union, and they are rather thorough with documentation, money, and medicines. Read some basic tips before you purchase your flight and accommodation.
- If you are traveling with medicines, there’s a possibility you can be detained on arrival. Carry a doctor’s prescription and keep your medicine in the original packaging.
- Declare all the money you have on you when you fill out the customs forms. There are high penalties for people who are not transparent in their forms.
- If you head to bordering these bordering countries, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan bear in mind that they are potential flashpoints and uncontrolled border areas that could be land-mined.
- Borders are subject to closure without notice.
- It is also a good idea to invest in travel and medical insurance before your trip.