Prior to this Silk Road trip, I had seen photos of Uzbekistan’s monuments and I knew they were beautiful — but I had no idea of the extent and the sheer scale of it all. As my trip unveiled, Uzbekistan is home to some of the Muslim world’s best display of architecture, featuring grandiose gates, intricate Arabic carvings, immaculate layout of shimmering turquoise tiles.
Unlike the nomadic Kyrgyz and Kazakhs, the Uzbeks have always been good traders, hospitable hosts and tied to the land. Rather than moving from place to place in yurts, they built strong and sturdy monuments that could withstand centuries of earthquakes and Soviet attacks. Thanks to major restoration efforts on the Uzbek government’s part, hundreds if not thousands of larger-than-life medressas (Islamic schools), minarets and mosques continue to dot the country.
As part of my Silk Road trip with Oasis Overland, we visited the three main ancient cities of Uzbekistan: Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. Each of these cities has their own distinctive flavor and feel, some like Bukhara better than Samarkand while others favor the smal, compact layout of Khiva the most. Regardless, all three are treasure troves overflowing with more ancient monuments than you can handle.
For architectural buffs out there, here’s a look at my favorite buildings in Uzbekistan—trust me, they’re worth making a journey here to see:
Best Places to Visit in Uzbekistan
A magnificent dome in Samarkand’s Bibi-Khanym Mosque
Samarkand’s Registan surrounded by beautiful flowers
The Bibi-Khanym Mosque, once one of the biggest mosque in the world, as seen from a different angle
Colorful stalactites carved into the top of the Ulugbek Medressa’s entrance
One of the oldest buildings in Uzbekistan, now converted to a carpet museum in Bukhara
Detailed carving on the 218 columns that hold up the Juma Mosque in Khiva
The Ark, a royal fortress, looms above the old town of Bukhara
Inside Pahlova Mausoleum in Khiva, pilgrims from all over the country come to pray and pay their respect
An intricately carved wooden door in Khiva
The tilework in Khiva’s Tosh Havli Palace is immaculate
The walls of the Konya Ark in Khiva curve like a serpent
Inside the Registan in Samarkand, what used to Islamic classrooms have now been converted into souvenir shops
Detailed Arabic scripts from the Qoran carved onto the buildings
Floral tiles used in many of Uzbekistan’s architecture