A former soviet republic in Central Asia, Uzbekistan is a country that ought to make its way to your travel itineraries for its architecture, history, unique culture and the lure of the unexplored. Let us give you five grand reasons why your next big trip should be to Uzbekistan. By Shubhanjana Das
The potpourri of cultures, Samarkand is known for its diversity and is almost synonymous with Uzbekistan itself. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was conquered by Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan and was once the minted capital of the Timurid Empire. One glance at this centuries-old city and you will know why it is considered pivotal in the development of Islamic architecture and arts. The city is located on the famous trade route between China and India, the Silk Road. Registan square, the Bibi Khanum and Gur Emir Mausoleums, the Shah-i-Zinda complex, Afrosiab and the Ulughbek Observatory are sites not to be missed.
Tashkent, the capital city of Uzbekistan, is a glorious example of this erstwhile Soviet Republic nation and its muscle in pulling an almost-destroyed city from an earthquake whose disasters included deaths of over 300,00 people in 1966. The construction, which is said to have started a day after the earthquake, now shows a fascinating jumble of 12th century mosques of classical Russian architecture, which stand in peace alongside the new-age high, glass buildings. Tashkent is the largest city in Central Asia. You wouldn’t want to miss the experience at Chorsu Bazaar, Kukeldash Madrasah, Amir Timur Museum and Tashkent Tower.
Your Uzbek experience will lack the most tasteful spice if you miss out on Bukhara. It is a city, which used to be a prominent stop back in the days when merchants and traders used to frequent the Silk trade route. It is a prominent centre of medieval centre for Islamic theology and culture. If Uzbekistan is known for its sumptuous architecture that is reflected in the mosques, mausoleums, and madrassahs, a considerable number will be here in Bukhara along with old-school bazaars which go back to the 9th-17th centuries. Ark of Bukhara, Po-i-Kalyan and Samanid mausoleum are must-visits in Uzbekistan. The city center of Bukhara is a UNESCO site noted as a medieval city.
Uzbekistan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site was inscribed in 1990 for the historical importance it preserved of the old Silk route trade traditions. That was the Itchan Kala in Khiva, which acts like an open air museum with 51 monuments under the borders of thick mud walls. The hometown of Al-Biruni and Al-Khoresmi, Khiva will take you back in time for it gets hard to believe looking at this ancient, well-preserved city that it is the 21st century.
Chimgan is Uzbekistan’s answer to all the western ski destinations. Perfect for both winter as well as summer getaways, it is located at a meager distance of 80km from the capital city of Tashkent. The Chimgan mountain is a part of the Chatkal range and the Chimgan Valley is perched at an altitude of 12-00-1600 meters. Often referred to as ‘Uzbek Switzerland’, Chimgan’s eco-diversity is fascinating as it is the most ecologically abundant place in the country. Downhill skiing, toboggan, snowboarding, and free-ride season starts in December and lasts till March. Winter plans much?