Though Uzbekistan is a compelling destination to visit, many people have unfortunately not even heard of this Central Asian country. It is this double-landlocked nation's mysterious aura that makes it exciting for tourists who love a good adventure and challenge to embark on a journey there. Though mostly unexplored, Uzbekistan is home to a plethora of wonderful natural attractions, exemplary historical sites and dramatic landscapes.
Kick-start the trip by heading over to Tashkent - the capital and the largest city of the country. This ancient city is perched on the Great Silk Road from China to Europe. Some of the notable highlights of this metropolis are: 16th-century Kukeldash Madrasa and the Kaffali-Shash Mausoleum. Several of the Islamic sites are places where non-Muslims are not permitted and visitors should always get the required permits prior to entering a mosque or any other religious monument.
Some of the museums worth visiting in Tashkent are: History Museum of the People of Uzbekistan (traces the journey of the country from the ancient times to the present), Fine Arts Museum of Uzbekistan ( talks about 1500 years of art in Uzbekistan) and Museum of Applied Arts (one can view older architectural highlights from Bukhara and Samarkand; ceramic and textile exhibits). Shop-a-holics can get their dose of retail therapy via Taskent's Chorsu Bazaar. This quintessential bustling market is laden with rows of stalls brimming with piles of fruits and vegetables. Other items that can bought are slippers, shawls, carpets, gowns, skull-caps and so forth.
Be sure to visit Kokand and catch a glimpse of the magnificent Juma Mosque complex that is focused around a 22m (72 ft) minaret and also includes 98 red-wool columns brought from India. This compound is now a museum with collections featuring textiles and ceramics from the area. Don't forget to explore the deepest caves in Asia at Boi-Bulok where the depths go as far as 1,415m (4,641ft) an Kievskaya which goes as much as 990m (3,247 ft). Some of the highlights include stunning gypsum formations at Kugitang caves, mummified bars in Baisuntau caves while those in western Tian Shan comprise of underground rivers and lakes.
Bukhara is home to around 350 mosques and other 100 religious colleges to explore and marvel. Some of the notable highlights include strolling around the Shakristan (the old town) where one can catch a glimpse of the palace complex of the Emirs and the 47m (145 ft) Kalyan Minaret. Head over to Samarkand, the ancient historic town and spend some time chatting with the locals about the glorious legends associated with this settlement. The city prominently features shimmering turquoise domes and looming minarets decorated with intricate mosaics.
In tourist hubs such as Bukhara and Khiva, one will find many shops that sell Silk Road souvenirs such as crockery, textiles, ikat printed cushion covers, old Soviet memorabilia, knives and spices. As for cuisine, do gorge into local delicacies such as Plov (comprises of chunks of mutton, shredded red and yellow carrot and fried rice) or Shashlyk (skewered chunks of mutton barbecued over charcoal, accompanies by sliced raw onions).
The stay options in Uzbekistan are abundant with the best luxury hotels, swanky rental apartments and cheap accommodations. Tourists can decide which kind to opt for depending on their budget and taste.
Uzbekistan experiences extreme continental climate. The best period to visit would be during spring and autumn, with September being the ideal time for a holiday.