When you finally get a chance to visit Uzbekistan you should not stay in just one place. Traveling part of the Silk Road is a must, so this is a great itinerary to spend 2 days in Tashkent with the purpose of traveling to other parts of Uzbekistan.
Know before you go:
First off, check to see if you need a visa at least a month before visiting. This isn’t your regular weekend getaway where you can wing it. While ever warming to tourists, Uzbekistan still has a lot of rules and you need to make sure you understand what you are doing. New Zealand citizens don’t need a visa whereas US citizens do, so do your homework. Need a visa to Uzbekistan? Use iVisa! As a US citizen, I received my visa in 5 days without any problems. They helped me get the right photos and answered all my questions. We highly recommend them.
We found many websites that provided online e-visas to get before arrival. You can try the Uzbekistan Governments official website which some of us had success with and others did not. There is also iVisa who were fast to help with problems, or here which was expensive but hassle free. You will need to upload visa photos and your passport photo when you apply.
Once you land in Tashkent be sure to buy a SIM card. UCell has good coverage (where there is coverage) and is right there, at the airport. We got 20GB for $20 USD. This will serve you beyond just 2 days in Tashkent as UCell is in every major city. You can get money out at ATMs in many places now in Uzbekistan, but my advice is to bring cash with you anyway. Bring a few hundred of crisp US dollars to start you out and change some of that into som (local currency) once you are on the ground. You can find ATMs in most major destinations, but be sure to notify your bank that you are traveling so you don’t run into trouble with your card, like some of us did.
This was a group trip where we arrived in shifts on the first day. A few of us arrived in the afternoon and spent the evening at The Georgian Yard for a delicious dinner and dancing afterward. Usually you can find a live band here to dance the night away. The rest of the group arrived by 5am the next morning.
We spent most of the morning visiting the Chorsu Bazaar. You can buy just about anything here. There is an impressive array of fresh fruit and vegetables. Be sure to try the fresh mulberry juice, sample the almonds, raisins and apricot seeds and be sure to buy whatever is in season at the time. The tomatoes and peaches were amazing!
Head to the bread section of the bazaar and snack on samsa straight from the tandoor oven. Also buy lepeska; large round oven-baked bread sold in carts all around town. At the bazaar you can watch as they knead, raise and cook the bread before indulging yourself.
Spend some time browsing the beautiful suzani textile shops. We visited the lovely Feruza. She has a beautiful shop across the road from the bazaar and was happy to explain the meanings of the different elements on the suzanis. Pomegranates mean fertility and prosperity.
The sprawling tree of life symbolizes the reach of one’s posterity. From fish to flowers, there is always something surprising and beautiful in each handmade piece. Average price was 370,000 som for a 4ft x 4ft suzani.
We had a late lunch of samsa (pronounced som-suh) at one of the best places in Tashkent. Flaky crust with vegetable or meat inside – kind of like a samosa. You buy your condiment of tomato sauce at the counter and they have vinegar at the table to add with each bite. We enjoyed cherry and lemon juice as well.
Afterward, we arrived at the most tranquil courtyard we would encounter in Uzbekistan, as we enjoyed Rakhimov Ceramic Studio ran by Akbar and Alisher Rakhimov. We sat amidst the pear trees listening to birds and peaceful music and then toured the grounds and learned about their master school and pottery style.
There were many pieces to see and purchase. We loved watching this family as they all worked on pieces either for the studio or by commission. We highly recommend this visit as it was a peaceful experience during a hot and busy day.
Next up it was the ornaments shop by Alexandr Garmiger who has been running his shop in the Chilanzar district of Tashkent City for 25 years. He claims to be the Christmas store of Uzbekistan.
All his ceramic hand-painted Christmas tree ornaments can be packaged in beautiful wooden storage boxes if you want. By the end of the day we were hot and tired and this shop didn’t help relieve much of that. The rooms were cramped for the 7 of us and not a lot of airflow. We never did get to see people painting or watch the process much since we were worn out and opted to leave right after. However, they were lovely people and had beautiful things.
After a long day, we headed to Cleia’s house for a traditional Uzbekistan dinner of plov. This delicious dish of rice and vegetables is cooked in a cauldron over an open flame with many important steps that need to be adhered to.
We had the privilege of meeting Abdukhamid, who was our private chef. He patiently taught us each step of plov making. Plov can be eaten any day of the week, for any meal, but it is said that it is typically eaten on Thursdays to provide men with strength to visit the bedrooms of their wives that night.
By Uzbek tradition, dinner can only be eaten once the oldest at the table serves themselves, so we said goodbye to Abdukhamid so he could head home to start his own family dinner, while we indulged in our own spread of traditional foods. Too bad we didn’t have husbands around to enjoy the after-effects. (wink wink)
Famous Tashkent Metro:
We were full and tired after a fantastic first day, but we had heard so much about the metro stations in Tashkent that we wanted to go and see at least one stop before retiring for the evening. The designs of the stations did not disappoint. I only wish we could have seen each of the 29 stops! Click on this map to see images of each one.
We had our private guide and friend Elmira shuttle us to one of the stations. You purchase a metro token to enter. We browsed around that station and then took the first train that came so we could see another. I think we would have kept going had it not been so late.
We highly recommend taking the time to see a few of them. And if you prime yourself beforehand there is no reason you couldn’t use the metro as a main mode of transportation during your stay in Tashkent.
That night we stayed at Raddison Blu Hotel in Tashkent. Make sure to hang onto your visa your entire stay as you need to show it at each accommodation. At the end of your stay, each hotel will give you a voucher for proof of visit. These too need to be kept as they may be asked for at immigration when leaving Uzbekistan. It was a quick 2 days in Tashkent but it was a perfect jump off point to the rest of our trip through Uzbekistan and the Great Silk Road.
We woke up early to catch a flight to Urgench. See our next itinerary for 2 days in Khiva!
Also, check out this 7 night itinerary for the Silk Road in Uzbekistan.