This 3 days in Bukhara itinerary was just one stop in our 8 day journey through Uzbekistan. We highly recommend each stop! Each place offered a different feel of Uzbek culture and offered more insights to the country and the people. For us, Khiva was all about minarets, and Bukhara was all about domes. Need a visa to Uzbekistan? Use iVisa! I received my visa in 5 days without any problems. They helped me get the right photos and answered all my questions. Highly recommend them.
We left Khiva at 7:30am and made our way to the airport for a quick flight to Bukhara. When you check out of any hotel or accommodation, you will be given a voucher for proof of your stay. Be sure to keep them all in a safe place for immigration when you leave Uzbekistan. Once we got to Bukhara, a pre-booked driver took us to Hotel Malika Bukhara which had twin bedrooms, a great breakfast, and lovely grounds.
Walking Tour of Bukhara
Bukhara has long been known as a central stop of trade along the Silk Road and was also a center for Uzbek culture, religion and education, especially before it was besieged in the 1920s. We recommend you spend at least 3 days in Bukhara to get in as much as you can. We booked a tour guide to walk with us and help us understand more about the different places we wanted to see.
Just out from the hotel is a small trading dome called Toki Sarrafon. The trading domes of Bukhara are fascinating. With many archways to enter, they are tall enough that camels could walk through them with their wares. This particular trading dome – the smallest of the three still standing in Bukhara – was built in the 1500s. Originally, each trading dome was dedicated to a particular commodity or industry, like headwear, or money changers… but now they are full of traders who sell wares for tourists mainly. Most are handmade… You can expect to see textiles, metalwork (jewellery or knives), ceramics, etc.
A minute or two later and we were looking at Magoki-Attori Mosque, the oldest mosque in Bukhara. This was built over a Zoroastrian Temple which was the original religion in this area of Uzbekistan. The detail of the excavated foundation and mosque is astonishing.
Then a short circular route took us to Kokaldosh madrassah which no longer operates as a school but now houses more traders around an interior courtyard. A madrassah is a place of learning – either secular or religious. We crossed the road to then visit the beautiful and most well-known of sites in Bukhara, the Lyabi Haus complex.
Lyabi Haus Complex
The Lyabi Haus complex includes a madrasah called Nadir Divan-Beghi Khanaka with its beautifully tiled walls and a pond that is surrounded by restaurants and park seating amongst the trees. A young couple were getting their wedding pictures there amongst the comings and goings of everyday people. Here you’ll also find a famous bronze sculpture of Nasriddin Afandi, considered the Uzbek “Robin Hood,” philosopher and Sufi wise man from the 13th century.
All these sites are close to one another so it’s an easy walk. However, unless you have a guide (or have read up on Wikipedia) then you might not know what you are looking at. Our guide, called Malika, explained how the Lyabi Haus area was originally a Jewish community settlement. But the Khan wanted to build there, so he negotiated way back in the 1500s and they reached a compromise. In return for a synagogue, the Jewish people agreed to take a neighboring plot of land instead.
A few streets away, we had the most delicious lunch at Chinar Restaurant up on the balcony. It was the best eggplant salad and plov we’d had so far on the trip. The portions were very generous so we didn’t eat as much as we thought. So be careful when ordering. We dined upstairs on the balcony with a refreshing breeze and enjoyed getting to know our guide Malika a bit more.
After lunch we walked through the Telpak Furushon bazaar or trading dome which originally sold books but through the ages sold caps and headwear by local craftsman.
Just up from this bazaar we found a tailor that sold designs at reasonable prices or could tailor you something using good quality cotton, silk or ikat fabric. If you want some clothes made you can leave examples of your own clothes for them to use as a template. There was so much to see this day that it’s possible we should have spent more than 3 days in Bukhara. But we pushed hard so we could get it all in, and yes, we walked away with tailored clothing too!
Then it was into the Tim Abdulla Khan Trading Dome which apparently is not a true trading dome since it only has one main entrance, and not multiple entrances like the others. It was decked out in an amazing display of suzani textiles and hand-loomed carpets.
Stunning Architecture Everywhere
A minute or two further on, and you’ll find the Ulugbek Madrasah which is two madrasa facing each other, yet they were built 200 years apart. (Just a note that the spellings of most things in Uzbekistan vary slightly due to the translations of Russian, Uzbek, and Tajik. If you search for any of these places online, you will find them with a myriad of spellings.) On top of one of the madrasah you can see an old stork nest.
From the Ulugbek Madrasah, you can see the Toki Zargaron Trading Dome that was historically used for trading jewelry. Each bazaar is a vision to experience and of course a necessity since you are in the heart of the Silk Road trade. From outside, be sure to look to the top of the Toki Zargaron domes. You’ll see storks in a nest. While they are not real, they represent the heritage of Bukhara which used to be home to thousands of storks. Some of us purchased bird scissors, or scissors paying homage to the storks in this trading dome. Keep your eyes open and you’ll see fake storks throughout Bukhara.
The Kalyan Mosque was built in the 16th century. The mosque opposite includes a still-functioning madrasa (for men). The Kalyan Minaret in the same square was built in the 12th century. It was multipurpose, being used to call believers to prayer, acting as a lighthouse for traveling caravans that were coming through as well as a watchtower.
The Ark and Dinner
From here we walked to The Ark which is the oldest and original palace at 3000 years old. It has been continually rebuilt and repaired and is now a museum. It costs 15,000 som to enter. Such a fascinating history. We arrived around 3:45 pm when it was still so hot. After our walking tour of the day we had little energy to enjoy The Ark and would advise either taking a covered tuk-tuk or putting this on your agenda in the morning when it is cooler. We spent only an hour here and got an eco tuk-tuk back to our hotel at 3,000 som per person.
We spent a little time relaxing before dinner at Lyabi Hauz Restaurant by the pond. The environment was nice but the music was loud so it was hard to hear the conversation. The food was OK, but for 6 people the cost was only $22 USD. After dinner, we went looking for ice cream. We chose iced chocolate drinks at Lampa Aladdina but found the flavour pairings too odd to be enjoyed. Stick with the regular chocolate drink if you go here.
After dinner, we went to The Ark at night to see the lights. We were tired so we took a quick run there and back in a tuk-tuk. It was a fun way to enjoy the evening air.
Our day started great with a wonderful breakfast at the Malika Hotel. If you stay there definitely eat outside in the courtyard area where the weather is nice and you are away from the crowds. We enjoyed this hotel a lot. Good rooms, great breakfast and a nice atmosphere.
Master Potter at Gijduvan
We had a driver pickup at 9.30am and drove 46 kms to Gijduvan to visit a master Uzbek potter. Alisher, a 6th generation potter showed us their workshop and introduced us to their unique style called gijduvan which consists of very earthy colors, one-of-a-kind patterns, and techniques. His family has been creating pottery for 250 years.
In one room they have an extremely large and heavy grindstone that a donkey works to grind the pottery glaze, which is made of burned plants. That great donkey works one day a month. It was fascinating to learn about.
We opted to have lunch at the potter’s at a cost of 60,000 som each. You can eat outside in the courtyard, or inside air-conditioning if you choose. On the menu was more of our favorites; salads, and shashlik. We met Alisher’s wife who was busy cooking fresh bread in their tandoor oven for us as well.
Summer Palace and the Hammam
After the potter we took a drive to the last Emir’s of Bukhara Summer Palace. One of the Emir’s grandsons built the current palace over the ruins of the original in the 19th century. It comprises several buildings each with a different style and holding a variety of antique artifacts to delight you. We arrived at 3.40pm but since we had spent a lot of our energy at the potters we quit at 4.15pm for the cool air conditioning of the van.
Once back in Bukhara, we visited a women’s hammam (500 yr. old Uzbek bathhouse) a 10 mins walking distance from Silk Road market street.
Allow 1.5 hours for your visit to this 500 year old Turkish bath. This is a quiet, women-only place where you will be scrubbed, rinsed, and massaged by women attendants. There is a men’s hammam a few streets away. If you feel a bit sheepish about trying it, we strongly encourage you to put your inhibitions aside and go for it. Underwear is optional, although it is better without. We left feeling clean and relaxed.
Afterwards, it was back to the shops to pick up our tailor-made clothes. We ordered dresses and blouses at $30-35 USD each.
Day 3 in Bukhara was all about last-minute shopping before traveling on. We hit the market street for a few last-minute pickups. Clothing from one store and sterling silver bracelets and earrings from another. We then spent the rest of the morning at Bukhara Silk Carpets. They had a lovely showroom, clean workshop and a pretty spectacular sales pitch. We have all see some rug demos in our travels abroad and this one was hands down the best. Fast, informative and persuasive, without being pushy.
We had lunch at Old Bukhara Restaurant which is in central Bukhara and a 2 minute walk from the Hotel Asia Bukhara. Afterwards, we were picked up from the hotel for a 25 min drive to the train station. Please note you have to buy train tickets in advance. Have your passport handy, even if you don’t have to show it. You never want it far from you, just in case. Once we were on the train it was a 1.5 hour train ride to Samarkand!
Treasures of the Silk Road Travel Series
Be sure to check out our next installment of the Treasures of the Silk Road where we will spend 2 days in Samarkand.
Check out our previous post where we stopped for 2 days in Khiva, or our first stop 2 days in Tashkent. For great information on how to get to, in and around Uzbekistan check out this great post from Caravanistan to help you find your way.