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Uzbekistan

Main attractions

Gur-E-Amir, tomb of Tamerlan in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Gur-E-Amir, tomb of Tamerlan in Samarkand / Giorgio Montersino, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Uzbekistan is a comparatively dry, mostly desert covered land very far from any sea... and this is one of the reasons why this country has such an amazing cultural heritage!

For millenia Uzbekistan has been crossed by trade routes uniting prehistoric, ancient and medieval cultures of Eurasia. For a shorter route caravans had to cross inhospitable deserts and no one could afford to miss the oases in Uzbekistan. Here, at the crossroads of diverse cultures and wealth developed rich and sophisticated cities, such as the glorious Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva.

Natural landmarks

  • Boj-Bulok Cave (Festivalnaja) - Surxondaryo. Very deep cave, explored up to the depth of 1,415 m, length - 14 270 m. There is expectation that research of additional cave passages can make this cave deepest in the world.

Man made landmarks

Caves with prehistoric artefacts

  • Anghilak Cave - Qashqadaryo. This cave contains remnants of Middle Paleolithic people (or, possibly, other species of humans), which could be up to 43,000 years old.
  • Obi-Rakhmat Grotto - Tashkent Region. Important find of Upper Paleolithic humans (or, possibly, other species of humans) who lived here sometimes around 49 - 36 thousand years ago.
  • Teshik-Tash - Surxondaryo. Famous archaeological site - a grave of Neanderthal kid in a shallow grotto. Initially it was thought that the arrangement of the horns of ibex was a part of funeral ritual. Further research shows that these horns next to the grave most likely are coincidal.
  • Zaraut-kamar - Surxondaryo. Small grotto in Zarautsoy gorge which is covered with prehistoric, ancient and medieval petroglyphs. Most of the prehistoric drawings show hunting scenes.
Sarmishsay petroglyphs, Uzbekistan
Sarmishsay petroglyphs / Stefan, / CC BY 2.0

Petroglyph sites

  • Sarmishsay - Navoiy. Ravine - ancient path with numerous prehistoric and later monuments - burial mounds, petroglyphs, pagan altars. Here are found some 4,000 petroglyphs, mostly animals. Many of these animals do not live here anymore and are even extinct. This site was sacred to locals until recent times. Petroglyphs are found also in other ravines nearby.
  • Siypantosh Rock Paintings - Qashqadaryo. Group of sites with petroglyphs painted with black, yellow and red-brown color. Most signs show geometrical figures, but central figure is a bull, there are also drawings of other animals.
Afrasiyab, Uzbekistan
Site of Afrasiyab with medieval Samarkand in the background / David Stanley, / CC BY 2.0

Abandoned cities

  • Afrasiyab - Samarqand. Site of ancient Samarkand, inhabited in 500 BC - 1220 AD. Samarkand started here as a centre of Sogdian culture and the cultural layer here is 8 - 12 m thick. Site contains ancient mural paintings and remnants of ancient buildings.
  • Ak-Kala - Karakalpakstan and Turkmenistan, Daşoguz. City - fortress, which was built after the Mongol attack on Central Asia in the late 14th century. City walls are still standing and are up to 6 m tall.
  • Kampirtepa (Kampyr-Tepe) - Surxondaryo. Remnants of probable Hellenistic settlement, later Kushan city. Kampitepa was inhabited in the 2nd century BC - 4th century AD. Here have been found old Bactrian manuscripts from the late 1st - early 2nd century AD. Site provides very rich finds up to this day.
  • Kanka - Tashkent Region. Ancient fortification, first capital of Tashkent oasis in the time period from the 4th century BC to the 13th century AD. There have been preserved remnants of fortification walls including remnants of castle - citadel which still is protected by a moat. Fortification walls of city are 26 m tall. Here have been found also remnants of large Manichaean temple.
  • Poykent - Bukhara. Remains of ancient city which was founded in the 4th century BC and later fortified. This oasis city in the Silk Road was important trade centre and was de facto independent city state in the 6th - 7th century AD. Remains of Zoroastrian temples, mosques and other structures have been found here. Abandoned around the 9th century AD.
  • Shahrukhiya (Benaket) - Tashkent Region. Remnants of ancient city on the bank of Syrdarya. City was founded in the 1st century BC and flourished in the 10th - 11th century as well as in later centuries, when it was important centre of economy and culture. City is surrounded by remnants of fortification walls and moats which enclose 200 - 280 ha.
Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Bukhara / David Holt, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Medieval cities

  • Itchan Kala, Old City of Khiva - Xorazm. Walled inner city of Khiva, consisting exclusively of several hundred valuable buildings. Built mainly in the 10th and the 17th - 19th centuries. Current city walls are some 10 m tall and built in the 17th century.
  • Old City of Bukhara - Bukhara. One of major centres of Persian and Islamic civilizations. Possibly the best preserved medieval city in Central Asia, with numerous beautiful buildings. Some of the most beautiful are Po-i-Kalan complex, Lab-i Hauz districts, Bukhara Fortress and many others.
  • Samarkand - Samarqand. Former capital of Timur, important city on Silk Road. Established around 700 BC by Sogdians, flourished in the 6th - 13th century AD. Rebuilt by Timur in the 14th century, when the city was made into important centre of art. Most valuable structures are Registan - a complex of three buildings, Observatory of Ulugh Beg and others.
  • Shahrisabz - Qashqadaryo. Ancient city, founded in the 6th - 7th century BC. Birthplace of Timur.
Ayaz Qala in Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan
Ayaz Qala 2 - ancient fort in Karakalpakstan / Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, / CC BY 2.0

Fortifications

  • Ayaz Qala - Karakalpakstan. Group of three fortifications, each of them peculiar and interesting. Visually impressive is Ayaz Qala 2 - smaller fort built on the top of hill in the 6th - 8th century AD.
  • Ark of Bukhara - Bukhara. Very impressive fortress, citadel of Bukhara. First built in the 5th century AD and served as a fortress until 1920. Walls are 790 m long, 16 - 20 m tall.
  • Janbas Qala (Djanbas Qala) - Karakalpakstan. Well preserved fortress, 200 by 170 m large. Walls are 9 - 10 m tall and in some places - up to 20 m tall. Inside the fortress are residential blocks with several hundred rooms. Fortress was inhabited in the time period from the 4th century BC to the 1st century AD. Site contains remnants of fire temple.
  • Koy-Kirilgan Qala (Qoy Qırılg'an qala) - Karakalpakstan. Unusual, round fortification. Diameter of the structure is 44.5 m and now it rises 8 m tall. Earlier there was a circular wall around it, with a diameter of 88 m. Purpose of this structure is unclear, it might be built in the 4th century BC and abandoned around the 2nd century BC.
  • Kushan Wall near Boysun - Surxondaryo. Approximately 1.5 km long and up to 6 m thick wall across a canyon. This wall was built near Poenkurgan fortress (built by Macedonians) in the 1st - 2nd century AD and served as a northern border of Kushan state.
  • Kurganzol Fortress (Kurgansol) - Surxondaryo. Remnants of impressive fortification - castle which had six round towers. Constructed in 329 BC. Surprising finds in this castle show that it is very likely that castle was used by Alexander the Great himself.
  • Topraq Qala - Karakalpakstan. Impressive ruins of fortification with a palace and small town. This is possible seasonal residence of Xorazmian rulers in the 1st - 6th century AD. 8 - 9 m tall fortification walls enclose 500 by 350 m large area with a royal palace complex near one corner. Palace has approximately 102 rooms, many have been very ornate. Palace had also fire shrine.
Char Minor in Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Char Minor in Bukhara / Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, / CC BY 2.0

Palaces

  • Char Minor in Bukhara (Madrasah of Khalif Niyaz-kul) - Bukhara. Unusual, ornate building, a city palace with the additional function of madrasa and mosque. Structure is dominated by four impressive towers - minarets.
  • Palace of Khudayar Khan (Urda Palace) - Fergana. Ornate city palace, built in 1863 - 1871. Palace originally had 119 rooms but now survive opulent interiors in 13 rooms.
  • Varakhsha Palace - Bukhara. Remains of large, royal palace of Sogdian kings which was built in the 5th century AD. Walls are covered with fine frescoes, some show hunting and diverse animals, other show a king in his throne.
Registan in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Registan in Samarkand / Stefan, / CC BY 2.0

Mosques and minarets

  • Bibi-Khanym Mosque - Samarqand. Beautiful mosque, built by Timur in 1399 - 1404. Current structure is replica of medieval structure, built since 1974.
  • Djarkurgan Minaret - Surxondaryo. Beautiful, 21 m tall minaret, constructed in 1109. Body of minaret is shaped from 16 half-columns.
  • Dorut Tilavat Mosque (Kok Gumbaz Mosque) - Qashqadaryo. Beautiful madrasa, built in the 13th century - 1374.
  • Kalta Minor Minaret - Xorazm, Khiva. Massive, unfinished minaret at Mohammed Amin Khan Madrassah (1852 - 1855). Symbol of Khiva. Tower is glazed with tiles forming intricate patterns. Minaret is 29 m tall, although initially it was planned to be 70 m tall. Construction works were interrupted in 1855 and have not been restarted since then.
  • Kalyan Minaret - Bukhara. One of the symbols of Bukhara, 48 m tall brick tower. Built in 1127.
  • Registan with Ulugh Beg Madrasah, Tilya-Kori Madrasah and Sher-Dor Madrasah - Samarqand. Central square of Samarkand flanked by three similar, impressive madrasahs. Ulugh Beg Madrasah was built in 1417-1420, Tilya-Kori Madrasah - in 1646-1660 and Sher-Dor Madrasah - in 1619–1636. Each of these buildings is very ornate and had profound influence on the development of Islamic science.
  • Vobkent Minaret - Bukhara. Separate tower, 40.3 m tall. This minaret was built in 1196 - 1197.
Sculpture of Buddha from Fayaz-Tepe, Uzbekistan
Sculpture of Buddha from Fayaz-Tepe, now in Tashkent / Sebastià Giralt, / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Buddhist shrines

  • Fayaz-Tepe Buddhist Monastery (Fayaztepa) - Surxondaryo. Remains of large Buddhist monastery in the ancient city of Termez. This monastery was built in the 1st century AD and the site contains remains of stupa, statues of Buddha and numerous murals showing people in Kushan dress. Monastery was looted in the 5th century AD.
  • Kara-Tepe Buddhist Monastery (Qoratepa) - Surxondaryo. Remains of Buddhist cave monastery from the 2nd - 4th centuries AD. Remains of buildings are adorned with paintings, there are interesting inscriptions on the walls left by visitors of different cultural background. Decline of monastery started in the 4th - 5th century, when it was gradually turned into a necropolis.
  • Zurmala Tower - Surxondaryo. 12 m tall remains of Buddhist stupa which was built during the times of Kushan Empire, in the 2nd - 1st century BC.
Shah-i-Zinda in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Shah-i-Zinda in Samarkand / Mr Hicks46, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Mausoleums

  • Ak Astan-Baba Mausoleum - Surxondaryo. Mausoleum which was built in the 10th - 11th century. Mausoleum is adorned with interesting seven-pointed stars which hold unclear symbolic meaning.
  • Gur-e Amir - Samarqand. Mausoleum of Tamerlane (Timur), important achievement in Turkic - Persian architecture. Mausoleum has 30 m tall dome which is glazed with azure tiles. Construction started in 1403.
  • Samanid Mausoleum - Bukhara. One of most beautiful historical structures in Central Asia. This small, intricate building was constructed in the time period between 892 and 943 and serves as a resting place for amir Ismail Samani. This is the only extant building from the times of Samanid dynasty.
  • Shah-i-Zinda - Samarqand. Necropolis - complex of some 20 very ornate mausoleums which were built in the time period from the 11th to 19th centuries.
Ulugh Beg Observatory in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Ulugh Beg Observatory in Samarkand / David Holt, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Khanbandi Dams - Jizzakh. System of dams which was built in the medieval times, in the 10th - 13th centuries. Largest dam is built of granite blocks which have been fastened with water resistant solution, it is 15.25 m tall and 58 m long.
  • Nukus Museum of Art - Karakalpakstan. Large museum in the remote Nukus city which contains second largest collection of Russian avant-garde art in the world, as well as the art of Central Asian painters, archaeological collections.
  • Rabati Malik caravanserai - Navoiy. Remnants of Silk Road caravanserai, built around 1070 - 1080. Largest remaining part of this building is impressive entrance portal.
  • Ulugh Beg Observatory (Samarkand Observatory) - Samarqand. Remnants of medieval astronomical observatory, built by astronomer Ulugh Begh in the 1420s. Numerous outstanding astronomers worked here until 1449 (up to 70 scientists at a time), when observatory was destroyed by religious fanatics. Observatory had impressive, state of the art equipment.

List of described attractions by provinces

Uzbekistan is divided into 12 provinces, Karakalpakstan Republic and capital city - Tashkent. Here below they are listed in alphabetical order:

Anidjan
Bukhara
Fergana
Jizzakh
Karakalpakstan
Namangan
Navoiy
Qashqadaryo
Samarqand
Sirdaryo
Surxondaryo
Tashkent
Tashkent Region
Xorazm
ArrowKalta Minor Minaret, KhivaIslamic shrines

Map of Uzbekistan

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