Islam Khoja Medressa and Minaret in Khiva. This is tourist favorite historical place in Uzbekistan. Its distance from other major touristic destinations in the country makes it even more authentic. According to legend, Khiva was founded in the place where Sem – son of Noah – dug the well Keivah. The old city – Ichan Kala – is a well preserved example of Muslim architecture in Central Asia.
Moynaq is an old port south of the Aral Sea. Under Lenin’s orders, Moynaq fishermen played a major role in the struggle against the Russian famine of 1921-1922. Today there is no water nearby, so we can visit the “boat cemetery” with a dozen rusty carcasses of ships, and a small monument that confirms the scale of the current natural disaster that made the water disappear.
At the heart of the Silk Road and the ancient Persian kingdoms, Bukhara is a lovely historical town. I’ve been to Bukhara many times and never get tired of it. Its tiny alleys with brick buildings are very charming, but Bukhara’s impressive madrassas and mosques are simply breathtaking.
There’s not much to see or do in Ukhum. This place is on my top experiences in Uzbekistan on a “people’s” level. After I had camped in Lake Aydar for the weekend, I gave a ride to two local Uzbek ladies. After a small talk I ended up taking them all the way to their village, deep inside the mountain through dirt tracks. I stayed in their house for a couple of days, being hosted by an amazing friendly Uzbek family.
Samarkand is probably the most famous city of Central Asia. Rich in magnificent historical monuments, Samarkand was once upon a time, the heart of the Silk Road – located between China and the Mediterranean. Samarkand is on the list of the oldest inhabited cities in Central Asia.
6. Aral Sea
The Aral Sea is an ancient salt water lake bordering Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. During the 1960’s, the Aral Sea was the fourth biggest lake in the world. Unfortunately and due to terrible Soviet irrigation projects that diverted the rivers, Aral became one of the world’s worst environmental catastrophes. I was able to cross the bottom of this dried lake during the Central Asia Rally.
7. Republic of Karakalpakstan
The Republic of Karakalpakstan is an autonomous republic in western Uzbekistan near the Aral Sea. Its capital city is Nukus. Karakalpaks were once nomadic herders and fishermen, but life changed as there is no more water in the Aral, and the desert is not suitable for animal herding anymore. I crossed Karakalpakstan coming from Kazakhstan and driving through Moynaqand down to Nukus.
8. Orom Lake
Out of Uzbekistan capital – Tashkent, Orom Lake is a peaceful lake loved by local people that come here during the weekend to relax and cool down from the summer heat. I was taken here by a friend of mine, Sanjar, and his group of friends. We stayed at his friend’s family house and had lots of fun.
On my way to Aydar Lake I came across the city of Nurata. In Uzbekistan, Nurata is known for its water source, considered to be holy by Muslims. The ruins of a fortress built by the army of Alexander the Great still resists its final days. We can go up the fortress hill, but the structure is almost all lost.
Tashkent is the capital of Uzbekistan. Although this is one of the big metropolis of Central Asia, the oldest known ancient site in the region – Kanka – dates back from the 3rd century BC. The Uzbek capital is the only city in Central Asia where each subway station is sumptuously decorated with a particular theme. It is also one of the fastest subway systems in the world, where trains go really fast. Important places to visit in Tashkent are the 16th-century Kukeldash Medressa, the Amir Temur Square, the Opera and Ballet Theater Alisher Navoi and the Prince Romanov’s Palace.