Tell us more… I spent seven days travelling around Uzbekistan, one of the biggest travel drawcards in Central Asia. I had been to the region before, but never to Uzbekistan, so the aim of the trip was to see all of the country’s highlights in its main cities – the capital, Tashkent, as well as Bukhara and Samarkand – and to learn about its rich cultural heritage.
In a nutshell… If, like me, you have dreamed about seeing the Silk Road, Uzbekistan is the country that ticks all the boxes. Blue-domed mosques and incredible mosaics covering the outer walls of mausoleums and medressas (Islamic schools) define Uzbekistan’s cityscapes and hearken to a time when Silk Road trade through this region made it among the busiest and most important places on earth.
Defining moment? Watching the sunset in the Registan – Samarkand’s famous main square, flanked by three tiled medressas. The blue hour set in and I could hardly capture the waning light as it softened over the enormous mosaic-covered domes. Hunger pangs set in and I was ready for dinner, as I started to set off the lights suddenly switched on, illuminating the entire square in the most magical way. I probably stayed for another hour after that trying to savour the moment.
Good grub? Uzbekistan’s food is hearty Central Asian fare that relies on a lot of meat, potatoes, dumplings and plov (the local pilau rice). The most surprising and welcome part of Uzbek cuisine were the incredible salads: beetroot and fresh tomato-and-cucumber salads were served at almost every sitting. Uzbek produce is beautiful thanks to its sunny climate.
Fridge magnet or better? Even if you don’t have room to bring home a huge, fuzzy Turkmen hat, you should at least get a photo of yourself wearing one.
You’d be a muppet to miss… Thousand-year-old Bukhara, which was at one time Central Asia’s holiest city. It’s a small and walkable town stuffed with ancient mosques, minarets and holy sites at every turn. Plus the old town is well preserved and is a complete maze – worth getting lost in the dusty back lanes.
Fave activity? Going for a wild swim in Aidarkul Lake. It’s way out in the northern desert of Uzbekistan and was totally empty when I went. Due to its high salt content, you can float around easily. On the day I was there, the sun was beating down and the water was warm. I could’ve stayed in all day.
Quintessential experience? Taking photos of the incredible mosaics that adorn many of the country’s monuments. Close-ups of the Persian-inspired detailing on specific tiles, faraway shots that take in the magnificent colours and of course selfies of you in front of these amazing works of art. Don’t be shy!
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Megan Eaves travelled to Uzbekistan with support from Kalpak Travel (kalpak-travel.com). Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.
Want more behind-the-scenes adventures? Find out what Picture Editor Claire Richardson got up to on her recent trip to Łódź, Poland.