My trips to Uzbekistan left a huge impression on me. The impressive madrasas, the ladies in colorful dresses, the golden teeth smiles, and everywhere you go that beautiful blue color. When I show my pictures to others, I always see that same surprised look. The reactions I got were: ‘Wow, I did not expect that at all!’ or ‘It’s so colorful!’ and ‘It almost looks like the Middle East’. A lot of people have no clue what Uzbekistan looks like and that makes the surprise even bigger. I visited the country twice, the second time as part of my long overland trip to Central Asia. In this blog post, I will show the perfect 10-day Uzbekistan itinerary, plus some places to visit to extend your trip.
The ideal 10-day Uzbekistan itinerary
Day 1 and 2: start in Tashkent
Tashkent is for most travelers the first stop on an Uzbekistan itinerary. In my opinion, it is an okay place for a day or two. The Uzbek capital is quite modern with wide roads and lots of parks. It makes you almost forget that this city is more than 2,000 years old. A major earthquake in 1966 flattened most of the city, so that’s why it looks quite new. In general, Tashkent is a nice warm-up for tourists, because it shows a little bit of the grandeur that is yet to come.
Plan a full day for Tashkent and start by visiting the Khast Imam square. You can find here the 16th century Barak Khan madrasa and the Hazrat Imam mosque (with one of the oldest Qurans in the world). For lunch, hit the Chorsu Bazaar and fill up on somsas, sugary nuts, plov, and dried fruits. End the day with a self-guided underground tour to check out the beautiful metro stations. Tashkent has one of the oldest metro networks of Central Asia and every station has a different theme. A metro ticket will only cost you 1200 sum.
Where to sleep: I stayed at an Airbnb, but there are also plenty of hotels to choose from. Good options are Corner Hotel Tashkent – 9,9 rating op Booking.com, or the budget-friendly Art Hostel – 9,2 rating on Booking.com
Where to eat: Jumanji restaurant, a place with a jungle setting and extensive menu
Day 3 and 4: head west to Khiva, the fairy tale city
Yes, I know. Khiva is a long way from Tashkent. It’s on the other side of the country. However, I’d still recommend visiting Khiva before the other Silk Road cities. This way you gradually build up in sights while saving the best for last. You can catch a flight from Tashkent to Urgench and then take a shared taxi to Khiva. Or you hop on the night train to Khiva, leaving from the Tashkent South station. Third class tickets cost around 130,000 sum and second class tickets are around 195,000 sum.
Khiva is the open-air museum of Uzbekistan. The old town (Itchan Kala) is surrounded by an impressive winding wall and has a rich collection of little museums, palaces, and madrassas. My favorite sight in Khiva was the Kalta Minor: the short, blue, and unfinished minaret. It is a true pleasure to wander around Khiva, especially at sunset when the golden light strikes the sandy walls.
Where to sleep: Khiva Rasulboy Guesthouse (9,7 on Booking.com + the owner and her son are the sweetest)
Where to eat: Terrassa Café and Khorezm Art Restaurant
Read more: Khiva: things to do in the pearl of Uzbekistan
Day 5 – 7: Bukhara – my favorite city in Uzbekistan
After Khiva, you slowly make your way back east. Next stop: Bukhara. During my first trip to Uzbekistan, it was only possible to travel by car from Khiva to Bukhara. Fortunately, the tourism infrastructure got an upgrade in recent years. Now you can travel by train across the Kyzyzlkum desert. Bukhara is my favorite city in Uzbekistan. It has a relaxed atmosphere, beautiful madrasas, and bazaars. I’d recommend planning three days in Bukhara. My favorite spots where the Chor Minor, the Poi Kalon complex, and the alleys around the Lyabi-Hauz square.
Where to sleep: I stayed at Mekhtar Ambar Caravan Serai. However, I wouldn’t recommend it. The mattress was saggy and the bathrooms were dirty. Better options for places to stay are Komil Bukhara Boutique Hotel (9,1 rating on Booking.com) and Usman Heritage Hotel (9,8 on Booking.com)
Where to eat: Shohrud Cafe. A very local place, but good cheap food
Read more: Bukhara: 10 wonderful things to do
Day 8 and 9: Samarkand – the grand finale
I saved the best for last! Samarkand is the perfect last stop on an Uzbekistan Silk Road itinerary. It is a city that offers only highlights. All the sights are grand, beautiful, and impressive. Samarkand is built by Uzbek national hero Tamerlane (=Timur). Thanks to him, we can now marvel at the Registan square, the enormous Bibi Khanum mosque, and the golden mausoleum of Timur himself (Gur-e-Emir). But the real highlight for me was the Shah-i-Zinda, the most colorful graveyard in Central Asia.
Where to sleep: Fayz Guesthouse – 8,7 rating on Booking.com + situated in a nice local area, and Bibikhanum Hotel – I took the header photo here
Where to eat: Sayqali Chayhana, run by a friendly guy and his mother and grandma
Read more: Samarkand, top things to do and practical tips
Day 10: back to Tashkent
And that’s the end of the 10-day Uzbekistan itinerary. The only thing left to do is to catch the fast Afrosiyab train back to Tashkent. This train only takes two hours to arrive in the Uzbek capital.
Of course, you can also do this itinerary the other way around and first visit Samarkand after Tashkent and then make your way west. It is possible, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Firstly, you will start with the most beautiful sights of all of Uzbekistan: the Registan square and the Shah-i-Zinda. Everything following after that will not be as impressive. Moreover, at the end of the trip you have to do the cross-country trip from Khiva to Tashkent in order to fly out of the country. You could hop on a plane, but the train is so much more fun and better for mother earth. But this would be a 14-hour train ride. I can imagine how exhausting this must be after nearly two weeks of traveling around Uzbekistan.
Other places to visit in Uzbekistan
If you want to extend your Uzbekistan trip, you might want to add the following stops:
- Fergana Valley: perhaps not as stunning as the Silk Road cities, but this valley shows you an authentic part of Uzbekistan. The Fergana Valley functions as the country’s factory: melons, silk, and ceramics are produced here.
- Nukus: capital of the semi-autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan. Just like Samarkand, Nukus also has a unique graveyard: the Mizdahkan Necropolis. A holy place with not just graves, but also mosques and interesting mausoleums.
- Khorezm: this is another reason why you should consider visiting the Karakalpakstan republic. It also home to the historical region of Khorezm (Khiva is part of this region) where you can find the ruins of some impressive sand fortresses.
Organized tour or independent travel?
I visited Uzbekistan with an organized tour and as an independent traveler. Both options have advantages. If you go with an organized tour, you’ll learn a lot more about the country and the culture. Uzbekistan has a long and interesting history and having a professional guide will allow you to really get to know the country. That being said, you don’t need an organized tour to visit Uzbekistan. You can easily travel around independently and visit all the major Silk Road cities by yourself. Uzbekistan has a good train network and all hotels can be booked online. For smaller cities, you probably have to rely on shared taxis, but this is not difficult to arrange. Personally, I like to travel independently, because it gives me more freedom to plan my own time.
And there you have it, a perfect 10-day Uzbekistan itinerary. Is visiting this country on your wish list?
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you book something through these links, I earn a small commission without you paying extra for it. You can read more about it in my disclaimer.