A Travel Guide To Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Bukhara is famous for its seat of religous power in Central Asia’s most powerful empire of Timur. It has been the centre for many great poets, artists and the architechture of the city’s monuments will inspire visitors like never before. But wondering how to plan a visit to Bukhara? Use this Bukhara travel guide!
In this blog post, you’ll find everything you need to know to plan a visit to Bukhara in Uzbekistan (consider this your very own Bukhara travel guide), including details on where to stay in Bukhara, what to eat, which monuments to visit and secret tips on where to buy the best sourvenirs in Bukhara’s old town.
History of Bukhara
As children, we have all come across “The Arabian Nights” or The One Thousand and One Nights. Those tales of Aladdin, the comics of Nasruddin Hodja and so many more characters have always caught our attention – but what if you wanted to see that in real life? Thats Bukhara, in the religious heartland of Uzbekistan!
Hailed as the holiest city in Central Asia, Bukhara has some really interesting charm about it. Even though the city is more modern today, the heritage is undeniably evident in every major block in the city. It was a popular stop on the Silk Road trade route between the West and the East, and a center for Islamic studies and its culture, and is home to many well-preserved mosques, madrassas and bazaars from the last two millennia.
Visit the Ark, Bukhara’s Citadel
Just like the one in Khiva, this Ark (or Fortress) is one of the most integral cogs in Bukhara’s metaphorical wheel! Its construction dates back to the 5th century AD, but it suffered significant damages during the Soviet wars in the 1900s. The Ark is home to some very interesting museums, which are situated inside the main entrance seen below.
The best time to visit is in the mornings, when the crowds are away. Spending about 2 hours is a very fruitful experience, considering how much is there to admire inside.
Check out the best hotels and hostels here
Go on a photowalk to Bukhara’s best Madrassahs
The city of Bukhara is filled with innumerable Madrassas with their beautiful majolica patterns and china blue tiles adorning every arch. The best spots in the city are:
- Po-i Kalyan
- Samanid Mausoleum
- Nadir Divan Begi Madrassah
- Divan Begi Khanaka
- Ulughbek Madrassah
- Mir-i-Arab Madrassah
- Kukaldosh Madrassah
- and the Samanid Recreation Park
Pray at the Bolo Hauz Mosque
Across the street from the Ark, is this amazing house of worship. The “Friday” mosque dates back to the early 1700s and serves as a prayer hall even now. But what makes the mosque stand out from the other monuments in the city is the sheer beauty of the 20 wooden pillars and the tile work both inside and out.
The inside of the Mosque is decked in beautiful lighting with the Qibla Wall and the Mihrab (the holy wall inside the mosque which represents the direction towards Mecca) in hues of blue.
Expect to spend around 30 minutes at this site.
Visit the Po-i-Kalyan or the Kalon Ensemble
This Mosque and Minaret combination is extremely popular, almost being the face of the great city of Bukhara. It includes the Kalyan (or “Kalon”) Minar, the Kalyan Mosque and the Siddikion Mosque.
The Kalyan Minar was built in the early 12th century by the Khan of the region, to summon the people of the town to the five daily prayers. Even today, the minar stands just as majestically as it did then. The Kalyan Mosque encloses the Mir-i-Arab Madrassah and a large open courtyard with a lone tree in the centre.
Expect to spend about 2 hours admiring these as well as the Siddikion Mosque inside.
Walk to the Chor Minor or “four minars”
This small 4 tower structure, is actually in the opposite side of the city, away from most of the main sights in Bukhara, but nevertheless, its a very interesting building. Most Indians would recognise its similarity to the Char Minar in Hyderabad. There is a separate ticket to this also, as in most other buildings in Bukhara.
Tip: Just across the street from the Chor Minor, you will find a souvenir shop, selling Soviet era medals and Badges and other antiques. Knock-off (and maybe an actual original) Soviet Red Stars are also available, but make sure to bargain well – they may be over priced. In case you don’t buy them here, it is possible to buy it in Tashkent as well, at the Amir Temur Park.
Visit a traditional Uzbeki house
Spend an hour admiring the House Museum of the great Fayzulla Khodzhayev, one of Bukhara’s greatest political leaders. He served as the first head of the Bukharan People’s Soviet Republic, which would later form part of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. Later, he was executed as part of the Great Purge under Stalin’s rule. The house is remnant of the culture that prevailed in the early Soviet rule of the country and is a must visit if you want to see something off beat in Bukhara.
Chill out at Lyabi Hauz
This is the most happening part of Bukhara. At Lyab-i-Hauz, you’ll find restaurants, a pond, water fountains, café and ice cream parlours. In the evenings, there’s music and dancing right by the pond where the Central Asian culture takes delightful twists with a Russian/Euro influence! In the afternoon heat, rest here as you read a book or this Bukhara travel guide to plan the rest of your trip.
There is a Madrassah here on the east side of Lyab i Hauz and souvenir shops dot the boulevard endlessly! Make sure to stop by the statue of the most famous Bukharan Nasruddin Khodja, or Mulla Nasruddin, as he was popularly called in Indian comic books!
How to travel to Bukhara
There are three main modes of transport to get to Bukhara:
Air: The International Airport in Bukhara is located a few kilometres outisde the city. A few Asian flights land here every week, but there are daily flights from Tashkent and other Uzbek cities
Train: There are multiple overnight trains from Tashkent, Samarkand, Navoi. You can even book the tickets online on the official site for as little as UZS 80,000 (USD 8 or INR 580)
Taxi: Take an expensive private taxi from Samarkand, Tashkent, or even Khiva to Bukhara. If you’re looking for a cheap way of going to Bukhara from Khiva, just take a shared taxi or a Marshrutka (minivan) ride for UZS 100,000 (USD 15). These can be booked with your hotel or hostel on the previous night. There are shared taxis from other cities to Bukhara too.
Tip: Take the shared taxi if you are travelling between Bukhara and Khiva. For travel between Tashkent or Samarkand and Bukhara, take the high speed trains. The train station is about 30 km from the city centre and costs around UZS 15,000 for one seat. Taking a bus to the train station is not easy because of the language barrier, unless you know Uzbeki or Russian well.
Where to stay in Bukhara?
The best experiences are often found in the old hotels around Lyab-i-Hauz. Hotel Nasriddin Navruz, a small guesthouse, run by a very warm family (the grandfather is Mr. Nasriddin, a very funny and kind man) and is just a hundred metres from the Lyab-i-Hauz common area. The courtyard was perfect for spending the afternoon’s hottest hours and breakfast was splendid too. In fact some of the contents of this Bukhara travel guide came up right in that hotel!
Check out the best hotels and hostels here
Travel costs, food and safety
Bukhara is quite cheap to explore. The tickets to most of the major attractions (like the Ark) are only a few ten-thousand Soms (UZS) – thats like USD 1 or INR 74 in converted rates. The entry to other Madrassahs is generally free. You can safely change currency at a good rate near Lyab-i-Hauz at one of the many banks.
Cafes and restaurants at Lyab-i-Hauz serve some of the best Uzbeki cuisine in town. You should definitely eat some Lagman, Plov (rice) and noodle soup for UZS 30,000 (INR 270 or USD 4). Vegetarian options and Naan bread are always available. ‘Choi’ or tea is very cheap and free in some restaurants too. Another amazing cafe is the Alibaba Restaurant which is just a little further away from Bolo Hauz (20-pillared) Mosque – they serve the best vegetarian Lagman, and the hostess is very kind! Even scored a 20% discount for apparently looking “Uzbeki”, from “Hindostan”.
Bukhara is quite safe. Couples and even female travelers can explore the city in peace. Lyab-i-Hauz is where most tourists gather, dine, stay. Apart from a few pushy taxi drivers, the city is actually very easy to spend time in.
Suggested itinerary for Bukhara
The minimum time required for a satisfying experience is two days, nothing more, nothing less! Most often, the shared taxis from Khiva/Samarkand reach in the afternoon – so you could consider spending that half day as well as the next full day in Bukhara, soaking in all that the city has to offer. You can then leave to the next city on the subsequent morning.
During these two days, make sure to visit as many of the places mentioned in this Bukhara travel guide, they are very close to each other and can be easily covered on foot starting with the Madrassahs, the Bolo Hauz Mosque, the Ark and lastly the Chor Minor before relaxing at Laybi Hauz for dinner.
Is it possible to see Bukhara in one day? Yes, one day sightseeing in Bukhara is possible too, maybe if you just visit the top 5 sights, but the city is best explored at a slower pace.
If you have more questions, or want to explore Bukhara with us, write to us or leave a comment below!
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