How To Plan A Visit To Bukhara Uzbekistan
Bukhara Uzbekistan is our next destination. And here we are going to plan a visit and explore this beautiful city of Uzbekistan. A city that was a center of trade on the ancient silk road. It is one of the important cities in Uzbekistan. Bukhara is the ruins of mosques and madrasahs around every corner that reveal their true age. For those that love history, there are plenty of things to do in Bukhara. The city is 2500 years old. In the 6th century BC, it was the center of Persian civilization and soon developed into a center of commerce on the Silk road.
How to Get to Bokhara
We can reach Bukhara by air, train, bus, or shared taxis from Tashkent and other neighboring cities of Samarkand, and Khiva. The best and most convenient way is to avail the option of a fast train. I went to Bukhara from Tashkent and used to book my reservation by their online Ticket Booking Facility. Afrosiyob is the name of their fast train. The cost of booking was 168000 Som(approximately 16$). The travel time was slightly less than 4 hours. Surprisingly the train was hell on time while departure and arriving. The journey was pleasant and comfortable. Due to covid, and less number of passengers, you can easily get your reservations nowadays. After Bukhara Uzbekistan, I went to Samarkand by bus which took about 4 hours at 50000Som.
Train Station to Bukhara City
Afrosiyob reached Bukhara exactly on the time. The train station, Kogon is about 8km from the main Bukhara city. From the train station, we got a shared taxi for 20000 Som. Here the taxi driver demanded 5000 SOMS. I wrote the amount on the mobile calculator and asked him if it was 5000 Soms?. He said yes. Then finally I showed him the 5000 som note and he said no 50000 Soms. In a nutshell is, you have to double confirm when you use a non-metered taxi. It is just due to the language barriers as you hardly find any people who speak English or your native language.
Where we stayed in Bukhara Uzbekistan
In Bukhara, I stayed in Dervish Hostel which is about 400meter from the city center of Lyab e Hauz. It is a clean and family-run guest house. The staff was extra helpful and provide you with a relaxed stay there.
How to get around Bukhara Uzbekistan
Bukhara is a compact city and you can walk to every historical place within Bukhara. However, you can call to taxi if you want to visit the suburbs of Bukhara by Yandex taxi or any other non-metered Taxi. It is an unforgettable experience to walk into the tough tile streets of Bukhara or many of the Bazars that are full of souvenir shops in the old city of Bukhara.
Top Attractions to visit in Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Bukhara is a small town and when I visited, there were very few foreign travelers in the town. Although you can visit all the Bukhara attractions in one day, I recommend it to stay at least two days there. So, you can feel the actual vibe of the Bukhara. If you start early then you can visit in a relaxed way. I also visited most of the places on my first day and on the second day I spent leisure time again on some of the selective places. In the below map, I have marked the places in order wise as per my itinerary.
ARK OF BUKHARA
We started from Our Hostel and headed towards the Ark of Bukhara. A visit to the Arc is among the top things to do in Bukhara. It is a city within a city in the form of a majestic fortress. This fort is dated back to the 4th or 5th century AD. It remains in the use of Amir of Bukhara till 1920 when it was hit by severe damage due to an earthquake. Famous Central Asian scholars and writers, such as Ferdowsi, Rudaki, Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, and Omar Khayyam lived and worked in the fortress.
It is a huge fortress and it took about two quick hours to go through it. There are about 8 types of different Museums in the Fortress and you can visit all of them with a single entry ticket. We paid 25000 Soms as the entry fee and I think it includes the fee for the camera too. We spent our time in the museums, different divans, and Havelies. From the roof, we got a panoramic view of the city. There was a unique souvenir shop in the Fortress from where you can get a few pieces for your way back home.
After Ark of Bukhara, our next stop was Zindan, which was used to be Amir’s prison in Bukhara. In Persian, Zindan means prison. It is built in the 18th century and consists of 5* 6-meter chambers with 6 meters digging height. It is said, about 40 prisoners can be kept inside it. Nowadays it is open for travelers as a Museum. We decided to take a thorough look from the outside and went to our next attraction of Bukhara.
The PO-i-Kalyan complex is most famous for the 12th century Kalyan minaret. It consists of a
- Kalyon Minar
- Kalyon Mosque
- Mir Arab Madrasah
The current mosque and madrassah are from the 16th century and the Kalyon mosque was built in later times. It was the first significant attraction of central Asian colors that I have visited in a true sense. The Blue colors are vibrant and eye-catching. Mir Arab madrasah is still used to be an operational Madrasah and it also has the shrine of Mir Arab. You can’t take photos inside of the Madrasah and a pre-approval is necessary to visit it too. With the help of gate security, we visited the shrine of Mir Arab and offered Fatiha there.
ULUGBEK & ABDUL AZIZ KHAN MEDRASAH
After a few minutes’ walk from the Kalyan complex towards the east and you will reach to visit the two magnificent Madrasahs of Bukhara. The Madrasah at our left is Ulugbek Madrasah. Ulugbek ruled the Timurid Empire in the 15th century. He was the grandson of Timur. Ulugbek had an interest in astronomy, science, and arts. So, he built one observatory (Ulugbek Obervatort Samarkand) and two madrassahs. One in Samarkand and one in Bukhara. Ulugbek was the leader in the active construction of educational institutions in Bukhara, Samarkand, Shakhrisabz, and Gijduvan. Ulugbek Madrasah in Samarkand is a classic example of Islamic higher education in the East. This Madrasah was built in 1417~1420 and Ulugbek used to deliver a lecture there as a teacher. Famous persons like Jami, Alisher Navoi, and Khoja Ahror get benefited from this Madrasah in their times.
The second Madrasah which is on the right is Abdul Aziz Khan Madrasah. Generally, people compare it with Ulugh-Beg Madrasah since they are a duet of completely different structures of different times. Although Abdul Aziz Khan Madrasah was built in the 17th century AD. It means about 250 years after the Ulugbek madrasah. Abdul Aziz Khan Madrasah is grand, ornate, and splendidly decorated
Chor Minor, The trademark of Bukhara uzbekistan
Visit Chor Minar is among the top things to do in Bukhara. It is a bit of a mystery what this building was used for as it is believed it wasn’t a mosque in past. Chor Minor is on the eastern side of Bukhara, a building with four giant turquoise color domes. It is among those buildings that were built in the late arena of the central Asian golden period. Chor Minar is built-in 1807. We went up to the roof of the building with a fee of 4000som. There is a souvenir shop in the main building now and we can get the ticket from the lady who runs this souvenir shop.
Lyab e Hauz, The city center of Bukhara
Probably, the Lyab e Hauz pond is the most popular Bukhara tourist attraction, often used as a rest stop, thanks to its grandness, tranquility, and old age. The photogenic Lyabi Hauz Square is centered on an artificial reservoir (a pond in Persian) constructed on the orders of the Grand Vizier, Nadir Divan Beghi, around 1620. It is surrounded by some of the top things to do in Bukhara and is considered a city center. Importantly, it is home to a couple of Bukhara attractions like Kukeldash Madrassa and Nadir Divan Madrassah. You can relax in the pond-side restaurants. In the evening, this area completely lit up and increase the beauty of your stay in Bukhara.
Kukeldash Madrasah dated back to 1568 AD. It was also a unique building of its time in terms of architecture. Virtually all the madrasahs then had a similar design of a solid rectangle with a large decorated portal and a courtyard. Kukeldash Madrasah has no solid walls. Instead, they are walls with niches and balconies with stucco ornaments. It is a two-story building with 160 hujra cells in the madrasah, filling both floors along the perimeter of the spacious courtyard. Sadriddin Ayni, an outstanding Central Asian poet and writer of modern times, lived and worked in the madrasah. He died in the mid-20th century, and the northern part of the building houses his memorial museum now.
NADIR DIVAN MADRASAH
You can visit the Nadir Divan Madrasah on the eastern side of Lyab e Hauz. It is among three buildings that cover the three sides of Lyab e Hauz. The other twos are kukeldash madrasah and Divan nadir Khanqah. Nadir Divan Beg ordered the building of this Madrasah in 1620. The Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah has many similarities with the style of Sherdor Madrasah in Samarkand. Although, the famous lions at the portal were replaced with mythical birds of happiness. On the right side of the Madrasah gate in the park towards Lyab e Hauz, you can chitchat with the most interesting character of Bukhara which is no other than Mula Naser ud Din.
Magokki Attor Mosque, The oldest one in Bukhara
Maggoki Attor is an old mosque and it forms a part of the historical religious complex of the Lyab e Hauz complex. This historical mosque belongs to the era of the 9th or 10th century AD and it is assumed that it is built over a Zoroastrian temple. Most importantly, this mosque was a great example of harmony among Muslims and Jews as in old times it was a common prayer place for both religions. Some say that Bukharian Jews and Muslims worshipped alongside each other in the same place at the same time. While other sources insist that Jews worshipped after Muslims. The mosque is also notable for being one of the oldest surviving mosques in Central Asia and one of the few surviving buildings in Bukhara from the time of the Mongols’ invasion. Now, you can visit this mosque as a carpet museum in Bukhara.
KHOJA GAUKUSHAN COMPLEX
Khoja Gaukushan is the largest architectural complex in Bukhara Uzbekistan with a mosque, a madrassah, a Hauz(pond), and a beautiful minaret. Individually, none of the ensemble’s buildings is particularly notable. However, as a whole, they represent a rare opportunity to see a group of 16th-century buildings and waterworks in their original layout, which somehow managed to escape Soviet-era “redevelopment” that resulted in the loss of so much cultural heritage. This Complex was in our hostel stay and city center so, we often have a short break in the premises of this complex.
SAMONIDS PARK AND other Attractions
Samonids Park offers a nice break from the hectic city. You can relax beside the lake and enjoy snack/tea combinations from a couple of restaurants. Even here you find history with the Samanid mausoleum or visit the shrine of Ismoil Somoni. While your visit, here you can visit a spring that has a link to the prophet Ayub. You can visit the Markazi Bazar and can purchase the grocery and some common items from there. If you have kids with you then Samonid recreation park will be your ultimate choice.
Where to Eat in Bukhara Uzbekistan
During our two days stay here we used Old Bukhara and Choikhana Chinar restaurants and tasted a few Uzbek dishes there. In addition to this, we found a beautiful Ice cream shop beside the Ark of Bukhara for sitting and tasting different flavors. I forget the exact name. Might it be Momondo?
What next to Bukhara
Finally, after spending two funfilled days in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, I headed towards my next stop, the great Samarkand. For this purpose, I went to the bus station and bought a bus ticket for 50000som. I also have a convenient option to use the train but I opted for the bus experience. If you have any timing issues, you can certainly use this bus option or shared taxi option from the same place.