Top Things to do in Samarkand in 24 Hours
How to spend a day and plan top things to do in Samarkand in 24 hours. It was the question for me when I started my travel from Bukhara to Samarkand. The first and foremost thing was to get know-how about Samarkand.
Samarkand is an important city in Uzbekistan and is famous for its most important sites on the Silk Road. It is one of the oldest cities in the world and was founded around the 7th century BC. Samarkand is often known as “The Pearl of the Eastern Muslim World”. Timur made Samarkand the capital of its empire, and the city became the most important economic and cultural center in Central Asia. We can find unique masterpieces of ancient architecture, glittering minarets, dazzling turquoise domes, and hypnotic mosaics in the city of Samarkand. While standing in front of the Registan or walking through the Shah-i- Zinda, you’ll be transported back in time to a period when Samarkand was the capital of an empire stretching from Turkey to India. The vibe of Samarkand is entirely different from Tashkent or Bukhara. Here you can feel a more touristic touch.
How to Get to Samarkand
We can reach Samarkand by air, train, bus, or shared taxis from Tashkent and other neighboring cities of Bukhara, and Khiva. The best and most convenient way is to avail the option of a fast train. In Uzbekistan, I used all the means of transportation within the country. So, as per my plan, I went to Samarkand from Bukhara by public bus. I used this option because I want to make a trip by bus too. The bus takes 4 hours to reach Samarkand. The fare of the Bus was 50000Som. After visiting Samarkand I went back to Tashkent and traveled on the slow train Sharq reached Tashkent in 4 hours.
There are 2 types of trains (The Afrosiyob train and the Sharq Train ) that run from Bukhara to Samarkand. We can book tickets for the Uzbek train from here. The Afrosiyob is the high-speed train and takes you from Bukhara to Samarkand in 2 hours. The Sharq, a bit slower, takes you from Bukhara to Samarkand in 3 hours. After reaching Samarkand, I took a taxi from Samarkand Bus station for 20000som to reach my hostel.
Where we stayed in Samarkand
Samarkand has many budget options for hotels and hostels. I stayed in Hostel Imona and booked it from Hostel World. The hostel is located near University Boulevard and we can find many of the city attractions near it. It was a family-run guest house and the staff was extra helpful and caring. However, there you can find a few conversation issues due to the language barrier.
How to Get Around in Samarkand
Tourist places in Samarkand are scattered. If you love to walk then you can start your tour from Bulvar and can reach shah e Zinda at the eastern end of the city center. However, on the return leg, you can take a taxi or bus to reach your destination.
Generally, in Samarkand, you have transport options like Minibuses, Buses, Trolly buses(electric buses), Shared Taxis, and Yandex taxis. Bus/ minibus fare for one visit is 900Som.
Yandex taxi and its app is a good option to travel within cities and is the most convenient and economical way. In addition, you can get metered/non-metered taxis everywhere in Samarkand. Please confirm the fare before riding to any non-meter taxi and check it twice for safer sides. However, you can get a taxi within the city for 1~3 $.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN SAMARKAND IN 24 HOURS
Samarkand is not a compact city. The main sights are quite spread out over the city and most of it has been heavily restored. If you’re hoping to take beautiful pictures of the stunning Islamic architecture without any tourist rush then you have to start your visit very early in the morning. In this way, you can get the best morning light to get beautiful photos too. In the map below you can easily navigate from one place to another. You can also follow my plan too as I am going to mention the places in the order of my visit.
It is the major place for lodging in Samarkand and you can find many options of hotels and hostels in this area. University Boulevard was just a few hundreds meter from my Hostel Imona. Due to its location, tourists prefer to start their tour from Boulevard also known as Bulvar. It is a central boulevard lined with oak trees that make it a nice green area in the middle of the city. The University Boulevard is a truly educational and scientific center of Samarkand city, as several universities, schools, and institutes are located near it. After passing by the Alisher Navoi museum, I followed the central park. If you spend more than one day in Samarkand then this Alisher Navoi Museum is a must-to-do place to visit.
Amir Timur Haykali (Statue)
At the end of University Boulevard Street, you’ll see the statue of Amir Timur from its back. It is a huge statue of Timur, sitting on his throne is right at the intersection between the old Uzbek town and the Russian-designed new town in Samarkand. Amir Timur, also known as Tamerlane, was born in Shakhrisabz, a city located 80km from Samarkand. It is a central point of city attractions. By coming from University Boulevard, you can take a right turn for Gur e Amir and a north/East turn towards Registan.
Gur e Amir Complex
Gur-e-Amir, meaning “Tomb of the King” in Persian. It is a beautiful architectural complex with a ribbed turquoise dome. The exterior walls of the mausoleum consist of blue, turquoise, and white tiles, organized into geometrical patterns. The interior of the mausoleum is even more spectacular and eyecatching. You can admire the geometric panels, ornamental niches, inner dome, ornately carved headstones, and many unique designs there. This tomb is the final resting place of Amir Timur. Besides the main tomb, there are the tombs of his sons, and grandsons on the same premises. It is advised to visit Gur-e-Amir as soon as it opens to avoid the crowds. Gur-e-Amir is also a great photography location during sunrise and at night when lights illuminate this stunning complex.
Entrance. 25.000 UZS (around € 2.50 or $2.60) + 30.000 UZS extra (€3 or $3.20) if you want to take photos. This ticket is valid for consecutive two days. The Mausoleum opens daily. However, open time slightly changes in summer or winter. From April to October, it opens from 08:00 – 19:00, and from November to March from 09:00 – 17:00.
The Registan Complex
After visiting Gur e Amir, I have to come to Registan Street for the most stunning attraction in Samarkand. I took the way from the adjacent park. On the way, I took a short break near Rukhobod Mausoleum and Amir Timur Park. Then northeast Registan Street took me to Registan Complex.
Registan means “A Desert” in Persian as it used to be covered by sand. The Registan is about a 10-minute walk from Gur-e-Amir. This central square is known as the most iconic sight of Samarkand and Uzbekistan. All the main roads of Samarkand lead to Registan as it was the heart of the Timurid dynasty. It was used as a public square for royal proclamations, celebrations, and public executions. Registan is a beautiful location for sunrise photography. You can have a fabulous experience visiting it during the night for night photography.
3 stunning madrasahs are framing this complex or square.
madrasahs of registan Complex
- The Tilya-Kori Madrasah. It is the middle one. Tilya Kori means gilded in the Persian language. This madrasah has a 2-storied main facade, a courtyard surrounded by dormitory rooms, and a mosque in the western section of the courtyard.
- Ulugbek Madrasah. Facing the Tilya-Kori Madrasah, you’ll see the UlugBek Madrasah on the left. It’s the oldest madrasah in Samarkand. UlugBek ordered to build this Madrasah he himself used to deliver lectures to students in this Madrasah. The UlugBek Madrasah was one of the best universities in the Muslim world at that time.
- The Sher-Dor Madrasah is the third madrasah on the square. Sher means tiger and the name of the madrasah comes from the images on the main portal. There are two big tigers carrying a sun on their backs.
The best time to visit Registan is early in the morning before the crowds arrive. The entrance fee is 40.000Som. From April to October, it opens from 08:00 – 19:00, and from November to March from 09:00 – 17:00. If you’re into photography then you have to visit it just before closing time. In this way, you can stay longer inside and even get the opportunity to take stunning pictures of the madrasahs when the lights illuminate the whole Registan Complex. I visited Registan in the afternoon, then I went to other attractions and came back to it on my return leg when it was illuminated by night lights. The experience was unforgettable as you can visualize yourself traveling in the past times when Samarkand was a center of civilization.
Islam Karimov Statue and Tashkent Street
From Registan we took a short walk on the eastern side for the next attraction of Samarkand. Here we can find the Statue of Islam Karimov, the first president of Uzbekistan. This street also has the name Islam Karimov street. It is a wide street and a family gathering point for locals. This street is more like a park where people could sit and relax during the day. At night it is very much alive with many people gathering near the statue. Also, you can find some small food vendors and even bike rentals here. This street is more like a fancy boulevard, framed by trees and souvenir shops.
Bibi Khanym Mosque and Mausoleum
You can follow Tashkent street and after taking a right turn into the street you will reach the Bibi Khanym Mosque. Here you can find the mosque on the left side and Mausoleum on the right side. The Bibi Khanym Mosque is one of the most important monuments of Samarkand. Bibi Khanym was the beloved wife of Timur the Great. Amir Timur had a great interest in the construction of this mosque. He wanted to make it the most magnificent mosque in the Islamic world. However, Timur got a bit ambitious and wanted to construct it at a rapid speed. He pushed the building techniques of that time to their limits and encountered so many structural problems that the mosque didn’t become a masterpiece.
In later times, it was renovated to sustain for a long time. Despite the renovation and reconstruction, the mosque slowly started to deteriorate until an earthquake in 1897 left the building in ruins. The mosque is slowly getting restored now. Directly opposite the mosque, you can visit the mausoleum of Bibi Khanym. At the time of our visit, we couldn’t visit the interior of the mosque, as we reached very late for the visit.
Siyob Bazar, also called Siab bazaar, is the largest bazaar in Samarkand. It’s right next to Bibi Khanym Mosque. It’s a typical Central Asian market where both locals and foreigners can shop for food, spices, nuts, candy, sweets, fruits, vegetables, and souvenirs. Vendors will call out to you, offering to taste their goods. When compared to other Central Asian bazaars, the Siyob Bazaar feels a bit touristy but it’s still a nice market to visit. open daily from 5.00 am until 7.00 pm, closed on Monday. We noticed that almost 80% of shopkeepers were females in this market which was a good sign for the Uzbekistan economy. Due to covid-19, the market has very few people/customers there.
Shah e Zinda
After visiting the Siyob Bazar we continued our walk on Tashkent street and reached a crossroad. Where we crossed the bridge over Shah e Zinda street. Then with the help of Google Maps, we reached to Shah-e-Zinda complex. It was a long walk of about 20 minutes. On the way, we passed by the Hazrat Khizar Mosque too. Shah e Zinda, which means “the Living King” in Persian, is now an important and sacred pilgrimage center in Samarkand. It is an interesting location in Samarkand for photography. Shah-i-Zinda is a necropolis that consists of rows of turquoise tombs and various mausoleums grouped along a narrow avenue. It is the burial place of many royals and nobles, including some of Timur’s relatives.
Hazrat Khizr Mosque
Hazrat Khizr mosque was on our way to Shah e Zinda, so on our return leg, we took a short break here. Opposite to Mosque was a viewing platform, from where we can admire the Panoramic view of Samarkand from a high place. The Hazrat-Khizr Mosque isn’t the most attractive mosque in Samarkand and is usually not mentioned on many lists of things to do in Samarkand. However, due to its historical nature, one can pay a quick tribute to this mosque. This mosque was built in the 7th century, making it one of the oldest mosques in the world and the very first that has been built in Samarkand and Uzbekistan.
What we missed in Samarkand
Due to the time frame, we couldn’t visit the prophet Denial’s mausoleum which is about 2/3 km from the Hazrat Khizr mosque. Besides the Mausoleum, one can visit the Ulugbek Observatory.
The Mausoleum of Imam Bukhari is another important and religious site for Muslims. It is about 30km from the city and one can easily visit this mausoleum on a half-day tour from Samarkand.
What next to Samarkand
Finally, after visiting Samarkand, I have booked a Sharq train to Tashkent and utilized my last two days in the capital. Hence, Tashkent was my last stop in Uzbekistan before my flight from Tashkent to Dushanbe.