Post written back in April and never published until now!!!!
So this is very late and I intended on getting it out in January but it’s been a bit manic so it gradually got later and later until all of a sudden it was April!
It may seem a bit pointless to review something so long ago but it was such a fantastic year and the turning point in my life with regards to prioritising travel. Holidays and adventures had always been a part of our life but our trip to Uzbekistan changed it all (and encouraged me to start this blog!)
A doubly landlocked country in Central Asia that most people would struggle to locate on a map. I had previously had my reservations mainly due to lack of knowledge about the area but a bit of research and endless hours on the internet I began to see its charm. Now, there isn’t THAT much content on the web about Uzbekistan or Central Asia in general so it did take me a long time to come around to the idea.
So this is the last post in my (current) Uzbekistan series. We had an amazing time and I wanted to share with you my Top 5 and some of my observations.
My top 5 sites are spread out over all the areas we visited. I have listed them below in no particular order but my favourite city was Bukhara by far as it was a lovely place to be with so much history and places to visit.
If I had to pick an overall favourite it would be the day trip out to the ancient Khala’s and the day in the desert but luckily I don’t have to pick a favourite as they are all awesome!
Today was our last day in Uzbekistan, despite being pretty tired and homesick for my own bed I wasn’t looking forward to leaving this wonderful country. I felt like we had seen and done so much but there was still so much left to discover – I could have done with another couple of weeks!!!
We had one final morning in Tashkent before we departed for the airport and home. Our first stop was a trip onto the metro system to see the mystical stations which you aren’t allowed to photograph. They are a part left over from Soviet rule and contain ornate paintings and chandeliers. We travelled a couple of stops along the line and exited at the Kosmonavtler station.
Sorry for the delay in posts we where chilling out in Budapest (posts to follow) – we are nearly at the end of our Uzbekistan adventure so stayed tuned for the final couple of posts!!!
Today was probably our favourite day of the whole trip. It was so far away from anything we have ever done before and we absolutely loved it! Today we took a trip out into the desert to visit some ancient Khala’s – desert fortresses.
It was a three hour drive which took us very close to the borders and through some amazing scenery. The first Khala we encountered was the Toprak Khala – it was built in the 3rd Century and was the capital of ancient Khorezm. The site is now just ruins but you could tell the epic scale of the ruins, it used to house a palace and grounds. We climbed up high to get an overview of the whole site, it was incredibly windy and incredibly hot! The desert here was beautiful and rugged.
Travelling to Khiva – 1st May 2015
We were sad to leave Bukhara behind but equally as excited to be heading to Khiva – the city in the desert. The landscape was already a lot more desert like in Bukhara but we knew it was going to get a lot more deserty!
We had a full day in the bus ahead of us across what can only be described as terrible roads with potholes the size of small towns (okay that’s a slight exaggeration but they were big!) The drive was long (around 9 hours I think in total) but so so worth it.
We drove through a proper sand-can’t-see-the-horizon desert with the warmest (and sandiest) loo stop I have ever experienced. We arrived in Khiva in the evening and with a quick check in at the hotel we wandered round the city before dinner and bed!
Khiva at sunset
Day Two in Bukhara, the sun was out again and it was fast becoming our favourite city in Uzbekistan. After a quick breakfast and a coffee (and some attempts to connect to WIFI) we headed off to our first site of the day.
The Chor Minor or Four Minarets was a gatehouse to a Madrassah, it was built in the 19th Century and nothing but the gatehouse remains. It was an intriguing site as it was so different to what we had seen before. The four towers had been restored at different times and the dates were etched into the domes. We had a little wander around and took some pictures (along with several others groups) and headed off for site number two.
Today was our first real day in Bukhara and we were both excited to see what it offered. We knew we had a fairly packed day ahead and a promise of a wonderful carpet shop!
Our first point of call was the Ismael Samani Mausoleum which was centred in a large park. To be fair the park was very pretty but did look a tad tired and had remnants of its Russian rule in the shape of a Ferris wheel which Stuart assured me was identical to the one in Budapest!
Ismael Samani Mausoleum
Our original plan for today was head to Bukhara from Samarkand via Nurata but our driver had told us that the roads to Nurata had got considerably bad and would add an additional 3 hours of driving to a 6 hour day. We collectively decided to skip Nurata and head straight for Bukhara. The roads in Uzbekistan are awful to say the least. Pot holes the size of craters and lunatic drivers. The going was rough and bumpy and long. Luckily we had air con and books to keep us going the long ride to Bukhara. We stopped in Gidjuvan at a local potters house/come factory/come shop and had a demonstration of their ceramics. The potters were lovely and it was interesting to see their process was still done by human power/donkey power.
Potter and his wheel
Donkey powered glaze maker
We awoke to yet another beautiful day in Uzbekistan – the weather was stunning for 99% of the trip, with only 1 day of rain I was a very happy bunny!! Which was good as today was an action packed day visiting 6 more sights of Samarkand!
After breakfast we hopped back onto the bus and drove over to the Afrosiyab museum in the older area of Samarkand.
Afrosiyab is the site of the ancient city of Samarkand, it was located on a hill near a river for defensive reasons. The area began to be occupied in the 6th-7th century BC and was the centre of Sogdian culture.
The museum was recently renovated and was beautifully laid out. The area around the museum was mainly unexcavated but the museum did have some fresco’s which were in the process of being restored.
We were led to a small room by the director of the museum and watched a short video explaining the site and the excavations they have done. He then led us round the museum and explained the key exhibits to us – translated by our guide.
We awoke to a nice sunny day ready for a 3 hour drive to Shakrisabz – Timur’s summer palace. We sped past fields of poppies – they really were everywhere, beautiful row upon row of poppies.
Horse on the hill
Around half way there we turned into a small country road and pulled up on a grass verge. Surrounded by fields and small farmhouses it was idyllic. The sun was beating down and a very smiley Uzbek man met us and ushered up a steep path to his house at the top.
We passed some rather moody cows and a yurt and entered a courtyard.
We entered the weaving room to see 4 girls weaving rugs and a lady spinning yarn. They were so quick with their finger work to weave these beautiful rugs it was truly impressive. I rather enjoyed watching one of the ladies balance on a stack of cushions on a plastic chair to reach the top of the weave!