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For many travelers, Uzbekistan is the heart of Central Asia. With a stellar history that features Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, and a string of architecturally spectacular Silk Road cities that glitter with mosques, madrassas and minarets seemingly lifted from "1001 Nights," Uzbekistan holds the region's greatest draws. All this is despite a crushing authoritarian government, a dire human rights situation and a stagnating economy. The capital Tashkent is a huge city, the fourth largest in the former USSR, that dates mostly from the 1966 earthquake. Of greater interest is the fabled city of Samarkand, - the city of ...

For many travelers, Uzbekistan is the heart of Central Asia. With a stellar history that features Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, and a string of architecturally spectacular Silk Road cities that glitter with mosques, madrassas and minarets seemingly lifted from "1001 Nights," Uzbekistan holds the region's greatest draws. All this is despite a crushing authoritarian government, a dire human rights situation and a stagnating economy. The capital Tashkent is a huge city, the fourth largest in the former USSR, that dates mostly from the 1966 earthquake. Of greater interest is the fabled city of Samarkand, - the city of Tamerlane - with its spectacular turquoise domes and mesmerizing tile work. Bukhara is the most absorbing destination, a coherent medieval maze of winding backstreets and boutique guesthouses. Remotest is the former khanate of Khiva, a one-time slave-trading city surrounded by the desert of the Kara-Kum. With more time you can visit the beached fishing trawlers of the Aral Sea or the enigmatic ruins of Shakhrisabsz. However long you stay, make time for a round of shashlyk kebabs, hot nan bread and a pot of green tea in Uzbekistan's wonderful chaikhanas (teahouses), easily the best place to meet Central Asians on their own terms.

Bradley Mayhew
About the Expert

Bradley Mayhew is the author of more than 25 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, including Central Asia, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and Jordan, and is coauthor of the Odyssey guide to Uzbekistan.

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Bradley Mayhew for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south.
  • Language: Uzbek, Russian
  • Currency: Uzbekistan Som
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight