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  • Amazing places: Uzbekistan

    Tashkent

    Tashkent

    No matter how much you’ve been traveling in your lifetime, there will always be some blank spots on the map that you know next to nothing about. Uzbekistan is one such blank spot for even many seasoned travelers, despite the fact that it has everything that a good travel destination needs: rich culture and history, interesting traditions and beautiful scenery.

    This ex-Soviet country should definitely feature more prominently in travel brochures and itineraries, so here’s the next installment in our series Amazing places: Uzbekistan.

    Understand

    Uzbekistan’s past is nothing if not exciting. The land that is now the Republic of Uzebkistan used to be part of the mighty Persian Empire, and then the Timurid Empire, until the 16th century when it was taken over by Uzbek nomads, who gave the country its name.

    In the 19th century, Uzbekistan came under Russian rule, and it gained its independence only in 1991. The Uzbek state is often criticized for its politics and human rights abuses, but this doesn’t change the fact that the country has amazing touristic potential.

    Uzbekistan is a multicultural state with a rich culture, with a special affinity for music. A quick glance over the country’s map will tell you that it’s mostly flat, and indeed a large portion of Uzbekistan is dry desert, with mountains on the borders with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, but also lush river valleys in places.

    Cities and towns

    Tashkent, the capital, used to be a flourishing stop on the ancient Silk Road, but an earthquake in 1966 destroyed most of the old town. Tashkent was rebuilt, but now it’s a modern city with office buildings, hotels, parks and the occasional decrepit Soviet style block of flats. With all the new developments, the city looks quite impressive and it has a good nightlife.

    To get some feel of the country’s history, you should visit Bukhara, another former Silk Road town, whose historical architecture has survived time. The entire city seems like a museum of medieval architecture, without the taint of Soviet buildings. The most famous city in the entire country is Samarkand, whose city center is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The old town seem like a perfect setting for one of the tales in the Arabian Nights.

    What to do in Uzbekistan

    You can unleash the amateur archaeologist in you by visiting one of the country’s many archaeological sites. If you follow the Silk Road, there will be lots of interesting sights on the way. However, one of the biggest draws of Uzbekistan are its outdoor activities.

    There are some great places for hiking and rock-climbing (for example Chimgan highlands and the surrounding area). If you’re interested in nature and wildlife, visit Kyzyl Kum nature reserve and Aydar Lake.

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