As the new edition of our guidebook „Usbekistan“ (in German) published by MairDumont got into the bookstores in May, we had a little recap of our research tour last year and decided to pick five newly researched favourites that made it into the guidebook. Since we have already visited all the obvious tourist sites and most of the off-the-beaten track sites, our research focus these days is mostly on hotels, restaurants and food in general. But in this personal highlights in Uzbekistan list we have nevertheless included two sightseeing spots and one nature site as well – the requirement being that we had not visited the site on previous trips.
The solar furnace in Parkent
We met Ben from Young Pioneer Tours at a newly opened hostel in Samarkand. Young Pioneer Tours specializes in group tours to weird and unusual ex-soviet bloc destinations such as North Korea, and from Ben we heard about the Solar Furnace north of Tashkent for the first time. Immediately we decided that we wanted to see it.
A solar furnace is a structure that uses concentrated solar power to produce extremely high temperatures for industrial use – up to 3500 °C – it’s considerably bigger than just a magnifying lens used for lighting a fire. Only two such facilities exist worldwide, one in Uzbekistan and one in France. The Uzbek solar Furnace was built in the 1980s, in the spot with the most sunlight and the clearest air in the whole Soviet Union. Read more about our visit to the Solar Furnace)
The Sangardak Waterfall near Denau
Everything remotely connected with nature and hiking is quite a challenge for solo travellers in Uzbekistan. There are no maps and foreigners are generally not encouraged to wander off on their own. The silly hotel registration rule makes overnight trips impossible. We had heard about the Sangardak waterfall several times, but could never find out where it was exactly or how to get there. This time we just rented a car with a driver for the afternoon and had a quite relaxing time with Uzbek and Tajik families in the mountains.
(The waterfall is about 50 km from the town of Denau; we paid 100 000 Uzbek Sum for the car with driver and it took around 4 hours)
Petroglyphs in the Chimgan National Park
The petroglyphs of Chimgan were another place far off in the nature, which we had heard and read about several times before but never knew where it was: Not so far from the mountain resort of Beldersoy (1350 m), a trail leads toward the Great Chimgan Mountain, and along that path are a number of ancient petroglyphs – possibly several thousand years old. It’s a quite demanding full-day hike going up to about 2450 m.
Cafe Günes in Termez
The Café Güneş in Termez is probably the most hilarious café we have been to in our whole life. We went there because our hotel did not serve breakfast and it was close by: A dream in pink! Right over the border from Afghanistan! And the food was ok, too.
Günes Cafe, At-Termisi Street in Termez, next to the Hotels Surchon, open daily 7 am-8pm, Cafe Günes has a different name and a different colour.
Red Velvet Cake at Patisserie Bon in Tashkent
We had our first Red Velvet Cake at the Patisserie Bon in Tashkent, but an internet research quickly showed that this unique red cake had been invented during the Great Depression in the United States. The original recipe is said to be from New York City’s famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Anyway we liked the colour and it seems Red Velvet Cake is en vogue in the Muslim World: After Uzbekistan we saw it in Istanbul, in Cairo and even in Khartoum. Still it is one of our personal highlights in Uzbekistan.
Patisserie Bon!, Fidokor Street 40, daily 8 am to 8 pm