The 3rd edition of our Uzbekistan guidebook Usbekistan DuMont Reise-Handbuch has been out in the book stores for a few months now – time to share some of our newly researched highlights in Uzbekistan on our travel blog. For the 3rd edition we travelled restlessly up and down the country for one month.
Uzbekistan became a booming travel destination in Central Asia over the last year, last but not least because of the recently eased visa policies of the Uzbek government. Uzbek people are keen to accommodate tourists and travellers, and therefore new guest houses and restaurants are opening all over the country.
We included a lot of new hotels in the guidebook – many of them are nice, but somewhat generic. We do have some new Uzbekistan highlights, though. The Sakura Inn Guest House in Fergana (in the Fergana Valley) and the Hotel Old Bukhara (in Bukhara) we found really outstanding.
Sakura Guesthouse in Fergana
Elsevar, the owner of the Sakura Inn, spent a few years in Japan and brought back a lot of ideas and insights on using minimal space to the maximum.
His seven rooms are located in a normal apartment block and all of them are spick and span. There is a communal kitchen and a washing machine for the use of the guests. And a big cat lounging around! Elsevar has a lot of tips for travelling in the region. He will also help in organising your onward travel in Uzbekistan.
Old Bukhara Hotel in Buchara
The Old Bukhara Hotel is located near the Kalon minaret in a quiet neighbourhood of Bukhara. The Tadjik family who runs it topped their own courtyard house with a second floor and now rents out some lovely traditionally decorated rooms. Breakfast is also divine!
Dilkor Laghman Center in Buchara
The restaurant scene develops slower than the accommodation options, but we also found some really tasty new places, like the Dilkor Laghman Center in Bukhara. You will have to take a taxi to get to this different world in the fifth micro-rayon, as the Dilkor Laghman Center is situated 3 km away from the old town. It is essentially a big canteen-style dining hall serving freshly pulled Uighur-style noodles in broth. They also have a very good selection of salads and fresh breads, but not much else (Corner of Pindastgir Street/ Alisher Navoi Street in the fifth Microrayon, Bukhara).
Gosht Burger in Tashkent
The capital city of Tashkent is becoming posher and posher every time we visit. Gosht Burger was a recommendation from a Burger chef we talked to in Samarkand. At Gosht Burger the steaks and burgers are grilled in a Josper Grill, a specialised covered charcoal-heated oven, where the grilled meat turns out especially aromatic and juicy. The interior is very stylish and they do have wonderful outdoor seating. And they also do quite good vegetarian burgers!
More highlights in Uzbekistan we enjoyed so much that they made it into our top list
Holy Cave of Davud near Samarkand
About 40 km southwest of Samarkand, we visited a local pilgrimage site. The place doubles as a pleasant nature excursion. The cave where the biblical David (= Davud) is said to have left his fingerprints is located near the top of a small mountain. 1334 concrete steps (no, we did not count them, this is just the “official” number of steps) lead up to the mountain top. There you will find a small prayer room (and lots of souvenir stalls). Then, a bit further on, there is the actual cave.
To get into the holy cave you have to squeeze through a narrow crevice. Not many foreign tourists come to Hazrat Davud and the Uzbeks are mostly pilgrims. In the cave you are expected to give a small donation and listen to a prayer by the mullah.
After the strenuous climb, the Uzbek pilgrims party in lush gardens in the valley at the bottom of the hill.
Kazakh Village near Nurata
From Nurata we did an excursion to Lake Aydarkul, a large artificial lake in the desert. Not far beyond the lake shore, the road through the desert towards Kazakhstan passes a few lonely villages.
Ruslan, who runs a guest house in Nurata, drove us to the lake and suggested a detour to Eski Dungalah, a village that was created during the Soviet period to settle previously nomadic Kazakhs. Even today it retains its nomadic atmosphere in spite of the white-washed stone houses. There is nothing but desert around them, cows and camels sit in the shade around the buildings, and even the water has to be brought in in huge tanks. One of the most memorable places we have visited in Uzbekistan and an underrated highlight!
These are just a few highlights in Uzbekistan we discovered during our last research tour through the country. Are you planning to visit Uzbekistan in the near future?
NB: Our visit to Uzbekistan was a research trip for our guidebook. Except for a few complimentary or discounted nights in guest houses, the whole trip was paid for, and organised, by ourselves. Ruslan did not charge us for the visit to Eski Dungalah (we paid for the room, though).