Are you looking for the most beautiful places to visit in Uzbekistan? No need to look further, cause this blogpost covers them all! Including some insider tips on how to get there and when to go!
Uzbekistan is home to some of the most spectacular sights in Central Asia. Unique madrasa’s, covered in 20 shades of blue mosaics and turquoise domes, form the typical skyline for most Uzbek cities.
It’s one of those countries that actually took me by surprise cause Uzbekistan is not on many people their bucket list. It wasn’t on mine either until I saw some photos of its architecture. In an instant I knew that I had to see this place with my very own eyes.
It was a wonderful trip where I took thousands of photos and where I fell in love with the authenticity of the Uzbek culture and architecture.
There are a ton of things to do and places to visit in Uzbekistan and probably a lot more than 20 but I always like to write from personal experience. So no adding or recommending places that I haven’t visited myself.
20 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Uzbekistan
Some of the most beautiful places in Uzbekistan can be found in Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand. And those are the exact cities that we visited during our trip around Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan is filled with unusual and historical places that will blow you away!
So let’s get started!
The Best Places To Visit in Khiva, Uzbekistan
When planning my trip to Uzbekistan I especially had high hopes for Bukhara and Samarkand. Little did I know that Khiva would absolutely take my breath away. To me Khiva is definitely one of those places one should see before they die. The historical town of Khiva is so tiny and small that within 10 minutes you’ll be from the East Gate to the West Gate. But it’s exactly its size that makes it so enjoyable. Below you’ll find the best photography locations in Khiva, when to visit them and the best place to stay during your visit.
💡 Good to know – At the West Gate you can purchase an Itchen Kala ticket for 150.000 SUM that will give you access to all of the attractions inside the city. Plus this ticket is valid for 2 days!
1. Kalta Minor Minaret, one of the most spectacular locations in Uzbekistan
Before you even enter the old city of Khiva you’ll see the turquoise Kalta Minor minaret shimmering in the sunlight from far away.
The Kalta Minor is an unfinished minaret located near the west entrance to the Ichan Kala (synonim for the old city). It was commissioned in 1851 by Mohammed Amin Khan, the ruler of Khiva, and was supposed to reach a height of 70 meters. Unfortunately he died before the minaret was finished in battle against the Persians. But even just at a height of 26 meters it’s one of the most beautiful manmade structures I have ever seen.
The Kalta Minor was built by some of the finest architects and artists in Khiva and as soon as they realized it would remain unfinished they decided to decorate it. you won’t find any other minaret in Uzbekistan that is so colorful in its decorations and details.
Fun Fact – Kalta Minor actually means ‘short minaret’.
How to get there – You pretty much can’t miss this beautiful turquoise and blue minaret. As soon as you walk through the West Gate you’ll be greeted by it.
When to go – Go in the early morning to avoid the harsh sunlight BUT make sure to come back for sunset! The sun bounces off the mosaics and gives a golden glow to the surrounding sand colored structures. You can’t visit the minaret inside.
💡 TIP – Enjoy the sunset view from the rooftop restaurant at Terrassa Cafe
2. Mohammed Amin Khan Madrasa
Right next to the Kalta Minor minaret you’ll find the beautiful Mohammed Amin Khan Madrasa. The Madrasa is actually connected to the minaret through a small wooden bridge.
These days however the building is no longer used as a madrasa. Instead it became one of the finest hotels in entire Uzbekistan: Orient Star Khiva Hotel.
As you can already guess from its name the Mohammed Amin Khan Madrasa was commissioned by the same ruler as the Kalta Minor Minaret. But due to his untimely beheading none of his architectural masterpieces were ever completely finished.
How to get there – This Madrasa is located right next to the previous Minaret and also serves as a hotel.
When to go – Go in the early morning to get the best light. There are no gates so you can admire the madrasa from the outside 24/7.
3. Kuhna Ark Fortress
The Kuhna Ark is a fortified citadel at the heart of Khiva, nestled against the western ramparts of the Ichan Kala immediately north of the city’s west gate. Just like the Forbidden City in Beijing it was conceived as a self-contained universe for the exclusive use of the ruler, his harem, his many advisors and servants, and members of the extended family.
There’s only one entrance and the entire complex is fenced off by stone walls. Although they didn’t proof to be too strong when it comes to Russian artillery.
Inside the Kuhna Ark Fortress is divided into different complexes all fulfilling separate functions. There’s the Summer Mosque, the Reception Courtyard, the Ak Sheikh Bobo bastion and the harem.
How to get there – This museum is located next to the Western Gate and the entrance is actually right in front of the Kalta Minor. You can see its entrance on the sunset photo above, it’s the wooden gate between the two turquoise domed pillars. The blue tiles can be found at the back!
When to go – Opening times are 9am to 6pm.
💡 TIP – The entrance fee to Kuhna Ark Fortress is included in the Itchen Kala tickets that you can buy at the West Gate.
4. Juma Mosque – A unique wooden mosque in Khiva
Khiva’s Juma, also known as the Friday’s mosque is located in the heart of the Itchen Kala.
The mosque was designed to house a large number of congregants as equals before the imam and Allah, and for this reason it differs substantially from the typical open-air courtyard-centric architecture that predominates in Khiva. Most mosques in Uzbekistan have arched entrances and domes, but not this one!
Inside you’ll find some of the most beautiful wooden craftsmanship. Over 213 wooden columns support the structure and the Juma Mosque was built on the remains of a former mosque which stood in that exact same place.
There are almost no windows, only a few openings in the ceiling which create a dazzling scenery of dancing light.
How to get there – The Juma Mosque is only 5 minutes walking from the Kalta-Minor Minaret and one of the most beautiful places to visit in Uzbekistan.
When to go – I advise you to go as soon as it opens cause you really want to take out your wide angle lens in this place! Opening hours are from 9am until 6pm.
💡 TIP – The entrance fee to Juma Mosque is included in the Itchen Kala tickets that you can buy at the West Gate.
5. Mohammed Rakhim Khan Madrasa
The madrasa of Mohammed Rakhim Khan occupies a prominent location opposite the Kuhna Ark, the fortified heart of the city. They started building the madrasa right before the Russian invasion so by the time it was finished it wasn’t just a regular islamic school. It also taught other subjects such as astronomy, geography and mathematics.
At present, the madrasa houses a museum showcasing the history of the Khivan Khanate and Mohammed Rakhim Khan in particular.
How to get there – Well since Khiva is so tiny this Madrasa can also be found right next to the Kalta-Minor Minaret.
When to go – Go a little after sunrise or sunset
6. Islam Khodja Minaret, another beautiful place to see in Khiva
With its 57 meters, the Islam Khodja Minaret is the tallest minaret in entire Uzbekistan. The site is named after Islam Khodja, the grand vizier (yes, like Jafar) of Muhammad Rahmi Bahadur II. He was a modernizer who introduced new amenities to the city including a hospital, telegraph office, and non-parochial schools.
The minaret was used as a tower to call for prayers but due to its impressive height it also led a lot of travelers to the city of Khiva. These days you can also climb up the minaret, an activity I highly recommend doing! Especially in the early hours when the morning light hits the entire old city of Khiva.
How to get there – There are two beautiful viewpoints to this Minaret. One is from the main square right in front of it, the other one is in the side street on the right.
When to go – If you want to take the best photos in front of the minaret you have to go at sunrise. A little later the vendor stalls will be out and a red chord will be places around the minaret to guide visitors to the entrance. Opening hours of the Islam Khodja Minaret are from 8am until 6pm.
💡 TIP – The entrance fee to the Islam Khodja Minaret is not included in the standard ticket, only in the VIP ticket. If you have the standard ticket er no ticket at all you’ll have to pay a fee of 20.000 SOM (€1.5).
7. Yar Mohammed Divan Mosque
How to get there – This beautiful mosque is a must visit when you’re in Khiva. It is located in the side alley near the Islam Khoja Minaret.
When to go – You can just visit this place during the middle of the day and still take beautiful photos!
8. Hidden Carpet Store & The Bazaars
How to get there – This beautiful photography spot in Uzbekistan is located between the Yar Mohammed Divan Mosque and the Islam Khoja Minaret.
When to go – We arrived in the late afternoon and it wasn’t busy at all. We asked the owner of the store if it was okay to take some photos and she was incredibly nice.
9. Tash Khauli Palace, one of those interesting places in Uzbekistan
The Tash Khauli Palace, also known as the Stone Palace, is a 19th-century palace and the former residence of the ruler of Khiva, Allah Kuli Khan.
It took 8 years to built the structure, which never pleased the khan: he wanted this big project to be completed in 2 years’ time. Many master builders lost their heads for this reason.
All the parts of Tash-Khauli are connected with a labyrinth of dim corridors. So don’t refrain from going through every single door during your visit. Some of the most beautiful courtyards of this place are hidden behind a small corner or doorway.
How to get there – The entrance to the harem part of the palace is located on the East side.
When to go – Go as soon as it opens at 9am. A little later vendors will put out their stalls throughout the entire place. The official opening hours for Tash Khauli Palace are 9am to 6pm.
💡 TIP – The entrance fee to the Tash Khauli Palace is included in both the standard and VIP Itchen Kala ticket.
Where to stay in Khiva
- Orient Star Khiva Hotel – This hotel is located inside the Mohammed Amin Khan Madrassah and offers a spectacular view from the balconies.
- Erkin Palace Hotel – Located right outside the old city center.
- Hotel Malika Kheivak – In the heart of Khiva and an amazing breakfast spread.
The Best Places to visit in Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Bukhara is another ancient city in the center of Uzbekistan. It was a well known stop on the Silk Road and a must visit place when traveling through Uzbekistan.
The abundance of mosques, architectural marvels, blue domes and detailed mosaics have transformed Bukhara into an open air museum. One where you can stroll around at ease without any car disturbing you. It creates an authentic feeling that is truly unique in the travel industry these days. You almost feel like you’re getting transported back in time.
Below I will list all of the most beautiful places and the best photography viewpoints that you can find in Bukhara!
10. Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasa
The Nadir Divan-begi Madrasa is a puzzling piece of architecture as it resembles a caravanserai—a combination warehouse and hostel for traveling caravans. Evidence for this is that the main entrance opens directly onto the courtyard; the usual practice is to provide a screen wall to shield the interior courtyard from the public eye.
But besides all of these curiosities the main reason for walking over to this madrasa is its incredible tile work! Make sure to snap some photos during your visit and also take a peek inside cause the Nadir Divan-begi Madrasa is free to visit. Inside you’ll find a beautiful courtyard that is lined with souvenir shops.
How to get there – The outside facade of this Madrasa is incredibly stunning and is located next to a small park.
When to go – Make sure to be there at sunrise! This one doesn’t work during sunset cause the blue won’t stand out that much because of the light and during the day it will be covered in ugly shadows coming from the trees nearby.
11. Chor Minor, one of those unusual places in Uzbekistan
Chor Minor, what literally means four towers, is a little tucked away in the streets of Bukhara. The purpose of the building is not entirely clear, but it likely served as the forepart of a spacious madrasa which no longer survives.
The four towers include cryptic references to religions other than Islam including Christianity, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism. And indeed, there are certain designs that resemble a Christian upturned fish, and others that faintly resemble the Buddhist “wheel of the law”.
How to get there – Chor Minor is located on the East side of Bukhara and 15 minutes walking from the city center. I went with the idea to go up on the tower to take photos but unfortunately the woman that holds the key wasn’t there.
When to go – Go for sunrise or sunset if you can. When we were there the gate was closed unfortunately and the street vendors across the street said none of them had a key. But it is at time possible to go up the roof of Chor Minor for an additional fee of 4000 SOM.
12. Abdulaziz Khan Madrasa, one of the most beautiful places in entire Uzbekistan
The Abdulaziz Khan Madrasa definitely is one of the most spectacular places to visit in Bukhara, maybe even in entire Uzbekistan! The colorful tile work in the arch dates back to the 17th century and is a perfect representation of medieval art in Central Asia.
When you’re here make sure to turn around as well cause right across from the Abdulaziz Khan Madrasa you’ll find the Ulugh Beg Madrasa. It’s a lot more modest in design but its history is phenomenal as one of the best madrasa’s in entire Uzbekistan.
How to get there – This Madrassah was one of my favourite places to visit in Uzbekistan and is located in the middle of the city centre of Bukhara. The easiest way to get here is to go on foot. We also took a look inside but it’s not well preserved at all.
When to go – Go at sunrise, from 9am the entrance will be blocked by a lot of vendors and it will be impossible to take any photo without a ton of souvenir stalls in front of it.
13. Kalyan Minaret
The Kalyan Minaret is part of the the Po-i Kalyan Complex, one of the most beautiful locations in Uzbekistan. The Kalyan Minaret is one of the most prominent features of the city of Bukhara and with its 45 meters it towers high above the city.
The Kalyan Minaret is also known as the ‘Tower of Death’ because for centuries, it was used to execute criminals by throwing them off the tower.
How to get there – The Minaret is located in the middle of the city center and is best reached on foot. For a stunning sunset view have dinner at Minor Cafe House.
When to go – Go for sunrise to avoid the crowds. It’s also stunning during sunset but there will be a lot more people out and about.
14. Mir-i-Arab Madrasa
The Mir-i-Arab Madrasa is also part of the Po-i Kalyan Complex. Until this day the madrasa is still an active school and for that reason it can only be admired from the outside. Pretty impressive if you consider that this building already stand over 500 years!
How to get there – You can’t actually visit this Madrassah, at least so we were told by the people at the entrance. However the outside makes for stunning photos! It is conveniently located next to the Minaret.
When to go – Go during sunset.
15. Kalyan Mosque
The Kalyan Mosque is the third part of the Po-i Kalyan Complex and is located right in front of the Mir-i-Arab Madrasa. But in contrast to the school you can actually visit this mosque. The Kalyan Mosque serves as the Friday mosque and is the largest in central Asia apart from the Bibi Khanum mosque in Samarkand and the Friday Mosque of Herat, Afghanistan.
How to get there – This mosque is located on the opposite side of the Madrasa and for 10.000 SOM you can also visit it inside.
When to go – The light is the most beautiful during sunset and the Mosque only opens at 8am and closes at 8pm.
16. The Ark of Bukhara
The Ark of Bukhara is the city’s oldest structure and is an absolute delight to visit in the early morning. It’s definitely one of the most special places to visit in Bukhara!
During the course of history the Ark of Bukhara has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. And by the start of the 20th century the Ark was inhabited by nearly 3000 people, making it a city within a city.
How to get there – This fortress is 10 minutes walking from the Po-i Kalyan Complex
When to go – The official opening hours for the Ark of Bukhara are from 8am until 8pm.
17. Chor Bakr Memorial Complex
The Chor Bakr Necropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located about 20 minutes driving from the centre of Bukhara.
Chor Bakr is also known as the ‘Town of the Dead’ but when you walk around the complex you’ll see a lot of mausoleums, a beautiful garden with peacocks running around, a minaret, a mosque and a madrasa.
How to get there – This location is a 20 minute drive from Bukhara but in my honest opinion totally worth the visit. A taxi ride there and back to the city centre (including a 20 minute wait) should be around 60.000 SUM. Chor Bakr is one of those hidden gems in Uzbekistan that not many people know of and therefore one of the more unique places to visit in Uzbekistan.
This photo was taken on top of the roof.
The entrance fee is 15.000 SUM and an extra 5000 SUM to take photos.
To get to the roof simply ask one of the guys there and for 10 000 SUM/per person they will take you up.
When to go – 8am to 5.30pm from Monday to Friday and 8am until 6pm during the weekend.
Where to stay in Bukhara
- Komil Bukhara Boutique Hotel – An incredible boutique hotel in the heart of Bukhara. The rooms are decorated in true Uzbek style and the breakfast is amazing!
The Best Places to visit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Samarkand is the highlight for almost everyone when visiting Uzbekistan. It does however have a completely different feel than Khiva and Bukhara. The city itself is more modern and the monuments are spread out over the city.
So unlike in Khiva and Bukhara you can’t just stroll around without bumping into a car. Then again the top sights in Samarkand are pretty much open air museums in their very own right!
Registan is an enormous complex that consists of 3 beautiful Madrassah’s. Make sure to visit every single one of them and that you spend at least half a day here!
The entrance fee is 40.000 SUM/per person and the ticket is valid all day long.
Opening hours: 8am – 7pm
How to get there – When staying at B&B Antica Registan is only 15 minutes walking.
When to go – Make sure to be there at opening time. It is possible to go inside a little earlier. But you will have to pay one of the guards to be let in (100.000 SUM). Important to know is that during this time you can’t take photos on the courtyard cause there are camera’s. You can however go inside one of the Madrassah’s and go on the balconies!
💡 TIP – Come back in the evening to see the domes and the madrasa’s lit up!
If I have to chose one favorite place in Uzbekistan is is definitely Shah-i-Zinda! This sacred necropolis is one of the best places to visit in Uzbekistan and will blow you away as soon as you set foot inside.
How to get there – If you go on a sunrise mission to take photos I advise you to take a taxi. Shah-i-Zinda is absolutely magical early in the morning and one of the most incredible places to visit in Uzbekistan!
Entrance fee – 25.000 SUM/per person
When to go – The complex opens at 7am and I strongly advise you to be there on time. This will give you plenty of time to take stunning photos before the crowds arrive.
💡 TIP – Shah-i-Zinda is a sacred place so make sure to cover your shoulders and knees when visiting.
The enormous Gur-e-Amir is one of the most impressive mausoleums in Uzbekistan and a spectacular place to visit in Samarkand.
Fun Fact – The architecture of Gur-e-Amir inspired the construction of the Taj Mahal in India.
How to get there – Gur-e Amir is located around the corner of Antica B & B Samarkand.
Entrance fee – 25.000 SUM/per person
When to go – Go during sunset
💡 TIP – Gur-e-Amir is a sacred place so make sure to cover your shoulders and knees when visiting.
Where to stay in Samarkand
- Antica B & B Samarkand – A cute local B & B with a main garden. Not to mention, the breakfast is absolutely amazing and freshly made every single day.
- Bibikhanum Hotel – A cute hotel that offers rooms with a balcony and a stunning view over the Bibi-Khanym Mosque.
I hope you enjoyed this article on the most beautiful places in Uzbekistan! If you have any more questions feel free to drop them in the comment section below!
Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.