Are you looking for the best things to do and see in Bukhara? No need to look further cause this Bukhara travel guide covers all of the best places that you can visit!
Bukhara is located on the Silk Road and has long served as a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Uzbekistan and just like the city of Khiva, the old city of Bukhara is like an open air museum without any cars.
So what’s there to see in Bukhara?
Bukhara is a wonderful mix of the hustle and bustle that is the big city of Samarkand and the sand stone alleys of the always peaceful Khiva. The city is an ocean of mosques madrasa’s and other architectural marvels, surrounded by the modern sprawl of the city.
Compared to the sometimes overly touristy vibes that you get in Samarkand, the city of Bukhara feels like a breath of fresh air. Yes, there are a ton of shops but it’s not overwhelming in the streets.
You can at least spend a couple of days exploring the best places in Bukhara. Below you can find my top picks of things to do in Bukhara!
- 15 Spectacular Things To See And Do In Bukhara Uzbekistan
- A brief history of Bukhara
- How to reach Bukhara
- Why you should visit Bukhara
- When is the best time to visit Bukhara
- Where to stay in Bukhara
- What to do in Bukhara – 15 The best things to do in Bukhara
- 1. Spend the morning at Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasa
- 2. Take photos in front of the Abdulaziz Khan Madrasa
- 3. Visit the Kalyan Mosque
- 4. Have dinner with a view over the Po-i Kalyan Complex
- 5. Walk next to the historic Ark of Bukhara
- 6. Check out the Bolo Hauz Mosque
- 7. Take a peek inside the Mir-i-Arab Madrasa
- 8. Visit the Abdulaziz Khan Madrasa and have a look at former student life
- 9. Go down history lane at the Ulugh Beg Madrasa
- 10. Sip on tea at a local teahouse in Bukhara
- 11. Admire the Kalyan Minaret
- 12. Go shopping at the ancient Silk Road trading domes
- 13. Take a trip to the Chor Bakr Memorial Complex
- 14. Visit the strange Chor Minor
- 15. Take as many photos as possible
- How many days do you need in Bukhara
- Getting around Bukhara
15 Spectacular Things To See And Do In Bukhara Uzbekistan
Bukhara was our second stop on this whirlwind trip through Uzbekistan and it immediately stole my heart. From the warm welcome we received at the hotel we were staying at to the beauty of all the intricate archways and turquoise domes.
And just like with Khiva, once you enter the old city all of the top sightseeing attractions are within walking distance.
A brief history of Bukhara
Bukhara is an oasis city, located right in the middle of the desert. Once located on the Great Silk Road, Bukhara is one of the oldest cities and its history exceeds 2500 years. Because of that the city has long been a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion.
It attained its greatest importance in the late sixteenth century, when the Shaybanids’ possessions (a Dinasty in Central Asia) included most of Central Asia as well as northern Persia and Afghanistan. Education courses during this period included theological sciences, mathematics, jurisprudence, logic, music, and poetry.
This system had a positive influence upon development and wide circulation of the Uzbek language and the city remained well-known and influential through the nineteenth century, playing a significant part in cultural and religious life of the region.
Its old city section, which was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, is famous as a “living museum” and a center for international tourism.
It is the most complete example of a medieval city in Central Asia, with an urban fabric that has remained largely intact.
How to reach Bukhara
Chances are very high you’ll be traveling to Bukhara from either Samarkand or Khiva so those are the two options that we will discuss below. It’s also possible to travel from Tashkent to Bukhara but that would mean you would either skip Samarkand or Khiva, which I do not recommend, or that your travel itinerary would make zero sense.
By train – From Samarkand you can take a train straight to Bukhara every 3 hours. The train ride itself will last about 1.5 hour.
💡 TIP – On the day of departure, arrive 1 hour in advance at the train station. There might be long queues at the entrance (especially in Tashkent) where your luggage and passport get checked.
💡 TIP – Don’t forget to bring your passport cause you need it for booking your ticket!
💡 TIP – Especially during high season it’s best to buy your train ticket a day in advance at the local train station.
By train – There’s a daily train running from Khiva to Bukhara which has a transfer in Urgentsch.
By private transfer – Another option is to take a private transfer from Khiva to Bukhara! You can arrange this at your hotel. The drive will take 6 to 7 hours and costs 40USD. The good thing about taking a private transfer is that you can also make a stop along the way to visit the Khorezm fortresses. It will add about 1 hour to your total driving time but is highly worth the trip!
Why you should visit Bukhara
There are endless reasons why you should visit Bukhara but I’ve listed my favorite ones for you below:
- There are a ton of sacred sites in Bukhara – Legend says that the prophet Job (from the Old Testament) performed a miracle in Bukhara: he struck the desert sand with his staff and water spew from the ground. This is the reason why Bukhara is an oasis.
- It’s a place where you can walk around for days and marvel at spectacular architecture.
- Bukhara has some buildings that are over a thousand years old and the old centre hasn’t changed much since its original construction.
- Bukhara is a city where you can find a ton of ancient water pools which help in reflecting the blue mosaics even more.
When is the best time to visit Bukhara
The best time to travel to Uzbekistan is from April until October. Outside of these months the temperatures drop immensely. We traveled to Uzbekistan at the end of October and start of November and I honestly don’t recommend it to anyone. Our toes were freezing off and we were wearing 3 layers of clothing and thermal underwear the entire time.
On the other hand you’ll also want to avoid the months of June, July and August cause temperatures get crazy hot and can go up to 40°C/ 104°F.
So the best month for good weather which isn’t either melting your face off or freezing your toes the months of April, May and September are your best option! These months temperatures will range from 14°C to 26°C/ 57°F- 87°F.
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!
- Hotel Fatima Boutique – A cute boutique hotel in true Uzbek style that is located in the heart of the touristic area of Bukhara.
What to do in Bukhara – 15 The best things to do in Bukhara
1. Spend the morning at 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.
Opening hours – 9am until 8pm daily
Entrance fee – Free
💡 TIP – Go in the early morning for the best photography light.
2. Take photos in front of the Abdulaziz Khan Madrasa
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.
3. Visit the 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.
Opening hours – From 8am until 8pm daily
Entrance fee – 10.000 SOM
4. Have dinner with a view over the Po-i Kalyan Complex
The Po-i Kalyan Complex is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Bukhara and it’s not hard to see why! This small square holds a mosque, a madrasa and one of the most beautiful minarets in entire Uzbekistan.
And right across from this wonderful square is a fabulous Uzbek restaurant: The Chasmai-Mirob Restaurant is an unmissable stop during your visit of Bukhara. The restaurant lies in a small alley and the ground floor looks pretty random. But once you reach the top floor you’ll see what all the fuss is about. There’s a terrace overlooking the entire The Po-i Kalyan Complex but if you would be cold you can also have dinner inside.
This is a great place to try some of the traditional Uzbek dishes such as Plov, Shashlik, Lagman soup or Dimlama.
5. Walk next to the historic 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 top attractions 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.
Opening hours – From 8am until 8pm
Entrance fee – 15.000 SOM
💡 TIP – There’s a camera fee of 5000 SOM
6. Check out the Bolo Hauz Mosque
The Bolo Hauz Mosque is located a little outside of the centre but definitely a must visit place in Bukhara. It’s most impressive feature are definitely the large wooden pillars with all its intricate carvings and I personally loved the green mosaics on the ceiling. They were a little more understated than all of the others in Uzbekistan but sometimes that’s a good thing.
The mosque was built in the 17th century and if you wish to visit the inside you’ll have to take off your shoes. As a women you do not need to wear a headscarf.
7. Take a peek inside the 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!
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.
8. Visit the Abdulaziz Khan Madrasa and have a look at former student life
The Abdulaziz Khan Madrasa is an architectural masterpiece of medieval Central Asia and its interior might be even more beautiful.
First you’ll bump into a bunch of local street vendors all displaying their finest wear and jewellry for you to browse. But there are also two mosques inside of this madrasa. The summer and winter mosques in the madrasa are also splendidly decorated. The winter mosque is in the western corner of the entrance hall; the summer mosque stands right in the courtyard.
You can also visit one of the former dormitories of the students. It’s crazy to think some of these tiny rooms used to be classrooms and that students actually lived here.
Opening hours – Opens at 9am
Entrance fee – 13.000 SOM and your ticket is valid for 3 days.
9. Go down history lane at the Ulugh Beg Madrasa
The Ulugh Beg Madrasa is a lot more modest in design but its history is phenomenal as it’s one of the best madrasa’s in entire Uzbekistan.
There are a few small shops inside but the architecture simply can’t compare to that of other buildings in Bukhara.
It was completed in 1417 and is one of the few remains of the Timurid Empire in Bukhara. During these days Bukhara was the Islamic capital of Central Asia but sultan Ulugh Beg of the Timurid Empire also wanted to make it a centre for science and education. For this reason he built this madrasa in Bukhara, hoping it would attract scholars and scientist to the city of Bukhara.
Entrance fee – Free
10. Sip on tea at a local teahouse in Bukhara
There are a lot of tea traditions in Uzbekistan and tea is also the main drink in this country. So it suffices to say that you can’t leave Uzbekistan without trying out one of the local teahouses.
The most popular Uzbek tea is green tea and it’s originally taken without sugar.
The chaikhana (tea-house) is an institution in Uzbekistan. It’s a place where people come to drink tea, talk with friends and relax. Often the chaikhanas are the towns social centre within small communities. They can be quite simple, just a small group of table/s under a tree in the shade or have a more elaborate layout located in picturesque surroundings, shaded with trees or vines spreading their branches over a steel or wooden frame next to pool full of water.
11. Admire the 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.
12. Go shopping at the ancient Silk Road trading domes
I always love to bring home a souvenir from my travels. Wether it’s a piece of clothing or something to further decorate my house with. Well Bukhara is an excellent city to do just that!
As you might recall, Bukhara used to have a prominent position on he Silk Road and used to be a very successful trading centre. The city was covered with markets and trading domes and today four of these trading domes still remain: Toqi Telpak Furushon, Tim Abdulla Khan Trading Dome, Toqi Sarrofon Bazaar, and Toqi Zargaron Trading Dome.
They are located within the city centre and chances are very high you’ll pass through several of them while exploring Bukhara.
13. Take a trip to the 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.
Opening hours – 8am to 5.30pm from Monday to Friday and 8am until 6pm during the weekend.
Entrance fee – The entrance fee is 15.000 SUM and an extra 5000 SUM to take photos.
14. Visit the strange Chor Minor
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”.
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.
15. Take as many photos as possible
The city of Bukhara is a fantastic place to visit and one of the best things that you can possibly do is take hundreds of photos! You won’t find architecture like this anywhere else in the world.
One of the biggest tips I can give you is to bring a wide angle lens with you. It’s the only way to capture the grandeur of these buildings!
I used the Canon ED 16-35 to capture 80% of all of my photos in Uzbekistan.
How many days do you need in Bukhara
I would say you need at least 2 full days to be able to explore everything at ease in Bukhara. You don’t want to speed through all of the sightseeing and all of the buildings contain so many details that it would be a shame to rush through them.
Getting around Bukhara
The city of Bukhara is on the smaller side and if you stay at one of the suggested hotels you’ll be able to explore all of the top attractions in Bukhara on foot.
The only time that you’ll need a taxi is if you want to visit the Chor Bakr Memorial Complex.