Tashkent, Uzbekistan: Our Trip


Tashkent is a useful base for your Uzbekistan itinerary. After all, you’ll most likely be flying in or out of the capital city. For us, it was our final destination before our outbound flight. Unpopular opinion: we’re not fans of Tashkent. That intimate charm that we enjoyed in other cities like Samarkand and Bukhara was something we didn’t feel here. Still, there are a few places we’d recommend visiting during your time here.

What we saw

Credit where credit is due – some of the information we have about each of these places was told to us during our free city guide tour. Mirvohid, our guide, was wonderful. If you want to read more about this – you know what to do.

Amir Temur Square

Not the kind of square we were expecting, but still a nice enough place to visit while you’re in the city – especially to shelter from the sun. The statue of Amir Temur dominates the square. Before that, it was a statue of Marx, and before that Stalin, Lenin and a hammer and sickle. Now, it’s Amir Temur – weighing in at 65 tonnes.

Metro Stations

Maybe not what you were expecting. If you haven’t visited Russia (like Ellie) then this will be a cool visit for you. The design of the stations feels more like a museum, or art gallery. Vast in size, with impressive pillars and artwork. Independence Square metro station (Mustaqillik Maydoni) was a personal favourite. Take the stairs and you’ll end up in Independence Square (formerly known as Lenin Square and then Red Square).

Chorsu Bazaar

As bazaars go, it wasn’t our favourite – that title goes to the one in Bukhara. Still, getting lost in the labyrinth of stalls is a nice enough way to spend a few hours. Make sure to visit during the morning to noon hours for the hustle and bustle, as well as the chance to buy something. We went in the evening for the cool weather only to find empty stalls, as well as an eerie and quiet atmosphere. If you’re buying, then make sure to haggle. Vendors will always try to charge tourists more than the asking price.

Tillya Sheikh Mosque and Minor Mosque

The Tillya Sheikh Mosque and Hazrati Imam complex are within walking distance from each other. When we visited Tashkent, the Hazrati Imam complex was under construction so we can’t really comment on anything but the exterior. Tillya Sheikh, was worth the visit. There’s almost a royal air to the interior and one that we hadn’t seen in other mosques. Further afield, there’s Minor Mosque. This was the type of mosque that we’d grown accustomed to seeing during our time in Uzbekistan. For both places, there’s no entrance fee but remember to wear appropriate clothes which cover yourself. As it happens, we noticed that nobody took offence when we forgot to cover our heads. Still, better to keep to the guidelines.

Alisher Navoiy Theatre

If you’ve got time then a trip to the Alisher Navoiy theatre to watch the ballet or opera is one you should make time for. Tickets are affordable and it’ll be a new experience. Win win. You can book tickets in person, or online via the Alisher Navoiy website. Some history for you: the was built between 1939-1947. Ask any of the locals who built the theatre, and they’ll respond with: ‘the Japanese’. Japanese soldiers who were captured during the Second World War were sent to assist in the construction. The facts keep coming – the fountain you see in the foreground symbolises the cotton industry which was once Uzebekistan’s major export. Come graduation time, you’ll see lots of university students throwing one another into the fountain.

Hotel Uzbekistan

Ok, this is far from being a must-see. If you don’t know the history, then it’s not much more than an eyesore. We’ll tell you what we know and you can decide if it’s worth your time. Hotel Uzbekistan was once considered the hotel in Uzbekistan, not that you’d believe it to look at. The design is very Soviet – you can see what we mean from our pictures. What interested us was that this hotel was the place where politicians and other VIPs used to stay. Only recently, was it revealed that these rooms were all bugged by the Soviet state to ensure that their political stance was being followed.

Palace of International Forums

Like hotel Uzbekistan, the Palace of International Forums wouldn’t be of much interest if you didn’t know a few facts. First off, it’s the most expensive building in all of Uzbekistan – valued at around half a billion USD. All of the white marble that makes up the exterior was imported by Greece and flown in via charter flight. Likewise, the soil for the garden strips are from Germany – you can see that some of the trees are already withering because they can’t cope with the Uzbek climate.

Chimgan National Park

We decided to take a trip to Tashkent’s nearest national park: Chimgan. 

You’re in for a treat – the scenery on the drive was unlike anything we’d seen so far in Uzbekistan. Mountains, lakes and deep valleys. On our our day trip, we stopped off at Amisroy, Chimgan and Charvak Lake. Several stops make the journey there worth it. You can read more about our day trip to Chimgan in our dedicated blog post.

How many days in Tashkent?

We spent four days in Tashkent. Far too many, but lots of this time was spent working remotely, writing posts for this blog and studying for a master’s. If there’d been no need to dedicate some time to these commitments then we would’ve spent less time in the capital. If you’re in Uzbekistan for travel and work is a worry for another day, then we’d suggest spending two days in Tashkent. One day for exploring the city attractions, and one day for a trip to Chimgan National Park.

Getting around

Tashkent is far larger than we expected with all the major sites scattered around the city. Imagine it like this: a child’s playroom with toys thrown all over the place. That’s how we would describe Tashkent. On the map, the most popular attractions look close to one another but in reality, you’re looking at a 30 minute walk.

Taxis are easy to hail, and there’s Yandex Go where you can order taxis, if you have an Uzbekistan sim card. We tried to use public transport, specifically the metro, simply because it’s cheaper – 1400 so’m (0,1 euro) per trip. The stations are impressive, but information about getting to each one isn’t. Metro maps are hard to come by and most signs are written in Uzbek or Russian, so finding your way can be difficult. Download this map beforehand to help you find your way around the city.

Buses and marshrutkas are also available around the city and run frequently, but make for a less comfortable journey. For this reason, we decided to give them a swerve.

Getting to Tashkent

Being the capital, reaching this Tashkent isn’t difficult. Buses, marshrutkas, and trains run to the capital from all major cities in Uzbekistan. Islam Karimov Tashkent is the city’s main airport. From here, you can catch domestic and international flights.

Accommodation

We divided our time here. A couple of nights spent with a host using the couchsurfing app – a new discovery of ours that you can read about here. In short, it’s free accommodation. All you need to do is find a host using the app.

The rest of our time was spent at Art Anor hostel. Location wise, it’s not bad. You’ll be staying around 2 km from the main city centre and you can choose between private or shared dorms. Would we recommend staying here? Well, it’s a place to put your head. The beds are comfortable enough, there’s a kitchen for the self-caterers and a decent living room area.

From our experience, the hostel scene in Central Asia is different from the likes of East Asia. It’s common for locals to use these places as temporary stays if they’re in between accommodations. In fact, this group of people outnumbered the tourists who were staying for travel purposes. The sociable atmosphere that we’d seen in our East Asia travels was less prominent here. Not too much of an issue seeing as we’re not traveling solo.

Wrap Up

You’re most likely going to end up in Tashkent at some point, either to start your Uzbekistan travels or to finish them. Either way, you don’t need to spend too many days in the capital. Tashkent lives in the shadows of cities like Samarkand and Bukhara for architecture, food, convenience and Uzbek hospitality. Spend a day or two here and then move on to bigger and better things.

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