Bukhara, Uzbekistan: Our Trip

Bukhara was easily one of our favourite cities in Uzbekistan – just when we thought there was no topping Samarkand. For us, the city is the epitome of all that makes Uzbekistan what it is. You’ve got the mesmersing architecture; the history which spans thousands of years and bazaars with the best-looking somsas.

In this post, we’re going to tell you all that we saw, where we stayed, how we got around and the places that you can give a miss if you’re short on time or money (or both).

What We Saw

First off – we explored Bukhara city on foot. Conveniently for us (and you) most of these places are within walking distance from each other, so you’re not having to travel out of the way to see them.

Chor Minor

Our city stroll started off with Chor Minor, which is close to the Lyabi-Khauz. There’s no entrance fee. We strolled by and admired the four towers with their blue domes. A quick Google search will tell you that these towers represent the world’s four religions. A touching sentiment that was lost on us while we compared the architecture to eraser-topped pencils. Check out our reel and you’ll see exactly what we mean.

Lyabi Khauz

This is Bukhara’s hot spot. In the square, you’ve got architecture giants: Kukeldash Madrasah and Nodir Divan-begi. From here, you’ve got narrow streets branching off which are lined with stalls. In the centre, an impressive fountain which you’ll long to jump in to cool yourself from the heat (we managed to resist the urge). If you’ve got some more money to spend then there are some nice restaurants on either side of the fountain.

We visited during the day and evening. Two very different feels at different times of the day – if you’ve got time then we’d suggest doing the same. We took a walk to Taqi-Telpakfurushon market from here and admired all of the trinkets on sale too.

Nadir Divangbegi Madrasah

Next up on our architecture appreciation crawl was the Nadir Divangbegi madrasah, which is in the east of Lyabi-Khauz. The madrasah is named after the vizir who ordered its construction. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t able to go inside as there was a private event taking place. We were impressed by the outside so we’re sure you’ll be in for a treat if you can actually make it in.

Mir-i-Arab Madrasah

We thought we’d be indifferent to the Uzbekistan architecture by this point, but apparently not. Mir-i-Arab madrasah is within walking distance from the above-mentioned places and displays that distinctive character we came to love during our visit: jade blue colours, dome topped towers and a mosaic design.

Kalon Minaret

This is one of the main attractions in Bukhara, and impossible to miss. The minaret dates back to the early 12th century and was once used as a place to call religious individuals to prayer. In later years it was used as an execution setting. Interesting juxtaposition.

Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Bukhari Shrine

This was the only sight we visited which was not in the city centre – around 6km out. The feel of the place is very different to the mosques we visited in Samarkand, but impressive in its own way. Less intimate, and far more spacious – it gives the impression of a small citadel. We spent around an hour walking here.

The entrance is free but you need to remember to dress appropriately. For women, that means covering your hair, shoulders and legs. We didn’t know this before we arrived. As it turned out, we were still allowed entry. Still, we’d suggest following the appropriate attire.

Ark Fortress

This fortress dominates the centre of Bukhara and dates back to the 4th century. Inside, you can check out what were once rooms but are now small museum exhibits detailing the long history.

The entrance ticket is 40,000 s’om (3,1 euro) for foreigners. Honestly, we don’t think it’s worth it. The displays were interesting enough but didn’t match up to the long history that the fortress boasted of – most exhibits were made in the early twentieth century.

If money and time are in short supply, then we’d suggest investing both elsewhere.

Sitorai-Mokhi-Khosa Palace

The Emir of Bukhara first built this in the mid 19th century, and the palace has since undergone renovation and some destruction too. There’s a rich history to this place which we suggest you check out before visiting – but that’s a job for Wikipedia, rather than us. You’ll find peacocks strutting around in the gardens and rooms converted into exhibits that have traditional garment and decorative ornaments on display. The interior of each room is one we took an immediate liking to – a very ‘Ottoman empire’ kind of feel.

The summer palace is around 4km from the city centre, and easily reached by public and private transport. A foreigner entrance ticket will cost around 20,000 so’m (1,5 euro).

How many days in Bukhara?

We stayed 30 km from Bukhara in one of the city’s neighbouring villages. We spent three days in this area, but only two days in the city itself. If you’re planning on seeing similar things to us then two days is ample. It gives you enough time to explore the city centre and for a couple of trips to the outskirts.

We spent 3 days in the Bukhara area, although we didn’t spend all three full days in Bukhara, as we were staying with a family who lived in a nearby village. Read more about our Couchsurfing experience in Uzbekistan here.

Getting around

We tried our hand at couchsurfing and our host fast became a friend. When we said about taking a bus to the city, he grabbed his car keys and drove us there instead. For the rest of our time in Bukhara, he drove us to all of the sights and explored with us. Easily the best first couchsurfing experience we could’ve asked for. You can read all about it here.

No worries, you don’t need to befriend a local to reach the sights. It’s possible to hire a taxi driver for the whole day so you can hit all of the sights. Just remember to haggle and agree on a price beforehand. If you’re a foreigner and don’t speak Russian then this can be difficult to do. Had it not been for our Uzbeki host/friend, then we would’ve found ourselves paying far more than the fair asking price.

To help our readers who don’t want to get ripped off, we’ve done some of the legwork for you. We’ve partnered up with local drivers who will offer affordable prices for their driving services. No haggling, no extortionate rates. If you’re interested then you can check out our website: Uzbek Heritage Tours.

If you’re like Ellie and can spend hours on end walking, then make sure to book accommodation central in Bukhara. All of the major sites can be visited on foot, you’ll just need to brace yourselves for the heat.

Getting to Bukhara

Bukhara is one of Uzbekistan’s major cities which means it can be easily reached by public transport. If you’re choosing to travel by train then make sure to book in advance using this website – your chances of buying a ticket on the day are pretty slim. Prices will vary depending on which carriage you pick, but you can expect to spend anything in the region of 100,000 so’m (7,9 euro) to 300,000 so’m (23,8 euro)- depending on which city you’re travelling from.

If you’re travelling by bus, then you can purchase tickets online or in person here.

We did neither. That awesome couchsurfing host of ours happened to be in Samarkand at the same time as us and offered to drive us to Bukhara. No cost and hours of reggaeton at Sara’s request (if you’re reading this – sorry for our dreadful singing Jack!)

Accommodation

Hostels and hotels are easy enough to find in Bukhara. In the case of hostels, sometimes it’s worth showing up rather than booking in advance, as the price can be cheaper (especially if you’re travelling with a local). We went down the couchsurfing route: a place to rest our heads free of charge.

Whichever you decide, try to book somewhere central so your time isn’t wasted on using public transport.

Wrap Up

You won’t be disappointed with your time in Bukhara. Two full days are enough to lose yourself in the architecture and devour as many somsas as humanly possible.

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