Presentation of the destination
With a population of over 2.2 million, modern Tashkent is a strange and beguiling mix of Muslim and Soviet influences, where shiny new offices rub shoulders with mud-walled houses. Historically, Tashkent was a vital stopping point on the Silk Road to China, and an influx of Turkish, Persian and Chinese merchants shaped its early history. The city became Muslim in the eighth century A.D., was destroyed by Genghis Khan in 1219, but managed to rebuild and thrive. In 1865 it was conquered by the Russian Empire, and in Soviet times suffered many privations. Now the city contains a variety of ethnicities dominated by ethnic Uzbeks, although Russian is still more widely understood than the official language, Uzbek. Surprisingly, the city has a Mediterranean climate, albeit with colder winters. The currency is the Uzbekistani Som.
Points of interests / things to see
Discover an exotic world of colour, noise and texture at the Chorsu Bazaar. Right in the heart of the old town, next to Chorsu Square, this is the biggest and oldest bazaar in all of central Asia, and has been operating on the same spot for over 2000 years. The current building dates to the 1980s, with seven vast domes covered in colourful glazed tiles. Inside, Chorsu is a veritable cornucopia of products, from mounds of brightly coloured scented spices such as saffron, pepper, cardamom and cloves to delicious dried apricots and plums, almonds, pistachios and walnuts. Grab a bag of peanuts with honey and sesame, the speciality of the market, and browse past stalls where craftsmen sell beautiful silver jewellery, intricate embroidered textiles, colourful silks, furniture covered with detailed metalwork, pichok knives, musical instruments and beautiful glazed pottery, as well as some of the most beautiful carpets from as far as Khiva, Afghanistan and Turkey. The bazaar is also a great place to try plov, the Uzbek national dish of rice and lamb. Address: 1 Zarqaynar Street, Tashkent. Opening hours: 9am – 6pm every day. Cash only.
The most famous historical building of Tashkent, and one of the few remaining buildings from the 16th century, Kukeldash Madrassah is an architectural marvel. Once the very heart of life in the city, the madrasah was conveniently situated between the market, the craftsman's quarters and the caravanserai inns where travelling merchants stayed on their way to and from China. The madrasah was a kind of religious school, with two or three students occupying each room and regular calls to prayer from the muezzin, but also functioned as a gathering point for Tashkent’s citizens, where gossip was swapped, edicts were read aloud and executions carried out for all to see. The madrasah has survived two earthquakes, been a fortress and a hotel, and is once again used as a religious building, with Muslims from all over the city flocking to services held at the mosque here. The graceful proportions of the architecture and incredible detailing of the tiles are guaranteed to captivate visitors. Situated just south of Chorsu Bazaar on Beruni Avenue, entrance is free.
One of Central Asia's oldest museums, the State Museum of the History of Uzbekistan was founded in 1876, and now contains over 250,000 exhibits about Uzbek history and prehistory spread over four floors. Many of the exhibits here are world-class, including a stunning statue of the Buddha dating from the first century A.D., remains of a primitive man from 1.5 million years BC found in the Sel-Ungar Cave, and decor from the Bukhara governors’ palace from the 6th – 8th century A.D. The coin exhibitions are particularly revealing, as they reflect the many ethnicities and nationalities who have passed through Uzbekistan over the centuries. From ancient 5th century Greek finds through Kushan, Khoresm and Sogd dynasties through to the mediaeval coins of the Samanids, Karakhanids, and even the clan of Genghis Khan clan, the collection is extremely valuable. But there's also plenty of insight into more recent history, including medals belonging to 20th-century Uzbek tennis champions, theatre bills and photographs and much more. The gift shop sells excellent examples of Uzbek handicrafts. Address: 3 Rashidov Avenue, Tashkent. Phone: (+99871) 239-17-79, 239-17-78, 239-10-83. Opening hours: 10am – 5pm Tuesday – Sunday. Admission: 3000 som/English language guided tour 2000 som.
This huge open space is the largest square in Tashkent, but with its lush lawns and spring flowers it's more like a park than a square. Flanked on all sides by huge public buildings including the Cabinet of Ministers, the Senate and the Ministry of Finance, the square is nonetheless a peaceful spot to spend some time wandering between the fountains, statues and monuments, picnicking on the grass or indulging in a spot of people watching. The two main monuments are the Arch of Independence, the huge entrance gate topped with three tumbling storks, and the Independence Monument, a pillar topped with a globe sheltering a statue of a nursing mother, representing the revival of Uzbekistan as a free independent state. Although the square first became central to Tashkent life more than 100 years ago, the monument was only erected in 1992 after the fall of the Soviets, and reconstruction of the area was completed in 2006. Address: Mustakillik Street, Tashkent. Opening hours: 9am – 6pm Monday – Sunday.
For wildlife lovers, amateur biologists and serious scientists alike, the State Museum of Nature of Uzbekistan is an unmissable attraction. The museum, which was established in 1876, presents a range of exhibits focusing on the unique and vibrant flora and fauna of the Central Asian region. The museum has collated an enormous collection, with around 300,000 insects and 11,000 botanical specimens alone. Of particular interest are the fossilised bones of the ancient mammoths which once roamed these vast landscapes, as well as the remains of ancient querns, rock depressions in which early humans ground their grains to make bread. The museum also sheds light on other natural topics, including geology, astronomy, genetics and plenty more, making it the perfect way to while away a few hours in the capital, particularly for those who hope to head out into the wilds and encounter Uzbek nature for themselves. Address: 1 A.Niyazov Street, Tashkent. Opening hours: 10am – 5pm Tuesday – Sunday.
Grab your skis and goggles and head to Chimgon, a ski resort in the Tian Shan mountain range around 80 km from Tashkent. This resort is wildly popular with locals, particularly as it offers plenty of accommodation for weekend breaks. The highest peaks have snow year round, but it's in the ski season between December and March that Chimgon becomes a prime destination.
Just an hour north of Tashkent by car, the Ugam-Chatkal National Park is a world away, where adventurous hikers or extreme sports fans can enjoy beautiful nature, rafting, kayaking and heli-skiing. Fishing, swimming and canoeing are also on offer for those who prefer a more laid back holiday vacation, and the wildlife includes the rare and beautiful snow leopard.
Even the name Samarkand conjures magical images of the exotic East, and the real city is no disappointment. Listed by UNESCO as a crossroad of cultures, this ancient city is full of some of the world's most exquisite and intricate Islamic architecture, and is easily more famous than the modern capital. Don’t miss the Registan, heart of the ancient city. The train from Tashkent takes three hours.
Bukhara is a living museum of history, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its priceless architecture, with over 140 buildings, five millennia of habitation, and a rich history as a centre of trade, scholarship, culture and religion. The Po-i-Kalan complex, with its towering otherworldly minaret Kalân where criminals were once thrown to their deaths, is unmistakable. It's an hour by air or six hours by train from Tashkent.
Vacation rentals in Tashkent (Tashkent Province)
How to get there ?
Arriving in Tashkent by air is simple, as the Tashkent International Airport ‘Yuzhniy’, the busiest airport in central Asia, is just 12 kilometres from the city centre. Flights arrive here from Asian countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, UAE, China, India, South Korea and Thailand. Uzbekistan Airways services most major European destinations. Note that the domestic and international terminals are actually a 10-minute taxi ride apart, although you should catch a taxi from the designated taxi stand rather than take your chances with the throng of drivers outside the main exit. Tashkent is a major rail hub for Central Asia, with international services to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Russia as well as some fast connecting domestic services. Entering Uzbekistan by car is possible, but there are sometimes security problems, and the border from Afghanistan is often closed. No international car rental outlets exist in the country, but local companies rent out cars with drivers. There are no international buses, although it's possible to take a bus to various border crossings and change there. Another popular form of intercity transportation is the ubiquitous marshrutka, a small bus or van following a fixed route that stops on demand. Tashkent has a good cheap metro system although it is illegal to take photographs at the stations.
Hotels in Tashkent (Tashkent Province)