- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Most people would struggle to find Uzbekistan on a map, let alone get around to visiting. But while this Central Asian nation remains a mystery to the masses, its obscurity makes it all the more appealing for more adventurous travellers.
Those who do make the trip are following in famous footprints: from Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan, some of the world’s most famous pioneers and conquerors have blazed a trail through this land.
Granted, Uzbekistan has its fair share of problems. It would be remiss not to mention the hard-line government, corrupt officials and Islamic militants that besmirch the reputation of the country. But they are the exception rather than the rule: most people in Uzbekistan extend legendary hospitality to visitors.
Things to see and do in Uzbekistan
Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent
Tashkent’s Chorsu (‘four ways’) Bazaar is a typical, but especially lively, bustling Central Asian bazaar. Covered stalls protect the piles of fruit and vegetables from the hot sun, and it is possible to barter for souvenir-friendly slippers, shawls, carpets, gowns and skull-caps just as traders and merchants have done over hundreds of years.
Tashkent has many museums to explore. The eccentric State Fine Arts Museum of Uzbekistan is one of the most popular and aside from the Soviet masterpieces and the Uzbek art that dominates the ground and first floors, out the back is the wonderful Fidoliyar garden which is full of the graves of Bolsheviks who died in revolutionary street fighting. Elsewhere in the city there is the Museum of Applied Arts, a Literary Museum (Alisher Navoi Literary Museum) and the Art Gallery of Uzbekistan.
Keep an eye out for snow tigers, the rare Tian-Shan grey bear and the Berkut eagle in the Chatkalsky Reserve, a narrow unspoilt gorge in the western Tian-Shan. In the winter months trekking, skiing and snowboarding are popular and there are chairlifts, a marked sledge route, skiing equipment rental and training sessions for beginners.
Trek in the mountains in the south of the country. There are high peaks for those wanting a challenge, while easier treks can be done in the foothills and on the plateaux. The best time to go is between March and November. There is superb hiking along the spurs and gorges of the Chatkal Range to the ancient silver mine in the Chatkal Natiore Preserve.