Bukhara, Uzbekistan

by budgettravelnotes on May 29, 2010

I’m playing a bit of a catch up on my blog for this post but I recently spent a couple of days in Bukhara as part of a week in Uzbekistan. I was lucky that a friend based in Tashkent organised train tickets and a small hotel to stay in so it was very easy trip.
Catching a train from Tashkent to Bukhara is no problem at all as there will probably only be one in the station when you go and catch it (unless of course you are there really early and it’s the train before yours!). Look out for ‘Vagon’ on your ticket with the coach number – this is displayed on the train on a bit of paper stuck onto the window next to the door. The seat numbers are displayed in the coach, but an inspector will check your ticket before boarding anyway. Depending on what train and class you get you may have loads of space for your luggage. I had loads of space in front of me as there were only our two seats for our table on the way down, but not so much on the way back although there’s always the overhead storage which has plenty space for oversize rucksacks.
Anyway, we were luckily booked into Lyabi House Hotel ($50 for a double inc breakfast) which is slap bang in the centre of old Bukhara town. You can probably guess by it’s name but it’s literally only 50m from Lyabi Hauz square which is the central area of old Bukhara. The hotel is based around an ancient courtyard where breakfast is served, and there’s WiFi too. Older reviews mention getting some great food here but they never served meals when I was there. It’s a good location to relax around as well if you want to sit back for a while in some outdoors space.
When deciding how to make the most of my limited time in Uzbekistan an ex-pat resident said if we were to visit only one other location to see Bukhara and I’m glad of the decision. I never had enough time to do the typical Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and Fergana Valley route – I was limited to Tashkent, Bukhara and Fergana Valley only.
Bukhara was a lovely setting which was very relaxing to wonder around for a couple of days. If you’re really into your history you may want to spend a few days here, but if you’re in a real rush I’ve been told it’s possible to do it at a push with a same day return flight from Tashkent, but that would be zooming through it!
Compared to Samarkand everything is within easy walking distance (30-45 minutes) and it can be interesting to get lost in the back streets as well. Although I’m not a big historical fan normally you can’t fail to be impressed by the ancient buildings such as the Ark fortress. Buildings have been here since the year 713, with the present form of building dating from the 16th century. The Kalon Minaret has existed in various forms since 919. In the past criminals have been dropped the 155 feet to a certain death below.
Walking around the streets is quite relaxing although I can imagine in high season it’s thronged with tour groups. There’s some great souvenirs from hats to carpets, jewellery and knives. There’s also a lot of impressive ceramics lined along the streets. There are many open craftshops ranging from a UNESCO backed carpet factory and school to men forging historic knives just off the main street. If you look for the UNESCO factory keep your eyes peeled for a discreet wooden door down some steps – I’m sure I walked past it several times in the backstreets walking round in circles before I noticed it.
There’s a variety of eating places, especially focused around Lyabi Hauz square. I never noticed any English menus whilst there so usually I was offered the usual ‘shashlik’ kebabs.
It worth visiting the Silk Road Tea House where you’ll be able to sample a whole host of teas along with a platter to traditional snacks (and you can get some really strong coffee too!).

The notes above have just skimmed the surface of Bukhara. Have you got any additional tips to add? If so, please leave a comment below.

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