We just came back from one of the most interesting countries we ever visited. Not only in terms of impressive ancient Mosque's, Mausoleums and other buildings, but mainly because of the impressive positive, vibrant and liberal atmosphere in this country. So we can highly recommend to take advantage of the fact that you live in Russia now and it's only a 3,5 direct flight to any of Uzbekistan's major cities.
We flew to Tashkent where we stayed 2 night in the Ichan Qala hotel, a bit outside the main city center, but conveniently located close to some of the nicest restaurants in the city ("Caravan" and "Gruzinsky Dvorik"). The family rooms are spacious and clean and they have an indoor (super cold!) and outdoor pool and courtyard with a small terrace. 1 full day in Tashkent is enough to see the highlights of this city, especially if you arranged a driver&guide. Besides the ancient highlights both Tashkent & Samarkand are actually very modern cities.
Then we went by train to Samarkand, which is very convenient and fast (2 hours) to travel. Everything is very cheap in Uzbekistan, so just treat yourself with business class tickets for a few dollars extra and enjoy the ride. In Samarkand you can easily spend 2 days as there are many highlights, a local bazar and nice parks. Our hotel "Malika Prime" (http://www.malika-samarkand.com/prime.htm/) was at a prime location on walking distance to the major highlights. The rooms are simple and the beds quite hard, but the balcony and roofdeck terrace are worth it. Here you have the best view on the city while enjoying your beer! Our guide recommended the best local schaschlik place "Kakanskaya"on Kakanski street. Definetely go here for a non touristy and super tasty experience. Another must visit is the "Plov Center", again very simple&local, but best plov we had! If the weather is nice, go the courtyard of restaurant "Samarkand". Besides these Samarkand has a surprisingly limited restaurant offer.
After a 4 hour drive we arrived in Yangi Kazgan yurt camp (Sputnik Navoi) in the Kyzilkum desert. This was the highlight of our trip, especially because the children enjoyed it so much. Camping in a real yurt, so remote, was a really relaxing experience. And it was actually quite comfortable on beds, with modern toilet&shower facilities nearby and with a tasty extensive meal prepared. In daytime you can enjoy desert walks, camel rides or just reading a book at the campfire. Maybe if all the yurts are filled up with tourists it will be a bit less of a picturesque experience, but for us this was not the case and it was very peaceful. www.camping.uz, email@example.com, +998 (93) 720-0735.
Another 4 hours by car brought us to Buchara, which is the most ancient of the 3 cities we've been. Although it's the most beautiful of the 3, it's also the most touristy one, which you immediately notice by the amount of street sellers, restaurants and tour buses. Everything is on walking distance, so you don't need a driver and also a guide is not needed if you had one in the previous cities. Also for us the highlights outside the city center (Summer Palace & Mausoleum) where not really worth the visit after all the beautiful things you've already seen. There are many nice restaurants here! We went to the roofdeck restaurant "Minzifa"twice because the food is great and views are magnificent. Also try restaurant "Old Buchara" behind the Lyabi Hauz square. And definitely go for a beer on a hidden roof deck behind the Poi-Kalyon complex. It has no name, but you can see the roof deck from the square. Just enter the little entrance gate in the middle at the street and enter the place with a "Coca-Cola"sign. Just walk up and there it is! Best views of Buchara. The food is very simple, so we recommend to just order drinks ;). We stayed in the cutest hotel ever "Minzifa Boutique hotel" (http://minzifa.com/) in the old city center. Ask for a courtyard room and you'll have your own terrace in the courtyard where you can enjoy breakfast, drinks and take-out dinner.
If you want to stock up on the beautiful Uzbekistan Ceramic we have 2 recommendations:
1- 20 minutes outside Buchara in Gijduvan city, there is a traditional Ceramist Äbdullo Narzullaev who can show you the traditional way his family still makes ceramic. Afterwards you can buy beautiful and original handmade ceramic in their shop and enjoy his very friendly company over a cup of tea. Plan you visit: www.folkceramic.com/uz, firstname.lastname@example.org, +998(90)718-3060
2- In Buchara in the beginning of Haqiqat street and square opposite "Silk Road Tea House" there is a little shop. Ask the guy to bring him to his "atelier" to see his extensive selection and ask him advice about which master pieces to buy.
We had our whole trip organized by Roxana tours which a friend recommended us. If you visit the first time it's definitely convenient because it will save you a lot of time and hassle. Plus their guides and drivers where very friendly and flexible, which is very helpful when traveling with kids! If it's your second visit or if you travel without kids, with the tips above you should probably be able to organize it yourself. If your interested just email them for a itinerary proposal based on our trip. If you want to book with them, please email us on email@example.com as we will be able to get you a nice discount! http://www.roxanatour.com/, firstname.lastname@example.org
If you travel with younger kids the golden tip is to bring a scooter, since this will keep the little ones entertained while you are enjoying the cultural highlights ;)
Photo credits: personal collection