Home to show-stopping architecture, ancient cities and a fascinating Silk Road past, Uzbekistan has long appealed to a small UK niche of history lovers and culture vultures. Yet, its popularity is on the up – and the destination has Joanna Lumley to thank for it.
The actress visited the country for the ITV series, Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure, which aired in September 2018. It’s probably therefore no coincidence that last year’s visitor numbers were up 28% year-on-year, when compared with 2017.
The government’s abolition of its visa regime for visitors, from the UK and 44 other countries, in February, has also had a big part to play. The visa free policy, which allows UK travellers to stay in the country for 30 days from the date of entry, is reflective of a change in direction for the former Soviet country.
Large-scale reforms across the country mean that the Uzbeks are becoming more open to foreign tourists, including backpackers.
While the Unesco World Heritage cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva are the main draws for many, the authorities are keen to highlight the destination’s other treasures to help avoid overcrowding.
Top experiences include uncovering the archaeological ruins around Termez in the south, hiking in Ugam-Chatkal national park and learning about avant garde art in the north-west city of Nukus.
Uzbekistan’s Soviet pass and visa policies has meant that until now, it has been closed off to European and American travellers, helping the destination maintain a “unique, special” atmosphere.
One of my client’s said “The people are incredibly friendly, and it’s very easy to travel around as a woman. Standing in Registan Square at sunset, is something I won’t ever forget”, she said.
A typical Uzbek dinner dish is palov, a rice-based dish with beef and vegetables.
The beauty of Uzbekistan is there, and yet you won’t that many tourists. That reason alone is why I recommend clients go now, before that starts to change.
When to visit?
It is suggested that the cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva from November to March, when sites are quieter.
Uzbekistan Airways flies from Heathrow to Tashkent on Tuesdays and Fridays. Flying time is around seven hours.
The country’s high-speed rail system links the Silk Road cities and many others.
Where to book?
Please send Paul an email with your requirements and we’ll then arrange a quotation for you.