Our recommendation to visit Uzbekistan
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Exoticca Travel Stories
Creating unforgettable memories, one traveller at a time
Wonderful trip to Uzbekistan
This is the third time we have travelled with Exoticca and each holiday has been well organised, with great guides and itineraries. All the arrangements and included excursions were well run. Would definitely use Exoticca again, particularly for multi-centre holidays.
Uzbekistan Travel advice
Events and festivals in Uzbekistan
The popular festivals of Uzbekistan are as original and unique as the culture of this country. The traditions are very old and they are a union, which occurred over the centuries, of the customs and rites of all the ethical groups which have brought about the country's contemporary society. Uzbekistan can be considered as one of the most unique cultures of the East.
Day of the defenders of the native land (January 14)
This day commemorates the formation of the armed forces of the country. It took place on 14th January 1992 under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Women's Day (8th March)
This holiday is international and has also arrived in Uzbekistan. It is also known as "Mother's Day" and, as it coincides with the first days of spring, flowers are the most common gift. Men treat their wives, mothers and daughters to flowers or other presents.
Navruz (21st March)
Navruz means "new day" and is the new year for Uzbeks. It is a very old national holiday which coincides with the spring equinox, on the exact day in which the night and the day have the same duration. Families gather and prepare typical foods of Uzbek cuisine. For years it was one of the events in Uzbekistan which fell into oblivion and was recovered after the independence of the country. It is one of the most peculiar popular festivals in Uzbekistan.
Day of memory and honour (9th May)
On 9th May 1999, in Tashkent, the capital of the country, a monument to honour the memory of all those who fought for the freedom and independence of the Uzbeks was inaugurated. Some of the most recognised and admired heroes are Shiroq, Tumaris, Spitamen, Jaloliddin Maguberdi, Najmiddin Kubro, Namoz-batir, Behbudi, Kadiri, Munavar-kori, Avloniy, Chulpon, Fitrat and Usman Nosir.
In spring there are many celebrations which are typical of each province or smaller towns. One of the most popular festivals in Uzbekistan for their culture is the Boysun Bahori. It is celebrated in the Surkhandarya province, specifically in Boysun, a very mountainous region. It is a very old festival which took place before the times of Islam. During this festival, songs are sung, costumes are worn, dance shows are performed, storytellers and other traditional activities which maintain their authenticity despite the times. It is an exaltation of Uzbek culture, and it is an event which is deeply rooted in its culture and history. In 2001 UNESCO recognised Boysun Bahori as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Taronalari is one of the most attractive festivities in Uzbekistan for visitors. It is an international music festival which was held for the first time in Samarkand, in 1997. It managed to attract a large number of participants and artists that year and consecutive ones in its next editions. It is celebrated annually in the summer. Many national singers participate, who perform music from the country's ancient folklore, such as uran khai, which is a song performed with the throat. Or the makom, which is a kind of classical or melodic music of the Uzbek tradition. There are also musicians from Asia and Europe, so the festival is a beautiful and enriching mix of cultures and rhythms.
Independence Day (1st September)
Among the popular festivals of Uzbekistan, Independence Day stands out because of its great relevance for the history of the country. That day commemorates the recovery of the sovereignty of Uzbekistan after a long period of Soviet occupation. To celebrate it, parties and events are organised in different towns and cities. The president gives a solemn speech to the entire nation in the Alisher Navoiy National Park in Tashkent, which concludes with a fireworks display.
Teachers and instructors' day (1st October)
Teachers are deeply respected and recognised in Uzbekistan to the point that they have a day to honour them. The students appreciate their work, giving them gifts and flowers.
Constitution Day (8th December)
On 8th December 1992, Oliy Majlis signed the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan. It is composed of 6 sections, 26 chapters and 128 articles. This important day is a national holiday celebrated with different events throughout the country.
This is the Uzbek Christmas and is celebrated in a very similar way to how it is in other countries of the world. Fir trees are decorated, gifts are exchanged and in some places, even Santa Claus himself appears.
One of the characteristics of the Uzbeks is their proverbial hospitality. It is part of very old and respected customs nowadays, with hospitality being a very important rule. In other times, being discourteous with a guest was a dishonour to the family and the entire town. Even if the guest was an enemy. This old tradition lasts until today which makes the Uzbek people behave with great correctness and respect.LEARN MORE
Food in Uzbekistan
Finding something to eat in Uzbekistan is easy since its gastronomy is rich and varied. Its typical dishes combine the colours of nature, the aromas of the Orient and the oldest traditions. Travelling to this country is also a pleasure for the palate.
The main ingredients of the typical dishes of Uzbekistan are lamb meat, the fat of its tail, flour, vegetables and spices. There are dishes which are prepared exclusively by men and others only by women. As in all cultures, there are recipes which are reserved for special celebrations or religious events.
In general, the cuisine of Uzbekistan consists of very nutritious and caloric dishes. Herbs and spices are given great prominence, cumin, coriander, basil and sesame among others being the most used. Another star ingredient is katyk which is a sour milk similar to our yogurt. The green radish which has a very peculiar spicy flavour is also widely used.
Gummas of Khiva
These are a kind of sandwich stuffed with minced meat and onion, vegetables like pumpkin or potato and seasoned with parsley, pepper and salt. They are fried in plenty of sunflower oil. It is customary to eat them as an aperitif or garnish directly with your hands. As a curious fact, Turkish cuisine has a similar version called "tcheburek".
Plov is one of the emblematic dishes of Uzbek cuisine. It basically consists of traditional rice with meat and carrots, although there are hundreds of variations of this recipe, depending on the region. However, the Samarkand Plov is especially appreciated in all regions. It has a common base and incorporates quail eggs, chickpeas, raisins, garlic and a rich combination of spices such as saffron, coriander or Berberis seeds. For its preparation sheep's fat and cottonseed oil are used, which is what gives it its characteristic flavour. In restaurants, other types of oils are used to which foreigners are more accustomed. The ingredients of Samarkand Plov are arranged in a specific way to highlight the flavours, so they should not be mixed.
Nowruz Kebab from Bukhara
This is one of the typical dishes of Uzbekistan which is only prepared in Bukhara, specifically in the tchaykhanas of Lyabi Hauz. It is prepared by layering meat, potatoes, seasoned tomatoes and onions. It is a strong and nutritious dish.
Shasliks of Tashkent
Shashlik means "six bites" in Uzbek and consist of skewers of meat, either barbecued or grilled. It is prepared by alternating pieces of meat and fat. Those in Tashkent have a great reputation in the locality, specifically those which are sold in the "Bek" chain of restaurants. The kebabs preferred by Uzbeks are prepared with sheep meat and are called "kuskovaya baranina", those of calf are known as "govyadina kuskovaya" and those of chicken are "shashlik kouriniy".
This is a speciality associated with the rural world. Most of Uzbekistan's typical dishes are prepared in the villages, and the cuisine is based on homemade recipes handed down from generation to generation. The speciality of the countryside regions is Dimlama. It is a varied stew prepared with meat, potatoes, cabbages, carrots, onions and tomatoes. It is a very easy dish to prepare which the Uzbeks eat both in winter and in summer. Despite its simplicity it is a delicious dish to eat in Uzbekistan.
Utensils typical of the cuisine of Uzbekistan
For the preparation of the typical dishes of Uzbekistan, it is necessary to use some special utensils which are unique to this region of Central Asia. These are the most used:Cascan. It is a steamer consisting of a special pot with removable trays. Some typical dishes of Uzbek cuisine are steamed. Cazán. This utensil is a pot made of thick cast iron. It keeps and distributes the heat very well Tandyr. This is a hand-built clay oven from Central Asia. It resembles a huge clay pot and can be horizontal or vertical.
But the interesting thing is not only to know what to eat in Uzbekistan but how to eat it. And they also have recipients of their culture and tradition.Kasushka. A large bowl in which food is served Lyagan. It is a large dish painted with traditional motifs, which is used for some specialities such as Plov. Piala. This is the bowl that is used to drink tea.
In Uzbekistan, meals are eaten on the dastarkhan which is a low table. During the summer the diners sit on the floor and in winter on a sofa called aivan. Around the table the kurpachi are placed, which are colourful mattresses typical of the region and cushions to rest on after the meal. Green tea is always present and is drunk before and after meals.LEARN MORE
Shopping in Uzbekistan
Knowing what to buy in Uzbekistan is something that is better thought about before the trip. You need to know what the typical products of the country are to be able to choose between the many souvenirs of Uzbekistan that you will find, beyond the typical fridge magnets. This is still a relatively unknown country for travellers. It is located in Central Asia, in the heart of the old Silk Road. It is a destination that is attracting more and more tourists and it is likely that Uzbekistan will experience a significant tourist boom.
If travelling to this obscure country, you need to know that the official currency is the “som” (pronounced “sum”) although they accept dollars and euros. They don’t always accept credit cards and there are hardly any cash machines, so it is better to take cash. If travelling from the euro area, you don’t need to buy dollars because you would lose money. You can change money into soms at any hotel. You can also use euros to pay in shops for souvenirs of Uzbekistan and handicrafts. In general, prices are low and bargaining is used.
You won’t find shopping centres or franchises of large brands. Trading and part of the social life is done in markets and bazaars, perfect places to find typical products from Uzbekistan.
The clothing is original, elegant and beautiful. It is characterised by its embroidery and decoration. The country has its own kind of embroidery, unique and typical, which is popular throughout the world. It is used to decorate a multitude of garments and accessories such as bags or rugs. Uzbekistan’s Suzani embroidery is used. The best embroidery can be found in Samarcanda and Bukhara. Bukhara in particular, is a town famous for its gold thread embroidery. Another region that stands out is Kashkadarya where they make bags with a quirky embroidery in warm colours. There are other widely used garments such as the kamzul and the zarchapan which are highly decorative with gold thread, both for women and men.
Another thing to buy in Uzbekistan is a type of hat known as a Tubeteika. There are many types of Tubeteika, and they can be found in different colours and designs. Each region of the country has its own version of the headwear, which is undoubtedly one of the most identifying garments of the people of Uzbekistan. The Chust is the most popular design, which is black and white, but they also sell ones that are colourful, gold embroidered and even with precious stones.
Handicrafts: wood and metal
The traditional Uzbek knife is the pichok and it is common to gift this between men. The best pichoks are manufactured in the Chust region. They are characterised for being lightweight and by their curved blade. They have an inscription that says Estalik uchun Chust (“In memory of Chust”). The artisans of Uzbekistan are also highly skilled at working with metal and wood. Some jewellery stands out such as a type of earrings known as Kashgar-Boldak. Wood carvings are done to perfection since it is an ancient tradition that has been passed on from generation to generation. It applies to different decorative items and homeware.
One of the preferred souvenirs of Uzbekistan by tourists are the ceramic items. All those who love ceramics should visit the city of Rishtan. There you will find numerous shops selling ceramic items painted in blues and turquoises. Another opportunity not to be missed is to buy an “obdasta urdak” in the shape of a duck and decorated with traditional Uzbek patters, such as the almond flower and pomegranate.
In the town of Guizhduván there is a huge ceramics centre, owned by the Narshullaev family. This generation of artisans know all of the old secrets of the ceramics of Uzbekistan. Here you will find items with different decorative designs and ceramics of different colours.
In the bazaars you will often find small hand painted figures which are excellent souvenirs of Uzbekistan. They represent all types of motifs, from animals to public figures. The lagan plates a decorative and painted with the typical and traditional shade of blue. They are designed to be hung on the walls. They are especially popular in the city of Jiva. The Chiroki lamps and the Khorezm Hum pots are exotic items that reflect the soul of the East.
We can’t avoid mentioning the famous typical rugs and they are the perfect gift to buy in Uzbekistan. Each region has its own pattern, design and colours and these rugs can be used for the floor or to use as a tapestry.
Other souvenirs from Uzbekistan
Those looking for something more original, could focus their attention on the country’s traditional musical instruments, made by hand, or the famous Samarcanda wine.LEARN MORE
Uzbekistan tourist attractions
More information about Uzbekistan
As travel to Uzbekistan increases in popularity, the wonders of this Central Asian country are opened up to the rest of the world and travellers become more eager to discover this enchanting destination themselves. Landlocked by several other Central Asian nations, Uzbekistan was formerly part of the Soviet Republic and has remained a little known cultural gem for decades. It is a predominantly an Islamic country, although it’s long history ensures that it enjoys a fascinating mix of Persian, Soviet and Asian influence, perhaps due to its significant role in the fabled Silk Road route, an important trade route that once connected the Mediterranean to Asia.
On any package holiday to Uzbekistan, the capital of Tashkent will stand out for its modern feel, Soviet-era architecture, soaring Tashkent Tower, which dominates the skyline, and an array of cultural institutions. The city is an obvious starting point for tours of Uzbekistan, although the most iconic sights are found in Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara, where you cannot ignore the plentiful madrasas, mausoleums and mosques; perfectly photographable in their intricate beauty. The Silk Road once ran through these cities, and its influence can be seen in the unique architecture, cuisine and culture of the region. Travel to Uzbekistan can transport you to the ancient days of mercantile trade and far-flung exploration. Samarkand’s Registan Square captivates travellers and locals alike with its mosaiced madrasas composed of what seems like a million unique shades of blue. Uzbekistan has maintained it’s rich architecture to admirable standards.
Uzbekistan’s flat terrain and moderate climate, with long hot summers and mild winters, make it the perfect place for a holiday full of discovery and cultural appreciation. Nature lovers will enjoy the natural reserves outside of the cities such as the Jeyran Ecological Centre, which promotes the preservation of the endangered Central Asian Gazelle and the Kyzylkum Tugai and Sand Reserve, which is home to a plethora of bird species.
Undoubtedly, when you enjoy a tour package to Uzbekistan, you will be greeted with warm and genuine hospitality, fostered in the days of the Silk Road when weary travellers would stop in the country to enjoy the wonderful generosity of the Uzbek people.
What to know before travelling to Uzbekistan
Passport required. Your passport should be valid for at least three months after you’ve entered Uzbekistan.
British passport holders can enter Uzbekistan as a visitor without a visa for stays of up to 30 days.
UTC + 05:00.
Tourist Office websiteVisit website
220 V. European style plug.
There are no mandatory vaccinations for travellers from the U.K.