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Samarkand, Uzbekistan: 14 Top Things to Do + A Complete City Guide

January 11, 2022

Founded in the 7th century BC, Samarkand is the ancient beating heart and one of the main highlights of Uzbekistan. As one of the oldest towns in Central Asia, it has been influenced by countless cultures and religions throughout its history.

Today, it is listed as ‘Samarkand ⁠— Crossroads of Cultures’ in the UNESCO World Heritage, and visitors marvel at its jaw-dropping architecture, vast history, and archeological treasures.

Here are the absolute best things to do in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, along with helpful insider tips such as where to eat, where to stay, and how to best photograph this stunning city.

You might also be interested in:
🏰 12 Top Things to do in Khiva, Uzbekistan
🕌 14 Top Things to do in Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can learn more about this in my disclosure policy.

🇺🇿 Samarkand, Uzbekistan: Planning Your Trip

🏡 WHERE TO STAY
Our top pick: Jahongir Hotel (⭐️ 9.2)
Best views: Bibikhanum Hotel (⭐️ 8.8)
Comfort pick: Registon Saroy (⭐️ 9.5)
Budget pick: Tilyakori Hotel (⭐️ 9.3)

🌟 MY TOP SAMARKAND TRAVEL TIP
Pack some modest clothes that cover your knees and shoulders. You’ll need them when entering many of the famous Samarkand attractions!

🗿 A Brief History of Samarkand, Uzbekistan

For over two thousand years, Samarkand was a prominent trading hub on the Silk Road in Central Asia. In fact, from the early medieval period, an ancient Iranian civilization named Sogdians inhabited Samarkand and traded cloths, spices, and precious metals along the Silk Road to as far as China and India.

Several cultures and religions have found a home in Samarkand during the medieval times, including Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism. In the 8th century, the Sogdians fled the region as the Samanid Empire took over, turning Samarkand into one of the major centers of Muslim learning before it was destroyed by Genghis Khan in 1220.

Much of the architecture around the city today is credited to Amir Timur, who rebuilt Samarkand from scratch and made it the capital city of the Timurid Empire in the 1370s. Amir Timur is deemed a national hero and his statues are all over the country. His grandson Ulugh Beg, who succeeded him, also left a lot of legacy on today’s Samarkand.

In 1500, the Shaybanids (a Turko-Mongol dynasty) conquered Samarkand and merged the city with their acquired Khanate of Bukhara. They built some of the most important monuments in the city today, including two of the madrasahs inside the famous Registan.

Eventually, Samarkand was abandoned by the late 18th century. It was only revived with the construction of the railway system in the 1890s, which allowed the city to soar back to its ancient role as a trading hub at the intersection of the East and the West.


🕌 14 Top Things to Do in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

1. Explore Registan for at Least Half a Day

One of the most breathtaking places to see in Samarkand is Registan, the crown jewel of the city. During the Timurid Empire, this public square was used for royal announcements and public executions. It was also regarded as the heart of the Timurid Renaissance.

Today, three madrasahs ⁠(Islamic schools) frame this beautiful square: Ulugh Beg Madrasah (built between 1417–1420 during the Timurid Empire), Sher-Dor Madrasah (built between 1619–1636 by the Shaybanids), and Tilya-Kori Madrasah (built between 1646–1660 by the Shaybanids).

Each madrasah housed two stories of classrooms and residential dorms for students and professors. You can go inside each of them and explore from their majestic courtyards.

Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

🕌 Visit the Mosque Inside Tilya-Kori Madrasah

As you walk into Registan square, Tilya-Kori Madrasah is the one that’s directly in front of you. Step inside it to see a beautiful courtyard surrounded by trees and benches. There, you’ll also find the entrance to the Tilya-Kori Mosque.

This mosque will take your breath away from the moment you step inside. Its ceiling, made out of incredibly intricate gold mosaics, holds a magnificent illusion: it looks like a dome, but it’s actually completely flat.

🌳 Climb to the Second Floor of Ulugh Beg Madrasa

When you enter Registan, Ulugh Beg Madrasah is the one to your left. This madrasah was considered one of the best religious colleges in the Muslim world in the 15th century. It nurtured many notable Persian poets and philosophers.

Go inside the madrasah and walk all the way to the opposite end of the courtyard to find a small hidden door. This door opens up to a staircase which will lead you up to the second floor of the building.

The view from the top is absolutely spectacular; you get to see the courtyard and the walls of the madrasah from an entirely different perspective. You’ll find lots of cool angles for photography as well.

🏺 Unveil History Inside Vendors’ Stores

In the past, the courtyards of Registan’s madrasahs were surrounded by residential rooms for students and professors. These rooms were typically on the first floor of the madrasahs. Today, many of them have been turned into souvenir shops selling everything from suzanis (a traditional hand-embroidered textile) to intricate paintings.

The cool thing is that parts of the former residential rooms can still be seen inside some of these stores, and some vendors are very happy to show them to you. Deep inside their stores, you can see remnants of the students’ beds and desks, and it’s a really cool glimpse into the history of Registan.

The vendors are also really nice and genuinely eager to show you the history of the place ⁠— they typically won’t charge you to go inside and look, even if you don’t buy anything from their stores. With that said, contributing to the local economy is always a good idea!

📸 Registan Photography Tips

Unless you visit during the low season of winter, Registan is usually very crowded during the day. To take beautiful photos here without the crowds, arrive at the square early in the morning, right at opening time (8 am).

It’s also a good idea to bring a wide-angle lens to capture the sheer size of this place. I use the Tokina AF 16-28mm F2.8 and can highly recommend it.

Registan, One of the Top Things to Do in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Registan opening hours: 8 am - 7 pm daily
🎫 Registan entrance fees: 40,000 som ($4 USD)
🚶🏻‍♀️ How to get there: Many hotels and B&Bs are within walking distance of Registan. Make this area your base as it's very close to other Samarkand tourist attractions.

2. Watch a Traditional Performance at Registan

Right before sunset, the madrasahs inside Registan light up, and it’s honestly one of the most breathtaking sights on earth. The best part? The evening is only about to get more magical.

In the evenings of spring and summer, there’s a traditional performance that takes place right inside Sher-Dor Madrasah, the building framing Registan on the right. This performance is the perfect chance to learn about local culture, and it’s an unmissable experience.

Music is a big part of Uzbek culture, and traditional Uzbek music was influenced by lots of notable poets and ancient folklore. The performances inside Registan showcase a genre of music called Shashmaqam, which is unique to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. It even made it onto UNESCO’s list of Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mankind!

Against the backdrop of beautifully lit madrasah tiles, performers in traditional costumes would play Shashmaqam instruments such as the gijak (a four-stringed bowed spike fiddle), the doira (a drum), the stringed dutar (a two-stringed lute), and the tanbur (a long-necked string instrument).

The musicians and dancers not only showcase their music but also their culture⁠. They would act out scenes from a traditional Uzbek wedding, for instance. Towards the end of the show, the dancers would even invite audience members to go up and dance with them!

Uzbek snacks are served throughout the performance, and the atmosphere is simply incredible. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so be sure to come back to Registan in the evening to catch some of these magical moments.

An Evening Musical Performance at Registan
Performance hours: Starts at 7 pm daily and lasts for 1 hour
🎫 Entrace fees: 60,000 som ($6 USD)
🚶🏻‍♀️ How to get tickets: No need to book in advance - buy them at the ticket office in Registan or ask one of the many guards

3. Climb Up a 400-Year-Old Minaret

If you’re looking for a unique and thrill-seeking adventure, I’ll let you in on a secret. Head over to Registan after sunset (or stay there after the evening musical performance) and tell a guard that you’d like to climb up one of the madrasahs’ minarets.

For around $10 USD, the guard will lead you to some staircases which will take you up to the top of Sher-Dor Madrasah’s 40-meter-tall minaret. The ascent to the top is far from easy. You’d be going up a very dark and narrow staircase which isn’t well-paved at all.

You’ll also get dust all over yourself, and if you’re claustrophobic, you won’t enjoy the climb much. But otherwise, it’s an absolute once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

The guards will stay with you for about half of the climb; you’ll have to do the final bit on your own. Why? Because the top platform of the minaret is so narrow, so slanted, and so lacking of any barriers that it actually cannot safely fit more than one person at a time.

Even standing on that small platform felt scary, and sitting down would require some balance skills, too. If you’re not up for the thrill, simply stand at the top of the staircase without stepping onto the platform. From there, you can poke your head out and catch glimpses of the view.

While the experience was completely worth it, you don’t have to do the final bit of the climb to get a great view. Midway through the climb, you’ll get to an open terrace on the madrasah. From there, ⁠you can already catch some incredibly surreal views of Registan.

Climbing hours: After 7 pm
🎫 Price: 100,000 som ($10 USD)
🚶🏻‍♀️ How to get tickets: Head to Registan in the evening and approach a guard

4. Experience Local Life at Siyob Bazaar

One of the best cultural things to do in Samarkand is to stroll the Siyob Bazaar, the city’s largest market. This place is bursting with activity and colors, and it’s the perfect place to people-watch, talk to locals, and get an insightful glimpse into local life.

Browse the rows of fresh bread, fruits, and vegetables at this market. There are also various local snacks such as dates and halva, a sweet that resembles fudge. Be sure to try the latter as it’s very popular. You can also buy spices and Uzbek teas here to bring home as souvenirs.

Spices and Food at the Siyob Bazaar
Opening hours: Tuesdays - Sundays: 5 am - 7 pm | Closed on Mondays
🚶🏻‍♀️ How to get there: From the Registan area - 15 mins by foot 

5. Indulge in the Local Cuisine

Uzbek food is incredibly rich in flavors, and Samarkand is as good of a place as any to taste it. Beware that you might end up missing it (a lot) after leaving the country, so don’t hesitate to stuff yourself while you’re here! Some of the must-try local dishes are:

  • Plov — a tasty rice dish with apricots, carrots, and tender chunks of mutton
  • Naan bread — a soft and fluffy fresh oven-baked flatbread
  • Shurpa — a hearty lamb and vegetable soup
  • Lagman — a soup with potatoes, meat, and carrots served with noodles
  • Manti — steamed dumplings filled with either meat or pumpkin
  • Shashlik — skewered meat cooked on the grill
  • Samsa — flaky pasties with various fillings, made with Uzbek spices

🥘 Food Tip: Uzbek food is very meat-heavy, but many restaurants have vegetarian options. If you’re vegetarian, say “bez myasa” when ordering salads. It means “without meat”. Otherwise, your salad plate may also contain sliced meat.


6. Admire Shah-i-Zinda’s Jaw-Dropping Tilework

Shah-i-Zinda is hands down one of the most magnificent places to visit in Samarkand. This sacred necropolis houses the remains of both famous and unknown people. It also showcases some of the richest tilework in the Muslim world, many of which date back to the 14th-century Timurid Empire.

Shah-i-Zinda was first established over 1,000 years ago. Between the 11th and 19th centuries, various mausoleums and temples were continually added to the complex, forming the avenue of magnificent mausoleums standing there today.

There’s a legend associated with this incredible site. ‘Shah-i-Zinda’ translates to ‘Tomb of the Living King’, which refers to a myth that Muhammad’s cousin, Qusam ibn-Abbas, was buried in this necropolis. Qusam ibn-Abbas is said to have brought Islam to this region in the 7th century, and both Amir Timur and Ulugh Beg buried their families around his grave.

Shah-i-Zinda was controversially restored in 2005, so a lot of the mosaic tilework you see there today is not original. Regardless, the intricate patterns are absolutely enchanting, and you can easily spend hours on end admiring all the details.

👗 Top Tip: As this is a very sacred place, a strict modest dress code applies. Be sure to bring clothes that cover your shoulders and knees and to be respectful in general.

Opening hours: 7 am - 7 pm daily
🎫 Entrance fees: 15,000 som ($1.50 USD)
🚶🏻‍♀️ How to get there: From the Registan area - 30 mins by foot / 10 mins taxi ride 

7. Taste Delicious Wine at Khovrenko Winery

While there are tons of UNESCO sites to see in Samarkand, Uzbekistan is also a great place to taste exquisite wine. In fact, this country is the main wine producer in Central Asia, and its grapes are extra sweet thanks to the abundance of sunny weather.

The best way to sample local wine is to join the Samarkand Wine Tasting Tour (⭐ 4/5). This two-hour tour takes place at the Khovrenko Winery and the Samarkand Museum of Winemaking. Your expert guide will share with you all the secrets of Uzbek wine and more!

See tour dates & availability

Wine Tasting in Uzbekistan

8. Marvel at the Magnificent Gur-e-Amir

The splendid Gur-e-Amir mausoleum is one of the most astonishing things to see in Samarkand. Its intricate tilework is simply mesmerizing and has inspired many architects. In fact, what most people don’t know is that the architecture of Gur-e-Amir actually inspired the Taj Mahal in India!

Gur-e-Amir marks the final burial place of Amir Timur, founder of the Timurid Empire, and his grandson Ulugh Beg. Amir Timur was actually never expected to be buried here; he had already built himself a crypt in his hometown of Shakhrisabz and had completed Gur-e-Amir in 1404 for one of his grandsons.

However, in 1405, Timur died unexpectedly of pneumonia in Kazakhstan. Because it was winter, the road back to Shakhrisabz was blocked by snow, so he was buried here instead.

Once you’re done admiring and photographing the stunning exterior of this mausoleum, step inside to see the tombs of Amir Timur, his sons Shah Rukh and Miran Shah, and grandsons Ulugh Beg and Muhammad Sultan.

👗 Dress code: As this is a sacred site, be sure to cover your knees and shoulders, especially before entering the mausoleum.

The Patterns and Tilework of Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum
Opening hours: 9 am - 7 pm daily
🎫 Entrance fees: 25,000 som ($2.50 USD)
🚶🏻‍♀️ How to get there: From the Registan area - 15 mins by foot 

9. Explore the Ancient Afrasiyab Settlement

Afrasiyab is the most ancient part of Samarkand and one of the largest archaeological sites on earth. From around 500 BC to 1220 AD, Afrasiyab was under the rule of the Sogdians, an Iranian civilization that mastered the Silk Road trade.

The Sogdians were highly-skilled and multilingual merchants, entertainers, and artisans. They also practiced Zoroastrianism. Today, you can see remnants of their culture at what used to be Afrasiyab — now a hilly grass mound near the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand.

Bring good walking shoes for this archeological site as the ground is very uneven. Look carefully, and you can spot hidden gems like pottery shards among the soil. Drop by the Afrasiyab Museum next door for more unique artifacts like jewelry, swords, and frescoes.

The museum is also a great place to learn about how Samarkand was founded as well as the cultures and traditions of the people who first settled there.

The Afrasiyab Excavations in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Opening hours: 9 am – 8 pm daily
🎫 Entrance fees: 22,000 som ($2 USD)
🚶🏻‍♀️ How to get there: 10 mins by taxi from Registan or Bibi-Khanym Mosque

10. Tour the Historic Bibi-Khanym Mosque

Another impressive Samarkand attraction is the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, one of the biggest mosques in the Islamic world. Completed in 1404, it was the jewel of the Timurid Empire and could hold up to 10,000 worshippers.

This mosque was built by architects from India and Iran, along with 95 elephants hauling construction material. Unfortunately, it was reduced to ruins by the earthquake of 1897, and reconstruction began in the 1970s under the Soviets.

After the fall of the USSR, Islam Karimov (Uzbekistan’s first president) put a lot of effort into restoring Timurid-era monuments, and much of the mosque was quickly rebuilt.

Today, Bibi-Khanym Mosque stands proudly and is a marvel to explore. You can still see some of its ancient ruins as you walk around. There’s also a famous legend behind this mosque, and it goes as follows:

In the 14th century, Amir Timur’s wife ordered for this mosque to be built as a gift for him before his return from India. However, the architect fell in love with her and construction progressed very slowly. When she pushed him to get it done quicker, he told her that she must plant a kiss on his cheek.

After some hesitation, she did, and Timur was welcomed home with a beautifully completed Bibi-Khanym Mosque. Eventually, Timur found out about the unfortunate architect and ordered for him to be killed and buried underneath a mausoleum.

Opening hours: 8 am - 8 pm daily
🎫 Entrance fees: 25,000 som ($2.5 USD)
🚶🏻‍♀️ How to get there: From the Registan area - 15 mins by foot 

11. Pair Local Cuisine with an Epic View

Just a few steps from Bibi-Khanym Mosque is the remarkable Bibikhanum Hotel (⭐️ 8.8). This hotel has an epic restaurant on its terrace that takes ‘meal with a view’ to the next level. Having lunch or dinner here is definitely one of the coolest things to do in Samarkand.

Try some of their delicious traditional dishes (such as plov, shurpa, manti, and naan bread) while admiring the intricate details of Bibi-Khanym Mosque up close. This is the closest you can possibly get to its stunning dome!

Girls Having Lunch at the Bibikhanum Hotel
💵 Price range: ~50,000 - 150,000 som ($5 - $15 USD) per person for a whole meal
🚶🏻‍♀️ How to get there: It's right next to Bibi-Khanym Mosque

12. Learn Science at the Ulugh Beg Observatory

Built in the 1420s, the Ulugh Beg Observatory was once one of the best observatories in the Islamic world. In fact, it nurtured some of the top astronomers of the time. Under the rule of Ulugh Beg during the Timurid Empire, Samarkand became a scientific hub.

Ulugh Beg was said to have been more famous as an astronomer than as a ruler. This observatory showcases some of the world’s most advanced astronomical studies led by him.

The most notable one was a remarkably thorough star catalog with over 1,000 stars and their locations in the sky. It was created 200 years before telescopes even existed.

A Statue of Ulugh Beg at the Ulugh Beg Observatory
A statue of Ulugh Beg at the Ulugh Beg Observatory

Unfortunately, the observatory was destroyed in 1449 when Ulugh Beg was beheaded. It was then rediscovered in 1908 by a Russian archeologist.

Today, the Ulugh Beg Observatory is a museum that displays a model of the ancient observatory, a copy of a 1605 world map that was created there, and an engraving that shows Ulugh Beg seated with Tycho Brahe and Ptolemy, fathers of European astronomy.

Ulugh Beg Observatory in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Opening hours: 9 am - 7 pm daily
🎫 Entrance fees: 25,000 som ($2.50 USD)
🚶🏻‍♀️ How to get there: From Registan - 15 mins by taxi / From Shah-i-Zinda - bus no. 45, 99, 17

13. Visit the President’s Tomb

The President’s Tomb is the beloved resting place of the first president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov. A splendid mausoleum was built over his grave, and its architecture is a blend of modern and medieval techniques.

At the center of the mausoleum is the tombstone. Made of white onyx, it has verses from the Quran and the Timurid era inscribed on it. The walls of the mausoleum are ornate with gold leaf, and the portals are covered with writings — quotes by the president himself written in Uzbek, English, and Arabic.

The President’s Tomb is a very peaceful place to visit in Samarkand. Please remember to dress modestly and to cover your knees and shoulders to show respect.

The President's Tomb in Uzbekistan
🎫 Entrance fees: 15,000 som ($1.50 USD)
🚶🏻‍♀️ How to get there: Around 5-10 mins by foot from Bibi-Khanym Mosque or Shah-i-Zinda

14. Take a Day Trip to Shahrisabz

If you have time to spare, the UNESCO city of Shahrisabz is an easy and popular day trip from Samarkand. Founded more than 2,700 years ago, Shahrisabz is the hometown and former royal residence of Amir Timur. It’s also one of the oldest cities in Central Asia.

Shahrisabz has lots of historical monuments dating back to the Timurid era, and much of its medieval historic center has retained its original appearance. This makes it a very authentic place to see. Some notable attractions are Ak-Saray Palace, Dorut Tilovat, Amir Timur Museum (inside Chubin Madrasah), Chorsu Complex, and Dor-us Siyodat.

To get to Shahrisabz, hire a taxi and ask the driver to wait for you while you explore this small town. Then, have them take you back to Samarkand. The scenic drive takes 2 hours each way, and the usual rate is $40 USD for 2 people for the whole day.

Monuments in Shahrisabz, Uzbekistan
Shahrisabz — the perfect day trip from Samarkand, Uzbekistan

🏡 Where to Stay in Samarkand

The best area to stay in Samarkand is within walking distance of Registan (the city center) because most of the city’s attractions are just 10-15 minutes by foot from there.

A Hotel in Uzbekistan
Photo courtesy of Jahongir Hotel via Booking.com

OUR TOP PICK: Jahongir Hotel (⭐️ 9.2)
This friendly family-run B&B is just 5 mins by foot from Registan and the city center. Each of their rooms has traditional wall decorations, giving it a unique cozy atmosphere. They also offer delicious Uzbek cuisine, a 24-hour reception, and a stunning courtyard & garden.

Check rates & availability


A Hotel in Uzbekistan
Photo courtesy of Bibikhanum Hotel via Booking.com

MOST SCENIC: Bibikhanum Hotel (⭐️ 8.8)
This hotel offers a spectacular close-up view of Bibi-Khanym Mosque from its restaurant and terrace. That’s why it’s hands down the most scenic hotel in Samarkand. There’s also a 24-hour reception, room service, and a flat-screen TV with satellite in each room.

Check rates & availability


A Hotel in Uzbekistan
Photo courtesy of Registon Saroy Hotel via Booking.com

TOP COMFORT PICK: Registon Saroy (⭐️ 9.5)
This hotel offers modern deluxe rooms at a very reasonable price. Located within walking distance of most attractions, this hotel features free WiFi, free private parking, and a flat-screen TV in each room. Guests can also enjoy a daily continental or buffet breakfast.

Check rates & availability


A Hotel in Uzbekistan
Photo courtesy of Tilyakori Hotel via Booking.com

TOP BUDGET PICK: Tilyakori Hotel (⭐️ 9.3)
This budget-friendly hotel has a warm and friendly staff, a 24-hour front desk, and free WiFi throughout the property. Situated in the city center, it is an easy walk from many attractions. They also offer airport transfers, room service, and continental breakfast.

Check rates & availability


🗓 How Many Days to Spend in Samarkand

Recommended: At least 2 days, but ideally 3 days if you prefer a relaxed trip.

Samarkand is one of the main highlights of Uzbekistan, and the attractions in this city are very large in scale. This means you will need quite a bit of time to fully explore them. Visting Registan, for example, can easily take up almost an entire day if you enjoy details.

Shah-i-Zinda’s avenue of mausoleums can also take up to half a day. So while you can definitely see everything in 2 days, your itinerary might be pretty packed. To fully enjoy your time in Samarkand and not rush from place to place, spending 3 days is ideal.


📝 2-3 Day Itinerary for Samarkand

  • Day 1: Registan, Bibi-Khanym Mosque, Siyob Bazaar, Afrasiyab, evening performance at Registan + climb up a minaret there
  • Day 2: Gur-e-Amir, President’s Tomb, Shah-i-Zinda, Ulugh Beg Observatory, Khovrenko Winery + Samarkand Museum of Winemaking tour
  • Day 3: Day trip to Shahrisabz (or places you didn’t get to see on the previous days)

🔮 Travel Insurance for Uzbekistan

The last thing we want on any trip is for accidents and mishaps to get in the way of enjoying ourselves. So travel insurance is always a good idea.

I use a service called World Nomads and can highly recommend them — they offer affordable prices, great coverage, and a reliable 24/7 on-call service.

Get a quote from World Nomads


🚉 How to Get to Samarkand

Samarkand is well-connected to the other main Uzbek cities via railway. Taking the train is therefore the best way to get there. There are two types of trains in Uzbekistan, the fast Afrosiyob train and the slower Sharq train.

🚊 Travel Tip: The fast train is very comfortable, spacious, and clean. It’s also modern and equipped with air conditioning. The slower train may feel like it needs an upgrade, but it’s nothing deplorable. It only costs a bit less than the fast train, though, so go for the fast one if you can. It’s worth it.

🚆 From Tashkent: Take the Afrosiyob high-speed train. The journey is around 2 hours and tickets cost around $7 USD at local train stations. With the slower Sharq train, it takes around 3.5 hours and costs a little bit less.

🚆 From Bukhara: Take the Afrosiyob high-speed train. The journey is 1.5 hours and tickets start at $7 USD at local train stations. The slower and slightly cheaper Sharq train takes around 2.5 hours.

🚆 From Khiva: There’s a 12-hour night train that departs from Khiva and takes you to Samarkand before sunrise. However, it’s much more convenient to go from Khiva to Bukhara, explore Bukhara for a few days, and make your way to Samarkand from there.


🚶🏻‍♀️ How to Get Around Samarkand

Samarkand is a big but walkable city. All of its main attractions — aside from the Ulugh Beg Observatory ⁠— are concentrated in the city center or within walking distance of each other (around 15 to 30 mins by foot).

You’re also likely to come across lots of hidden gems while walking from place to place, so exploring this city on foot is definitely the best way to get around.

If your feet get sore, hailing a taxi is very easy to do in Samarkand. Just go to a big road and you’ll see many of them. You can also ask your hotel to arrange a taxi for you. Taxis typically charge $1.25 USD for a 10-15 minute ride.


🥘 Where to Eat in Samarkand

  • Oasis Garden — An elegant restaurant with a unique, interesting menu and friendly staff. They offer vegetarian options too.
  • Bibikhanum Teahouse — This well-decorated restaurant is an excellent place to experience the cozy and traditional tapchan (an outdoor sofa) seating arrangement.
  • Restaurant Samarkand — A fancy restaurant with a stunning interior. It also has a big disco room for birthday parties & other events, so the atmosphere is incredible.
  • Old City — The best restaurant in town for vegetarians and vegans. They have tons of delicious vegan options to choose from.

🌟 Top Tips for Visiting Samarkand

  • The best time to visit: March to May / September to October for the best weather
  • ATMs in Samarkand: There are plenty of ATMs around the city that accept foreign cards. However, the ones that are most likely to work are inside high-end hotels and restaurants. Have a bit more cash on you than you may need, just in case.
  • Taxis in the city: The typical rate is around 12,500 som ($1.25 USD) for a 10-15 minute ride
  • What to pack: Modest clothes that cover your knees and shoulders for mosques and mausoleums. Outside of sacred places, you can dress however you want.
  • Safety in Samarkand: Samarkand, like Uzbekistan in general, is incredibly safe, even for solo female travelers. Uzbekistan has a very low crime rate and the friendliest people, so simply take general travel precautions and you’ll be fine.
  • Samarkand photography tip: The architecture here is incredibly grand and majestic, so bring a wide-angle lens to capture it all. I use the Tokina AF 16-28mm f/2.8.

🌸 Final Thoughts on What to Do in Samarkand

Samarkand is without a doubt one of the dreamiest destinations on earth, and it definitely deserves more international attention. While you won’t come across too many international tourists there, you will likely meet tons of local tourists from other parts of Uzbekistan.

So, my final tip is to budget some time for chatting with the locals. They are incredibly friendly and would oftentimes come up to you just to say a warm “welcome to my country”. You’ll likely also meet students who’ll want to practice their English with you.

While the architecture in Samarkand is mindblowing, the people will always be the best part of Uzbekistan. Now that you know what to see in Samarkand, don’t miss out on the best things to do in Khiva and Bukhara, two other incredible cities in Uzbekistan.

Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

📸 My Uzbekistan Travel Photography Gear

This is the gear Lukas and I used to capture the best of Samarkand. You can also see my article on the best cameras for bloggers for more options other than the ones listed below.

Ceiling of Shah-i-Zinda in Uzbekistan

I hope you enjoyed learning about the top things to do in Samarkand!

For further reading on Uzbekistan, discover:
🇺🇿 The Ultimate 10-Day Uzbekistan Itinerary & Travel Guide
🕌 14 Top Things to do in Bukhara: Uzbekistan’s Sacred Open-Air Museum
🏰 12 Top Things to do in Khiva: The Stunning Sandcastle City of Uzbekistan

If you’re interested in other less-visited destinations, discover:
🇵🇰 11 Best Places to Visit in Lahore, Pakistan: A Complete City Guide
🇦🇿 27 Best Places to Visit in Baku, Azerbaijan
🇮🇷 36 Most Beautiful Places in Iran: The Perfect 2-Week Iran Itinerary
🇴🇲 A 10-Day Oman Itinerary: The Ultimate Road Trip Guide
🇫🇯 Top 12 Things to do in Nadi, Fiji: The Ultimate 2022 Guide

🖼 If you enjoyed my Uzbekistan photos, you can also purchase some of them from my print store!

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32 Comments

  • Megan May 13, 2020 at 6:07 pm

    your photos are so gorgeous! I’m dreaming of a visit to this beautiful place. thanks for sharing!

    • The Diary of a Nomad May 13, 2020 at 8:57 pm

      Thank you Megan! 🙂

  • Audrey May 13, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    Wow! The architecture of this place is absolutely stunning! Is this ceramic work all over?

    • The Diary of a Nomad May 13, 2020 at 11:23 pm

      Yes it is! Super impressive right? 🙂

  • Erin May 14, 2020 at 2:04 am

    Your photos are SO beautiful. I’ve been reading alot lately about the Caucuses and surrounding region, it seems like a really underrated region for travel. Thanks for this inspo, I’m definitely adding Samarkand and the rest of Uzbekistan to my travel wish list!

    • The Diary of a Nomad May 14, 2020 at 10:49 am

      Aw thank you Erin, I’m glad you want to go! It’s definitely a very underrated part of the world 🙂

  • Mikaela May 14, 2020 at 3:54 am

    This is my first time hearing about this place and I’m stunned! I would definitely enjoy this location because I love looking at architecture designs!

    • The Diary of a Nomad May 14, 2020 at 10:49 am

      Yes, you would love it a lot then! 🙂

  • Rebecca May 14, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    Wow, the architecture here is stunning!

    • The Diary of a Nomad May 15, 2020 at 1:12 am

      It totally is!

  • Federica June 3, 2020 at 3:22 pm

    This city is truly a pearl!💙 Thank you soooooo much for making me discover it! If I’ll ever go back, thing I hope, sure I will visit the ‘remaining’ places as well!
    And oh girl! Your photos are seriously stunning!!!💙💙💙

  • Bobbie June 24, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    Wow! What an amazing post, thank you so much for sharing. Another place to add to the bucket list! You’re a very talented photographer!

  • Emmy June 24, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    Wow what a beautiful place to visit. I cannot get over all the colors of the architecture in Samarkand! Thank you for this through guide it’s so helpful!

  • patri June 24, 2020 at 10:52 pm

    girrrrrrrrrrl!!!!! I can’t stop looking at those photos! Hubby and I were planning to do a 5’Stan trip for this year… will it happen? I don’t know, but you certainly got me thinking about it again >D

  • Melissa June 25, 2020 at 6:33 am

    This post is SO amazing! I would have NEVER known about how cool it is without this post! Adding to my bucket list now : )

  • Lorenza June 27, 2020 at 8:17 am

    Honestly I had never considered visiting Uzbekistán but seeing your amazing photos and the descriptions it is top on my bucket list!! Thank you!!!

  • Sarah Camp July 2, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    What an absolutely stunning place. The photos don’t even look real – being in Ontario we do NOT have these types of architectural designs…it’s gorgeous! I’d love to visit in person!!

  • Kelly July 2, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    I have never heard of Samarkhand before. I love the architecture, and the fact that in some stores you can still see some of the students and professors rooms. This would really feel like you are going back in time.

  • Lissa July 2, 2020 at 7:21 pm

    This was not a location on my radar- but gosh is it now!!! The architecture is some of the most beautiful architecture/art I have ever seen. I’m not even sure how you differentiate between architecture and art here. Stunning.

  • Jason July 2, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    Travel blogs as beautiful as this are so important right now! Thank you for keeping my travel bug alive!

  • Agnes July 2, 2020 at 7:28 pm

    What a perfect itinerary and photos! Excellent work! Uzbekistan is still on my list. I hope to visit this country one day. I would love to see Samarkand ⁠as UNESCO World Heritage; architecture is breathtaking!

  • Michelle Segrest July 3, 2020 at 12:30 am

    This is an insightful and comprehensive itinerary for a truly historic and remarkable travel destination. Thanks so much for all the historic tidbits and for the stunning photos! I felt like I was right there with you!

  • Niry July 3, 2020 at 6:13 am

    This is definitely my kind of place! I’m stunned. Great photos. Is it dangerous travelling there?

    • The Diary of a Nomad July 3, 2020 at 2:05 pm

      Uzbekistan is one of the safest countries on earth 🙂 Very low crime rate and friendliest people to top it off! I never felt threatened and know many solo female travelers who feel the same way! 🙂

  • Kat Anderson July 3, 2020 at 8:13 am

    A friend of mine recently visited Uzbekistan. I had never heard of it before, but wow is it ever gorgeous. Your photos are amazing – and so are your dresses! They could have their own blog post 😉

  • Mark and Chuck July 4, 2020 at 1:55 pm

    Your photos are spectacular! Great information, while we’ve heard about travel in Uzbekistan this might seal the deal for traveling there!

  • Cass July 24, 2020 at 11:50 pm

    I always adore how vibrant your blog is. But you always make sure to give fantastic info and tips too!

  • Rajat Kumar November 24, 2021 at 3:15 pm

    This city has my heart. Specially it’s architecture and the culture is possess. These photographs are so lovely.
    Wonderful post.

  • Rajiv Khurana April 13, 2022 at 8:28 am

    I was just blown away by your amazing photographs!

    I do have a question, though. Is it easy to use credit cards like MasterCard & Visa in Uzbekistan in cafes & restaurants and for paying for entrance tickets?

    • The Diary of a Nomad April 13, 2022 at 9:09 am

      Thank you Rajiv! It’s not easy to do that at all, and for entrance tickets especially, many places only take cash. We had a good amount of cash on us for the whole trip, and there are plenty of ATMs around town (usually in big hotels/high-end restaurants).

  • Nihaal September 30, 2022 at 7:16 pm

    Hello,

    Your blogs and pictures are truly mesmerizing! Kudos to you.

    I have one question though. There’s a laser show that takes place at Registan in the evening. Are you aware whether it happens every evening or only on specific days?

    • The Diary of a Nomad September 30, 2022 at 10:50 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, Nihaal! Unfortunately I’m not sure of the exact timings of that laser show. I did see it at Registan on my second visit to Uzbekistan, but was told by a guide that we got lucky that day since an important person was visiting town and they put on the show mostly for him. I hope you find your answer somewhere and enjoy your trip! 🙂

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    I'm Jiayi, a Chinese-Italian photographer who's been on the move since age 6. With this blog, my goal is to provide you with invaluable tips to help you plan epic trips to both popular and unpopular destinations, and to photograph them the way you'd want to. Happy Travels! :)

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