The territory of the present day Uzbekistan has been a cultural centre not only of the Central Asia but the entire medieval East throughout centuries and millennia. The country that has been a melting pot of cultures, customs and languages for many centuries, possesses an amazingly rich spiritual and cultural heritage. According to the international experts, there are more than 4000 historical-architectural monuments of the world significance in Uzbekistan. Add to this the natural beauty, wonderful cuisine and skillful crafts and you will understand that the whole life is not enough to seize it all. But there are 10 things that you must do while vacationing in Uzbekistan.

Reach the “Golden Valley”. The history of the Silk Road begins with intention of Chinese Emperors to reach the Fergana Valley and its “winged horses”. Precious ruby on the crossroad of three Central Asian countries, Fergana Valley is a land of skillful potters, wood carving masters, weavers and tailors that pass their secrets of art from generation to generation. A traveler will not only see the palace of the Khudoyar Khan, old madrasas and mosques, but also enjoy the simplicity and openness of people of the Valley, that weave light silk carpets, make knives (pichaks) of an excellent sharpness and sculpt terracotta jugs. Vacation in Uzbekistan should definitely include a trip to the land where the sweetest grapes ripen and where they bake beautiful and fragrant bread. Don’t leave the Valley without trying delicious pilaff from the devzira sort of rice.

Climb the Minaret of Islam Hodja. Khiva, as no other city in Central Asia, is rich for the survived masterpieces of the medieval architecture: the fortress of Itchan Kala looked completely the same even a hundred years ago; the Mausoleum of Pahlavan Makhmud, a philosopher, a poet and a one of the strongest wrestlers of his time; the Juma Mosque with its more than two hundred carved wooden columns; a beautiful tower of Kalta-Minor that was not been finished, with its a lovely bright majolica. The Grand Vizier (Prime Minister) of the Khiva Khanate Islam-Hodja was a worthy man with a tragic destiny. He financed construction of a hospital, chemistry, a post-office, a telegraph and a secular school for the public. He also funded the construction of the highest minaret (56,6m) in Khiva where you can get a panoramic view of the old city. The ascent is abrupt, steps are high, and pass is narrow as in 1908 builders were focused on the functionality of the minaret but not the comfort. In the dome of the minaret, at the height of 45 meters, it is also hard to move. But it is such a challenge that will justify itself and you will have one more reason to be proud of yourself. Make sure you try tuhum-barak – original Khiva dumplings.

Ask for luck from Hodja Nasreddin. Rare in beauty holy Bukhara is rich for its monuments of medieval oriental architecture: mighty and unassailable fortress of Ark; exquisite and stately Kalyan Minaret that even Genghis Khan dared not to ruin; Sitorai Mokhi-Hosa, a summer residence of the Bukhara Emir that unities irreconcilable architectural traditions; the ancient mosque Magoki-Attori; trade rows under the old domes; skillful brickwork of the Samanids Mausoleum. There are tens, if not hundreds, of places worth visiting to enjoy masterpieces of proficient blacksmith and ceramists, philosophers and merchants. Chayhana (a tea house) at the picturesque pond Lyabi-Hauz is a must visit place of this beautiful city. There is a monument not to the conqueror or a ruler, but beloved for many and many centuries long native of Bukhara, a wit, Hodja Nasreddin, who is called here as Afandi. You will learn a lot of amusing stories full of wisdom about him. In your turn, don’t forget to rub his right shoe (kavush) of the sculpture of the bronze national hero. It brings luck in business and relationship, has been checked.

Buy a sheet of paper for 1000 years. There are no doubts that at the time of Samarkand excursion, you will visit all landmark places of the city with its centuries’ long history praised by philosophers and poets of antiquity: the sacrament of the Amir Temur tomb; engineering calculation of the Ulugbek Observatory; melancholic beauty of the Shahi-Zinda necropolis; sanctity of the Mausoleum of Imam al-Bukhari. Selfie with the world famous square of Registan on the background is guaranteed. Samarkand is rich for the monuments of the medieval architecture, enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage List. You can even visit the ancient city of Afrosiyab exactly at the place where Alexander the Great had a feast. It is a must to take a trip to the village of Konigil near Samarkand, where the brothers Mukhtarovs founded a factory “Meros (Heritage)”. The Mukhtarovs restored thousand years tradition of producing well-known Samarkand paper from mulberry according to an old technology. Manuscripts on this paper are kept for centuries. And don’t forget to buy famous Samarkand bread.

Spend a night in the Kyzylkum desert. A resident of the modern society periodically must seclude him/herself where there is no Wi-Fi and there are no concrete roofs, but a starry sky with peach size stars above you. Take a trip to the Nurata Mountains away from the fuss and civilization. Make a stop on the way at the Nurata pass where there have been preserved Stone Age petroglyphs, an art of the humans living B.C. and that have reached us through thousands of centuries. And then you will enjoy the great silence of the Kyzylkum desert, yurts, camels, and amazing kavurdak for dinner at the fire under the open sky. In the middle of the sultry desert there is an amazing Lake Aydarkul where pink flamingoes stop during their migrations. Continue your trip to the villages of Ashraf and Yangi Hayot. Vacation in Uzbekistan will not be complete without experiencing the local culture and learning traditions and everyday life near the wild nature. You will forget about Wi-Fi.

Touch the mystery of Sufism. Uzbekistan is very attractive for the followers of Sufism from all around the world who travel here for pilgrimage. Thus, Bukhara is called “Holy land of 7000 pirs (spiritual mentors of Sufism)”. Even if the travelers are not planning to visit all 7000 sacred places in Bukhara, but the most symbolic monuments of Sufism are included in their tour program. It begins with the visit to the graves of Seven Sufi Saints and to the most holy place of Bukhara, a Mausoleum of the founder of the Naqshbandiya Order – Bahouddin Naqshbandi. There are many places both in Samarkand and in Tashkent, that are worshipped by the followers of this old mystic stream all around the world. Visiting Samarkand, you will see mausoleum of Gur-Emir with the tomb of Tamerlane and his descendants, Shahi-Zinda necropolis and many others. In Tashkent – mausoleum of Holy Abu Bakr Kaffal-Shashi, a theologian, a lawyer, a poet, a warrior and a master in making locks, and the mausoleum of Sheykh Zayniddin-bobo with its two-level-underground chillahona, where Sheykh would go deep into thinking, because “One hour of thinking is better than a year of praying” and “God is silence and is easily reached by keeping silence”. By the way, Bukhara plov is considered the healthiest in Uzbekistan.

Pay homage to a selfless Savitsky. It is an astonishing fact. In Nukus, the capital city of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, there is a unique museum where wonderful exhibits collected by Igor Savitsky are presented. The whole world is familiar with the collection of paintings of Russian and Soviet avant-garde artists. It is to note that Savitsky saved for the later generations the works of Alexandr Volkov, Usto Mumin, Robert Falk, Nikolai Karakhan, Ural Tansikbaev and many others. Believe or not, any big world auction would give anything to own one of these works. Another point of interest is a wonderful collection of artifacts of the Ancient Khorezm period, skillful samples of sewing and jewelry art of Karakalpaks and people of Central Asia. After the Nukus Museum named after Savitsky, take a trip to the old necropolis of Mizdakhan and a protection fortress of fire worshipers Gyaur-Qala, remains of the wall that is 10 meters thick amaze travelers even thousand years later. Note for yourself that in Nukus they prepare the best fried fish and delicious beshbarkmak.

Discover secrets of the ancient centre of Buddhism. The territory of the Central Asia was the place where in the ancient times different religions peacefully co-existed: Zoroastrism, Buddhism, Manichaeism. Try to take a trip to the furthest southern city of Uzbekistan – Termez. Buddhism played a significant role in the ideology of the Ancient Termez for seven centuries long: from the 1st to 7th centuries A.D. Amazing ancient monuments are the evidence of it. Thus, Buddha images in the temple-complex of Fayaz-Tepe are considered one of the oldest of the preserved on the Earth and date back to the 1 Century A.D. The complex of Fayaz-tepe is a great value as one of the few monuments of the Buddhist art that adorn its walls. You will see Zurmala – a 12-m long Buddhist stupa built in the Kushan epoch, around 1st – 2nd centuries A.D. and the Buddhist worship place Kara-tepe. Kara-Tepe includes several temples and monasteries erected in the beginning of the 2nd century A.D. Walls of Kara-Tepe have many ancient images and inscriptions made many and many centuries ago. If you are in Surkhandarya, try archa-kebab, a specially cooked meat with the aroma of fir branches.

Step on the bottom of the former Aral Sea. It is a sad, beautiful and teaching trip. Just half a century ago there has been a huge, drainless, salt lake-sea. Fishing fleets were furrowing the expanses of the Aral Sea. The shores were full of fishing villages, fish factories, fish canning plants and fish receiving centres. Annually about 60,000 tonnes of 34 kinds of fish had been caught in the waters of the Aral Sea. Today, where the ships were passing by, there is a desert of Aralkum, and the water has left for hundreds of kilometers from its former shores. There are no fishing villages and fish plants anymore, abandoned ships are becoming rusty. Tour to the Aral Sea leaves mixed feelings of admiration of the natural beauty of “Marsian” landscapes of the Aral desert and the Plateau of Ustyurt, and sadness that you feel seeing all this naked wounds of this land. You will see the ruins of lighthouses and abandoned villages, a fish plant falling apart and “ships graveyard” in the former port city Muynak. But you will get to the sea itself and will be able to make great pictures of the still left scenery of the Aral Sea. It is still alive. The footage for the song «Louder Than Words» from Pink Floyd’s last album, The Endless River was shot near the remains of the Aral Sea on the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Pass through the Gulkam Canyon. There are not many capital cities in the world with many million population in an hour drive from the running rivers with crystal ice water, mountain cliffs, canyons and pearl waterfalls. Tashkent is lucky about it. Even though mountains of Uzbekistan are not that high as Himalayas or Alps, but it is possible to have an interesting and rich tour and see almost all types of mountain landscapes: from narrow mountain parts and waterfalls to wide alpine meadows. If you are in Tashkent, make sure you take a chance to go through the Gulkam Canyon in Great Chimgan, where you can feel yourself as a real extremer. Ascents and slopes, sheer cliffs where the sun rays reach only in the afternoon. And of course, the river of Gulkamsay squeezed between the corridors of cliffs with three picturesque waterfalls. You will remember vacation in Uzbekistan with lively streams of crystal waters of waterfall.