Bukhara is a city located in Uzbekistan with a rich history and culture. It was once an important stop on the Silk Road and today is a popular destination for travelers interested in learning about the country’s past and experiencing its unique blend of Eastern and Western influences.
Prefer to watch a video instead? Here are the top things to do in Bukhara in a video:
Where to Stay in Bukhara
Budget (15 USD & below)
Beautiful old caravanserai renovated into a hotel. You can book shared dormitories as well as private rooms here. Centrally located and budget-friendly. If you want to stay in a historic place while on a budget, it cannot get any better than this.
Excellent breakfast, great service, and friendly staff. The resort has shared dormitory rooms as well as private family rooms. It features a swimming pool which is a big plus.
Mid-range (25 USD & above)
I had the best breakfast spread in Uzbekistan in Samani Bukhara – Samsa in tandoor with pumpkin pie, potato pie, bread with homemade jam, biscuits with cream, juicy melons, and the ubiquitous Uzbek tea. The host and his family are very friendly and the host can converse in English which is a bonus. It’s located in the Old town, so location-wise it’s quite convenient too.
Former madrassah which is now converted into a hotel, this boutique hotel recently opened its doors to guests. Excellent location, staff, and service.
Luxury Hotel (50 USD & above)
A family-run boutique hotel with newly decorated rooms. Friendly staff, great service, and excellent location.
A state-protected madrassah converted into a hotel, this is the highest-rated hotel on booking.com with a 9.7 rating and 350+ reviews. Excellent breakfast, impeccable service, and spacious rooms. Quite an apt stay for an ancient town. Don’t you think?
One thing that still remains a mystery to me is that pretty much every hotel or guest house I’ve checked in Bukhara offers an excellent breakfast spread. If you uncover the secret behind this, I’d love to know! 🙂
If you’re planning a trip to Bukhara and are wondering what to do while you’re there, you can follow this 2-day itinerary which covers all the top things to do in Bukhara and some more!
Pro-Tip: Make sure to visit the complex during the night as well. Watching the Kalon Minaret when it’s all LIT up is a different experience altogether!
Visit Ulugh Beg Madrasah & Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah
Ulugh Beg Madrasah
Ulugh Beg Madrasah is one of the few structures in Bukhara from the Timurid era. While the architecture isn’t as stunning as some of the other monuments in Bukhara, it’s nice to see the connection to the Timurid era here.
Madrassahs were a center of learning and students studied different subjects here like science, mathematics, and astronomy, among others. Like other madrassahs that you’d find in Samarkand, the classrooms were on the ground floor and the sleeping quarters for the students were on the first floor.
Directly facing Ulugh Beg Madrasah is the breathtaking Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah, an epitome of medieval Central Asian architecture. This madrasah is named after its patron, Abdulaziz Khan, who ruled the Khanate of Bukhara at the time. The madrasah is known for its stunning architecture, which combines traditional Islamic motifs with elements of the local Bukharan style.
Today, the Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah serves as a museum, showcasing the rich history of Islamic education in Bukhara and the surrounding region. Visitors to the madrasah can learn about the important role that madrasahs played in the development of Islamic culture and scholarship, and marvel at the stunning art and architecture of this historic site.
Explore the Old Town
I’d suggest dedicating a few hours to at least just meandering through the Old Town. Get lost in the narrow pathways and take in the sights and sounds of this historic part of the city.
The historic center of Bukhara is over 2000 years old and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This is what UNESCO had to say about the historic center of Bukhara – “It is one of the best examples of well-preserved Islamic cities of Central Asia of the 10th to 17th centuries, with an urban fabric that has remained largely intact.”
UNESCO further adds “the real importance of Bukhara lies not in its individual buildings but rather in its overall townscape, demonstrating the high and consistent level of urban planning and architecture that began with the Sheibanid dynasty”.
Walking around here would transport you back in time and conjure images of traders and travelers on the Silk Road who frequently passed through Bukhara. Watch this video to get a better perspective of Bukhara.
Try Some Local Food
Uzbek cuisine is known for its hearty, flavorful dishes, and Bukhara is the perfect place to try some of these dishes for yourself. Be sure to try some plov (a rice dish with meat and vegetables), shurpa (a thick soup made with meat and vegetables), and Samsa (a savory pastry filled with meat or vegetables). Also, drink copious amounts of Uzbek Green Tea. On the other hand, if you prefer something cooler, try Ayran, a fermented, yogurt-based local drink that tastes similar to buttermilk (in India).
Visit the Kalon Minaret at Night
Po-i-Kalyan is an architectural ensemble that includes the Kalon Minaret, the Kalon Mosque, and the Mir-i-Arab Madrasah.
The Kalon Minaret is considered one of the most iconic landmarks of Bukhara and is a must-see attraction for any visitor. The minaret was built in the 12th century and stands 47 meters high. The intricate decoration of the minaret is a beautiful example of Islamic architecture and it’s worth taking the time to admire the details of the carvings and inscriptions.
This architectural masterpiece is truly a sight to behold especially at night. As the sun sets, the minaret is illuminated and the light creates a magical setting that is perfect for capturing stunning photos.
The night view of the minaret also offers a unique perspective on the architectural details and the intricate carvings that adorn the surface.
With its rich history and stunning architecture, the Po-i-Kalyan ensemble is a must-see attraction in Bukhara and a great way to immerse yourself in the culture and history of Uzbekistan.
Visit the Ismail Samani Mausoleum
This stunning mausoleum is the final resting place of Ismail Samani, the ruler who founded the Samanid Dynasty in the 9th century. It’s the oldest building in Bukhara and a great place to learn about the city’s past.
Check out the Chor Minor
This colorful building is a former madrasah (Islamic school) that is now home to a small museum. It’s an interesting place to visit and is sure to be a memorable experience.
Ark of Bukhara
The Ark of Bukhara is a stunning architectural wonder that has stood the test of time. Located in the ancient city of Bukhara, this massive fortress dates back to the 5th century, when it was first built and occupied. Despite its age, the Ark of Bukhara remains a vital part of Bukhara’s cultural and historical identity.
Not only is it a beautiful and impressive structure to behold, but it has also served as a city within a city for centuries, housing various governmental and administrative offices, as well as serving as a military defense. It is truly a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of our ancestors and a must-see for anyone visiting Bukhara.
5 minutes from the Ark of Bukhara is Bolo-Hauz Mosque, one of the unique structures that you’d come across in Bukhara.
This mosque is also known as the ‘40-Pillar Mosque’ because its ceiling is held by 20 wooden pillars that reflect in the pond in front of the building; so in total, you see 40 pillars.
Visit the Trading Domes of Bukhara and Hunt for Some Unique Finds
The trading domes in Bukhara are said to be active since the times of The Silk Road.
Here are the 4 trading domes that are still standing to this day:
- Toqi Sarrofon Bazaar
- Toqi Telpak Furushon Bazaar
- Tim Abdulla Khan Trading Dome
- Toqi Zargaron
Which City to Shop in Uzbekistan?
If there’s one city you want to shop in Uzbekistan, make it Bukhara. I found the quality here to be much better than the usual Samarkand and Tashkent shopping scenes.
You’ll find a wide range of products from inexpensive knickknacks to thousands of dollars of silk carpets. Whatever your budget is, I’m sure you’ll find something in Bukhara.
The reason that you have so much variety in souvenir shopping here is that throughout history, a lot of skilled artisans (also called masters here) from different parts of the world have settled here. Masters who are skilled in miniature painting, silk carpets, knife making, suzani work, and so on.
It’s not just about the variety of options but also the quality of the items available here is top-notch.
I found a painting of travelers on the Silk Road in a random shop in the Old Town that I regret not buying to this day!
Restaurants in Bukhara
Lyabi Hauz is a must-visit restaurant in Bukhara, known for its vegetarian-friendly options and al fresco seating by the picturesque pond. The restaurant is always packed during dinner time, making it one of the most popular spots in Bukhara. The ambiance is enhanced by live music, creating a lively and enjoyable atmosphere. However, it should be noted that service can be haphazard at times. The restaurant is situated in the heart of Bukhara’s old town and is one of the more expensive options in the city, with a meal consisting of beer, soup, and salad costing around $10. Which maybe quite inexpensive depending on which side of the world you are from.
Chayxana Xo’ja Nasriddin
Chayxana Xo’ja Nasriddin is a budget-friendly restaurant in Bukhara, suggested by my local host. Vegetarian options are also available, simply request “bez myasa” (without meat in Russian) when ordering. The baklava is particularly noteworthy, with a flaky and sweet taste. Service is friendly and efficient, and the restaurant is kept clean, including the restroom. It’s located in a convenient location, making it easy to access. I paid 40,000 UZS (4$) for a vegetarian version of Laghman, which is a more affordable option than restaurants located in Bukhara Old Town.
How to Reach Bukhara
Most tourists reach Bukhara either from Samarkand on the east or from Khiva on the west.
The fastest and most preferred way to reach Bukhara is through Afrosiyob – the fastest train in Uzbekistan with a speed of up to 210 km/hr.
Download the app Uz Railway app from the Google play store or Apple App Store and book tickets from there. The app is in English so it’s more user-friendly than the website version. The best part is you can also cancel the ticket if you don’t need it anymore for a full refund.
Even locals travel between the cities primarily by train so make sure to book tickets at least a month in advance if you are traveling during the season time.
Travel Time from Samarkand to Bukhara
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes if you are traveling on Afrosiyob or around 3 hours for other trains.
Travel Time from Khiva to Bukhara
There is no Afrosiyob or fast train from Khiva to Bukhara.
There are only sleeper trains available.
Duration: 8 hours.
Traveling Within Bukhara
Most of the historical monuments in Bukhara are within a walking distance from Bukhara Old Town. So, if you are staying inside Bukhara Old Town (like most tourists do), most of the sightseeing in Bukhara can be done on foot. Owing to the narrow alleys in the old town, walking is the most efficient option.
On the other hand, if you are looking for hassle-free transport to and from the railway station, then use the Yandex taxi app. The taxi would set you back between 20,000 som (USD 2) and 30,000 som (USD 3).
In case you missed the best recommendations on where to stay in Bukhara, find them here.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bukhara
Which is Better – Samarkand Or Bukhara?
This mostly comes down to interests and personal preferences. Samarkand has primarily Timurid architecture – probably unlike anything you’ve ever seen before (unless you’ve visited Iran). The intricate blue tile work, ornate carvings, and stunning mosaics will leave you in awe. On the other hand, Bukhara Old Town is more like an open-air museum and transports you back to the times of the Silk Road.
How Many Days Do You Need in Bukhara?
I’d suggest 2-3 days to visit Bukhara to really soak into the culture of this ancient city. Follow the 2 day itinerary mentioned in this blog post to make the most of your time here.
What is Bukhara Famous For?
The historic center of Bukhara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Recognized by UNESCO as “one of the best examples of well-preserved Islamic cities of Central Asia of the 10th to 17th centuries, with an urban fabric that has remained largely intact,” Bukhara’s architectural treasures and landmarks have been preserved for future generations to admire. With a history spanning over two millennia and a strategic location on the Silk Road, the city’s well-preserved townscape continues to attract visitors from around the world.
Why Visit Bukhara?
Bukhara, a city steeped in history and culture, offers a diverse range of experiences for visitors. Whether you are a history enthusiast, a lover of culture, or simply looking to purchase unique souvenirs, Bukhara has something to offer for everyone.
In conclusion, the city’s well-preserved architectural treasures and landmarks, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the historic center, provide a glimpse into the past and an appreciation for the cultural heritage of Central Asia. Additionally, the traditional bazaars offer a wealth of handmade crafts and traditional textiles, providing an opportunity to purchase authentic, locally-made souvenirs. Overall, Bukhara is a destination not to be missed for those seeking a rich and varied cultural experience.
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