Bukhara (also spelled Buxoro) is the shopping mecca in Uzbekistan. You can’t enter a madrasah or walk down any of the pedestrian-friendly roads in the Old Town District without seeing the amazing hand-woven textiles that Uzbekistan is famous for. If you want to pick up a few Uzbek souvenirs during your trip, Bukhara is the place to do it!
Aside from shopping, Bukhara is also full of gorgeous mosques and madrasahs that have been expertly restored. There are 140 protected buildings to be exact. The architecture here isn’t as flashy as it is in Samarkand, but the city of Bukhara has more history. It was a prominent stop on the Silk Road trade route and a major center for Islamic theology and culture.
You’ll love getting lost in the alleyways and trading domes of the busy, bustling city of Bukhara!
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Bukhara Travel Basics
Know Before You Go
- The currency of Uzbekistan is the Uzbekistani Soʻm (UZS). At the time of writing, the conversion was 8,450 UZS to $1 USD. In this post, we’ll be referring to prices in Uzbekistan currency.
- Learn a few words to get around! Most people use the standard Islamic greeting of
“assalomu alaykum” (sounds like “salom allycoomb”) to say hello. It translates to “peace be with you”. And you can say either “rahmat” (Uzbek) or “spasiba” (Russian) to say “thank you”.
- The sites in Bukhara begin to run together as they all look quite similar. Pick the top things you must see but don’t burn yourself out trying to see it all.
Getting to Bukhara
There are regular trains departing to Bukhara daily from Samarkand and Tashkent. From Samarkand, it will about 2.5 hours on the regular train and the price is ~80,000 UZS per person. It’s easiest to book your tickets directly at the station and you’re better off reserving a seat a few days in advance. There is also a fast train if you want to pay a bit more.
A taxi from the train station to the central tourist area of Bukhara should cost you 30,000 UZS. However, you’ll have to do a bit of negotiating as prices generally start at 50,000 UZS. If you booked a hotel in the Old Town District, you’ll be dropped off in a parking lot and will have to walk to your hotel through the pedestrian area.
Getting Around Bukhara
Bukhara is a very small town and the things that you’ll want to see are all concentrated in one area. So as long as your hotel is centrally located, you can walk pretty much everywhere you want to go! There are also plenty of taxis waiting right outside of the Old Town District as the alleyways surrounding the lake are pedestrian-only.
Where to Stay in Bukhara
The Komil Bukhara Boutique Hotel books out pretty far in advance so you have to plan early to get a room here. The rooms are decorated with darling, colorful, ornate fabrics, wall hangings, and furniture. The building itself is old and traditional and you’ll love how close you are to the Old Town District.
Amelia Boutique Hotel also has really cute, whimsical touches in the unique rooms. The terrace is a lovely place to enjoy afternoon tea, which the helpful hotel staff is happy to bring you at any time of day. Guests love the cozy rooms, the amazing staff, and the central location of this hotel!
The Amulet Hotel is in an old, traditional-style stone building with gorgeous wooden accents. Traditional Uzbekistan-style tapestries cover the beds and it has charming decor touches throughout. The breakfast here is superb! This is another one you should consider booking well in advance.
Where to Eat in Bukhara
Mavigri Restaurant is in a beautiful courtyard of a traditional building with tapestries hanging on the walls. We’d recommend ordering the #6 salad and the traditional beef soup with rice. The prices are super reasonable and the food is outstanding! Be sure to stop at the Bukhara Photo Gallery right nearby to see the beautiful photos of Uzbekistan people and sites.
The best restaurant in town for a delicious dinner in a beautiful setting is Ayvan Restaurant. You’ll need to walk into the lobby of the Lyabi House Hotel and your first thought will be “there’s no way a restaurant is in here.” But it is, through the courtyard that is off to the right. The interior of the restaurant is stunning, with intricate designs covering the walls. Definitely make a reservation as they fill up every night. And try the lamb ravioli!
Bolo Hauz is a little local joint near the Ark that serves up traditional Uzbek food like plov, lagmon, and beef and chicken shashlik (kabobs). They don’t have a menu in English so you’ll just have to tell them which of those you want and add a salad, some dip, and bread.
Where to Drink Tea & Coffee in Bukhara
Silk Road Tea House is a cute little spot right in the Old Town District where you can enjoy afternoon tea or coffee. For 30,000 UZS, you’ll choose your tea or coffee flavor which comes with a selection of yummy Uzbekistan sweet treats.
Cafe Ulugbek is right outside of the courtyard where the Ulugbek Madrasah and the Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah face each other. The view of both buildings from the lovely rooftop seating area is spectacular. It’s the perfect place to enjoy an early morning coffee.
Minzifa Restaurant has a rooftop terrace that has a nice view of the domed buildings below. We found the food to be bland and on the pricey side so we’d recommend having just a tea to enjoy the view, but eating elsewhere.
The Wishbone Cafe is a small German-style coffee shop inside the Tim Abdulla Khan Trading Dome. They serve sandwiches, waffles, some desserts, and a selection of coffees. The space is really lovely as you’ll be inside of the large, white-washed dome.
18 Amazing Things to See and Do in Bukhara
1. Admire the Chor Minor
The Chor Minor is tucked back into a neighborhood, just outside of the main tourist area of town. The name “chor-minor” translates to “four minarets” in Tajik. And those four pillars topped with vibrant blue domes are what give this structure such a unique shape.
The Chor Minor was built in 1807 by Khalif Niazkul and was part of a complex with a now destroyed madrassah. Each of the four minarets has a unique shape and design, and it is believed that a different world religion is reflected in each one. One of the pillars contains a staircase to the roof that you can climb for a fee of 4,000 UZS per person. There is also a small souvenir shop in the main room.
2. Shop in Bukhara’s Trading Domes
There is no shortage of shops in Bukhara, not only on the streets but also in most of the historical sites that you’ll be visiting. The most interesting shopping areas are the large, covered trading domes that have existed since the days of the Silk Road.
Toqi Sarrofon Bazaar, Toqi Telpak Furushon Bazaar, Tim Abdulla Khan Trading Dome, and Toqi Zargaron are the four trading domes that are still standing to this day. They are conveniently located along the popular road that leads from Lyabi Khause to the Kalyan Mosque so you’ll undoubtedly pass through them while exploring the city.
Here you’ll find the traditional suzanis which are beautifully embroidered blankets, pillowcases, and jackets. Also jewelry, hand-forged knives, ceramics, handbags, and everything in-between. But get ready to bargain, prices here are more expensive than in Tashkent or Samarkand.
3. See the Ark of Bukhara
The Ark of Bukhara is the oldest structure in Bukhara. It is a massive fortress that was constructed during the fifth century and occupied until it fell to Russia in 1920. Most of the fortress is now in ruins, but before it was bombed it housed essentially an entire city within its walls. It was home to the emirs of Bukhara and included a jail, workshops, mosques, an armory, and more.
Today those rooms have been transformed into small museums that hold various artifacts. From atop the walls that stand between 52 and 66 feet tall, you can see nice views of the city below. There are also plenty of souvenir shops in the Ark if you aren’t already shopped out.
The outer walls of the Ark are an interesting, bulbous shape and are quite iconic in Bukhara. Be sure to snap a few photos at the base of the walls as well as from the top.
Entrance Fees: 15,000 per person
4. See the View of the Ark from the Observation Deck
If you want to get a better view of the Ark from a higher vantage point, head to the Buxoro Minorasi Majmuasi observation deck across the street! Don’t worry, you can take an elevator all the way to the top.
Entrance Fees: 40,000 per person
5. Check out the Bolo Hauz Mosque
The most impressive feature of the Bolo Hauz Mosque is the tall, intricately carved pillars that line the front entrance. The mosque was built in the 17th century and the entire complex includes a small pond that was used as a water reservoir and a short minaret.
Visitors will need to remove their shoes to enter the mosque, but ladies do not need to worry about covering their heads here.
6. Shop for Antiques in the Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah
Built in 1652, the Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah is directly opposite the Ulughbek Madrasah and together they form the Kosh Madrasah. The front entrance to the Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah is spectacular, with an intricately carved and painted archway. Unfortunately, the inside has essentially been converted into a souvenir market. It makes it impossible to appreciate the architecture without someone asking you to come inside their shop.
Inside the front entrance is also the Museum of Wood Carving Art which houses a small collection of wood carvings. The room that houses the collection was once used as a mosque. And the Lecture Hall is now used as a shop for embroidered blankets. The courtyard is flanked on all sides by antique and souvenir shops.
Entrance Fees: 13,000 UZS per person which includes 8,000 to enter the madrasah and 5,000 for the museum. Keep your ticket, it’s good for three days.
7. Visit the Ulugbek Madrasah
The Ulugbek Madrasah is smaller than the Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah and is currently under reconstruction. So the courtyard isn’t particularly picturesque at the moment.
There are a few small shops inside but the architecture here doesn’t compare to some of the amazing sites around Bukhara. The best view is out the front door of the Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah across the street.
Entrance Fees: Free!
8. Marvel at the Kalyan Mosque
The Kalyan Mosque (also spelled Kalan or Kalon) dates back to the fifteenth century and has been beautifully preserved over the years. From the moment you descend the stairs into the central courtyard, you will be in awe of the magnificent architecture and vibrant colors. There is a large central courtyard, lined on all sides by white arched galleries that are comprised of 288 domes on 208 pillars. These hallways provide lovely views of the central courtyard.
The name Kalyan Mosque translates to “the great mosque”. It is the second-largest mosque in Uzbekistan and can hold up to 12,000 worshippers at a time.
The Kalyan Mosque, Kalyan Minaret and the Mir-i-Arab Madrasah all make up the Po-i-Kalyan Complex. And from the Western end of the Kalyan Mosque, you can view the inner courtyard as well as the blue domes of the Mir-i-Arab Madrasah and the Kalyan Minaret towering above.
Entrance Fees: Free! We think. There is a front desk area that is occasionally manned by someone who appears to only be selling postcards, not selling entrance tickets, but it’s hard to tell.
9. Snap a Photo of the Kalyan Minaret
The Kalyan Minaret is the central focal point of the Po-i-Kalyan Complex as it stands almost 150 feet above the ground. This is the second iteration of the minaret that is meant to summon Muslims to prayer five times a day, as the first collapsed due to the unstable ground underneath. The ground was fortified and the current minaret was completed in 1127.
The Kalyan has an interesting history as it was spared by Genghis Khan as he appreciated its beauty while he was destroying everything around it. It is also known as the “tower of death” because for several centuries criminals were executed by being tossed from the top.
Be sure to check out the Kalyan Minaret at night as well, when it is all lit up against the night sky!
10. Peek Inside the Mir-i-Arab Madrasah
The Mir-i-Arab Madrasah was constructed during the 16th century and is actually still in use to this day. Visitors can’t enter the complex as future religious leaders are receiving their education, but you can peek through the front entrance and admire the interior courtyard.
The shiny bright blue domes that sit on the roof are easy to spot from a distance and perfectly picturesque.
11. Have a Beer on the Lyab-i Hauz Lake
The Lyab-i Hauz is a small, man-made lake that sits directly in the center of the Old Town District. This area is buzzing with activity all day as it is surrounded by shops, restaurants, and madrasahs.
The best time to enjoy the lake is around sunset, at one of the outdoor tables on the edge of the water. You can order a draft beer from the Lyabi Hauz Restaurant and people watch as the sun goes down.
The lake is surrounded by beautiful buildings. The Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah is the most impressive and it’s listed below. The Kukaldosh Madrasah is across the street.
There are a few oddball shops inside but the madrasah has fallen into disrepair. However, it is one of the few in Uzbekistan that allows you to climb to the second floor. And the Museum of “Old Varakhsha and Ceramic” is inside the Nadir Divanbegi Khanaka which you can tour for 5,000 UZS per person.
12. Shop in the Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah
The Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah is a large structure adorned with tiles in the shape of peacocks, right on the Lyab-i Hauz Lake. It’s free to enter and is filled with souvenir shops on all sides. The middle of the courtyard has dozens of tables that are used for the evening concert.
The concert starts at 5 pm and tickets are 35,000 UZS per person, or 85,000 UZS if you want to add dinner. Tickets are available to purchase beginning 15 minutes before the show starts.
13. Bathe in an Ancient Hammam
After a long day spent wandering around Bukhara, treat yourself to a relaxing massage and a scrub at a traditional hammam. Both men and women can visit the Hamman Bozori Kord, one of the oldest working hammams in the world. You can enjoy the steam room and the self-service bath area, and then a traditional massage. It’s a great way to warm up on cold, rainy evenings in Bukhara!
Off-The-Beaten-Path Sites in Bukhara
Looking for less touristy activities in Bukhara? The following sites aren’t necessarily “must-see”, but they are far less crowded than the ones above and are good to check out if you have some extra time.
14. Buy Fresh Fruit at the Kolkhoznyy Rynok
If you’re sick of the touristy trading domes of Bukhara and want to get a feel for the local markets, head to the Kolkhoznyy Rynok. Here you’ll find fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, meats, spices, and very few other tourists. It’s a good place to pick up some snacks for your next train ride.
15. Visit the Memorial Complex of Imam al-Bukhari
The museum isn’t nearly as interesting as the building itself but it’s worth admiring the view from the outside.
Entrance Fees: 5,000 per person
16. Check out the Museum of the History of Bukhara Water Supply
Directly across from the Memorial Complex is the Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum which now houses the Museum of the History of Bukhara Water Supply. You’ll learn about how the water supply in Bukhara has evolved over the centuries.
Entrance Fees: 10,000 per person
17. Snap a Photo of the Mavzoley Samanidov Mausoleum
Located in a park just outside of the touristy area of Bukhara, the Mavzoley Samanidov Mausoleum (also known as the Samanid Mausoleum) provides a bit of solitude from the crowds. It is said to be the tomb of Ismail Samani as well as a few other members of the Samanid dynasty.
The Samanid Mausoleum was built between 892 and 943 CE and was spared the wrath of Genghis Khan as it had been buried in mud. It was rediscovered in 1934.
There’s no real need to pay the entrance fee to go inside. It’s a very small space and it’s easy to simply peek at the entrance. The best place to admire the mausoleum is from across the pond.
Entrance Fees: 5,000 per person
18. Visit the Museum of the History of Carpet Weaving
The Museum of the History of Carpet Weaving is inside the Magoki Attori Mosque. It’s a lovely collection of old rugs with some signs explaining the history of carpet weaving. The building is small but beautiful and for the small entrance fee, it’s worth spending 10 minutes inside.
Entrance Fees: 10,000 per person to enter, 10,000 to take photos, 20,000 to take video
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