Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan (also spelled “Shahrisabz”) is a popular day trip from Samarkand as it is just a short drive south of the city. If you’ve spent any time in Uzbekistan, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Amir Temur, the national hero. He was born right near Shakhrisabz, in the neighboring village of Hodja-Ilgar, and made this small town his royal residence.
Shakhrisabz was founded more than 2,700 years ago but most of the important historical landmarks were constructed during Temur’s life, over 600 years ago. He built his summer palace here, as well as his proposed mausoleum.
Today Shakhrisabz is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist destination for Uzbekistan people and foreigners. Read on to learn all about how to get there, what you’ll pay, and the significant sites to check out during your visit. Enjoy!
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Complete Guide to Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan
Getting to Shakhrisabz
Shakhrisabz is located about 55 miles south of the town of Samarkand, toward the Afghanistan border. You’ll want to hire a taxi driver to take you there, wait 2 hours while you explore the sights in this small town, and then take you back to Samarkand. The going rate for a taxi to Shakhrisabz for 2 people is $40 USD, and for 3 people you’ll need to pay $50 USD.
The 2-hour drive from Samarkand to Shakhrisabz is quite spectacular. You’ll pass small villages, roadside markets, and tiny shops where you can get your desired meat weighed and then grilled. Towering mountains in the distance dominate the scenery and lush green vegetation stretches on for miles in every direction. You’ll want to stop several times along the way for photos of the views.
You’ll also notice that you pass through several checkpoints on the way and many police officers who pull cars over at random. A testament to how seriously Uzbekistan takes their border security.
Once you arrive in Shakhrisabz, your driver will drop you off on one end of the complex and pick you up at the parking lot on the other side. You’ll have 2 hours to explore the small town on your own.
What to See in Shakhrisabz
Your driver will drop you off at the Ak-Saray Palace, the large structure that you’ve probably seen photos of all over Samarkand. In the Uzbek language, ak-saray translates to “white, light, magnificent palace” as it was constructed with white marble slabs and was a lavish palace back in the 1400s.
It is said that construction of Ak-Saray began in 1380 and it took almost 25 years and 50,000 slaves to complete. Not much remains of the palace to this day, you can only walk through the central area where massive walls tower above you on either side. The Ak-Saray Palace has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since the year 2000.
If you want to do some shopping, a few ladies have set out stalls with embroidered bags and jackets, right in front of the main entryway.
A large statue of Amir Temur stands proudly in front.
Medrese Chubin (Amir Timur Museum)
Once you pass the Amir Temur statue, you’ll continue on through the park. On your left is the Medrese Chubin which houses the Amir Timur Museum. The museum is small and poorly signed. If you’re short on time you can skip it and you won’t be missing out on much.
There are several artifacts but little information about what they are or why they are in a museum. For instance, an old book will be labeled something like “book with pages”. And several of the “artifacts” are just paper-mâché copies of the originals.
The most impressive display in the museum is the large throne in the central room but with no sign anywhere to be found, it’s impossible to know who it belonged to or why it is there.
Across the park from the museum are a few buildings that appear to have historical significance but have been converted into restaurants for tourism purposes. The Caravanserai Koba is now a very lavish-looking restaurant and the former Medieval Bath has been turned into a more casual cafe. Either is a good choice for a bite to eat.
Dorut Tilovat Complex
As you walk through the park, you’ll see a large blue dome at the far end, near the parking lot where your driver is waiting. This is the Dorut Tilovat Complex. Inside the complex is the Kok Gumbaz Mosque as well as two mausoleums and a few small shops. You’ll need to take off your shoes to enter the mausoleums.
It’s a lovely complex, but if you’ve already been to the amazing religious sites in Samarkand, you probably won’t find this to be more impressive than what you’ve already seen.
Dor-Us Siyadat Complex
The Dor-Us Siyadat Complex houses the crypt that Amir Temur originally meant to be his final resting place. But after his beloved grandson died unexpectedly, he converted the madrasah that his grandson was constructing into what is now the Gur-e Amir Complex in Samarkand.
You’ll enter the complex through a peaceful courtyard shaded by trees. The historic wooden mosque is still standing but unfortunately, you can no longer go inside. You may see some people praying outdoors; women on one side and men on the other.
Continue through to the exit and you’ll pass through a shop with quality woven souvenirs for sale.
Once you exit the complex you’ll see cars parked in the lot beyond the park. Find your driver there and head back to Samarkand for an early dinner!
Is it Worth Visiting Shakhrisabz?
In all honesty, we found Shakhrisabz to be a bit boring. We enjoyed the drive and made several stops along the way to check out the views. But the actual religious sites of Shakhrisabz aren’t nearly as impressive as those in Samarkand. And since the price to hire a private driver is quite expensive, we would recommend staying in town and enjoying the sites around Samarkand instead. Especially if you’re short on time.
Of course, if you have a lot of extra time in Samarkand, or if you are really interested in the history of Amir Temur, it’s always a nice change of pace to get out into the countryside.
Enjoy your visit to the town of Shakhrisabz!
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