After Samarkand, Bukhara is the second major ancient Silk Road city in Uzbekistan. The city was also a renowned center for Islamic theology and studies, with hundreds of mosques and madrassas. Find out more about Bukhara in this post, from the top attractions to travel tips.
Dating back at least 2,000 years, and an important trade post along the Silk Road, Bukhara’s most important history lies in the medieval time as the major intellectual center of the Islamic world. As a result, the city holds an impressive number of madrassas (koranic schools) and mosques, which led Bukhara to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city was then besieged by Genghis Khan for 15 days in 1220 CE. But because the Mongols treasured the art and craft, many local artisans were spared and taken as slaves instead of being executed.
The Emirate of Bukhara, spread between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, existed from 1785 to 1920 and made Bukhara as its capital. One of the first color photos of the world shows the last emir of Bukhara, Emir Said Mir Mohammed Alim Khan, in a portrait exposed at the Ark of Bukhara.
What to see in Bukhara city
Similarly to Samarkand, there is so much to see that, with limited time here comes our list of top things to see in Bukhara. These attractions below are what we think are the must-see for any Bukhara city tour. Pick what you want to see first as, after a few mosques and madrassah, you will develop some fatigue. So making sure you see first your top attractions will make the visit more enjoyable.
Ark of Bukhara
Initially built and occupied around the 5th century AD as a military post, the Ark of Bukhara is an impressive fortress that houses today a history museum. What you can visit inside is rather small given the size of the fort, but the museum is worth a visit.
Poi Kalon Complex: Kalon Minaret and Mosque
The 12th-century Kalyan Minaret is part of the Po-i-Kalyan mosque complex and one of the most prominent landmarks. If there is one Bukhara mosque to see, that’s the one. With its 150-feet high (45.6 meters) and 30-feet (9 meters) in diameter, it’s a sight hard to miss. A wide courtyard occupies the center of the Po-i-Kalan or Poi Kalan complex.
Chor Minor Madrasah
Sometimes called the Madrasah of Khalif Niyaz-kul, is another iconic attraction given its unusual four minarets.
The 16th century Kukeldash Madrasah is the oldest section of the complex, but the 17th century Nadir Divan-Beghi Madrasah, which was initially erected as a caravanserai, is famous for its Phoenix at the top of the portal. The Magak-i Attari Mosque (Magoki Attori mosque or Magok-i-Attari Mosque) was shared by both Muslims and Jews, who came to pray there before the construction of the first synagogue in Bukhara in the 17th century.
The blue-tiled madrassa from the 15th century is another fine example of detailed ceramic artwork.
Built under Timur, the mausoleum features an uncommon conical dome that is more characteristic of the Khwarazm-style west of Bukhara. The water of Chashma Ayub shrine well is considered for its supposedly healing component.
The 10th-century Mausoleum is considered to be the oldest funerary building in Central Asia.
Bolo Haouz Mosque (Bolo Khauz Mosque)
The columns of the 18th-century mosque are painted wood structure.
Tired of walking all day long? Treat yourself to a hammam in one of the Bukhara bathhouses.
A couple of options: Zabiyon-Dabiyon Hammam, Bozori Kord Bathhouse, and Hammomi Kunjak
The city offers several beautiful art and crafts. From the ceramic tiles, embroidered fabric, carpets, and metal.
You will find a large selection of items at the Trading Domes and Bazaars, or simply in one of the gift shops in the streets. You can also visit the Bukhara Artisan Development Center.
Worth visiting during any Bukhara tour
- Kosh Medresseh
- Gaukushon medresseh
- Abdullaziz-Khan madrassah
- Ismail Samani Mausoleum
- Kagan Palace
- Chor Bakir complex (Chor Bakr Memorial Complex)
- One Bukhara bazaar: either Toqi Sarrofon or Taki-Telpak Furushon (Taki-Tilpak-Furushan) for one of the few remaining domed bazaars
Day trips from Bukhara
Head to the fascinating and highly colorful Sitora-i Mokhi Khosa Palace about three miles north of Bukhara, or visit villages like Gijduvan, Uba, or admire the petroglyphs around the Nurata pass.
Which Hotel in Bukhara Uzbekistan
Being such a popular destination means that the selection of accommodation in Bukhara is rather large. Before headed to the city, we researched where we wanted to stay and we here share our list.
Popular hotels in Bukhara
Some of these hotels are on the higher budget scale, but you might want to check their architecture even if you don’t stay.
- Hotel Malika Bukhara: a top-rated in a great location. Read reviews.
- Bukhara Palace: A 4-star hotel ideally located in the old city
- Asia Bukhara Hotel: a classic hotel in the old town
- Omar Khayyam Hotel Bukhara: Fantastic location in old Bukhara. View location.
- Amulet Hotel Bukhara: A beautifully decorated historical building, and a traditional courtyard
- Minzifa Hotel Bukhara: top-rated and lavishly decorated with traditional tapestry over carved wood. Read reviews.
- Devon Begi Hotel Bukhara: another top-rated classy boutique hotel. Read reviews.
Budget Guesthouses and Hostels in Bukhara
There is no lack of budget accommodation in Bukhara. Here are some of the top-rated Bukhara lodging:
- Payraviy – where we stayed and our personal favorite! Nestled in a quiet alley yet close to most sites, this guesthouse is family-run. The main contact Sanjar speaks English and was a treasure of information about Bukhara and Uzbek culture in general. WIFI is good, the shower hot and clean, and the breakfast yummy! Sanjar and his dad are true musicians and we were lucky to hear them play one evening – a real treat! Book now!
Given the Payraviy, here are some other options in case they are full.
- Minorai Xurd: a family-run guesthouse in a calm location. View location.
- Samandar B&B: with large rooms in another quiet area. Check prices.
- Amir-Yaxyo Hotel: with barbecue facilities, a shared kitchen, and a terrace. See availability.
- Dervish Hostel: with a shared kitchen and open courtyard. Read reviews.
- Art Guest House USTO: nicely decorated with paintings and with a buffet breakfast. View photos.
Tips To Visit Bukhara
- Plan to stay at least two days, and three days if you can. That will let you take your time to stroll around the city and enjoy the monuments.
- For more information about Bukhara ahead of your trip, make sure to get a copy of the Bukhara Lonely Planet (1996) or Uzbekistan Bradt Travel Guide (2020). Don’t forget your English-Uzbek Phrasebook!
- How to plan your travels to Bukhara:
- By plane: flights to Bukhara from Tashkent, or a Bukhara to Tashkent flight. Planes fly about twice a week on Uzbekistan Airways
- By Train: Board a high-speed Samarkand to Bukhara train. There are also Urgench to Bukhara train options, in addition to the Tashkent to Bukhara line.
- By Road: Any way to travel Samarkand-Bukhara is by road, either via bus or taxi
Have you been to Bukhara? What’s your experience there? We would love to hear from you, so make sure to leave us a comment!
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