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For two and a half thousand years, Samarkand has sat at the crossroads of civilizations and history. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Central Asia and has long prospered from its position on the Silk Road that connected China with Europe. The Uzbekistan cities located along the ancient Silk Road are truly special, and everyone should visit.

Some of the ancient monuments and buildings of Samarkand have been remarkably well-preserved or rebuilt and continue to bewilder visitors today. For a very different Central Asian experience, take the time to visit the small mountainous country of Kyrgyzstan. While Uzbekistan is mostly about the cities along the Silk Road, Kyrgyzstan offers some of the most impressive mountains and alpine lakes in the world.

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The Impressive Age And History Of Samarkand

"The city of Samarkand has been at the crossroads of world cultures for over two and a half millennia, and is one of the most important sites on the Silk Routes traversing Central Asia."

UNESCO

Samarkand may have been founded between the 8th and 7th centuries BC, and at different times in its history was one of the largest cities in Central Asia. It was historically part of the part of Persian world, and most of the people living there today speak Tajik - a dialect of Persian.

It was conquered by Alexander the Great in 329 BC (then called Markanda) and was later conquered and destroyed by the Mongols under Genghis Khan in 1220. It later boomed as the capital of the powerful Timurid Empire and has the site of Timur's mausoleum.

Related: What Makes Uzbekistan The Most Popular Country In Central Asia (And Why It's Worth Visiting Once)

Planning A Visit To Samarkand Today

Today Samarkand is the second-largest city in Uzbekistan and is one of the main tourist attractions in Central Asia. It has long been a center of Islamic scholarly study and is famous for its many ancient monuments.

  • Population: 550,000

Today the city preserves its ancient traditions of embroidery, silk weaving, copper engraving, wood carving, wood painting, and ceramics, and is also famous for its cuisine. It has been UNESCO listed since 2001. Take more time to see the other attractions in the city (like cuisine, wine tasting, etc.) beyond the architecture.

Americans require an E-visa to visit Uzbekistan - the visa is simple and straightforward to get and good for one month. Other Western passport holders (Canadian, British, EU, Australian, etc.) enjoy visa-free access for one month.

It may be difficult to withdraw money or use credit cards in Uzbekistan, so take plenty of dollars or euros.

The Top Attractions In Samarkand

Today visitors come from far and wide to gaze in awe at the larger-than-life monuments of Timur. Samarkand really needs two or three days to really enjoy and soak in the many architectural wonders of the city. It is connected by high-speed rail to the capital of Tashkent and the ancient city of Bukhara (both of these cities are essentials of any Uzbekistan itinerary).

Top attractions in Samarkand include Registan, Gur-e-Amir, Bibi-Khanym Mosque, and Shah-i-Zinda. The main attractions in Samarkand are:

  • Gur Emir Mausoleum: The Built Vault Of Timur The Great
  • Registan Square: Made Up of The Three Grandiose Buildings - Ulughbek Madrassa, Madrassa Sherdor, and Madrassa Tilla Kori.
  • Bibi Khanim Mosque: The Largest Medieval Building In Samarkand Dating From The 15th Century
  • Shahi Zinda Necropolis: An Impressive Complex of Mausoleums
  • Ulugbek's Observatory: One of The Finest Astronomical Centers of The Medieval World
  • Siyab Bazaar: A Traditional Central Asian Bazaar

Related: Guide: Follow The Footsteps Of Marco Polo's Extraordinary Travels

Day-Tour To Samarkand From Tashkent

Most people will take a guided tour of Uzbekistan, and Samarkand will be one important part of the itinerary. For those with a shorter time, it is also possible to take a guided day tour to Samarkand from the capital, Tashkent.

A day tour to Samarkand is offered year-round from Tashkent on the high-speed train. On the tour, visitors see stunning monuments of the blue domes and ensembles from the time of the Great Tamerlane (Timur) age. All these monuments speak of the past greatness and glory of the Timur Empire.

The tour visit all the main attractions - Gur Emir, Resgistan Square with these three impressive madrassahs, Ulugbek's observatory, Bibi Khanym mosque, the Siyab bazaar, and more.

Price:

  • One Person: $175.00
  • Group Of 6-12: $90.00 Per Person

The tour includes a professional English-speaking guide, transfers, and all entrance fees. It does not include meals.