Bukhara’s old quarter, relaxing cafes and stunning monuments could easily win the contest for Central Asia’s most charming destination.
We enjoyed its atmosphere and sights even more than the better known Samarqand, spending many a happy hour gazing skyward at the tiled buildings, rambling through the markets and sipping cups of spice-laden coffee.
Sleeping: We used Couchsurfing to find a place to stay in Bukhara but we peeked inside Komil Hotel, just a few minutes walk down a quiet lane from Lyabi Hauz, and we’d happily stay there. Other travellers have also spoken highly of the friendly staff and atmospheric rooms with satellite TV in the restored 19th century house. Rates start at $20 U.S. per person. (Barakiyon Street 40, 99865 223 8780, [email protected])
Another option, more simple in style but also cheaper, is Nasruddin Navruz guesthouse, down the alley from the market near Lyabi Hauz. In low season, cyclists have succeeded in negotiating prices down to $10 U.S. per person without breakfast. (37 Babahanova Street).
Self-catering: The farmers markets are the place to go for food shopping. The biggest is held on Thursdays and Sundays a few minutes walk to the west of the Ark and just behind the Chashma Ayub Mausoleum and Samani Park. Here you’ll find several large halls filled with dried goods, nuts, spices, fruits, vegetables and just about anything else you might care to eat.
A smaller option, with less fresh produce but bustling nonetheless, is Krytyy Rynok, east of the stadium on Mustaqillik Street.
Eating out: Dining around the pool at Lyabi Hauz is considered a ‘must-do’ by many tourists and locals alike. When we were there, however, the restaurants didn’t really appeal to us so instead we headed to the Krytyy Rynok farmers market. There we found Izabella, a simple spot on the right, near the entrance. The smell of grilling shashlyk outside pulled us in for a feast of two types of kebabs, bread, salad and two large beers for 6,500 Som.
There’s no better place to go for a quiet cup of tea or coffee than Silk Road Spices, an intimate and relaxing tea house. It’s likely you’ll see their multi-lingual sign as you walk between between Lyabi Hauz and Maghoki Attar. For 4,000 Som you can have unlimited tea and coffee (a good cuppa, not Nescafe as far as we could tell), brewed with spices like saffron, ginger and cardamom, plus plates of local sweets. To die for! (Halim Ibodov 5)
If you still haven’t had enough culinary indulgence, how about tasting some Uzbek wines? For 7,000 Som the friendly Djamal Akhrahov will treat you to 8 generous samples from the bone dry whites that bring Spain to mind to a nice cabernet. He’s located in the Nughay Caravanserai, (78 Naqshband Street, 99893 960 2223, [email protected])
What to see: Bukhara isn’t short on sights but if we had to narrow it down we’d put the amazing Kalon Minaret and surrounding Kalon mosque and Mir-i-Arab madrassa at the top. There are literally dozens of other tiled buildings and photogenic squares in the town so just wander around and soak it all up.
If you’re tired of beautiful buildings, take a few minutes to visit the free photo gallery across from the Museum of Art on Naqshband. A host of local photographers have captured some great images of Uzbekistan and you can buy postcard sized copies as a souvenir to take home.
Staying connected: There are a couple internet cafes in the historic centre but they’re expensive at 1,200 Som an hour. If you walk south on Mustaqillik Street, a few blocks past the farmers market, you’ll come across many more internet cafes at 800 Som an hour.