Step Back in Time on the Silk Roads
I don’t know about you, but when I travel somewhere new I like to learn about its history. One country that’s captured my imagination recently is Uzbekistan, where one of the old Silk Roads is located.
These trading routes from Asia to Europe were instrumental in introducing silk to the west, with caravans travelling over high mountain passes, across vast areas of desert and wilderness and around huge lakes as they made their way across continents.
The scale of these journeys is astounding and I think the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of these courageous travellers is too good to miss. A typical tour on Uzbekistan’s section of the Silk Roads will take you to some of its most spectacular cities, as well as through stunning scenery. I’m going to give you some more information about a few of the main cities – if you’d like to see a full itinerary, click here.
There’s nowhere better for history buffs to visit than Samarkand. The city was one of the most important stops on the Silk Road, but it existed long before any traders passed through this corner of the globe.
It was founded in the 7th century BC, although its real heyday was in the 14th and 15th centuries when it flourished and many of its most famous buildings were constructed. The main attraction in Samarkand is Registan square, where the breathtaking tiled madrassahs are the main focus.
These incredible buildings look like something out of an Arabian Nights tale, with their colourful ceramic facades and astounding tiled domes and towers. This is, understandably, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you’ll be blown away by the intricacies of the architecture that surrounds you here.
You can also dip into another period of Samarkand’s past by visiting the remains of the ancient city of Afrosiab, which was destroyed by Genghis Khan in the 13th century. Excavations here have uncovered the ruins of a palace, citadel, residential buildings and various fortifications – the museum at the centre of the site will provide you with a greater insight into the ruins you’re exploring.
Another essential stop on the Silk Road is Bukhara, an oasis city that has stood here for more than 2,000 years. In fact, it has the distinction of being the best and most intact example of a medieval city in central Asia.
Unlike Samarkand, the monuments and buildings here were not razed by Genghis Khan and his Mongol forces. Instead, you can wander around Bukhara’s centre and encounter buildings that have been standing since the 10th century – like the incredible Ismail Samanai tomb. While the Poi-Kalyan minaret dates from the 11th century.
Walking through the centre of Bukhara is like taking a tour of the region’s history. Alongside these old buildings are newer additions like the Magoki Kurns great mosque that was constructed in the 17th century. Like the madrassahs of Samarkand, ceramic decoration is the order of the day, with impressive blue domes and stunning tiled facades dominating the skyline.
This barely scratches the surface of what you can see and experience in Uzbekistan, a country that is becoming just as well known for the hospitality of its people as it is for its remarkable historical treasures.
A journey along its Silk Roads will lead you to plenty of small Uzbek villages, as well as through other major cities such as Tashkent (the current capital), Khiva and Shakhrisabz, each of which has its own stories to tell.