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Discover things to do in Samarkand. No place is more synonymous with the ancient Silk Road than the city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan. The very name evokes images of camels, caravansaries and conquerors such as Alexander the Great, Tamerlane and Genghis Khan.

Founded in the 5th Century BC, Samarkand is one of Central Asia’s oldest cities but it is most well-known for its stunning medieval Islamic architecture such as the Registan and Bibi Khanym Masjid.

In 1370AD Amir Timur (1336 to 1405), also known as Timur the lame, or Tamerlane on account of an old injury, made Samarkand the capital of his Timurid Empire. Under Timur’s rulership the city fast became a centre of culture, economics and knowledge but went into gradual decline after the death of his grandson Ulugbek. Today the city has been restored to its former glory and contains some of the most impressive medieval architecture seen anywhere in the world.

Samarkand Quick Facts

 

Population: 520,000

Languages: Uzbek & Russian

Currency: Som (UZS)

$1 USD = 10,000 Som

Time Zone: GMT +5

Things to see in Samarkand

Registan Square

The Registan is one of Central Asia’s most iconic sights and is made up of three large madrassas which dazzle under the desert sun. Azure domes sit atop yellow brick with intricate mosaics. In mediaeval times the square housed a bazaar.

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Practical Info

Address: Registan Street, Samarkand 140164, Uzbekistan.

Opening Hours:
Apr – Oct 9am to 8pm
Nov – Mar 9am to 5pm

Entrance fee: 15,000 Som ($1.60)*

*The Registan ticket includes entrance to Registan Square, Ulugbek, Sherdor and Tilla Kari madrassas.

Ulugbek Madrassa

Ulugbek Madrassa is the oldest surviving piece of architecture and  was completed in 1420 under Timur’s grandson Ulugbek. The madrassa was a centre of learning for mathematics, philosophy, theology and astronomy.

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Practical Info

Address: Registan Street, Samarkand 140164, Uzbekistan.

Opening Hours:
Apr – Oct 9am to 8pm
Nov – Mar 9am to 5pm

Entrance Fee: 15,000 Som ($1.60)*

Entry to Minaret: 10,000 Som ($1)

*The Registan ticket includes entrance to Registan Square, Ulugbek, Sherdor and Tilla Kari madrassas.

Sherdor Madrassa

Sherdor (lion) Madrassa was completed in 1636 and is famed for its lion relief decorations in the entrance. Inside the madrassa is a large courtyard with traders selling cloth and carpets. The construction took 17 years to build.

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Practical Info

Address: Registan Street, Samarkand 140164, Uzbekistan.

Opening Hours:
Apr – Oct 9am to 8pm
Nov – Mar 9am to 5pm

Entrance fee: 15,000 Som ($1.60)*

*The Registan ticket includes entrance to Registan Square, Ulugbek, Sherdor and Tilla Kari madrassas.

Tilla Kari Madrassa

Tilla Kari, meaning “gold covered” is located between Ulugbek and Sherdor Madrassas and is the newest of the three, being completed in 1660. There is a mosque in the courtyard with gold decorations revealing Samarkand’s history.

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Practical Info

Address: Registan Street, Samarkand 140164, Uzbekistan.

Opening Hours:
Apr – Oct 9am to 8pm
Nov – Mar9am to 5pm

Entrance Fee: 15,000 Som ($1.60)*

*The Registan ticket includes entrance to Registan Square, Ulugbek, Sherdor and Tilla Kari madrassas.

Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum

Gur-e-Amir is the mausoleum containing the remains of Timur along with his sons (Shah Rukh and Miran Shah) and grandsons (Ulugbek and Muhammed Sultan). The mausoleum dates to 1403AD.

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Practical Info

Address: 1/4 University Boulevard, Bustonsaroy Street, Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Opening Hours: 9am to 6pm

Entrance Fee: 10,000 Som ($1)

Bibi Khanym Masjid

Bibi Khanym was Timur’s Chinese wife. It is said that the architect that designed and built the masjid fell in love with Bibi and kissed her, promting Timur to kill the architect and impose the veil on women to stop similar incidences.

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Practical Info

Address: Guzrskiy Lane, Samarkand 160164, Uzbekistan.

Opening Hours:

Apr – Oct 9am to 8pm
Nov – Mar 9am to 5pm

Entrance Fee: 10,000 Som ($1)

FREE ATTRACTIONS IN SAMARKAND

Siab Bazaar

Not only is Central Asia famed for it’s staggering architecture, but also its rich and lively bazaars. The large Siab Bizaar behind the Bibi Khanym Masjid is a vibrant trading centre where you can buy fruits, nuts, grains and more. 

Samarkand Parks

There are many parks in the centre of Samarkand which offer a slice of shade under the verdent green trees. Islam Karimov Park, Tiger Park and Bibi Khanym Park are all centred around the main attractions of the city.

Amir Timur Statue

Situated close to the Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum and in the centre of a large roundabout is a statue of Amir Timur (or Tamerlane as we know him in the west). The statue marks the edge of the old town and the new Russian built town. 

Looking to see more of Uzbekistan? Check out this great Two-week itinerary which includes Bukhara, Khiva and the Aral Sea!

Samarkand Weather

 

The Samarkand weather is influenced by the deserts of Uzbekistan. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit as summer in Samarkand is incredibly hot (temperatures can exceed 40c).

The perfect month to visit would be September when the weather is stil warm, but there is less rain than in spring.

For up to date Samarkand weather see below.

+9
°
C
H: +19°
L: +
Samarqand
Thursday, 24 October
See 7-Day Forecast
WedFriSatSunMonTue
++19°+19°+20°+15°+19°
++++10°++

Money in Samarkand

 

The currency of Uzbekistan is the Som and at 10,000 Som to the US dollar, you will likely be carrying a hefty wad of cash wherever you go.

ATM's in Uzbekistan are rare and often out of cash. There is an ATM next to Siab Bazaar on Islam Karimov Street.

All ATM's issue US dollars which you must then change for Som at a bank (you can also change money in the market but take your chances).

There is a bank called НБУ at Mirzo Ulugbek Street 1, ten minutes walk from the Registan which can change money.

How to get to Samarkand

Air: There are daily flights between Tashkent and Samarkand and international routes include Moscow, St Petersburg and Istanbul. See Trip.com for cheap flights.

Train:

From Tashkent:

There are at least 10 daily trains between Tashkent and Samarkand. The fastest takes just over 2 hours and costs from 50,000 Som ($5).

From Bukhara:

There are multiple daily trains between Bukhara and Samarkand with the journey taking around 2 hours.

From Khiva:

There is one daily train that departs Khiva at 17:30 and arrives in Samarkand at 07:29.

From Termiz:

There is a daily overnight train departing Termiz at 18:35 and arriving in Samarkand at 04:05.

If you will be travelling from Kazakhstan, you can read my guide on how to travel from Almaty to Tashkent and then follow the above for Samarkand.

Amir Timur

Born on 9th April 1336, Amir Timur was a Turkic-Mongol from Transoxania (current day Uzbekistan) who came from lowly beginnings to lead an empire. He started out as a petty thief stealing livestock and was wounded by a shepherd's arrow which led to the moniker Timur the lame, or Tamerlane.

As the Mongol empire started to crumble, Timur played one ruler against another and led conquests across the Central Asian steppe and into Russia and the Causcasus, emerging in 1370 as the most powerful leader of the Muslim world at the time.

Timur made Samarkand the centre of the Timurid Empire and this would continue until the death of his grandson Ulugbek in 1449.

Timur died on 17th February 1405 on his way to attack Ming Dynasty China.

Samarkand Timeline - Important Events

 

 

329BC Samarkand is attacked by Alexander the Great

1221AD City beseiged by Ghengis Khan

1365AD Uprising against the Mongols

1369AD Samarkand becomes capital of Timurid Empire

1405AD Bibi Khanym Mosque and Gur-e-Amir Built

1405AD Timurid Empire moves capital to Herat and the city goes into gradual decline

1420AD Ulugbek Madrassa built

1868AD Russians take power

1886AD The city becomes capital of Samarkand Region of Russian Turkestan

1925AD Samarkand becomes the capital of Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic

1930AD Capital moved to Tashkent

1991 Uzbekistan declares independence from the Soviet Union

 

Samarkand Hotels

Looking for Samarkand hotels? The city offers plenty of accomodation options from budget hostels to 5* hotels. I stayed at the Timur the Great Hotel a few hundred metres from Registan Square. The room was huge, clean and well kept, and the host/owner very friendly. The breakfast of fresh pastries, fruits and eggs was amazing and served in a pleasant courtyard.

Traveller Resources for Samarkand

 

Accommodation

Booking.com
Trip.com

Tours

Get Your Guide

Transport

Cheap Flights & Trains: Trip.com
Ferries: Direct Ferries

Insurance

World Nomads

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