If oil, gas, uranium and rockets are Kazakhstan's thrusting future, then Turkistan is where you will find its gentle soul.
Hands down the country's greatest work of architecture, the astonishingly beautiful Shrine of Kozha Akhmed Yasaui commemorates a 12th-century Sufi master whose teachings and poetry continue to inspire Kazakhs with their message of universal love and tolerance.
In one of those ironies at which Kazakhstan excels, the shrine complex was constructed in the 14th century on the orders of Timur Lenk (Tamerlane), a brutal warlord of the Genghis Khan variety. read more...
With a history stretching back more than 2,000 years, the Uzbekistani city of Khiva is a bustling oasis packed full of exquisite architecture from its Silk Road heyday.
(Credit: Phillippa Stewart)
A walk back through time
With a history stretching back more than 2,000 years, the Uzbekistani city of Khiva is a World Heritage Site packed full with the remains of palaces, mosques and mausoleums from the city's Silk Road heyday.
Surrounded by the Kyzylkum and Karakum deserts, the bustling oasis was the last stop for caravans on their way to Iran, carrying read more...
Forget long layovers and cramped overnight buses, make your journey the adventure itself with these epic excuses to hit the open road…
Between breathtaking views of highways that stretch into the horizon and landscapes that ooze an exotic mysticism, you’ll be wishing you never reach your next destination.
Head to Uzbekistan for fine weather in a Silk Road showstopper.
Caravanserais. Silk Road. Spices. There’s something undeniably romantic about travel to this ‘Stan’, which has been the cultural heart of Central Asia for millennia.
This is especially true of Uzbekistan’s trio of historic cities – Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva – which glitter with mosaic-tiled mausoleums, read more...
Spring is in the air. From Japan’s cherry blossom festival to India’s bright Holi celebrations, cultures around the world have age-old rituals to usher in the season.
What is Nowruz?
It is a day that marks the New Year across parts of the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus and Asia. It can be spelled Novruz, Nowrouz, Nooruz, Navruz, Nauroz or Nevruz depending on the region.
In Iran, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, the vernal equinox marks the beginning of Nowruz (Navruz), a two-week long festival that is the bedrock of ancient Persian culture.
Meaning ‘new day’ in Farsi, Nowruz marks the beginning of the year 1396 in the Persian calendar, read more...
National Geographic: Far beneath a remote mountain range in Uzbekistan, explorers are delving into a labyrinth that could be the world's deepest cave.
Writer Mark Synnott scales a cliff in Uzbekistan’s Boysuntov Range. Within this limestone wall lies a winding underworld. So far, eight missions have explored Dark Star. No one knows how far the cave extends.
‘Don’t worry, you can’t get lost down here.’ Larisa Pozdnyakova’s words, in her thick Russian accent, float to me from within the cave’s seemingly endless black void. Apparently, she can read my mind: All I can think about is not getting lost a mile inside the Earth. For the past several hours I’ve struggled to keep up as she leads me deeper into a frozen underworld known as Dark Star. read more...
Bishkek has many moments of beauty, but it's the Tian Shan mountains that are the real scenic draw of Kyrgyzstan.
Bishkek serves as a de facto visa capital of Central Asia, so many travellers find themselves with a bit of extra time here, passing the painless few days for a Kazakh tourist visa or the purgatory that is a Turkmen transit visa.
(The 40km double-loop trail at Kegeti is only three hours from Bishkek. Image by Stephen Lioy / Lonely Planet)
Situated in the northern centre of Kyrgyzstan just above the Tian Shan range, Bishkek makes an excellent hub for short trips into the mountains. The closest hikes are less than read more...
A road cutting through the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Photo: blickwinkel/Alamy
These were the Central Asian plains where two of the greatest conquerors roamed with their rampaging armies. Between them, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane covered vast expanses of Asia, entering Europe to bring other mighty powers to heel. And it took a chaotic Delhi airport for me to discover these surreal lands these men presided over.
About four months ago, I walked into Delhi airport, rushed as ever, checking emails on the phone, and stumbled up to a read more...
Capital of a Global Empire.
Tamerlane was once one of the world’s most feared conquerors and kings. In the course of amassing his Eurasian empire in the late 14th Century, experts say he killed some 5% of the Earth’s population.
But his legacy left behind some beauty as well, and today, 25 years into its independence, Uzbekistan has made the controversial ruler its greatest national hero by restoring many of the structures that he built. read more...
Russian artist Igor Savitsky salvaged thousands of extraordinary art works from Soviet-era purges.
Nukus, Uzbekistan - This seems like the least likely place for an art collection. This city of 230,000 lies in the middle of one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in history - the desiccation of the Aral Sea - victim of Soviet-era efforts to boost cotton production in arid Central Asia.
Nukus is the capital of Karakalpakstan, a semi-autonomous region in western Uzbekistan, where read more...
Fishing boats lie stranded more than 100km from the sea, victims of a terrible environmental disaster.
In the north of the autonomous Karakalpakstan Republic in Uzbekistan is a truly bizarre sight. Here, surrounded by sand, fishing vessels lie stranded in the scorching desert, more than 100km from the sea. read more...
... that few people have heard of, and you'll never forget.
An ancient Silk Road city is a Unesco World Heritagelisted hub of historic Islamic architecture, and one of the oldest human settlements on earth.
An azure, onion-shaped dome stands like a beacon in the heavens, while other parts of this magnificent structure glow with amber and jade hues against the night sky. Yet, a lit-up Gur-e Amir – a 15th-century mausoleum of Tamerlane (also known as Timur) – is just one of the ancient religious sites making this area of Central Asia, Samarkand, an essential stop-off.
Best known today for its rugs, the Uzbek city of Bukhara has been admired for centuries for its holy architecture and acclaimed seats of learning. It was a centre of religion and education from the 17th century until the communists clamped down on the majority of its mosques and madrassas.
Nowadays, it’s one of the Silk Route’s most atmospheric cities, with small, characterful boutique hotels, traditional restaurants and dozens of photo-worthy buildings covered in glittering blue tiles or decorated with ornamental brickwork. read more...
Uzbekistan is changing fast. Spanish-built, high-speed trains link the cities, 17 million SIM cards are now active (there were only 50,000 in 2005) and Tashkent’s trams are being replaced by bigger bus and metro networks. But it’s not all modernisation. Young, fashionable women and designers – such as Saida Amir, who graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins – are reviving the fashion scene, putting a new twist on fabulous ikat fabrics, once seen as something only their mothers would wear.
There are three places first-time visitors must visit. Samarkand has the architectural heavy-hitters (the necropolis Shah-i-Zinda, read more...
Uzbek dance - is one of the oldest forms of art, which has been handed down from generation to generation for centuries. Since ancient times, the dancers from Samarkand and Bukhara were very popular in the East. Through the dance people pass, not only skills, but also their culture, spiritual values.
Uzbek dance is characterized by its expressiveness, the abundance of movements and facial expressions. It is not only beautiful movement, every dance tells a story of the life and the life of the common people, and beautiful dresses, rich colors and patterns, show commitment to the read more...
Stephen Scourfield delves into historic Khiva.
There is the rhythmical, morning sound of sweeping — thin, blond brushes wafting dust from the Kyzyl Kum Desert into shafts of early sunlight.
And with it comes sing-song conversation in Uzbek. A chorus of dawn chatter. The low stream of Uzbek words echo around the remote, medieval walled city of Khiva in the deserts of Central Asia.
The city itself dates to the sixth century, its earliest inhabitants originating from nearby Iran. Turkic speakers gradually became the majority, and Muslim beliefs replaced Zoroastrianism, largely due to the tax read more...
Askiya is a genre of Uzbek verbal folk art that takes the form of a dialogue between two or more participants, who eloquently debate and exchange witticisms around a particular theme. Bearers and practitioners, mainly men, must master the peculiarities of Uzbek language, and be able to improvise and reason quickly and skilfully, using humour and banter to great effect.
The dialogues, although humorous, play an invaluable role in raising awareness of social tendencies and events, drawing attention to important issues through acute observation of daily life. Askiya is often performed in folk celebrations, festivities, family-related rituals and get-togethers organized in cities and villages across Uzbekistan. read more...
Bukhara in Uzbekistan is World Heritage-listed for urban planning and architecture, over centuries. Stephen Scourfield explores.
Yesterday morning was cool and still, under a clear and ice-blue sky, here on the edge of the Kyzyl Kum desert in Uzbekistan.
But today in the ancient city of Bukhara, I stepped out and it was breezy. The wind has built through the morning and now the sky is hazy and tinted beige with sand.
And the blustery, gritty shift from yesterday to today helps make sense of the extraordinary building before me. read more...
Buzkashi, which literally means ‘goat fetching,’ is a traditional horse game of the steppe nomads in Central Asia. It has been played since the epoch of Genghis Khan, the 12th-century ruler of the Mongol Empire, and variations of the game are popular in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, northern northern Pakistan and Kazakhstan, as well as in Uzbekistan, where, having first found followers in rural villages, it is today a celebrated national sport.
Buzkashi competition is fierce. It’s the kind of sport that requires dexterity, courage and force from the athletes, while also presenting a fantastic and fascinating show for spectators. read more...