Top 6 Sights to See in Samarkand in a Day
Samarkand is one of the jewels in Uzbekistan crown. When we were walking with our guide in Bukhara she said, that Bukhara is like a beautiful girl without make up and Samarkand is a beautiful girl with make up. She used make up as an analogy to the outside decorations, as Bukhara monuments are mostly unadorned and rely on the exquisite brickwork to have a wow effect.
Samarkand impresses with its external decorations, size and the richness of the interiors. After all, it was Amir Temur’s favourite city and no expense was spared during the construction. Although we hardly see any monuments left from the glory of Amir Temur and Ulugbeck time, Samarkand to this day is still very impressive. I would suggest to build your itinerary in such a way, that first you see Bukhara and then Samarkand to get the increasing beauty effect, otherwise you might miss the unadorned beauty of Bukhara after lavish Samarkand.
Similar to Bukhara, majority of sights in Samarkand can be reached on foot especially if you are staying near Registan square.
We saw majority of the places I am going to mention with Global Connect and they offered a great service, entertaining guide and a tour which suited our needs as a family with young children. I can recommend them without hesitation, and you can also read about our Tashkent and Bukhara tours with Global Connect to see what sights we managed to cover in a day.
Starting with the main site in Samarkand, which is hard to miss, Registan is home for three medrese and you can go inside each of them, as well as enjoy the view of the square from the different points of view. The name Registan means “sandy square”, which was a place for a busy market square, but also used as a place for execution, so blood would be quickly concealed by the sand. In some medrese you will be able to see photos from the by-gone era. Inside each of the medrese you will also see plenty of souvenir shops and some of them even offer a small talk on their crafts and techniques. Don’t be shy, ask and you will learn how all beautiful objects on display are being made.
A mausoleum built for the favourite wife of Amir Temur (yes, he had a few). Impressive entrance and a peaceful courtyard, where you can observe tourists going under the Quran holder in a weird fashion. It is supposed to help women to have kids, if they crawl underneath the stand.
None of the buildings inside are open, you can only peek through the mesh. Have a look at two buildings as you would be able to see one, which has been restored inside, and the one, which has not. The difference is striking.
While it is not a historic place of interest, I was amazed to see all the produce on offer and see what locals like to buy. The market is also a good place to try things: dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, sweets, bread and anything else you fancy – you can try literally anything. Don’t forget to haggle, if you decide to buy something!
This mausoleum complex together with Registan make two of the most striking objects in Samarkand. Shah-i-Zinda is made up of different mausoleums and it is, in fact, a cemetery. In the past, people would also travel here to pay their respects to the buried here and it was as much a place of pilgrimage in the past as it is now of a historic interest.
The mausoleums facing each other, forming a street, bursting with tiles of all imaginable shades of blue, green and yellow. My advice would be to go here around sunset, as the sun will be reflecting off the tiles creating mesmerising shades and effects. It was overcast on the day we were there, but maybe you will be more lucky.
Not much left from the original building, but it is worth going just witness where the basis of modern astronomy was established, Calculations made by Ulugbek and his team of scientists have been used for centuries.
The museum has been built on site to showcase some of the inventions and how the observatory functioned. You would also be able to see a part of the meridian and imagine what the whole structure looked like.
6. Gur Emir Complex
This would be the most mythical place on your trail, as this is where the man who put Uzbekistan on the world map is buried. There are a lot of legends associated with his tomb. One of them says that if Amir Temur’s grave is ever diturbed, then the war spirit will come out and the war will break out. Apparently that is exactly what happened when scientists, under Stalin’s orders opened his tomb on 21st of July in 1941, and on 22 July the war between Germany and Russia started. You can believe the legends or not , but it surely was a great finish point to our Uzbekistan tour.