A Backpacker’s Travel Guide to Bukhara

Bukhara

Welcome to Bukhara, where the history is just as rich as anywhere on the Silk Road.  It is a city of scholars, and at one point it was the center of learning for the entire world.  While the West was in the dark ages, scholars and poets and scientists were flocking to Bukhara while it was under the rule of the Samanid dynasty during the 8th, 9th, and 10th centuries.

What makes Bukhara such an interesting place is the impact it has had on world history, and that impact still is being felt today.  For example, without Bukhara and without the Samanids, the entire Persian language might have died out.

While the Caliphate was making Arabic the language for the Islamic world, the Samanids were defying them by sponsoring poets and scholars of the Persian language.  They promoted and protected poets like Rudaki (the godfather of Persian poetry) and Ferdowsi (the author of the famous epic the Shahnameh), and scientists like Avicenna (his 10th century medical books “The Book of Healing” and “The Canon of Medicine” were standards in universities throughout the world up until the 17th century).  Without them, a deep language and cultural tradition would have died out.

But, enough geeking out about language.  Bukhara has more than that going for it – the entire inner city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it has more than 140 monuments to check out.  You’re going to want to budget a fair bit of time for gawking at crazy-cool buildings and ruins.

What to see

The Po-i Kalan complex: The Po-i Kalan complex is the religious complex located near the base of the giant Kalan Minaret.  It includes the Kalan Minaret, the Kalan Mosque, and the Mir-i Arab Madrassah.

Kalan Minaret and Mosque - Bukhara

The Kalan Minaret and Mosque near the heart of Bukhara (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Kalan Minaret: This giant brick tower is practically unmissable, as it stands over everything in the old city skyline.   It is about 30 feet wide at the base and 150 feet tall.  It was built in 1127, and it is such an impressive structure that, when Genghis Khan and his armies were storming Bukhara, it was the one structure that he ordered be spared any damage.  The minaret is also known as the “Tower of Death”, as for centuries executions in the city were carried out by hurtling the condemned from the top of the tower, to crash to the square below.

Kalan Mosque: Built in the 1500’s, on the grounds of an older mosque that was destroyed by Genghis Khan, this mosque is enormous and spectacularly decorated.  It is capable of holding up to 10,000 worshipers at a time.  During the Soviet years, the mosque was closed and used as a warehouse.  It was returned to religious service in 1991.

Mir-i Arab Madrassah: Mir-i Arab was a Naqshbandi Sheikh from Yemen who was the spiritual mentor of Ubaidullah Khan, who was one of the rulers of Bukhara during the 1500’s.  The brilliant blue dome of the Madrassah stands out in stark contrast to the brown and beige brickwork of the nearby buildings.  Visitors are usually only allowed into the foyer of the Madrassah, however if you ask politely and are dressed conservatively and respectfully, you may be allowed in to view the tombs of Mir-i Arab and Ubaidullah Khan.

Bukhara Ark

Bukhara’s Ark Fortress – The seat of royal power (Wikimedia Commons)

The Ark: The Ark is the royal fortress located in the heart of Bukhara’s old town.  This fortress was built in the 5th century, and remained in use until the Russian’s conquered Bukhara in 1920.  The walls to the fortress are more than 60 feet high, and contained within the almost 10 enclosed acres were all the buildings necessary to rule a country: a royal court, quarters, libraries, harems, a mosque, jails and torture chambers.

Char Minar - Bukhara

Bukhara’s Char Minar – The gatehouse of a long-gone madrassah (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Char Minar: The Char Minar is a picturesque building located in the winding back alleys of Bukhara.  It was once the four-towered gatehouse of a madrassah, though the madrassah it was attached to has long since disappeared.

Getting in and out

Bukhara is connected to Samarkand,Tashkent, and Urgench (which is how you’ll get to Khiva) by bus, train, and taxi.  Uzbekistan Airways has flights from Bukhara to Tashkent near-daily.

Next up:

If you’re heading east, you could hit up the city of Samarkand or the city of Tashkent.

If you’re heading west-ish (and north), and want to round out the important Silk Road cities of Uzbekistan, it’s on to the city of Khiva.

Export as KML for Google Earth/Google MapsOpen standalone map in fullscreen modeCreate QR code image for standalone map in fullscreen modeExport as GeoJSONExport as GeoRSSExport as ARML for Wikitude Augmented-Reality browser
Bukhara Travel Guide

loading map - please wait...

Bukhara International Airport: 39.760370, 64.474790
Bukhara Railway Station: 39.722590, 64.548293
The Ark: 39.777890, 64.411120
Maghoki Attar Mosque & the Museum of Carpets: 39.773203, 64.418271
Char Minar: 39.774710, 64.427453
Kalon Mosque: 39.775850, 64.414151
Kalon Minaret: 39.775924, 64.415503
Fayzulla Khojaev House: 39.768486, 64.413357
Abdul Aziz Khan Madrassah: 39.776303, 64.417801
Ismail Samani Mausoleum: 39.776955, 64.400718
Ulugbek Madrassah: 39.776765, 64.417562
Mir-i-arab Madrassah: 39.775948, 64.415596
Lyab-i Hauz: 39.772676, 64.420389
Turki Jandi Mausoleum: 39.770160, 64.416098
Chashma Ayub Mausoleum: 39.778278, 64.402478
Kukeldash Madrassah: 39.773646, 64.421106
Nadir Divanbegi Khanaka: 39.773021, 64.419783
Nadir Divanbegi Madrassah: 39.773101, 64.421470
Hoja Nasruddin: 39.773054, 64.421049
Sarrafon Guesthouse: 39.772316, 64.418603
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Bukhara International Airport
Bukhara International Airport

Flights operate near daily to Tashkent, and there are regular flights also to Urgench during the high tourist season of April-October.  The main carrier for the airport is Uzbekistan Airways.  Additional international flights go to Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Bukhara International Airport, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Bukhara Railway Station
Bukhara-1 Railway Station

The Bukhara-1 Railway Station is the main passenger train station.  There is a Bukhara-2 rail station, however that station is mainly used for freight.  There are regular train connections to Samarkand and Tashkent.  Right outside the train station is a parking lot for Taxi drivers, as Bukhara-1 Railway station is located in Kagan, which is about 15km outside of Bukhara.
Bukhara-1 Train Station, Kogon, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
The Ark
The Ark

This is the fortress-town in the center of Bukhara that housed the nobility and many of the government buildings responsible for the functioning of Bukhara.  Mosques, royal courts, apartments, jails, torture chambers, and everything else you'd need to run a khanate on the silk road.  While much of the Ark is in ruins, after having been bombed by the Red Army in the early 1920's, it still is a very impressive sight.
The Ark, Mirzo Khait Street, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Maghoki Attar Mosque & the Museum of Carpets
Maghoki Attar & the Museum of Carpets

This is Central Asia's oldest surviving mosque, originally constructed in the 9th century and restored in the 16th century.  It is not only the city's holiest spot, but also an important archaeological site, as it was built on the remains of a Zoroastrian temple, and an even older Buddhist temple.  Legend has it that the mosque survived being destroyed by the Mongols because the residents buried it in sand before the Mongols took the city.  The building also functions as a museum of the city's fine carpets and prayer rugs

 
The Ark, Mirzo Khait Street, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Char Minar
Char Minar

A beautiful little building, adorned with four minarets, in the back alleys behind the Lyabi Hauz complex.  This was once the gatehouse of a madrassah, though the madrassah has long since been lost.
Chor Minor, Khodja Nurobobod Street, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Kalon Mosque
Kalon Mosque

Constructed in the early 16th century, on the remnants of an even older mosque that was destroyed by Genghis Khan, the Kalon Mosque is a gigantic congregational mosque capable of holding 10,000 worshipers.  During the Soviet Era, it was used as a warehouse, however it was opened again for worship in 1991 after Uzbekistan gained independence.
Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Kalon Minaret
Kalon Minaret

Also know as the Minara-i Kalyan (meaning "Grand Minaret" in Persian), the minaret is an impressive structure.  Standing almost 150 feet high, and a 30 foot diameter base, the minaret is likely one of the tallest, if not the tallest, structure in Central Asia.  It was built in 1127 by the Karakhanid ruler Arslan Khan, and for centuries was also known as the "Tower of Death", owing to the fact that many public executions were carried out by hurling the condemned off the top of the tower.
Po-i-Kalyan, Khodja Nurobobod Street, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Fayzulla Khojaev House
Fayzulla Khojaev House

The house was built in 1891 by Fayzulla's father, Ubaidullah, who was a wealthy merchant.  Fayzulla lived in this house until 1925, when the Soviets then turned it in to a school.  Fayzullah is famous for plotting with the Bolsheviks to overthrown the khan of Bukhara.  He was rewarded for his assistance with promotion to the presidency of the Bukhara's People's Republic, then chairmanship of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Uzbek SSR, and then execution under the orders of Stalin.  The house is marvellous decorated, with elegant frescoes and latticework.
Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Abdul Aziz Khan Madrassah
Abdul Aziz Khan Madrassah

Built in the 16th century under orders of Abdul Aziz Khan, this madrassah was constructed in order to 'outdo' the neighboring Ulugbek Madrassah.  Many of the rooms in the madrassah have been converted into souvenier shops, and the prayer room itself is now a museum of wood carvings, however the mosque is well worth a visit.  One of the interesting highlights is in the prayer room, where Abdul Aziz covertly had his face embedded within the Mecca-facing prayer niche, in order to get around Sunni Islam's prohibition against depicting living beings in religious art.
Abdulaziz Khan Madrassah, Khodja Nurobobod Street, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Ismail Samani Mausoleum
Ismail Samani Mausoleum

The mausoleum was completed in the early 10th century, likely sometime around 900-905 AD, it houses Ismail Samani, his father, and his grandson.  Ismail was the founder of the Samanid Persian Dynasty, which was the last Persian dynasty to rule this part of Central Asia.  The mausoleum is Bukhara's oldest Muslim monument, and one if it's most famous.  The intricate terracotta brickwork, and the sturdy construction of the monument (including 2 meter thick walls), has meant this Mausoleum has survived for 11 centuries largely without any restoration work.
Ismail Samani Mausoleum, M. Ashrafi Street, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Ulugbek Madrassah
Ulugbek Madrassah

One of the oldest, if not the oldest, madrassah in Central Asia, it was constructed by Ulugbek in 1417.  This madrassah, though currently unrestored and in much need of work, became the model for later madrassah's constructed throughout the region (including two other madrassahs built by Ulugbek in Gijduvan and Samarkand).  The Madrassah is currently empty, with a few rooms functioning as a museum, showing old photos of the building, along with some historic photos of Bukhara.
The Ark, Mirzo Khait Street, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Mir-i-arab Madrassah
Mir-i-Arab Madrassah

Located opposite the Kalon Mosque is the Mir-I-Arab Madrassah, with it's sparkling blue domes.  It still functions as a Madrassah, and traces its origin to the 16th century and the reign of Ubaidullah Khan.  The madrassah was named after Mir-i-Arab, who was a Yemeni ruler who was very close to Ubaidullah Khan.  As the madrassah is still a working school, tourists aren't allowed very far into the building.
Mir-i-Arab Madrasa, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Lyab-i Hauz
Lyab-i Hauz

An old world style plaza that dates back to the 1620's, Lyab-i Hauz means "Around the pool" in Tajik, and the plaza was constructed around one of the pools that once provided Bukhara with much of its water.  It is a quiet, peaceful place, though it is gradually being encroached upon by merchants wanting to cater to the tourists that visit.

From here, you can visit three of the city's famous structures: the Kukeldash madrassah, the Nadir Devanbegi Madrassah, and the Nadir Devanbegi Khanaka.   All three famed structures were built around the time of the Lyab-i Hauz.
Lyab-i Hauz, Mekhtar Anbar Street, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Turki Jandi Mausoleum
Turki Jandi Mausoleum

The tomb of Turki Jandi is accessible through the mosque, and, though the mausoleum may look decrepit and in disrepair, it is quite significant to the locals.  Legend has it this is the place to go to have your prayers heard - and answered.  Additionally, there is a well inside the mosque that is said to supply holy water.
Turki Jandy mausoleum, Bukhara
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Chashma Ayub Mausoleum
Chashma Ayub Mausoleum

This mausoleum was gradually constructed from the 12th to the 16th centuries, and built over a spring known as the "Spring of Job".  Legend has it that the spring appeared here after Job smacked the ground with his staff.  Visitors are able to drink from the spring, and there is a museum inside dedicated to the legend of the water.
Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum, Pistaskkanon Street, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Kukeldash Madrassah
Kukeldash Madrassah

This madrassah was constructed in 1569 during the reign of Abdullah II.  At one time, it was hte largest madrassah in Central Asia,  Reports now state that it has devolved into being used mainly for tourist entertainments, such as puppet shows and wrestling matches.
Kukeldash Madrasah, Mekhtar Anbar Street, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Nadir Divanbegi Khanaka
Nadir Divanbegi Khanaka

This building was constructed in the early 17th century, to serve as a Sufi cloister, center of worship, and instruction.  It is named for Abdul Aziz Khan's treasury minister, who financed its construction.
Nadir Divan-Begi Khanaka, Bakhowuddin Nakshbandi Street, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Nadir Divanbegi Madrassah
Nadir Divanbegi Madrassah

Built in 1622, and also financed by Abdul Aziz's treasury minister, the Nadir Divanbegi Madrassah was originally intended to be a caravansarai.  However, the Khan thought it would be a Madrassah, and thus it was repurposed.  It is known for having some stunning tilework decor.
Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah, Bakhowuddin Nakshbandi Street, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Hoja Nasruddin
Hoja Nasruddin

Nasruddin is a wise travelling sufi, who occasionally is depicted in a foolish manner.  Stories involving him often have an educational or pedagogic nature.  He's a famous character in stories throughout the Islamic world.  The statue of him is on the east side of the Lyab-i Hauz.
Lyab-i Hauz, Mekhtar Anbar Street, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
marker icon
Get directions Open standalone map in fullscreen mode Export as KML for Google Earth/Google Maps
Sarrafon Guesthouse
Sarrafon Guesthouse

The Sarrafon Guesthouse is a great budget option in Bukhara.  They have a 24 hour front desk,  can help arrange tours, a great location near the Lyab-i Hauz,and serve a traditional Uzbek breakfast each morning.  That said, like many budget hotels/hostels in Uzbekistan, they do not take credit cards.

Click here to book at the Sarrafon Guesthouse on Hostelworld.com.
Lyab-i Hauz, Mekhtar Anbar Street, Bukhara, Bukhara Province, Uzbekistan
Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge