Last Updated on 19.10.2023 by Iliyan
Are you looking for the best things to do in Bukhara? Here you will find a travel guide with the best places to visit and the top things to do in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Bukhara (also spelled Buxoro) is an ancient city in the central Asian country of Uzbekistan. It is located on the Silk Road trade route between the East and the West, and has long served as a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion. The historic center of Bukhara contains hundreds of gorgeous mosques, madrasas, monuments, bazaars, and has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It is like an open-air museum without any cars, where only pedestrians are allowed.
- 1 Best Things to Do in Bukhara, Uzbekistan
- 1.1 Wonder Chor Minor
- 1.2 Admire the Kalyan Minaret
- 1.3 Visit the Kalyan Mosque
- 1.4 Take a peek inside the Mir-i-Arab Madrasah
- 1.5 Ark Citadel (The Ark of Bukhara)
- 1.6 Check out the Bolo Khauz Mosque
- 1.7 Abdulaziz Khan Madrasah
- 1.8 Ulugbek Madrasah
- 1.9 Relax at the Lyabi Khauz
- 1.10 Nodir Devonbegi Madrasah
- 1.11 Stroll to the Samanid Mausoleum
Best Things to Do in Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Bukhara is another diamond in Uzbekistan’s crown. Here you will find about 140 architectural monuments, including numerous mosques and madrasahs, including some of the most popular landmarks such as Chor Minor, Kalyan Minaret, Mir-i-Arab Madrasah, and many more.
Wonder Chor Minor
Chor Minor (also known as Madrasah of Khalif Niyaz-kul) was part of a complex with a now destroyed madrasah. The structure was built in 1807, and it is located a little bit outside of the main tourist area of town. The name “Chor Minor” means four towers, but surprisingly the towers are not minarets. Three of them were used for storage and the fourth has an internal staircase leading to the roof. Each of those four blue-domed towers have different motifs and design. The legend says that elements of decoration represent four different religions practiced in Central Asia – Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Islam.
You can also climb to the roof of the tower for an additional fee.
Admire the Kalyan Minaret
Admire the Kalyan Minaret is one of the best things to do in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. It is part of the Po-i-Kalyan mosque complex, together with Kalyan Mosque, Mir-i-Arab Madrasah, and Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah. The Kalyan Minaret stands almost 46 meters above the ground. It was built in 1127, when Bukhara was part of the Karakhanid state. It is also known as the Tower of Death, because a long time ago criminals were executed by throwing them off the tower.
Visit the Kalyan Mosque
The Kalyan Mosque is a must see when in Bukhara. It is also known as Kalan or Kalon. The Kalyan Mosque was completed in 1515 in the Khanate of Bukhara, as a part of the historical Po-i-Kalyan Complex which includes the Mir-i-Arab madrasah directly opposite and the famous Kalyan Minaret. The architectural style of the mosque was inspired by Bibi Khanum Mosque in Samarkand. The Kalyan Mosque has a large central courtyard and is impressive with its 208 columns and 288 interior domes. Currently, the madrasah is still a functioning Islamic college.
Take a peek inside the Mir-i-Arab Madrasah
The Mir-i-Arab Madrasah is one of the main attractions of Bukhara. It is also part of the Po-i Kalyan Complex. This madrasah was built in the 16th century and is still an active school. For that reason tourists cannot enter inside, but can only peek through the front entrance to admire the courtyard. Outside the Mir-i-Arab Madrasah is pretty impressive with the shiny bright blue domes.
Ark Citadel (The Ark of Bukhara)
Visiting the Ark of Bukhara is one of the best things to do in Bukhara. It is a massive fortress, built around the 5th century AD.
Over the years the Ark has been destroyed and rebuilt a few times. By the beginning of the 20th century, the it was inhabited by nearly 3,000 people, making it a city within a city. It was used as a fortress until it fell to Russia in 1920.
Nowadays, the Ark is a tourist attraction and houses several museums, a mosque and the throne room.
Check out the Bolo Khauz Mosque
Bolo Khauz Mosque was built in the 17th century, right across the main entrance of the Ark of Bukhara. This mosque looks stunning from the outside with its intricately carved wooden pillars and a small pool of water (khauz) directly in front. The interior is more simply but strikingly decorated, and will have you staring at them for a while.
Bolo Khauz Mosque is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site and it must be included in your itinerary in Bukhara.
Abdulaziz Khan Madrasah
The Abdulaziz Khan Madrasah is located directly opposite the Ulugbek Madrasah. It was built in 17th century, and it is one of the most gorgeous and colorful places to visit in Bukhara. The entrance to the Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah is glamorous, with intricately carved reliefs, ornate tiles, brick mosaic, and painted archway.
The best time to visit the Abdulaziz Khan Madrasah is in the morning because shops open their doors after 9 AM. Yes, the inside has been converted into a market with many antique and souvenir shops.
The Ulugbek Madrasah is located opposite the Abdulaziz Khan Madrasah. It is one of the most famous sites in Bukhara. It was built in 1417 by Timur’s grandson, the ruler and astronomer Ulugbek. During the reign of Ulugbek the madrasah was the center of science and education in Bukhara. He wanted to make Bukhara a center for science, education, and culture to attract scientists and scholars.
Relax at the Lyabi Khauz
Relaxing at the Lyabi Khauz is one of the best things to do in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Literally Lyabi Khauz is translated as “by the pond” in Persian, which refers to the big pond in the middle of the square. In Persian architecture, a howz is a centrally positioned symmetrical axis pool. Until about one century ago the reservoir was a source of water for the population for bathing and drinking, and a popular gathering spot for locals. However, the Lyabi-Hauz pond is one of the few that still remain today. The others were removed because they were prone to spreading diseases.
Nowadays, Lyabi Khauz is a popular square surrounded by a madrasah, a mosque, souvenir shops, and a few restaurants.
Nodir Devonbegi Madrasah
Nodir Devonbegi Madrasah is part of the Lyabi Khauz architectural ensemble. Originally this building was built as a caravanserai, but later it was converted to a madrasah. The exterior is wonderful with the intricate blue tiles, covered with a mix of different patterns – floral, plants, and animals. It is very unusual for an Islamic building the depiction of a sun with human face above the gate, with two peacocks on the side. Inside there is a courtyard with souvenir shops.
In 1993 the Nodir Devonbegi Madrasah along with other monuments of the historic center of Bukhara was included to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Stroll to the Samanid Mausoleum
The Samanid Mausoleum was built in the 10th century, as the resting place of the powerful and influential Islamic Samanid dynasty that ruled the Samanid Empire. It is the oldest monument of Islamic architecture and is known as the most ancient funerary building of Central Asian architecture. This ancient monument survived Genghis Khan’s invasion of Bukhara because it was buried in mud from flooding and was not visible. It was only discovered in 1934 by Soviet archeologists.
The Samanid Mausoleum is situated in the middle of the park, just 20-minutes walking from the historic center.