The Guardian published its top 40 destinations to go on holiday in 2019, which included Samarkand. Since President Shavkat Mirziyoyev took over from Islam Karimov in 2016, cautious change is afoot in Uzbekistan, the article said. For tourists keen to experience the country’s famous hospitality, impressive architecture and Silk Road legacy, things are fast improving.
New e-visas are a breeze compared with the old process and a key border crossing has reopened at the Tajik town of Penjikent, making it easy to combine a visit to Samarkand with a trek in Tajikistan’s Fann Mountains. Getting there, and around, is easier, too.
Turkish Airlines has launched an Istanbul-Samarkand route, meaning the jewel in Uzbekistan’s crown is just one stop from London; and the train network, linking tourist-friendly cities, is largely efficient. But, missing the capital, Tashkent, would be a mistake, not least because now photography is allowed on the handsome Tashkent metro, which includes Alisher Navoiy station, dedicated to the 15th century poet, with scenes from the poet’s work decorating the walls.