What does a traveler know about Uzbekistan?

Usually, some stereotypical pictures come to mind – Great Silk Road, Registan Square in Samarkand, Old Town of Bukhara, Khiva Fortress, minarets, cozy boutique hotels, a lot of sun and fruits.

Meanwhile, Uzbekistan is Terra Incognita for adventurers, quick on the toe tourists who are not scared of staying overnight in tents and hiking. For those, who have already walked along Silk Road routes, been to cities but eager to come back to our welcoming land. Adventures start some several kilometers from larger towns where the urban landscape is changed into time ran “tepas” – ancient settlements and centuries aged trees.

There are lots of natural sightseeing places in Uzbekistan. Caves, lakes, canyons, oases, plains, and deserts, all of which are unique peculiarities of various regions. Thirteen preserved areas provide a vast choice for traveling including long-distance tracking, hiking, horse and camel riding, fishing in lakes, getting to know Uzbek culture and traditions, and photo hunting, of course.

Travelers should only choose destination – mountains or desert, oasis or foothill.

One of the most beautiful and ecologically friendly places in Uzbekistan is Ugam-Chatkal natural reserve in West Tien Shan Mountains of Tashkent Region. Once their sides were planted with non-typical trees for the region such as birches along the rivers. Ugam is a collection of wonderful routes – one can see here unusual mountains formations existing against all physical laws, kind of oriental Stonehenge. Local people name many stones. Along sai side (small mountain river) there are singing or jingling caves that reflect noise of underneath waters in an unusual manner. In ancient times, there were a lot of villages and Caravan-sarays, especially along the road to Fergana Valley, ruins of which can be still seen. On our route petroglyphic drawings representing scenes of hunting mountain goats can be seen and if you get lucky you can see heroes of ancient drawings alive. Wildlife of the reserve is diverse – lynx, porcupines, Tien Shan sousliks, foxes, rock martens, roe deer, wild boars. Golden eagles and black vultures soar over picturesque mountains. Fishers can find Marinka, bullhead and Amudar stone loach in mountain rivers.

The route towards Samarkand – Farish Region, not far from city of Jizzakh – is one of the favorite places of experienced travelers – Nurata Reserve is found there. Once it was established to preserve populations of rare animals and plants. The Reserve is crossed by several springs connected with Aydarkul Lake and they do not dry even in the very hot season. The highest point of the Reserve is Khayat-Bashi – 2,169 meters over the sea level. For many centuries of existence, rocky sides became of weird shapes. Along sai sides, there are nut groves – pistachios, almond, walnut. The oldest tree of Uzbekistan, Archa-ata (“Father Juniper”), which is over 2,000 years old, grows here. It is more than 8.5 meters around. A lot of legends are connected with this tree. There are abandoned mosque near it. Tourists will be hosted in several guest homes, a guide for tracking can be easily found, guests will be invited to participate in local fests or pay a home visit. Of course, an unforgettable trip to Aydarkul Lake, with breathtaking sunsets and dawns, fishing and swimming in crystal clear mountain waters.

Next, the route goes further, into the desert of Nuratau, to yurt (nomad tent) camps. The desert of Kyzylkum hides a lot of secrets and discoveries. Travelers can come across nomad camels in the desert, Persian gazelles on sandy land, and hares, foxes and desert cats in creeks and channels.

In the south direction, towards the city of Navoi, tourists can travel to Sarmysh – a unique and mysterious gorge which is several kilometers long. A camp can be set here and then go for a walk into picturesque nature. The gorge itself is narrow with high rocks over Sarmysh sai. It is the largest “picture gallery” in the world. More than 5,000 petroglyphs of different ages are found here – from primitive carved drawings to almost modern Arabic script with ochre. Place of Sufi meditation can be also seen here. Travelers can walk till primitive people settlement site, explore caves and gorges, and maybe find an image of the flying saucer which was once discovered by ufologists.

The direction towards the city of Termez is not well-studied yet, there are a lot of white spots waiting for explorers. North-West branches of Hissar Mountain Range, Foothill of Pamir Mountains present mountain terrain with river valleys and picturesque gorges with the largest glaciers in Uzbekistan. There are astonishing waterfalls on Aksudarya and Tankhazdarya rivers. There is an ancient mosque of Khazaretsultan on the top of the mountain in Mirakin Reserve. There are two famous Langars of Ishkiya Brotherhood with Khanakas, mausoleums, and mosque dating from the 15th century. The kishlaks (small villages) themselves look fanciful from a birds-eye view. Despite the movement of the crust of the earth, many saman houses are 500 years old.

There is a historic point of Tashkurgan in this direction. It used to be the largest mountain kishlak and now it is a museum on the open air. Gorge scenery reminds that in the movie Mackenna’s Gold. In two kilometers from it, there is famous Amir Temur Cave where he trained his army to conquer Shakhrisabs. In this place, there was mountain fort of Mukanna, a prophet in white closes. There is special microcosm in this area. Oriental thinkers used to say that the spirit of cosmos communicated with human more closely in the mountains. And world centers of this communications have always been in Shambala in Himalayans and the Pamir Mountains.

Uzbekistan keeps not fewer miracles and discoveries for curious travelers than any faraway exotic island on the edge of the earth.