Samarkand Tourist Attractions


Samarkand (also spelled Samarqand) is probably the most famous Uzbekistan’s historic city. Over 2,750 years of age, it boasts very impressive architectural monuments and a rich history. Samarkand originated from a settlement called Afrosiab (or Afrasiab), the ruins of which can be seen on the northern outskirts of the city. Later, still before the Common Era, it was the capital of Sogdiana (or Sogdia, Suguda, Sogdiane, Sogd, Sugd), named Marakanda (or Maracanda) then. When the city became the capital of the huge empire of Tamerlane (Timur) in the 14th century, it had enjoyed substantial growth and construction of splendorous edifices, some of which we can stll see today. The Registan Square, with the three grand madrasahs (Islamic colleges) on its sides, is the top Samarkand attraction. Among the others stand out Gur-e Amir Mausoleum (also spelled Gur-e Amir, Gur Emir, Guri Amir) where Tamerlane rests under a jade tombstone; Bibi-Khanym Mosque (also spelled Bibi-Khanom, Bibi-Khanum) - one of the largest mosques in the Islamic world; Khazrat-Khyzr Mosque, one of the oldest Samarkand monuments where you can have an impressive view of Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis (also spelled Shakh-i Zinda, Shahi-Zinda, Shohizinda), Siab Bazaar and distant mountains; and the surviving part of the legendary Ulugbek Observatory (also spelled Ulugh Beg, Ulughbeg, Ulugh-Beg) where Ulugbek compiled his world-famous star catalogue, the best between Ptolemy’s and Brahe’s.

The Registan Square

Located in the center of Samarkand, the Registan Square with its medieval edifices is certainly one of the most impressive squares in the world. The legend has it that the square was a place of public executions from the 15th to the early 20th centuries, and they strew it with sand to absorb the blood shed there. Therefore, the square was named Registan: reg (‘sand’) and stan (‘place’) - ‘a sand place’. It was also a place where people, summoned with trumpets, gathered to listen to government decrees announced. Initially, at the beginning of the 15th century, the square did not have the grand madrasahs standing on its three sides today. They were built later, in the 15th and the 17th centuries.

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Gur-e Amir Mausoleum

Gur-e Amir Mausoleum, a masterpiece of medieval Central Asian architecture, is the sepulcher of Tamerlane (Timur), his two sons Shahrukh and Miran Shah, his grandsons Muhammad Sultan and Ulugbek, and Tamerlane’s spiritual mentor Sayyid Baraka. The mausoleum was originally designed as the sepulcher of Muhammad Sultan, Tamerlane’s favorite grandson and the heir to the throne, who was killed during a military campaign at the age of 27.

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Bibi-Khanym Mosque

The Friday communal prayer mosque Bibi-Khanym in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, is one of the largest and most impressive historic mosques in Central Asia and the Islamic world in general. Bibi-Khanym was the nickname of Saray Mulk Khanym, Tamerlane’s senior wife. Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, the ambassador of Henry III of Castile to the court of Tamerlane in 1403 - 1405, wrote she was also nicknamed Cano. According to legend, it was Saray who ordered that the mosque be built to please her husband when he came home from his victorious campaign in India. (Hence the mosque was named after her.) However, historians believe Bibi-Khanym Mosque was built by order of Tamerlane himself.

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Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis

Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis, a remarkable complex of medieval Samarkand mausoleums and other cult buildings (over 20 in number), called ‘the street cemetery’ by the locals, is located near Bibi-Khanym Mosque on the slope of ancient Samarkand settlement Afrasiab. The complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a major Samarkand tourist attraction and an important Islamic holy site. They say going on a pilgrimage to it equals a hajj to Mecca. Archeological studies indicated that the earliest Shah-i-Zinda mausoleums date back to the 11th - 12th centuries, with only some of their foundations and tombstones surviving.

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Rukhabad Mausoleum

Rukhabad Mausoleum (‘adobe of spirit’; also spelled Ruhabad, Ruhobod, Ruhabod, Rukhobod, Rukhabod) is one of the first edifices erected during the reign of Tamerlane (Timur) in Samarkand, one of the oldest historic buildings in the city. It was built in 1380 over the grave of Sheikh Burhan al-Din Sagarji (also spelled Burkhan al-Din Sagarji, Bur(k)haneddin Sagarji, Bur(k)haneddin Sagardzhi), the famous Islamic theologian and mystic. According to his will, he was buried in Samarkand he had very much loved. The mausoleum was built by order of Tamerlane who revered the sheikh.

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Khodja Daniyar Mausoleum

The tomb of Khodja Daniyar as muslims call him, or a bibilical prophet Daniel as Christians call him, or Daniel as one of the four great Judaic prophets, is situated next to the Siab river between the Afrosiab hills. Arguments about him are still in progress - whose body exactly is in this mausoleum? Daniel, which is translated from Jewish as ‘Judge is God’ or ‘My Judge is God’, was born in the Holy Land of Jerusalem in 603 B. C. He was the descendant of David and Solomon. In 586 B.C. Israel was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar.

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“Afrasiab” Museum in Samarkand

There is a place in Samarkand, visiting which can lift the veil and solve fascinating mystery of the city. This is “Afrasiab” Museum. It is located in the north of Samarkand, near the ancient settlement of Afrasiab (Afrosiab). Today, the ancient settlement of Afrasiab (was founded in VII-VI centuries BC and existed until the XIII century) represents only a cluster of hills. Afrasiab is believed to have been Marakanda - the legendary capital of Sogdiana (Sogdia). Sogdiana included territories around Samarkand, Bukhara, Khujand and Panjikent in modern Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

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Samarkand Paper Mill

For many centuries Samarkand has been famous for its artisans. Samarkand survived countless number of invasions that brought not only grief and devastation. Quite often, they were one of the most effective ways of cultural and technological exchange. In 751, when Chinese troops invaded the territory of Central Asia, the glory of Samarkand papermakers was born and began its victorious march. The ruler of Samarkand, Abu Muslim, won a battle against the foreigners, and captured more than twenty thousand Chinese.

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Samarkand carpet factory “Hudzhum”

For many centuries, a carpet has been perfectly accentuating good taste of the owner of a house and symbolizing wealth in the East. A real thing can be seen at once, it admires, like shining with a special energy. Up to this day, a true oriental carpet is being made by hand for years and during this period it gets powerful energy spreading over all elements of the pattern and existing in every thread. Samarkand saved a unique production with ancient technologies, which secrets have been handed down from century to century, from a teacher to a student.

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House-Museum named after Filatov

Many nationalities have had ceremonies using wine. In Zoroastrianism, once dominated in Central Asia, the ritual of wine consumption, which healthfulness was already identified at that time, was given quite a big importance. Wine was used not only during the celebrations, but certain rituals. Greco-Bactrian culture brought by Alexander the Great also did not forbid the use of wine but on the contrary stimulated the development of winemaking in the region, because wine played a big role in the everyday life of the Greeks.

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