Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Whilst Uzbekistan is full of quite ancient history and architecture, it is emerging as a new destination for travellers. From a photography perspective it offers some truly unique opportunities, making a visit to this Central Asian country well worth it.
I visited the cities of Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara. Unfortunately, time didn’t allow a visit to Khiva which is further West from Bukhara. I have written a full review on travelling to Uzbekistan which can be found on The Travel Hub website. In general, it is quite a safe and easy place to travel. It is extremely cheap in terms of food, accomodation and transportation. At the moment it is a very unique destination that has not been influenced greatly by commercial tourism........but that is likely to change as they look to promote their travel industry.
Below are some of my favorite places to take photos in Uzbekistan:
My 5 top Photography Spots in Uzbekistan:
1. The Registan Complex (map) – Each of the 3 Madrasahs that make up The Registan provide multiple options for photos – either of the buildings themselves or lifestyle images.
Using a long lens to create square borders, the arches of Tilla Khari Madrasah is a great place to start. You will need to arrive early to avoid crowds and even then might need to Photoshop out a few people.
You can pay around USD2 to climb the tower of Ulugbek Madrasah for a view of Shidor Madrasah. It is a bit of a squeeze and the view is “ok”. Better if you like lifestyle/portrait photos is to use the first level of the Ulugbek Madrasah where you can create nice frames using the tiled mosaics.
2. Sunset view of Bukhara Mosques and Madrasahs from Coffee & Shop in Bukhara (map) – The Poi Kalyan complex in Bukhara is by far the most visited by tourists. Surprisingly however, the place we found with the best view was almost always empty – with most people just wanting the normal shots in front of the buildings. If you’re happy to pay the price of an orange juice or cup of tea, you can sit on the terrace of Coffee & Shop, just next to Ulugbek Madrasah (yes the names of buildings are the same in different cities). From here you get a superb view across the entire Poi Kalyan including Ulugbek Madrasah, Toqi Zargaron Bazaar’s domed roof, Kalyan Mosque & the dominant Kalyan Minaret, the back of Mir-i-arab Madrasah and the front of Abdulaziz Kahn Madrasah. The sun will set behind the Bazaar and Kalyan Mosque with the front arch of the Abdulaziz Kahn Madrasah glowing in the fading sunlight.
3. Inside Kalyan Mosque (map) – Certainly the Kalyan Mosque with the Minaret are the most photographed building in Bukhara, probably all of Uzbekistan. Most people will take a photo of the Minaret from the ground of Poi Kalyan Square and photos from inside the mosque. To find some unique views, I suggest:
- Using the archways especially on the south side of the mosque for lifestyle/portrait photos. In the late afternoon you can get some really nice light.
- It is possible to use the arch at the west end of the mosque courtyard to frame the inside of the mosque, Kalyan Minaret and the domes of Mir-i-arab Madrasah. You will be looking out from shadows, so bracketing and/or some post editing will be required.
- If there Is any rain, the ground of the courtyard in the mosque floods and you can get some great reflection images at sunrise and sunset.
4. Shah-i-zinda (map) – Another place to visit in Samarkand with some incredible architecture full of glazed bricks and tiled mosaics. This long narrow street is lined on either side with mausoleums containing the tombs of members of royal families. Local people will come in the mornings to pay their respects and are quite happy to be in photos. The lined streets also offer some interesting angles for photography with the contrasting colors of the tiles.
5. Tashkent Metro Stations – There is more reason to ride the metro in Tashkent than simply as an efficient mode of transport. Each station has uniquely designed architecture that can make for some unique photography locations. Visit early on the weekends to avoid crowds and you can buy a ticket for around USD0.2 and ride around the different stops. There are several that are especially great and there are some perfect opportunities for motion blur shots and also light trails with the trains.
I would recommend visiting:
- Alisher Navoi (my favorite)