Overland Camping in Uzbekistan

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Once a vital part of the Silk Road, Uzbekistan is not a country you’d want to miss on your overland travels to Central Asia. Vast and empty, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for getting off the beaten track and overland camping in Uzbekistan.

By far the richest in tangible remains of the Silk Road history in the region, this is a country for culture buffs. Add to this the kindness and hospitality of the Uzbeks, it’s impossible nót to like Uzbekistan.

Rusted remains of a ship in the dry desert of the once Aral Sea

Specifics for Overlanding in Uzbekistan

Having said that, some things in Uzbekistan are not as evident as in other countries: finding diesel, ATMs and the mandatory registration system.

All three issues have been improving since the change of president in 2016 so don’t rely on old travel guides and forums on these topics. These are our experiences during our travels in Uzbekistan in 2020 / 2021:

  • Diesel isn’t still the most evident to find (don’t wait until your tank is empty) , but has improved greatly compared to a number of years ago. iOverlander (see below) will help you find some of the gas stations.
  • ATMs that work for foreigners aren’t on every corner (so don’t wait with withdrawing money until your out of cash either) but you no longer have to haggle on the black market to change your dollars for stacks of local money. The Asaka Bank in particular worked well for us. Also check out the ‘UZ card’ machines that are popping up these days.
  • Registration in paid accommodations is mandatory but not as strictly enforced as it used to be. Having said that, do ask for slips when staying in a hotel, because at the border they may still ask for them. I was asked for them once.

Overland Camping in Uzbekistan

In this blog post we share our favorite campsites. These photos will give you a sense of magic that you will feel when overlanding in Uzbekistan and are meant as an inspiration.

By no means let our blog post limit you as to where to (wild) camp. Uzbekistan offers plenty of spaces, everywhere, and it’s part of a great overland trip to go and find your own favorite camping spot. So, be inspired here, see iOverlander (more on this below) as a useful back-up system, but do go and have your own adventure!

Additionally I’ve added a couple of useful spots to park for the night and shared some extra information on climate (when to go or not to go), drinking water, toilets, and additional overland travel resources.

Let’s take a closer look!

Index for Overland Camping in Uzbekistan

In this blog post we will share the following topics:

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1 – Map with GPS Waypoints of our Campsites in Uzbekistan

Let there be no misunderstanding: no, you don’t have to go to these places. No, these are not by definition the best spots. In Uzbekistan you will have no problem finding your own places to camp.

As mentioned earlier, we decided to share our GPS Waypoints for overlanders who would like some tips about camping spots which we enjoyed or found practical. Please note that this is always our personal experience.

2 – Favorite Spots for Wild Camping in Uzbekistan

01 – Fayaz tepe, Termez

Where: Just before the entrance of the ruins of the Buddhist monastery (Fayaz Tepe).

Why: Visiting the site late afternoon was splendid as the sunlight turned the clay in red tinges. The desert was silent and felt peaceful, the spot gave a feeling of being blissfully far away from everywhere (even though that was not the case).

Public toilet is next to the museum, just down the path.

GPS Waypoint: 37.286131, 67.189393 (303 meter, November ’19)

02 – Sultan Saodat Mausoleum Complex

Where: In the parking lot of the complex.

Why: The late afternoon colored the brick walls beautifully red whereas early morning the sun provided the best light on the façade. It was a quiet place to spent the night.

Public toilets on site.

GPS Waypoint: 37.263273, 67.310101 (289 meter, November ’19)

03 – Janbas Qala

Where: Next to one of the remains of fortresses (Janbas Qala) in the Khorezm Desert.

Why: A beautiful, remote place. Total silence, emptiness, a place to watch the stars. Note: You can have a same experience camping next to any of the other fortresses in the region.

GPS Waypoint: 41.857571, 61.304593 (alt: 120 meters, January ’20)

04 – Badak River Camp (Ugam Chatkal National Park)

Where: Grassy field along a river.

Why: Beautifully remote and on a hiking trail to Badak Lake (recommended, 4 kms from this campsite).

BUT: The Badak region is home to a certain yellow flowering plant, which is family of the Hogweed. I believe the latin name is Ferula. When you rub your skin against these plants (not necessarily the flower) your skin is no longer protected against the sun and so the sun burns, causing scars that may take months to years to go away. Touching these plants doesn’t hurt, doesn’t itch so no warning system until it’s too late. Either wear skin-covering clothes or stay out of the sun.

GPS Waypoint: 41.885924 70.376337 (alt: 1200 meters, May ’21)

Hiking to Badak Lake, Uzbekistan (©Coen Wubbels)

05 – Gulkam River Camp (Ugam Chatkal National Park)

Where: Flat spot among the rocky field with (in spring) lots of flowers, along a river.

Why: Beautifully remote, although during weekend local people passing by to go for a hike. Do go for a hike to the lake.

GPS Waypoint: 41.547074 70.067837 (alt: 1265 meters, May ’21)

06 – Arashan Glacial Camp

Where: Along one of the lakes.

Why: Gorgeous place, far away from everywhere. Need of high-clearance vehicle to get across the 50 kms of badly eroded road to get there. We drove a max of 10 kms/hour.

Across the hills is a hot spring.

GPS Waypoint: 41.363760 70.523901 (alt: 2778 meters, June ’21)

3 – Useful Spots for Overland Camping in Uzbekistan

07 – Denau

Where: At the edge of Denau we saw this open space, which during the day is used as a kind of foodcourt. There were a couple of man chatting, we asked permission and they pointed us to the corner, which was the flattest spot.

Why: The border crossing from Tajikistan took longer than anticipated and we crossed when it was dark, which makes it hard finding a nice camp spot, even more so in a new country. This one was a quiet spot and across the road is a nan-bread bakery open till late at night as well as a restaurant.

GPS Waypoint: 38.314051 67.903780 (alt: 537 meters / October ’19)

08 – Shakhrisabz

Where: Dead end of a street in the old town, adjacent to the park with all monuments. If this spot doesn’t work, I’m sure you’ll find another somewhere in these narrow streets.

Why: Public toilet right around the corner. Quiet place to spend the night and right next to all the sites you want to see. 

GPS Waypoint: 39.058219, 66.827675 (607 meter, November ’19)

09 – Border Crossing Uzbekistan – Kazakhstan

Where: On the Uzbek side you have a couple of parking lots, places to eat and a mosque before reaching the border. We parked next to the mosque.

Why: Just a convenient, quiet place to spend the night before or after crossing the border.

GPS Waypoint: 44.889844, 56.009617 (January ’20)

10 – Khiva parking lot

Where: In the parking lot in front of the main entrance. Later we figured it would have been more quiet to pick the parking lot on the eastern gate. 

Why: Convenient place from where to visit the old city.

Disadvantage: the public toilets are not in the parking lot but inside the old town (to get in without paying, walk to the right of the main entrance and you see where you can walk in; this is not illegal, in fact the woman at the ticket entrance pointed it out to us).

GPS Waypoint: 41.379439, 60.356175 (66 meter, January ’20)

11 – Bukhara parking lot

Where: In the parking lot at the backside of the Ark.

Why: Convenient to visit the old city. The tourist police is fine with people staying there for the night.

Disadvantage: no public toilet. Either find one near the entrance to the Ark, or walk inside the old town.

GPS Waypoint: 39.77722, 64.412151 (January ’20)

Bukhara has some truly astonishing architecture

12 – Nukus, Nika Family Guesthouse

Where: In Nukus.

Why: Very kind, hospitable people, homely feel. Shared kitchen and bathroom. Clean. Wifi. Provided registration slips. Regular vehicles can park inside the gate, others on driveway. Per night: 90,000 som pp, about €8,50. (January ’20). 

GPS Waypoint: 42.452840, 59.632830 (80 meter, January ’20)

Do visit the beautiful art museum in Nukus

Recommended Books on Overlanding

(click on the images to look inside)

Products from Amazon

5 – Staying with Locals

Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing is a great way of meeting local people. In Uzbekistan we used Couchsurfing very little, but a special thanks to Zoha – a new friend who has been a great help in many ways!

In Tashkent we got invited to a local event by one of the main Couchsurfing hosts, Aybeck. He invited us to share stories and a meal of plov (pilav) at his place in Tashkent, which was a great way of meeting people.

During this event we were fortunate to meet Michael and stay with him and his family at a dacha in the mountains. Thanks again, Michael and Mariyam!

By the way, Couchsurfing is not necessarily a platform to stay with locals as the name implies. Locals may also offer to show you around in the city, to go for a drink, or whatever. There are two fundamental aspects of Couchsurfing: no exchange of money between host and traveler and it’s not a dating site.

Edited to Add: Note that since May 2020 you do have to pay a monthly/yearly contribution to make use of the platform.

You can find Couchsurfing here, and us under ‘Coen Wubbels’.

Apart from Couchsurfing we met many Uzbek people. They are curious and in for a chat and often came to the land Cruiser to meet us. This led to a number of invitations and we stayed with some of them. Thank you all for your kindness and hospitality!

Read More: The Quest for Batteries in Tashkent (Uzbekistan)

6 – A Word on Climate

The best time of the year for overland travel in Uzbekistan is April / May and September – Early November.

One of our trips was in January and it was cold (see header photo), which in itself was fine and there were no crowds in places like Khiva and Bukhara. The only unfortunate part of that journey were the very cloudy skies, grey surroundings and short days. So, great time for sight seeing but for beautiful wild camps – not so much.

Read More: Books about Mongolia, Central Asia & the Silk Road

7 – A Word on Water & Toilets

Whether tap water in cities, towns and/or villages is potable depends on whom you ask, it seems. Maybe it does depend per destination, maybe some people don’t really know. We get the impression more people drink tea rather than cold water, so the water is boiled and it doesn’t matter anyway.

In our Land Cruiser we have a watertank with filter system so normally it’s not an issue either. Due to frost we can’t use the system in winter, and buy a few five-liter bottles that we fill up wherever we can.

Whether you hike, bicycle, motorcycle, drive a car or backpack around the country, don’t buy bottled water. Bring a stainless-steel water bottle and a water filter system. There is an amazing selection of small, handy, water filter systems out there, such as MSR water filters or, even smaller, a SteriPen or Lifestraw. Or carry water purification tablets if weight and space really are a big issue (we do so on our long-distance hikes).

The environment will thank you!

As to toilets, expect long drops in little-sheltered huts in the countryside and even in towns. Bring toilet paper wherever you go. In cities there may be sit toilets but don’t flush the toilet paper; it goes in the bin.

Read More: Uzbekistan Overland Travel Guide & Uzbekistan Budget Travel Report

8 – A Word on iOverlander

Whether wild camping or staying in hotels, iOverlander is the best overlanding resource on finding places to stay as well as other practical points for overlanders, e.g. on workshops. (You may find a number of the above-mentioned campsites on iOverlander).

iOverlander a non-profit project, started and maintained by fellow overlanders. To keep this great resource for overlanders going, you can contribute in (at least) two important ways:

  • Donate (you will find the donate button on the website).
  • Share your own experiences of camping that add value to other overlanders (camping spots or otherwise useful points).

Find iOverlander here.

Thanks!

Recommended Books for Uzbekistan & The Silk Road

(click on the images to look inside)

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9 – Additional Overland Travel Resources

Suggestions to find good travel information on Uzbekistan:

Tips, Suggestions, Contributions?

We hope you find this overview of Overland Camping in Uzbekistan useful. Do you have questions or your own experiences to add?

Feel free to do so in the comment section below. Thanks!

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