Shahrisabz Travel Guide + Best Things to do
Shahrisabz Travel Guide + Best Things to do was originally published in April 2023.
The birthplace of Uzbekistan’s famed conqueror Amir Timur, Shahrisabz is a city packed full of history, though sadly, mostly rebuilt in 2014 in a Disneylandish manner.
Despite this, Shahrisabz does have UNESCO World Heritage status and remains a popular destination on my visitors’ Central Asia circuits. The city does have an important and longstanding history as a significant stop along the ancient Silk Road.
Known as Kesh by the Greeks, the city was eventually renamed Shahrisabz which translates to green city in the Persian language.
Shahrisabz is located about 80 kilometers south of Samarkand in the Qashqadaryo Region, this short distance makes a visit to Shahrisabz a great day trip option for those staying in Samarkand.
All of the main attractions of Shahrisabz are located within walking distance of each other and with only a handful of main sights, can be easily visited in 3-4 hours for the average traveler.
Entry to most sites in Shahrisabz will cost about 21,000 UZS.
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- Things to See in Shahrisabz
- How to get to Shahrisabz from Samarkand, Termez, Qarshi, and Beyond
- Getting Around in Shahrisabz
- Where to Stay in Shahrisabz
- Where to Stay in Samarkand
Things to See in Shahrisabz
Ak Saroy Palace Complex
The Ak Saroy Complex is probably the most prominent and likely first building you’ll notice on arrival to Shahrisabz with its remaining collapsed pishtak (entrance portal) standing 38 meters high.
Subsequently, it’s the most impressive in Shahrisabz (in my opinion) as it’s one of the few structures spared in the 2014 bulldozing-followed-by-Disneyified-rebuild of the city.
Amir Timur, the founder of the Timurid Empire and most paramount ruler in Uzbek history ordered the construction of Ak Saroy in 1380. The complex took 24 years to finish, complete just before Timur’s death in 1405.
Craftsmen were brought in from all around to work on the intricate details of Ak Saroy following a successful conquest across the Khorezm Region.
Of course, impossible to miss is a giant statue of Amir Timur himself (it’s a new addition) sitting in the middle of the complex.
Dorut Tilovat Complex & Kok Gumbez Mosque
The Dorut Tilovat Complex was completed in 1374 to serve as a madrasa and house of recitation. The complex was commissioned under the orders of Sheikh Shamsiddin Kulal, a Sufi scholar who was Amir Timur’s pir, or spiritual preceptor.
Sheikh Shamsiddin Kulal would not live to see the Dorut Tilovat Complex’s completion and did not even want to have a mausoleum built for himself but in the end, Amir Timur had his tomb placed in the complex.
Nearby and worth seeing, is the Kok Gumbez Mosque, constructed under the orders of Ulugbek in honor of his father, Shah Rukh (Shah Rukh was one of Amir Timur’s sons). Kok Gumbez, which translates to ‘blue dome’ served as Shahrisabz Friday Mosque following its completion in 1435.
Dorus Siyadat Complex
Completed in 1392 following the death of Amir Timur’s favorite son Jahangir who died of illness at the young age of 22, Janhangir’s Tomb is housed here within the Dorus Siyadat Complex, which translates out to ‘repository of power’.
Another of Timur’s sons, Umar Sheikh, is also buried here, following his untimely death in 1393 in battle at Kharmatu Fortress in present-day Iraq.
Amir Timur had ordered preparations for the tomb that would become Umar Sheikh’s Mausoleum for himself to be buried there at his time of death.
This never did happen as Amir Timur would die of illness on the way to China on an uncharacteristic winter military campaign against Ming China (Timur preferred springtime ransacking).
Timur died in Faryab, Kazakhstan in February of 1405 and since the high mountain routes were impassible due to wintertime snow, it was decided to take Timur’s body to Samarkand which was accessible at the time and bury him at the famous Gur e Amir Complex.
Chubin Madrasa (Amir Timur Museum)
The small Amir Timur Museum is housed inside the renovated Chubin Madrasa. I didn’t visit since I’m not a museum person, but if you’re into history the small museum may be worth a quick visit if you have the time it may be worth a quick visit to see the handful of artifacts on display.
The Koba caravanserai dates back to the 16th century and has been well-preserved compared to other caravanserais you’ll stumble across as you travel around Uzbekistan.
Chorsu Covered Bazaar
Not to be confused with the sprawling Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent, Chorsu Bazaar in Shahrisabz was an ancient covered bazaar where handmade ceramics and woven handicrafts would have been traded in the past. Chorsu Bazaar was built in 1602 and also housed a hammam.
Abdushukur Agalik Madrasa
Located near Chorzu Covered Bazaar and Caravanserai Koba is the Abdushakur Agalik Madrasa. I couldn’t find any info on the madrasa, aside from a sign outside saying it dates back to the 19th century.
How to get to Shahrisabz from Samarkand, Termez, Qarshi, and Beyond
To & From Samarkand
Most who visit Shahrisabz will do so as a day trip from Samarkand as the journey is about two hours each way. I recommend finding a driver who will take you there, wait, and bring you back.
You can usually find plenty of drivers offering Shahrisabz day trips and shared taxis to Shahrisabz hanging out on Registon Ko’chasi on the south side of the Registon Complex. Your accommodation in Samarkand will usually have a driver they can call and set up for you as well if you don’t want to negotiate the trip yourself.
The journey from Samarkand to Shahrisabz usually will include a few scenic stops along the way as the drive between Samarkand and Shahrisabz is quite beautiful. You can expect to pay about $40 USD with a little haggling to charter the whole car for the trip, including wait time, which can be split amongst other people you’re traveling with.
To & From Qarshi (or onto Bukhara)
Qarshi is only 90 minutes by car from Sharisabz, making it a good stop-off point for anyone making the journey between Samarkand and Qarshi or vice versa. You can expect a car to cost roughly $20 USD one way if planning to charter the entire vehicle. There are shared taxis that make the journey between Qarshi and Shahrisabz for about 25,000 UZS from the main bus station.
Note that if you are wanting to make the stop for Shahrisabz en route from Samarkand to Bukhara, you will need to stop in Qarshi to change shared taxis to continue to Bukhara.
To & From Termez
Termez, the dusty city sprinkled with Bactrian and Buddhist monuments dating back to the days of Alexander sitting near the border crossing to Afghanistan, is a longer haul at roughly 5 hours. Plan for shared taxis to charge roughly 150,000 UZS for the trip.
Getting Around in Shahrisabz
Once to Shahrisabz, most can get around on foot to all the main sites in the city as they mostly are within a 500 meter radius. For those that have difficulty getting around, there are electric carts that zip between the main sites for 1,000 UZS.
If you need to journey outside the main sites (to the bus station or beyond, for example) there are small damas vans (like marshrutkas) that are a cheap and quick option for zipping around the city.
Where to Stay in Shahrisabz
There are only a small handful of accommodations in Shahrisabz. I didn’t stay there myself, opting for the day trip down from Samarkand so don’t have a personal recommendation.
That said, a good friend of mine got held up there for about a week after having a Landcruiser breakdown and having to wait for a part and repairs. He stayed at the Bek Shahrisabz and said it was quite nice, though it’s not the cheapest place in town.
Closer to the main sights and a little more budget-friendly is the Hotel Oq Saroy. Call +998 903165406 to make reservations.
Where to Stay in Samarkand
A great option for those staying in Samarkand and making the day trip to Shahrisabz is the Amir Hostel for budget backpackers. Those looking for something more midrange to luxury should check out Hotel Caravan Serail or the Orient Star, which is always a crowd favorite.
Have any questions about your visit to Shahrisabz?
Ask in the comments section below.