Deserts. Camels. Spices. Caravans. Marketplaces. Traders. Mosques. These are all things we think of when we image the Silk Road in Central Asia. Uzbekistan Silk Road trade routes are some of the best ones to visit for lovers of architecture and history to be sure, but also for people who want to take in the natural wonders that Silk Road merchants and travelers saw during their own Silk Road journeys. One of these natural wonders you will want to visit as you travel in Uzbekistan is the Kyzyl Kum Desert.
KYZYL KUM DESERT
I know what you might be thinking. “A desert, you say? BORING.” However, the Kyzyl Kum will surprise you as it is far from boring and actually one of the most interesting places to visit in Uzbekistan. The Kyzyl Kum is not just 298,000 sq km of brown sand and blue sky. While the desert receives just 10-20 cm of rainfall every year, it also has a large supply of subterranean fresh water and numerous oases. In the spring, the desert bursts forth in flowering shrubs as well as large expanses of tulips and poppies. The terrain varies from Sahara-like dunes to pastureland for livestock, gorges, salt lakes, mountains, and hot springs.
Visiting the Kyzyl Kum Desert will certainly spice up your holiday in Uzbekistan, especially if you spot some of its many eccentric animals.
- The Desert Monitor – This massive lizard can grow up to 1.6 meters. It is most active between May and July, so keep an eye out.
- Sand Cat – This feline looks deceptively like a regular house cat, but is the only wild cat that survives in true desert areas. It scurries across the desert usually with its belly to the ground and can sprint quite fast, up to 30-40 km/hr!
- Bactrian camel – While many people imagine 2-humped camels in the Sahara, Bactrians are only found in the deserts of Central and East Asia. Everyone knows that camels can go a longtime without water, but did you know that when they do reach water, they can drink up to 135 liters of water in under 15 minutes? You will see this endangered icon of the Silk Road as you travel in Uzbekistan through the Kyzyl Kum.
COOL PLACES TO VISIT IN UZBEKISTAN, KYZYL KUM DESERT
There are several interesting places to visit in the Kyzyl Kum Desert in Uzbekistan. First are the ancient fortresses of Khoresum, a civilization from the mid-2nd millennium BC. At one time, there were hundreds upon hundreds of these fortresses that dotted the landscape, but nowadays, there are just a few whose remains are easily accessible to travelers following the Uzbekistan Silk Road routes in the Kyzyl Kum Desert. Some of these massive structures that you can visit today on holiday in Uzbekistan are the Ayaz-kala, Chalpyk-kala, Koy-kyrglan-kala, Toprak-kala, Kyzyl-kala, and Jambas-kala fortresses.
A second place to visit in the Kyzyl Kum Desert is the petroglyphs of the Bukantau Mountains. These ancient rock carvings were only just discovered in 1972, but contain some excellent depictions of animals such as camels, leopards, bulls, bears, and birds along with examples of masks and other head dresses that date back to the Bronze Ages.
If you are interested in the history of the different sects of Islam and their major leaders, then another place to visit on your Uzbekistan holiday is the shrine of Sultan Uvays Bobo. Sultan Uvays Bobo was a contemporary of Mohammed and is known in some circles of Islam as the founder of the Sufi Islamic movement. The shrine located in the desert is a place of pilgrimage for many to this day.
Last, but certainly not least, is Lake Aydarkul located in the eastern section of the Kyzyl Kum. A lake in the desert? Crazy, but true. This lake is almost 250 km in width and offers a surprising change in the middle of the desert. This is a great place for fishing, swimming, horseback and camel rides, and hiking as a way to shake things up.
YOUR UZBEKISTAN HOLIDAY
So as you travel in Uzbekistan, make sure to take advantage of tours that include a trip to the Kyzyl Kum Desert. There are tons of great things to do there and interesting places to visit while you are in Uzbekistan. You can spend the night in nomadic yurts, ride Bactrian camels across the desert (how much more Silk Road can you get?), go cycling, hiking, or swimming in Lake Aydarkul. There are even horseback riding, trekking, and bicycle trails that lead you across the Aktau, Karatau, and Nuratau mountains. The Kyzyl Kum Desert is rife with potential for your Uzbekistan holiday. Enjoy and dig in! Photos from sources: www.kaspia.com.au, www.galleryhip.com, www.advantour.com, www.continent.uz, www.openuzbekistan.com