The Nuratau mountains form a natural corridor of rock, water and trees against the harsh desert climate ruling its boundaries. For the longest time, the area was a caravan route between Bukhara and Tashkent. Nowadays, the mountains are home to a well-organized ecotourism project organizing homestays and activities in the villages tucked into different valleys.
It’s a great place to see a different part of Uzbekistan than the standard Silk Road Cities + Ferghana Valley itinerary. Activities include visiting the Nuratau nature reserve, home to endangered species like Severtsov wild sheep, hiking and horse riding, birdwatching, silk worm raising (May), bread baking, walnut gathering (October), watching a game of kokpar (mid November to end of March).
Of all the villages in the Nuratau mountains now set up for tourism, Sentyab (aka Sentob) has the most facilities. It’s a pleasant hamlet consisting of green gardens with large trees, houses built of natural stone, donkeys instead of cars, kids and old people. You can see and read more about Sentyab here.
To get there, arrange in advance with the Ecotourism Association office to come pick you up, or ask for info about the bus from Jizzakh.
There are several homestays. Please let us know who you stayed with and how it was. Here’s what we know so far:
- Rakhima and Gulmurod: hard beds, warm shower, plentiful, tasty food, vegetarian options are not simply the meat dishes without the meat. You can while the days away in their beautiful garden. A lovely family with several kids.
Asraf, Eski Forish, Hayt, Uhum & Upper Uhum
Haven’t visited these villages yet, your comments are very welcome on these. They seem to offer similar amenities to Sentyab. They are all close together. What’s different is that they are closer to the Nuratau nature reserve. If your goal is to visit here, you should go to one of these villages.
Nuratau nature reserve
Is the only place in the world where the endangered Severtsov wild sheep roam in the wild. Bighorned sheep, they are related to the more famous Marco Polo sheep of the Pamirs. It’s also an interesting place for tulip hunters and botany geeks in general with a large, partly endemic collection of unique flora and a diverse spread of nut and fruit trees, including strands of pistachio and rare walnut.
Plenty of birds will delight the birdwatchers who might want to detour here from Aidarkul lake. Other inhabitants include jackals, wolves, wild boars, foxes, rabbits, bats, stone marten, porcupine, snakes, lizards, turtles, toads and frogs.
Near Nuratau mountains
A visit to the Nuratau mountains combines well with a stopover in the Kyzylkum desert, if the season is right. On the way to Navoi – Bukhara, past Nurata, you can also take a detour to see the petroglyph site of Sarmysh.
Near the village of Bakhmal lie the gates of Tamerlane, a narrow corridor that stretches for several kilometers with Persian inscriptions about the military campaigns of Ulugbeg, and another one, dated much later, about the massacre of Abdullah Khan, son of Iskandar Khan and his 30 000 troops.