What To Do In Nukus Uzbekistan. Nukus, a city of 300,000, can be found in the remote west of Uzbekistan. Nukus is the capital of the Karakalpakstan, an autonomous state found within Uzbekistan. According to the constitution, Karakalpakstan is considered formally sovereign and their relations with Uzbekistan are regulated by treaties and agreements. The state is comprised primarily of ethnic Karakalpak, Uzbeks, and Kazakhs. The economy was previously driven by the fisheries of the Aral Sea, today, the economy is powered by cotton, rice, melons, and hydroelectric power.
What To Do In Nukus Uzbekistan
Nukus Museum of Art
Nukus Museum of Art, officially known as the State Art Museum of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, named after I.V. Savitsky is the main catalyst for visitors to visit the far west of Uzbekistan. This museum was inaugurated in 1966 during the Soviet Union and houses over 82,000 items. The Nukus Museum is the second largest collection of Russian avant-garde in the world.
This museum is the inspiration of the founder, Igor Savitsky. After convincing the authorities of a need to create a museum to showcase Karakalpak jewelry, carpets, coins, clothing and more, he expanded his interests. Savitsky began collecting (at risk of being denounced) the arts of avant-garde artists from Central Asia and Russia. Many of these artists and works had been banned under Stalin. Savitsky was not recognized for his achievements until perestroika in 1985. Unfortunately, he passed in 1985. Nukus was a closed city under the Soviet Union until Uzbekistan gained its independence in 1991.
The art is spread across two buildings. You can purchase an individual ticket or joint ticket. Guides are also available for hire. And you can take photos for free with your mobile or pay an additional fee to utilize a camera. I opted for one building, photographs with my phone, and I hired a guide to provide some context for the art collection. The Nukus Musuem of Art is a very well-regarded museum but while I enjoyed my visit the signifigence of this vast and impressive collection was somewhat lost on my non-sophisticated eye.
Karakalpakstan Parliament Building
As noted, Karakalpakstan is a semi-autonomous region in Uzbekistan. And with autonomy comes legislative powers. That means the parliament actually has veto power over the Uzbek national parliament. I walked the grounds and snapped several photos until security shooed me away. Though the security guard did it with a smile.
Being a semi-autonomous region also means you get your very own flag. In the center part of town near the museum are two soaring flagpoles, one showcasing the Uzbek flag, the other the Karakalpak flag.
The real highlight for me was the Mizdahkan Necropolis, which is about 20 km outside of town. The reality is I am not an art buff, and could not fully appreciate the Nukus Museum of Art. But the Mizdahkan Necropolis during sunset was absolutely stunning. This area was inhabited back in the 4th century BC. This is a holy site filled with graves, mausoleums, and mosques. It is a must to visit this site, and make sure you arrive before sunset.
Besides the Nukus Museum of Art, Nukus is considered the jumping off point for Aral Sea adventures. Read about my two-day road trip exploring the Aral Sea.
Where To Stay
Jipek Joli Inn and Jipek Joli Hotel. These two hotels are owned by the same family, who are some of the original pioneers of the tourism industry in Nukus since 2004. Both are centrally located and are a brief walk to the Nukus Museum of Art. I stayed at Jipek Joli Inn, where the rooms were very spacious with a somewhat updated Soviet look. The staff was helpful, and many spoke good English. If you are looking for something a bit more updated, you can stay in the newer Jipek Joli Hotel which opened in 2012. You can book at either via Agoda or Booking.com.
Where To Eat
Nukus is not known as the dining epicenter of Asia, but some passable options for a couple of days.
I ate most of my meals here. They have a semi-open courtyard which was great for dinners. The hotel also had a decent breakfast.
I also had one lunch at Grand Lavash, walkable from Jipek Joli. This did not go that well since I ordered a margarita pizza that came delivered overflowing with meat. I think there was a small communication issue.
How To Get There
Most visitors make there way to Bukhara and Samarkand with a transit pit stop in Tashkent where most international flights arrive. For those, more motivated they make the visit to Khiva, which is well worth a visit to its UNESCO walled city. But it is safe to say that Nukus is off the beaten path in western Uzbekistan.
The easiest way to get to Nukus is to fly, and the most popular gateway is Tashkent. Flights are under two hours and under $75 typically. You can also fly from Bukhara and even Moscow. From Tashkent, you can take a train for around 20 hours or a series of shared taxis that will take you across the country.
From Khiva you can take a train for around seven hours. There are also shared taxis (3-4 hours) that make its way from Ugench (near Khiva) to Nukus. Or Jipek Joli will arrange a private car, door-to-door for $30. If you can afford it, the car is the no brainer.