04/09/2012 08:07 am ET Updated Jun 09, 2012

A First-Timer's Guide To Central Asia

Ever imagined yourself riding horseback across the Eurasian steppe or haggling for carpets in an Uzbek bazaar? Silk Road romantics with a penchant for kebabs should make a beeline to these unmissable Central Asian highlights.

Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Few cities encapsulate the allure of the Silk Road as completely as Samarkand. Tamerlane's showcase city is a study in ambition, ranking amongst the world's greatest collections of Islamic architecture. Mesmerising tilework, soaring blue domes and a massive sense of scale are the rule here, including at Tamerlane's own resting place, the Gur Amir.

Bukhara, Uzbekistan
With its skyline of mosques, madrasahs and minarets, Bukhara is the quintessential Central Asian trading town. The labyrinthine old town is the best place for a random wander, but don't miss the fortress of the dastardly former Emir or the 47m-tall Kalon Minaret that so impressed Genghis Khan almost eight centuries ago.

(Photo: benpaarmann/Flickr)

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