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Nukus is a city in Qaraqalpakistan, Uzbekistan. It is the capital of the region. The town is home to the Savitzky Gallery, an astounding collection of Soviet Avant-Garde art and is a good base for trips to the ruins of the Aral Sea. In an effort to attract more visitors and improve standards of living, the center of the town is being spruced up considerably with new shops and improved avenues in the center.


Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Uzbekistan Airways [1] operates flights from

  • Moscow Domodedovo International Airport on Mon
  • Tashkent Tashkent International Airport (TAS). Uzbekistan Airways flies Iluyshin IL-114s (2:45h) and Airbus A320s (1:45h) twice a day to Nukus Airport (NCU) [2]

Flying an IL-114 is an adventure itself. They fly slower and lower allowing great views of the Kyzyl Kum desert, the planes are in reasonable conditions.

By rail[edit]

Trains depart from Tashkent twice a week and head for Kungrad via Samarkand on the way; these trains stop at Nukus station. Note however that there is no direct train between Nukus and Urgench (for Khiva) as Urgench is on a different branch line.

By car[edit]

Shared taxis from Urgench take around 2 hours and cost about 30,000 som per person. Taxis from the Turkmenistan border cost around $15-20 for the whole car and take 2 to 3 hours to arrive.

Get around[edit]

Taxis are plentiful and cheap – a short hop should cost 2,000 to 3,000 som. It's perhaps 5,000 som to the bus and train stations, although marshutkas are also available for 800 som. The main sites are in walking distance.

See[edit][add listing]

Main road leading from Hotel Nukus to the gallery

Do not miss the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art's Igor Savitzky Collection [3] with its unique collection of many thousands of works by dissenting artists from the Soviet Union during the period in which Stalinist socialist realism was the only permitted form of Soviet art. The documentary film The Desert of Forbidden Art is all about the collection and its history. Many travelers believe this is the only compelling reason to visit Nukus. An expansion set to open in 2017 will nearly triple the amount of art that can be shown, definitely needed considering the size of the collection and how tightly things are hanging in the current gallery. Admission is 40000sum for the first museum building or 60000sum for both buildings.

  • Mizdahkan - located 20km from Nukus, this is a necropolis with many mausoleums. There are a few local legends about this area, one of them being the tomb of Adam is here and is seen as a doomsday clock. Ruins of a 9th and 12th century fortress are nearby.

Nearby is the Museum of Applied Arts showing local fabrics, traditional clothing and jewelry. The Karakalpak State Museum exhibits examples of natural history, including the very last Turan Tiger, caught in 1972.

Do[edit][add listing]

Due to being the closest major city to the Aral Sea, Nukus is a good place to start trips to the shore and to Moynoq. The former fishing town is some 200km away and a witness of the dying Aral Sea. Its main "attraction" is the ship graveyard and abdanoned fish canning factory. Taxis cost about $35-45 return for the whole car at the taxi station, while hotels ask $90-100. The sea is about 2.5 to 3 hours one way, with a total of 1 to 2 hours at the site. It's a nice day trip. Marshrutkas also go to Moynaq via Kungrad. They leave from Nukus old town bus station (Гоне Кала) at 9:00, 11:00, 13:00. Come early as they get full quickly, you don't want to stand the whole trip. Price is 10000sum and it takes 3 hours to get to Moynoq.

It's possible to pay 200,000 som (roughly $25 in 2018) to Moynaq and back for a taxi if you don't mind him picking up people along the way.

The Jipek Joli Hotel and other travel agencies arrange two day trips that are around $150 a person that include visiting the actual lake site and several other places of interest along with the way. They advertise total driving time of 8 hours.

Buy[edit][add listing]

There is a huge sprawling bazaar near the bus station, selling the usual range of cheap consumer goods, clothing and food. Most of it is under cover and hence not a bad place to wander during the heat of the day. Armed with a camera and a polite 'Mogu li ya snyatʹ vashu fotografiyu?' (may I take your photograph) you can get some very atmospheric pictures.

Eat[edit][add listing]

There are few options in town - both the Mona Lisa, and the Sheraton restaurants, listed in a popular guidebook, have shut / never existed. Searching around you will find acceptable kebab places, such as the a café just east of the Savitsky museum (42°27'54.03"N, 59°37'11.17"E, on the corner of Rashidova & Dosnazarov) that serves langman and meat skewers.

Drink[edit][add listing]

There are a couple of outdoor bars in town that serve draft beer. For a throughly Uzbek expierence, try a glass of pivo served from a stand made up to look like a giant soda can. A can of Sprite can be found just in front of the café at Rashidova & Dosnazarov.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

The prices below are the U.S. dollar equivalents in som at the black market rates. Hotels usually will quote a dollar rate, but because they except som at the bank rate, the actual price is about 40-45% cheaper. Just confirm when making a booking.

  • Jipek Joli Hotel and Jipek Joli Hotel 2 – The best option in Nukus. Jipek Joli 2, which is quite new, is still the best option, although they've cleaned up the original to make the choices comparable. Quite nice breakfast is included. There's (slow) Wi-Fi, nice showers and a small drink selection available on site. Much improved compared to what is written in some older guidebooks – although this means higher prices. Single $40/Double $45
  • The Nukus Hotel stopped offering beds only so you have to pay for the whole room starting from $20. Currently it is a construction site with no wifi or breakfast. Ask to see your room before paying, the quality varies (in particular the bathrooms). Aircon is consistently "just being repaired", water supply is uncertain, and in any case it is preferable to use bottled mineral water–even to brush your teeth.
  • The Rahnamo Hotel, Qaraqalpaqstan k'oshesi (just a few metres south east of Nukus), (998-61)222-47-43. Hotel offers pretty nice single or doublerooms with a bathtub, wifi (slow) and breakfast. Prices start at $20 per person, but depending on the time of you visit, you can bargain a better price. E-mail: [email protected]  edit

Get out[edit]

There is an overnight train to Tashkent that departs Nukus in the afternoon at 3:29PM and arrives in Tashkent the next day at 9:27AM. The price for a cheap berth is 114,109 som as of July 2018.

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