Homestay Hiking in the Nuratau Mountains

South of Lake Aidarkul, there is great hiking and birdwatching in the mountains of the Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biosphere Reserve. Families in several villages have converted their homes into rustic guesthouses where they welcome guests. The most popular village is Sentyab (Sentob), where there have been three guesthouses since 2007, but if you want a more rural experience try the homestays in the remoter villages of Hayat, Asraf or Eski Forish. The area is ideal for hiking and horse riding, either on day trips or multiday trips between villages. In winter you can even observe authentic kupkari matches (a traditional polo-like game played with a headless goat carcass). This is a great opportunity to experience the traditional life of a Tajik-speaking mountain farmer family in their element – and a great way to ward off architecture burnout if you’ve seen one too many medressas.

For further information, contact local expert Sherzod Norbekov at Responsible Travel, who is based in Bog'don (former Yangiqishloq), a small town 70km west of Jizzakh. He can advise on transport and put together good hiking tours. Registration can be done in the guesthouses or in the office.

Most tour companies or B&Bs in Samarkand can also arrange a tour that takes in Nurata, Aydarkul and the Nuratau homestays.

On your own you'll have to take a shared taxi from Samarkand to Jizzakh and then another to Bog'don (Yangiqishloq), from where you'll have to hire a private taxi to Sentob or the other villages (60,000S). A taxi on to Nurata will cost 130,000S.