If you’re tired of city life in Uzbekistan, we recommend that you stop by Asraf Village in Nurata when travelling from Tashkent/Samarkand to Bukhara or vice versa. It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re not in a rush for time. 2 days 1 night would be good enough!
Interesting to note: Asraf Village is not included in the Lonely Planet Central Asia guidebook (2014 edition)!
At Nuratau itself, there’s not that much to do besides visiting the fortress of Alexander the Great and the Chashma Spring in the mosque behind the fortress. You probably just need maybe 1 hour to explore Nuratau and then you can proceed to head off to Asraf Village which will take around 2 to 3 hours depending on the weather and road conditions.
You might not be able to see clearly from the photo above, but there are actually tons of trout swimming around in the pool! The fish is not for eating though, the locals believe that the trout is “dirty” as it eats everything in the pool including algae, leftover food, waste, etc. There’s a legend that if you eat the trout from the Chasma Spring, you’ll end up getting white spots and eventually die! It’s interesting though, try mentioning “Nurata” to any local and the first thing that they will bring up is the trout in the holy Chasma Spring.
Tip: If a driver invites you into his home for tea in Nuratau, don’t expect it to be free! We took ours for granted and was shocked when at the end of it, he demanded 30,000som (USD$10) from us for the “hospitality fee”.
Here are 4 awesome things that you can do at Asraf Village
1. Learn to cook the national dish of Uzbekistan
We got to help out with the preparation of Dimlama which is basically meat, onions, potato, carrots and cabbage braised slowly together for about an hour. It seemed fairly simple to cook this dish though, all you need are the above mentioned ingredients, tomato paste, salt and some special spice that you can only purchase from Central Asia. You can choose from different dishes such as Plov (rice with meat), Laghman (homemade noodles in soup and meat) and more!
2. Explore the ancient petroglyphs
We did a short trek (about 2.5 hours in total, 10km) to check out the petroglyphs (ancient engravings on rocks). Unfortunately we weren’t blessed with good weather and it was mostly foggy and rainy 🙁 That’s one shortfall of travelling during winter, the weather can be quite unfavourable at times. The view is supposed to be spectacular during summer with the Nurata Mountains in the background.
3. Trek the Nurata Mountains
Our guide, Raxmat, is experienced and will be able to lead you for a trek to the Nurata Mountains. They can organise for you to stay in tents/yurts at the Nurata Mountains or if it’s too cold, you can always have the option of staying at the Yashigul Guesthouse instead. Sadly due to bad weather, we were unable to make it for the trek during this trip 🙁 Maybe next time we’ll come back again during summer!
4. Homestay at Yashigul Guesthouse
At the point of writing, there’s only 1 licensed guesthouse – Yashigul Guesthouse in Asraf Village. This guesthouse is quite big and has summer rooms for guests. But because it was winter, we got to stay with the family in a room set aside for us. It was so warm inside as the oven was shared between both rooms. The host’s mother cooks the national dishes very well and we really enjoyed our meals! Very comfortable and it’s even equipped with proper western toilets and hot showers (only if it’s hot during the day as it’s solar powered). Rare find in villages! When it’s not so cold, you can chill outside in the beautiful garden under the shady lush trees.
Tip: For really delicious, famous and cheap somsa, ask your driver to stop by Kipchoq which is between Asraf Village & Samarkand for your lunch/tea break. All locals should know about this place as it’s really popular among them and the restaurant consists of 3 floors! And they only sell 1 food item which is their famous somsa! A must try if you’re in that area!
Tour Company: Responsible Travel
We did a 2D1N tour at Asraf Village with Responsible Travel and we were overall very satisfied with the hospitality and great service of Raxmat (our guide) and his family! Raxmat was very professional and helpful and he even drove us to Samarkand the next day! Only downside was the bad weather when we were there 🙁 Otherwise, it would be perfect to visit this quaint little village in summer, spring or autumn! 🙂
Contact Information: Sherzod, +998 90 2650680, firstname.lastname@example.org
For details on the cost of the tour at Asraf Village, please contact Sherzod.
How to get to Asraf Village: Contact Ruslan at +998 93 661 1013. He can pick you up from Nurata and send you to Asraf. Recommended to use Ruslan as your driver as there are many villages in Nurata and not many taxi drivers know the exact location of the Yashigul Guesthouse. After a long stretch of drive (around 2 hours), you’ll see an obscure looking signboard that points to Yashigul Guesthouse. If your driver is not familiar with the road, it’s very easy to miss this signboard especially at night!