Samarkand is one of the most famous cities in Uzbekistan; one which is certain to feature on every traveler's must-see checklist of the country. To find out why, simply head to the center of the old town, where you'll find the breathtaking Registan Ensemble that comprises the town square. The whole of Samarkand holds huge historic relevance as an ancient city once at the heart of the silk route between Europe and Asia. Perhaps because of this, and its astounding beauty, it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
Over the last millenium or so, this eastern Uzbek city has exchanged hands countless times. After Mongol ruler Genghis Khan flattened it in 1220, the old town was rebuilt by the Timur-i-Leng Empire in 1369. It then prospered during the silk trade boom and much of the current architecture that stands today was built by this very leader. More recently, Samarkand was taken over by Russia in 1868 and for six years (between 1924 and 1930), it was actually the official capital of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic.