Nukus is a city in Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan. It is the capital of the region However, even by Uzbek standards the town is fairly decrepit and most travellers only stay one night in order to see the Savitsky gallery. Despite this, the locals are a friendly lot. Learn a few words of Karakalpak and you'll be rewarded with delighted smiles.
- 1 Nukus Airport (NCU IATA). Uzbekistan Airways operates flights from Moscow Domodedovo International Airport on Mon and Tashkent Tashkent International Airport (TAS) twice a day (Iluyshin IL-114s (2hr 45min) and Airbus A320s (1hr 45hmin), 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.)
Trains depart from Tashkent daily and head for Kungrad via Samarkand and Bukhara on the way; these trains stop at Nukus station. The journey takes about 17 hours, the fare is around 170,000 som. Book as early as you can as they are quickly booked out.
From Kazakhstan, a train runs three times a week from Beyneu. There is no direct train between Nukus and Urgench (for Khiva) as Urgench is on a different branch line. As an aside, the main station has open WiFi.
Shared taxis run to and from Urgench, which is a major interchange with taxi connections to Khiva, Bukhara, and the airport. You will probably need a local taxi between the taxi stand the hotels in the centre of Nukus.
Taxis are plentiful and cheap: a short hop in town should cost 500-1000 som. Everything you'll want to see is in walking distance.
- Aral Sea
- 2 Avtovokzal Sarancha (Zhydeli Baysin) (On Khozheyli Avenue in Sarancha neighbourhood). The dusty bus station in the west of the city can best be reached with the minibuses 11 and 77 or a taxi, since the city is so big. From here, marshrutkas to Muynak leave several times a day, possibly 9:00, 12:00 and 15:00. 20,000 som one way. Taxis will be around 300,000 some for the ride.
- 1 Karakalpak Museum of Arts, K. Rzaev St, ☏ +998 61 222 2556, firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 09:00-13:00 14:00-17:00, Sa Su 10:00-16:00. Do not miss the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art's Igor Savitsky Collection 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 believe this is the only compelling reason to visit Nukus. The Savitsky Collection is often said by locals to be the best museum in Uzbekistan. 25,000 som (students: 15,000 som).
Nearby is the Museum of Applied Arts showing local fabrics, traditional clothing and jewellery. The Karakalpak State Museum exhibits examples of natural history, including the very last Turan Tiger, caught in 1972.
- Amet and Ayimkhan Shamuratovs House Museum, ☏ +998 61 222 34 52. Museum related to the personal belongings of these two stage performers who delved into music and oral culture. $2.
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 200 km away and a witness of the dying Aral Sea. Its main "attraction" is the infamous ship graveyard.
A taxi from Nukus to Moynaq costs around US$70, higher if booked through a hotel. For a day trip, start early as it is 3-3½ hr one way. Marshrutkas also go to Moynaq via Kungrad.
There is a huge sprawling market 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. A camera and a polite 'Mogu li ya snyatʹ vashu fotografiyu?' (May I take your photograph?.) can lead to some very atmospheric pictures.
- 1 Central Market. 09:00-21:00 daily. Covered market.
There are few options, both the Mona Lisa and the Sheraton restaurants, listed in a popular guidebook, have shut. Searching around you will find acceptable kebab places, such as the one just east of the Savitsky museum (42°27'54.03"N, 59°37'11.17"E, on the corner of Rashidova & Dosnazarov).
"Samsa" are popular, samosa-type pastries filled with ground beef and onions. 1,500-3,000 som, and they're rather filling. For a meat-free option some places sell slightly cheaper potato versions, ask for "kartoshka samsa".
As in the rest of the country Plov is the most widely known dish of the region and delicious, especially when homemade. Usually made with chicken.
Kimchi is popular with the locals, and is sold it at the main fruit and vegetable market. A large Korean community was resettled in Nukus after the second world war and now comprises ~20% of the population of the city.
Find some "Qarataw" brand vodka. Local to Qaraqalpaqstan and even difficult to find outside of the region, it's smooth and complex, and the Qaraqalpaks are rightly proud of it.
The prices in US dollars are higher than prices in som, and the hotels will want you to pay in US dollars (except in Nukus Hotel).
- 1 Jipek Jolly Hotel. It is quite nice and clean. The shower and toilet are for two rooms. The shower is not that good, but as long as you have hot water, it's tolerable. The water is often turned off. US$15 single room, $20 double room.
- 2 Nukus Hotel. In the double and triple rooms, there is a good chance that someone will turn up at 23:30 and snore in the bed next to you, so you may want to book all the beds for privacy. Ask to see your room before paying, the quality varies (in particular the bathrooms). Air-con 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. About US$12 for a bed in a double or triple room.
- 3 Hotel Tashkent, Berdakha 59 (just south of the main market - it's a big tower overlooking the traffic circle), ☏ +998 61 224 18 28. Newly renovated, and now probably the nicest option in town. Double room (single occupancy) with breakfast for 400,000 som (August 2022). $40.
If looking for taxi to the dying Aral Sea, you may contact +99861 7178779.
Uzbekistan Airways  operates flights to:
Shared taxis from the South Bus Station leave to
- Urgench US$10-12 per seat, 2 hrs