How much you can see in Uzbekistan is very much dictated by the length of your stay and your modes of transport. Travelling by camel may sound romantic, but it's still rather faster to go by plane. These itineraries give an idea of what you can hope to accomplish in different amounts of time, and which sites you should endeavour to squeeze into your trip. With just a weekend at your disposal, you have two options: focus on Tashkent and see most of what the city has to offer, or hire a car and driver, leave early for Samarkand and write-off the four hours' drive in each direction as the price you have to pay to see one of central Asia's most remarkable cities.
If you choose to stay in Tashkent, start in the Old Town with the Khast Imam Square, the world's oldest Qu'ran in the Muyie Muborak Library, and the 15th-century tombs of the Sheikhantaur Cemetery. Have a late lunch at one of the plov stalls in Chorsu Bazaar and explore the stalls in the afternoon before taking in a performance at either the Aдisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre or the Ilkhom Theatre in the evening. The following morning you should visit Amir Timur Square for a view of post-independence Uzbekistan before going to the State Fine Arts Museum, the core of whose collection was confiscated from Grand Duke Romanov, who in turn had stolen many of the items from the Hermitage in St Petersburg. You will also like the the Railway Museum where you're still allowed to climb on and inside many of the exhibits.
In a week you can comfortably expect to see Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara. The roads between these three locations are well maintained and relatively fast, and you can also take the train. In Samarkand, book into the Antica B&B a stones throw away from the Gur-i Amir, Timur's gilded mausoleum, and explore the heart of the city on foot. The Registan, Shah-i Zinda and Ulug Begs astronomical observatory should not be missed, and neither should the ancient ruins of Afrosiab.
Travelling on to Bukhara, you should stay in a hotel close to Lyabi Hauz or the Kalyon Minar and pace yourself as you explore the bewildering selection of beautifully decorated mosques, madrassas and tombs. The Ark, Bolo Hauz Mosque and the Chor Minor are all best seen from the outside, Lyabi Hauz should be appreciated whilst relaxing with a bowl of tea by the water, and if your legs will carry you up the winding staircase to the top of the Kalyon Minaret, you'll get breathtaking views across the city.
With two weeks to spare, you can do all this and take in the highlights of Khorezm. Visiting Khiva's Ichon Qala goes without saying, but don't miss the Khorezm fortresses in the Kyzylkum Desert, or the chance to sleep in a nomad's yurt beneath the endless sky. Make sure you go to Nukus for the Igor Savitsky Museum and then continue through Karakalpakstan as far as Moynaq for the graveyard of ships left behind by the retreating Aral Sea.
A month is ample time to take in everything Uzbekistan has to offer. Consider travelling part of the way on the Trans-Caspian railway for a taste of travel in a bygone age, and allow at least a week to explore the little-visited Fergana Valley. Kokand is famous for its ornate 18th- and 19th-century architecture and also its craft workshops, Margilan has fascinating silk factories, and the base camp at Nanay is an ideal point from which to explore Kapchugai Gorge and the Chatkal Mountains.