When to visit
Uzbekistan is a year-round tourism destination, though most people choose to visit between May and October, as the winter months can be bitingly cold both in the desert and in the mountain foothills.
Spring breaks in March and April (slightly later in the mountains) and brings with it a riot of colourful flowers in the mountain pastures. The rivers are in full spate with the glacial meltwater, and the country comes swiftly back to life. If you visit in springtime, you may also be able to join in celebrations for Navruz, the Persian New Year (celebrated in Uzbekistan on 21 March). During this two-day festival, which is the national holiday, families feast, watch traditional sports including kopkari (horse racing) and kurash (wrestling), and there's plenty of musical entertainment. You'll i nvariably be asked to join in the fun.
The summer can be bakingly hot on the plains, particularly in July and August, but this is the best time to trek in the mountains and to try a night or two sleeping in a yurt. It's also the time of some of Uzbekistan's biggest festivals, including the UNESCO-backed Festival of Traditional Culture and Samarkand's International Music Festival. Expect plenty of pomp and circumstance if you're in Uzbekistan for Independence Day (1 September).
When autumn comes, Uzbekistan turns terracotta red and gold almost overnight. It's one of the most beautiful times to visit. Late September and early October is the ideal time to visit the big three, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, as temperatures are still warm but many of the crowds have gone. By early November, the warmly dressed can have Khiva in particular almost entirely to themselves, though many restaurants and shops will be closing up at the end of their season.
In the winter months few tourists come to Uzbekistan, but that means you can negotiate favourable rates for hotels and tours. It's also the time for skiing: the resorts of Chimgan and Beldersoy have excellent snow from January to March, and you can even risk your neck heli-skiing for descents up to 10km in length.