Hotel Review: Antica Samarkand, Uzbekistan – a cosy unique guesthouse
Samarkand is a large city and it is harder to find charming accommodation close to the major sights. The Antica Samarkand is a welcome exception. Samarkand hotels are typically large, business-orientated and geared towards tour groups. But if you are looking for somewhere individual on a moderate budget, try the the Antica Samarkand! Here is my honest review of staying there.
After my good and very cheap experience at the Hotel Rahmon, I decided to check what you can get if you triple the budget. You know when in the Lonely Planet Guide there is a little “our pick” banner next to the listing? I wonder whether it is a curse or a blessing, and in this case, I was curious about the long-established Antica B&B, a better-known hotel in Samarkand, and made a reservation for the cheapest available room, the budget double room. This was the last of my four accommodations in Samarkand and Bukhara, and also the most expensive one, I thought I would save the best until last… or not??
Location of the Antica Samarkand
The guesthouse is located in an Old Town quarter about 200m from the Gur-Emir Mausoleum and Rukhobod Mausoleum, 800m from the Registan and about 400m from the University Boulevard with its handy bus stops. To make it even more convenient, you will usually find taxis waiting just outside the perimeter walls of the township most times of the day. There is a small post office about 50m away. Once out of the township, streets in this area are quite well lit at night, and even crossing through the nearby Amir Timur Park was no problem at all.
There are some fancier hotels nearby on nearby Bustonsaroy Street, and the whole area looks quietly affluent, but I didn’t see much in the way of restaurants or cafes. And most taxi drivers know it – so no phoning around at the crack of dawn trying to find your accommodation. If you walk further into the compound, it looks a bit like a village with unpaved lanes, low-rise family homes behind high walls, and rarely any visitors wandering around, but it felt altogether more affluent than the section of the Old Town east of the Registan.
Transport from Samarkand Airport and Station
From the guesthouse, you can easily (and safely) walk to the Registan, Gur Emir and Rukhobod Mausoleums. Bear in mind it gets really hot in the day and there often is no shade, though.
If you arrive at the airport, I recommend taking a taxi. Those picking up from the large boulevard outside the airport appear cheaper then the ones 100m in in the airport compound. Bleary-eyed after my night flight, I looked for a bus stop, didn’t find one and quickly hailed a taxi. I paid 5 US-Dollars for the 6km ride, which was quickly agreed on, and gave the driver the address I had printed out from my booking confirmation.
If you arrive at the train station, which is also 6km away from the guesthouse, you can actually take Bus No. 73 all the way to the Registan Stop then walk about 500m. Taxi fare is about 15000 Sum (~ 1.50 EURO) and a bus ticket, paid in cash to the inspector, 1200 Sum (~0.15 EURO).
The guesthouse is a collection of buildings around several gardens and courtyards, along with the owners family house. It looked a little forbidding from outside, with high walls, a heavy wooden door, an assortment of security cameras and a sign saying “Ring Wait for 5 minutes”. I admit I was very very early – having arrived on the train from Bukhara around 06.30, I pitched up at the guesthouse at 7, having advised them so by email, but still got surprised looks.
Now in the view of a buzzing cafe culture in Samarkand, I didn’t feel like hanging round town, either, and in the worst case scenario, would have just left my case and gone out sightseeing (or rather, walking in the park in the hope to find coffee) – but they opened the door and let me into my room. I explained that I would need to get up very, very early the next morning, so they switched my breakfast to check-in day for not extra charge, and arranged for a cab. This was a little more expensive than coming in and haggling out the price myself, but I guess my chances of traipsing round at 4am and finding a cab were slim and flights from Samarkand not exactly numerous.
The Rooms at Antica Samarkand
The room I had booked was a very small room on the ground floor in a dacha-like small building off a large garden. It was just big enough to fit a double bed and a tiny table, but I liked its simplicity.
The bed was a pretty comfortable, the linens fresh and clean. There was plenty of light from the garden, and because their gate is so safe, I didn’t have issues with the very low unsecured windows. I managed to snooze a bit before breakfast, the WiFi was working, all was good.
However, when I arrived at 7am, I didn’t rally need the heating, as the sun was up, but however warm it was in the daytime, once the sun was down, it got pretty cold. Turns out when I got back in the evening, the heating wasn’t working at all, and I felt a bit chilly.
Considering I must have been the first guest of the season staying in the cheapskate dacha, they fiddled with the electricity a bit but couldn’t get the heating to work, so I was swiftly upgraded to another room with a small terrace. It was marginally bigger, and in summer it would be nice to sit outside on your little terrace overlooking the garden. But in March, the garden was bare, and I really did not see a great advantage of this room over the cheaper one. Also: minus points for mismatching bedlinen and the bare spare mattress. I know I know. First world problems, but this isn’t super budget accommodation.
The only advantage over the other room was this wardrobe, good if you stay longer, and a fridge, which might be handy in summer. In Uzbekistan, even the cheapest accommodations appear to have aircondition for the baking hot summers, so it’s not worth paying a lot of money for mid-range hotels.
The bathroom could do with a bit of a touch up. It was clean, though, and had hot and cold water.
The winning feature of this guesthouse are the convenient central yet quiet location, especially if you are planning on using the public buses a lot, and a really spacious garden. The rooms are in various states of renovation, from okay to quite good, while the main family home with its pretty dining room is a lovely example of timeless traditional architecture. The garden must be really stunning in the warmer season, in March it was really bare.
The host family is large, and appears very educated, with English and German and probably a handful other languages spoken. At least one of them is also a great cook, as the lovely breakfast shows. As they tend to cook it to order, you will have to tell the hosts beforehand when you would like to eat breakfast – but that is not uncommon in smaller guesthouses, some other places were just a lot more relaxed about it! They also host dinners by arrangements, but compared to Uzbek restaurant prices, they are on the pricey side.
Let me mention the excellent breakfast (minus the coffee – coffee lovers better drink Turkish-style coffee or no coffee at all). The breakfast was freshly prepared, and contained unidentifiable things but most were vegetarian-friendly. In small places like this, I always tell them on checking in that I am vegetarian, and usually they can accommodate vegetarian requests. This breakfast was lovely, and really set me up for the rest of the day.
As for the rest… well, this is a long-established family-run guesthouse, and they probably get fully booked most of the time and don’t need to make a special effort. Whereas in other, simpler places, there was free-flowing tea, bisquits, inviting communal areas, and some heartfelt hospitality, this place appeared more business-like and distant. Not that there is anything wrong with it! It just isn’t the cosy highly individual small guesthouse experience, and I still stay there again. Most smaller places are pretty good with traditional decor, and most have little courtyard gardens, so there is little that sets this apart now. The area is great, very central, and still not too far to walk to the Registan, yet the few central restaurants in Samarkand are only a 10-minute walk away in the other direction.
Why stay at the Antica Samarkand when visiting Samarkand?
As I mentioned above, this is a solid clean simple to mid-range guest house in a safe and convenient location and you could do worse with your hotel in Samarkand. For a guesthouse, its prices are top end, and its all a little bit anonymous. If you want a cosy guesthouse experience, this is fine, but for the same money, you could probably stay in a 3-star hotel with 24h reception and pool, and some of them are done in traditional style. Good examples for more inn-style hotels in good location are the Bibi-Khanym Hotel, which is located next to the Bibi Khanym Mosque and the Siyob Bazaar, the Rabat Boutique Hotel, set in a beautiful old building in the old Jewish quarter, and the four-star L’Argamak, an interesting blend of modern and traditional next to Gur-e-Emir Mausoleum.
Antica Samarkand Hotel Details
Address: Iskandarov St., 56 – 58, Samarkand 703012, Uzbekistan
Telephone: +998 90 212 59 62
Hotel Website: (none)
I reserved this room on Booking.com and paid 39 EURO in March 2019 for a double room for single use. The guesthouse takes cash payment only, so I paid at the guesthouse.
Nearest Airport: Samarkand International Airport (SKD), 6km. I highly recommend a taxi or asking the hotel to arrange airport pick-up.
Features: pretty courtyard garden, communal terrace, WiFi, great breakfast
Doesn’t have: bar, pool, restaurant, good coffee, functioning heating in winter, the je ne sais quoi
Disclosure: This trip was entirely self funded. I will only review and recommend places that I have stayed in myself. You can trust me for the whole, unbiased truth. I have received no monetary or non-monetary rewards for linking aside from some affiliate links. In this case, this post contains some affiliate links to Booking.com. This means that I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you book through the affiliate links. More details on my affiliate link policy are here.