Uzbekistan with its diverse landscapes is a great place for ecotourism. The country has 2 national parks and several reserves.
The largest and most popular nature protection area among tourists is the Ugam-Chatkal National Park.. It was created in 1990 in the gorges of the Chatkal Range. Its territory has been little changed by human activity and is designed to preserve the mountain ecosystems of this region. The area of the park is 574,600 hectares. Its administration is located in the small town of Gazalkent, located 60 km northeast of Tashkent. on the left bank of the Chirchik River. The difference in altitude within the national park (from 1000 to 4000 m) determined the diversity of climate and vegetation. Here you can see not only mountain forests, but also mountain steppe, alpine meadows and highlands with glaciers and snowfields. Walnut, apple and cherry plum grow in the middle belt of mountains, from a height of 1200 m and above – mixed forests with a predominance of juniper (juniper), mountain ash, birch, maple, apple, wild cherry and hawthorn, at an altitude of about 2000 m – juniper woodlands, at an altitude above 2500 m – subalpine vegetation. The park preserves the habitats of about 48 species of various mammals, among them wild boar, white-clawed bear, badger, wolf, fox, porcupine are common, roe deer, Siberian mountain goat and snow leopard are less common. About 200 species of birds have been recorded in the park, including 130 nesting ones. Here you can see different species of eagles, falcons, owls, pigeons, doves, buntings, thrushes, flycatchers, tits and warblers. 20 species of fish live in the reservoirs of the park: marinka, naked osman, char, Tashkent perch, Turkestan catfish, Chatkal sculpin. Issyk-Kul and rainbow trout are also found in the Charvak reservoir.
According to Country Gees, the Chatkal Biosphere Reserve is located in the southern part of the Ugam-Chatkal National Park.. It was organized in 1947. The area of the reserve is 45739 hectares. Its territory consists of two sections – Bashkyzylsay and Maidantal. The first is located on the southwestern slopes of the Chatkal Range at an altitude of 1100 – 3247 m, the second – on the hard-to-reach northern slopes at an altitude of 1200 – 3800 m and is more than 30 km away from the first. The landscapes of the reserve are represented by mountain slopes with juniper forests, high mountains with alpine low-grass meadows, as well as xerophytic mountain meadows and steppes. The reserve is famous for its waterfalls and caves. In addition, in the southern part of the Maidantal site on the rocks near the banks of the Tereksai River in the Karasau tract, you can see unique ancient rock paintings. These are Tereksai petroglyphs. There are hunting scenes here. Also in the Chatkal Reserve are very interesting ornithological tours.
South-west of Tashkent in the vicinity of Lake Aydarkul on the northern slopes of the Nuratau ridge extends the Nurata Reserve, where massifs of walnut forests, mountain complexes and a unique population of the endemic Severtsov sheep (Kyzylkum sheep) are protected. The area of the reserve is 17752 hectares, of which 2529 hectares are covered with forest. The highest point of the reserve is the top of Hayat-Bashi (2169 m). Walnuts, wild-growing fruits, mulberry, poplar, willow, maple, elm (elm), pistachio, almonds, cotoneaster, wild rose, honeysuckle, hawthorn, prangos, ferula, ziziphora, eremurus, tulips, astragalus, kusinia cereals, bows, ungernia and immortelle. The reserve is located on the border of two provinces – the mountainous Afghan-Turkestan and the desert Turan, so mountain and desert fauna mix on its territory. Here you can see a fox, a wolf, a Severtsov sheep, a wild boar, a porcupine, a tolai hare, a stone marten, a weasel, a jerboa, many reptiles and about 150 species of birds. The territory on which the Nurata Reserve was organized has been intensively used by man since ancient times. This is confirmed by rock paintings (petroglyphs) with hunting scenes and the remains of ancient settlements that were discovered on its territory. Tourists in the reserve are offered horse, water and hiking trails.
Other popular protected mountain landscapes are located in the vicinity of Samarkand. Zaaminsky National Park and Zaaminsky Reserve are located 150 km east of Samarkand on the northern slope of the western part of the Turkestan Pamir-Alay Range. These are one of the oldest protected areas in Uzbekistan., the Zaamin Reserve was established in 1926, and the Zaamin National Park in 1976. Almost untouched by man, mountain ecosystems and juniper (juniper) complexes are protected here. The total area of the protected area is 31,500 hectares. The absolute heights of the surface range from 1000 m to 4030 m (Shaukartau peak). The most common types of vegetation are juniper (tree-like juniper), mountain ash, ash, maple, honeysuckle, wild rose, barberry, hogweed, St. Of the animals in the protected areas, the Central Asian goat, wild boar, tolai hare, Turkestan lynx, snow leopard, white-clawed bear, wolf, fox, porcupine, badger, stone marten, ermine, weasel and many rodents live. There are about 150 species of birds here: gray partridge, bearded vulture, golden eagle, black vulture, griffon vulture, wood pigeon, white-winged woodpecker, oriole, black crow, magpie, tits, red-capped finch, juniper grosbeak and rare scops owl, owl, eagle owl, hobby falcon, sparrowhawk, black stork, eagle owl, purple thrush and saker falcon. Of the fish in local rivers, only marinka lives. In addition to the nature protection zone, the Zaamin National Park has a recreational zone where you can engage in a wide variety of types of tourism: hiking, mountaineering, skiing, etc.
To the south of Samarkand, in the spurs of the Pamir-Alay mountain system, there are two protected areas: the Kitab geological reserve and the Gissar reserve. The Kitab reserve is designed to protect the monuments of the geological history of the Earth, covering a period of time of 300-400 million years. It is located in the spurs of the Zeravshan Range. About 700 species of fossil organisms were found in the geological sections of the reserve. In addition to the monuments of geological history, the reserve is known for its diverse flora and fauna. Most of the mountainous, including endemic, flora and fauna of Central Asia is concentrated here. In the Hissar Reserve mountain ecosystems and juniper complexes of the Gissar Range are protected. The area of the reserve is 80986 hectares. The reserve is rich in unique natural objects. In its southern part there is one of the largest caves in Central Asia – the cave of Amir-Timur-Kuragoni (Patrol of Emir Timur). It is located at an altitude of more than 2900 m and consists of two caves with a total length of about 800 m. In the caves you can see high grottoes with stalactites and an underground lake, which is fed by springs. There are also caves in the northern part of the reserve, among them are the largest cave systems in Central Asia of the Kyrtau ridge. Suut-Shar waterfall is located in the upper reaches of the Aksu River.
To the north of Termez, on the slopes of the Kugitang ridge, there is the Surkhan Nature Reserve.. It was established in 1987 on an area of 24,583 hectares. On the territory of the reserve there are steppe and forest (juniper) plant communities and typical vegetation of the subalpine belt. Among the many animals, unique representatives of the fauna of Central Asia stand out – the markhor goat and the mountain sheep. In addition to the rich and diverse flora and fauna, the reserve is also home to archaeological sites. In the southeast of the reserve, traces of dinosaurs were found that lived in these parts several hundred million years ago. Also, more than 200 colored rock paintings of the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras were found on the territory of the reserve. These examples of ancient rock art are called the Zarautsa Gallery.
No less interesting are the reserves that are located along the valleys of the Uzbek rivers and protect the tugai forests. Tugai forests are ecosystems that stretch along the banks of perennial rivers flowing through the steppe and desert regions. The area of such forests is small, they occupy only a few tens of meters from the water’s edge on both banks of the river. In the lower reaches of the river deltas, where humid areas are significant, tugai forests turn into impenetrable jungles resembling mangrove forests. In recent decades, the level of the Aral Sea has dropped sharply, which has led to the degradation of coastal and delta landscapes and the reduction of tugais. In this regard, the government of Uzbekistan has decided to create protected areas. East of Khiva, on the banks of the Amu Darya River, is located Reserve Badai-Tugai. It was created in 1971 to protect the tugai complexes of the lower reaches of the Amu Darya River and reintroduce the Bukhara deer. The area of the Badai-Tugai reserve is 6462 hectares. Tugai thickets occupy 70% of its area. In addition to tugai forests, you can see reed beds and steppe-meadow areas in the reserve. In the tugai, poplar, sucker, willow, shrubs and reeds predominate. The fauna is represented by more than 91 species of birds, 15 species of mammals and 15 species of fish. Wild boar, tolai hare, fox, jackal, reed cat (the largest cat in Central Asia), badger, weasel, steppe ferret, eared hedgehog and numerous rodents are common in the reserve. A special place among the protected animals is occupied by the Bukhara deer, or hangul. As a result of the economic development of the tugais, the Bukhara deer, previously numerous, was almost completely ousted from their original habitats. Unlike the neighboring desert ecosystems, there are many species of insects in the tugai, from amphibians, the green toad and the lake frog live here, from the reptiles the steppe tortoise, the Caspian gecko, the steppe agama, the round-headed takyr, foot-and-mouth disease, the arrow-snake, the water snake, the desert naked eye and the snake. In the Amu Darya, there are such species of fish as thorn, large and small Amu Darya pseudoshovelnose, pike, asp, Aral barbel, bream, sabrefish, carp, catfish, pike perch, silver carp, grass carp and snakehead. The world of birds is diverse, the buzzard, common kestrel, rock dove, long-eared owl, white-winged woodpecker, little turtle dove, little owl, crested lark, magpie, black crow, jackdaw, great tit, myna, tree sparrow, black kite and tuvik live on the territory of the reserve. One of the main protected species of Badai-Tugai is the Khiva pheasant.
Upstream of the Amu Darya River there is another reserve – Kyzylkum with an area of 10141 hectares. Here, not only tugai forests and floodplain meadows stretching along the banks of the Amu Darya River are protected, but also a section of the Kyzylkum desert, and about two-thirds of the reserve’s area falls to the share of sands. Of the desert plants in the reserve, there are saxaul, cherkez, desert acacia, saltwort, astragalus, wormwood and ephimera. Poplar, willow, sucker, comb and reed grow in tugai. The main animal species include wild boar, fox, jackal, badger, ligature and jungle cat. Of particular interest are the rare Bukhara deer and goitered gazelle. Numerous lizards and reptiles also live in the reserve. Of the birds, there are grouse, pigeons, waders, herons, ducks and rare bandaging, bustard-beauty (jack), pheasant, pelican and flamingo. About 14 species of fish live within the reserve: grass carp, silver carp,
Another similar reserve was created in 1975 just east of Samarkand in the floodplain of the Zeravshan River. This is the Zeravshan Reserve. The total area of the reserve is 2352 hectares. The tugai forests of the middle course of the Zeravshan River and the population of the rare Zarafshan pheasant are protected here. In addition to tugai, shrub thickets and floodplain meadows extend on the territory of the reserve. The main types of vegetation are poplar, willow, sucker, fruit, sea buckthorn, comb, reed, reed grass, erianthus, emperor, licorice, kendyr, azhrek and astragalus. The reserve is home to 17 species of mammals, over 170 species of birds and several species of reptiles. From animals, the tolai hare, porcupine, fox, jackal, badger and numerous rodents are common, from birds – Zarafshan pheasant, black-bellied grouse, pigeons, night heron, white stork, demoiselle crane and various sandpipers.
In addition, in Uzbekistan you can go to the southeastern outskirts of the Kyzylkum desert, where the Aydar-Arnasay system of reservoirs is located. This system consists of three artificial lakes with brackish water: Aydarkul, Arnasay and Tuzkan, and covers an area of 4000 square meters. km. Aydarkul is the largest lake in this system (3000 sq. km) and the second largest lake in the state. A wide variety of waterfowl settle along the shores of the lake, among which there are such rare species as pink pelicans, swans, dives and egrets.