To the north of Samarkand rise the rocky Nurata Mountains – an imposing granite barrier separating the fertile belt of central Uzbekistan from the sands of the Kyzylkum beyond. The majority of locals in this region are Tajik camel herders and farmers. A wonderful way to experience their way of life is with a village stay at Sentab, a postcard-pretty settlement swathed in walnut trees and fruit orchards where you can sleep in a traditional flat-roofed, drystone farmstead, helping with the daily chores, from baking bread to herding the sheep.
An extensive network of homestays enables visitors to trek between different valleys and experience the unspoilt grandeur of this little-frequented enclave – community-based tourism at its best. Possible day trips include explorations of prehistoric petroglyph sites and forays into the 160-sq-km Nurata Nature Reserve, famous as a stronghold of the rare Severtzov’s wild sheep.