Geography of Uzbekistan

The Republic of Uzbekistan is a country in the heart of Central Asia. It covers an area of 448,978 km2  and it borders Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. The geography is incredibly varied, from the high mountains of the Western Tien-Shan in the east, to the Kyzlkum Desert in the west.

Viewed from the air, Uzbekistan is a striking patchwork of colours, with vast stretches of arid desert in the west giving way to jade-green stripes along rivers and in the fertile Fergana Valley. The seams of the snow-capped Tien-Shan Mountains mark Uzbekistan’s southern and eastern borders, their glacial meltwater the lifeblood of the plains.

At 447,400km2 in size, the country is equivalent in area to Spain or California. It measures 1,425km from its western to eastern borders, and 930km from north to south. Uzbekistan is one of only two double-landlocked countries (ie: landlocked countries completely surrounded by other landlocked countries) in the world, the other being Liechtenstein.

Within Uzbekistan area number of unusual border features which often intrigue and delight geographers. Karakalpakstan is an autonomous republic in the northwest of Uzbekistan. In the Fergana Valley, there are four Uzbek enclaves within Kyrgyzstan, and also one Kyrgyz enclave in Uzbekistan.

The physical environment is diverse, ranging from the flat, arid deserts that cover almost 80% of the country’s territory, to the eastern mountain peaks that rise up to 4,643m (15,233ft) above sea level.

Water resources are unevenly distributed, with many irrigation channels spreading it more widely. The two largest rivers are the Amu Darya (known to the ancient Greeks as the Oxus) and the Syr Darya (the Jaxartes), both of which originate in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In addition, the Zarafshan flows out of Tajikistan, near Samarkand and Bukhara, and into the Amu Darya. 

Much of the Aral Sea was once within Uzbek territory, though due to Soviet-era irrigation schemes, the sea has shrunk to a fraction of its original size. There are plenty of high altitude lakes in the mountains, plus a number of manmade lakes in the deserts, such as Tudakul and Aidarkul in Navoi Region, and Lake Sarygamysh in Karakalpakstan.