A nation that many barely knew existed until recently, Uzbekistan is undergoing something of a renaissance. Follow in the footsteps of some of the world's most famous explorers and pioneers, Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan and discover the beauty of ancient Uzbekistan. Independent since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, the country is young but has so much history behind it too. It was formerly a crossroad on the Silk Road which would have made it a hub of Central Asian commerce at the time. Uzbek architecture has to be seen to be believed. The skylines of the capital, Tashkent and surrounding towns and largely feature glistening dome-shaped buildings and taller structures, known as minarets, which are covered in mesmerising mosaic patterns. Although Uzbekistan is widely regarded as a tightly governed police state, this shouldn't put travellers off, with the locals said to be extremely welcoming and hospitable wherever you go.