The capital of Karakalpakstan, Nukus is the last "city" in western Uzbekistan. The town isn't particularly interesting, but I stayed there during my journey to Uzbekistan for several reasons:
Igor Savitsky brought together an incredible school of Russian artists who had been censured by the Stalinist regime. The museum that displays their work is a cultural oasis in the middle of the desert.
It's also the last city to speak of. As you head further west, you have to make do with a very Spartan level of comfort, and cuisine that is highly tailored to local tastes!
If you want to see the Aral Sea up close, you need to organize your trip here (there is an agency that offers trips to the Aral Sea by 4×4), and heading out further before making your arrangements would be extremely complicated, or even impossible if you don't have a vehicle!
It goes without saying that, as soon as you set foot in Nukus, one of Uzbekistan's largest cities, you will be overwhelmed with a single, all-consuming desire... to get out of there as soon as possible. Sketchy, dirty, polluted and dusty, with massive concrete boulevards clogged with virulent traffic jams, Soviet tower blocks crumbling all around you: there is seemingly nothing in the town to offset the overwhelming sense of despair. On top of all that, the climate seems to amplify the hostile atmosphere with sweltering summers and glacial winters.
However, despite the catastrophic backdrop, there is a museum that stands out from all the doom and gloom: the Savitsky Museum, also known as the Nukus Art Museum, reveals an utterly exceptional collection of historic artifacts, as well as the world's second greatest collection of avant-garde Russian art. In fact, it's shocking to find such a concentration of artworks in a town in the southern reaches of the Uzbek desert. However this unpredictability is actually a hallmark of the region and, in my view, that is what gives it its charm.