Last Updated on 01.11.2023 by Iliyan
The city of Khiva was part of my trip through Uzbekistan. Nestled in the Khorezm Region of the country, it is the final Uzbek city that lay on the ancient silk road. Khiva is a stunning open-air museum. Behind the mud brick walls of the old town in Khiva lies a labyrinth of narrow alleyways with brightly coloured mosaics, mosques, and madrasah’s. All the things to do in Khiva are located inside Itchan Kala (the Old Town) and can be seen in one or two days.
- 1 The best things to do in Khiva, Uzbekistan
- 1.1 Admire the Kalta Minor Minaret
- 1.2 Mohammed Amin Madrasah
- 1.3 Climb the Islam Khoja Minaret
- 1.4 Marvel the Unique Wooden Juma Mosque
- 1.5 Explore the amazing Tash Khauli Palace
- 1.6 Walk on the Itchan Kala City Walls
- 1.7 Wandering around the Kuhna Ark Fortress
- 1.8 Visit the Pahlavon Mahmud mausoleum
- 1.9 Shop at the Bazaars
- 1.10 Take a day trip to Aral Sea Ship Cemetery
- 2 Itchan Kala Entrance Fee
The best things to do in Khiva, Uzbekistan
The best things to do in Khiva are inside the walls of the Itchan Kala, the walled city for which Khiva is known with over 50 historical monuments and sites. There are more than 350 houses inside Itchan Kala, and around 2,500 people still live there.
Admire the Kalta Minor Minaret
Visiting Kalta Minor Minaret is one of the best things to do in Khiva. It is also known as the “unfinished minaret”. It was commissioned by the ruler of Khiva in 1851, and was supposed to reach a height of 70 meters. Unfortunately he died in 1855, before the minaret was finished. According to legend, he wanted to build a minaret so high he could see all the way to Bukhara.
Nowadays, this gorgeous turquoise tiled minaret stands at a height of 26 meters. Kalta Minor Minaret is one of the most beautiful minarets within the old city of Khiva, and looks marvellous in during the day and night..
Mohammed Amin Madrasah
The Mohammed Amin Madrasah is one of the main sights, located in the historical district Itchan-Kala, and it is connected to Kalta Minor Minaret by a timber bridge. It was the largest madrasah with 125 hujras (cell-like dormitories), providing lodgement for 250 students. Now the madrasah has been made into a hotel.
Climb the Islam Khoja Minaret
At 57 meters tall, Islam Khoja Minaret (also spelled Khodja) is the tallest minaret in entire Uzbekistan. It can be seen from almost every spot of Khiva Itchan Kala. This stunning minaret dates back to the beginning of the XX century, during the Khiva Khanate. It was used as a tower to call for prayers but due to its impressive height, it also guided many travellers into the city.
If you want to get an incredible view, climb to the top of the minaret. Bear in mind that the staircase is very steep and narrow. The entrance is not included in the Standard Ticket and costs 100,000 UZS.
Marvel the Unique Wooden Juma Mosque
The Juma Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Khiva and is also known as the “Friday Mosque”. It stands in the middle of Itchan Kala, on the road connecting the west gate and the east gate. The mosque dates back to the 10th century, but it was rebuilt in 1788. It is a large one-story brick building with a flat wooden roof, supported by 218 beautifully carved wooden pillars. It looks like a museum of Khiva wood carving styles of different style and times.
Explore the amazing Tash Khauli Palace
Exploring the amazing Tash Khauli Palace is one of the best things to do in Khiva. It is also called Tosh Havli, which means “Stone House”, and it is home to some of Khiva’s best decorated rooms and courtyards, including ceramic tiles, painted ceilings, carved stone and wood.
Built in the 1830s by Allakuli Khan, the Tash Khauli Palace is an example of Khorezm architectural grandeur of those times. There are over 150 rooms and 9 courtyards inside this palace. The palace is a real maze with lots of small entrances, connected with corridors.
Walk on the Itchan Kala City Walls
The old town of Khiva is surrounded by thick mud brick walls, and one of the best free things to do in Khiva is to walk on them. You’ll get some lovely views from above.
Wandering around the Kuhna Ark Fortress
The Kuhna Ark Fortress is said to be the oldest structure in Khiva, originally 12th century, then expanded 17th century. It was the residence of Khiva’s ruler. Inside the Kuhna Ark Fortress is elaborately decorated and it is divided into different complexes. It has a summer mosque, throne room, a harem, stables, a mint, a prison, and a large reception courtyard. The summer mosque is truly remarkable, decorated with white and blue glazed tiles.
Don’t miss the beautiful panoramic view across the old city from the watchtower. Watching the sunset from there is one of the best things to do in Khiva.
Visit the Pahlavon Mahmud mausoleum
The Pahlavon Mahmud mausoleum is one of the most beautiful sites in Khiva. It’s in the heart of the Old Town and a must see when in Khiva. The price of entrance is not included in any of the entrance tickets, you’ll need to pay extra but it is absolutely worth it.
The mausoleum was built in 1701 over the tomb of Pahlavon Mahmud. He was an Iranian poet, philosopher and legendary wrestler who became Khiva’s patron saint. The building is imposing on the outside with its unique huge blue dome. The interior is covered in exquisite blue tiles with intricate decorations and gorgeous chandeliers.
Shop at the Bazaars
Shopping in Khiva’s bazaars is a truly unique travel experience and one of the best things to do in Khiva. The bustling bazaar of the Old Town spreads along the entire pedestrian street. Many locals here make a living by selling handicraft goods, souvenirs, pottery, musical instruments, jewellery, textiles, traditional furry hats, etc. The prices are reasonable but bargaining is the only way to get good deals. Visiting some bazaars is a great opportunity to learn about local life.
Take a day trip to Aral Sea Ship Cemetery
A popular day trip from Khiva is to Aral Sea Ship Cemetery. In Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan there is a sea called Aral Sea. Actually, the Aral Sea was not an actual sea, it was once the world’s fourth-largest lake with an area of 68,000 square kilometers. The Aral Sea disaster began in the 1960s. The Soviets used the waters of two rivers – Amu Darya and Syr Darya to supply the region’s growing cotton production.
That action dried up the sea and affected million of people living in the Aral Sea basin. Where there once was water, now it’s just a dried up desert with rusted skeletons of the ships, known as Aral Sea Ship Cemetery.
Itchan Kala Entrance Fee
You’ll need to buy a ticket at the West Gate to enjoy the best things to do in Itchan Kala. Walking along the city wall is free but if you want to visit any of the historical monuments you’ll have to buy an entrance ticket. There are three types of them:
- VIP Ticket – 150,000 UZS. This ticket will give you access to all museums, including the watchtower, minaret, and city walls;
- Standard Ticket – 100,000 UZS. This ticket will give you access to the walled city and covers the museums, except the watchtower, minaret, and city walls;
- Economy Ticket – 50,000 UZS. This ticket will only allow you to enter the ancient city.