Khiva – Time Travel To The forgotten Silk Road

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It’s far they said, but it’s so worth the effort to get there.

And they couldn’t have been more right.

Khiva is often missed out by travellers visiting Uzbekistan, mainly due to its long distance from either Bukhara or Tashkent. It’s understandable to disregard Khiva, considering once you have seen Samarkand and Bukhara, you may feel you have experienced the best of the fascinating architectures. Having said that, visiting Khiva was an easy decision for us since we were travelling from Nukus.

Transport back centuries through the immaculate tiled-works and ornate craftsmanship

Khiva is one of Uzbekistan’s big 3 ancient cities and an essential part of Uzbekistan’s Silk Road story wrapped up in an enchanting, pocket-sized city. It was located on the crossroad of The Great Silk Road as an important post that connecting two powerful lands, China And Rome. Whilst it may be a pain to get to, it is totally worth the visit! After spending 4 days in Khiva, it is safe to say it stole our hearts. 

Khiva is very old – the pearl of eastern middle age architectures. Parts of the city dated back more than 2500 years. From a small oasis in the middle of the desert, Khiva has come a long way in becoming one of the main trading centers on the historical silk road. The history of the city is also known for being one of the most important slave markets in Central Asia.

Local man on his way to work

Exploring Khiva

Khiva is divided into two parts: Itchan Kala (inner city) and Dichon Kala (outer city). The area within the inner walls is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990. The Itchan Kala is surrounded by a 10-meters high wall tightly clustered with collections of medressas, minarets and mosques that can only be entered through four gates. During daytime, that medieval sight is slightly marred by the souvenir sellers lining the main streets but at night, the magic of Khiva appears.

Souvenir stalls outside some of the main attractions
The magical night of Khiva

The main entrance to the Itchan Kala for tourists is via the West Gate. As soon as you enter Khiva’s old town the unique Kalta Minor minaret dominates your view. The only way to get around the old town is by foot. It is compact enough to cover the entire place in just a few hours, but we highly recommend you to slow down your pace and absorb the stunning view of each architectural highlights.

Marching past the Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum
Not many tourists in low peak season

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Set out to explore at peak times and you’ll unavoidably find yourself among a sea of selfie sticks and package tour groups bustle relentlessly. Wander just a little way off to the back alleys and you’ll quickly see a far simpler, more authentic and certainly less chaotic part of the old walls.

Local boys wandering along the corridors of their homes

KALTA MINOR

This minaret is actually unfinished as Mohammad Amin Khan who commissioned it died three years after the construction began. Originally meant to be the tallest minaret at 110-meters, the building became a 26-meters tall stump with a massive base of 14.5 meters in diameter. The locals named it Kalta Minor, which literally means short tower.

Still an impressive tower with its unfinished turquoise tiles

ISLOM-HOJA MINARET

As the tallest minaret in Uzbekistan, and in our opinions, the most beautiful. From below, you can admire the elegantly tapered minarets wrapped in vibrant bands of turquoise and emerald, or climb the claustrophobic stairwells and be charmed by the city from above.

Mesmerizing view of the magnificent minaret
Bustling time of the day

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During our 3-night stay in Khiva, it was so hot after 10a.m that we decided to stay indoors until sunset at around 7-8 pm. Khiva is magical at any time of the day but even more so at dawn. As the sun sets, the sky changes colours; orange, pink, blue and purple.

Walls of pale sand turn orangy in the dying light of sunset

Getting to Khiva

There are no direct public transports between Nukus and Khiva, so the first step is to get to Urgench. From Urgench, you may take either shared taxi or trolleybuses from Urgench bazaar to Northern gate of Itchan Qala. Both options cost less than USD1 per person.

Note: The trolleybus from Urgench to Khiva is pretty slow and can take up to one hour. Shared taxi make the trip in half an hour. The trolleybuses leave every 30 minutes and shared taxi’s once they are full.

If you are coming from Bukhara, good news is, starting from 15 January 2019, Uzbekistan Temir Yollari (Uzbekistan Railways) has launched a new passenger train on the route Bukhara – Khiva – Bukhara.

In accordance with the established timetable, trains between Bukhara and Khiva will be operated on odd days of the month at 12:05. The train will arrive in Khiva railway station at 5:50 pm on the same day.

The trains from Khiva to Bukhara will run on even days of the month. From Khiva railway station, the passenger train will depart at 08:45 and arrive in Bukhara at 14:48 on the same day.

Everyone has a favorite city in Uzbekistan; Khiva without a doubt was ours.

A magical town which captured our hearts
A day dreamer who has a passion in roaming around the world getting lost, experiencing new cultures and meeting the locals. I enjoy staying with a local home (i.e couchsurfing) and work with them (i.e workaway)!

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