As part of your Silk Road journey, you must spend 2 days in Khiva. This itinerary is part of our 8 day trip in Uzbekistan. You can read about our 2 days in Tashkent here or use this as inspiration to build your own amazing experience there. Need a visa to Uzbekistan? Use iVisa! I received my visa in 5 days without any problems. They helped me get the right photos and answered all my questions. Highly recommend them.
We took an early flight from Tashkent to Urgench which was about 1.5 hours. The airports are small but the planes are clean and maintained. Pay attention to the time of your departure; a lot of domestic flights are just touchdowns to other cities, and you may not think it’s your plane because the destination is different from where you’re going.
We met our guide and transport at the airport and took a drive through the fertile countryside.
The drive took us through fields of corn, fruit trees and cotton plants.
Our first stop was in Beruniy for an early lunch of samsa and then we were off to the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan. It is marked by an archway in the archaeological region of the Aral Sea which used to be a large center of civilization but is now desert. This is the gateway to the castles of ancient Khorezm.
The first place we visited was the excavated Ayaz-Kala which means “windy fort” and it lived up to the name. A 1800 year old fortress of mud atop a tall sloping hill provided us with a 360 view of semi-arid plains as far as the eye could see and breezes to keep your scarf afloat.
Afterward we had lunch in a yurt camp just down from the fort. The food was $10 USD a person and even when we thought we were done, the food just kept on coming.
After a 40 minute drive, we pulled up to the ruins of Toprak-Kala or “muddy fort”. This area is dated from 2000 years ago and they have excavated the walls of the rooms of the palace so you can weave in and out of them just as if it was occupied. And although these forts are in Karakalpakstan, it’s worth the time while spending 2 days in Khiva.
Our guide Inessa was very knowledgeable and spoke wonderful English. If you are interested in booking with her you can WhatsApp at +998914294593.
Khiva Hotel Tips
A 2 hour drive took us to Khiva and we stayed at the Shaherezada Boutique Hotel with twin bedrooms. It had a great location and wonderful breakfast but the rooms were lacking. Our shower didn’t have a holder for the shower head and none of them had shower curtains which made a mess of the bathroom. If you desire more quality in your accommodations, I would advise looking for other places.
A few tips on booking hotels; stars equate certain amenities so a hotel having some is always good. The more the better. However in a place like Khiva most accommodations won’t have a lot of stars because they cater to local tourists and don’t have a global standard. But that’s ok. Look for excellent reviews and remember, the more good reviews the better. Staying somewhere with 200+ reviews means there is enough experience to learn from. Read up and choose accordingly.
In Khiva buy one ticket which gets you into all the museums in the World Heritage district of Ichon-Qala, or Itchan Kala, (literally: within the wall) for 48 hours. This cost us 150,000 som each. After settling into our hotel we had the late afternoon and evening to explore. We managed to climb the steep steps of the Khodja Minaret just in time for the sunset at 7:35 before it closed at 8pm. This is the tallest minaret in Khiva at 57 meters high and 118 gloriously tall steps to the top. And it’s totally worth the effort. This was the only minaret we could climb during our visit – we’re glad we did it.
We ate dinner at Cafe Zarafshon which is in the courtyard just next to the minaret.
We recommend the green dill noodles, tomato salad and sweet potato dumplings.
One of the most beautiful things about Khiva is the morning light as the sun comes up. Wake up early around 6am and head out to enjoy the quiet streets as they welcome the sun. You can see Ichon-Qala in a different way and enjoy it before the street stalls are open and tourists are about. You can access the old city wall in a couple of places too.
Pahlavan Mahmud Mausoleum
At 9 am we met our new guide Iroda, at the Pahlavan Mahmud Mausoleum where Uzbeks come from all over to pray for their ancestors. According to legend, Khiva was built by Shem (the son of Noah) in the shape of Noah’s ship and this mausoleum was built in the place of the anchor.
This mausoleum is an extra 10,000 som to get in but it is a must-see with its floor to ceiling tiles and personal Imam who prays in the main room (drop a few som in the box for his services). Sit for a while and take in the sounds and atmosphere. We recommend it.
Next up was the ancient Juma Mosque. It has 230 uniquely carved wood columns. Some of which date back to the 10th century. It’s definitely a place you don’t want to miss. Be sure to stand back and take a panoramic photo to capture the light as it descends through the columns onto the ground. This was one of my favorite places and definitely worth stopping during your 2 days in Khiva.
Tash-Hauli Palace (harem)
We took a quick stop at a caravanserai for a bit of shopping. Khiva’s streets are lined with vendors but at a caravanserai you can see a lot of sellers under one roof. Personally we preferred walking the streets for treasures but this is also a good option.
Afterward we explored Tash-Hauli Palace. Originally it was built not just as a palace, but also as a madrassah (school), caravanserai (shopping/trade), and in one corner, Allakuli-Khan’s harem. The tile work is exquisite! There are guides on site who can tell you about the place or you can wander yourselves. Regardless, be sure to stop for a while and talk with both local tourists and the guides who are extremely friendly and personable.
Tozabog Summer Palace
We picked up a covered golf cart taxi from the main city gate of Ichon-Qala (the same gate that sells the ticket to all the museums) to go to the Summer Palace for 20,000 som. It was nice to get off our feet for a bit and explore Dichon-Qala (literally: outside the wall). The famous summer residence of the rulers of Khiva was built in 1912 and is just 2 km away from Ichon Qala.
Spending some time out of the sun was refreshing and prepared us for the walk back to the city. For lunch, at Terrassa Cafe, we enjoyed our first meat skewers called shashlik. We recommend the lamb which was nice and tender, and of course the eggplant and tomato salads.
Evening in Khiva
We took a break during the afternoon to refresh and then met up for a folk dance show at 7pm. The Khalfi family performed traditional Khorezmian dance while we had tea and traditional Uzbek bites.
Our guide Iroda invited us to her home for dinner where we met her beautiful family and toured her home. She showed us how to use the traditional bishkek baby cradle that she has for her baby and we savored her homemade samsas and steamed dumplings. If you spend 2 days in Khiva and need a guide do not hesitate to contact her. She was informative, speaks multiple languages and was very very patient with us. If you would like to book Iroda for your visit to Khiva you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +9 98 91 428 11 01.
The bishkek cradles of Uzbekistan are very traditional, well-loved and still well-used today. They allow you to put a baby to sleep without any diapers, and without them wetting the sheets. It is fascinating, check out our IGTV for details!
Check out this video highlight of our time in Khiva!
This 2 days in Khiva itinerary is just one part of our 8 day trip through Uzbekistan. Check out our 2 days in Tashkent itinerary. Or check out this article about all the amazing foods you can try in Uzbekistan, including recipes!