Khiva Travel Guide
Another of Uzbekistan’s Silk Road cities, Khiva is home to a multitude of historic buildings.
Its Old Town has charm for days, as well as numerous palaces, mosques, and other attractions worth a look-see.
Come check out our Khiva travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Khiva, Uzbekistan.
Once you have gotten settled in Khiva, make for the Itchan Kala. This place is the Old Town of Khiva, complete with narrow streets, heritage homes, and most of its major sights. Although most buildings are no more than 300 years old, its wall dates from the 10th century.
As you make your way around, marvel at the might of its gates, last renovated in the 17th century. You’ll also find many vendors hawking souvenirs. If you haven’t done so already, Khiva is a great place to pick up gifts for family and friends back home.
Step inside the abode of ruler Arang-khan by visiting the Citadel Kunya-ark. The king and his family members lived within its lofty walls, along with innermost members of the royal court. There was also space for visiting guests – these lucky folks must have marvelled at the scale of this palace.
Invading armies razed many of the structures within the citadel in past incursions. As a result, artisans have only restored a handful of them. These include a mosque, a harem, and a kurinishkhana (reception hall where guests would wait to see the king.)
If you only have time to see one masjid while in Khiva, make it the Juma Mosque. It is one of the few buildings in town to date from the 1st millennium. Of course, workers have performed renovations on it over the years, but key parts of the original building remain.
These parts include seven or eight of the 218 carved columns that support its roof. We don’t suggest testing them for integrity – no pushing or leaning on any old-looking pillars, please! it is a great place to get out of the sun, as it stands in contrast to the hot streets outside.
Check out the home of Allah Kuli Khan, a 19th-century ruler of Khiva, by visiting the Stone Palace. Although this massive building has over 160 rooms, only a few rooms are open to visitation. These include its courtyards, the throne room, and the harem.
This place is a stunning sight to behold, as its makers fitted it in tile from top to bottom. Additionally, artists painted its ceilings in exquisite patterns, so don’t forget to look up as you pass through this attraction. To get the most out of your visit, be sure to hire a local guide. The information they provide will help bring this place to life.
Honour the memory of one of Khiva’s most beloved citizens by dropping by the Mausoleum of Makhmud Pakhlavan. This elaborate tomb is the final resting place of Makhmud Pakhlavan, a soldier from the 14th century who was also a celebrated poet.
According to local lore, he led a successful raid into India, capturing a ruler there. One of the demands for their withdrawal – the release of Khiva prisoners. The Indian ruler agreed, but on one condition – they must all fit into the skin of a cow.
A day later, Makhmud returned. In that time, he fashioned a massive belt from cowhide. As it turned out, it was big enough to wrap around all the prisoners from Khiva, securing their release.
As for the building, it’s hard to miss. It is the only building in Khiva with a distinctive, light blue dome. Inside, its creators covered virtually every square inch of this mausoleum in decorative tile. Take lots of great pictures, but be respectful – this is a grave site, after all.
If you have time for more sights on your Khiva itinerary, be sure to add the Islam Khoja Complex. As attractions go, this is one of the youngest, as leaders built this mosque in the early 20th century. It serves both as a place of worship and as a madrasah, or Islamic school.
As impressive as both these structures are, this place is best known for its massive minaret. At 44 metres high, it is the tallest structure in Khiva. A spiral staircase within grants access to a viewing platform. However, no handrails exist, and parts are in complete darkness. Be in good health, not afraid of heights, and have a light with you.
Although it lacks the height of Islam Khoja’s minaret, the Kalta Minor Minaret is arguably more stylish. Khiva ruler Mohammed Amin Khan commissioned its building in 1851. Historians claim he wanted a minaret high enough to see Bukhara. However, he passed away a few years later, and construction halted. Coloured with turquoise bricks, it is a dazzling subject to photograph.