Khiva, Uzbekistan

The ancient city of Khiva was once the center and the most beautiful place of the Khorezm Khanate. Its rich heritage, which has survived to this day, makes Khiva one of the most interesting cities in modern Uzbekistan. Many objects of the Old City are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, and Khiva can rightly be called a city-museum. The tourist will find here numerous monuments of Muslim architecture, as well as archaeological sites that date back to the turn of the eras and even earlier periods. The inner, Old City of Khiva is a unique place with an off-scale density of sights per square meter, which have great not only historical, but also aesthetic value. But even the Outer City is very interesting, although not so well preserved, in contrast to the Inner City that has come down to us almost in its original form. See for weather in the capital of Uzbekistan.

Very few buildings of Ichan-Kala have been lost over the centuries, and what has been preserved would be more than enough for a whole book.


According to legend, Khiva appeared on the site of a well, which was dug by one of the three sons of Noah and gave amazingly tasty water. This well is still considered one of the city’s attractions. Kheyvak was founded, as the well and the city of that time were called, two and a half millennia ago and over the centuries became one of the flourishing centers in Khorezm. Later, Khiva was captured by the Arabs and Seljuks, the ruling dynasties changed, and in 1220 the city was wiped off the face of the earth by the hordes of Genghis Khan.

The city became the capital of the Khiva Khanate in 1598. After that, it began to develop rapidly and soon became one of the largest religious centers of the Muslim East. In the 18-19 centuries, many beautiful architectural monuments, religious and secular buildings were built here. In 1873 Khiva was taken by Russian troops. The second rise of Khiva dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, when the city was already developing under the Russian Empire.

How to get there

Khiva is located about 35 km southwest of Urgench and 10 km from the border with Turkmenistan.

Entertainment and attractions of Khiva

The main attraction of the city is Ichan-kala. This is the Old City of Khiva, which was surrounded by a thick wall with a complex of defensive fortifications. The powerful defensive structures of Ichan-kala were built for hundreds of years, and today you can see structures dating back to the 14th century. Palaces and bastions, mosques with minarets, madrasahs and tombs, bath complexes, inns, etc. have been preserved on the territory. It can be said that Ichan-Kala is a stunningly original city within a city.

An ancient legend says that the fortress of Ichan-kala was built from the same clay that the prophet Mohammed used to build Medina.

Historically, Khiva was divided into two parts, and Ichan-kala was one of them, the Inner City. It was separated from the outer (Dishan-kala) walls up to 10 m high and up to 6 m thick. The total length of these fortifications exceeded 2.5 km. Crenellated walls with loopholes for shooters were made of adobe bricks, and round towers were built into them throughout. The towers on both sides of the city gates were also fortified, and survey galleries were placed on them.

This indestructible citadel was built mainly in the 16th century, when Khiva became the capital of Khorezm. But in reality, both the city and the fortifications around it existed here as early as the 5th century, and some of these structures were used in the construction of the fortress walls.

Ichan-kala became the first monument in Central Asia to be protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Very few buildings of Ichan-Kala have been lost over the centuries, and what has been preserved would be more than enough for a whole book. True, most of the modern buildings were built already in the 19th century. In plan, Ichan-kala is an almost even rectangle with gates on each side. Particularly noteworthy are Palvan-Darvaza in the eastern wall of the fortress, built in 1806. Otherwise, they were called “slave” because of the slave market, which was located right next to them. This monumental structure is in the form of a pointed arch with two round towers on the sides and a gallery at the top between them. The towers crown domes of five meters in diameter, and the total height of the gate exceeds 50 m. To the left of the gate is the Kunya-Ark citadel, which was once autonomous from Ichan-kala and served as the residence of the Khorezm Khan.

In total, together with six madrasahs of the Outer City in Khiva, there are 30 historical madrasahs and more than 10 minarets in total.

Palvan-Darvaza got its name in honor of the national poet Palvan Mahmud, who is very revered in Khiva. His tomb is the most monumental in the city, and pilgrims have been flocking to it for more than seven centuries. This mausoleum was built in the 13th century, although its current appearance dates back to the 19th century. The mausoleum strikes the imagination with a high double dome, a wooden door decorated with rich carvings, carved stone aivans and stunning majolica, made in traditional colors in 1825.

Particular strength is attributed to local clay, which is mined from the neighboring Govuk-Kul lake. Centuries-old bricks were molded from it, with which the ancient well Kheyvak was laid out on the territory of Ichan-kala. Nowadays, clay continues to be used by local craftsmen-potters.

Passing through one of the gates, guests find themselves in the middle of the densely built Ichan-kala with narrow streets, where a huge number of attractions are concentrated in a very small area. These are the madrasah of Mohammad Amin-khan, the madrasah of Mohammad Rahim-Khan II, the madrasah of Alla-Kuli-khan (the first half of the 19th century) and the madrasah of Shergazi-khan (the first half of the 18th century); Kalta-Minar minaret, Tash Khauli palace built in the 19th century, Said Alauddin mausoleum. All these buildings are often exquisitely decorated with the famous Khiva floral ornaments, carved on stone or wood, or lined with blue-white-blue mosaics.

Khiva, Uzbekistan