Things to do in Khiva & Khiva Travel Guide
Updated October 2023, Things to do in Khiva & Travel Guide was originally written in December 2019
Truth be told, I knew the least about Khiva prior to my arrival to Uzbekistan. I’d heard quite a bit about the grandeur of Samarkand and Bukhara, but not a peep about the capital of ancient Khorezm. Khiva ended up being my favorite of Uzbekistan’s famed Silk Road cities, spending my mornings wandering the winding labyrinth of alleyways, watching the history of the city unfurl in front of me.
Despite Khiva’s location, being just far enough away from the more popular Samarkand and Bukhara that many tourists choose to skip it altogether– Khiva can still feel a tad crowded thanks to its small size. For those wanting to get a feel for Khiva without feeling crowded out, I’d recommend braving the cold on a winter trip.
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Khiva Entrance Tickets
At the West Gate of Itchan Qala (Itchan Qala is the Old City of Khiva) is a ticket booth where your entrance fee can be paid. There are three different tickets on offer, all of which are valid for two days.
- VIP: 150,000 UZS/75,000 UZS (adult/child). Access to the Itchan Qala, historical sites, museums, climbing the minaret, the watchtower and the city walls.
- Standard: 100,000 UZS/50,000 UZS (adult/child). Allows access to the Itchan Qala, as well as historical sites and museums but not for climbing the minaret, the watchtower or city walls.
- Economy: 50,000 UZS/25,000 UZS (adult/child). Only allows access to the Itchan Qala, but not entrance into any historical sites or museums.
Pahvlon Mahmud Mausoleum is not included on any of the Itchan Qala entrance tickets
Things To Do In Khiva
Itchan Qala Gates & Walls
The Itchan Qala houses most all of the sites of ancient Khiva and is reminiscent of taking a step back in time. On your first morning in Khiva, make sure to get up early to wander the ancient walls of the Itchan Qala at sunrise for the best photo ops.
Going to Bukhara too? Check out the Bukara City Guide
The Kuhna Ark was the residence of Khiva’s rulers, originally built in the 12th century and added onto in the 17th century. You can tour the Zindon (prison), harem, mint, Summer Mosque, throne room, and watchtower that all make up the ancient Kuhna Ark.
For some of the best views over Khiva (especially at sunset), climb the stair inside the Kuhna Ark, set against the Itchan Qala walls for panoramic aerial views of the city.
Mohammed Rahim Khan Madrasa
The madrasa, commissioned by Mohammed Rakhim Khan in 1871 wasn’t completed until 1876 after Khiva was surrendered to Russia. The Madrasa now houses a museum to Mohammed Rakhim Khan and Isfandiyar Khan, his son.
Make sure and add Samarkand to your itinerary, read the Samarkand City Guide
Kalta Minor Minaret
Capped out 95 feet, Kalta Minor Minaret was meant to be much taller. So tall in fact, that one would be able to see Bukhara from the top. Those plans were thwarted with the untimely death of Mohammed Amin Khan in 1855, just four years after construction began. Though you can’t climb atop the unfinished minaret, it’s still pretty impressive in the morning light from ground level.
Sayid Alauddin Mausoleum
A mausoleum dating back to 1310 when Khiva was under the control of the Golden Horde.
Kicking off your Uzbekistan adventure in the capital? Read the Tashkent Travel Guide to start planning
Joma, or Friday Mosque, is the oldest mosque in Khiva, comprised of 218 wooden pillars holding up the mosque’s roof. A handful of those 218 pillars actually date back to 10th century when the mosque was originally built, the rest have been replaced over the years of maintaining the mosque. The Joma Mosque is included on the Khiva entrance tickets, but you will need to pay additionally if you’d like to climb the minaret for views over Khiva’s old town.
Allakuli Khan Madrasa & Kutlimurodinok Madrasa
These two madrasas sit facing each other with matching facades. Built by Allakuli Khan in the 19th century. Kutlimurodinok Madrasa houses an art museum.
The perfect trip: A two week Uzbekistan & Tajikistan itinerary
Abdullah Khan Madrasa
Comissioned by Mohammed Amin Khan’s wife for their son Abdullah, the Abdullah Khan Madrasa was built in 1855. It houses a nature museum and the Anusha Khan Baths.
Tosh Havli Palace
The Tosh Havli Palace is a highlight for many who venture to Khiva for its impressive tiled interiors. Built under the orders of Allakuli Khan between 1832 and 1841, Tosh Havli was built as a second royal residence in Khiva to the Kuhna Ark.
Islam Khoja Madrasa & Minaret
Islam Khoja Madrasa houses Khiva’s Museum of Applied Arts, which is definitely worth a look, but the main draw to the madrasa is to climb the teetering Islam Khoja Minaret. At 57 meters Islam Khoja Minaret is the tallest in all of Uzbekistan, however, you will need to pay an additional 7,000 UZS to climb the minaret if you’ve only purchased an economy or standard entrance ticket. Without a doubt, the best time to climb to the top is at sunset to watch the golden light fizzle out over Khiva.
Going to Tashkent? Read: The Tashkent Metro in photos & travel guide
Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum
Pahlavon Mahmud is Khiva’s patron saint, famous for his poetry, philosophy and even is believed to have helped to rescue many of the people brought to Khiva to be traded as slaves. The mausoleum’s interior displays some of Khiva’s finest tilework. Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum is not included on the Itchan Qala entrance tickets and is 10,000 UZS to enter.
Isfandiyar Palace (Palace of Nurullabay)
Isfandiyar Palace, also called the Palace of Nurullabay, is known for its over-the-top decorated rooms of the palace. Dating back to 1906 the interior design feels like a clash of eastern and western elements as Mohammed Rahim Khan II began its construction following a visit to St. Petersburg. The palace is located just outside the Itchan Qala Walls (just northwest of the walls).
In the past, it was included as part of the two-day Khiva ticket but now has its own separate ticket and entrance fee. Entrance will cost you 50,000 UZS per person.
The Ditchan Qala, is the rest of Khiva outside the old city walls. This is where the modern city awaits.
How To Travel To Khiva
By Air: There is an international airport in nearby Urgench, although it’s far more common for travelers to fly into Tashkent or even Samarkand. Urgench Airport has services to Tashkent, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. Uzbekistan Airways, Aeroflot, S7, Ural, Utair, and Turkish Airlines all fly here. Shop flights to Khiva here.
By Shared Taxi: Shared taxis depart when full and are available to Khiva, usually via a stop in Urgench. From Bukhara to Urgench plan to pay around $15 USD for a seat for the roughly 7 hour trip. For the 20 minute ride from Urgench to Khiva, you can plan to pay about $1-2 USD depending on your negotiating skills. To reach Nukus from Khiva plan to pay about $4 USD for a seat in a shared taxi.
By Train: Modern Afrosiab and slower Sharq trains connect many destinations in Uzbekistan. Finally, there is a new train station in Khiva recently opened. There are international trains to and from Uzbekistan as well, connecting Uzbekistan to Russia and Kazakhstan. Visit the Uzbek Railways website to see schedules.
Where To Sleep In Khiva
What & Where to Eat in Khiva
Khiva actually has a cuisine all its own with a scattering of dishes the city is known for. Of course, you can find a smattering of typical Central Asian, Uzbek, and even international fare around the city. Here are a few Khiva dishes to try on your visit and where to find them.
Probably the most well-known is the green noodle dish of Shivit Oshi. The noodles get their green color from the dill they are infused with and are usually piled with a medley of beef, potato, and carrot and accompanied by a side of sour cream. You will see Shivit Oshi on many menus around Khiva, but Cafe Zarafshon (near Islam Khoja Minaret) serves up one of the best.
Another dish that hails from Khiva is a dumpling called Takhum Barak.
Takhum Barak is usually filled with a mixture of egg and milk which texturally reminds of Russian pelmeni filled with farmer’s cheese, and they are usually served up with a side of yogurt or sour cream for dipping. You can get them at a few restaurants and cafes around Khiva, but I grabbed some at an outdoor cafe shaded by trees along the main path that connects the west and east gates of the Itchan Qala (between Bir Gumbez Teahouse and Kafe Farroukh). You can also find them at Cafe Zerafshon and Kafe Farroukh too.
Finally, a fan favorite is the fried, empanada-like Guzlama that Khiva is famous for. You will typically find them stuffed with beef and onions, but sometimes will find a potato or even pumpkin variety. You can find Guzlama on most menus in Khiva.
Khiva Day Trips
The Qala Castles Of Khorezm
The desert castles of Khorezm were all built between 4 BC and 7 AD to protect ancient Khorezm from Silk Road invaders. They are crumbling and in disrepair, but quite an interesting site. Plus, you won’t be fighting off selfie stick brandishing hordes either.
Have Any Questions About Khiva Travel Of Any Things To Do In Khiva?
Ask your Khiva travel and beyond questions in the comments section below. I recommend picking up a copy of Bradt’s Uzbekistan to help you kickstart your travel planning.
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