Khiva – Open Air Museum in Uzbekistan’s Desert

Khiva – Open Air Museum in Uzbekistan’s Desert

Khiva – Open Air Museum in Uzbekistan’s Desert

Behind the mud-brick walls of a deserted town in Uzbekistan lies a labyrinth of narrow alleyways with brightly colored mosaics covering the numerous mosques. Khiva is a stunning open-air museum in the west of Uzbekistan that feels like you just took a step back in time. All the things to do in Khiva are packed within the walkable old city walls and can be seen in one or two days.

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Things to do in Khiva

Khiva is the final stop of the usual Uzbekistan itinerary. While it is no stranger to tourists, Bukhara and Samarkand feel a lot busier. In Khiva, it’s easy to jump-off the main walking street get a sense of the charming old city also named the Itchan Kala.

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Tash Hauli

Tash Hauli is a palace with well-decorated rooms and courtyards. The jaw-dropping decorations on both the wood and ceilings are some of the best work there is in Uzbekistan. Good to know: Everything about entrance fees is explained later in this guide. 

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things to do khiva museum Tash Hauli

Kuhna Ark – Sunset on the watchtower

Experiencing the sunset on top of the 10-meter high outer wall is possibly one of the most spectacular things to do in Khiva. The watchtower provides a panoramic view from the entire old city center and admire the tile work from another angle. An hour before sunset, the watchtower at the west gate is accessible and it’s included in the VIP ticket or can be bought at the entire.

➳ Also discover: Things to do in Samarkand

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Kuhna Ark view khiva

Bazaar

Khiva is not just a museum, it is home for over 300 families that make a living doing some kind of craft, work at the sites, or selling handicrafts. The bazaar spreads along the entire Main Street from east to west. It is a lively market great for people spotting and a glimpse into the local life. If you are on the hunt for souvenirs, make sure to bargain and get at least 30% off the initial price. 

Food tip: Try Khiva’s specialty is green noodles with dill.

Khiva has a hand full of animal attractions going on. We highly encourage you to not spend any money nor time as this method of making money is wrong.

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Juma Mosque 

The Juma Mosque is a unique building on the inside. Beautifully carved wooden pillars (218 of them!) are supporting the mosque’s interior giving it a distinctive look. The only daylight inside shimmers on the gardens making it a silent place of peace and calm. 

Did you know? Khiva’s old town was the first place in Uzbekistan to gain a UNESCO status in 1991.

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Juma Mosque khiva

Wander through the narrow alleyways

Khiva is luckily not only museums and history. Step off the main street and get a taste of the local life. Best to go out for a quiet morning stroll. Uzbek people are some of the warmest and friendliest people out there so smile, be open for a chat.

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If you get the chance, pass by the wood carving shop (location) of Sulaiman and Uzman and have a look at their craft. One of them speaks very well English, please say Hi to him from us. (If possible, show him these photos as he was very proud of his work and us taking photos of it.)

Kalta Minor Minaret

Kalta Minor was supposed to be the tallest minaret of Uzbekistan, due to the death of the builder construction stopped at 29 meters. Nowadays, the deep blue-tiled, 14-meter wide Kalta Minor can be spotted from anywhere in the city and has become an iconic tourist attraction.

➳ Also discover: Silk Road City Bukhara, Uzbekistan

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Islam Khoja Minaret

A 56-meter high design masterpiece towering above Khiva city: Islam Khoja Minaret, is just over 100 years old and has been build in the same designs with different patterns of blue tiles. For an incredible view, climb to the top of the minaret but be prepared for a firm walk up.

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Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum

The small Pahlavon Mahmud mausoleum with its shining turquoise dome is a sacred place and an active place to pray for local people. The serene courtyard is one of the best places to see in Khiva.

Please note that this entrance is not included in the Khiva ticket. (Explained in the next chapter)

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Khiva Entrance Ticket

Khiva is a museum city that requires a ticket to get access to all the museums and mosques. The ticket comes in three types:

  1. Economy: 50k Som (only to enter the ancient city)
  2. Standard: 100k Som (all museums but excluding watchtower, minarets, and the city walls)
  3. VIP: 150k (all entrances – best deal if you go up the watchtower and minaret)

Tickets are sold at the west gate and are valid for two days. A QR code on your tickets needs to be scanned at the entrance of each attraction to get through the gates. All attractions in Khiva open at 8 AM and close at 6 PM.

How to get to Khiva

Khiva is far from all the tourist attractions in Uzbekistan and completely surrounded by deserts. Fortunately, due to changes in infrastructure, it has become relatively easy to get to Khiva by train and airplane.

Train Khiva from Bukhara

The most convenient option is to follow a 10-day Uzbekistan itinerary and take the 5-hour fast train from Bukhara that departs at 12:24 PM every Monday, Thursday, or Saturday. The train arrives at a 15-minute walk outside of old Khiva so save a bit of budget by walking with others.

Tip: Bring some food and fill up your reusable drinking bottle for the long train ride.

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Khiva train tickets

Buy the fast train tickets in advance as they sell out fast. The Uzbek railways’ website is extremely difficult (2019) so we recommend booking through Advantour. The tickets are slightly higher priced but they do the work for you by arranging all the paperwork and waiting in the line.
A ticket to Khiva from Bukhara costs 35-50 USD depending on the class you choose.

Taxi to Khiva

Another common transport from Bukhara is a taxi that has the advantage of transfers from door to door and you can also stop at the Khorezm fortresses such as Toprak-Kala along the way. A taxi takes 6-7 hours and costs around 100,000 SOM ($11).

Flights to Khiva

When time is limited, flying is a good option. There are daily direct flights between Tashkent and Urgench that take about 1.5-hours. Urgench airport to Khiva by taxi is a 30-minute drive. ➳ Find the best flights here

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khiva uzbekistan transportation

Getting around in Khiva

Khiva is a walkable city as pretty much all the things to do in Khiva are within its walls (Itchan Kala). You will be able to see the majority of the sites within a day. However, give yourself an extra day so you can explore in the early mornings and late afternoons to avoid the strong sun and group tours. 

Good to know! Technically, there are no taxis inside Khiva’s old town and only at the gates. When you need to get inside the gates without a ticket, mention your hotel name and the staff will let you pass. 

Best hotels in Khiva, Uzbekistan

Khiva offers affordable accommodation for all budgets. The higher-end hotels are located within the city walls and just outside those walls, hotels get much more affordable. ➳ Find all hotels in Khiva

Restaurants in Khiva

The food in Khiva is slightly different compared to the other cities in Uzbekistan. These were our favorites:

  • Tea House Bir Gumbaz – Great coffee and good food. (vegetarian options)
  • Terrassa Cafe – Best in town!  (vegetarian options)
  • Cafe Zarafshon – Tasty local food
08/11/2019 https://www.saltinourhair.com/uzbekistan/khiva-uzbekistan/
Blog comments (2)

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  • Your work is amazing. Thank you for sharing. Great photos and everything well explained. It’s not common to see free guides with this quality. Thank you so much πŸ™ ❀️

    • Salt in our Hair

      Thank you for your lovely comment! So happy to hear you’re finding them useful ❀️

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