Nestled in the Khorezm Region of Uzbekistan is the stunning desert town of Khiva, one of the most intact Silk Road cities in the world. Khiva is essentially an open-air museum. In fact, there are over 50 historical sites in its tiny Old Town. It’s no wonder that it is Central Asia’s very first UNESCO World Heritage City!
As one of the dreamiest places on earth, Khiva resembles an ancient sandcastle town. Think clay-colored houses and glittering minarets enclosed within gigantic fortress walls. Where else can you find a place like this today? Here are the absolute top things to do in Khiva.
You might also be interested in:
🧿 14 Top Things to Do in Samarkand, Uzbekistan
🕌 14 Top Things to do in Bukhara, Uzbekistan
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🇺🇿 Khiva, Uzbekistan: Planning Your Trip
🏡 WHERE TO STAY
Top pick: Polvonnazir House (⭐️ 9.7)
Most unique: Orient Star Khiva (⭐️ 7.9)
Most stylish: Qosha Darvoza (⭐️ 9.5)
Most cultural: New Star Hotel (⭐️ 9.6)
🌟 MY TOP KHIVA TRAVEL TIP
Pack some modest clothes that cover your knees and shoulders. You’ll need them when entering the several mosques and mausoleums in town!
- 🕌 Join a Khiva One Day City Tour (⭐️ 5/5) to learn history & culture from a local expert
- 💸 Need insurance? Check rates on the most reliable provider World Nomads
- 🇺🇿 Read Lonely Planet Central Asia and Uzbekistan: Culture Smart for more inspiration
🗿 A Brief History of Khiva, Uzbekistan
Legend has it that a long time ago, Shem, son of the Biblical patriarch Noah, discovered a well while crossing the desert. Locals flocked to it and exclaimed “khey-vakh!”, which means “sweet water”, when they drank the water from the well.
That’s how the city of Khiva was born. Today, you can still see the original well inside an 18th-century courtyard in Khiva’s Old Town.
Khiva soon went on to become a popular resting hub for caravans and merchants crossing the desert. Between the 10th and 14th centuries, it was a crowded, thriving town — a major trading hub on the Silk Road.
Then, in the early 16th century, it became the capital of the Khiva Khanate founded by a branch of the Shaybanids (who also had a large impact on Bukhara and Samarkand). During this time, the city started running a bustling slave market that lasted several centuries.
In 1740, Nadir Shah of Persia invaded the region and made Khiva a part of the Persian Empire. In 1924, the Soviets also took over the region, until the collapse of the USSR in 1991.
🏰 Entering Khiva’s Old Town – ‘Itchan Kala’
Most of Khiva’s attractions are inside the historical Itchan Kala — the area within the city’s high fortress walls.
Back in the 19th century, Khiva was divided into two parts: Itchan Kala (inner city) and Dishan Kala (outer city). Itchan Kala stood within 10-meter (32 ft) tall fortress walls, which were destroyed and rebuilt several times in the course of history.
Itchan Kala was where the khans (rulers) resided, along with the clergies, high officials, and rich merchants. Craftsmen and ordinary people lived in Dishan Kala.
Today, Itchan Kala is essentially an open-air museum. Dotted with over 50 historical monuments, it’s a great glimpse into a typical medieval Oriental town. There are also over 350 houses inside Itchan Kala, and around 2,600 people still live there.
⏰ Itchan Kala Opening Hours
Itchan Kala is open 24/7. You can wander the area as early or as late as you’d like — I highly recommend stargazing in a quiet spot late at night!
With that said, all the historical attractions inside Itchan Kala (museums, mosques, minarets, etc.) are only open between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM.
🎫 Itchan Kala Entrance Tickets
You will need an entrance ticket to visit Itchan Kala, and there are three types of them:
- VIP (recommended): $15 USD (150k som) — includes all the historical attractions within Itchan Kala, including the watchtower, minaret, and city walls
- Standard: $10 USD (100k som) — includes everything except the watchtower, minaret, and city walls
- Economy: $5 USD (50k som) — only allows you to enter the ancient city but doesn’t give you access to any historical site inside it
All tickets are valid for two days and are sold at Itchan Kala west gate. Each time you enter a museum or historical site, you will need to scan the QR code on your ticket.
👩🏻 Getting a Local Guide in Itchan Kala
I highly recommend getting a personal guide at the entrance of Itchan Kala. Many places inside Itchan Kala are quite hard to find on your own. Lavish, colorful courtyards tend to be hidden behind small doors you’d never even think to walk through because from the outside, they don’t appear to lead to anywhere special.
Plus, with a local guide, you’ll also get to understand and appreciate the history behind the attractions. It’s also a great opportunity to learn about the local culture!
An English-speaking guide costs around $30 in total for 2 people, for a 3-hour tour. You can request this service inside the ticket office right at the entrance of Itchan Kala.
🧿 14 Top Things to do in Khiva, Uzbekistan
1. Admire the Stunning Kalta Minor Minaret
You can spot the iconic Kalta Minor Minaret even before entering Itchan Kala. This beautiful turquoise-tiled minaret was built between 1851 and 1855 during the Khiva Khanate, under the rule of Mohammed Amin Khan. You might be wondering why it got its peculiar shape.
The khan had a dream: to showcase the power of his Khanate, he wanted to build an 80-meter (262 ft) tall minaret that would surpass the famous Kalyan Minaret in Bukhara.
Unfortunately, he was killed in battle before construction was completed, leaving Kalta Minor Minaret unfinished at 29 meters (95 ft) tall. The name ‘Kalta Minor’, as a matter of fact, means ‘short minaret’.
The gorgeous decorations on the minaret were the works of Khiva’s best craftsmen. Once it was clear that the minaret would remain unfinished, they wanted to make the structure feel complete.
Today, you won’t find any other minaret in Central Asia with decorations as bright or colorful as the ones on Kalta Minor Minaret — it’s truly a one-of-a-kind architectural beauty.
⏰ Opening hours: You can visit this minaret from the outside at any time; there are no gates 🎫 Entrance fees: None 🚶🏻♀️ How to get there: It's right in front of you as soon as you enter from Itchan Kala west gate
2. Spend the Night Inside an Ancient Wonder
Next to Kalta Minor Minaret is the Mohammed Amin Madrasah, which used to be one of the largest madrasahs (Islamic schools) in Central Asia. Today, it’s actually a hotel where you can spend the night.
In fact, Orient Star Khiva Hotel is one of the best places to stay in Khiva if you want to be right in the middle of the Old Town, next to breathtaking historical monuments. Inside the hotel, there’s also a currency exchange office, a café, and a travel agency with an airline ticketing office.
3. Visit the Unique Wooden Juma Mosque
Woodworking has long been a tradition in Khiva, and nowhere in the city does this become more evident than at the unique Juma Mosque.
Typically, mosques in Uzbekistan are characterized by portals, arched entrances, and domes. Juma Mosque has none of those things. Instead, its distinctive features are 218 wooden pillars supporting its roof.
In fact, this Friday mosque can totally pass off as a museum of woodcarving, as it displays all the different woodcarving styles found in Khiva throughout history! Many of the wooden pillars inside this mosque are made from almond and elm trees around Khiva and date back to the 10th, 11th, and 14th centuries.
Wandering around this quiet mosque, you can see how the woodcarving styles have evolved with time. For example, some pillars from the 16th century have patterns that seem to imitate older techniques.
There are also three openings in the ceiling of the mosque that allow the sun to play an enchanting light show between the pillars. Photographers will absolutely love this place.
⏰ Opening hours: 9 am - 6 pm daily 🎫 Entrance fees: Included in the Standard & VIP Itchan Kala tickets 🚶🏻♀️ How to get there: A 3-min walk from the entrance of Itchan Kala west gate
4. Explore the Magnificent Tash Khauli Palace
Built in the 1830s, the splendid Tash Khauli Palace is home to some of Khiva’s most extravagant interior decorations. This palace was the residence of Allah Kuli Khan, and its name means ‘Stone House’ as the complex also displays impressive carved wooden pillars.
There are over 150 rooms and 9 courtyards inside this palace, and a visit feels like navigating a big maze. Don’t be afraid to try small entrances or holes in the walls — they may not look too interesting at first, but some of them will lead you to breathtaking courtyards!
🔥 Insider tip: Having a local guide to help you navigate this palace really helps. Some of the best courtyards inside this palace are very hidden, and there’s a good chance you’ll miss them completely if you’re visiting on your own.
⏰ Opening hours: 9 am - 6 pm daily 🎫 Entrance fees: Included in the Standard & VIP Itchan Kala tickets 🚶🏻♀️ How to get there: A 5-min walk from the entrance of Itchan Kala west gate
5. Shop for Handicrafts at the Bazaars
One of the best ways to support Khiva’s local community is by browsing the colorful, bustling bazaars of the Old Town.
Many locals here make a living by selling their intricately-made handicrafts, and the streets of the Old Town are lined with vendor stores showcasing a variety of handmade items including pottery, musical instruments, silk rugs, hats, and woodwork.
There are also a few indoor bazaars that sell everything from jewelry and scarves to suzanis (traditional hand-embroidered textiles). Visiting these markets is not just a great way to find souvenirs, but also a good opportunity to learn about local life and support the artists.
⏰ Opening hours: Typically 9 am - 6 pm daily 🚶🏻♀️ How to get there: You'll see many vendor stores lining up Main Street leading up to the west gate entrance. You'll also find bazaars inside Itchan Kala, next to the main attractions.
6. Get a Bird’s-Eye View from Islam Khoja Minaret
At 57 meters (187 ft) tall, Islam Khoja Minaret is Uzbekistan’s highest minaret. Built in 1910 during the Khiva Khanate, this tower was once used to call for prayers. Thanks to its impressive height, it also guided many travelers into the city.
Today, you can climb up this minaret to get a spectacular bird’s-eye view of Khiva. Bear in mind that the staircase is very steep and narrow, so your clothes and backpack are bound to get dusty. With that said, the climb is completely worth it, as the view from the top is truly something else.
Don’t miss the Islam Khoja Madrasah next to the minaret, either. It houses the Museum of Applied Arts, which displays a large collection of Khorezm handicrafts, including woodcarvings, tilework, and Uzbek carpets.
🔥 Top tip: Do this climb in the early morning to see the city engulfed in stunning lighting.
⏰ Opening hours: 8 am - 6 pm daily 🎫 Fees for climbing the minaret: Included only in the VIP Itchan Kala ticket; it's an additional 20k som ($2 USD) if you have the Standard ticket 🚶🏻♀️ How to get there: A 5-min walk from the entrance at Itchan Kala west gate
7. Wander the Enchanting Kuhna Ark Fortress
Built in the 17th century, the Kuhna Ark fortress is the heart of Itchan Kala — it was the former residence of Khiva’s rulers. Wandering around this beautiful complex, you’ll get an insightful peek into the life of the khans back in the day.
The first thing you’ll see after entering this fortress is the ornate Summer Mosque, which boasts gorgeously intricate white and blue tilework. Next to this mosque is the mint, which is now a museum that displays coins and banknotes that were minted there.
This fortress complex also has a throne room, a harem, stables, a prison, and a large reception hall, which is decorated with more amazing tilework. Spend at least an hour wandering around before making your way up to the watchtower (more on that below).
⏰ Opening hours: 9 am - 6 pm daily 🎫 Entrance fees: Included in the Standard & VIP Itchan Kala tickets 🚶🏻♀️ How to get there: Directly to your left after entering Itchan Kala from the west gate
8. Catch Sunset at the Watchtower
If there’s one place you cannot miss inside Kuhna Ark, it’s the watchtower, which you can access via stairs from the back of the throne room. Be sure to climb up there right before sunset to catch the best views over Itchan Kala — a spectacular sight you won’t want to miss!
In fact, watching the sun set from the watchtower is one of the most popular things to do in Khiva. Just note that the watchtower only opens one hour before sunset and closes right after sunset.
⏰ Opening hours: Opens one hour before sunset and closes right after sunset, daily 🎫 Watchtower fees: Included only in the VIP Itchan Kala ticket; it's an additional 20k som ($2 USD) if you have the Standard ticket 🚶🏻♀️ How to get there: Take the stairs from the back of the throne room inside Kuhna Ark
9. Marvel at the Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum
The stunning Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum houses the tomb of Pahlavon Mahmud, one of Khiva’s biggest heroes and the city’s patron saint. Pahlavon Mahmud was a man of many talents; he was a poet, philosopher, and an accomplished wrestler all at once.
Legends say he defeated everyone he wrestled against except for one man, who he learned would’ve been executed had he lost. Today, professional Iranian wrestlers still pray to Pahlavon Mahmud before matches.
Pahlavon Mahmud was said to have died in the 1320s and was buried in his workshop. The people of Khiva then named him a patron saint and built the Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum over his grave in the 1700s.
Eventually, this site turned into a shrine and became the resting place for Khiva’s khans as well. Today, you’ll see some incredible examples of Persian architecture and tilework inside the chambers of this mausoleum.
⏰ Opening hours: 9 am - 6 pm daily 🎫 Entrance fees: Included in the Standard & VIP Itchan Kala tickets 🚶🏻♀️ How to get there: A 5-min walk from the west gate entrance of Itchan Kala
10. Stop by the Handicrafts Workshops
Wandering around Itchan Kala, you’re likely to come across locals making handicrafts inside workshops hidden in small alleys and madrasahs.
Handicrafts (particularly woodwork) have been the longstanding tradition of Khiva. Back in the day, most people who lived in this town were craftsmen selling their crafts. They’d rent their workshops from feudal rulers and spent many years mastering their art.
In fact, Khiva flourished with many different kinds of handicrafts, including stone carving, hatmaking, leatherworking, shipbuilding, and fur coat sewing.
Today, many craftsmen around town would invite you to take a peek inside their workshops. Some of them are carving wood; others are weaving silk rugs.
You can observe their crafting process; in the carpet weaving shops, you can see several women working together on a big silk rug that would take 4 to 5 months to complete.
Please be respectful in these workshops as the locals there are living their everyday life, and please ask for permission before taking photos or videos. You can also further support the locals by buying their art in the bazaars around town!
🚶🏻♀️ How to find the workshops: These workshops are scattered all around Itchan Kala; you're likely to come across some of them by simply wandering the narrow alleys. One of the silk carpet workshops is inside Pahlavon Mahmud complex and is open from 9 am to 7 pm daily.
11. Enjoy a Meal with a View at Terrassa Cafe
Looking for a meal with a view? Don’t miss the Terrassa Cafe & Restaurant. The panoramic vistas from its terrace are pretty epic, especially during and right after sunset. Pair that with some delicious food, and you’d easily get one of the best dining experiences in Uzbekistan.
This restaurant has great vegetarian options as well (which may be hard to come by in this country). Make sure to try their pumpkin manti, shivit oshi (a Khiva specialty), and if you’re a fan of meat — lamb shashlik.
⏰ Opening hours: 10 am - 10:30 pm daily 💰 Price range: ~50,000 som ($5 USD) per person for a whole meal 🚶🏻♀️ How to get there: It's right next to Kuhna Ark
12. Stargaze Next to Breathtaking Attractions
The attractions inside Khiva’s Old Town may close after 6 pm, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wander around this ancient neighborhood late at night. In fact, I highly recommend doing so, because you can even spot some stars on a clear night.
Plus, many of Khiva’s attractions are gloriously lit up after dusk, and even if you can’t enter them, they’re a marvel to admire from the outside. In particular, don’t miss the iconic Kalta Minor Minaret and the towering Islam Khoja Minaret after dark.
13. Wander the Quiet & Hidden Isfandiyar Palace
There’s more to Khiva than just its inner-city of Itchan Kala. In fact, Dishan Kala (the outer city) has some gems too, and Isfandiyar Palace (aka Nurullaboy Saroyi) is definitely one of them. This palace is about a 10-minute walk from the west gate entrance of Itchan Kala.
Built in the early 1900s during the Khiva Khanate, Isfandiyar Palace is home to lots of empty extravagant rooms showcasing a mixture of Eastern and Western architectural styles. You’ll see tons of over-the-top decorations, gold-embroidered ceilings, and lavish chandeliers. There’s also a large courtyard where you can relax.
The best part about this place is that, unlike Itchan Kala, there are barely any tourists around. It’s a great hidden gem to explore if you’ve already toured Itchan Kala and have time to spare.
⏰ Opening hours: 9 am - 6 pm daily 🎫 Entrance fees: 50k som ($5 USD) 🚶🏻♀️ How to get there: A 10-min walk from the west gate entrance of Itchan Kala
14. Explore the Ancient Khorezm Desert Castles
Get ready for one of the rawest and most unique places to visit in Uzbekistan — a series of ancient fortress ruins in the middle of the Karakalpak Desert. These desert castles can be easily toured on a day trip from Khiva — it takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach them by car from the city.
A long time ago, there were around 400 ancient castles scattered across Khorezm, some of them with more than 2,000 years of history. Today, they look like sandcastles in the desert, and you can visit about a dozen of them, including Toprak Kala, Ayaz Kala, Koi Kirilgan Kala, Jabas Kala, Guldursun Kala, and Kizil Kala.
Built to protect the locals against nomadic raids, most of these fortresses were quite effective — that is, until Genghis Khan invaded the area in the 13th century. His troops destroyed the region, enslaved the townsmen, and the fortresses were abandoned and left to disintegrate.
These desert castles were later discovered by Soviet archeologists, who, after taking excavated valuables to museums, also left them alone. Today, visiting these ancient castle ruins is an experience like nothing else. You’ll feel like an archeologist discovering a place that stood for over 2,000 years, with barely anyone else around.
There are also no laid-out paths, protective ropes, or “tourist” signs to guide you around the area. These fortresses feel completely untouched, and you can channel your inner Indiana Jones while uncovering all the hidden corners.
To get to these fortresses, you can arrange a tour either via your hotel or a travel agency. Your hotel can call a taxi driver who’ll take you to as many fortresses as you’d like and allow you to explore on your own. In one day, you can easily visit at least 5 or 6 fortresses.
Going with a tour agency would cost a bit more, but on the plus side, you’ll have a guide who can explain more about the history behind these fortresses.
⏰ Opening hours: 24/7 (there are no gates or entrance fees) 🚕 Taxi / tour agency fees: ~150k - 400k som / ~$15 - $40 USD per car depending on how many fortresses you want to see
🏡 Where to Stay in Khiva
The best area to stay in Khiva is either inside Itchan Kala (the Old Town) or within walking distance of it, as that’s where pretty much all of the city’s attractions are located.
TOP PICK: Polvonnazir Guest House (⭐️ 9.7)
This friendly family-run guesthouse features a stunning rooftop terrace with beautiful views of the Old Town. It’s also situated in the middle of Itchan Kala (the Old Town), surrounded by all the main attractions. The rooms are spacious and spotlessly clean.
MOST UNIQUE: Orient Star Khiva (⭐️ 7.9)
Want the unique experience of staying inside a historic madrasah in the Old Town? Step back in time at this hotel. Situated right next to the breathtaking Kalta Minor Minaret in the Old Town, its location is also incredibly scenic. The rooms are spacious and cozy, too.
MOST STYLISH: Qosha Darvoza (⭐️ 9.5)
This friendly guesthouse boasts stunningly decorated rooms with comfortable beds and great amenities. The host also goes out of his way to help you out and is incredibly kind. The property also features a restaurant, a stunning courtyard, and a 24-hour front desk.
MOST CULTURAL: New Star Hotel (⭐️ 9.6)
Situated just outside of Itchan Kala, this hotel feels less touristy than many options inside the Old Town walls. Here, you’ll get to experience the “real” Khiva. The setting is beautiful too; this hotel is located inside an ancient madrasah, next to a minaret!
🗓 How Many Days to Spend in Khiva
Recommended: At least one full day, but ideally 2 days if you prefer a relaxed trip.
Though Khiva is one of the main highlights of Uzbekistan, it’s also a small and compact city. With all of its main attractions located inside Itchan Kala (the Old Town), you can see them all in just one full day. This is why Khiva is a common day trip from Tashkent.
With that said, if you prefer sightseeing at a more relaxed pace so that you can fully take in the history and beauty of Khiva, you definitely won’t be bored spending 2 days here. Plus, this little town is known to steal visitors’ hearts, and it’s likely you’ll find it very hard to leave!
🔮 Travel Insurance for Uzbekistan
The last thing we want on any trip is for accidents and mishaps to get in the way of enjoying ourselves. So travel insurance is always a good idea.
I use a service called World Nomads and can highly recommend them — they offer affordable prices, great coverage, and a reliable 24/7 on-call service.
🚉 How to Get to Khiva, Uzbekistan
✈️ From Tashkent
✈️ By air (recommended): The closest airport to Khiva is Urgench International Airport (UGC), which is around a 30-min drive from the city center. You can fly from Tashkent to Urgench with Uzbekistan Airways for around $60 USD. The flight takes 1.5 hours.
🚊 By night train: There’s also a daily night train from Tashkent to Khiva. It departs Tashkent at 8:20 pm and arrives in Khiva at a little past noon the next day. You can buy tickets directly at the local train station, or for a higher price, reserve them online on Global Connect.
🚗 From Bukhara
🚕 By taxi via the Khorezm fortresses (recommended): A taxi from Bukhara to Khiva typically takes around 7-8 hours with a stop for lunch. You can arrange it directly from your hotel in Bukhara. A shared taxi for 2 people should cost $20 USD per person for the whole journey.
While the journey is long, the upside is you can arrange for the taxi to stop at the Khorezm desert castles (discussed earlier in this guide). This would make your total journey around 9 hours long and you’d pay an extra $10 USD, but it’s completely worth it.
🚊 By train: There’s also a fast train from Bukhara to Khiva that runs on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The journey takes around 5 hours and tickets cost around $6 USD at the local train stations. For a higher price, you can also reserve them online on Global Connect.
🚊 From Samarkand
🚆 By night train: The night train from Samarkand to Khiva operates on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. It’s a 10-hour journey and you’ll reach Khiva in the late morning. Tickets start at $42 USD on Global Connect if you want to book online, but it’d cost you much less at local train stations.
🚶🏻♀️ How to Get Around Khiva
Khiva is a very compact and walkable city. You can easily navigate between all of the main attractions in town on foot. The only time you’d need a taxi is if you need to go from the city center to the train station (a 10-min drive) or to Urgench airport (a 30-min drive). The typical taxi rate is around 12,500 som ($1.25 USD) for a 10-15 minute ride.
🥘 Khiva Specialties: What to Eat in Khiva
Uzbek cuisine is full of rich flavors, and Khiva is home to many exquisite local specialties. The two that you must try are shivit oshi and tuhum barak. Note that these dishes are only available in Khiva — you won’t be able to find them in other Uzbek cities!
- Shivit oshi — dill-infused noodles topped with potatoes, carrots, pepper, tomatoes, and fried meat. It’s also served with sour cream.
- Tuhum barak — a ravioli dish with eggs and milk inside.
🍲 Where to Eat in Khiva, Uzbekistan
- Terrassa Cafe & Restaurant — This is the one restaurant you shouldn’t miss in Khiva. It offers the ultimate meal with a view, as well as delicious vegetarian food.
- Khorezm Art Restaurant — This restaurant features beautifully decorated traditional interiors. The food here is absolutely delicious, too; try some shivit oshi!
- Xojiakbar — A very authentic local restaurant situated about a 10-minute walk from Itchan Kala. Not many tourists know about this place. Try their delicious kazan kabob!
- Cafe Zarafshon — From plov and manti to shivit oshi, the food here is authentic and delicious. The restaurant is beautifully decorated, too.
✈️ How to Take a Day Trip to Khiva From Tashkent
If you have limited time in Uzbekistan, it’s totally possible to visit Khiva on a day trip from the country’s capital of Tashkent. In fact, this is a popular choice given that it’s much easier to reach Samarkand and Bukhara from Tashkent than it is from Khiva.
To take a day trip from Tashkent to Khiva, you’ll have to take an Uzbekistan Airways flight from Tashkent to Urgench in the early morning. The flight departs daily at 7 am and reaches Urgench International Airport at 8:30. From there, it’s a 30-min taxi ride to Khiva’s city center.
There’s a luggage storage service right on Khiva’s Main Street, leading up to the entrance of Itchan Kala (the Old Town). It’s in the middle of the road and hard to miss when you’re walking to the west gate ticket office.
After spending the day in Khiva, you can fly back to Tashkent from Urgench at 10:20 pm and reach the capital just before midnight. This should give you enough time to see all of Khiva’s attractions and to enjoy a delicious dinner before leaving.
🤷🏻♀️ Is Khiva Worth Visiting?
Let’s say you don’t have that much time in Uzbekistan and want to know which city you should skip. While most travelers tend to prioritize the bigger cities of Samarkand and Bukhara, I highly recommend not missing out on the incredibly underrated Khiva.
If you’re tight on time, my suggestion is to cut your visit to Bukhara shorter by a day, so that you can make time for Khiva. Trust me; It’s truly hard to come by a place as raw and authentic as Khiva nowadays. This open-air museum sandcastle town will inevitably steal your heart.
🌟 Top Tips for Visiting Khiva
- The best time to visit: March to May / September to October for the best weather
- ATMs in Khiva: There are very few ATMs in Khiva that accept Visa or Mastercard, so be sure to have enough cash on you during your time here. Exchanging from US dollars will give you the best rate.
- Taxis in Khiva: You’ll really only need taxis to reach the airport or the train station. The typical rate is around 12,500 som ($1.25 USD) for a 10-15 minute ride.
- What to pack: Modest clothes that cover your knees and shoulders for mosques and mausoleums. Outside of sacred places, you can dress however you want.
- Safety in Khiva: Khiva, like Uzbekistan in general, is incredibly safe, even for solo female travelers. Uzbekistan has a very low crime rate and the friendliest people, so simply take general travel precautions and you’ll be fine.
- Khiva photography tip: The interiors of the architecture here are absolutely gorgeous, but often not well-lit. Bring a lens that performs well in low-light situations, such as the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8.
🌸 Final Thoughts on What to See in Khiva
Khiva is without a doubt one of the most magical places on earth, and it definitely deserves more international attention. While you won’t come across too many international tourists there, you will likely meet tons of local tourists from other parts of Uzbekistan.
So, my final tip is to budget some time for chatting with the locals. They are incredibly friendly and would oftentimes come up to you just to say a warm “welcome to my country”. You’ll likely also meet students who’ll want to practice their English with you.
While the architecture in Khiva is mindblowing, the people will always be the best part of Uzbekistan. Now that you know what to see in Khiva, don’t miss out on the best things to do in Samarkand and Bukhara, two other incredible cities in Uzbekistan.
📸 My Uzbekistan Travel Photography Gear
This is the gear Lukas and I used to capture the best of Khiva. You can also see my article on the best cameras for bloggers for more options other than the ones listed below.
- Cameras: Nikon D610 + Sony A6400 (check out the best Sony lenses)
- Main lens: Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8
- Wide-angle lens: Tokina AF 16-28mm f/2.8
- Prime lens: Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G
- Tripod: Manfrotto Element Traveller Tripod (Ball Head)
I hope you enjoyed learning about the top things to do in Khiva!
For further reading on Uzbekistan, discover:
🇺🇿 The Ultimate 10-Day Uzbekistan Itinerary & Travel Guide
🕌 14 Top Things to do in Samarkand: The Silk Road Gem of Uzbekistan
🏰 14 Top Things to do in Bukhara: Uzbekistan’s Sacred Open-Air Museum
If you’re interested in other less-visited destinations, discover:
🇵🇰 11 Best Places to Visit in Lahore, Pakistan: A Complete City Guide
🇦🇿 27 Best Places to Visit in Baku, Azerbaijan
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Wow! Khiva looks stunning. The intricacies of the tiles in the mosaics is amazing to me. I would especially love to visit Tash Hauli Palace. It sounds amazing!
Thanks Michelle! It totally is a stunning place 🙂
Your photography is absolutely stunning! And thanks for the introduction to Khiva, I truly hope to be able to visit it one day.
Thank you so much! I hope you’ll get to visit it too! 🙂
I almost cried while reading this! I was planning to visit Uzbekistan and tour Central Asia from Pakistan this summer but then Covid happened 🙁 Now I see all those amazing photos and I wish I could go there.
Thank you for the information, it will definitely help me better plan my trip, whenever it may be.
Also, I didn’t know there were high speed trains in Uzbekistan! I live in China and fast trains are my absolute favorite way of getting around!
Aw, I’m so sorry your plans have been derailed! I’m sure when you go in the future, that it’ll be well worth the wait though 🙂 And yes, the high-speed trains in Uzbekistan are amazing, I was thoroughly impressed with them! 🙂
Your photos are stunning and this just puts visiting the “stans” even higher on my list. Looks like an incredible place and will definitely keep all of these tips in mind whenever I make it there 🙂
Thanks so much Kelly! 🙂 I’m glad the tips helped! I need to see more of the “stans” myself too!
Uzbekistan is getting higher and higher on my list of places I’d love to visit and your photos were so stunning that I want to go right now! This post was so comprehensive and helpful and I will absolutely be using your guide when I eventually get to visit!
Aw thank you so much Marisa, I’m really glad it was helpful! 🙂
Wow Khiva looks absolutely beautiful! I love that turquoise tile, the details are amazing! Great guide 🙂
Thank you Shannon! Khiva is absolutely awesome indeed 🙂
Seeing your pictures makes me realize I have almost seeing nothing in Khiva…😅 That’s why I actually want even more to go back and also visit that place outside the Old Town!😉
P.S: so cool you put a pic of Jo there!😉
Your photos are absolutely beautiful!!! I’ve never heard much about Khiva but it looks stunning!
I am seriously obsessed with your images! How does a place like this actually exist?! Khiva looks like it is from a movie! Definitely interested in visiting one day now, thank you so much for this great guide 🙂
What an incredible looking place. I’ve seen your pins this week and have been meaning to check out the post so glad I did. I love the beautiful colors next to the sandy looking buildings. Such a great contrast and everything looks so big! Looks like Uzbekistan have a handle on the virus for future travel too from what I’ve been reading
Khiva looks so stunning! All of the historical sites are so breathtaking and Uzbek cuisine looks absolutely delicious! I definitely need to do a trip there sometime within the next few years. 🙂
It is a very comprehensive guide to Khiva. Thanks for sharing it! I haven’t been there, but the Tash Khauli Palace looks stunning!
Once again, this blogpost is so complete and the pictures took my breath away! Khiva sounds and looks absolutely amazing!! Well done on this post Jiayi, clearly saving it for later xx
You have great photos! Haven’t heard about Khiva, but I’m glad I’ve read about it. I love learning about new places and hope I could visit here in the future.
I love love love this! Knew absolutely nothing about Khiva and clearly I’ve been enlightened by your post. The colours and incredible and you certainly add with your gorgeous outfits. I appreciate your guidance on where we should visit/skip too. I imagine it’s not easy and having that unfiltered recommendation is really helpful.
Those tiles though! I really want to see this in real life one day. So gorgeous.
Wow this whole area looks incredible! And there’s so much history to it which I love.
Wow! This place is stunning and your photos are amazing! Love the colours! Definitely moving Uzbekistan up the bucket list now!
Amazing guide! I would be spending all my time in those bazaars and the handcraft shops! As well as looking at all that amazing architecture. Absolutely dreaming of visiting Uzbekistan after reading your guides, when travel is easier if course!
Uzbekistan is so high on my list. This is a great guide and as always your photos are stunning Jiayi. I would love to get lost here someday.
WOW! All your posts and photos about Uzbekistan blow me away. Khiva, in particular, looks incredible. The wooden juma mosque looks so beauitful and unique. I absolutely need to book a trip to Uzbekistan!
So I’ve been to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and had major FOMO that I didn’t make it here, especially because of the blue tiles and architecture. Your pictures didn’t help with that lol have to go ASAP!
Lovely, as always Jiayi!
What are some other ways of getting around in Khiva? Are bicycles readily available, and what would cycling on the roads be like?
I’m planning a trip from Spain to Uzbekistan in October. Hopefully things are open I understand that tourists are traveling again . I have found your blog very helpful. Thank you.