Khiva Travel Guide

Travel to Khiva, Uzbekistan in Central Asia and discover its culturally rich history, natural beauty, and adventurous activities.

Introduction to Khiva

Khiva, a city located in Northern Uzbekistan in Central Asia, is a must-see destination for travelers interested in history, culture, and adventure. This UNESCO World Heritage site is known for its well-preserved old town, Itchan Kala, and its abundance of historical attractions, natural beauty, and outdoor activities. Here, you can explore museums, ancient mosques and mausoleums, hike or bike through the surrounding deserts, and indulge in the delicious local cuisine.

List of Places to Visit in Khiva

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

Khiva boasts a rich cultural history and architecture, evident in numerous museums and historical sites throughout the city. Among the must-visit attractions within the city’s fortified walls:

  • Itchan Kala: The old town of Khiva, surrounded by ancient walls.
  • Kalta Minor Minaret: A rare blue-tiled minaret with a unique design, but never completed.
  • Muhammad Amin Khan Madrasa: The largest in Khiva, and one of the few with functioning classrooms.
  • Islam Khoja Minaret and Madrasa: Known for its incredible height (45m), visitors can climb to the top for a breathtaking view of the city.
  • Tosh Khovli Palace: Home of the ruling Khans in the 19th century, features striking mosaics and wood carvings.
  • Juma Mosque: A 10th-century mosque with over 200 columns and a unique Friday prayer house.

Natural Attractions of Khiva: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

Aside from cultural attractions, Khiva also offers many opportunities to engage with nature and adventure lovers. Here are some of the best:

  • Red Sands: Deserts surrounding Khiva display a red sandy landscape, and stretches several miles.
  • Ayaz Kala: The hiking trail taking travelers about 65 km from Khiva offers picturesque views of fortresses and mountainous landscapes.
  • Karakalpakistan: A quiet, untouched region north of Khiva, and great for those seeking to escape crowds and experience the local culture.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Khiva

In contrast to its well-known cultural attractions, Khiva also offers various hiking and biking trails for adventurous travelers. You can venture by foot or mountain bike through nearby deserts, witness local wildlife and unique species of plants. Among the best outdoor activities in Khiva:

  • Kyzylkum Desert: The most extensive desert in Central Asia, stretching from Western Uzbekistan to northern Kazakhstan is the highlight of the region. One can take a guided camel ride to explore desert culture and atmosphere.
  • Gijduvan: A 50km biking trail that takes travelers through a picturesque and famous ceramist workshop, famous for their technique of using camel bone to make ceramic.
  • Mampur Sandy Hill: A sandy hill region with a vibrant landscape and ancient canyons for tourists who enjoy hiking.

Best Things to Do in Khiva: Activities and Tours

Khiva has plenty of exciting activities and tours available. Here are a few of the best options:

  • Itchan Kala Walking Tour: A guided walking tour of Khiva’s Old Town, providing a fascinating insight into the region’s rich history, its traditions, and its customs.
  • Traditional Uzbek Dance Show: A show done in the courtyard of the ancient castle-like Madrasa Mukhammad Amin Khan, with local dancers sporting bright Uzbek national costumes.
  • Khiva from Above: Visitors can have an aerial view of this ancient city by traveling on a helicopter from western Uzbekistan.

A Week-Long Itinerary for Khiva

For those with enough time to spare, Khiva is capable of filling an entire week with adventure and exploration. Here’s a sample itinerary:

  • Day 1: Explore Kalta Minor and Kuhna Ark, go on a guided tour of Ichon-Qala.
  • Day 2: Walk around Tash-Hauli Palace and then climb the Islam Koha Minaret.
  • Day 3: Visit the Kheyvak and Ayaz Kala fortresses.
  • Day 4: Explore the Gijduvan village with a guide, and enjoy a ceramic-making activity.
  • Day 5: Experience the Red Sands of Kyzylkum Desert or adventure through the Mampur Sandy Hill.
  • Day 6: Watch the Traditional Uzbek Dance show or visit the Friday Mosque.
  • Day 7: Departure from Khiva.

Food and Drink Scene of Khiva

Must-Try Dishes

Uzbek cuisine is known for its use of yogurt sauces, hearty soups, and kebabs. Here are some dishes to savor while visiting Khiva:

  • Plov: An Uzbek national dish made from rice, usually served with spiced meat and vegetables.
  • Shashlik: Barbecued meat seasoned with local herbs.
  • Kharsho: A noodle soup with meat and vegetables.

Local Beverages

Uzbekistan is known for its tea culture and in Khiva, you can sip on green, black or herbal teas, or try another local beverage:

  • Ayran: A yogurt-based drink flavored with salt, drunk cold.
  • Shubat: A fermented camel milk beverage.

Where to Stay in Khiva: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Khiva has various accommodation options, from budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses to some luxurious high-tier hotels. Here are some popular options:

  • Hotel Malika Khiva: A authentic, beautifully-decorated hotel with many comfortable rooms.
  • Arkonchi: A boutique hotel located within Itchan Kala, providing an ideal location for those looking to stay in the heart of the old town.
  • Hostel Khiva: A budget-friendly hostel located only 50m from Itchan Kala’s western entrance.

What to Buy in Khiva: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Khiva locals are skilled artisans, and the city is famous for ceramics and carpets, among other handicrafts. Here are some unique local products that will make for great souvenirs:

  • Khiva Ceramics: Locally crafted ceramics uniquely painted with colorful artwork patterns.
  • Suzani: Embroidered and colorful handmade bed covers, wall decorations, and clothes.

Local Culture and Customs of Khiva

Khiva was one of the most significant trading centers on the Silk Road and has a rich history and culture, heavily influenced by its Islamic faith. Here are some local customs to respect while traveling to Khiva:

  • Khiva is a conservative place, so dress modestly, especially when visiting mosques or religious sites.
  • Always ask before taking photographs of locals.
  • Visitors to the city should greet people with Salaam Aleykum, an Arabic phrase commonly used to greet Muslims.

Best Time to Visit Khiva

The best time to visit Khiva is from March to May and from September to November, when the weather is temperate, and high tourist seasons avoid crowds.

Do’s and Don’ts of Khiva


  • Respect local customs and dress modestly by covering shoulders and legs.
  • Learn basic Uzbek phrases to improve communication.
  • Visit historical landmarks and immerse in local culture.


  • Do not smoke in public.
  • Do not wear shoes while entering mosques or other religious buildings.

Safety and Health

Safety in Khiva

Khiva is a relatively safe city, but travelers should take necessary precautions to avoid any unforeseen incidents.

  • Be wary of pickpockets and scams aimed at tourists.
  • Keep your valuables safe while exploring the city.

Health in Khiva

Travelers should take regular precautions to stay healthy while visiting Khiva.

  • Drink bottled water to avoid dehydration, especially during the hotter summer months.
  • Check with your doctor for recommended vaccinations before traveling to Uzbekistan.

Getting to Khiva: Transportation Options and Logistics

Traveling to Khiva is easy using transportations, depending on where the starting point is. Here are some ways to arrive in Khiva:

  • Air: The nearest airport to Khiva is Urgench International Airport, only 30 minutes away by taxi or shuttle.
  • Train: The country’s train system links Uzbekistan to neighboring countries such as Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Russia.
  • Bus: Both private and state-owned buses are available. Most of them depart from Tashkent or Bukhara.

How to Get Around in Khiva

Exploring Khiva can easily be done on foot, as most main attractions are walkable. Taxis are also readily available for longer distances. One can book a rental car or hire a driver to travel around and explore other regions.

Where to Go Next from Khiva: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

Khiva is an excellent base for travelers looking to explore Uzbekistan’s other famous destinations close by. Some Excursions:

  • Bukhara: Bukhara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to stunning historical monuments, museums and houses, known as the Silk Road UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Samarkand: One of Uzbekistan’s oldest and most historically important cities, offering a treasure trove of architectural marvels.
  • Nukus: Nukus is home to the Savitsky Karakalpakstan Art Museum consisted of the world’s second-largest collection of Soviet-era artwork after Moscow.


Khiva, Uzbekistan, is a beautiful destination, unique in its history, culture, and stunning natural landscapes. With its diverse range of activities, historical landmarks, and rich culture, there’s something for every traveler in Khiva. Explore intricately designed mosques and Madrasas, opportunity to connect with ancient, striking desert landscapes, try Bedouin-traditional food, shop for handmade souvenirs, and enjoy Uzbekistan’s hospitality. This travel guide should help you plan your visit to Khiva with ease, and make it an adventure that you will remember for many years to come.