Khiva – an authentic Uzbekistan experience

Arriving in Khiva

We take a taxi ride from Bukhara to reach Khiva, as there is no train or bus leaving in this direction. We share with another traveler and together we pay 50 USD. Through wastelands we go, as well as a few cotton and corn fields along the border to Turkmenistan. After 7 hours we reach Khiva.

It is f…reezing cold here!

Small and beautiful historic center

Khiva, even more than Bukhara, takes you back in time and feels very authentic while doing so. The 200m x 500m small city center is listed as UNESCO world heritage. It is enclosed by 10m high city walls made of clay and mud. The walls provide shelter to completely restored sandstone and clay buildings, ochre dome roofs and of course preeminent minarets. Tourist bazaars line the main streets (Junkistan all over again) but the salespeople are not too annoying.

Climbing the city walls

We sneak away from the main streets and unseen by the tourist groups we climb the outer city walls in the south-west of the historic center via an old graveyard. Once on top, we take a nice stroll around, discover small farms hidden inside the backyards, and enjoy the view on the tiled towers. Later on we discover even more places you can climb, unseen by the masses. There are many roof tops which are quite accessible if you are willing to engage on a small adventure. After a short while, we feel a bit like figures from “Prince of Persia” – a jump and run computer game we both enjoyed as children. By the end of the day our clothes are camouflage beige from the sandstone and clay but we are very happy.

travel tipp infoTip: There is an easy way up at the North Gate (with stairs – a bit boring – you won’t be alone), but even more rewarding are the south-western and southern parts of the wall, which are a bit harder to reach and not frequented by tourists at all. You can access the more remote parts over an old graveyard in the south-western corner of the city.

What else is there to see?

The bazaar outside the city walls (just in front of the east gate) is a welcome change as only few visitors get lost here, and no Uzbek woman will try and sell you „handmade“ wristlets. We eat some barbecue on a local stand and, besides other sweet dishes, buy tasty Uzbek baklava, differing from the Turkish one by being not as sweet and having a consistency close to a granola bar. Really, really good! One of our must eat recommendations!

Also outside the fortified walls, some five walking minutes into the northeast, you will find the Prince’s Palace. A hyped up dream in which East and West get together to a crazy composition: Colorful, Russian tile stoves stand in a mirror hall, and European stucco is not only applied to ceilings but the walls are fully plastered with it. Add in beautifully worked oriental carpets and ornamented wood carvings and the result is this great opus of kitsch on the edge of the endurable!

Getting high in the historic center

Finally we climb up the steep, dark staircase of a minaret (we chooose the Juma Mosque): The view on the city is glorious and each of the uneven stairs is a small adrenaline kick. Now we are certain: We look down on a big 3D-level of Prince of Persia.

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