Khiva – an open-air museum

Legend has it that people dug the first well by order of Sem, the son of biblical Noah. However, more credible seems the following story: in the 5th century B.C., an enormous caravan was on its way east. It lost its leader in a sandstorm and, from then on, wandered through the desert. When the travellers had already lost all hope of salvation, one of the caravan drivers accidentally found a water source. After the first sip, he shouted “Chey vak”, which in Aramaic meant “what delicious water”, and coined the place’s name. The first village was built around the well. In the 5th century, the first city wall was erected, not even five meters high. Over time, Khiva became an essential place on the Silk Road.

Khiva panorama
Khiva. Panoramic view

Khiva is surrounded by desert, like an oasis. Kyzylkum desert lies in the north, and the Karakum desert is in the south. Therefore, there are no forests and little water, but Khiva became the region’s cultural, administrative, and economic centre thanks to the active efforts of the local population.

In the 16th century, Khiva became the capital of the newly founded Khiva Khanate, a state that stretched over parts of present-day Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. At this time, the construction of cultural buildings such as madrasahs, mosques and palaces began.



2500 years

Age of Khiva

100 meters

above sea level

Khiva is a unique city in Uzbekistan that still has a very well preserved city wall. However, Khiva used to have two city walls: the inner and the outer walls. The inner part of the city is called Ichan-Kala in the local language. In Ichan-Kala lived Khans (Kings), noblemen and the officials of the Khiva Khanate. Almost all monuments and restaurants, souvenir shops, workshops, and hotels are located in the Ichan-Kala, which is designed as a pedestrian zone. Through the narrow alleys and historical buildings, you will feel like in the fairy tale of 1001 nights. About 4,000 of the 90,000 inhabitants live in the inner city.

Flight connections: In modern times, Khiva has lost its status as a regional centre to the neighbouring town of Urgench, which has an international airport. The distance between Khiva and Urgench is 35km.

Railway connections: Khiva railway station was built in 2018 and currently provides direct rail connections to Bukhara.

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