Ever thought of what life inside a citadel might have been like? The Ichan Qala in Khiva is exactly that. Fortified by walls thick as your ex’s thighs, it is a living city housing artisans, shops, houses and now some hotels too. I docked myself right outside the west gate, a pretty nice hostel. Found it by chance since the one I was supposed to stay in didn’t exist. Yes, I turn up at the place where the hostel was supposed to be and I see a building undergoing renovation. So I walked over to the adjacent one and crashed there.
Top Things to do
Climb the minarets
There are two and cost about a dollar to climb each. They shut at 6 so make sure to get there by then which means unfortunately you can’t see the sunset. Climb both, it’s worth it and you get different spectacular views. One word of caution, the climb or the descent isn’t for the weak hearted. You need to hold on to the steps to place your feet on the next one at some parts which many may not be comfortable with. But the result, awesome!
Head to the Qalas
These fortresses in the middle of the Kyzylkum desert is what attracted me to Uzbekistan. The prominent ones are Ayaz Qala, Kyzyl Qala and Toprak Qala spaced out by a few kilometres. The first one is the real highlight where you get to climb the larger one to photograph the smaller one against the desert’s backdrop. Magnificent. I did this in the summer heat, so you can imagine my state afterwards – carry enough water, cover your feet, wear a hat and sunglasses. Most hostels arrange a taxi and you can share it with your fellow mates. There’s also a yurt camp right next to Ayaz Qala and I heard it’s worth the stay.
Heard of the Aral sea? Well, it doesn’t exist anymore thanks to water diversion for various purposes. The highlight here are the few rusty fishing boats lined up for exhibition that once lived with the lake. That’s about it here
A cemetery which is also one of the oldest pilgrimage sites in the country. Originally for the Zoroastrians, eventually came to be used by Muslims, so you’ll find importance. The entrance is free and you’ll come across some interesting graves such as the one that keeps growing, one where a pair of lovers are buried, etc. You can hire a taxi for visiting Nukus museum, muynaq and mizdakhan. It’ll be a long day.
Nukus Art Museum
A mecca for those interested in Soviet avant-garde art, this museum houses many works of Igor Savitsky who was exiled to the city. The entrance is about 5 USD and I must say, this is one of the most impressive collection of art I have come across under one roof.
Watch a free movie
Right when you enter Ichan Qala, to your right is a small entrance that leads to an open-air theatre where movies are projected every night at 8 PM. The entrance is free and the movies are mostly vintage ones subtitled in English. A nice experience I would say.
2 days would be perfect. 3 days is what I’d recommend
Alibek Hostel, right outside the west gate of the Ichan Kala. Dorms at 8 usd. Very clean and spacious hostel with a delicious breakfast spread. Run by Shohbod and family, they make sure your stay is memorable
- Terasa café to the left after you enter Ichan Kala. The rooftop café is a favourite for those wishing to get shots and the food isnt bad either, slightly expensive though
The good: easily my favourite town in Uzbekistan
The bad: heat
The ugly: heat
Safety: 10 on 10
Tout level: 0. People don’t care, too nice to cheat
Language: Learn some Russian, really
Internal Transport: Walking and walking