Walking through Khiva feels a bit contrived and artificial. The place looks like they lifted it from a movie set – it’s UNESCO money done right. The city looks fantastic, and when you compare it to the squalor that surrounds the town – it makes the comparison even starker. When you get in at night and I do recommend that you spent at least two nights in Khiva … you’ll be treated with a town that’s completely yours between 8pm and 8am. If you’re into challenging night photography … Khiva is your place.
However, it’s during the day that the city shines. There is a reason that all trip itineraries start in Tashkent, go through Khiva and Bukhara and end with Samarkand – the progression of elements is a natural one from old Soviet layouts to old Timur layouts. The old city is surrounded by an impressive 15m high wall and contains the real architectural gems of the city, even at first glance, Khiva was quite different than both Bukhara and Samarkand. Starting outside the western gates, you’ll see a signboard for the UNESCO Silk Road project (If you would like more info … here is a great link to BorobudurTV. This project is beyond ambitious … but there are actually people who are hiking or cycling the Silk Road! As you can tell, Bukhara is the junction of everything, and it’s reflected in Bukhara’s importance.
As Khiva is a walled city, it meant that the sights of Khiva were more concentrated and finite dimensions to your walking around town. Walking around the city is free, but if you would like to enter all the madrassas or mosques/museums, then you’ll have to pay a one time fee of 20,000 Som ($8 USD) – Don’t complain about the fee … just pay it and move on, even though it is expensive by Uzbek standards – you’ll be rewarded with some great pictures.
There are three minarets in the city, of which two are accessible to the public. Spend the time and climb them … you’ll be rewarded with some spectacular views of the city. You can also climb to the top of the guard towers … for another vantage point.
The building themselves are so elaborate and interesting.
If you’re wondering about the “imcomplete” looking minaret, then you’re probably looking at Khiva’s most famous sight – the unfinished Kalta Minor. It was commissioned by a khan who, sadly, passed away before it was complete. Had it been finished, it likely would have been the tallest building in the world at the time. You really cannot miss it from any vantage point in the city.