A long way west
Khiva is some 1200 km north-west of Tashkent, and if your time in Uzbekistan is limited, flying there is an option you should consider. Most tours that take in Khiva make the flight one way, and then travel by road between Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent. Flights are operated by Uzbekistan Airways, flying a variety of Russian-built aircraft. The flight takes about an hour and a half.
The airport for Khiva is actually in the nearby town of Urgench, about 35 kilometre away - DON'T let your travel agent put you in a hotel there. There is plenty of accommodation available in Khiva and Urgench has nothing to offer.
Most tour companies book their clients on an early morning flight to Urgench, with a tour of the city directly on arrival in Khiva, a night in in the city and then moving on the next day. We did this, and I would not do so again. A 7am flight means a very early wake-up call - you need to be at the airport by 5.30 - and a long, hot day in the city - exhausting! Far better, if you can, to take a later flight (currently there's one at 11.30am) arrive in Khiva in the afternoon, spend some time exploring, walk the walls that first evening - you're going to be pretty tired by end of the the second day if you take in everything there is to see here, make your way into the new city outside the walls, generally just ease yourself into the rhythm of this extraordinary place and begin to soak up the atmosphere of Central Asia as the shadows lengthen and the evening light turns the buildings to gold.
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Bukhara - Khiva - Tashkent
Historic Khiva is located in the middle of the dessert, near the Uzbek town of Urgench, reasonably far from the main populated areas of Uzbekistan. Khiva – Urgench means 20 minutes ride by taxi, for about 5 euros, or 40 minutes by public bus.
From Bukhara, there were no organised buses to Urgench when we wanted to reach it, i.e. November 2007. However, when there’re no buses, it is common to share taxis, and this is how we managed to cross the distance in a few hours, for the price of around 10 euros per person. The best time to “share taxi” are early mornings from the bus station (see LP for further details).
Khiva - Tashkent:
One option is the train, which leaves Urgench twice a week in the afternoon and arrives in Tashkent the next day in the morning. Buy ticket one day in advance to secure sleepers and buy some food & drinks. It is not polite to rely solely on the neighbours provisions.
Another option (for the lazy ones / time savers) is the plane, every morning around 8 a.m., one hour, 64000 sum. Add 5 euros for the taxi ride to the airport, and do not hurry – there’s no traffic, and check-in does not start earlier than 1 hour before departure time :-)
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Take the plane – Urgench is near
Khiva is located far off the other Silk Road cities, so you might like to fly out there. Uzbekistan Airways has 2 daily flights to Urgench, which has the closest airport to Khiva.
I took a one-way flight and paid 64.000 sum.
As soon as you get off the plane in Urgench, you will be brought "outside" of the terminal to wait for your luggage. Be aware that as everywhere else in Uzbekistan, a crowd of taxi drivers, which will offer you your service, will surround you. It should not cost more than 8 USD (taxis are mostly paid in USD and not so much in sum). But make sure, you have the price written down by the taxi driver, and make sure that he also writes down that it is for your whole travel party (see my tip on taxi drivers in Uzbekistan).
The trip to Khiva will take roughly 30 minutes, and you will drive through the fertile land (remember, Amu Darja river is irrigating the land here) and see some of Uzbekistan's famous cotton fields, their "white gold".
Coordinates on GoogleEarth (Urgench Airport):
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Air and Taxi
The best option to get to Khiva is by air which cost me USD 120 the same day flight. It is possible to get there by a bus, though it takes about 6-8 hours from Bukhara.
There is no air connection between Bukhara-Khiva or Samarkand-Khiva. The only connection is from Tashkent, and even this flight does not go to Khiva: it goes first to Urgench, from where one needs to take a taxi to Khiva.
Taxi from Ugench to Khiva costs 8,000 Soms (USD 6-7) and the distance is over 25 Kms.
Fly to Urgench
Khiva is rather a long way from anywhere else you might be visiting in Uxbekistan – a full and dusty day’s drive from Bukhara, for instance. Most tourists do as we did, flying to Urgench from Tashkent and then driving the 35 kilometres to Khiva by bus or taxi.
Our flight on Uzbekistan Airlines left Tashkent’s domestic terminal at 7.00 AM, meaning an early start for the 6.00 AM check-in (no joke when we’d only arrived in the country just over 24 hours earlier and had only 3 hours sleep the previous night!) The one hour flight was in a Tupolev 154 plane, which was very noisy and smelled disconcertingly of petrol. Carry-on luggage was stowed in overhead racks rather than lockers, but somewhat to my amazement stayed in place throughout the flight, including take-off and landing. A small breakfast was served (roll with cheese and apricot jam, a soft drink and pack of salted nuts). There were views of the desert from both sides of the plane but no spectacular scenery that would make one side better than another as far as I could see. The landing was smooth and we were quite impressed with our flight despite the plane’s appearance – until that is we got off and saw the fire-truck frantically spraying water in to the under-carriage to prevent the overheated tyres from catching fire!
From the airport it’s an easy matter to get a taxi to Khiva if needed – as a group we had a pre-arranged bus waiting for us, but the flight was met by plenty of taxi drivers touting for business among the few independent tourists.
Walking round the old town
No cars or other motor transport is allowed inside the walls of the old town, so you will need to walk everywhere when sightseeing in Khiva. This isn't really a problem though as Ichan Kala is very small - even in the baking heat of July, when a slow stroll is the most you'll want to do, you can cross from the western gate to the eastern in just 10 or 15 minutes. And on foot you'll be able to appreciate the small details of the buildings, and of course to imagine yourself back in the days of the Silk Road caravans.
The heat is very intense, so do take it easy and rest when you need to. I found that in the middle of the day, when the sun had been at its hottest for a while, the clay walls of the buildings seemed to radiate the heat that they'd been soaking up since dawn and the shade seemed almost as hot as the full sun. This is the time to stop walking, find a shady courtyard or cool room, and rest a little.
And do try to spend a night here so that you can walk these same streets in the evening when the sense of the past draws even closer around you.
- Historical Travel
All ways to Khiva go over Urgench
Urgench, the economic centre of modern Khorezm, can be reached by plane from Tashkent. From Bukhara should be one bus per day but that depends whether there are enough passengers. The best idea to go from Bukhara to Urgench is to go about at 8 in the evening to the place a bit outside of Bukhara (every taxi driver knows where) where you can look for a suitable transport. I found myself an old Ikarus bus, more than a quarter of a century old, going overnight to Hazarasp, a place with a well known Bazaar about 60 km from Urgench. From there the bus driver helped me to organize a ride to Urgench where the dirver of this vehicle found for me an other one bringing me from Urgench to Khiva. All was running smoothly and cheap. There is also a trolleybus connection bewteen Urgench and Khiva.
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