Captivating History

Majestic Fortresses

Panoramic Views

Explore Khiva’s Desert Fortresses to Uncover Cultural Gems & Relics

Looking for things to do in Khiva? Look no further! Uncover desert history with this thrilling excursion, venturing into the arid landscapes surrounding Khiva. Uncover the mystique of Khorezm’s desert capitals, resonating with tales of courage and intrigue. Your adventure unveils iconic fortresses like Toprak Qala, Kizil Qala, Ayaz Qala, and Jonbos Qala, immersing you in the rich history and captivating architecture of these ancient desert citadels. More than two millennia ago, the resilient inhabitants of the fertile Amu-Darya delta constructed imposing fortresses to fend off nomadic tribes roaming the Kyzyl-Kum desert. These strongholds grace the edges of the Sultan Uiz Dag mountain range.

Grab your camera, a sun hat, sunglasses, and sunblock, and get ready for a journey into the heart of the Uzbekistan desert to marvel at historic Karakalpakstan fortresses on a day trip from Khiva.

Highlights of the Tour

Journey to Toprak Qala, an ancient desert fortress steeped in history dating back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD

Be entranced by the panoramic views from Ayaz Qala's zenith, capturing the boundless beauty of the Kyzyl-Kum desert, the serene Ayaz Lake, and the majestic Sultan-Uiz range

Recharge with a delightful lunch at a local restaurant, immersing yourself in the flavours of the region

Uncover the ancient secrets of Jonbos Qala, a fortress possibly erected as early as the 4th century BC

Wander through the remnants of residential structures flanking the central road, offering insights into life in bygone eras

At 8.30, meet our guide at Ota Darvoza, the main gate of Ichan Qala fortress. Drive to Ellikqala district (100 km) to visit archaeological sites Toprak Qala, Qizil Qala, Ayaz Qala, and Jonbos Qala. Learn fascinating stories about these ancient fortresses of Khorezm. Return to Khiva in the late afternoon.

Click the “Itinerary” tab to see a detailed itinerary.

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Trip Details

Trip Details


At the Ota Darvoza gate of the Ichan Qala fortress

All year round.

Check the availability for this tour on the sidebar calendar.

7 hours

From 2 to 16 travellers


  • Transport throughout the tour
  • Guide
  • Entrance tickets as per itinerary
  • Lunch in local restaurant

  • Additional tours and activities not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Tips


English-speaking guide

Your Khiva Fortresses Day Tour Itinerary

At 8.30, meet our guide at Ota Darvoza gate, the main gate of Ichan Qala Fortress. You’ll depart from Khiva and pass through the towns of Urgench, Beruni, and Boston, covering approximately 100 kilometres until you reach Toprak Qala. This prominent desert fortress stands as a testament to the past, with its construction dating back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Perched atop a 9-metre high platform, the rectangular fortress boasted a temple, residential quarters, and flourishing gardens. Artefacts and coins unearthed from the excavations offer insights into its vibrant history, indicating usage until the 6th century, despite a brief abandonment during the 4th century.

Continuing on from Toprak Qala, your path leads to Ayaz Qala, an architectural marvel that dominates the landscape. Comprising three fortress complexes, Ayaz Qala’s creation is believed to have taken place during the reign of the Kushan Empire between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. The panoramic view from its pinnacle, encompassing the Kyzyl-Kum desert, the serene Ayaz Lake, and the majestic Sultan-Uiz range, captivates the senses. Before visiting the next desert fortress, you’ll enjoy a delicious lunch at a local restaurant.

On the return route to Khiva, your adventure continues with visits to Jonbos Qala and Qoyqirilgan Qala, each steeped in captivating legend. Jonbos Qala, possibly erected as early as the 4th century BC, stands adorned with towering double walls, reaching 20 metres in height. The fortress encloses a rectangular expanse of 200 metres by 170 metres, with two-storied galleries designed for archers’ defence. A unique architectural style, reminiscent of the Assyrians and Achaemenids, graces this site, hinting at its ancient lineage. Inside, residential structures flanking the central road could accommodate around 1000 residents. At the road’s terminus, an ancient fire temple echoes the city’s spiritual heritage. Nearby, an unearthed necropolis teems with burial gifts, offering a glimpse into the past. As your tour comes to an end at Jonbos Qala, the sweeping view of the surrounding farmlands and plains below leaves an indelible impression. Complete the day’s enriching exploration by returning to Khiva in the afternoon.

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