Looking at a map of Uzbekistan, you get an idea of just how great the distances are from Khiva to each stop along the ancient Silk Road. Khiva, located west of Samarkand and Bukhara, was so important on the route from China to Europe that it was once captured by Chinggis Khaan. In the 14th century, then-leader Timur called upon ceramicists, artists, and architects to build his empire. Murals and mosaics imported from Persia adorn Khiva to this day. Ceilings are brilliant displays of pattern and hue. This artistic legacy continues: craftsmen still create beautiful silk work and miniature paintings to display and sell in their workshops.

A UNESCO-listed treasure, Khiva retains hints from its Soviet past. Amidst block buildings and statues, its main appeal is its incredible ancient architecture within the walled city. Find a patchwork of mosques and madrassas (old religious schools) and for a brief moment, you might imagine one of the character from the One Thousand and One Nights tales dashing through the streets.

On warm afternoons, older gentlemen chat outside in the shade and women in bright dresses go about their day. Dust colored and yet also so vibrant, Khiva will entice you to imagine a lively city where traders mingled in its bazaars, selling everything from cotton to carpets. These weary wanderers slept in its caravanserais like the Allakuli Khan which you can visit by entering a tall, wooden, swirly-patterned door.

Climb up the narrow spiral staircase of the Juma minaret, topped by a glistening jade dome. Colorful patterns of turquoise, blue, and white tilework ring its length, hypnotizing you with its beauty. Wander among its 200 columns dating back to the 10th century; everywhere you turn in Khiva, there’s detail and history. Its a living museum, lovingly preserved for the world to see as our ancestors once did during travels along the Silk Road.

In the evenings, Khiva takes on a quiet, mysterious air with a magical orange glow enveloping its labyrinth streets. Arched doorways lead to towering domed mosques and tiled courtyards. It’s a real wonder why Uzbekistan is still such a mystery to many travelers; we think it’s a hidden gem primed to be discovered by intrepid travelers.