Visit Guide to Ayaz Qala

Ayaz Qala is a complex of three ancient fortresses located in the Kyzylkum Desert of Uzbekistan. Situated in a stunning desert landscape, Ayaz Qala offers a glimpse into the rich history of the region and the achievements of the ancient Khorezm civilisation.

Getting There

The easiest way to visit Ayaz Qala is to go on a tour with a local tour operator starting from Khiva. You can easily book this the night before if you prefer a loose trip planning style.

For independent travellers with their own vehicles, a 4WD is not necessary, but some approaches might be a difficult in a simple converted van, so getting out and walking the last stretch of desert is sometimes the best way.

What to Expect

The oldest of the three fortresses at Ayaz Qala goes back to the 4th century BCE. Archaeologists found three grape presses for wine-making and 12 golden statues here (now in the Hermitage), testament to the high sophistication and different climate 2000 years ago.


The Kyzylkum Desert was not always so dry: as recently as 1500 years ago this was fertile agricultural land, supporting the stable and powerful kingdom of Khorezm.

The region slowly drained and dried. Irrigation canals became fragile desert lifelines controlled by feudal lords, vulnerable to nomadic incursions and tribal war. Whenever irrigation canals were destroyed, or the fickle Amu Darya river changed course, stranded cities withered and died, leaving skeletons of past glory strewn in the desert like the water marks of a high tide.

An empty desert today, the area’s traditional name, Elliq Qala (the 50 fortresses), gives an indication of the population density in times gone by.

Facilities Available

Yurt camp, Information board (including in foreign languages),