Day trip to Ellik Kala in the Karakalpakstan

Ellik Kala, “50 fortresses” refers to a group of ancient citadels in the Karakalpakstan region in the west of the country. Designated by UNESCO as the golden ring of the Khorezm (ancient kingdom of which Khiva was the capital), the ruined site contains palaces, forts, fortifications, with some that are over 2,000 years old. “50 fortresses” is an approximation because they have not all been discovered yet. Today, it is possible to visit around twenty. Ellik Kala is an easy day or half day trip from Khiva: a great opportunity to visit the Karakalpakstan region, an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan.

Toprak Kala

Toprak Kala is with Ayaz Kala, one of the oldest citadels, dating from the 1st century BC. It is surrounded by fortification walls up to 9 meters high. The “clay fortress” contains the ruins of a temple complex as well as the palace of the rulers of Khorezm. Originally, the walls had two floors with corridors and vaulted ceilings.

Ayaz Kala

Ayaz Kala designates the ruins of 3 sites, spread over a large plain. Unlike Toprak Kala, I was completely alone. The whole area is vast and it’s the place that I enjoyed the most, it is difficult to imagine that these ruins have not yet been excavated! Ayaz Kala 1 fortress is located at the top of a limestone cliff. A strategic location that allowed to repel the attacks. It is surrounded by an imposing wall of two levels. there is something majestic about these ruins, mostly because large parts of the fort are still intact. The inner courtyard contained gardens of yurts where the inhabitants lived. At the bottom of the hill, you can see the ruins of the castle – Ayaz-2 (on the cone-shaped rock) as well as Ayaz Kala 3 of which only the foundations remain.

Koi Krylgan Kala

The third and last fortress was still under renovation during my visit. It consists of a large cylindrical building surrounded by the fortification wall. Even if its renovation makes it less interesting, the fortress is still impressive.


Visiting Ellik Kala was a good opportunity to see something completely different. Since the drainage of the Aral sea under the soviet rule, the Karakalpakstan has suffered extreme draught.

Ellik Kala is located in the Karakalpakstan about 130km from Khiva: a great half or full day trip. It is accessible by private taxi only. Half a day is enough to visit 3 sites. Allow about $40 for the half day and $50 for the full day. I negotiated directly with a taxi driver but your hotel/guest house can also organise it for you.