Your browser is out of date.
This site may not function properly in your current browser. Update Now
Travelers visiting Kunya-Urgench will be transported to a crucial city of the Achaemenid Empire, once bustling with trade from the Silk Road.
© AlexelA / Shutterstock

Kunya-Urgench

Dashoguz Velayat, Turkmenistan
For centuries, Kunya-Urgench was one of the most important cities on this stretch of the Silk Road. The capital of Khorezm, it was a major trading centre from the 10th to the 14th centuries, one of the Turks' most monumental cities of the time, with bustling bazaars and mosques all surrounded by imposing fortified walls. However, the walls weren't enough to save it from invasion and it was eventually abandoned. Today, some of the most impressive monuments are still standing and visiting them evokes images of the region's splendid Middle Ages.

This conglomeration of historic buildings within what is now a small town in the northwest of the country gives visitors the chance to take a deeper dive into life on the Silk Road. A time-capsule that magnificently represents several major aspects of local culture from the 11th to the 16th century, you can trace the different periods of heritage in the buildings. Designs slowly changed over time as new empires influenced the rulers of Kunya-Urgench, and the different construction materials show a shift in architectural thinking. While some monuments are accompanied by basic construction of clay and brick with little design, others have added decorative elements, such as colorful, window-like patterns that follow the circular cone or sphere-shaped domes.

The intricate brickwork of the buildings demonstrates master techniques © Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock
The intricate brickwork of the buildings demonstrates master techniques © Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock

What we also see in the buildings at the site is a representation of the diverse collection of people that passed through Kunya-Urgench on their Silk Road journeys, sharing their culture and the artistic styles they picked up along the way. The designs here show influences from several Central Asian countries, as well as Islamic influences from places like Iran and Afghanistan. Some of the remaining tile work decorating the monuments is of particular note.

Some impressive tilework still remains © imeduard / Shutterstock
Some impressive tilework still remains © imeduard / Shutterstock

History & Today

This site’s history has been not only influential, but also valiant in how it has withstood the pressures of time. Having been invaded and destroyed by both Gengis Khan and the Turmids’ conquests (1221-1388), it has managed to be rebuilt twice and stood proud as the capital of the Khwarazm region following its second invasion. The site’s use during this age was mostly for trading and worship, since the monuments and location of the site had an Islamic focus, such as the mosque and minaret that accompany the local architecture.

The II Arslan Mausoleum is the oldest remaning structure of the ancient city, and was built to memorialize the ruler II Arslan.
The II Arslan Mausoleum is the oldest remaning structure of the ancient city, and was built to memorialize the ruler II Arslan.

On top of these uses was also the addition of a common pilgrimage site. Stones stacked on top of each other can be found near the site, which are placed along the trail to signify that you are on the right track to Kunya Urgench’s somewhat distant location. A mound of graves is also not too far from the monuments, with the graves signifying not only the people of Ancient Kunya-Urgench’s sacrifice to hold off the Mongolian invaders, but also that many Muslim saints and figures are buried at this location, with claims the prophet Mohammed is among them.

![The Caranvanserai Gate served as an entrance to Kunya Urgench for Silk Road merchants. ] (https://cdn.elebase.io/173fe953-8a63-4a8a-8ca3-1bacb56d78a5/868bc724-b617-48df-9ecd-628b90f40f69-kunyaaa.jpg)

One of the most popular attractions of Kunya Urgench today is the Mausoleum of Turabek Khanym, which is known and, quite visibly proven, to be the largest monument present at the site. What makes it comparable to other models and designs of the more detailed monuments is the inner mosaic that is included in the mausoleum, which has been well-maintained over the last several centuries. Many of the monuments follow the similar scattered blue pattern but in slightly different tones, particularly near the archways and on top of the mausoleum. Leading into the further religious significance of this site is the 60-metre-high minaret, which is one of the highest monuments in Central Asia.


How to get there

Visitors will typically base themselves in the modern regional capital city of Dashoguz just 60 miles from Kunya Urgench, which has several suitable hotel and lodging facilities that visitors can choose from.

How to visit

There are tour websites that cover both a tour and transportation between each monument, which are priced around $250 USD for an individual traveler. For every additional traveler, additional costs are reduced by $50 USD. It is highly recommended to book a tour guide for reliable transportation and local knowledge.

A visit to Kunya Urgench is a chance to explore one of the most impressive cities along the Silk Road trade route.
A visit to Kunya Urgench is a chance to explore one of the most impressive cities along the Silk Road trade route.

The monuments at Kunya-Urgench contribute to one of the most significant architectural sites standing in present-day Turkmenistan. As you explore the site, you'll find remarkable buildings like the Turabek-Khanum Mausoleum, with an octagonal floor plan and a dome of delicate blue and white decoration, and the Kutlug-Timur Minaret soaring to a height of 60 metres above the old city. Smaller and intricately decorated mausoleums in the northern part of town are the resting places of distinguished historical figures, and a 20th-century mosque has been converted into a museum for visitors.

Sights and Attractions recommended by the locals

Many World Heritage sites are temporarily closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please check official websites for more information.

Visit

Kunya-Urgench

Hours

When to visit
The best time to visit Turkmenistan is between March and June or September and November. The peak of summer can get very hot in Kunya Urgench, and the region is known for its ery cold winters.

Pricing

When visiting the sites, there is a $12 fee for entry (21 manat). It is recommended that you get a tour that can drive you around the site, since there is a considerable distance between each of the monuments