- Place or Religious Monument
- Archaeological Site
- Place or Historical Monument
The site of Toprak Kala was once the magnificent capital of the Khwārezm kingdom in the first few centuries AD, and traces of its glory days can still be discovered by visitors, from the walls of the fortress, the ruins of the palace, and a number of different mausoleums. Located in the hard-to-reach province of Karakalpakstan, Toprak Kala is surrounded by dry, arid plains that make the site itself even harder to reach, meaning that summertime visits can become almost unbearable due to the heat.
Personally, I wasn't particularly impressed by the site itself, as it is not very well preserved. I find that Uzbekistan is bursting with stunning historic sites that are much more worthy of a visit than Toprak Kala. For this reason, I wouldn't necessarily recommend Toprak Kala for your journey to Uzbekistan.
I started my trip to Uzbekistan by visiting Khiva. The car journey to the Kalas was therefore my first sight of the surrounding landscape: the Amu Darya River, the cotton fields that extend as far as the eye can see, and the gradual progression of the Kyzyl Kum Desert (its name means 'red sand').
The Toprak Kala fortress finally began to come into view, and it was much more impressive than I had ever imagined it might be. The terracotta fortress takes the form of a rectangle that measures 350 meters by 500 meters. Constructed in the first century BC, it would go on to become the capital of the region around the third century, before being abandoned by its inhabitants in the sixth century. I was quite shocked by how well preserved it was, given that it is two thousand years old and tourists wander freely throughout the premises. The structure of the city's houses and courtyards, and some decorative details, are still clearly visible.
Nonetheless, it is still worth hiring a guide when visiting the site, as that is the only way to get an explanation of everything that you see. The visit was absolutely fascinating, and if it piques your interest you can go on to explore two other citadels, at Ayaz Kala and Kyzil Kala.