The Land of qalas
Other qalas in Karakalpakstan
Other qalas in Northern Turkmenistan
Other qalas in Khorezm viloyati
Google Coordinates

The Land of qalas

It is sometimes reported that there are 400 qalas in Karakalpakstan. We have never seen a complete inventory, but the No'kis-based archaeologist G'ayratdiyin Xojaniyazov published a list of 76 of some of the most important monuments in 2006. Certainly wherever you look on the large-scale map of the region you can find qalas - so many in fact that the majority are unnamed. There must therefore be hundreds. Indeed in the past there were even more. Many of the small forts were destroyed and ploughed over during the agricultural development of the 1960s and 1970s.

To provide a feel for some of the other qalas this page lists just a dozen or so from Karakalpakstan, mainly from the south, along with a couple from northern Turkmenistan and just one from the Uzbekistan viloyat of Khorezm.

Other qalas in Karakalpakstan

The following sites are arranged from the furthest south to the furthest north. For the geographical coordinates of each site refer to Google Coordinates.

Eres qala

Eres qala, sometimes called Aris qala, lies about 15km north east of To'rtku'l on the western edge of the Eresqalaqum Sands in the tuman of To'rtku'l.

Eres Qala
Eres qala.

It is a large enclosure, extending for 360 metres from its north-eastern to south-western side with a maximum width of 220 meters. It has an irregular partly oval shape, protected by double walls with regularly space oval towers and internal archers' galleries on two levels. The entrance is on the southern side and is defended by two towers. Inside the citadel are the remains of three adjacent buildings abutting the internal side of the western wall.

Tuman Qala
Plan of Eres qala from Sergey Tolstov's "Ancient Khorezm", Moscow, 1948.

Eres qala seems to date from the 4th to 3rd centuries BC and was one of the chain of frontier fortresses that guarded the eastern border of Khorezm from nomadic attack. It may have provided a refuge for the local agricultural community during times of danger.

Qurgatıshkan qala

Qurgatıshkan qala is 20km north-east of To'rtku'l and 4.5km due south of Qoy Qırılgan qala. It belongs to the tuman of To'rtku'l. It is directly on the left hand side of the road running north from Eres qala.

Qurgatishkan Qala
Qurgatıshkan qala.

It is a small square-shaped fort measuring only 55 metres long along each side. The eastern entrance faces the road.

Qumbaskan qala

Qumbaskan qala or Kumbaskan Kala lies in the middle of a small residential community just under 20km north of To'rtku'l in the tuman of To'rtku'l.

Qumbaskan Qala
Qumbaskan qala.

Little remains today other than the general outline of the walls and the ruins of a circular tower. The fortress is square in shape, measuring 110 metres along each side, and orientated with its corners facing the four cardinal points. The circular tower is at the northern corner.

Tuman qala

Tuman qala, or Duman Kala, is situated 12km north east of Biruniy on an elevation on the Aq Qum Sands. It can be reached from the road that leaves the A380 half way between To'rtku'l and Biruniy and runs north towards Bostan.

Tuman Qala
The western enclosure and eastern citadel of Tuman qala.

Plan of Eres Qala
Plan of Duman Kala (Tuman qala) from Sergey Tolstov's "Ancient Khorezm", Moscow, 1948.

Tuman qala was first investigated by Sergey Tolstov in 1940. It has an unusual shape and is composed of three adjacent sections - a square-shaped western enclosure with corner towers, measuring about 150 by 170 metres; a smaller square-shaped citadel on the eastern side roughly 100 metres in size; and an irregular four-sided northern enclosure, the remains of which can no longer be seen. The western citadel is the best-preserved section, especially along its northern side, but only small sections of the eastern enclosure remain. A new road has been built through the middle of the northern enclosure.

Adamli qala

Adamli qala lies in a remote region 23km north-east of To'rtku'l and 20km south-east of Bostan. It is just 1.7km south of Qoy Qırılg'an qala but unlike the latter is easily accessible, being situated adjacent to a good road. For directions consult Qoy Qırılg'an qala.

Adamli Qala
Adamli qala.

Flight over Adamli Qala
Biplanes conducting an aerial survey for the Khorezm Archaeological-Etnographical Expedition
flying over Adamli qala in probably 1947 or 1948.

Adamli qala was investigated by Sergey Tolstov in the season of 1938 when he was encamped at Teshik qala. The name apparently comes from a ruined section of the wall that was shaped like a man. Adamli qala was the fortified manor house of a feudal lord or squire, with a central square-shaped tower or donjon and and an outer rectangular fortified wall. It dates from the 6th to 8th century Afrigid period.

Unnamed qala 1

Our first unnamed qala is located 22½km north of To'rtku'l, and just under 3km north-east of Qumbaskan qala.

Un-named Qala 1
Unnamed qala 1.

The qala has a rectangular outer enclosure, 90 metres wide and possibly 100 metres long, containing a much smaller square-shaped keep measuring 20 by 20 metres. It has the appearance of a medieval feudal fort.

Unnamed qala 2

Our second unnamed qala is located in the middle of a rural residential areas 26km north of To'rtku'l and 12½km south-east of Bostan.

Un-named Qala 2
Unnamed qala 2.

The almost square-shaped fortress is about 100 metres long on each side and has its walls reinforced with towers at the corners and along the sides. However on the south-eastern corner there is one much larger rectangular tower.

There seems to be a much less well-preserved enclosure on the southern side.

Ashirtam qala

Little remains of Ashirtam qala, which is hidden behind a house in a small residential hamlet 6km south-east of Bostan.

Ashirtam Qala
Ashirtam qala.

Ashirtam qala appears to be rectangular in shape, measuring approximately 140 by 120 metres, and has some signs of a slightly smaller enclosure within.

Kul'baskan qalas 1 and 2

The two Kul'baskan qalas lie about 7km south-east of Bostan and are accessible from a rough track.

Kul'baskan Qalas 1 and 2
Kul'baskan qalas 1 and 2.

There is little to see, other than the footprints of two qalas located adjacent to one other. The southern rectangular enclosure measures about 80 by 110 metres, while the northern enclosure is about 90 metres square.

Qoy qala

Qoy qala is about 14½km east of Bostan. Situated on the western edge of the Bilqum Sands 3km north east of Qırqqızabad, it is now surrounded by fields.

Qoy Qala
Qoy qala.

It has a small square-shaped enclosure measuring about 90 metres along each side, oriented with its corners pointing towards the four cardinal points. There is a rectangular structure in the centre of the south-west facing wall.

Air qala

Air qala is 6km east of Bostan, situated on the eastern side of the Gu'ldu'rsin Sands.

Air Qala
Air qala.

The remains of the fort are small and rectangular, measuring just 40 by 50 metres. There is a structure in the centre of the south-west facing wall. It might be the remains of a small feudal fort.

Aqtumpek qala

Another small site located just 3km north east of Bostan in the middle of farmland.

Aqtumpek Qala
Aqtumpek qala.

All that remains are the outlines of two concentric square structures, the outer one measuring just 35 metres along each side.

Unnamed qala 3

This qala is marked on the 1:100,000 map as Yekeporsan, but this must be an error as the real site of Yakke Parsan, just 3½km further north, is left unnamed. It is just under 9km north east of Bostan, located on the eastern side of the Gu'ldu'rsin Sands just 4km north of Air qala.

Un-named Qala 3
Unnamed qala 3.

The outer parts of the site seemed to have been ploughed up for farmland. All that remains is a small square-shaped structure, measuring just 15 by 10 metres.

Qosparsan qala

Qosparsan qala is located in the middle of an extensive tract of farmland some 7km north of Bostan. The site has been deliberately preserved with an irrigation canal diverted around its southern side.

Qosparsan Qala
Qosparsan qala.

The outer defensive wall is rectangular, measuring 80 by 70 metres, and reinforced by a pair of rectangular towers along each flanking wall and a single rectangular tower at each corner aligned at 45 degrees. The inner fort is about 25 metres square and has an outer structure on its southern side. It appears to be the ruins of an Afrigid feudal fort.

Unnamed qala 4

This small qala is 20km north-east of Bostan, and 13km south-east of Ayaz qala 1. It sits on the western edge of the Bilqum Sands, close to the former sovxoz of Qırqqız.

Un-named Qala 4
Unnamed qala 4.

The limited remains of this qala are square-shaped with their corners facing the four cardinal points. There is the layout of an outer wall approximately 55 metres square and an inner building roughly 27 metres square. It looks like the footprint of a typical feudal fort.

Itasxan qala

Itasxan qala appears to be another feudal fort just 1.3km to the north-west of Unnamed qala 4. It is 3km east of of Qırqqız sovxoz.

Itasxan Qala
Itasxan qala.

Itasxan qala appears to have an outer structure approximately 88 metres square and an inner structure approximately 58 metres square. The latter has corner towers and a tower in the centre of three of the flanking walls. A much larger structure is positioned in the middle of the fourth wall. The site appears to be the ruin of a typical Khorezmian feudal fort and residential donjon.

Quyn qala

Located just over 7km south of Ayaz qala 1, Quyn qala is in located in the centre of a remote agricultural region about 6km west of the Qırqqız sovxoz.

Quyn Qala
Quyn qala.

The site appears to be square in shape and might be the ruins of an Afrigid feudal fort.

Bor qala

Bor qala is situated in an elevated position on the southern tip of a peninsula of rock jutting out from the foot of the Sultan Uvays Dag. It overlooks the extensive modern agricultural oasis to its south. It is located just under 16km north of Bostan and 9km north east of Topraq qala.

Bor Qala
Bor qala.

The ruin has an irregular shape that seems to have been dictated by the small natural elevation on which it is situated. There are the remains of a northern and a western outer wall.

Unnamed qala 5

Little remains of this qala apart from the rectangular site and the surrounding moat. It is situated about 5km north of the Amu Darya and some 9km south-east of Tor'rtko'l.

Un-named Qala 5
Unnamed qala 5.

The main qala site has been adapted for use as a cemetery and is accessed by means of a causeway. It lies just north of the hamlet of Shoraxan and south of the former kolxoz of Chalabash.

Aq qala

Aq qala is located in the northern delta on the right bank of what used to be called the U'lken Darya or Great River, the main outlet of the Amu Darya into the Aral Sea. It used to guard an elbow of the river where it turned abruptly to the west. It can only be reached today by 4WD vehicle, driving over 32km north from Qazaqdarya.

The fortress and walled settlement of Aq qala.

Aq qala, the "White Fort", is a parallelogram shaped enclosure, measuring roughly 380 by 310 metres. There are the remains of a fortress at the western corner and a small enclosure to its south.

This is a much later fortress dating from the time of the Khivan Khans. Major Herbert Wood of the Royal Engineers sailed past it in 1874 and described the fort and its adjacent enclosed village as a mass of ruins. It apparently had crenellated walls built upon a mud-brick rampart, circular corner towers and a surrounding ditch. When the Russian steamer Samarkand entered the U'lken Darya in April 1873 to support the Russian attack on Khiva, the Khivan fortress fired on the steamer killing or wounding half a dozen of its crew.

Other qalas in Northern Turkmenistan

Unfortunately large portions of northern Turkmenistan are poorly covered by Google Earth, so it is not possible to reference satellite images of some of the earliest fortifications, such as Kyuzeli Gyr and Kalili Gyr 1, or important later sites like Shahsenem.

Bederkent qala

Situated 14km south east of Takhta and 32½km south of Dashoguz, Bederkent qala is just 4km from the northern edge of the Qala Qum. Some 400km of desert separates it from the Akhal oasis to its south.

Bederkent Qala
Bederkent qala.

Some 370 metres from north to south and 230 metres wide, Bederkent qala has an unusual L-shape, possibly dictated by its site. It is currently surrounded by lakes and bog, which may be the remains of a defensive ditch or moat. It can only be entered at its south-eastern corner.

Alikir qala

Alikir qala sits in the middle of a remote stretch of desert on the northern edge of the Qara Qum, 60km south of Kunya Urgench.

Alikir Qala
Alikir Qala.

It is an extraordinary rectangular structure, over one kilometre long from north to south and about 660 metres wide, making it substantially larger than the Ichan qala at Khiva. It has structural features, possibly barbicans, in the centre of its northern and southern walls. Its nature and date of construction are unknown to us since we have so far been unable to find any reference to the site.

Kandim qala

Kandim qala is located in the heart of an intensively cultivated region 29km south of Kunya Urgench.

Kandim Qala
Kandim qala.

All that remains is an almost square enclosure, measuring 320 by 300 metres. The remains of a single rectangular corner tower can be seen on the eastern corner and there seem to be signs of former buildings or dwellings on the inside. The remains of a wide ditch or moat border the north-west facing and north-east facing sides.

Other qalas in Khorezm viloyati


Hazarasp is one of the major towns of Khorezm situated 46km south east of Urgench and 60km east of Khiva. The qala is just to the west of the town centre and just under 2km south east from the central bazaar. It is a strange sight, with the interior completely filled with modern streets and houses.

The old fortified citadel of Hazarasp in the centre of the modern town.

It seems likely that Hazarasp was one of the earliest settlements on the left bank of the Amu Darya. However the current walls are much later, dating from the time of the Khivan Khans. Most of the southern wall has been demolished for housing, but the other three walls are still intact reaching up to 10 metres high in places. There were towers located on each of the corners and along the flanking walls, but today only twelve remain. In the south- east corner there are the ruins of a larger rectangular tower, which the local people call Dev Solgan.

Google Earth Coordinates

The following reference points (in degrees and digital minutes) will enable you to locate the following qalas on Google Earth:

  Google Earth Coordinates
Place Latitude North      Longitude East     
Eres qala 41º 40.035 61º   5.500
Qurgatıshkan qala 41º 42.907 61º   7.022
Qumbaskan qala 41º 43.707 61º   1.666
Tuman qala 41º 44.300 60º 52.495
Adamli qala 41º 44.450 61º   7.340
Unnamed qala 1 41º 45.086 61º   2.644
Unnamed qala 2 41º 47.280 61º   3.312
Ashirtam qala 41º 47.750 60º 57.173
Kul'baskan qala 1 41º 48.375 60º 59.347
Kul'baskan qala 2 41º 48.440 60º 59.342
Qoy qala 41º 50.388 61º   5.912
Air qala 41º 51.268 60º 59.528
Aqtumpek qala 41º 51.892 60º 56.796
Unnamed qala 3 41º 53.390 61º   0.334
Qosparsan qala 41º 54.180 60º 53.961
Unnamed qala 4 41º 55.750 61º   8.125
Itasxan qala 41º 56.300 61º   7.560
Quyn qala 41º 56.987 61º   1.382
Bor qala 41º 58.929 60º 54.284
Aq qala 43º 41.034 59º 30.326
Bederkent qala 41º 32.536 59º 59.964
Alikir qala 41º 48.036 59º 11.000
Kandim qala 42º   4.317 59º 11.058
Hazarasp 41º 18.863 61º   5.534

Note that these are not GPS measurements taken on the ground.

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