This has been the first reaction we got from almost everyone when we exposed our travel plans to Iran. Well, it has always been high on our list. We love visiting off the beaten destinations with my boyfriend and we knew that Iran has a lot to offer in terms history, ancient civilizations and hospitable people. But most of all, it has a lot to offer in terms of the things we don’t know yet. Things that are not told to us. Iran is one of these places that you need to experience with all your senses. And also one of these places that you need to visit fully prepared. I am more of a “go with the flow” traveler while my boyfriend is a traveler with all the details; where to stay and places to visit, eat..We knew that we wouldn’t have VPN or proper internet connection and it turned out to be true. Plus you need to bring pockets full of dirty cash (preferably US dollars or euros), since shops and banks do not accept foreign debit or credit cards. No matter how many out-of-the-ordinary countries I have visited, I still fail every travel budgeting test…We knew all of these but still had some problems time to time, so it’s good to be aware especially if you are going long distance in Iran. Bonus: Girls, bring pins for your headscarf for windy days 🙂
We arrived at Tehran around 4 am with Pegasus Airlines from Istanbul. With a Turkish nationality, I don’t need a visa for Iran. As a Dutch citizen, my boyfriend got his visa at the airport. It was a relatively easy process, the queue was not long and there were not many tourists. We exchanged some money at the airport and head directly to our hotel by taxi. Taxi’s are not that expensive, and with a good bargain you can make it to city center easily.
The second day we rent a car from the airport and drive from Tehran via Qom. Adventure is what we wanted, so adventure is what we got. Vagabonds is what we are destined to be, so vagabonds was what we were going to be. Soon we figured out our first day on the road would be the kind of adventure that adventurers do not necessarily mean when they look for adventures. The salt lake is not easy to find, so if you ever decide to go there make sure you have a good map. We’ve been driving for 50 kilometres and finally we were ON the lake. We were driving right into to lake, actually on the lake. There is nothing else then the desert and the salt lake. Literally there was nothing. We’ve seen camels on the lake-desert. My boyfriend decided to make friends with the camel until it started chasing me till the car. I said friends, not allies man!
We visited Qum on our way to Kashan. It was almost night when we arrived. The lights of the mosques welcomed us. It was quite a mystical and serene moment.
As we are two crazy travellers, we needed to do as much as we can. So did we. We visited three more cities: Kashan, Isfahan and Yazd. It was an intense itinerary for 8 days but it is definitely worth it.
Our next stop is Kashan.
Kashan is a city 2-3 hours from Tehran by driving. The authentic structure of the city is so good that you can easily have an image of the Persian Empire. Kashan is located next to the Kevir Desert. The historical structure of the city has been protected very well. The old bazaar is one of the best in Iran and if you can have the chance climb the roof and get a 360 view of Kashan. It feels like time travelling.
There are lots of accommodation options in old kervansaray’s which are very well renovated and the prices are affordable. If you go there in April, you can see many rose gardens and get some fresh rose water which the city is famous for.
Take me to the desert tales…I’m a merchant travelling with my Kervan and my next stop is Isfahan. I arrive dark at night, I sit my camel and find a shelter for myself at a Kervansaray in the Naks-i Cihan square. And with the first morning lights, I am amazed by the size of the square with all the colourful shops and beautiful architecture. These are almost what I felt when I arrived at the square after a long tour in the old Isfahan Bazaar. Naks-i Cihan is the second biggest square on earth and it is fascinating.
You can have a coffee and cake in this cute little coffee shop at the end of the bazaar if you miss black coffee and European desserts.
With the admiration in our pockets, we walked through the Zayandeh River. It is the river crossing the city of Isfahan. There are several new and old bridges over the Zayandeh River. The oldest, Shahrestan was built in the 5th century AD and still being used as a pedestrian crossing in Sharestan village. While crossing the bridge, I once again felt like a spice trader walking with my kervansaray.
Old, ancient, wise, beautiful. This is what you get if you travel towards Yazd. Surrounded by narrow alleys, minarets and wind catchers. One of the oldest cities in the world. I was here with almost no expectation and found myself completely amazed as if living a desert tale again. Yazd is the most touristic area in Iran, yet the most interesting and charming in my opinion.
In Yazd, we took a day trip to Kharanaq, one of the last remaining mud cities of Iran and Chak Chak which is a pilgrimage centre for Zoroastrians. Kharanaq is a must see place. Time travel strikes back, this time taking you to the 5th century! We entered the small village and almost got lost. It is like a labyrinth. Time travelling in a labyrinth.
We visited Chak Chak, a Zoroastrian temple around Yazd. Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions. It was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra) in ancient Iran approximately 3500 years ago. For 1000 years Zoroastrianism was one of the most powerful religions in the world. It was the official religion of Persia (Iran) from 600 BCE to 650 CE.
Zoroastrians believe that the elements are pure and that fire represents God’s light or wisdom. Ahura Mazda revealed the truth through the Prophet, Zoroaster. This fire in the temple has been burning for 450 years!
Next time if I go to Iran I’ll allow myself a few days in Yazd just to enjoy the atmosphere and take it easy in the serene atmosphere of the old city.