Iran is not very touristic country… yet. And that’s why it was especially interesting to go there, even though I had just one week around Iran.
A month before the trip I knew a very little about Iran. Three weeks before I already knew that there are no international payment cards accepted, so you have to take enough cash with you, and even a little bit more. US dollars and euro are easy to change and widely accepted in hotels for example.
If you are female make sure to learn about local traditions regarding clothes — head scarf and skirt are expected. If you are male there are no that strict rules, but shorts would look weird, pants are common.
I was expecting that internet will be strictly firewalled. In fact most of the web-sites worked — Google Mail, Skype, Viber, Google Hangout. The only service I use that was banned was Facebook. Even my corporate VPN worked without any troubles.
Two weeks before visit I knew that buses are the most popular transport around the country. At the same time railway is present as well. Another option is taxi, when you out of Tehran it is relatively cheap.
If you want to reserve hotels, it might be kinda tricky… As no cards are accepted, it is practically impossible to pre-pay the booking. At the same time most of the international booking web-sites have very-very limited selection. So… options I found are WikiTravel or TripAdvisor. Look for hotel there, then find their e-mail or web-site and write them.
The week before trip I had full itinerary on hands. The only thing I missed was that our trip was starting on Thursday, which is end of the working week in Iran. As a result it was pretty much impossible to buy overnight train tickets to Kerman. So… while already there we changed the plan, replaced Kerman with Shiraz, reversed the itinerary and started…
Kashan is a small town about 3 hours from Tehran. It was our first and only experience with train in Iran — for the scheduled 3 hours trip duration train delayed for another 1.5h. At that point we understood why all locals recommended us to take a bus 😉
If you are looking at typical 7 days itinerary for Iran most likely you wouldn’t find Kashan there. In the most cases you will see Tehran for 3 days, Shiraz for another 3 days and a day for the flights. I have been to both cities and I don’t know how it is possible to spend time so senseless…
So what I am trying to say is that Kashan is not far, not crowded and has nice sights to offer — historical mosque, traditional bazaar, turkish bathhouse, typical old town… Looking ahead I can say that it is typical set of the sights for almost any Iranian city.
The best option to stay in Kashan is Ehsan Traditional Guest House. Comparing to other traditional guest houses we stayed in, Ehsan is the best — calm and cozy.
The next point after Kashan was Isfahan. It was capital of Persia from 1598 to 1722. Nowadays it is one of the “carpet capitals” of Iran. In general Isfahan has all the same that you can see in Kashan but bigger 😉 The central square, Naqsh-e Jahan, is the largest historical public square in the world after Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
One of typical pictures of Isfahan that you can find is The Bridge of 33 Arches with its reflection in the river. However it was that hot, that river dried… Well, it created other side of “typical” Isfahan 😉
For Isfahan we learned our lesson and took a bus from Kashan to Isfahan instead of train. It was more comfortable and faster. As for hotels there is a wide variety in Isfahan — Safavi Hotel, Safir Hotel, Iran Hotel and others…
Just 1.5 hour away from Isfahan lays a small town — Varzaneh. It is famous regionally and all over the world for its spectacular desert, which ranked as one of the most accessible deserts of Iran, in particular for tourists coming to Isfahan city.
Unique to Varzaneh, are the local women’s costumes. They wear completely white chadors, while women in the rest of Iran, mostly wear black chadors.
The main sights here are Sand Dunes, Salt Lake, Wetlands and Black Mountain. We visited only first two but it is possible to visit other two in the morning if you have a little bit more time… The options for overnight are pretty limited. Based on Trip Advisor reviews we selected Chapaker Guest House. Its owner, Reza Halili, organizes tours to abovementioned places. Just write or call him a little bit in advance.
Meybod – Chak Chak – Kharanaq
The next point after Varzaneh was Yazd. And in Yazd one of the options for day trip is Meybod, Chak Chak and Kharanaq. There are multiple travel agencies in Yazd that offer this tour. Other option is just to hire a taxi driver. We found contact of the driver on Wikitravel — Mohsen, he charges per hour and a bit boring in my opinion, so better look for some other options.
The tour itself combines a few places in Meybod such as Narin Castle, pigeon house, caravanserai, a pilgrim place Chak Chak and abandoned village Kharanaq. Among all of that I liked Kharanaq the most, but looks like it will not stay in current state for a long. Mud houses are easily destroyed by winds and water… and of corse by tourists… The road from Meybod to Chak Chak is nice as well…
After abovementioned tour around we finally got to Yazd itself. I personally think that with development of tourism in Iran this city could become so-called “backpackers” place. It has the charm and atmosphere. As for the sights, everything is pretty much the same — mosque, old quarters, some palace, bazaar… But it is more… cozy maybe…
Yazd already has good selection of places to stay. Reza from Varzaneh recommended us to choose Orient Hotel and it was pretty good. Nevertheless there are many other options and new are coming.
Yazd was one of the cities were it was nice just to wonder around and relax…
And the last place… As I wrote above, Shiraz is usually present even on the shortest itineraries around Iran. It is one of the former Iran capitals. It is also said to be a birthplace for one of the best wines in the worlds. But the main reason for visit for the most is Persepolis and Pasargad — the centres of Persian Empire dated back to about 500 BC.Except these two places there are many mosques and squares and of course bazaar in Shiraz 😉
Being slightly untypical tourist none of us voted for a visit to Persepolis or Pasargad… So we’ve just experiences Shiraz itself and took a flight back to Tehran…