Hi folks! Welcome back to Travel Itineraries, a segment I began last year and did a couple of posts on. I still have a few things to write about on New Zealand, they will now move to the Wednesday slot as I’ve reviewed all the accommodations and flights from that trip.
The idea with the travel itineraries is to give an idea of what I did when I went somewhere, and consider what might be a good workable itinerary for those wishing to visit the places I’m writing about.
I haven’t had the chance to write that much about Iran, which is a pity as I adore the place and the people. So I thought I’d restart this series with a country still very fondly remembered in my heart. It’s also a country that is brilliant for the traveller, with so much to see and do you could easily while away a few months in Iran. I spent a full month there back in 2004, and it was a truly unforgettable time. I’ll start by saying that at no time did I feel in any danger whatsoever and frankly I consider Iran to be one of the safest places I have ever travelled.
The good news for Americans is that with the lifting of sanctions (should everything go according to plan) you may soon be able to do independent travel in Iran as I did as an Australian. It’s an exciting possibility if you have an open mind to a place like Iran. Yes, you will certainly have to field some awkward questions at times, but respect the place you’re in and understand that everyone, wherever they are from, has been fed a very one-sided view of the world.
I started my journey into Iran from Pakistan after crossing the Baluchistan Desert. That’s not something a 2016 traveller is likely to do as this area is now really unsafe in Pakistan. I crossed via shared taxi to Zahedan, and then took a bus to Kerman. The bus went through Bam, an ancient city that had just experienced a devastating earthquake at the time. You might want to consider Bam in your itinerary however in 2004 it was not appropriate to go there as so many had died and the city was in ruins.
Kerman itself is a friendly city – I stayed there ten days with a family – but not teeming with things to see and do. A few days would probably do it. There are some interesting baths and a great market in the centre of town, and you’ll find mausoleums to poets a highlight there and around Iran in general. I was there in April and this is the time a special Persian stew is made – Aubghust. It is made in giant pots and is cooked for half a day or more. It feeds families for a week or more, and much of it is given to the poor as well.
From Kerman I went to Yazd, a few hours to the north-west ish of Kerman. Yazd is a brilliant city with so many mudbrick buildings, a couple of stunning mosques and the best alleyways you’ll ever walk down. From here I did a day trip out into the desert, seeing old abandoned villages and a special Zoroastrian shrine in the side of a cliff called Chak Chak. It’s a little village in the mountains. Brilliant.
Shiraz has an amazing fort and again a number of beautiful mausoleums, not to mention an awesome market and yet another market – this time just for carpets. It’s the best place to take a tour to Persepolis from as well, my hotel organised one (well, basically a driver and a car) for not much at all. We went to several locations in the day including Naqsh-e-Rostam, giant tombs in the side of cliff faces.
Moving on from Shiraz, Esfahan is a stunning city set on a river with these amazing bridges which double as tea houses, and amazing square and so much more. Tehran the capital was next on my itinerary, and it’s certainly a really interesting place if not my favourite (it was up against some hard opposition) set in front of some stunning mountains.
I exited into Turkey with Tabriz, another delightful city in the north-west of Iran. From here a day trip to Kandovan, a town with houses made inside the cliffs which were hollowed out by lava many hundreds if not thousands of years ago. The spring water here is sensational too.
The one place I wish I had visited in Iran that I didn’t was the holy city of Mashhad. It has one of the most beautiful mosques in the world and a lot more too. It’s a good 24 hours from Tehran and is connected by road to Kerman as well, another long journey. However, if I hadn’t visited Iran as part of an overland journey, I would have included it and also given about six weeks to this amazing country.
Here is an itinerary for those with six weeks to explore this amazing country.
Fly to Tehran and get to know the city for a few days. Overnight to Mashhad – I think train is an option here. Spent a few days there before overnighting southwards to Kerman. Kerman needs a couple of days before moving on to Yazd. You could spend nearly a week in Yazd, maybe five days doing a couple of day trips. Then onto Shiraz, where you could spend a week getting to Persepolis as a day trip. Esfahan is a delightful city and so a week there would work well, especially if you make friends which is easy to do in most places. Then back to Tehran, and quickly on to Tabriz. Day trip to Kandovan. VERY friendly people in Tabriz too. Then back to Tehran. This might not quite fill six weeks, but if you do your research I know you’ll find more interesting places to visit!
On the left is my trip through Iran, on the right, the itinerary you see walked through above!
So. What places have I left out? Does this bring Iran into your travel thoughts? Please do comment below, and May the Journey Never End!