Your Iran Travel Guide! If you would say “I have traveled to Iran” many would probably respond with surprise… Iran is most likely not the first country coming to your mind when thinking about a new destination. Tourism in the country, however, is rising on a yearly basis, and I could have not been happier that I went. If you like surprises, adventure and are up for some challenges, Iran might be the place for you. The country is filled with mind-blowing landscapes, stunning architecture, delicious food and welcoming people; emerge yourself into the Iranian culture and be amazed. Read below about some basic info, my favorite places and things to do in Iran!
Currency – Well, this is where it gets a bit confusing. Iran’s official currency is the Iranian Rial, however, the old currency, Toman, is often the one used as the price. The Iranian Rial is worth 10 times as much as the Toman, so 200 IRR would be 20T for example. Hence, if you are asking for the price always be sure to ask if the price is in Rial or Toman. To make it even a bit more confusing, the exchange rates are not corresponding to exchange rates as stated online, your Euro’s or Dollars are often worth a bit more in the country! In February 2017 €1,- corresponded to 40,000IRR.
Daily Budget – €30 to €45 a day. NOTE: there are no ATMs for foreigners available in the country, you will have to bring all your money in cash (Euro’s or American Dollars). So make sure to overestimate how much money you’ll be spending in the country, and always have some back up money available.
Visiting Iran comes with a long list of rules, following a certain dress code is one of them. Women are expected to wear a headscarf and long pants (skinny jeans are allowed). Moreover, women should wear a long sleeved shirt, with a high neckline so breasts are not visible, that covers the bum. It is often said that for foreigners the rules are a bit more loose, however, just run into someone from the moral police on a bad day and you still face being arrested. Hence, I would personally not take the risk. Besides that, by following the dress code you also avoid some of the stares. Men are allowed to wear t-shirts, however, shorts are not allowed. When visiting mosques women are often expected to wear a chador, often available at the entrance; for men it is advised to wear a long sleeved shirt when entering mosques.
Tehran – Some may call it polluted, many will tell you to leave as soon as you can. But don’t forget that it is the capital; a city that is home to 15 million people. Tehran, in my opinion, has loads to offer. Go explore Golestan palace, get lost in the Bazar, visit a couple of museums or just enjoy a simple coffee. Yes, the city might be polluted, but this concrete jungle could still keep you occupied for days, if it is not weeks.
Kashan – Only a couple hours down south of Tehran’s concrete jungle you can find the “small” desert town of Kashan. The small city of Kashan has a couple of things to offer: a UNESCO garden, traditional houses and bathhouses and beautiful mountain views. I would personally recommend to make a 2 night stop in the city; and if you are interested you can use Kashan as a basis to go and spend the night in the desert, or explore surrounding villages such as Abyaneh!
Isfahan – The city of architecture, a city that is home to some of the most beautiful mosques in the country. The river floating through the city might be dry, but the bridges crossing the dry river bed are still just as impressive. Spend a couple of days admiring the bazar, the many mosques or enjoy some of the delicious food (Biryani) that the city is home to. You never know, you might end up climbing a minaret, viewing the city from above! We spend 3 full days here, which is enough to explore most of the city in my opinion.
Yazd – A sand colored city, and just like many other cities, not situated far from the desert… or the mountains. Day tours to the desert, or even half day tours to the desert, are offered everywhere around the city centre, should you be interested! More than that, Yazd gives you the perfect opportunity to learn more about Zoroastrianism, one of the oldest extant religion that’s originated from the Indo-Iranian religious systems. Visit the towers of silence for sunset or the fire temple to learn more about a religion that you might have never heard before.
Shiraz – Shiraz is home to the sole reason I came to Iran, the Nasir ol Molk Mosque. When browsing the internet years ago I found a picture of an amazing colorful mosque, when I found out it was in Iran I immediately added it to my bucket list… Years later I finally stood there at 7.30am, witnessing the lights shining through the stained glass windows. But besides the Nasir ol Molk Mosque Shiraz is famous for many more things: it is the city of poets, literature, wine and flowers. Whilst you cannot find any wine in the city, you do can visit the Tomb of Hafez, Iran’s most famous poet. Shiraz is small, but can easily keep you occupied for a couple of days, a city definitely worth the visit if you have the opportunity.
Taft – Perfect for a one or two day escape from the cities. Taft is only a short taxi ride away from Yazd, and is situated at the foot of the mountains. The town is filled with gardens that full with pomegranate trees, beautifully blossoming in the spring. Hang out at Nartitee Hostel for the day (read more info below), relax in their beautiful garden, drink some sweet tea or let yourself be amazed by the amazing food the hostess cooks. Up for a bit more adventure? The owners of the hostel rent out bicycles for you to go and explore the area!
Qeshm Island – Travel all the way down South till you reach the mesmerizing Persian Gulf and take a ferry to Qeshm Island. If you thought you barely saw any tourists on the main land of Iran, go visit Qeshm… you might run in to two, maybe three tourists. Qeshm is a undiscovered treasure, and is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. If you have the time, I would recommend considering to put Qeshm Island in your itinerary.
Tehran – Kojeen: See You in Iran Café-Hostel – 16$ for a dorm in February 2017 (excl. Breakfast). Kojeen not only has a perfect location when it comes to sights in Tehran, it is also close to two metro stations allowing you to easily (and cheaply) transport yourself within the city. But the location is not the reason I am recommending Kojeen… Kojeen, while only recently opened in the beginning of 2017, has made it to the list of my favorite hostels. It is a cozy hostel, with delicious food available, and has amazing friendly staff that are always up for a chat or willing to answer your questions about the city. Moreover, the cafe in the hostel made it easy to meet other travelers and locals, so in my opinion perfect for solo travelers. Read more about Kojeen in my article, or have a look on their website here!
Kashan – Noghli House – 15$ for a dorm in February 2017 (incl. Breakfast). Finding this hostel the first time might be a bit of a struggle, but once you have found it you can only realize how perfectly located this hostel is. Situated in the small alleys of the old Kashan the hostel is only walking distance from the main sights, the bazar and the traditional houses. Staff is helpful and will provide you with a small map of the city. Rooms are nothing special but there is a communal courtyard where travelers hang out, and free breakfast is provided in the morning. More info can be found on the hostel’s website!
Isfahan – Seven Hostel – 15$ for a form in March 2017 (incl. Breakfast). Whilst Isfahan is visited by almost every traveler who visits Iran, the amount of hostels in Isfahan is low. Many opt for a stay at Amir Kabir (and end up leaving after a day, or even half an hour). We decided to stay at Seven Hostel, which is not precisely a hostel, but more dorms located in a hotel. In the end we made a booking for three and ended up getting a private room for the price we would have paid for a dorm. There is no communal area where travelers hang out, so perhaps not the best place as a solo traveler. If you are traveling with company the hostel offers clean beds, a simple free breakfast and a relative good location. Find more information here.
Yazd – Orient Hotel – 15$ for a dorm in March 2017 (incl. Breakfast). Perfect location close to Yazd’s main sights. The hotel offers dorms in the basement, the beds are quite hard, but the hotel has a good atmosphere. Staff is friendly and helpful, there is a beautiful courtyard where you can hang out and the hotel has a restaurant on the rooftop where the free breakfast is served in the morning. Off season we paid 10$ for the dorm. Find more information about the Orient Hotel here.
Shiraz – Golshan Hostel – 15$ for a dorm in March 2017 (incl. Breakfast). A kind and helpful owner who upgraded us from the dorms (located in the second building of the hotel) to a nice room attached to the courtyard. The hostel is located close to restaurants, Shiraz’s many sights and offers day tours. If you are not willing to participate in the day tours the owner and staff of the hostel are still helpful in answering all your questions. A simple but tasty breakfast is served in the morning with complimentary coffee and tea. Find more information here.
Taft – Nartitee Hostel – 15$ for a dorm in March 2017 (incl. Breakfast). Whilst we didn’t manage to sleep in this hostel due to transportation already booked, we spend the day with the kind owners of the hostel. Taft is only a short ride away from Yazd, and spending the day in Taft in Nartitee was absolutely one of the highlights of my trip. We rented bikes from the owner to explore the area, and came back to a delicious meal cooked for us. Perfect for a day trip from Yazd, while I am sure that staying the night will make your visit even better. Find more information about Nartitee here.
Witness the beauty of mosques: The impeccable architecture of the mosques of Iran is one of the reasons why I decided to go to Iran. What I didn’t know is that there would be such a large variety in mosques, small or large, each holding something unique on its own. Don’t think you can visit one mosque and think you have seen them all… Some of the most beautiful mosques I have seen during my visit where the Nasir Ol Molk Mosque in Shiraz, the Shah Mosque in Isfahan and the Agha Bozorg Mosque in Kashan; all truly different in style, and impressive in its own way!
Eat kebab: One thing I know for sure, Iran is no country for vegetarians. While there are some dishes purely based on vegetables (a tasty Kashk e bademjan), almost everything in Iran contains meat, with the most famous dish probably being Kebab. Try the chicken or lamb kebab with some roasted tomatoes, you will not be disappointed. However, Iranian cuisine has a lot more tasty dishes to offer! Some of my favorites included Biryani (not to be confused with Indian Biryani), Dizi, Kasha e bademjan, Ghormeh Sabzi and Fesenjoon!
Visit the desert: I mean if we are honest with each other, Iran for a larger part consists of mountains and desert, so visiting the desert should not be that hard. However, it is undoubtedly still worth the visit. Sleep in the desert for a night close to Kashan, see the sun set just out of Yazd or take a bus to Kerman and book yourself a tour to see the Kaluts… Enough options to witness the beauty of human nature in Iran!
Interact with the locals: “Hello, where are you from?” “Hi, from Holland” “Holland, country of flowers… Welcome to Iran”. I actually lost count of how many times I have had that small conversation. Iranians are known for their hospitality and it will not be uncommon that you will be invited to drink tea or come over for dinner at their house! Stand on the street for 10 seconds looking in your Lonely Planet about where to go and you’ll most likely will have a local standing next to you asking if they can help you. Iranians are absolutely one of the friendliest people I have encountered during my travels, so don’t hesitate to interact with them should you have the opportunity!
See Persepolis: While I would not call it a highlight of my trip, it is kind of one of these things you should try to see when visiting Iran. Closely located to the city of Shiraz you can find the old ruins of Necropolis (mwah) and Persepolis (a whole lot better). Some of the ruins date back to 515 BC, and once formed the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire. With Persepolis only being located 60km out of Shiraz you can easily do it on a day tour. Leave early in the morning so you’ll be there when Persepolis opens and can admire most of the sights by yourself. Don’t forget to hire a guide after you have bought your ticket (€5 for 1,5 hours); without it many said it just felt like “a big pile of rocks”. The guide will take you through the different complexes and will explain the meanings of the carvings present on some of the remains.
Travel down South to the Persian Gulf: A common route to travel is from Tehran to Shiraz, which will indeed take you to some of the most beautiful places in the country. However, all the way down South you can find a little nature treasure called Qeshm Island. Take the ferry and witness magical landscapes on the island, read more about Qeshm here! If you have a little bit more time a day trip to the neighboring Island of Hormuz is also recommended.
Wander through the Bazars: What is a visit to Iran if you have not been to one of the bazars? Every city is home to a bazar, and don’t be fooled by their size, the bazars are absolutely massive. I cannot remember the amount of times I have gotten lost in the bazars, it is nonetheless beautiful to see, and the perfect place to shop for a Persian carpet or other smaller souvenirs!
Transparency: Some links on this page are affiliate links. This means that buying a product via these links, at no additional costs to you, earns me a small commission; these small commissions are what keeps this website going. I, nonetheless, only recommend products I personally use and believe in!
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