IRAN

The first reaction we had when we told people we were going there was :

« Really? You’re crazy! Why there, it’s dangerous! »

What were our surprise to see everything we heard about this country was so wrong and far away from reality!

NAB_3416.JPG

 

Why this country?

As I wrote it in my article about  Namibia, we like to go in an authentic country, where there is no tourists, and no damaged by all the installations for them.

Iran is opening itself more and more since the President Ahmadinejad left, and the imbargo was cancelled.

We wanted to enjoy before the massive arrival of the Europeans.

For this trip, I didn’t want to drive, because I know it’s a national sport to cross the street. To dangerous.
And I wanted REAL holidays.

 

 

NAB_3432.JPG(Golestan Palace, Tehran)

As my Danish boyfriend is living in London and I’m in Geneva, we choose to meet each other directly there.
Lucky him, his flight was direct, 5 hours on British Airways : 400£

I took the stop option in Athens (or Ukraine, or Turkey) with Aegan : 400 euros. 

At the Tehran airport, I crossed three girls from Lyon in France, and I have no clue how they made it but they found airplane ticket at 98 euros with a stop in Istanbul!

NAB_3540.JPG(Vakil Mosque, Shiraz)

 

For the visa:

There are two options.
Or you loose your time going weeks before at the embassy, or you do it directly in one hour at the airport when you arrive.

We did the second option.

75 euros, you need to present an insurance paper and the hotel adress for your first night.

When to leave :

Not in summer, temperature are super high and reach the 53 degrees.
And as you can guess, it’s not a country where you can wear a skirt!
We went in october, and I think it was the perfect period. 
More or less 20 degrees in Tehran, 35 in Shiraz in the south, and 13 in Alamut in the north.

1h30 time difference in summer and 2h30 in winter.

For the hotel : 

As the credit card are not working there, it’s complicated to make a reservation from Europe.
You need to send emails, to know prices and availability.
We confirmed one or two days before arriving, and everything went well.

Better to pay in Rials than Euros, prices are advantageous .

During our trip, we met a lot of people from all around the world, with who we exchanged our hotel, hostel and couchsurfing addresses. So after a while we were calling the morning for the night!

 

NAB_4830.JPG
(Agha Bozorg Mosque, Kashan)

 

Before the travel :

  • Normal vaccines, as for all the others trips. No need for Malaria or typhoid fever. The water is drinkable most of the time, and if not they will tell you. In two weeks we haven’t been sick even if we ate a lot of fruits and vegetables.
  • Buy a guide as  Lonely Planet which is the most recent one (absolutely not the petit futé : everybody we’ve met hated it)
  • Bring long sleeve and trousers, for men and women 
  • A flimsy scarf for girls (which will fall on your shoulders all the time, but as an Iranian woman told me : « better »!)
  • A backpack for the visit (camera, guides, water,..)
  • Take enough cash for your trip as the credit card doesn’t work there! !
  • Download the Iran map on the app Map.me, available even out of network.
  • If you have Android (thanks Americans for bloking this app on the app store), you MUST download Snapp. It’s an app similar to Uber, and it makes a UGE difference (for go to the restaurant, our host called us one, we paid 35.000 rials. On the way back we had to take a taxi as we have Iphone and it’s blocked on it : 350.000 rials. The taxi made us pay 10 times the price!)
  • Buy a farsi-english dictionnary, it will be so useful! We bought the one made by lonely planet and I think it was perfect.

 

NAB_3510.JPG(In the old city streets in Yazd)

 

For budget : 

I know it might be stressful to travel with a uge amount of money, or to be afraid of making a mistake about how much to bring.
For two weeks, going for some night at the hotel, we brought 1000 euros each (and we spent less than 800).
What costs us the most was the first nights at the hotel (60 euros per night, and then we have decided to go in hostels for 10 euros the night or enjoy free nights doing couchsurfing) and the taxi transportation from a city to another  (80- 100 euros for  6/8h).

A meal at the restaurant for two, is around 1.000.000 rials (24 euros) and 2 sandwiches around 250.000 rials (6 euros).

The bus is the most convenient and cheapest way to travel from one city to another  (VIP bus 160.000 rials for two persons between Kashan and Tehran for instance).

 

NAB_3623.JPG(Nasir-ol-Molk mosque, Shiraz)

Iranians :

Everybody has Instagram, and that’s great to exchange addresses, contact, pictures (they love it!).
In my personal opinion, I found there is a big gap between the revolution generation and ours (less than 30 years old). Young people love to celebrate, party in the desert with some DJ’s, drink homemade alcool, smoke opium or weed coming from villages around the city. They absolutely don’t care to see women without the veil, and like to find a way to do forbidden stuffs.
But most of all, they LOVE to speak in english with tourists. They are so curious, it happens really often to stop in the street and speak for 5 minutes with one of them.
« Where do you come from? »

What to do : 

Iran is almost three time bigger than France. Two weeks are enough to do the essentials, and I think it’s the best for the first time in the country.
Then you’ll have to come back to visit north, south, east and west!

The first week, we followed the program we organised before coming, but the second week we have decided once there to choose day per day. 

Journey  :
Tehran – Shiraz – Perspepolis/ Necropolis / Parsagades / Arbakuh – Yazd – Meybod / Chak Chak / Kharanaq – Mesr – Ispahan – Kashan – Qazvin -Alamut – Tehran

 

NAB_5056.JPG(View on the Alamut valley)

 

TEHRAN 

2 days, 2 nights.
Saturday– Sunday – Departure monday morning.

Arrival in the night of friday – saturday, we go out around 6 am after meeting each other after the customs.
For the visa, you have to do it just before them.
You need more or less one hour, but they gave me back my visa after 2 hours and my danish boy after 30 minutes (lucky him, again).
First thing to do once you get out:  buy a SIM card. We started our trip without it, but at the end it was so convenient we bought one a few days before the end of our travel.

Be careful about the subway! We didn’t know, but there is a few only going back to city center. Around 6h20 am, then at 8  o’clock, and so on.
But it’s really cheap compare to the taxi. .

It’s more or less 1h30 to go to city center, we were sleeping near Sa’adi metro station.

I was warned: cross the street is super dangerous! 
Cars are going all over the place, bicycles and motobikes into oncoming traffic, cops say nothing and people walking have no priority. So if you cross the street : don’t wait for them to stop or slow down. You have to slalom between the cars.

NAB_3344.JPG(Tehran streets)

 

Hotel Markazi
More or less 60 euros per night
Tehran Province, Tehran, 419 Lalezar St، Iran
Sa’adi metro station then 5 minutes walking

For the two first nights, I booked by email a place well placed in the center.
Tehran is UGE, and honestly, it would take at least one week to visit only the essential.
We made a list of what we wanted to see the most, and my favorites are : e

  • Golestan palace, last palace of the Shah, and it’s breathless. Everything was built to impress the visitors. And it still work.
  • The jewel museum of the crown, never seen diamonds and emeralds of this size! Like a tennis ball!
  • National museum of Iran
  • The Bazar 

This is what we succeed to see in two days, but we also wanted to visit :

  • Niavaran Palace
  • Tabiat Bridge (when there is no pollution in the air, so you can see something)
  • Laleh park
  • Milad tower (same as the bridge)

Where to eat :

Azari Traditionnal restaurant
Persian restaurant, approximately 350.000 rials per person)
We took a taxi to get there but we went back home with the metro
1 Valiasr Ave Tehran, Iran
+9821 5537 3665

Agor Café
Coffee shop – restaurant 
Amazing food and waiters who love to speak about Game of Throne with you!
Tehran Province, Tehran, Ferdowsi Square, Iran
+98 21 6670 0414

For the third day, we wanted to get directly down in the South, by taking a domestic flight from Tehran.
We bought the ticket from the main one, 45 euros each, two days before.
It’s possible to buy it from internet, but be careful about the price because from Europe it can reach 300 euros, and when you arrive in the country, it’s only 45 euros.

 

NAB_3380.JPG(Golestan Palace, Tehran)

 

SHIRAZ

1 day, 1 night.
Arrival monday noon– departure tuesday morning.

Departure around 11 o’clock, from Mehrabad airport, arrival in Shiraz around 12.30 o’clock. Airplanes are clean, safe, fast.

We take a taxi as soon as we land, direction the house of our wonderful host Mehdi.
Around 60 euros per night, we had a double bed, clean and so cute.
It was our first night in an Iranian house, and we loved it!
Mehdi is thoughtful, he organized us the transfer in taxi for the day after without asking anything, and made us an entire list of all the thing we should see.
He was an engineer, but decided to open his house to tourist as he loves to meet them!
If you are interested, please let me a comment and I’ll give you his phone number.
Anyway, here is instagram account :  Mehdi Hadaegh

As we were staying only a day, we were in a hurry to visit the most possible.
Here what we saw :

  • Karim Khan Castle
  • Vakil Mosque
  • Holy Shrine du Shah Cherag, for the women you have to wear a chaddor (they will give one at the entrance)
  • Atig Jameh Mosque
  • Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque, to do early the morning for the amazing reflection of the colors!

What we wanted to see :

  • Hafez tomb
  • The Bazar of Vakil
  • Qavam house

For lunch : 
Kateh Mas 
Persian traditional restaurant
Exceptional by its place
Fars Province, Shiraz, District 8, چهارراه پیروزی، طبقه زیرین مهمانپذیر سعید, Lotf Ali Khan Zand St
+98 71 3223 1919

For dinner : 
Haftan Khan Complex
5 different restaurants inside a same building 
Traditional – fast food – worldwide food – barbecue –  …
Fars Province, Shiraz, Ayatollah Rabbani Blvd, No. 17، Iran
haftkhanco.com

(ah and very important point to notice : in Iran, we eat on the floor, barefoot, on amazing persian carpet!)

NAB_3645
(Nasir-ol-molk Mosque, Shiraz)

 

PERSEPOLIS – NECROPOLIS – PARSAGADES – ABARKUH 

1 day.
Departure tuesday morning – arrival tuesday night.

We had to leave for Yazd the day after, and on the way we wanted to stop in some different places.
The best solution to do so for us was to « rent » a taxi for the day, and Mehdi arranged us the travel with one of his friend.
The journey cost us 80 euros, but worth it.

Persepolis is the most beautiful stop in my opinion.
The entrance was 200.000 rials, and we took a guide for 500.000 rials (you should take one as there is so many thing to learn and understand).
The site is speechless, and the history behind every monument absolutely incredible.
When you think about Cyrus the Great, he was the first to think about the Human’s Right, and it was in 600 before J.C!

To visit everything needs at least 2 hours.

Afterwards, direction Naqsh-e Rostam, or Necropolis, where there are several tombs.
Only 10 min driving from Persepolis, this site is stunning.
With my Danish we have decided to save money and watch them from the road (which is enough I think).

Then we went to Parsagades, which were our biggest delusion of this trip. Because it’s far away from everything we read on internet.
Maybe once it was impressive and wonderful, but nowadays there is nothing left. 

Finally we took the road to Yazd, with a short stop in Abarkuh to see one of the oldest tree in the world.
This one might have more than 4.000 years old!

 

NAB_3714.JPG(Persepolis site, a column with a lion’s head, destroyed by the Alexander the Great’s attack)

YAZD

2 days, trois nights.
Arrival tuesday night – wednesday– thursday – departure friday morning.

The journey from Shiraz is quite long in taxi, we left at 8.30 am and with all the stops we finally arrived around 8 pm in Yazd.
However if you choose to stay longer, you still can make an excursion with some agency and then take a bus to Yazd.

We slept in two different places, and one of my favorite one during our holidays was :

Kalout Hostel
Hostel (25 euros per night for a couple)
Very clean, people amazing, funny, thoughtful, with an incredible and tasty food!
Yazd, jame mosque street orient hotel alley, Iran
instagram : Kalout Hostel
+98 912 219 4540

In the really city center, we have walked around the old city, which belongs to UNESCO.
The houses are made in pise, kind of traditional iranian lime.
The silence is beautiful, crossing motobikes or bicycles sometimes.

What we did : 

  • Dowlat Abad Garden, careful : the entrance is hidden in a small street on your left!
  • The Water museum, for the stunning house!
  • The complex Amir Chaghmagh
  • Alexander the Great’s prisonDON’T GO : you will pay just to have access to some shops inside.
  • Jameh Mosque, accessible for women of wednesday afternoon
  • The Great Mosque of Yazd
  • Lariha House, a traditional house
  • The Zoroastrians Tower of Silence, to see at the sunset at 5 pm
  • The fire temple, don’t do it it you want to save time and money.

The second and third night we slept here :

Narenjestan Traditional House
Traditional house with a small patio (60 euros per night for a couple)
Very calm, clean and all new. You can have access to the rooftop!
Yazd Province, Yazd, Shahid Sadoughi Alley, Imam Street, Iran
+98 35 3627 3231
booking@narenjestanhouse.com

 

NAB_3870.JPG
(On the rooftop, in Yazd)

 

MEYBOD – CHAK CHAK – KHARANAQ 

1 day.
Departure friday morning 8.30 am  – arrival friday night around 5 pm

The day after, we had to leave for Mesr, in the desert.
Our last organized stop.

Our host in Mesr organized us our journey with a taxi from Yazd, to allow us making some stops on the way before arriving there.

It costs us 100 euros, but worth it because he did almost 9 hours of car.

So appointment fixed at 8.30 the friday morning, first stop : Meybod. 

The stop was short but we have visited the Caravansérail and the kind of « fridge » in front of it. This uge building made in lime, has a gigantic hole to keep the ice frozen.

Then we went to Chak Chak, and we climb up the 3252421 steps to arrive in the temple (and all of it under the terrific hot of the desert).
It looks good, but the village not at all. They restaured it and put some very ugly barrier.
However, the view from the top… is just amazing. 

Our last step before taking the road till Mesr was Kharanaq (translation : birth place of the sun).
Absolutely beautiful! One of our favorite visit.
It’s a village completely deserted, built in the 17 century and made in lime. What I loved was to enter and discover the inside of the houses.

 

NAB_4159.JPG(Deserted village of Kharanaq, 85 Km away from Yazd)

 

MESR

2 days, 2 nights.
Arrival on friday night – saturday – departure sunday around 11 am.

I found this place thanks to ITWIA, an ecolodge in the middle of the desert :

Pazirik Ecolodge
Traditional house
Very clean, friendly, full of stories and laugh
https://www.pazirikmesr.com/
pazirik.mesr@gmail.com

French, photographer, and so funny with all her stories to tell, Victoire is married with Mostafa and built togheter this real jewel in the middle of nowhere.
The stop we had here gave us energy and surrounded by the silence and mistery of the desert we were so happy to have a break after visiting dozen of mosque.

What we did :

  • Tour in 4×4 in the desert till the salt river
  • Sunset in the dunes with a great black tea
  • Romantic camping in the desert, with amazing scorpions and beautiful stories Mostafa and Mostafa told us
  • Breakfast watching the sunrise only the two of us

This experience was great and we were so happy to stop by Mesr. You definitely should go.

 

NAB_4321.JPG(Sunset in the dunes, Mesr)

 

ISPAHAN

2 days, 3 nights.

Departure sunday morning – monday – tuesday – departure wednesday morning.

To go back to the city center, a taxi brought us to the closest bus stop (500.000 rials for one hour driving) and then we took a VIP bus till Ispahan (around 260.000 rials for two persons, 3 hours )

All along our trip, we have met so many travellers from all around the world with who we exchanged addresses, tips, instagram account, …
Here we did couchsurfing (even if it’s forbidden in Iran). For sure it was not romantic at all to sleep on the floor in the basement, but at least we save so much money and we were so happy to get immersed in the iranian life. 

What we did : 

  • Ali Qapu, a beautiful palace decorated from the floor to the roof
  • The Chah Mosque, the biggest we visited
  • The Cheikh Lotfallah Mosque
  • The Ispahan Bazar, the most beautiful one for me
  • Chehel Sotoun
  • Hacht Behecht, we saw only the garden
  • Go watch the garden of the Abbasi Hotel
  • The bridhe Si-o-se-pol
  • Vank Church in the Armenian district
  • The bridge Khaju
  • Jameh Mosque

For lunch we ate sandwiches but for dinner we went there :
Firouz Café
Traditional restaurant, half Armenian half Persian
Jolfa St. | Near the Vank ChurchEsfahan 81464, Iran
+98 31 3626 8009
(taste the Dolmeh, strange but really good!)

 

NAB_4462.JPG(View on the Cheikh Lotfallah mosque, Ispahan)

 

KASHAN

1 jday, 1 night.
Arrival wednesday morning  – departure thursday at 11 am. 

Departure for Kashan on wednesday morning, we took the bus for three hours till the city center (160.000 rials for two).
We booked a double room in a hostel in the real center. Not amazing but clean despite the construction above us.

Shirin Hotel
Hostel, around 10 euros for two per night
, کوچه مسجد آقا بزرگ، Isfahan Province, Kashan
shirinhotel.com

This city is really small, and needs only one day to visit.
It’s calm, quiet and no polluted. Not a lot of people so this stop was restful.

What we did (and I advice to do it in this order) :

  •  Agha Bozorg Mosque
  • Sultan Amir Ahmad Bath house, and go on the rooftop!
  • Boroudjerdi house, traditional house
  • Tabatabaei house, exceptional!
  • Abbasi house, the best for the last!
  • Fin Garden, beautiful but I don’t know if it worth it to come till here.

 

NAB_4914.JPG(Rooftop of Sultan Amir Ahmad bath house, Kashan)

 

QAZVIN

2 days, 2 nights.
Arrival thursay around 18 pm – friday – departure saturday around 11 am.

This stop in the mountains was so great, and we were so happy to breathe fresh air. 
To reach Qazvin from Kashan, we had to take a bus till Tehran, change terminal from south to east, and take another one till our final destination.

It’s easier from Ispahan because there is a night bus which goes directly to Qazvin. But as we absolutely wanted to visit Kashan, the journey was more complicated.

Bus Kashan – Tehran, 3h, around 160.000 rials for two.
Arrival in Tehran in the south terminal, we took a taxi 200.000 rials to bring us to the Azadi Terminal in the East. As we didn’t have Snapp, so I think you can have it for less expensive.
Bus Tehran – Qazvin (take it before 4 pm), 3h (1h of traffic jam), 160.000 rials for two.

I wont write about the place we slept in as it was disgusting and super dirty. And as we stayed here just for sleep, we wanted to get some rest before taking the road the day after.

We took a guide that bring us to the Alamut valley, and visited castle. The appointment was at 8.30 at our hostel, Amir came to pick us there.

The beauty of the landscape, the redish trees, le silence and the no one land were just breathless.

NAB_5136.JPG(Ovan lake, Alamut Valley)

 

What we did :

  • Lambsar Castle, there are only ruins left but the point of view is incredible
  • Ovan lake, really small (looks like more as a pond for us)
  • The Alamut Assassins’ Castle, from which Assassin’s Creed video game took inspiration from.

The visits of the castle are not so crazy, because remains only ruins and the last one we saw was closed for most of the part.
But climb up to the top worth it because of the view on the entire valley.
Just close your eyes, then open them of the infinite mountains. It will be moving.
We were enough lucky to see the sunset, and in october the red colors was incredibile with the light of the dying sun.

My danish found us a new ecolodge, lost in the middle of the mountains :

Seven Guesthouse
Tradiditonal house
Two bedrooms, with a uge living room which can be also used as a dormitory.
Alamut Road | Hosseini Alley, Kulan Neighborhood, Zarabad VillageQazvin, Iran
www.sevenguesthouses.com

 

NAB_5211.JPG(View on the Alamut mountains at the sunset, from the Assassins Castle)

Our trip ends in Tehran, with a taxi from Alamut  (800.000 rials for two) till Qazvin then bus (160.000 rials for two)till the Azadi Terminal.
We went for dinner to my friend’s aunt for our last night, and afterwards snapp till the airport thanks to our host (from the center 350.000 rials for 1h driving).

SUMMARY

It was a trying and tiring trip, with our 10 cities in 15 days.
A lot of dust, pollution and walk (around 12-15 km per day, except when we were travelling from one city to another).

But we were so immersed in the iranian culture, by living with them we had the feeling we travelled for one month instead of two weeks.
To return back to reality was tough.

What I liked more : 

  • PEOPLE. Iranians. Everybody with  no exception. It’s a proud people, who love so much its country, and they are absolutely exceptional. To invite us to watch and understand how they make the bread, and to leave the shop with on of it for free. To advice us about what to eat without asking anything. To help us to find our way in the street as soon as we look on a map. To explain us the story of a building, even if they are not a guide.
  • Ispahan city is in my opinion the most beautiful one, and I’m so happy we did it at the end of the trip instead at the beginning. Shiraz, Kashan and this one are so romantic and poetic with their hidden garden!
  • Our expedition in the desert, cut from everything, with my love watching the brilliant milky way in the dunes.
  • The dozen travellers we have met along our trip, the discussions, laughter and emotion about our proper experience.
  • Breakfast with cucumber, sweet cheese and black tea.
  • The culture and history of the country, that won my admiration
  • The food, which is so different from everything I have ever taste before ( Dizi and Abgoosht were my favorite dish!)
  • Farsi, that we try to learn a bit to discuss with people (and they made so much laugh on us)

 

NAB_3889.JPG

NAB_3645.JPG(Nasir-Ol-Molk Mosque, Shiraz)

NAB_3750.JPG(Persepolis)

NAB_4055.JPGa man creating a carpet, Meybod Caravansérail )

NAB_4269.JPG
(Salt river in Mesr)

NAB_3403.JPG(Mirror patchwork inside the Golestan Palace in Tehran)
NAB_3828.JPG
(Yazd old city with the houses built in iranian traditional lime)

NAB_3983.JPG(Dowat Abad Garden, Ispahan)

NAB_4180.JPG(An oasis in the middle of the desert, Mesr)

NAB_4037.JPG
(Sunset behind the Zoroastrians Tower of silence in Yazd)

NAB_4127.JPG(View from Chak Chak)

NAB_4435.JPG(Inside of Ali Qapu Palace, Ispahan)

NAB_4710.JPG(Great Mosque, Ispahan)

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