Trip to Iran (April 2019)
I just can’t believe it’s been a year I wrote an article, how life pulls you into daily routine?. Yes coming to the trip… Iran the name scares people to visit the place. I was also scared when Ravi said this summer holidays we will plan to Iran. I was more worried when all my friends said don’t you have any other place in the world to visit. Still with all the courage decided to go to Iran.
Had to do a lot of shopping for myself, since in Iran the women are suppose to wear a Hijab the head scarf always in public and they are suppose to cover up their whole body. So I got some nice scarf’s and few long cardigans.
Iran was a forward country before 1979 Islamic revolution, after the revolution the fundamentalist laid strict rules of Shia Muslim religious rules. Though initially the majority of the people were Persians slowly now the country’s majority are Islam’s. Iran was initially called Persia and later after the Arab Muslims conquest was named as Iran.
We reached Tehran and the moment I am out of the flight I had to covered my head with Hijab. It’s not a joke there, it’s a strict rule to wear Hijab and cover your full body.
We checked into a hotel and first thing we wanted to do is to change some local currencies. Due to US sanction on Iran, no credit cards are accepted there. And even to book hotel through online we can’t do it unless and until you have a local credit card, which no tourist will have. That makes the travel a little different from travelling to other places.
That evening we had gone to Azadi tower. This tower is in Azadi square and is built by the last Shah of Iran.
Next day we decide to got to a skiing resort. Hugging the peak of Mt Tochal, and reached via the Tochal Telecabin, this is the easiest ski resort to access from Tehran. The location at 3500m is spectacular, but the gentle slopes, accessed via a couple of chair and drag lifts, are not so long and mostly for beginners and intermediate skiers and snowboarders.
If there’s sufficient snow it’s possible to ski down from the top Station 7 of the telecabin to Station 5. Ski passes are sold at Station 1, where it’s best to rent any equipment you need, too (there is very limited equipment available at the resort).
If you book to stay at the comfortable Tochal Hotel, your return telecabin journey and two days of skiing at the summit are covered. There’s also a self-serve café at the hotel as well as another café at Station 5.
I came across a family there with a little girl. I was trying to strike a conversation with them and got to know how the young generation girls are getting rebellious against the rule of hijab. I could very well empathy it because it was just two days I was there and wearing a hijab 24/7 is not an easy job that too during summers. So some families move out of Iran due to these strict rules. This family also moved to Germany and were visiting once a year to Iran.
That evening we went to the Tehran market. It was such a colorful place. One should not miss buying saffron there. Worlds best saffron you get there and for a cheaper price. Also the street food is very popular in Tehran. You get tasty fried chickens and mushrooms with cheese.
Third day we had been to Golestan palace. One of the oldest historic monuments in the city of Tehran, and of world heritage status,the Golestan Palace belongs to a group of royal buildings that were once enclosed within the mud-thatched walls of Tehran’s arg (“citadel”). It consists of gardens, royal buildings, and collections of Iranian crafts and European presents from the 18th and 19th centuries.
That night we took a train to Isphahan. It was a over night journey to Isphahan. We reached Isphahan early in the morning, and as I said we cannot book hotels online since no credit card accepted, we had to take a taxi and roam around to find a hotel yourself. We had been to almost 7 to 8 hotels and mostly all were booked and finally got one.
I noticed that there were no individual travellers there, and mostly people come in package tours. I noticed we were the only family like independent travelers walking around in that area.
Kaju bridge and Si O se bridge both are very nice to visit. Both are similar structures, but one should make sure to go in the evenings to get the best view with the lightings.
The Shah Mosque is a mosque located in Isfahan, Iran. It is located on the south side of Naghsh-e Jahan Square.
It was built during the Safavid dynasty under the order of Shah Abbas I of Persia. View of the Mosque from Naqsh-e Jahan Square. It is regarded as one of the masterpieces of Persian architecture in the Islamic era. The Royal Mosque is registered, along with the Naghsh-e Jahan Square, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its construction began in 1611,and its splendour is mainly due to the beauty of its seven-colour mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions.
The mosque is depicted on the reverse of the Iranian 20,000 rials banknote.
Naqsh-e Jahan Square ,also known as the Imam Square , and Shah Square prior to 1979, is a square situated at the center of Isfahan, Iran. Constructed between 1598 and 1629, it is now an important historical site, and one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. It is 160 meters (520 ft) wide by 560 meters (1,840 ft) long(an area of 89,600 square meters (964,000 sq ft)). It is also referred to as Shah Square or Imam Square. The square is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era.
This particular square I wont forget, because Ravi lost his phone in the taxi that we took to reach this place. Once we got down the taxi we realized that the phone was missed in the taxi, when the taxi just left in front of our eyes. We were trying to get some local people help and trying to call the number but in vein. Then they suggested there is a tourism police in this complex square and told us to complain there. So we found the tourism police booth in the square and complained to the Cops there.
One thing that struck us was Now a days, with one single phone we can travel around the world. All the information is stored in the phone like flight ticket, hotel booking, addresses, contacts and what not… It taught us that keep a back up of all these information else where too.
I dint even know about these tourism police before, but it was a learning to me. Everything is a learning when you travel.
Evening walk in Julfa will be good idea. It is one of the oldest and largest Armenian quarters in the world. Once we step into this area, it gives an all together different feeling of Iran. This picture will show that, how different it looks from middle east countries.
New Julfa was established in 1606 as an Armenian quarter by the edict of Shah Abbas I from the Safavid dynasty.
Over 150,000 Armenians were forcibly moved there from Old Julfa in Nakhichavan.
Iranian sources state that the Armenians came to Iran fleeing the Ottoman Empire’s persecution.
Nevertheless, historical records indicate that the residents of Julfa were treated well by Shah Abbas in
the hopes that their resettlement in Isfahan would be beneficial to Iran due to their knowledge of the silk trade.
Tip: Abbasi hotel is one of the best place to stay in Isphahan. The Abbasi Hotel is a hotel located in Isfahan, Iran. The whole complex was built at the time of king Sultan Husayn of Safavid about 400 years ago. Formerly known as the Mothers Inn caravanserai, it was built as a caravansary to provide lodging for travelers.
Tip: Sharzad is the best place to have biriyani in Ishphahan. Make sure to book an appointment for the reason its long wait, if there is no appointment.
Next day morning we decided to take a taxi to Yazd. We tried for self drive, it is allowed to self drive a car with Indian license. We wanted to do self-drive but since we had to drop the car back in the pickup location it dint work for us. So decide to go with a taxi. The taxi driver was a nice person. He explained about the Iran history and explaining the towns which we crossed on the way to Yazd.
On the way to Yazd we stopped for an hour in this ancient village. The whole village was made with mud buildings, it was a different experience to see this place. This was the first time in my life to see a place like this and I was thrilled.
We found it very difficult to get a hotel that night. My husband and Son went on hotel hunting, and I took time to go around Yazd.
Because of generations of adaptations to its desert surroundings, Yazd has a unique Persian architecture. It is also very well known for its Zoroastrian fire temples.
These are few coffee places in Yazd. The coffee places are too good in Yazd, one has to try their saffron tea, which rejuvenates your system. I did try this saffron tea, every where I went. And the food is very cheap there, actually everything was cheap there due to low currency value.
View of Yazd town from a coffee shop terrace. One has to pay few riyals to get to the terrace for a click, but it was worth it.
The Jāmeh Mosque of Yazd is the grand, congregational mosque of Yazd city, within the Yazd Province of Iran. The mosque is depicted on the obverse of the Iranian 200 rials banknote.
The 12th-century mosque is still in use today. It was first built under Ala’oddoleh Garshasb of the Al-e Bouyeh dynasty.
The mosque was largely rebuilt between 1324 and 1365, and is one of the outstanding 14th century buildings of Iran. That day with great difficulty got a hotel to stay that night. Next day morning decided to go to Shiraz which was 8 hrs of drive, and booked a taxi for the same. From Shiraz we wanted to fly back to Tehran, but since we dint have a local credit or debit card and the reason the international credit cards wont work, we had to go to an travel agent to book the flight ticket.
On the way to Shiraz, we stopped in Persepolis. Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 BC). It is situated in the plains of Marvdasht, encircled by southern Zagros mountains. UNESCO declared the ruins of Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.
The function of Persepolis remains quite unclear. It was not one of the largest cities in Persia, let alone the rest of the empire, but appears to have been a grand ceremonial complex that was only occupied seasonally; it is still not entirely clear where the king’s private quarters actually were.
Until recent challenges, most archaeologists held that it was especially used for celebrating Nowruz. The complex was taken by the army of Alexander the Great in 330 BC, and soon after the wooden parts were completely destroyed by fire, very likely deliberately.
Persepolis by Sunset.
On the way to Shiraz visited Pasargadae. The most important monument in Pasargadae is the tomb of Cyrus the Great.
That night we reached Shiraz and we were too tired to do anything, still checked into a basic hotel which was the only option available for that night. Late in the night went out for a dinner and picked up some road side munchies. We had to head back to hotel earlier since next day early morning we had to hit the Pink Mosque, to get the best view of it. We reached by around 12.30 am in the morning and crashed for the day.
Nasir al-Mulk Mosque
Next day early morning we had to rush to this mosque, for the reason after 9 am, we can’t see the colorful shadows. It is an amazing view by 7 am, the whole interior of the mosque is filled with colors. The mosque includes extensive coloured glass in its facade. It is named in popular culture as the ‘Pink Mosque’ due to the usage of a considerable number of pink-colored tiles for its interior design.
The mosque was built during the Qajar dynasty, and is still in use under protection by the Endowment Foundation of Nasir al Molk. Construction began in 1876 b and was completed in 1888.
The Shiraz market, one of the happening markets. The place is so lively that once you get inside, you will loose track of time. Shiraz is the best place to buy carpets. Iranian carpets are world popular ones. So we wanted to buy a carpet there, after spending 4 hrs looking around, decided on one and bought it. We had a constraint of size and weight since we are always on backpack trip and we were left with another 10 days of our trip to go.
This is the shop that we bought the carpet, myself with my family and the carpet bag.
The spices are also very popular buy in Iran. You get good spices mainly saffron and its quiet cheap there. Iranian saffron are world popular ones.
From there we flew back to Tehran and took a taxi from Tehran airport to Astara which is the border town between Iran and Azerbaijan. It was almost 7 hrs drive from Tehran to Astara.
This is a small town where we stopped for lunch before reaching Astara. Everywhere hot water is available, you carry a flask and keep refilling it. It really helped me.
This is the immigration counter where you exit from Iran into Azerbaijan by land. They are very particular that the women are not getting their hijab out until they leave this land of Iran. In all the walls the picture and writing is there is is mandatory for women to wear Hijab.
I saw once they get the stamping and get out of this immigration counter how the women are so relaxed to take off their Hijabs. I could really understand their feeling, for the reason for 10 days keeping the hijab on 24/7 that too in the hot weather was really horrible.
Azerbaijan is the neighboring country to Iran. The currency value in Iran is 1 dollar equals 42000 riyals where as 1 manat, the Azerbaijan currency is 0.75 USD. So people come to Iran and shop and go to Azerbaijan, that’s makes the border crossing too crowded.
Crossing the Iran border and getting into Azerbaijan was an experience by itself, will come back with that experience in the next article…
amudharavindran May 3, 2021 at 1:16 pm
Sakthi S April 30, 2021 at 10:01 am
Amazing write up Amudha. You, Ravi and Varun are true adventure folks and proud of you all for this thrilling trip to Iran. Reminds me of the movie Argo. Have fun and keep travelling the world. Good luck.
amudharavindran May 3, 2021 at 1:14 pm
Thankyou Sakthi. That really motivates.
Suganthi May 9, 2021 at 4:54 pm
Usually people fear visiting places like Iran and you’ve given an insight of how we could plan a trip to a place like this. Thank you 🙂 well written.
amudharavindran April 1, 2022 at 2:11 pm
Yes you are right, people fear hearing the name Iran. But I would say it was such a beautiful place.
Nice to ready, it was like me travelling along with you to Iran. Enjoyed the trip.