I would be more than happy to write long articles about every single city, village and street that I have ever visited in Iran, but in reality it would not serve a purpouse. Every person visiting Iran has had a different experience (though almost all of them are good!) and the particular destinations within the country have differed according to their specific interests. During those two months in Iran, I had to accept again and again that I will never be able to visit every single place I find fascinating in Iran. The country has simply too much to offer, the culture, the history, the arts, architecture and literature, the nature, adrenaline, festives… There’s a whole bunch of „mandatory“ destinations that all the travel guides seem to suggest. However, I would turn another page and tell you about the most picturesque and magnificent places in where your eyes and sould would rest at once.
Badab-e Soort is one of the best kept secrets of Iran. Well, technically it’s not even a secret, but rather a destination so far that even most of the locals have not visited it, not to mention the tourists. However I decided to pull myself together, hired a driver and spent the whole day in the car in order to see this beauty with my own two eyes. Badab-e Soort is basically a complex of mineral water terraces. Mineral waters with different compositions stream onto the little terraces and… they simply exist there. But it’s magnificent. Indescribably magnificent. The whole sight is somewhat similar to Pamukkale in Turkey, but way less touristic and in my opinion more beautiful as well. The journey took us 6 hours to the sight, 7 hours back and the last few kilometres weren’t accesible with a regular car so we had to hire a pick up truck in order to actually get up there. The ride in the back of the truck was bumpy, but scenic. The whole journey cost us around 35€ per car, which is a big amount of money in Iran. It’s also possible to get there via public transportation, but in that case there’s no way to do it within one day, but rather in 2-3 days. It is all worth it though, for sure.
Pools of mineral waters
Nasir Ol-Mulk is a legendary mosque in the South of Iran, in the city of Shiraz. The Pink Mosque, as called in translation, is truly worth all the praise it receives. The play of colours during sunrise is worth waking up early. However, in my opinion the noontime sun is even more magical. At that time, around 11-12 in summertime, the rays of sunshine will be even longer, filling the whole mosque with colours. You can easily spend a few hours in the mosque, as it takes time to stand in lane for photos. If you have any spare time, but don’t want to leave the mosque, you can also sit down with the local mullah (the islamic teacher) and get the answers for all of your questions.
Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Kharanaq may not be the place you would like to sit down and drink tea at… Mainly because the whole village might collapse. However, it is an unbelievably odd place. The mud brick houses, very usual in the central area of Iran, start to melt when it rains and thus it is especially important to rebuild the walls after every rain. Kharanaq is a village that has literally melted, making it not safe for living anymore. Once a home for several hundred people, Kharanaq has now turned into a ghost town with zero inhabitants. The houses, or the remainings, still exist though. You can easily enter the village and discover the houses even from the inside, since most of them do not have doors nor windows. I even climbed a few roofs in order to admire the view. You simply have to make sure you will not challenge your safety in any way.
Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad
Mashhad, located by the borders of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, is also known as the religious capital of Iran. It is the home for the largest mosque in the world, which is undeniably one of the most important sites in the islamic world. I went there during Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for the muslims. Thus, the mosque was full of pilgrims. Imam Reza shrine hosts the world’s biggest iftar, the first meal of breaking the fast during Ramadan, inviting approximately 5000 people for dinner every single night for the whole month. It is an honour to be invited and it mainly hosts pilgrims.
When I visited the shrine, I was most probably the only tourist and the only non-muslim in there. I was welcomed exceptionally well. They offered me a private guided tour around the complex for two hours, gave me bag full of gifts, including a piece of their traditional islamic clothing chador and most surprisingly, I was offered some water and snacks in order to not lose too much energy. The muslims were not eating nor drinking anything until sunset. The words of my sweet guide „You don’t have to fast just because we fast.“ are still ringing in my ears as one of the biggest act of solidarity by the Persians. As the finale of my tour around the complex, I gave an interview and some greetings in front of the cameras in my brand new chador. The magnificence and luxuriousness of this shrine were taking my breath away.
Qeshm island and Persian Gulf
Even though I did not visit Qeshm and the Southern coast during the heats of this summer, I have very fond memories of my time in this region from last winter. The gorgeous Qeshm island and Persian Gulf in general are just so peaceful, slow and relaxing. Qeshm reminded me of the island that I’m from in the Baltic Sea and I long to go back there one day. The Southern coast of Iran is ethnically one of the most diverse areas of Iran, as in every few hundred kilometres, new tribes and nations have build their homes. Many of the tribes are semi-nomadic to this day, living in campsites with their camels and horses. It’s a fantastic area.
Clearly, the massive country of Iran offers an infinite amount of adventures and discoveries. I have travelled more than 12 000 kilometres within Iran and I still feel as I have seen nothing yet. However, I hope that all the above counts for something. Those in the list are simply a few of my favourite sights in this exotically diverse country.