Day nine-ten in Iran: Lut Desert
Time to kick off your shoes and enjoy nature’s finest with a tour in the desert. This was one of my favorite places to visit in Iran. It is not just any desert, oh no it’s a UNESCO classified desert. This desert has been classified based upon a few criteria: The world’s hottest land surface temperatures were recorded here, a whopping 70,7 °C if you please. Glad I bought sunscreen and went during the Autumn months. During summer months the excursions take place very early in the morning, to avoid getting stuck in the desert at midday.
The second reason why this desert has been classified is because the wide variety of landforms that can be found in the desert: Salt flats, active dunes as high as 475meters, kaluts [yardangs] (the peeks that are entirely made out of sand stuck together) that reach up to 155m high and span for a good 40km.
You get the point, even me – a person with a strong aversion to sand – was a fan of this particular desert. We did a two-day tour, starting with a pickup in Kerman. … We drove to the outskirts of the desert, and stopped in a little village. We met up with our driver and all four of us piled into his 4×4 – which had been packed with tents, food and supplies for two days in the desert.
The first thought that went through my head was ‘What would my mother say, to me getting in a car with two random men and literary driving off into the unknown?’. …
Our guide spoke fluent English and explained the origins of the desert, and the various different formations (kaluts). As dusk started to set in, we found a spot to watch the Sun go down and from which we could take some shots of the stars. There is nothing like watching the stars in a place that is completely quiet and void of all light. We got lucky, the sky cleared up and we got a view of the elusive Milky Way. It was pure magic.
Our ride into the desert
The night just got better after a wonderful dinner of grilled skewers over a homemade fire, and a cup of hot black tea. We looked up and were met by millions of stars and a red Moon. A phenomenon which takes place for only a few weeks a year in this region of the world.
We slept like babies and woke up bright and early to catch sunrise. A few months earlier, this region had seen an unusual amount of rain (certain parts of the road in the desert were completely flooded) and traces of the flood could still be found. We camped next to remanence of the flood, a small lake. It felt so surreal, to be watching the sunrise reflect of the water in a desert with the hottest temperatures on Earth….
After breakfast we cruised around the dunes and the various parts of the desert. Up and down the dunes we went, giggling and screaming like little girls.
You will need a tour to go into the desert….
Day eleven in Iran: Meymand
This is the smallest and most peculiar village of this Iran Travel Guide. … Well, there really is no place in the world like Meymand.
This village has remnants of civilization dating back 12.000 years. And if that does not convince you, the 350 caves which were dug out by hand and where people live might just do the trick. You will be hard pressed to find concrete or even brick buildings that serve as homes. People are still living in the comfort of their caves, as was the case 3000 years ago. Granted, they made a few upgrades like electricity, running water and Wi-Fi but the overall structure is the same. This is one of the reasons why Meymand is classified as a World Heritage Site.
Though we spent little time here (we arrived late and left early), I can easily imagine spending two days here and just relaxing. There are a variety of different walking routes which take you around the village and to the plateaus with great viewpoints. ... We had a really great time sleeping with a local family that run an Eco Lodge. They provided us with a delicious dinner and an equally fantastic breakfast and were stellar to just talk to and hear their story. The owners decided to leave their careers and life behind in Tehran to set up shop in this tiny little village. And what a fantastic job they did, honestly one of the best night’s sleep I had on the trip and a pretty cool overall experience. ...
Day twelve-thirteen-fourteen in Iran: Shiraz
Shiraz is a city of poetry and let’s not forget fabulous pink tiles! …
There are never enough days to explore the beauty of Shiraz. You could easily spend two weeks here and still be left wanting for more. Walking around the streets of Shiraz (both modern day and old town) was an absolute pleasure. The streets are clean, people are friendly and the monuments are worth every single penny. It was our last stop of the two-week trip through Iran and it felt bittersweet. …
Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque: The award for the prettiest mosque (probably in the world) very clearly goes to Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque. It has 50 shades of pink and yellow tiles not to mention a winter prayer hall which will take your breath away. The light coming through the stained-glass windows slowly spreads a rainbows worth of color across the floor and walls of the prayer hall. The effect is at its highest during winter months when the reflection covers all of the floor and bounces back off the opposite wall. It will feel like you have stepped into a kaleidoscope. …
Vakil Mosque: While the entrance is ornately decorated with vibrant pink tiles, the inside is a lot more minimalist compared to the vast majority of mosques in Iran. It was built during the Zand Dynasty (18th century) and extensively renovated during the Qajar Era (19th century) which explains the many floral tiles. Floral motifs on the tiles were the height of fashion during Qajar rule! My favorite part was the prayer hall, directly opposite the entrance way. It contains the night prayer hall (shabestan) which is made up of 48 perfectly geometrical pillars. The pillars are all carved by hand and depict a spiral motion.
Tomb of Hafez: Hafez is to this day the most famous poet of Iran. From an outsiders’ perspective, it almost feels empirical to read his poems to truly understand modern day Iranian culture. His words permeate every layer of society and glue together both young and old. …His tomb is one of those places you cannot miss out when visiting Iran. ...
Eram Garden: The garden is an example of a perfect Persian Garden: It has many water elements running through it and is built to geometrical perfection. It is rumored to contain over 45 species of plants! ….
Qavam House: Of all the Persian Gardens we saw in Iran, this one was my absolute favorite. Smaller in size, but still containing all the elements that make up a Persian Garden. It is locally known as Narenjestan because the garden is filled with sour orange trees, which are beautifully fragrant in spring time! The house was built in the Qajar Dynasty (19th century) and until recently privately-owned. …
Sites outside Shiraz
The Pink Lake (Maharloo Lake): The lake is part of a seasonal river which dries up around the end of the summer and leaves behind a salt sediment. Through natural processes this sediment turns pink. Usually this only lasts for a couple of weeks, but be sure to check with locals what the status is when you go. We went in October and it had only just dried up.
Persepolis: This UNESCO classified site is the ancient capital of the Achaemenid Empire (6th-3e century BC). It was burnt down by Alexander the Great which sparked a fierce hatred for this historical character, which can be felt to this day.
Naqsh-e Rostam: A necropolis dating back to Achaemenid Empire. The burial sites were dug out of a cliff and are very impressive to witness.
Practical details to think about when traveling to Iran
[The author has written about the practical information including the payment inside the country, visa requirements, women dress codes, and other details. Read part of the details here:
Concept of ta’arof
Ta’arof is the Persian (Iranian) art of etiquette. In no way do I pretend to understand the depths of this concept but I can provide you with a very top line description, seen from an outsider (foreign perspective). Ta’arof will be felt in pretty much any conversation with an Iranian and it can be downright confusing if you do not know what is going on and worse you risk offending the person in front of you without having a clue what you did.
So let’s break it down. To put very simplistically (and a bit crudely) Ta’arof is on exaggerated form of politeness. A concrete example would be when you are invited to someone’s house. As custom dictates the host will provide food and beverages. So far, nothing different versus the majority of the Western cultures. However, the next part is a bit tricky: When you are offered food and drink politely decline. I hear you thinking “What? Now that is just rude!”. Actually, it’s not, it would be rude to accept according to the principle of ta’arof. Your host will ask again, and you decline again. Go through these motions for about three times and then finally you can accept the offer graciously. [the author’s grasp of ta’arof]
Most likely you will also feel ta’arof when going shopping, taking a taxi or eating out in restaurants when you are told the items are “free of charge”. In fact, they are not, the person in front of you is being polite, Iranian polite that is. You will need to pay for whatever services you have used; you might just have to insist a couple of times before they accept.
The official Iranian currency is Iranian Rials. However, locals much prefer to use the word Toman. Keep in mind that 1 Toman is 10 Rial.
*Caroline is a travel blogger.