1015 GMT October 28, 2021
If I had to summarize our trip to Yazd, Iran, it would be the following. Firstly, It was incredibly hot, but that’s what you get when you visit Iran in July. Secondly, I was immensely grateful for the roofed Yazd bazaar, because this was the coolest place in the city. And thirdly, Yazd is made for wandering as it is a fairytale-like destination. You’ll come across gold-yellow alleyways, striking wind towers, and tall blue mosques. This city offers a totally different experience than other Iranian destinations. It is not a place that you visit for the big highlights, but you come here for the laid-back atmosphere. In this blog post, I will share seven reasons why you should visit Yazd during your Iran trip.
Yazd is a perfect destination for culture and history lovers. This actually applies to almost every Iranian city, with the exception of Tehran perhaps. But Yazd tops them all when it comes to history. This 5000+ years old city is one of the oldest inhabited places on Earth. Many centuries ago Yazd was the center of Zoroastrism, the ancient religion of the Persian region before Islam was introduced. There are still a few ten thousand Zoroastrian groups active in Iran and India. Moreover, Yazd was also an important stop on the Silk Road. The city even impressed the well-known explorer Marco Polo. Polo came to Yazd in 1272 and was intrigued by the local silk trade.
The city looks like an Aladdin story
In addition to an interesting long ancient history, Yazd is also a very photogenic place to visit. The city seems to be untouched by modern times. It could easily be a filming location for an Aladdin and Yasmine love story. The mudbrick alleys, traditional houses, and blue mosques are all places that are a joy to capture with a camera.
City of badgirs
Yazd is sandwiched between the Dasht-e Lut (Lut Desert) and the Dasht-e Kavir (Kavir Desert). These are the two largest deserts of Iran. This isolated location used to offer some advantages. For instance, the city was not as heavily attacked as other Iranian places. However, the desert location also meant a great deal of Sun. Yazd was forced to come up with some kind of solution to still offer a habitable city for its people. These were the badgirs (wind catcher), the upside-down chimneys that catch the wind. This ancient air-conditioning created a nice breeze in the houses. When traveling through Iran, you will also see badgirs in other Iranian cities. But in Yazd, I noticed them more, because there were so many.
City of tall pishtaqs
Yazd is not only the city of wind catchers, but the Yazd mosques also have an interesting architectural style. I’m talking about the tall and narrow pishtaq. This is the name for the entrance gate of the mosque. Normally, these gates are quite broad, but in Yazd many gates are narrow and tall. A good example of this is the 14th-century Jaame Mosque. The gate is so tall that in the 15th century it almost collapsed and a buttress had to be added. Also don’t forget to take a look at the Amir Chakhmaq Mosque. The narrow gateway here is extended with a sunken arched wall. I recommend visiting these two mosques during the day and night. After sundown, they are nicely lit up.
Perfect for wandering
Yazd Old Town was definitely the highlight for me. Of course, Yazd also has plenty of beautiful mosques. But when traveling around in Iran, you will see a lot of mosques. Yazd Old Town however was something new. The gold labyrinth of mudbrick alleys and arches was something I had not seen before in Iran. Yazd is also known as the world’s first mudbrick city with a UNESCO status. Mudbrick is a local natural product that does well in hot and dry climates.
When wandering around in Yazd Old Town, I also recommend taking a stroll through the Yazd Bazaar. These marketplaces are great for escaping the Iranian summer heat and talking with locals. There’s always someone who wants to have a chat.
Yazd Old Town is a picturesque place to visit. Not only from street level but also viewed from above. Dotted around the Old Town there are a few rooftop terraces, often part of a hotel or restaurant. You can get a fine lunch here too.
Laid-back and quiet
My final reason why Yazd is such a great place to visit is that it was laid-back and quiet. Tehran, Shiraz, and Mashhad are very busy, chaotic, and loud places with constant traffic and people. Yazd is different. There are only a few cars and motorbikes driving around in the city center. Moreover, during the day there’s almost no one in the streets. Locals take it easy during the hot hours of the day and stay mostly inside.
More things to do
Saheb-e Zaman Zurkhaneh
Saheb-e Zaman Zurkhaneh, close to Amir Chakhmaq Square is an interesting sporting center. It is located in an old water reservoir and specializes in the traditional sport called zurkhaneh (house of strengths). It is an ancient exercise routine in which men train their muscles in a rhythmic manner with wooden clubs. As a tourist, you can visit shows three times a day to see what the sport is like.
Fire Temple & towers of silence
Zoroastrianism used to play a very big role in Yazd and fire was an important element in this ancient religion. It symbolized pureness. That is why they built special temples for the fire to keep burning. One of the most important ones is located in Yazd. According to the stories, the fire has been burning here since 470 AD. In addition to the Fire Temple, you can also visit the towers of silence just outside the city. This is the place where Zoroastrians got their air funeral. This sounds more poetic than it really is because it means that birds will eat the bodies. Zoroastrians believe that deceased bodies pollute the Earth.
Just like Kashan, Yazd also has several grand traditional houses. Most of them are now used as hotels.
* Esther (Dutch) has a love for Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia, but the rest of the world is also part of her travel wish list.