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I returned from a visit to Iran a few weeks ago and still feel the urge to write way too many posts about it! It was such a unique trip and with Iran not being a no. 1 travel location, finding accurate info from more than one resource (Lonely Planet) was often impossible.
If you have 2 weeks to visit Iran, like I had, my very own itinerary might inspire you. At least I hope!
I flew in and out of Tehran. I didn’t have second thoughts about it at the time of purchasing the flights; only afterwards I heard it’s also possible to fly to other cities as well, like e.g. Shiraz. That might be a more time-efficient option.
First stop on the trip: Esfahan
My friends and I planned to go to Esfahan right after meeting up in Tehran. That would have been much easier, had my backpack made it through the transfer in Dubai on time. At least my first encounter with Iranian services was positive, so I can’t complain about that.
8 hours later, finally reunited with my backpack, we headed to the bus station in the city and managed to get tickets for a bus at 12:30, right before it departed. In LP they recommend buying tickets to Esfahan well in advance, so it’s hard to say if purchasing in advance is not needed or if we were just lucky. The bus was a VIP model with very comfy seats. It was also really cheap, costing only around 80 IRR per person.
Upon our arrival to Esfahan, we checked into the Iran Hotel, which I had booked via email in advance. It was our only arranged accommodation. The hotel’s incredibly helpful owner explained carefully to us where everything was in the city and gave some good recommendations about places to eat. The Iran Hotel itself was nice and I was surprised at how accepted it was for me and my two male friends to stay together in one room.
We spent 3 nights in Esfahan and most of the time we hung out on the Imam Square, also called Naqsh-e Jahan, dominated by the stunning Shah Mosque. The Imam Square is where all the action happens, anytime of the day, except during the hottest part. Families squat down for picnics everywhere, youngsters play volleyball, everybody eats ice cream and horse carriages run past you. It’s also here where you’ll be often approached by locals who speak good English. Some of them will have no side intentions, some will want you to check out their stores. You don’t need to buy anything – fortunately, they’re not very pushy.
Second stop on the trip: Yazd
Our transfer to Yazd was smooth, because we had our tickets arranged by the Iran Hotel. We took the ordinary bus this time, and were surprised that it took only about 4 hours, instead of 6 hours that the VIP bus travels.
The Termeh Hotel in Yazd was awesome. (Update 2020: The hotel may have been closed ). It was based in a traditional house and managed by women. We liked this one the most. They took such a good care of us and the always-smiling ladies could really brighten everyone’s day.
Yazd is an often overlooked city because everybody prefers going to Shiraz, but I found Yazd to be much more charming. We had 3 nights in Yazd, and we barely managed to see everything, partially thanks to the fact that we were way too relaxed when we first arrived.
The city’s ancient part is full of mud houses and is incredibly pleasant. That is, if you don’t wander around noon in the summer heat like we did. The heat can really wear one out, so we spent a lot of time hidden away in cafés or simply relaxing in our hotel.
There’s enough to see in Yazd for two full days, but we wanted to see more and decided to take a half-day trip to Chak Chak, Kharanaq and Meybod. It was a trip full of history and extremely enriching. I had troubles coping with the heat, but our awesome driver (provided by the hotel) arranged some watermelon for us, which totally saved the day :)
Third stop on the trip: Shiraz
We read there was so much to see and do in Shiraz that we arranged to stay for 4 nights. In retrospective, with our evening flight on the fourth day, we could have easily stayed one day less.
We got to Shiraz by taking a VIP bus arranged through Termeh hotel, and at the same time had another traditional hotel arranged – the Parhami hotel in Shiraz. It was located in narrow alleyways close to one of the main roads on which all the action was happening. The location was good, but suddenly we found ourselves in a relatively big city, full of bazaars and chaos. The city is much more chaotic than e.g. Esfahan or Yazd (my personal opinion). It wasn’t easy to adapt to Shiraz and we fell for the city’s charm only on one of the last days there.
Everybody goes to Shiraz mainly to see the nearby Persepolis and we were no exception. We arranged a day trip to Persepolis on our second day, and it was amazing! A total must-see!
We saw the sights of Shiraz, and actually realized there were not too many. After a slightly disappointing visit to a Citadel that was as expensive to visit as the whole of Persepolis, we gave up on some other monuments, simply for budget reasons.
We looked for what more we could see in the vicinity of Shiraz and Mr. Parhami suggested Ghalat, a village near Shiraz. It was a great idea, not only because of the nice small waterfalls in Ghalat, the charm of the old village and the mesmerizing views from hiking trails surrounding it, but mainly thanks to our driver and a guide in one person, a delightful young lady nicknamed Lili.
Last stop on the trip: Tehran
The hustle and bustle of a metropolis like Tehran was quite overwhelming. It didn’t help that our domestic flight from Shiraz was delayed by 3 hours and we had to wait at the airport till after 1am. We stayed in a very basic hotel, yet that particular hotel was the most expensive on our whole trip and lacked a western-style toilet. Oops!
In Tehran, you really have to be ready for crowds, especially if you want to use the metro. If you’re a woman, I strongly suggest using the back wagons, which are for women only.
Tehran was great, yet at the same time we didn’t have enough time to really fall in love with the city. A friend of mine stayed one day longer and it made a big difference. If you have just two days, you’ll be rushing to see the main things and won’t be able to pause and simply hang out. As Tehran is really special when it comes to relaxed rules, it would have been great to meet some young and liberal Tehranians.
When in Tehran, be ready to spend more money for sightseeing. They often divide a complex of buildings by pricing each and every building separately. If you want to see e.g. the whole Gholestan complex, you pay quite a lot (if you’re not local). Here are all the Tehran things to do.
All in all, our trip was awesome and we managed to pack quite a lot into two weeks, considering distances in Iran. E.g. the distance between Yazd and Shiraz looks like nothing on the map, but it easily amounts to 6 hours spent on a bus, after which your day is practically gone.
Had we travelled at different time of the year than August, we’d try to see the desert and perhaps even go for a camel ride. That’ll have to stay on the bucket list for next time! :)
Here’s an overview of our itinerary in Iran, which had only a rough shape prior to the trip and in the end turned out pretty good. I’m quite a proponent of not too much planning , you know ;)
- Day 1: Transfer to Esfahan
- Day 2: Esfahan
- Day 3: Esfahan
- Day 4: Transfer to Yazd
- Day 5: Yazd
- Day 6: Yazd: Trip to Chak Chak + Kharanaq + Meybod
- Day 7: Transfer to Shiraz
- Day 8: Shiraz
- Day 9: Shiraz: Trip to Persepolis + Necropolis
- Day 10: Shiraz: Trip to Ghalat
- Day 11: Shiraz, Flight to Tehran
- Day 12: Tehran
- Day 13: Tehran
Cost of Travelling Around Iran
Ok, and as so many of you keep asking me how much I spent in Iran, I’ll include it in every Iran post for you :) My 2 weeks costs entailed accommodation, overland transport, one domestic flight, sightseeing, food and souvenirs. In total, beautiful €500! So cheap!
For those of you needing more details on prices in Iran, here’s a helpful post on 2-week travel budget for Iran.
As a Czech citizen, I had it easy with my visa. I obtained it in advance at an Iranian Embassy in Prague. But Czech, just like Slovaks (I travelled with 2 Slovak guys) can even obtain a visa upon arrival. One just needs to have travel insurance arranged.
A question I get often asked – can Americans travel to Iran?
Americans, Canadians and Brits have to visit Iran on an organized tour and also the visa requirements differ. Fortunately, a British friend of mine, wrote about her experience in Iran too.
As I’m thinking about what to see next in Iran, I couldn’t help but share this awesome article about off the beaten path places to see in Iran with you. I hope I’ll be able to include some of them on my next trip!
Let me know if you’ve been to Iran or if you’re planning to go sometime in the future! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Once you’ve booked your flights, get yourself a Lonely Planet guidebook. Its Iranian edition is of a high quality and will largely help you with the planning process, as well as with understanding the country’s background.
I also put together this photo-packed post about what one should know about Iran. If you need help choosing what clothes to pack with you, see this post.
And here’s a pin for you to pin for later: