Iran is a pretty big country, so you will have to make choices about where to go. We, like most people, chose to go from Tehran to Shiraz. This route takes you to a lot of well known sights and some lesser known places. I recommend to spend at least two weeks to do the trip (depending on your mode of transport), otherwise you might have to rush through some places which definitely deserve more time. We did the trip in a little over two weeks.
Since we like to travel on our own pace and we want to be free where to stop and where to go, we rented a car in Tehran. If you’re interested in renting a car in Iran, read our article about renting a car in Iran and about how traffic is organized. Spoiler alert: Traffic in Iran is not what you’re used to. Our plan was to go from Tehran to Shiraz by car. Our departing flight to Istanbul was from Shiraz, so there was no need to go back to Tehran. Luckily our rental company had options, so on we went to our one way trip to the south of Iran.
Our departing flight to Istanbul was from Shiraz, so there was no need to go back to Tehran. Luckily our rental company had options, so on we went to our one way trip to the south of Iran.
This route will show you a lot Iran has to offer, from mountains to deserts and from cities to picturesque villages. One thing is constant throughout the Iranian roadtrip though: the kind and hospitable Iranian people. Do you want to be well prepared for your trip to Iran? We wrote an extensive article with a lot of useful information about things like: the Iranian visa, safety and what clothes to wear in Iran.
Using public transportation in Iran
While we didn’t use it ourselves, we heard a lot of good things about public transportation in Iran. The buses are neat and prices are reasonable. Spend a little more and you’ll find yourself on a VIP bus, which are more comfortable. Keep in mind that some places are harder to visit by bus. Although it’s doable, it’s a little more of a hassle to visit places like Abyaneh and Yazd. The famous Persepolis can not be reached by bus, so you probably have to book a tour to the ancient city. If you don’t want to be dependent on a tour, it’s also possible to book a private car with driver. We’ve heard it costs about $90 per day.
A lot of large towns are also reachable by train. Train tickets can be bought online.
Travel route Iran
Below you’ll find a map of the route we’ve taken through Iran and below that a short summary of each place. There’s an extra stop added to the route which we didn’t have time for. You could skive of a day or two at one of the other stops to include it in your itinerary, but that’s up to you.
Tehran: Two days
Like most travelers we started our trip in Tehran, Iran’s capital. It’s not the most exciting place in Iran, but the two full days we spent there, we had a great time. The first day we visited the Grand Bazaar and the former American embassy, which is definitely worth a visit. The next day we visited Darband, in the foothills in the north of Tehran.
Qom: Half a day
In contrast to most places in Iran where, especially women, try to push the limits of the law, Qom is a very religious place. No head scarves balancing on the back of women’s head here. Qom is home to the Shire of Fatima and Jamkaran Mosque, two very holy sites in Iran. Normally it is possible to visit the mosqueBecause we were there on a Friday (so far for planning ahead) we couldn’t enter the mosque. In case you don’t know, Fridays can be compared to christian Sundays. While we were taking pictures of the biggest mosque we’ve ever seen, a kind taxi driver brought over two cups of tea.
Kashan: Two days
Kashan is one of our favorite places in Iran. Not because there’s a lot to see, but just because the town has a nice vibe to it. Strolling through the maze of small streets and bazaars is a highlight in itself. Besides exploring the small city on foot, there are traditional houses and mosques to visit. We visited the Agha Bozorg Mosque, one of the most beautiful mosques we’ve seen. Entrance is free and you’ll probably have the mosque for yourself. While two days is more than enough for Kashan, we stayed four days to relax in our lovely homestay called Noghli House. The traditional house it’s built in has a courtyard with a fountain and two floors of rooms overseeing the courtyard. On the roof there’s a cafe with its terrace overseeing Kashan.
Day trip from Kashan: Ara Va Bidgol
Worth a visit is the Mohammed Helal Shrine (Hilal-Ibn-Ali) in Aran Va Bidgol, close to Kashan. An area next to the shrine is dedicated to memorials of soldiers who died in the Iran-Iraq war. There memorials can be found all over Iran, by the way. Women need to wear a chador when entering the shrine, which can be borrowed free of charge. If you don’t know how to properly wear it, there’s always a kind local who’s glad to help you get the chador on.
Abyaneh: Half a day
The next stop will only take you a few hours to visit. On your way to Esfahan it’s about an hour detour to Abyaneh (if you’re by car), but it’s well worth it! Anyaneh is special in that entirely made out of red houses. It’s an amazing sight! When going to a viewpoint, just outside of the village, you’ll see it’s red origin: the surrounding hills is what gave the town it’s red appearance, making the village almost camouflaged. Abyaneh is also known for the colorful scarves the women wear.
Esfahan: Two days
Esfahan (or Isfahan) is Iran’s third city. Iranians call it half the world because Esfahan has a rich history and culture, which resulted in beautiful architecture. Worth a visit is Meidam Emem Square, allegedly one of the biggest squares in the world. Although very beautiful, this is actually the only place we’ve visited which was pretty touristy. This was the only place a guy came up to us to try and sell us a tour. The circumference of the square houses the Sjah Mosque and Ali Qapu, which is a palace. We recommend visiting the square during the day and after sunset as the square gets a totally different appearance after the sun has set.
Another awesome architectural highlight are Esfahan’s bridges crossing the Zayandeh River. Especially Si-o-se Pol and the Khaji bridge are worth a visit. We were surprised to see a lot of men singing under the bridges, because of it’s acoustics. Ahmad and Erwan (whom we’ve met on Meidanm Emem Square) sang themselves and it was beautiful. Although good for people to sing, it’s sad that the river almost never holds water. This has a few causes, all of them made by us, human.
Varzaneh: One day
Most people skip Varzeneh. To be fair, there’s not a lot to do, but it has a nice vibe to it. We stayed in Varzaneh Traditional Guesthouse, one of the best we’ve had in Iran. It is set up like so many guesthouses in Iran; de rooms surround a courtyard were breakfast is served, sisha is smoked and tea is served all day long.
Most religious women wear black shadors in Iran, but in Varzaneh the women wear white ones. Not very spectacular, but cool to see how the culture varies per region. Close to Varzaneh lie salt lakes and the desert which are worth a visit.
Extra option: Yazd
If you are like us and drag your feet on your route, you won’t have time for Yazd, but if you are faster or have more time be sure to visit Yazd. It’s supposed to be very nice.
Shiraz: Four days
The last destination on our route through Iran is Shiraz. We really liked the city and the people. Be sure to visit the Nasir al Molkmoque, the enormous Vakil Bazar, The Tomb of Hafez and the citadel. A must visit when you’re in Shiraz is Persepolis, the ancient royal city. Another nice day trip is the Maharlu lake, which holds pink water on in the summer. Which, unfortunately, wasn’t when we were there.
After your (Road)Trip Iran
From Shiraz booked a flight to Istanbul, but most people have to return to Tehran for their returning flight. It’s possible to take a domestic flight from Shiraz to Tehran or take public transport to go back to the capital
Will your next trip be to Iran? Or do you need more convincing? Check out all our articles on Iran!