Salaam! The first stop of your journey is the Iranian capital. Tehran has a population of almost 8.5 million people, so a certain culture shock from the magnitude of this metropolis is not unusual. But don’t worry – you’ll get used to the hustle and bustle and end up falling in love with this vibrant capital.
Explore the modern center, visit exciting museums, fight your way through chaotic traffic, and stroll through the colorful bazaar with its array of impressive aromas and colors. Tehran’s surroundings offer a bit of peace and greenery, where you can relax from the hubbub of the city. Take a hike up Tochal mountain and enjoy the view at over 3,000 meters. Depending on the season, you can even go skiing. Another spot to go trekking is Mount Damavand, a stratovolcano which is 5,604 meters high and the highest peak in Iran and the Middle East.
In Tehran, you can stay in one of the modern hostels and get a bed in a 6-person dorm for €5 a night.
Continue by train to Rasht for around three euros. Located on the Iranian Caspian Coast, the city is the perfect starting point for trips to the nearby Gilan Province – a favourite holiday destination for Iranians because of its varied landscape and colorful tea and fruit plantations.
An absolute must-do is a hike to the medieval fortress of Qaleh Rudkhan (Rudkhan Castle). The castle was built in the 13th century between two mountain peaks and offers exciting insights into Iranian history. On the lush green mountain slopes, explore and visit more than 40 watchtowers, a cistern, and the beautiful ruins of historic stairs and gates.
Another popular day trip is Masuleh, a picturesque mountain village with traditional mud houses arranged in steps on a steep mountain slope. There are hardly any roads in town, and instead, you have to pass from one level of houses to the next via the flat roofs and terraces.
In Rasht itself, there are also some sights worth visiting, such as Qods Park, Safi Mosque, and the Rasht Museum with its exhibitions of archaeological and anthropological finds from the area.
Stay in a single room in a hotel for €10 a night.
Next stop: Ardabil. Continue your journey by bus to the cold north-western Iran for approximately five euros. Ardabil is known for its traditional silk and carpet production and has been of great importance to Iranian industry since the Middle Ages due to its location on major trade routes. The Sheikh Safi al-din Khānegāh and Shrine Ensemble is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to the tomb of Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardebili, the founder of the Safavid dynasty.
Other popular attractions include the traditional bazaar, the Azam Mosque, the Ardabil Anthropology Museum, and the Shater Gonbadi Tower. In addition, Ardabil’s cityscape is characterized by numerous historical buildings and bridges, such as the seven-arched Qarah Soo (Zaqan) Bridge. We also recommend a visit to the thermal baths of Sareyn and an excursion to the surrounding hot springs, like Gol Ali spring, located in the middle of an idyllic nature reserve.
Stay a single room at a hotel in Ardabil’a city center for €13 a night.
Take a five-euro bus trip to reach Tabriz, the sixth-largest city in the country. Located near the Turkish border on the slopes of Mount Sahand, this city is famous for the Blue Mosque and magnificent Khaqani Garden, where you can see Persian architecture in all its glory. The Qaisariyeh Bazaar of Tabriz is also world-famous and fascinates visitors with its 7 square kilometers of authentic oriental flair and huge range of traditional food and goods.
The Arg Ali Shah Fortress, the Qajar Museum, Elgoli Park, the German-inspired Town Hall, and the Carpet Museum are also all worth seeing. Make sure to also take a trip to Lake Urmia’s healing saltwater or visit the small village of Kandovan and its cave-homes located in cone-shaped, naturally formed compressed volcanic ash formations that are still inhabited today.
In Tabriz, stay in a guesthouse for €15 a night for a single room.
Travel to Isfahan by night train for 11 euros. Known as the Pearl of Iran, the city is considered the embodiment of the Orient. Naghsh-e Jahan Square lies at the heart of the city and is one of the largest squares in the world, boasting a magnificent ensemble of buildings, like the Masjed-e Shah Mosque, the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, and the Ali-Qapu Palace, meaning you can admire the Iranian architecture in its full splendor. Afterwards, visit the beautiful bazaar, where you can buy handicrafts, Persian carpets, and copper-works, as well as local specialities such as gaz (Persian nougat). Make sure to check out the traditional Azadegan Tea House, hidden in the bazaar’s center.
Another highlight in Isfahan are the stone arched bridges over the river Zayandeh, which are beautifully illuminated in the evening and make for the perfect backdrop for a coffee or live music by the river. It’s also worth it to visit Chehel Sotoun (Forty Pillars) Palace; New Jolfa, the city’s Armenian quarter; and Atashgah, the Fire Temple of Isfahan, which offers a magnificent view of the city center and surrounding mountainous surroundings.
Sleep in the city center at a hostel for €7 a night in a 10-person dorm.
From Isfahan, you can take the bus to Yazd for around five euros.
This enchanting oasis city is characterized by earthen architecture and wind catchers, which direct wind into the buildings and cool them down from the desert heat. In the old town, magnificent light blue mosques contrast vividly against reddish earth houses, many of whose rooftops are accessible, making a perfect spot to watch the sun set over the desert. Yazd’s large Jameh Mosque, built in the 12th century, is particularly worth seeing.
The city’s water museum is also interesting, and you can learn how these desert dwellers supplied themselves with drinking water. Make sure to see the Zoroastrian Towers of Silence, located on the outskirts of Yazd, which are considered to be a sacred place as they were formerly used as burial pits. These towers also offer an impressive view of the city. Check out the Zoroastrian fire temple, too, where a sacred flame has been burning for centuries.
Spend the night in the city center, where you can get a bed in a 6-person dorm for €10 a night.
Take a bus to Shiraz for about 7 euros. The city is known for its magnificent gardens, which give the city a distinctive rosy scent. Eram Garden is particularly beautiful and is the most famous Persian garden in all of Iran.
Shiraz’s main attraction, however, is the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, also known as the Pink Mosque, because – unlike traditional mosques – it has not blue, but reddish-pink tiles. A visit is worthwhile in the morning, as the rising sun shines through the mosaic windows of the prayer room in a colorful play of different shades.
Stroll across the beautiful Vakil Bazaar, marvel at palaces straight out of tales from the One Thousand and One Nights, or take a day trip to the ancient ruins of Naqsh-e Rostam and Persepolis.
A single room in town costs only €8 a night.
From Shiraz, you can either fly back to Tehran or take the night bus for around €12 to catch your return flight home.