10 ideas for adventurous holidays in Iran

Architecture and culture

Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz
Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz. Photograph: Getty Images

The sacred shrines in the holy city of Qom, ancient monuments at Persepolis and Isfahan, the gardens of Kashan, poets’ tombs in Shiraz, and the tiled Nasir al-Mulk mosque, considered the pinnacle of Iranian-Islamic art, are among the cultural highlights of this 15-day tour.

Trek the Lut desert

The Dasht-e Lut desert.
The Dasht-e-Lut desert. Photograph: Bigstock Images

The Dasht-e Lut desert, one of the Earth’s hottest and driest places, is a (hardy) trekker’s dream, with incredible rock formations, sand dunes, salt plains and the Valley of Meteorites – imposing landscapes that enchanted Marco Polo and, 700 years later, Wilfred Thesiger.

Valley of the Assassins

The Alborz mountains.
The Alborz mountains. Photograph: Michal Knitl/Alamy

A walking tour based around the eponymous 1934 travelogue by the explorer Freya Stark, showcasing the greener side of Iran, traditional villages, the castles of the “assassins” and Alborz mountain hikes. The trip includes a stay with the Shahsevan nomadic tribe, a visit to Tabriz’s blue mosque and Unesco world heritage bazaar.


The Jame-e Abbasi mosque in Naqsh-e Jahan square, Esfahan.
The Jame-e Abbasi mosque in Naqhsh-e Jahan Square, Isfahan. Photograph: Soheil Riahi/Alamy

Independent travel isn’t allowed in Iran, Brits must book a group trip, but you can tailor-make one with a minimum of two people with some operators, and on a budget. The guide must accompany travel across country but you can roam freely in each location. The Borders of Adventure website has some sound advice on travel in the country.

Iran by train, from Turkey

Amir Chakhmaq mosque in Yazd.
Amir Chakhmaq mosque in Yazd. Photograph: Paule Seux/Hemis/Corbis

After boarding the train in Ankara, passengers travel to Tehran to explore the archeological sites, before taking a sleeper to Isfahan for its iconic covered bridges and huge Naqhsh-e Jahan Square. The unique desert architecture of Yazd is a short train ride away; the final train trip is to Shiraz, the city of flowers and poetry.

Iraq with Iran

Persepolis, Iran
Persepolis. Photograph: Kelly Cheng Travel Photography/Getty Images/Flickr RF

A 16-day group trip explores the connected Persian and Iraqi cultures. Beginning in Baghdad, it visits Babylon, Kufa and Uruk (ancient Gilgamesh), includes canoeing along the Tigris then tours western Iran, spectacular Persepolis, Shiraz, Isfahan and Tehran.

Climb Mount Damavand

Mount Damavand.
Photograph: Henry Wismayer/Alamy

It takes four days to reach the summit of the country’s highest mountain, a 5,671-metre volcano. Base camp is two hours from Tehran, making Damavand one of the most accessible 5,000-metre-plus mountains in the world. If all goes to plan, this seven-day trip includes two days’ recovery in Larijan’s thermal spring and Tehran.


Horseriding with Nomads in Iran

A 10-day riding adventure through the central nomadic lands on dareshori Persian horses takes in mountains and lush forests and paddy fields. Camping is in flat arable grasslands.

Skiing in Iran

Skiiing in the Alborz mountains.
Skiiing in Dizin. Photograph: Henry E Iddon/Alamy

Dizin, with lifts to 3,600 metres and Shemshak, at 3,050 metres, are Iran’s most famous resorts, with chalets, hotels and equipment hire. They are both near Tehran and access is straightforward. Another of the larger resorts is Pooladkaf, 85km from Shiraz in the south, peaking at 3,400 metres and enjoying strong sunshine despite high snow totals.


The festival of Gol-o-Golab (Rose and Rosewater), in Kashan, Iran.
The flowers are picked for the festival of Gol-o-Golab (Rose and Rosewater), in Kashan. Photograph: Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images

Religious and cultural events abound in Iran, reflecting the country’s diverse peoples and historical influences. They range from the Gol-o-Golab (Rose and Rosewater) festival in Kashan in May, to the Chak Chak fire temple festival near Yazd in June, which celebrates the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. Thetis Travel can organise tailormade tours combined with sightseeing and trips to meet nomadic groups.



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