Two Weeks in Iran

 

 

Iran has been at the top of my bucket list longer than I can remember, but I can pinpoint the image that inspired me to visit. In it, a beautiful woman is basking in the jewel-colored light of a mosque whose name and location I didn’t know—I just knew I had to get there.

Among other essential information about traveling in Iran, this two weeks Iran itinerary will tell you exactly how to travel to said mosque and get what will probably be the most epic selfie of your life. Furthermore, I’ve devoted an entire section to information about Iran Travel for US citizens, rules that apply to Brits and Canadians as well.

Need help planning your trip to Iran? Hire me as your Travel Coach!

Practical Matters

When to Visit Iran

The two most pleasant months of the Iran travel climate are April and October. During these months, you can expect daytime temperatures under 30ºC/86ºF in most of the country, with mild-to-cool nights and very little chance or rainfall or even clouds. The time between April and October in Iran, meanwhile, is unrelentingly hot and sunny, while the weather from November to March can be unpleasantly cold—you’ll probably only want to visit Iran during winter if you’re a skiier.

One thing to note is that no matter when you travel to Iran, you should bring good lip balm from home: The air here is very, very dry.

Where to Stay in Iran

Hotels in Iran leave a lot to be desired, no matter which of the Iran travel destinations you happen to be visiting. Another thing to realize about accommodation in Iran is that with the exception of five-star hotels like Tehran’s Espinas Palace and Piroozy Hotel in Isfahan, online reservation is basically impossibly, given Iran’s current disconnection from the global financial system. Even if you don’t take an organized tour to Iran (more on those in a minute, particularly as they relate to Americans), an Iranian tour company can help you with hotels.

How to Get Around Iran

Iranian tour companies can also help you arrange transport if you can’t manage it yourself, whether you’re looking for domestic flights, train tickets, bus tickets or even private taxi reservations. Another way to book items like these is consulting your hotel’s front desk. For example, if you’re staying at Barandaz Lodge in Farazadh and want to do an excursion into the Mesr Desert, lodge staff will be able to arrange that for you.

Money, Costs and Communication

Iran is one of the most affordable countries in the world. If you don’t need to be on an organized tour, you can get by with an Iran travel daily budget of around 50 EUR per person, per day. Speaking of euros, they’re the best currency to exchange for Iranian rial, a transaction you can complete at Tehran Airport, at banks throughout the country and even with money changers on the street, although rates vary highly.

WiFi in Iran is slow, in spite of being relatively common, so the best way to stay connected during your two weeks Iran trip is to buy a SIM card upon arrival at Tehran Airport. (TIP: The Iranian Internet is heavily censored, so make sure to download a VPN prior to arrival to ensure uninhibited access.)

Tehran

Iran’s capital Tehran has a mixed reputation among locals and travelers alike. On the other hand, you’re likely to have to spend a day or two here regardless, so make the most of it by traipsing around the base of the unique Azadi Tower, visiting the museum at the Former U.S. Embassy, getting a taste of Persian heritage at Golestan Palace (and a taste of Persian food at the nearby Tehran Bazaar!) and enjoying a panorama from Baam-e Tehran, the so-called “roof of Tehran.”

 

Tehran is also close to a number of smaller cities to which you can take excursions, be they as day trips or en route to Isfahan—more on that outstanding place in a minute. Kashan is a desert city full of historical houses and lush gardens, while Abyaneh is an ancient town famous for the red color of its buildings, and Natanz is home to a gorgeous old mosque.

Isfahan

As I noted in my guide to three days in Isfahan, Iran’s most-celebrated historical city is the also one that best embodies the country as a whole. From Imam Square (by some measures the world’s largest public plaza) and its Shah Mosque, to the city’s central Jameh Mosque and an Armenian Orthodox church known as Vank Cathedral, Isfahan is worth a visit for its architecture alone.

 
 
 

Of course, architecture is only the beginning of why Isfahan is amazing. Read the guide I’ve linked above to learn where you can enjoy classic Persian flavors like Fesenjan chicken stew and saffron soft-serve ice cream, take in a panorama of the city and stroll across some of the largest stone bridges in the world.

Yazd and the Mesr Desert

Tehran and Isfahan are pretty arid, so it might seem strange to make an excursion into the desert after exploring them for the first of your two weeks in Iran. Yet spending one to two days in the Mesr Desert, named because it resembles Egypt (“Mesr” in Farsi), will help clear your mind and cleanse your palate for the second half of your trip in Iran. It’s just you and the dunes—and maybe some camels, too!

 
 
 

After feeling the charm of towns like Farazadh and Garmeh, continue onward toward Yazd, which is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world according to many historians. Spend at least a full day taking in both its Islamic architecture and the bountiful Zoroastrian heritage it offers visitors, most specifically the Towers of Silence, which also provide a wonderful view of the city center.

Shiraz and Persepolis

The ancient city of Persepolis is on your way from Yazd to Shiraz, more or less, so while I found the reality of it slightly less impressive than its history (its genesis dates back to the reign of legendary Persian king Kourosh, aka Cyrus the Great), it’s worth at least a pit stop. Afterward, continue on to Shiraz for 1-2 days there.

 
 
 

Remember that mosque I mentioned in the intro to this itinerary for two weeks in Iran? It’s called Nasir ol-Molk Mosque (nickname: “Pink Mosque“) and it’s located in Shiraz, along with the magnificent Narajestan Garden, Hafez Tomb, Eram Garden, Saadi Tomb and Karim Khan Citadel, to name just a few of Shiraz’s historical wonders.

Tabriz

You could finish your two weeks in Iran itinerary in Shiraz and leave perfectly satisfied—or you could fly north to Tabriz, a city so near the Turkish border that Farsi is its secondary language, and conclude your trip by seeing a different side of Iran. Enjoy local hospitality, classic dishes such as Tabrizi koofteh and attractions like the Blue Mosque, Elgoli Park and the Azerbaijan Museum, named for the Iranian province, not the country where you find Baku.

 
 
 

Another advantage of visiting Tabriz, which also happens to be somewhat Turkish, is that it sits close to the village of Kandovan. In addition to the fact that locals here also mostly speak Turkish as their first language, the rock-hewn houses you find in Kandovan bear a strong resemblance to the ones in Turkey’s Cappadocia, and although there are no hot air balloons here, there are also very few tourists.

Can Americans Travel to Iran?

When it comes to Iran travel American citizens got the short end of the stick—Brits and Canadians, too. For reasons that are far above my pay grade, these three nationalities need to have purchased an organized tour in order to get an Iran visa, and need to be with a tour guide at all times during the country. (By contrast, nationals of most other countries can get an Iran visa on arrival as of November 2017.)

As a perpetual independent traveler, I can’t lie: This is a bummer, and I frequently felt restricted during my two weeks in Iran. On the other hand, the outstanding support from my tour company Surfiran—who was available before, during and after my trip, and basically on-demand—helped to offset the disappointment I felt being subjected to these restrictions. Click here to learn more about Surfiran’s wide variety of Iran tour options.

Two Weeks Iran Itinerary – the TL;DR Version

1-2 days Tehran
1 day (0ptional) Kashan
1 day (optional) Abyaneh/Natanz
2-3 days Isfahan
1-2 days Mesr Desert (Farazadh, Garmeh)
1-2 days Yazd
1 day (optional) Persepolis
1-2 days Shiraz
1-2 days Tabriz
1 day (optional) Kandovan

The Bottom Line

Two weeks in Iran will give you a rich, multi-faceted introduction to Iran’s architecture, cuisine and culture, not to mention insights into the incredible hospitality of its people. Americans, Brits and Canadians can’t do Iran travel independent as of November 2017, but choosing the right tour company can help make up for the lack of freedom. In a time when everyone in the world is expected to voice an opinion about Iran, visiting the country gives you the rare opportunity to listen instead of speak.