Iran is a country that has fascinated me for a long time. Especially after visiting Afghanistan in May 2016 and falling completely for the unrevealed culture and untouched nature of the northernmost part of the country, I just knew that I had to explore more countries in that region. Now the time has come for the 18th largest country in the world, Iran.
Iran has been closed for tourists for many years, mainly due to political conflicts with the west. In recent years, the country has started opening up and becoming more available for the adventurous few, who enjoy exploring off the beaten path places. Because what could be more off the beaten path than Iran?
As a recently opened country, the tourists that flock to equally interesting countries such as Egypt and Morocco have yet to notice Iran. The tourism industry in Iran is steadily growing, but is still extremely low considering how safe, beautiful and inviting the country has become.
When Steve, who I travelled around Central Asia with back in May and June 2016, came up with the idea to travel Iran together, I immediately shot down the idea, stating that I simply didn’t have the funds to go. I wanted to more than anything, but the thought of spending half of my poor student economy just on flight tickets to Tehran made the decision for me. But curious as I am, I decided to have a look at momondo.com anyways – just in case I might be wrong. And boy was I wrong! I had expected the return flights between Copenhagen and Tehran to cost at least 5.000 DKK, but they were only 1.700 DKK – and that’s return!!
I wrote to Steve again, this time with a much more positive attitude, taking him up on his offer – and then the planning began. We were going to Iran!!
Planning the Trip
Since my daily life is now at the University of Copenhagen instead of on the road as it has been the past two years, I only have a few months a year to go travelling. Thankfully, it worked out well with Steve, as he wanted to go in January, which suited me perfectly, as I found time to leave Copenhagen for 19 days after my exam on January 10th and before the next semester will begin on January 31st.
So, the dates were sorted, and as soon as I found out the exact date of my exam, I booked the tickets, and so did Steve.
Now all the fun was about to begin – planning where to go, what to see and which mountains to climb. Steve sent me his premade list of places of interest in Iran, and I contributed with a few places as well, mainly archaeological sites.
The List of Destinations
Our lists of places of interest were faaaar too long for the amount of days that we have available! We had to cut a few of them from our list, but ended up with an itinerary that includes the cities of Tehran, Kashan, Esfahan, Yazd, Kerman, Bandar Abbas, Shiraz, Shush and Tabriz.
In addition, it also includes the archaeological site of Persepolis, the ancient mud brick village of Kharanaq (pictured above) and Qeshm Island, known for its natural beauty, among other exciting destinations.
As you can see on the map below, our interests are mainly focussed in the west part of the country. There were quite a few things that we wanted to see in the east part as well, but since we only have 19 days in this huge country, we had to cut some things from the list, and in the end, this route made the most sense. The itinerary is subject to change, although these are the places that we really hope to see, and I highly doubt that we’ll have time for anything else!
Preparing for the Visit
As you are probably already aware of, wearing modest clothing in Iran is mandatory. This includes wearing a hijab, which is a head scarf; a manto, which is a long jacket or cardigan that covers most of the body; and long dresses or pants, showing as little skin as possible. Luckily for me, I’ll be going to Iran during the winter season, so what I’ll be wearing there will be almost the same as what I wear here in Denmark.
Except from the hijab.
When I visited Afghanistan, I wore the hijab to be culturally sensitive, but in Iran, it’s the law. I have to wear it, otherwise I’ll be in trouble. And I really don’t want to risk anything, so I’ll be bringing along a few different scarfs to make sure that I have one to match each outfit. Wearing a hijab doesn’t mean that you can’t be stylish! 😉
Other than the clothing, there’s not much more to prepare, apart from the basic travel preparations like packing, charging my camera, getting passport pictures for the visa on arrival, getting insurance etc. – all of which I will do after my exam in January!
The Waiting Game is On – 20 Days to Go
Going to Iran will be another dream come true for me. It will be the most exciting way to start the new year, and a welcome break from studying!
On January 12th at 14.30, Steve and I will be off on our next adventure – exploring Iran for 19 amazing days!