After a hectic morning of trying to get to the bus station in Tehran, first in the over-crowded metro and then in a taxi, we caught a bus to the city of Kashan, located 240 km. south of Tehran. The bus was a huge positive surprise, as the comfort level and service was really good, even better than western busses in my opinion – and it was cheap as well! I slept most of the way, but when I woke up in between, I was surprised to see the landscape change from long stretches of desert to mountains in the distance with snow on the top. Iran is indeed very beautiful.
Kashan is the first destination on the typical backpacker route in Iran, if you can even call it typical. For our first few days of travelling along this “typical” route, we met the same backpackers over and over again, although I’m sure we only noticed them because there are so few of us in Iran – too few, considering how amazing the country is.
Kashan is an ancient city, and the name of the city comes from the Kasian, who were the original inhabitants of the city. The remains of the Kasian people are found at Tapeh Sialk near the city, which dates back 8000 years. Kashan has a lot to offer and its popularity with tourists is fully understandable.
Noghli House and Agha Bozorg Mosque
At 11 AM, we arrived in Kashan and caught a taxi to our hostel, Noghli House. We paid 12 USD per person for one night in this old, traditional house, which had a lot of character. It’s located right in the center of the city, only a few metres from the enormous Agha Bozorg Mosque from the 18th century. This location meant that we got to see the mosque in both daylight and at night time, where it was lit up beautifully in green and blue colours.
The Bazaar of Kashan
We started our sightseeing in Kashan by going to the bazaar to buy some food and exchange some more money. The bazaar was surprisingly quiet, especially compared to the busy streets of Tehran where we had just come from. It was nice to be able to walk about without getting pushed and shoved! Getting out of the capital, it became clear that the Iranian women in other parts of the country dress much more conservatively than in Tehran, which made me want to cover up even more.
After hanging around the bazaar for a bit, we caught a taxi to Tapeh Sialk, where archaeological discoveries have revealed that this region of Iran was once one of the primary places of civilization in prehistoric times, dating back to the Elamite period.
Unfortunately, we must’ve misunderstood something when we got there, as we later found out that the place we had explored was not Tapeh Sialk – or at least not the main part of the site. Somehow, we missed most of it, but what we found was really cool and although I can’t be sure, I would guess it to be part of the Tapeh Sialk! We found three pits, and I found bones in one of them! According to a friend from uni, they’re animal bones, but I’ll have my archaeology teacher analyze them soon to find out which animal they come from!
Boroujerdi ha Residence
After checking out what we thought was Tapeh Sialk, we caught a taxi back to the city center and walked around the area where all the famous historical houses of Kashan are located. There are entrance fees for all of them, so we chose to only visit one, the Boroujerdi ha Residence, which we thought looked the most interesting. This house was built over an 18-year period over 100 years ago by a trading family, who migrated to Kashan. The house is a landmark for Kashan and is a fine example of traditional Persian architecture.
We had this idea of going up on the roof to see the view from the top, so we started searching for stairways to lead us up there. We actually found a few, but they were all locked at the end of them, so we were about to give up, when this local guy who seemed to be working there, came out and asked what we were looking for. For a second, I thought “oh no, we’re caught!”, but when I asked him if we could go onto the roof, he actually led us up there! The view from the top was great and it was a fun thing to do, since it’s not something that you’re normally allowed to do. I think he liked us and our curiousness!
Sultan Amir Shrine
Near the historical houses is the Sultan Amir Shrine, which Steve and I went to thinking it was another house. When we got to the entrance, we were met by a local man, who showed us around and kept saying “beautiful beautiful, take picture!”, haha. It was a welcome change from all the “no photography” signs that are all over Tehran. The shrine was interesting, but not really worth paying for, which he made us do afterwards… We both knew that it was coming, but at the same time, we couldn’t really ask him to not show us around once he had started. Oh well!
The last sight of the day was the fortress walls called Ghal’eh Jalali, which are the remains of a fortress built in the 11th century by Sultan Malik Shah I of the Seljuk dynasty.
We climbed the steep walls and walked halfway around to them to the ice house, known as a Yakhchal. The Yakhchal is an ancient type of evaporative cooler, and is a thick heat-resistant construction with a domed shape and a large storage space inside. It was used to store ice and sometimes also food. The ice houses can be found all over Iran, and we’ve since seen a few more, but the one in Kashan is free of charge to explore unlike most others.
The next day, after going to the beautiful village of Abyaneh (read all about it in the upcoming post!), we went to the Fin Garden, located about 10 km. from the center of Kashan. Fin Garden is part of the 9 gardens listed on the “The Persian Garden” UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is the oldest one, completed in 1590.
Fin Garden is said to be the finest example of a Persian garden and one of the most beautiful historical gardens in the world. With an entrance fee of 200,000 rial (6 USD), we were really expecting a lot from the garden, but unfortunately, we were both disappointed. I’m not sure if it’s because of the season, but the garden looked dull and dismal. I could easily imagine how beautiful it might look in the spring/summer with flowers blooming, but in January at least, it definitely wasn’t worth the money.
Kashan was an interesting city to explore and much more likeable than busy Tehran. It was a great start for our travels through the rest of Iran – the “real” Iran, if you will.
Here’s some useful information on travelling to Kashan:
- To get from Tehran to Kashan, the cheapest way is to catch a bus for about 130,000 rial (4 USD) from South Bus Station, which takes about 3 hours and leaves every hour. The bus is very comfortable and snacks and juice are provided.
- We stayed at Noghli House in the center of Kashan, which is a nice place with basic rooms for 12 USD each, including breakfast. We got a private room with single beds for that price. The wifi is very slow, but the showers are hot and the breakfast decent.
- To exchange money in Kashan, go to the bazaar, where the rate is pretty good, better than the official rate. There is an exchange shop, but they may also come up to you on the street.
- It’s possible to book tours out of the city from the hostel or other tour operators, who will likely come to you at the bazaar and near places of interest in the city. There are many options for tours and the prices are not set, so do some haggling!