On our second day in Kashan, we wanted to get out of the city and explore some of the nearby gems. Getting a taxi is generally not the cheapest option in Iran and busses rarely go to smaller places, so booking a tour was necessary. There were a lot of things that we wanted to see, including a salt lake, a desert and the red village of Abyaneh. We tried to find a tour that combined the three, but it was impossible and booking two separate tours would’ve been too expensive, so we decided to go with Abyaneh, since there’s only one of those in the world. We’d both seen deserts before, and a salt lake is not unique to Iran, but Abyaneh is.
We booked a tour with our hostel, Noghli House, along with Estonian Ellen and Australian Oscar, for 1,100,000 rial (34 USD), which included a visit to Abyaneh and a visit to Fin Garden, which, along with 8 other Persian gardens all over Iran, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (read here).
We left Kashan at 9 AM and drove to Abyaneh, which took about 1½ hours. On the way, we stopped to explore the ruins of Hanjan Castle in Hanjan village, which our guide told us is 500 years old. The castle is located on a promontory and the view of the castle from the road to Abyaneh is spectacular. Our guide decided to give us more than just a photo stop, so he drove up there, so we could spend some time exploring the interior of the ruined castle, which is freely accessible. The castle is gradually falling into disrepair, a lot of ceilings and walls have collapsed and some parts of the ruins can be dangerous to walk on. Had this castle been located anywhere else in the world, it would’ve been closed for safety reasons years ago, so it was a unique opportunity to be able to explore it freely.
The Village of Abyaneh
19 km. further along the road is the tiny village of Abyaneh, home to 305 people, characterized by its red houses and traditional architecture. Abyaneh is one of the oldest villages in Iran, dating back 2,500 years. It’s located at 2,500 metres above sea level on the slopes of Mount Karkas. The walls of the houses are made of mudbrick that contain high amounts of iron oxides, giving them their characteristic reddish colour.
We had only 1½ hours in the village, which was nowhere near enough. We spent the first half an hour exploring the narrow streets and the closely built houses of the village. There were quite a few cats about and several locals. All of the local women that we saw were dressed in traditional clothing. A typical dress for an Abyanaki woman is a long white scarf with a colourful pattern and an under-knee skirt, typically decorated in flower print. It looks really beautiful and suits the charming village perfectly.
Abyaneh is surrounded by mountains and has two fortresses on both sides. We had seen several pictures of one particular panoramic view of Abyaneh that we really wanted to see and photograph ourselves, and since Steve felt sure that we could get that view from the Palahamooneh fortress, also known as Abyaneh Old Castle, we decided to go up there first.
We walked through the village until we came to a valley, where we found a path that led us up the mountain to the Palahamooneh fortress. We met quite a few tourists in the village, but we only saw one other person at the fortress. I guess people don’t realize what an amazing view you can get from up there, because Steve was 100 % right – the picture that we had seen all over Kashan was taken from the Palahamooneh fortress. The view was nothing less of spectacular! I’m so glad that I had Steve there with me; otherwise I probably wouldn’t have realized where to find that particular view of the village!
After taking hundreds of pictures of the view (I couldn’t pull myself away from the beauty…), we walked back down to Abyaneh and followed the streets upwards to the very top of the village. From there, we could easily climb to the Zardkouh fortress from the Sassanid era (224 to 651 AD), which lies just 20 metres above the village. The view from there was also good, but nowhere near as spectacular as the other one. Still, it was cool that in just 1½ hours we got to explore the village, talk to local people and cats and visit both fortresses! Abyaneh was undoubtedly worth the money and time spent and it has become one of my favourite places in Iran!
Here’s some useful information on travelling to Abyaneh:
- There are no busses that go from Kashan to Abyaneh, so a tour or a taxi is necessary to reach the village. Tours can be cheap, especially if you can find other travelers to go with. We paid 1,100,000 rial (34 USD) for our tour, which included a 1½ hour visit to Abyaneh and a 45 minute visit to the Fin Garden near Kashan. For a tour of just Abyaneh, the price is 1,000,000 rial (31 USD).
- There are a lot of tour operators in town – at the hostels/guesthouses, at the bazaar and at the points of interest in Kashan. The tour operators will find you and you may be able to haggle for a cheaper price.
- Be careful with buying tea in Abyaneh, as the couple that we travelled with were ripped off and had to pay 100,000 rial (3 USD) for a cup of tea!
- For a panoramic view of Abyaneh – the picture that you’ll find all over Kashan – go to the Palahamooneh fortress!