Written by Bradt Travel Guides
Chapter 2: Practical Information
Chapter 3: Tehran and the Road South
Chapter 5: From Kashan to Esfahan
Chapter 7: Iranian Azerbaijan
Chapter 9: Persepolis and the Surrounding Area
Chapter 11: En route to Yazd and Kerman
[Updated 5/9/16] p. 34-35 Iranian visa application procedures have changed and embassies of Iran no longer accept applicants without a ‘visa number’. It is recommended that travellers contact their local embassy of Iran to confirm exact procedures.
Visa applications take about 3 months to process. Alarco Travel (www.alarco.nl) based in The Hague can arrange for a ‘visa number’ and kindly offer Bradt readers a 10% discount per passport (please quote ‘Bradt’ when applying).
Once you have your ‘visa number’ you can take it to the embassy of Iran closest to you with the following: 1) visa number proof; 2) visa application form; 3) passport valid for at least 6 months with a minimum of 2 blank pages; 4) copy of the passport; 5) one picture (3 x 4); 6) and relevant visa fee (about £170 in London). Please note that the Embassy fee is different from the ‘visa number’ fee. At the embassy you will have your fingerprints taken. Once your application is processed, a visa will be issued in your passport and sent back to you.
If you have a friend in Iran, however, willing to send you an invitation, please double check the exact procedure with the embassy.
The London embassy is at 50 Kensigngton Court and is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2:00pm–5:00pm. It is recomended that women wear headscarves when visiting the Iranian embassy as a matter of courtesy.
[Updated 2/12/14] p. 47 Expect prices in Iran to increase slightly for the first half of 2015 as the EU has extended its freeze on the sanctions against Iran until 30 June 2015.
[Updated 19/01/2015] Make sure to bring large denomination banknotes to change. Exchange shops do not change €10/20 banknotes.
[Updated 19/01/2015] In December 2014, a section of Africa Blvd in Tehran between intersection Jahan Koodak and Modares Expressway was renamed into Nelson Mandela Blvd.
[Updated 19/01/2015] Please note that according to Tehran traffic rules restrictions apply to vehicles (box private and taxis) up until 17:00 depending on the even or odd number of the car registration number. This is of importance when coming by taxi from outside Tehran into the capital’s city centre, as the driver might have to leave you at the road where restrictions apply.
Zahir Doleg Cemetery
If you have extra free time, there is a pleasant little cemetery of historical significance worth a visit. Zahir Doleh cemetery is located in northern Tehran and shelters the tomb of a wonderful and much loved Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad and equally Iraj Mirza, the first artist to be buried in this cemetery. Pay attention to the recurring engraving of two crossing swords on numerous graves – it is the darwishi symbol. The cemetery dates back to the Qajar dynasty.
Opening times & getting there The sign on the gate reads that as of 7 November 2013, due to inobservance of Islamic matters, visiting times for women are from 10:00 am until 12:00 pm and for men from 13:00 until 16:00 on Thursdays only. If you are travelling in a mixed group, these are unlikely to apply.
To get to the cemetery, take a metro to Tajrish and then walk approximately 10 minutes up along the Darband road until Zahir Dolet St. The cemetery is located down the steps at the intersection of Zahir Dolet and Mohamadi St. Entry is free of charge.
If you are visiting Zahir Doleh cemetery you may also consider visiting a small mountain village Darband, right at the end of Darband St. The village is popular with Tehranis and has a myriad of (overpriced) restaurants and pleasant hiking opportunities. The views of the village are best from the ropeway, accessible from the tall tower to the left of Darband Sq, adorned with a statue of an Iranian climber. One-way ropeway ticket is 50,000 Rials. Opening hours differ depending on the time of the year. In Autumn 2014 these were 06:30 am until 12:00 pm from the square and from 07:00 am until 12:30 pm from the top platform.
Arts & entertainment
Azadi Cinema Complex (Beheshti St, www.cinema-azadi.com) If you like Iranian cinema and you speak Persian, this is the place to come. Multi-screen cinema complex is the magnet for Tehranis. If not for a movie, do pass by to listen to a local artist bask outside the main entrance or perhaps to get a poster for one of Leila Hatami’s films. Western movies are shown occasionally as well.
Shirin Art Gallery (5, 13 Sanaee St, Karimkhan Zand Ave; tel: 88823742/28482; www.shiringallery.com; opening hours: Fri 16:00-19:00; closed Mondays; check the website for exact times for individual exhibitions)
If you are looking to meet Tehran’s cultured bourgeoisie – this is the place to come. The young and the bright come here to visit regularly and frequently changing exhibitions. The gallery is located in a spacious private mansion in the Armenian district of Tehran. There are various coffee shops around in the area. Bijan Café is a walking distance away. Recommended.
Skiing in Dinzin
[Updated 19/01/2015] The best place for skiing in Iran is Dizin resort, located circa 100 km north from Tehran. The resort has two recently refurbished and pristinely clean hotels – Dizin 1 and Dizin 2, with Dizin 3 on the way. Neither hotel has single rooms, but double room costs 2,100,000 Rials excluding breakfast per night. Chalet and rooms for 6 persons cost exactly five times the price of a double room. Be prepared to spend extra 500,000 Rials per person per day if you are also eating breakfast and dinner in the hotel.
Dizin resort does not have any supermarkets or food stores and travellers have to take a taxi (100,000 Rials return) to the nearest town – Vilayat-e Rud, where one can also eat out (do not count on cheaper prices than in the hotel), buy skis (see Head store details below) and do grocery shopping.
If you are planning to spend New Year’s Eve in Dizin, think again. The resort is booked out by Armenians coming here to celebrate Christian holiday. If you have booked a room and on arrival informed of the overbooking, the hotel staff will arrange for a room in a private house whilst Armenians are in town. Then you may have to be commuting to the slopes.
Dizin 1 is located right next to the slopes – the Dizin pad. One-day ski pass costs 800,000 Rials and tourist pass is 350,000 Rials. Ski lifts are so numerous; one needs at least two days to try them all. Depending on the weather some lifts are closed. Ski slope complexity is blue to black with a number of people venturing off piste. There are a couple of good cafés and restaurants at the first level, but prices are high. The resort is very busy on Fridays and bottom ski lift queue might take up to an hour.
Renting ski equipment in Dizin
Ski rent in Dizin is quite dear. There are two places to rent skis from: ski rent shop in Dizin 2 and the shop at the parking lot on arrival to the resort.
Ski rent shop (Dizin 2 Hotel)
Opening hours: 07:30-17:00
Ski + boots – 500,000 Rials per day
Ski rent shop (Resort parking lot)
Opening hours: 07:30-17:00
Dizin Ski School is located across the entrance to the ski lift.
Opening hours: 08:00-16:00
There are effectively no other hotels in the area. Hotel Gajereh on the road between Dizin and Vilayat-e Rud is presently closed with no reopening date in sight. ITTIC Hotel in Meygoon (021 26513260 double room 1,500,000 Rials) takes booking weekly only. Call on Sunday to reserve a room for the week. The hotel is convenient if you are planning to ski in Darband Sar (12 km away). It has been recently refurbished, but might not be the option to stay if you aim to ski in Dizin. The short road between the two is usually closed in winter.
Second best place to ski is Shemshak (resort was entirely closed in 2015 due to lack of snow). It is a good alternative if Dizin is booked out. ITTIC Hotel in Shemshak (021 26527424/26526912) has equally been recently renovated and is the only place to stay in town. Other smaller ski slopes are in Tochal and Ab Ali, but there are no hotels in the vicinity and these are best to explore as a one day trip from Tehran.
p. 119 In May 2014 it was announced that the Mausoleum of Arthur Pope (1881–1969), American expert on Persian/Iranian art, which was desecrated earlier this year, will now be renovated and all the writings will be removed. The grave of the prominent scholar is located by the Zayandeh River.
Orumiyeh and beyond (to the south and southeast)
[Updated 2/12/14] p. 172 In 2014 the government of Iran has drafted a plan and invited Japanese experts to try and save Lake Orumiyeh in north-western Iran. The largest body of water in Iran and the largest lake in the Middle East – Lake Orumiyeh – is drying up at increased speed due to a lack of rain as well as poor planning and management. Only 5% of the lake water is left and it is 8 times saltier than sea water.
[Updated 0/11/14] p. 202 Visitors should check opening times and potential access restrictions if visiting from 7 to 9 Abad (around 29th to 31st October), which coincides with the ‘Cyrus Day’. While it is not an official holiday, it is an annual day of celebrations and a lot of people visit the site during this period.
Getting there and around
p. 239–241 Kerman now has the most modern passenger terminal in southeastern part of Iran. It took around six years to complete the floor-tall Adine Terminal, which opened in late 2013. A welcome addition is the 38-room hotel. The terminal serves around 350 buses and 20,000 passengers daily. There is now also a grand construction project ‘City Centre’ on the way near the new terminal.
Zahedan and around
What to see and do
p. 249 Iran has been awarded a 17th UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shahr-e-Sukhteh (Burnt City) is a site dated from the 3rd millennium BCE and was excavated by an Italian archaeological team from the mid 1960s until 1978. For more information, see http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1456.